Beginner Pedal Parenting: part 1, How Hauling an Infant Returns One to Cycling Infancy

our first test pose. eventually, this kid would become the expert bike poser you know. do not attempt a bareheaded bike pose outside of your home.

A year and a half ago, when I first put Little Oil on the bike, several bikey challenges emerged. As a self described “expert cyclist” I thought I’d anticipated the issues I’d confront. I looked forward to family cycling as a new frontier for my own bike lifestyle. I expected ALL NEW challenges in equipment and approach to confront. I thought I’d be ready to handle these new challenges because after years of riding and teaching bikes, I’d mastered the basics.

I was dead wrong.

Gear and scheduling and social pressure and all the other stuff I love to write about on this blog are all at play for me as a Pedalling Parent, working out my own (evolving) bike style. What I found when I actually strapped Little Oil in for the first time, swung a leg over my bike and pushed out on our first ride were some very basic problems. And most of them were very familiar.

They were the same problems I had when I first got on a bike as a child, when I first started riding in traffic and when I first moved to a city with challenging topography and climate. Basically, I was returned to cycling infancy and all my oldest concerns were new again!


Hauling a kid on your bike changes the feel of your ride. I had equipped my bike with a Cetma 5-Rail Front Rack and a Pelican Porteur Bag before adding Little Oil’s 25lbs to the front of Wheelio. This is an amazing cargo setup in and of itself. I was very very happy with the bag particularly. It also had the advantage of allowing me to load the front of the bike with some serious weight. The plan was to acclimate myself to having a heavy load pulling on the handlebars, fork and front wheel as I steered. I’d also built the bike up in other ways to lessen the floppy potential of such a set up. (I’ll try to explain how I did that in a future post) This was a good idea, but we still faced some wobbly miles in the first few weeks of riding together. It had been years since mounting a bike and keeping a straight line were so difficult. I was a beginner again!

Just like any beginner cyclist, I needed practice. For the first 6 weeks, Little Oil and I took rides around our neighborhood whenever we could. We practiced in Cal Anderson and Volunteer Parks, taking tighter and tighter turns, dodging rocks at various speeds, mounting and dismounting. When we were ready to leave our neighborhood, we headed to the University District on a low traffic route (what’s up, Interlaken Blvd?) and made it there in style! Arriving North of the Ship Canal felt like landing on the moon.

And with the return trip came the next, surprisingly familiar, struggle. Hills.


My ride was now significantly heavier. I’d fitted our bike with a sufficiently high gear to help me creep up most grades in Seattle, but I quickly found myself planning routes to avoid hills and complaining about the ones I couldn’t find a way around. I needed to reach back and recall the strategies that had worked for me earlier in my cycling.

I negotiate with myself while climbing hills.

“You can do it! Just pull the bike alongside that next streetlamp and then we can talk about getting off and pushing. Now that garbage can, now that one.”

I have become my own birth partner. I push myself to always do better but I also give myself permission to get off and walk when I need to.

I have always found that hills become easier after the first time you conquer them. It’s a great feeling when an obstacle can just become part of your route.

Also, after Little Oil became a toddler and moved to the back of the bike she started pushing and shouting at me on hills. Which really helps.

More Tomorrow

Handling and hills were only two beginner cyclist challenges that returned when I began my own Pedal Parenting path, click here for Hauling, Horrible Traffic, Haughty Indignation, and Beginner Pedal Parenting: part 2, How Carting Kid Stuff Rekindles the Concerns of A Newbie Cyclo-Commuter