With interesting and eclectic offerings of food, art, music and architecture, a big city can be a great place to call home. Spending time driving a car in a major metropolis, on the other hand, is enough to make most reasonable people absolutely insane. I know this to be fact—and yet from time to time I convince myself that it’s easier, smarter and quicker to jump in the car to get my errands done. I almost always regret it.
I didn’t grow up in the city, but rather the emerging ‘burbs of 1970s America. Like pretty much every other kid at that time, I rode my bike everywhere, and as much as I possibly could. I had a fleeting fling with an old jeep when I turned 16 and got my driver’s license, but I also bought my first road bike and started racing.
What followed was a professional cycling career, an eight-year stint working for a major bicycle-clothing manufacturer, and four years at the helm of Bike and Paved magazines. Suffice it to say, I am not lacking for really nice bicycles. Yep, I’ve climbed aboard more high-priced machines than I can possibly remember—and a couple, er, several of them, have even made their way into my personal collection.
But the bike I ride most often—my favorite, I guess you could say—has a cargo rack in the front, a child seat on the back, always tows a trailer and is “decorated” with more than its fair share of scratches and dings. It is my own two-wheeled version of a minivan, with plenty of convertible cargo space to carry me, my son Nico, and our groceries and gear.
The bike’s make and model really aren’t that important. That’s sort of the beauty of buying or outfitting a bike for minivan duty: Just about any bike will do the trick, and there’s an endless amount of cool stuff being made to help you haul your kids and cargo under your own power.
Nico most often chooses to ride in the trailer, because that’s the spot with space for his drinks, snacks and toy trucks. Or it could be because it’s easier for him to fall asleep there than in the seat behind me. Either way, what makes a Burly or Chariot better than a ‘Benz or a Chrysler is that I don’t really care if Nico spills milk or wipes his grubby hands on the trailer’s upholstery. And when he rides in the child seat on the back of my bike, we have enough room in the trailer to carry a few bags of groceries, his balance bike and our fishing poles.
We’re able to use routes that include side streets, alleys, bike paths and even small stretches of sidewalk. If he starts complaining about something, we can simply stop and fix it. But perhaps the best part of riding our pedal-powered grocery getter is that we’re never, ever stuck in traffic—so I am never stressed out while we’re going somewhere. And that might just add a few years to Nico’s dad’s life.
An ex-professional bicycle racer, writer Joe Parkin still has a large stable of bikes but spends most of his time pedaling his two-wheeled minivan.