This time of year in Wisconsin is a season without a name. The three month period from about the beginning of March to the end of May is a time when winter is (mostly) over but spring hasn’t arrived yet. It is a meteorological no-man’s land during which it’s too warm for winter sports but not quite warm enough for spring or summer activities. Temperatures hover around 30 or 40 degrees; snow and other forms of frozen precipitation are never out of the question. However, it is usually warm enough to take Everett for a bike ride, assuming he will wear a jacket and other clothing, so it seemed like the right time to get the Bakfiets. This is a cargo bike that is specifically designed for hauling kids and other stuff, and is something that Chris has wanted for many years but was never able to acquire. He first saw this style of bike in Denmark and the Netherlands, and visited four different manufacturers in those countries in an attempt to buy one but heard the same story every time: we don’t sell to the U.S. The reason why was somewhat anathema to capitalist thinking: they were doing fine and didn’t need the extra business. Besides, U.S. customs was a huge pain to deal this. A couple of them said that they might sell me one if we pre-paid for it and arranged for a shipping company to pick it up from the factory, package it and send it. We basically gave up on the idea until finding out that cargo bikes are becoming more popular in the U.S. They have (sort of) entered popular culture, and several bike shops in Chicago have quietly started selling them. After a scouting trip with Everett and test rides on 3 or 4 different bikes we decided to get the Bakfiets from the Dutch Bike Co. If you look at pictures you may notice the same thing we have observed many times: Europeans generally don’t wear helmets. I have friends who speculate on the reasons for this, mostly having to do with worldviews of how much control we actually have over our destiny, but given our preoccupation in the U.S. with safety from things as big as meteors and as small as microbes it’s not a big surprise that we wear them. Whatever the worldview, we wear helmets in our household.

Getting back to the weather in Wisconsin: during the maiden voyage of the Bakfiets from home to pre-school, Chris and Everett left the house under cloudy but dry conditions. After a while it started to rain, then snow and by the time we got to Everett’s school it was hail. Classic. My cycling friends might say we were practicing Rule #5 from The Rules, but this hardly seems appropriate at his age. In fact, it seems like a great way to discourage him from doing it again. A much better approach is to make sure that epic outdoor adventures are done in a controlled manner followed by treats such as hot chocolate. Fortunately this experience did not discourage him. He was ready to go again the next morning and has asked to ride on it every day since then. In the few days we have been riding several people have asked if I made it. I’m not sure exactly how to interpret this but I’ll take it as a compliment – I certainly would have tried to make one if I had that kind of free time on my hands.

The great thing about this bike design is that children are in front of you rather than behind you in a trailer. Here is Everett’s view of the ride:

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