The First Warm Day…

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…was luckily also “papa day”. Thursday’s are dad’s weekday to hang out with Pascal. Since a 19 month old demands pretty much full-time attention it means a (nearly) no work day. We do all kind of things on papa day: ride to the zoo, walk around Amsterdam doing errands and checking out every park and playground along the way, visit friends… If it’s decent weather we often go for a bike ride.

Today was beautiful, at least by Dutch late winter standards. After breakfast we got on the bike and then we rode until early evening. We stopped at several playgrounds to test their slides (P’s favorite). The big, curvy one near the wind turbines was the winner. We sat on the terrace of a cafe and shared a chicken saté and frites. We checked out a running windmill where they still grind grains and the nice bakkers bakfiets out front. We even climbed “Het Kopje van Bloemendaal” the biggest hill in the area (43 meters!).

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Of course our daily ride bikes are equipped with child seats but I also have a bike especially for longer, recreational rides with the family. It’s essentially a heavy-duty touring bike somewhat modified to make it comfortable and safe with a toddler in a front child seat and it works really well. It has full fenders and dynamo lights so rain and darkness aren’t real problems. With a triple crank and derailleur gearing I can climb hills. I usually bring one pannier with kid essentials: diaper/wipes, snacks, jacket, spare clothes etc. Speaking of panniers I absolutely hate the Vaude roll-tops I’ve got. Sure they’re waterproof and lightweight but having only one compartment is a total pain in the butt; all of the little stuff you need falls to the bottom, my camera bangs against the lock or keys and so on. Next panniers will have little compartments, will stand up when off the bike, and will be quick to open and close. I’m thinking Carradice canvas or something along those lines.

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In any case we’ve racked up a lot of family kilometers both around Holland and on holiday in France. Pascal sits in front of me in a Bobike Mini seat. When he naps I drape an arm over his little handlebar cushion so that his head rests in my arm. I’ve climbed entire mountains like this since you can’t always predict when a little kid will fall asleep. Our heads are only a few centimeters apart so we can “talk” easily. Pascal points out the animals (wanwan, baaahh, moooo…) and vehicles (monono, kruk, batchi, pee pee…), and particularly gets a kick out of hearing his voice flutter when we ride over rough surfaces: “Waa-aa-a-aaa-aa-a-aaaaa!” Being a typical dad I thought this was unique but it turns out lots of kids do exactly the same thing. As long as the scenery/action is good, and we stop to play or eat each hour or so Pascal will happily ride and babble all day… and that makes me very happy.


19 Responses to “The First Warm Day…”

  1. Alexis Says:

    Aww what a suitably warm post for such a warm day. Shame about those pesky Vaude roll-top panniers 🙁

    Pascal looks like a proper trendy dude in those orange shades. I predict more fashion shoots. Get those nerdy kids off the Bobike ads and get little dude in there.

    Bring on the warm days!

  2. henry Says:

    Nice start on your blog, Alexis. The red custom Monark you show is indeed a nice one. Actually it was prettier when it was first built since it had 60mm tires then and was pretty much stripped. I had intended it to be my own bike but then somebody purchased it (the brother of a famous speed skater actually) and reality reared its ugly face: I actually had to make it into a practical bike. But he’s really taken good care of it and he and his wife have since purchased several other bikes from us.

    Yes, the Vaudes (Ortlieb copies but actually better in some ways) must go and since every bike tourist in northern Europe uses this type of panner I’m sure it’ll be easy to find a new home for them. First, though I have to find a suitable replacement and that might be more difficult.

  3. Julian Says:

    Lovely, Henry & Pascal! I need to try the slaaprol thing with Luc for those unpredictable naps. We’ve been having a lot of “papa days” lately, with Luc in the bobike mini. He likes to point out “a-dis & a-dat” too. I’m so happy he’s big enough to come up front now. It felt like a sweet and slightly scary (Drew was older, 18 months, when we first put her up front) bikey rite of passage on his first trip up there with me.

  4. henry Says:

    Thanks Julian! The slaaprol/stuurtje is a must. I actually prefer the old version (foam sausage) to the new one (little pillow) but that won’t bring it back into production.

    Pascal actually began riding in the Bobike Mini when he was a little over 8 months old. He was happy and comfortable but did fall asleep quite quickly. That was, in turn, tiring for papa who had to support him while cycling. This is fine in peaceful Holland but not recommended for more unpredictable areas.

  5. Norma Says:

    Did you see Het Parool of today? A nice article about dads on bakfietsen. Unfortunately not online.

  6. Anthony King Says:

    Do you have to bow your legs to avoid hitting the Mini with your knees? I’ve found that without some combination of a very slack seat tube angle, high bars, or long toptube–none of which are typical on most road bikes–I get quite a bit of knee strike on the back of the seat unless I bow my legs.

