Wanna Ride Bikes?


I bought a bike this past weekend.  It’s blue.  I also bought a kids trailer for the bike, so I can actually go for bike rides every once in a while without having to burn any precious “me time.”  Natalie signed up for Capital Bikeshare, too, so that she can bike home from work a few times a week, and also so she can join us for the occasional leisurely family bike outing.

In theory.

Biking is hugely popular in our city.  If you want to know how to get around town super fast, traffic and parking be damned, biking is the way you do it.  It seems like everyone bikes, even us uncool parents. I’ve seen plenty of kid trailers hooked up to bikes scooting around town.  It all seemed so wonderful.  

And then we tried it.  That’s when we learned something we had never before considered.  DC is a geographical anomaly.  Yes, historically speaking, we built our nation’s capital on miles of swamp land.  Mostly anyway.  And everyone knows this.  But what I didn’t know – and what cartographers are still attempting to fully understand – is that no matter where you are in the District, every direction you ride a bike is going to be up hill.  I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand this perplexing natural phenomenon:

A District Bikers Dilemma

Loren turns four in October.  Ruthie turns two in July.  Combined, they probably weigh somewhere in the ballpark of 60 pounds.  This is not an insignificant amount of weight to pull up hill in every direction.

I know this because three hours later, after what was supposed to be the inaugural, leisurely family bike ride around the hood turned in a winding, slightly lost, gruelling ironman competition with a twist (the twist being that you only bike – no running or swimming – and you are pulling two cranky, hot, fed up children the whole way, and you have to be really out of shape to participate), I realized that DC is basically San Francisco on the east coast.

My new (craigslist) bike has 12 gears, of which the highest three are all I can handle.  I spent a good portion of our trip not on the bike as I expected, but next to it, walking and pushing it along.

There were swear words.  Not angry swear words, just exasperated, out-of-breath shocked ones.  The last hour or so of the trip sounded mostly like this: “This is the hardest [pant, pant] f*cking thing I’ve ever f*cking done [pant, pant] in my whole f*cking life. [pant, pant] What the sh*t?”  And that was just Natalie.  We were too worn out to censor ourselves.  Our poor children heard it all.  Of course, that is, if they could hear us at all from  inside the confines of their rolling cage match.  Someone was touching someone else, which led to pushing and shoving and crying, with heads smushed against the thin plastic windows.  And that was just Natalie.

We were a sight to behold.

We are also, despite this story, so far, undeterred.  We went for another ride this morning.  A shorter one, with somewhat more manageable hills – a quick jaunt to the playground a few neighborhoods over.  While my legs still burned like I was being prodded with hot irons, it went much better than the first trip.  Despite it all, I actually kinda still like it.

I suppose there is something to be learned here about biting off only so much the first time you try a new activity as a family.  If there is it’s probably over my head.  That’s how we roll.

In the meantime, if you happen to see us riding along, try not to look too hard.  Just give us a passing glance and imagine how nice a family bike ride seems, ignore the pained expression on our faces and go out and buy yourselves one of these as soon as you get home.

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  1. I would love to come and document this epic event on film. You’ll need the photos for the book.

    Jimmy this had me laughing hard. Half because of how well it’s written, half because I am the same way NOT pulling a cage of hot toddler up the same hill. Kudos family!

  2. From one parent to another, don’t try canoeing until the kids are both in middle school. We tried it last summer with an 8 and 10 year old. It’s very similar to your bike outing.

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