Sleeping on the Bike

There’s something about the rhythmic motion and sounds of cycling that lulls kids to sleep. My kids doze off in all manner of situations, some convenient and some rather unhandy. They’re obviously going to sleep on the way home in the evening from a long day out but climbing one handed several kilometers out of a valley in Burgundy while cradling your daughter’s head is an exercise in patience and subtle anti-cramping techniques. In a bakfiets it’s no problem at all; the bottom of our bak is actually lined with egg-crate foam for this purpose. Regardless I just can’t resist taking pictures of the tots crashed out on the bike. Below some of my favorites with commentary:

Henry P1 Amstel
We began practicing the various head supporting techniques shortly after P1 began riding in a seat (rather than in a Maxi-Cosi cot in the bakfiets). At 9 months old he would fall asleep after about half an hour of squealing glee on the road.

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Last year we began doing several day tours with the kids in the bakfiets. I think the canopy adds to the doze factor and also handily supports their heads.

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With a bakfiets full of camping gear it’s easy to rearrange the great into a sort of kiddy nest.

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Or you can make such a nest from jackets, clothes, diaper bags and whatever else you’ve got handy. If the roads (or trails in this case) are quiet enough we’ll ride like this.

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The Cargobike is unfortunately only handy for when we can cycle from our home. Elsewhere we ride touring bikes outfitted to carry the kids. Here P1 and P2 do their thing on the way up a mountain in Burgundy, France. I was unloaded for that day trip but this bike now also sports low rider mounts so I can carry front and rear panniers. Oh, and I added Magura hydraulic brakes to keep all that weight under control.

The packing is getting somewhat more complicated now that we often have the kids’ own bikes aboard. This was actually last night on the way home from day on the road and then a birthday party. The balloons made rather handy pillows, and then P2 made a comfy pillow for P1.

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Letting a child sleep isn’t as easy in a child seat. Here P2 misses out on an ice-cream break.

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This time it was P1’s turn to doze off at the wrong time. We’ve just arrived at a secluded beach after riding along sandy paths for several kilometers. Sorry kid, time to get up and hike over the dune to the beach.

And lastly a little video, actually my one and only video on YouTube. We’re riding home along one of our favorite routes, on the dike between Spaarndam and Halfweg. It’s a public road but there’s little reason to drive there so you only see a car every few minutes at most. Happy cycling.

9 Responses to “Sleeping on the Bike”

  1. Apple A Day Says:

    Ha! yesterday on the bike path in Arlington, MA, I got SMOKED by a guy with two kids in a workcycles backfiets. If that isn’t a great advertisement for you I don’t know what is! They went by too fast for me to seep if they were asleep, but really, what an awesome way to nap!

  2. henry Says:

    The bakfiets obviously isn’t fast up a hill but if it’s flat and the wind isn’t bad you can ride it quite quickly. Otherwise I wouldn’t be able to put in 60-70km days on the bike, loaded with kids and stuff.

  3. Alex in Canada Says:

    I think I was with you at that ice cream shop, no? If I recall correctly that was one of the last warm days of Fall ’11. Down near Hilversum, I think….?

    I like the look on P1’s face. Either heat exhaustion or a late summer ice cream-induced food coma.

  4. henry Says:

    Hey Alex,
    I hope Canadia is treating you well eh!

    Yes, that photo was from that long ride we did with you and this ice cream place is in Nieuwe Loosdrecht, between Hilversum and Utrecht. It was a long day with at least two ice cream stops so P1 is probably both a bit dazed and sugar confused.

    I just checked and the date was 2 October so yes it must have been one of the last hot days of the year. That was a fun day and we must have covered at least 125km.

  5. Micheal Blue Says:

    Super-cool and super-cute…and very functional. Here in Toronto I’ve seen only a handful of cargo bikes like this with kids inside. I’ve also seen a Nihola cargo bike carrying a couple of trees. Maybe a daily occurrence in Holland, but not here. Too bad that apartment dwellers can just look at these bikes…

  6. henry Says:

    We’re all apartment dwellers here too. These bikes live on the street, year round, locked up with a big chain. Sometimes they get stolen or vandalized.

  7. Lamont Says:

    Thanks for the nesting tips. We have a joeBike knockoff to the bakfiets here in San Francisco and our 15 month old son loves riding in it. He’s occasionally falling asleep on the ride home after a long morning and we struggle between strapping him in for safety and trying to find a comfortable position for him to sleep in. Loading up the basket with jackets and gear might help him find a comfortable way to rest. And the balloons look comfy too.

  8. Andy S Says:

    Hi Henry,

    Nice post. Our boys have been falling asleep in the backfiets with amazing regularity ever since we got it.

    Can you tell us a bit more about the touring bike? I can just about make out a Workcycles logo on the head tube. Have you taken one of your standard frames and modded it?


  9. henry Says:

    I don’t seem to have many pics of the touring bike, aka “papafiets”, perhaps because I take most of the photos and I’m sitting on it. It’s only a Workcycles bike in the sense of me having chosen parts, modified things and assembling it into a bike. The frame is from Snel, a small firm in Utrecht that specializes in touring bikes. Ironically it was built by the same Belgian framebuilder that has built many Workcycles and Azor frames. I actually got the frame for free after an airline flattened the toptube. A small hole on the other side of the toptube and some body working technique got it almost perfect then I had the frameset and Tubus carriers (the rear also damaged) powdercoated matte olive green. The frame works OK as a papa bike but it’s not ideal: It’s stiff, strong and has plenty of tire clearance but the bottom bracket is stupidly high for a loaded touring bike, making it difficult to get on and off the bike with kids and gear aboard. Really there’s no reason at all for a loaded touring bike to have a high BB. Also the chainstays aren’t quite long enough top mount the rear child seat so my heels clear the rear passenger’s toes. Two centimeters longer and it’d be fine… and it wouldn’t wheelie so easily on steep climbs. The Surly Long Haul Trucker has more suitable geometry than the Snel, but this frame was a freebie.

    The parts are just things that work for the purpose. Some examples:
    – a stem I made with a long and tough stainless quill
    – Magura HS33 hydraulic rim brakes. Powerful, good rim clearance and easy to modulate.
    – a seat post with considerable setback and seat still slammed to the rear so my knees clear the front seat
    – double crank with 110mm BCD and 44/33 chainrings combined with 12-36 9sp cassette (I don’t like triples)
    – Sunrace 9sp thumb shifter that absolutely suck. These will be replaced by Paul’s Thumbies with Dura Ace shifters on top.
    – Super strong wheels I made from parts I had hanging around: Hugi hubs, Mavic rims, bladed DT spokes…
    – Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires 622-32mm: Lovely tires!
    – Sanyo rim dynamo (smooooth), B&M IQ Cyo headlamp, little Spanninga LED taillamp, all wiring internal

    Next step is a fork block and little front wheel fork in order to tow P1’s bike along so he can ride for portions of our tours.

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