  7. henry Says:

    On my papa-bike I can pedal normally without any interference from the Bobike Mini but that is indeed unusual for a bike with a sportive seating position. That’s because I built it that way: I chose a very stiff frame with a very long top tube. I searched out a seat and post combination that set me quite far back. And then I made my own stem with a tall and burly 1 1/8″ stainless quill. I also trimmed a little plastic away from the rear of the seat.

    But now I have further plans for bikes suitable for touring with kids. I’ve been sketching up frames, stems, handlebars and carriers and am considering doing a short run of them.

  8. Feddo Says:

    A triple, Henry? Een “koffiemolentje”? You wuss!

  9. Feddo Says:

    Before I forget, Pascal is getting older now. So I will share a personal favorite in our house at story/bedtime: “Fiets” by Charlotte Dematons.

    ISBN is 9789059650794

    You can get in from for a few euro’s. Well worth it, trust me. When you see the detail pics, you will understand.

    Can’t get it new, as it was a Kinderboekenweekgeschenk. I was meaning to recommend it to you for some time now. Seriously, it will cost you €5 and it will be worth it.

  10. henry Says:

    Yep, that book is already one of Pascal’s favorites and I understand exactly what you’re talking about: it’s filled with drawings of bikes from our and our colleagues’ websites!

  11. henry Says:

    It’s funny you comment about the triple on my papafiets. It doesn’t actually work yet. Why? I added the inner chainring but the derailleur can’t move far enough inward to shift off the middle ring. It just needs a longer crank spindle but the bottom bracket is seized and can’t be removed without destroying the threads and then reaming and retapping it with Italian thread… when I find the time to deal with that.

    Thus I’ve been riding in the mountains on a heavy bike with a child and panniers in a 39T chainring. Aren’t I a tough guy?

  12. Anonymous Says:

    39T? Depends, what’s your rear cassette’s largest? I think I rode Amstel Gold Race in a 39×22 setup. Could have been a 42×22. Who’s tough now? 😉

    Glad you know the book, my kruisframe is even in there. I love the details and background drawings.

  13. henry Says:

    28T. Climbing mountains on touring bike with a year old child between my arms (i.e. no standing) in a 39 x 28 is enough for my knees so you can win the gear pissing contest. 😉

  14. ubrayj02 Says:

    Henry, I’ve been having “papa days” twice a week for almost two years now, and they are all thanks to one of your bakfiets I bought from Rain City Bikes way back in 2007. Your bakfiets made my life worth living. I can’t imagine what it would be like driving my daughter to all the parks and shopping trips we’ve done together, here in Los Angeles. I probably would have just called it quits, driven into a wall, to escape the drudgery.

    This post just brought a lot of good memories of raising my daughter in a bakfiets. Papa days forever!

  15. Anthony King Says:


    In my earlier comment I was embarassed to admit the depth of my bike geekiness had included playing around in BikeCAD on a sport touring design to accomodate the Mini. My solution was to take my usual 58cm tt/110mm stem and change it to a 64cm tt/ 50mm stem and slightly high bars than usual.

    After baby number two came along my interest in the project dwindled, although maybe I could lengthen the chainstays on the same design to accomodate a Maxi rear seat. Sport touring two seater?

    I don’t know how common 29er mountain bikes are in Europe, but they often fit the Mini well because they have to have very long effective toptubes to make room for 700×60 tires. Getting a frame and building it up with drop bars and road tires could be a decent low cost alternative to a custom frame.

  16. henry Says:

    Either that’s not as geeky as you think, or I’m just as much of a bike geek. I’ve done quite a bit of similar experimentation, measurement and sketching. However my research suggests that you might run into some problems with your proposed setup. Firstly if you use a 50mm stem your handlebars will have to be very high to provide both knee room for you and space for the child’s legs behind the handlebar.

    In any case I intend to take the project somewhat further, also mounting the child seat several cm further forward over the steering axis to reduce the moment of inertia on the steering. That’ll require a special stem and probably handlebar too. I also want to get the seat as low as possible, requiring 26″ wheels. Since I’ll to ride this bike with two kids in the near future, long chainstays, very low bottom bracket and a step-through frame are also important.

    The 29’er frame idea is an interesting one but it won’t cover all of these bases.

  17. Feddo Says:

    Just to confirm from an outside perspective: you guys are definitely (bike) geeks.

  18. henry Says:

    Feddo, I revel in my bike geekiness and our customers are very happy to have such obsessive nuts designing and building their bikes.

  19. feddo Says:

    Speaking as a customer, I would have to agree.

    I am writing this on an iPad by the way, so on the whole Geek thing: hi, I am Pot, and I am calling you black.

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