• Finally, some bikes for older kids

    As a family oriented bike shop, we've long disappointed many people asking about sensible bikes for older children. In between balance bikes for the littlest kids, and the smallest adult bikes, our selection has never been very rich, sometimes amounting to nothing at all. It's still not rich, but finally we have 20" and 24" kid bikes that are pretty decent, can be ridden at adult pace, will accept rack and fenders, don't weigh too much, and don't cost too much either! Between the two sizes, they should fit most kids between 6 or 7 and puberty. Welcome the Torker Interurban 20" and 24", at $389 and $429, respectively:

    And come Spring, we'll have simple 16" and 20" kid bikes from Linus, too, beloved among adults for their clean, classic, town bike style and good value. What's more, Linus is extending their popular mixte and roadster styles into 26"-wheel versions, which should fit many larger children and the smallest adults.

    Why is this so hard? If you think about it, a very small bike has the same number of parts as a big one, so for a given set of features it's not much less expensive to manufacture a kid's bike than an adult's. A little less raw material and shipping cost, sure, but offsetting that small advantage is the natural reluctance of parents everywhere to spend much on items likely outgrown in a few years, especially when they remember what bikes seemed to cost in their own childhoods. Add to that the domination of streets by motor vehicles in most parts of this country, limiting reasonably safe routes to ride, and the number of people clamoring to pay fair prices for quality children's bikes is rather small, killing potential economies of scale in production. It's a vicious cycle that results in the status quo of kid bikes built mainly to be as cheap as possible without exposing their makers to much liability of collapse: really crude, heavy, and hard to service, with styling too often extremely gendered and reminiscent of sugary cereal in-box toys. Blech!

    Parents send messages to their kids in the things they give them. Are they toys or tools, diversion or empowerment? When I handed our son the keys to his first "good" bike, it was a bestowal of responsibility to protect it from theft, as a valuable item. When showing him how to operate its lighting system, sure it was another fun gizmo, but also a promise of adventure going places together after dark. When fitting luggage to its rack, I was drawing out a parallel with his parents' bikes that this was a vehicle for life, however aspirational: a nod toward his waxing maturity more than his waning childhood. For biking families, it's hard to calculate the value of these messaging opportunities over and above the amount of use the bike may see. But I think these opportunities are better seized with bikes that resemble their parents in quality and features than with the low expectations and dollars-per-mile arithmetic that favors Walmart.

  • Fiets of Parenthood 2012

    How many people can you carry on your bike and still complete a challenging obstacle course? In 2010, the first year of the Fiets of Parenthood family cargo bike race, North Portland dad Travis Wittwer impressed spectators as he carried his three sons and his partner Ruhiyyih on their long-tail cargo bike. The following year, SE Portland mom Emily Finch rocked the assembled crowd by carrying her six children in, and trailing behind, a front-loading box bike. This year, more feats of parental prowess are expected with an event lineup including a family bike obstacle course, kid’s races, a bike-centric haiku competition, food vendors, and more. And don’t worry: if you want to show off carrying more children than you have, borrowed offspring are allowed.

    The event will take place outside Clever Cycles, located at the corner of SE 9th Ave and SE Hawthorne St, on Sunday, September 16, 2012, from noon to 4 pm. We're closing down an additional street to car traffic this year to make room for an even longer course. And what’s the point of these parental displays of strength? Event organizers want to demonstrate what cargo bikes can do when it comes to hauling families. They want to share knowledge with each other and with kid-carrying novices. And they want to determine, for the third year, which child-toting mom or dad is the mightiest.

    In past years, participants have traveled from Tacoma, Bellingham, Seattle, and Eugene to compete and socialize; we hope for a similar turnout this year.

    Attendees should plan for outdoor fun in typical Portland fall weather: it should be hot, unless it rains. There will be on-site areas for diaper changes and nursing mothers, along with bathrooms, food vendors, shade/rain tents, and water. Activities and race registration start at noon, races and competitions begin at 1 pm, and prizes will be awarded. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Bicycle Transportation Alliance.

    More info? See the Facebook Event page.

  • Emily

    Go read about the awesome Finch family at

    Photo by Jonathan Maus,

  • Not that you would, but that you could...

    From yesterday’s Fiets of Parenthood, 6 kids and one mom on a Bakfiets Cargobike plus Follow-Me Tandem Coupling. Read more about the event at urbanMamas and Bike Noun Verb:

  • 10% of sales for Portland Public Schools

    We’ll be voting YES on the 17 May bond and levy measures in support of Portland Public Schools. Learn more about this important vote to repair and update our historic but pathetically dilapidated, inefficient, increasingly unsafe school buildings. $5M of the proposed bond will be allocated for transportation infrastructure improvements around our schools, including promotion of the Safe Routes to Schools program supporting walk and bike access.

    Yes, it’s a big property tax increase, but we think car-free and car-lite families, unburdened by the rising costs of motoring that send wealth out of state, should step up to protect and improve the crumbling treasures we have in our neighborhoods.

    This is a single vote, but you know what? Portland schools are chronically underfunded. That’s why we’re going beyond this one issue to support our schools in a more direct, comprehensive way.

    Starting today, through the day of the vote 17 May, Clever Cycles will donate 10% of purchases to the Portland Schools Foundation. All you need to do is mention this program at the time of payment, and we’ll set aside 10% of the total for our schools. Yes, you have to mention it so we know you care, and we can assure ourselves that this isn’t actually hurting our business. If the response is good, we’ll repeat this program over and over until our schools can’t get any better and Portland can’t fit any more of the kinds of bikes we offer.

    Portland public schools have some of the highest bicycling and walking rates in the country. Key to this success is the fact that most of Portland’s schools, like its homes, were built before the “American Dream” became synonymous with motor vehicle dependence and sub-urban home ownership. Portland largely resisted the freeway projects and related trends that emptied or impoverished the urban residential cores of so many other cities, destroying the tax base that supported the schools. Largely, but not entirely.

    Portland Public Schools are dramatically underfunded. Contrary to the myth that city life is more crowded than in the past, average household size in Portland is lower than historical norms. The density of children in particular has fallen. Schools are closing, with student bodies being consolidated into fewer and fewer, larger, cheaper-to-run schools further away, creating safety hazards and coarsening the close grain of city life that Portland has struggled over so many decades to maintain.

    We support well-funded neighborhood schools because they are essential to what we love about Portland, its scale and pace, and the sufficiency and dignity of human power in getting around it, whether you’re 8 or 80.

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