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What we carry when we ride a bike

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A Simple Six: What we carry when we ride a bike

Friday, September 2, 2011

What we carry when we ride a bike

In the trunk of our van you might find a collection of plastic bags from the grocer and a first aid kit. There is the usual spare tire and jack set up and sometimes we haul around a battery jump. These are staple car traveling ingredients. The glove box has our insurance info, car manual, some old maps and left over napkins. I think I spotted a couple coins and a CD that need to be brought in. From fender to fender there is a miryad of child stuff; car seats, plastic checker pieces, dried up raisins, eaten lolly pops (I guess that would make them sticks), action figures, shoes, books, empty drink bottles. Then when we get ready to drive somewhere we add to the mix; diaper bag, snacks, water bottles, wallets/purses, and more child stuff.

In Our Bags
How does this compare to what we drag around on our bikes? The first change I had to make was from diaper bag to back-pack. The options with a back pack exceeded those with a shoulder bag, and ours had shorter straps. I didn't like giving up the handmade bag for the bottom of the closet bag, but it's what worked best. Function over fashion. In this bag you find the usual diaper supplies, some sunscreen and my purse with cash, cards (ID, calling, credit, library, Kroger scrip, etc) and all the rest.

Cash was also a new addition to our travel entourage. We were pretty much a card carrying family. I wrote checks when I needed too, but carrying cash wasn't needed. It is now. I haven't made it downtown to get a bus pass card (which are not reloadable), so bus fare is exact change only. Having cash has been handy, but really difficult for us to track. Dollar bills are a big temptation for Brent, then he forgets where they went. I guess I am a bit guilty of the same, but I try to keep my receipts and come home and enter things into
Junk in the Trailer Trunk
In the trailer we carry a reusable bag with bike supplies; tire pump and gauge, manual, locks, allen wrench set, wrench, first aid kit, bug spray, misc tools, and extra helmet padding. When the whole family goes out we carry an old plastic ice cream bucket full of water bottles. Bottles also fit on the adult bike frames and sometimes we just stuff them on the sides of the diaper back-pack. The inside pockets of the trailer, where the boys sit, have small toys.

It took some time to get our "kits" together. We were constantly leaving without something, but soon developed a system to get out the door much quicker. There are of course variation to our load depending on our destination. School days, school bags. Grocery trip, grocery bags. Work commute, laptop back pack and lunch box. Parks and play dates, extra snacks.

We know that we should probably carry more things in our bike bag. We are working on a "must have" list and hoping to stock the bags soon. We are also working on having a small kit that Brent and I can carry when we don't have the trailer. Here are a few lists and suggestions I have found on line:

  • HubPages: Best Things to Carry on a Bike/Bicycle Ride--This article recommend we carry a patch kit, tire lever and a torch. I agree with the patch kit, we probably won't invest in the torch quite yet.
  • Bike198: 14 Must Have Items for Every Ride--It seems this is for more competitive or trail riding, but some things overlap. I like the note about always carrying your ID. I am not a huge safety hound in our family, but I always carry my ID (in my pocket if I have any). I think it's a sense of morbidity that lingers in my mind.
  • Adult Bicycling: Biking with the Family--There is a small diddy about what to pack, especially when traveling with children. It mentions being prepared for weather changes. Light jackets and rain coats went in our trailer yesterday when I saw the potential for rain. This is the second article here that lists bringing a map or GPS device. We don't have much of either, but we don't go far and most of the city is on a grid.
  • Kids Can Travel: Family Cycling--More from above and the mention of sunglasses  and camera. Recently Brent was talking about his eyes hurting more after biking to work. We think this is because of the dust and air and also the sun light. There is no UV treated windshield on the bike.
  • Chicargobike: What's in the family panniers for sweltering summer days?--Here's a fun blog about a set of parents and their four(?) children in Chicago, living car free. This is specific to summer and includes the good stuff, like swim suits and towels.
Helmets and Child Seats
Least I not forget to mention how important our helmets and the child seats are to us. Everyone wears a helmet, no exceptions, even those in the trailer. We have been getting by on our thift store and freebie helmets from community events for the three older children, but we are saving for upgrades. Oliver currently sports a Specialized helmet with a flat back and adjustable straps and knob in the rear. I wish I knew the proper names for some of these things, but I am learning! We selected the flat back because he sits most often in a child seat or trailer where the pointier racer backs would cause his head to tip forward uncomfortably and awkward. We also choose a regular child's helmet for longevity. They (the retail world) do sell a smaller toddler helmet, but our children have big heads and this wouldn't have been worth our investment.

We wouldn't be able to transport our children by bike without child seats. I currently use either the iBert or the Yakima trailer. The iBert has not be great for naps, but wonderful just carrying Oliver, as the center of gravity is better and he enjoys talking to me while we ride. Avery only travels in the trailer and Oliver rides with him often. There are over the shoulder harness straps in the trailer, as well mesh and rain covers. These are just a couple of the options available for carrying children on bikes, and the only ones available to us at this time.

Here are a couple links to other options  for family bike transport as described by people with a lot more experience than I:

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At October 3, 2011 at 11:42 AM , Blogger Chicargo said...

Hi! Thanks for linking to our blog. We have a few related posts that might help now that the weather is changing to fall and winter. ( ) For example, we found it really helpful to get lined bike/snowboard helmets at a ski shop - they cut down the cold ears and the liners are removable on some of them so they can be used year round. Warmer heads have gone a far way to keeping our kids comfortable. We had to look hard to find the ones that are CPSC bike helmet certified but there are a few. For the raingear you mentioned, a few big plastic bags are often in there just in case we forget real raingear. Forgot all of it last Friday for a drenching downpour on Critical Mass Chicago... Oops. Remembered to bring water, though.
We like your blog!

At October 3, 2011 at 12:40 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

Thank you so much! I read every post you make through my reader and have attempted to do some searching and reading through the archives. If anything, I am enamored by your advocacy in Chicago for your family and the many others like you. I am a 180s ear warmer gal myself and we have them for all the children, but I also stocked up on hats at Goodwill last weekend in case we needed something more under our helmets. Gloves are the next research project. We need something that won't slip on the handle bars when wet, keep us warm and allow us to shift gears. We will probably make do with what is in our closet this year and invest after the season. Still looking for rain gear for one child and the adults. Thank you for commenting and for reading, as you know, both are immensely appreciated.


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