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« Fiets of Parenthood Challenge? »

As I've been mapping out Kidical Mass rides over the winter, I've been thinking of something that would add a little extra pizazz to our meetups. Over the past years we've seen a Mama Bakfiets race, and the recent Oregon Manifest Constructor's Race (with excellent coverage on I love the idea of setting a more real-world challenge that pushes the limits of both bikes/gear and their riders, based on the constructeur races among bike designers of olde in France. But sillier. Sillier, even, than the original:

And so, the time has come for a family bike design challenge and family cyclocross, or KinderCross.

With real world family biking challenges and feats of parenthood. Or "Fiets of Parenthood", if you will (fiets is Dutch for bike).

We could lay out a course at GasWorks or Magnuson Park that will test the mettle of family bikes and their riders, and make sure that we have at least one bakfiets, xtracycle, MADSEN, front seat, rear seat, and trailer in the race.

Which family bike will reign supreme?I'm thinking a Le Mans style start, where one parent and at least one child race from a starting line to their family bikes, don helmets, strap in kids, and take off. The off-road simulated urban cycling environment will involve some traffic-cone-weaving, pedestrian-dodging, and intrusive-comment-from-motorist-managing. And some "stop" signs, kiddie car right hooks, door zones, and other infrastructure features.

There will be other required stops along the way. Many stops. Such is the way of cycling a la familia:

  • The dropped toy. Circle back for child's lovie. Extra points for rolling pickup.
  • "I'm thirsty ..." Stop not mandatory, but must be able to get sippy cup to child.
  • Look - blackberries! Stop and "pick" 5 berries for child.
  • Shopping errand. Must stop and lock up, run over with child, load one full grocery bag, to be carried for the remainder of the race. Tantalizing treat in full view on top of the bag. Deal with it.
  • "I'm cold ..." Must add one layer of clothing.
  • Napping child. Child replaced by floppy doll for one lap. Doll must not fall off bike, and points subtracted for major floppy-head action.
  • Tantrum. When picking child back up, child or judge pitches a fit. Style points awarded for creative tantrum strategies.
  • Diaper change. Or at least removal of extra layer of diaper/undies. Bonus for on-board diaper action.

Extra points for additional children/pets on bike, and perhaps some side-challenges such as:

  • Most number of children on adult bike
  • Best decorations
  • Kludgiest kid-carrier (with related sketchiest way to carry children award?)
  • Longest kickstand trackstand
  • Best comeback to "that's not safe!" comments
  • Cycle chic-iest

For older kids on their own bikes or trail-a-bikes, we'll probably have a cyclocross/"KinderCross" course set up. Xtracycle passengers and MADSEN backseat drivers must jump out as well for the dismount portions, kind of like these dudes.

What do you think? I need more ideas ... stops, obstacles, side-challenges, features for the KinderCross (I'm living in a toddlers on bikes world, so I'd need help with the kids on own bikes challenge), and more silly awards.

And Portland people, I see you have a Family Cycling Day at Oregon Manifest coming up on Oct 25th. What say you to trying to pull off a Fiets of Parenthood then? I'd happily come down to help organize and, of course, represent Team Totcycle for the race. Otherwise, this seems like a nice way to brighten up our Seattle winter. We'll work out the kinks in the drizzle, and have a better, bigger challenge next summer! I'll leave you with the Mama Bakfiets race for inspiration:

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Reader Comments (21)

Love it, Julian. My diaper changing days are behind me (thank god) but I'm down for the longbike trackstand contest for sure -- with a kid on board, right? As for other events - maybe something for parents who try to ride w/ older kids -- perhaps have them change their mind mid "race' and decide they want to ride their own bikes (or vice-versa). Or you could encourage stupid passenger tricks (such as the running start, standing on the snapdeck, a "side-saddle, no-hands reading on a bumpy road" challenge, etc....

Sign us up!

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterTim K

Love the idea. Our program is pretty full this year but come on down to the Family Bicycle Transpo day on the 25th. Fiets of Parenthood 2010 OM. Let's talk!

I also appreciated Tim K's suggestion for racing with older children. Now that's a challenge. Especially when they're around 5 yrs, have tons of energy, and a taste for total freedom.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyn SyCip

I knew Team CarFreeDays would be down for passenger tricks! Yes!! A 9.9 from the Danish Judge for the snapdeck handstand ...

The change their mind concept is a great real-world design challenge feature (xtracycle towbike, followme tandem, the trail-gator we've got, carrying kid bike in madsen bucket). Done.

October 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Thanks Jocelyn ... We'll play with the concept up here and would love to take it to PDX next year! I'll still try to swing down for the family day - I like your solutions workshop idea. Are you related to the Salumi Bike people? Yummy bike.

October 8, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

As a competitor in Cargobike races for the Cycle Messenger World Championship, a huge cargobike nut and a new parent I think this is about as cool as you can get!!!
I LOVE the idea. I have plans on Oct. 25th but we might just have to cancel them if the Manifest can make this happen. If not we'd be happy to host it down here for Eugene's Bike Day Celebration in June!

Maybe divisions should be by child age?
Tiny (infant/carseat) 0-1
Small- 1-3
Medium- 4-6
Large- 6-9 (most likely on their own bike next to you completing the tasks)
Indi- 10 (they should be easily cruising on their own and can have their own cargo bike by now...)

Oh, other factors:
Rain, Curb jumps....

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShane


Love it! What a great idea. Our kids would definitely be into the kids race.

We're available to help with logistics etc. I can probably wrangle some friends as well.Our weekends are full of soccer until the end of October so hopefully you're planning a few weeks out!

