Saturday, November 21, 2009

a tale of two roads/routes

A family bike ride can be made or broken by route selection. Saturday afternoon we went for a ride to a regional fast food establishment that people are kind of crazy about. Without much thinking (on my part) we took a major arterial road, with a bike lane to the restaurant. I take this road every day as part of my commute and find it very easy to ride. But riding with a bike trailer and spouse, I found it to be quite a different experience. Not nearly as enjoyable. I could see it in my wife's eyes that my hasty route selection had made for less than idyllic ride.

Cause let's face it... when we go for family rides we're all in search of that "blissful" ride with the sunshine, birds chirping, butterflies dancing, and all other utopian notions that accompany the fun that comes when the entire family is on the bike.

After we ate - I started to rethink our route home. While we could've easily retraced our steps and hustled home... I didn't want to do that. Sure, going back down the road with a bike lane was direct, but was that how I wanted to ride home? With very little effort, I devised a route that took us through the city center, and along a residential road almost all the way home. As you can see from the picture, the residential road took us slightly further south than we wanted, but the peaceful ride more than made up for the 1/4 mile detour. George squealed in delight on the way home. My wife added her vote of approval, the ride home was "the family ride" feel we were looking for.

Some thoughts for next time and family route selection:

Bike lanes are good for individual riding, commuting, and direct trips. They are not as nice for family riding because of traffic volume, and it is difficult, if not dangerous to ride two abreast.

Residential roads are nice. The traffic is slower, and cars expect to travel at slower speeds. We had a minivan drive patiently, slowly behind us for several blocks without trying to pass us (though they could have if they were in a rush). I doubt you'd get the same offer on a major street. The less direct/detour is far worth it. Let's face it, if you are on a family ride, are you really in a rush anywhere? The residential roads allow you to ride next to your family members in a much more calm environment.

Routing has never been easier with online mapping tools like google maps, google earth, and mileage tracking sites like gmaps pedometer (our route linked) that allow you to share your routes (or record them for future use).

What are your experiences with family bike route planning?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mud, Sweat and Gears

My new obsession is entertaining notions of family bike touring. To me, nothing sounds like more fun. I know that George is just barely knocking on 8 months old right now, but when he's eight years old - what are the possibilities? There are plenty people out there touring with their children, but finding information about these adventurous souls can be difficult sometimes.

Enter Bicycling Magazine stage left... While I love to roll my eyes every time I get this publication because it panders (too heavily) to roadies and the lyrca crowd. Every issue has one or two nuggets that are good to read.

Now this is a guy I can relate to. His wife isn't as hardcore as he is, though supportive. Three sons, 9, 7 and 1.

They started out in Portland and made it halfway across Canada, jumped on a plane and finished around Nova Scotia.

My favorite excerpt from the book is his account of eating the "Trucker's Paradise," the token "so disgustingly large dish that we'll give you an amazing prize for finishing it," ala the old "96'er" in the Great Outdoors. They ordered two! I'll let you find out for yourself what happens. From the small bit in the magazine, this seems like a lighthearted read and definitely worth your while if you are into family bike touring.