How did you get into biking?
The love of biking is woven in my family culture. My dad is an avid cyclist and has been my entire life. I remember sitting perched in the child seat on the back of his bike. He would often ride with his brothers, and they did the 5 Boros of New York tour a number of times among many other rides. As a family we would ride often, until busy teenager schedules put a stop to that. My parents continued to ride through different variations of bicycles – tandems and recumbents and now e-bikes.
Once I had my own family, I was desperate to find a way to get out of the house with all three of my kids. My husband Mike is in law enforcement and has worked second shift for the majority of a decade. This means I am often left home in the afternoons and evenings with my three children Grayson, Easton and Jovie. Grayson and Easton both have autism – Grayson is non-verbal and profoundly affected. He is prone to elopement, so leaving the house is always a problem. I am constantly worried for his safety. Sometimes his meltdowns are more than I can bear by myself. One night in desperation after yet another day of extreme anxiety, I was online looking up cargo bikes, dreaming about a way that I could someday go for a bike ride with all of my kids. That’s how I found Bunch Bikes.
That Christmas my dad and mom surprised me with a Bunch Bike for my family. I cried my eyes out. It was the most beautiful thing I think I had ever seen. It wasn’t just a bike. It was a symbol of turning a corner, of giving us the opportunity to get outside, to have fun together in a safe way, something that I have craved for years and years!
What kind of biking do you do?
We started with the classic Bunch Bike but just recently my dad and mom ordered the Preschool version of the bike to give my growing kids a bit more room. They built it from the classic chassis into the Preschool, and I helped them with the process! It was quite the project.
Generally, we ride around our small town. We live in a fairly walkable/rideable part of our town so we do a lot of school drop-off/pick-up and frequent our beautiful parks.
How has it improved your mental and physical health?
Before I started biking again, I was feeling desperate, anxious and exhausted. Biking has given me hope. It has helped my entire family. Mike started to ride with us or sometimes he takes the kids for a ride to give me a little break. 🙂 Grayson loves to ride in the bike, and it’s one of the words in his very limited vocabulary. To hear our kids laughing and to see them stim in happiness as we ride along is life-giving to me. It has improved my mental and physical health drastically, and I think the same can be said for the rest of my family too. Often when a meltdown is brewing or my sons are feeling dysregulated, a bike ride helps to calm them.
What advice would you give to other riders?
Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you haven’t ridden in a while, the old adage is true – you don’t forget how to ride a bike. I was able to pick up from not riding for nearly 2 decades, to riding daily with my family. There was a little bit of a learning curve navigating a cargo bike with three wild children, but I did it. I have a great sense of accomplishment after every ride. I am excited and thankful to build cycling into my family culture just like my parents did for me!
Erin Smith is a mom to Grayson, Easton and Jovie and wife to Mike. She enjoys riding her Bunch Bike, being outside with her kids, planting flowers and playing with her family’s new lab/border collie puppy Summer Sunshine. Her blog can be found at http://smithfamilyhighjinks.blogspot.com/
Editor’s note: Bunch Bikes has an amazing “Superhero Inclusion: Disabilities & Special Needs Program” that offers discounts to families who have children or parents with special needs. Find out more at: https://bunchbike.com/pages/special-needs