By Jeffrey Stern
It goes without saying, but sometimes it still needs to be said: we’re lucky. Much of the United States offers an undeniably unique opportunity for people of all types, abilities and with varied interests to get outside and play outdoors. Whether it be aboard a bike, on foot, hanging from a rope on a rock wall, floating down a river, gliding down a wave or any other numerous adventurous activities our country is filled with endless options to pursue on a daily basis, no matter which region you reside in.
Is there any downside to living so close to such an incredible overabundance of outdoor activities? Particularly, I would argue, aboard the dozen of bike options available to us from road, touring, mountain (with its own subsets of downhill, cross-country, etc.), gravel, tandem, unicycle and more. When planning a bike related adventure, it’s absolutely insane the choices of places you can go, things you can see and ways in which you can enjoy the time spent. With life’s commitments including family, career and other responsibilities, how does one find the time to take complete (or even a sliver) of advantage of all this outdoor opportunity at their fingertips?
What’s become clear is that we’ve now seen the adventure lifestyle go completely mainstream with Generation Y. Originally the practice of only a few diehard vagabond adrenaline junkies, the van life, adventure enthusiasts living day-to-day, reevaluating their life priorities and pursuing what they want to do and just doing it is growing by the hour. Prioritizing experiences, simplicity and outdoor adventure over material things is trending upward.
No ifs, ands or buts. Live in the moment. Carpe diem, they say.
As irresponsible as it may sound to say aloud, it speaks more to a pure dedication of passion than some may think. In a world where too many accept the status quo and go through the motions, even when they don’t want to, this pursuit of the adventure lifestyle is a breath of fresh air.
Is it so eccentric to believe that the outdoor adventure lifestyle can also represent a career opportunity as well? With simplicity comes ingenuity and we see products, brands and ideas being born out of necessity. Less is more, so let’s make the less better; multi-dimensional, bomb-proof, something to last a lifetime and then another one.
We all know the power that a good ride can have on your mental state. It’s refreshing, can hit the reset button on a bad day and change your outlook on things to come. It often provides the creative spark necessary to solve a problem. Taking this to the next level and making this is your life is only natural. Happiness breeds creativity and is also contagious. When you see some smile, do you get upset and frown? No way! That would be unnatural.
In a world that can feel so rigid and constricting, adventure, and the endless quest for it just makes sense; no matter your platform, location or passion. Everyone wants to be happy, so there’s no reason to hold back. Go out there and get after it. You can be a better version of yourself and in the process, make the world a better place to live.
By Stephen Haynes
Do you know a cycling artist? These six items easily fit in a frame bag and allow for artistic adventures on the go.
Moleskine Large Watercolor Notebook – $20
At 8 ½ x 5 ½ inches, the Moleskine Watercolor Notebook is big enough to capture just about any scene, both real or imagined, yet small enough to fit just about anywhere. Its 72, 200-gram, cold-pressed watercolor pages stand up well to abuse of all kinds, from pencil, pen, watercolor, gouache and casein, to collage and sticker collecting. Moleskine makes a smaller 5 ½ x 3 ½ that I find too small and two larger A4 (11 3/4 x 8 1/4) and A3 (11 3/4 x 16 1/2) size books, both of which are nice, but too big for my purposes. I’m totally in favor of using cheaper materials and sketchbooks, as the cost of art supplies can get heady at times, but I can’t recommend this book enough for its utility and classic styling.
Sakura Koi Water Brush – $7.50
The Koi Water Brush from Sakura is a tool that I’ve come to greatly appreciate, especially when used in concert with water-soluble mediums like the Derwent Watercolor Pencils or Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers I highlight below. The Koi can also be used to activate charcoal, pencil, non-binding ink (like that found in traditional ball points) and dried gouache lending your sketches a soft, painterly feel, which can be left as is, or reworked as you like. One part synthetic brush tip, one part water tank, the Koi is easily filled via faucet, stream or just about any other water source and comes in three different size brush tips: small, medium (pictured) and large. Easy on the budget, easy to pack and carry, loads of fun to use.
Derwent Watercolor Pencils Set of 12 – $20
The Derwent Watercolor Pencils are so cool it’s hard to convey how fun and useful they are in such a short format. Used as traditional colored pencils, they perform as one might expect, but when activated with water, they become slippery and nearly endlessly malleable. Create depth in your image by building layer upon layer of color, blending with water as you go along. They also work great in mixed media sketches, like the one shown here. Available in sets from 12 -72 colors, or individually from various outlets.
Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers – $6 each
Much like the colored pencils above, the Winsor & Newton Watercolor Markers can be used like regular old markers, or they can be softened with water. The difference between the two is that the markers retain the original line a bit more and are also more pigmented; therefore, they come across as brighter and more vibrant. Despite being the only watercolor marker I own, it has proven to be a lot of fun to use and travels well (read, doesn’t need to be sharpened).
Pentel Pocket Brush – $20
The Pocket Brush uses black, waterproof ink, making it great for producing sketches and drawings of lasting quality or as an outliner over other media, like the watercolor marker and pencils mentioned previously. The Pentel Pocket Brush comes with two ink cartridges, one of which will last a good while, unless you’re prone to filling in large sections of paper with solid black. Replacement cartridges can be purchased in sets of two for under $5. This is without a doubt the best $20 I’ve spent on art supplies in the last decade. If you’re at all curious about the items in this roundup, start here.