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

We're in! If it's a Saturday, we should be able to make it. Sounds like a lot of fun -- great idea, and let us know if we can help spread the word.

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterghd3

this is something I've long imagined and wish I was in Seattle and could compete! tantrums, napping, and hauling groceries + kids are my special talents. I'd like to see a challenge with children jumping on and off an xtracycle while in motion (on grass of course, though my 7yo has the scabs to prove he's done it plenty of times on the street), and securing a flat of berries or tomatoes on the back, with a child, without losing any or squishing too much in the process. ooh! and what about maintaining balance while siblings are arguing over a toy?

how about the 'keep your cool and continue to be a positive example of human behavior for your children when someone is yelling at you to get off the road' challenge? that would surely inhibit my chances of winning.

i have too many ideas...

my favorite kids-on-bikes behavior is my seven-year-old's ability to observe a potential spectator and quickly start a looking-cool bike trick in time to be doing it while we ride past the bystanders. it could be like one of those shooting obstacle ranges... cardboard figures of little kids mixed with adults on cell phones who clearly don't care, and the one who did the most tricks in front of appreciative audiences would win that obstacle.

oh, i want to come to seattle for this! too bad i don't drive...

October 8, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersarah gilbert

Sounds so cool. There's got to be a "breaking up a fight" challenge- my kids love riding the the trailer (haven't upgraded to any of the above options yet, sigh) but they DO bicker sometimes. My son helps me push up big hills and we look something like those guys with the Madsen in your post :) Looking forward to reading more about it!!

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterKatie

Wow... that would be a ton of fun. too bad I live nowhere near you. However, I can say that I'm considering taking my son in the Madsen for next year's KC Tour de BBQ ( )

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterjdmitch

Thanks for the ideas, gang! Breaking up apocalyptic trailer/MADSEN battles is something we've had to do as well. And Sarah, I like the biathlon (or Mad Max, either way) and flying dismounts too.

I'm not sure the name is working for families with older kids - maybe a different name for the older kid-powered challenge? Or call the whole thing Fiets of Family Cycling? What say you?

October 9, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

This sounds awesome. The idea of having a race seems appropriate, since we're often "racing" to arrive at our destination in the real world.

I think our biggest daily challenge is dealing with drivers who try to give up their right-of-way and wave me and my small children across a busy, multi-lane arterial. There should be a component of rider-driver negotiation, sort of like charades, where you have to use hand signals and lip reading to guess each other's navigational intentions.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMatt in Tacoma

Fantastic! I just returned to Totcycle to read the "goings on" and was impressed to see this idea presented. I recently just did a tour of Orcas Island with my three year old and two loaded panniers. After dealing with some of the hills there, I would suggest for the family bike challenge, "Negotiating the Ballard locks foot race, then haul through Discovery Park down to the light house and back to the locks". Love the black berry challenge! This summer I pitched quite a few berries back to my son as we went through interlaken. Keep us posted! We're in! -Hansi, Aaron and Ambrose

October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAaron B

This whole thing is a great idea. I wish we weren't 3000 miles away. Perhaps when you can get it to a national level we can have it on the Mall here in DC;)
As far as ideas, how about challenging older kids to navigate (orienteering by bike)? Or another challenge could be kids signaling the turns. My kids (5+2) like to signal turns whenever I do (hopefully correctly) on the back of the Yuba Mundo.
Family tire changing? Like a pit crew. Or just tire changing while racing to get to school in time for pickup. Maybe tire changing and diaper changing could be combined.

Great site. Thanks much for sharing.


October 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMax

The breaking-up-fights thing is sounding overly familiar to me. I swear I "pulled this bike over" the other day when the boys would not stop picking at each other!

My kids, too, like to signal turns like Max's above. Generally, in the bakfiets, the boys can do anything they wish so you could have a whole separate activity/competition like a bike-related word search. However, when they're on the snapdeck of the Xtra, I've now told them they can't read. Is this mean? I must admit it was more about the busybodies at school who said, "I think it's great you ride your kids to school, however, I know that they're behind you and you couldn't see that they weren't holding on at all & I was worried about their safety" than MY own sense of their safety...

October 14, 2009 | Unregistered Commentersara

Oh, this is awesome. We can't play yet (baby's still inside), but we might come up if you get it organized before I go into labor! :)

October 16, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterinkandpen

Oh, and as I was standing in the rain waiting for an awesome pregnancy nosebleed to pass, I thought of a new challenge for you!

First, the cloudburst. Depending on the mode of kid-carrying, kids must either be put into raingear or covered with a rain cover; parent must also find and put on raingear. Sprinklers/hoses/water balloons may be used to add verisimilitude.

I tried to come up with a "minor medical crisis" challenge, but am stumped for how to simulate on-the-road first aid without being scary for the kiddos.

October 20, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterinkandpen

I love that I come to this blog to learn more about biking w/ my fam and I see photos of my friends in an article :-) The girl changing the diaper above now is a madsen/xtracycle mama so I'm going to pick her brain about the two, soon! I wonder if either one of us will have the energy to do so after running a half marathon tomorrow (family biking @ oregon manifest), though!

October 24, 2009 | Unregistered Commentershetha

I'll be at OR Manifest tomorrow too - hope to see you there!

October 24, 2009 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

I am catching this thread a bit late but -- I want to see this happen in Portland! When? We, over at urbanMamas (xtracycle & madsen mamas), would love to help organize & promote.

November 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterolivia

Absolute genius! I'm new to the family bicycle, but I'll be looking for similar brilliant events up here in Vancouver, BC!

May 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMamarama

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