Pentel Presto! Jumbo Correction Pen – $5
A staple of comic book artists everywhere, the Pentel Presto! Jumbo Correction Pen is great as both a quick-drying corrective tool and an easy solution for adding highlights. The Presto! Jumbo holds 12 mL of thinner-free, ozone-safe correction fluid dispensed through a fine-tipped roller ball, allowing for easy pinpoint applications that dries to the touch in a few seconds. The corrected area can then be readdressed with whatever medium you so choose, or not. While this isn’t an absolute necessity in my kit, I almost always use it when I have it.
Originally published in Bicycle Times #38, our family-themed issue
Words: Adam Newman
Photos: Russ Roca and Adam Newman
For Katie Proctor, the director of the Portland Kidical Mass “chapter,” her love affair with family biking began even before she had a family. A journalism student at the University of Oregon, she interviewed her future husband for a story about sustainable business practices. He told her to look into Burley, maker of kids trailers, which was based in Eugene, Oregon, at the time.
“He gave me this catalog and all of the models in the catalog were Burley employees. Their families would get together and do these big shoots with all their products. And I looked at it—I was 19 years old—and I was like, ‘That’s us. That’s going to be us. I’m going to marry you, we’re going to have babies, we’re going to get a Burley and that’s going to be our life.’”
Fast forward a few years and it all came true. Proctor would find her and her family living car-free in Portland, getting around on a mix of tandem bikes and trail-a-bikes (sometimes together). When the local Kidical Mass chapter was in need of leadership, she didn’t hesitate to step in and begin planning the monthly rides for kids and families.
Founded by Shane MacRhodes in Eugene in 2008, Kidical Mass is more of a movement than an organization. As the Safe Routes to School director in the transportation department of the local school district, MacRhodes wanted to host a family-friendly ride inspired by the famed Critical Mass rides. At the time MacRhodes didn’t even have kids of his own, but now he rides regularly with his daughter and twin sons. “Now communities around the country are holding their own, at times and places that work best for them,” he said. “It will be interesting to see the movement grow and our rides change a little bit.”
Each city that hosts Kidical Mass events has evolved the concept differently. There is no central leadership structure or schedule and the events can vary from city to city. For example, in Portland where large groups of cyclists are a regular occurrence, it’s sometimes necessary to block intersections (known as “corking”) so all the riders can pass through, but the rides in Eugene would never do so. In some cities the rides are on public streets and in others they stick to bike paths.
The group rides are an opportunity for both parents and kids to make new connections in the community. Parents can check out other families’ bikes and sometimes take them for a test ride, while some kids have friends they only know through biking, Proctor said. “When they were babies it was fun because they were chillin’—happy on the bike and it was a chance to get out and be with other adults who had kids. It was very much about having that interaction but also about sharing gear ideas, what’s working for you, test ride each others’ bikes, that sort of stuff,” she said. “In 2009, 2010 there was a lot less gear commercially available, so it was like ‘What hack have you done?’ and ‘How does your hack work?’ ‘How can we make a better hack?’ And also just the support when we are all doing this crazy thing that seems less crazy now, I think, because of the rides.”
Showing people that riding bikes as a family isn’t crazy is part of the mission. Kidical Mass isn’t an advocacy movement, per se, most of the participants agree, but being an active presence in the community can show others that it’s safe and fun. “It’s fun and advocacy all wrapped into one,” MacRhodes said. “What I was advocating for before was pretty much the same but now it’s coming from a whole different viewpoint because I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about my daughter who’s 6 and by the time she’s 10 I want her to be able to ride around the whole city by herself.”
“You sort of fall into advocacy if you’re a family biker,” said Madi Carlson of Seattle. “It’s really hard to make that jump [to family biking]. Friends and knowledgeable people and the whole safety in numbers thing made a huge difference.”
Like Proctor, Carlson was fascinated with the idea of family biking before she even started a family. “My mother is from the Netherlands, so I grew up every few years going to visit my relatives there and seeing everyone on bikes. My uncle rode his bike to work in a three-piece suit and when my cousins started having babies they put them on bikes. I saw that and thought when I have babies I’m going to do this, too.”
And she did. Now Carlson runs a website, familyride.us, where she shares tips, tricks and experiences for families on two wheels. “I love showing people sneaky routes to get to places that maybe they don’t know about,” she said. “The more you ride, the more routes you learn and streets to avoid and I also know the flattest routes to get to any part of town.”
Flat-routing is big in the Kidical Mass movement. “I double the ride times on Google Maps,” said Kath Youell of Portland, who prides herself on knowing the flattest route from A to B. After moving into the city from the suburbs and ditching the car in favor of a bakfiets bike, she had to adjust her family’s lifestyle a bit and she had to keep reminding herself it was worth it. “You can do this. Cargo biking is fun. Slow transportation is fine, just like slow food. That’s the kind of stuff that goes through my head as we are passed by joggers and passed by people on little bikes.”
Transporting her 10-year-old, special-needs son to school is in many ways easier by bike because they aren’t tied to a specific bus schedule and can make stops easily along the way. “A really big thing to me is modeling for Evan that you don’t need to have a personal vehicle to do whatever it is you need to do,” she said.
Teaching kids that cycling is fun, safe and worth continuing beyond their childhood years was the foundation for creating the Kidical Mass rides in the first place, MacRhodes said. “Our goal as parents is to build independence into our children and cycling is an important part of that. I think most people will remember the freedom they felt as kids when they started riding, [and we’re] trying to rediscover that again and help families rediscover that again.”
Learn more: kidicalmass.org
Also in this kid- and family-focused issue of Bicycle Times was a story about bike touring around the world with a toddler, including tips on how to plan and pack for your youngest travel partner. Read it here.