Worcester, Mass.
May 10, 1998

Bike is mother's little helper

By Lynne Tolman

   For Mother's Day, here's a tribute to some moms who ride bikes, and a look at how cycling fits with their roles as parents.
   A lot depends on the children's ages. Trailers make it possible to take babies, toddlers or preschoolers along, and "trail-a-bike" attachments -- adding a wheel, seat, pedals and handlebars on the back to turn a single bike into a tandem of sorts -- are good for older children who aren't ready to go it alone.
   Marie Kolanda of Sterling, starting when her daughter was 11 months old, used a trailer to take the baby on seacoast rides where they lived in New Hampshire, and on family vacations on Martha's Vineyard.
   "She was good," said Kolanda, 39. "We'd pack her up with goodies, juice and water, books and games -- and lather her up with sunscreen -- and she'd be happy in there for hours. A lot of times she'd just fall asleep."
   Kolanda and her husband would take turns pulling the extra weight. When they moved to Sterling and MacKenzie was 2, Kolanda's goal was to bike up the Maple Street hill without stopping, 30-pound trailer and all. "We did it once, toward the end of the summer," she said.
   Last summer Kolanda was pregnant with her second child and didn't bike. Now she's waiting for 7-month-old Kenan to grow into a helmet before she'll put him in the trailer; the smallest sizes typically fit at 12 months, and children have to be able to hold their heads up.
   Meanwhile, MacKenzie, going on 4, has her own wheels -- a tricycle. "She's raring to go for a two-wheeler," Kolanda said, but needs more practice pedaling, braking and steering.
   "I want to look into one of those (trail-a-bike attachments) when she has some two-wheel experience," Kolanda said.
   Nanyee Keyes of Acton, a physician at Bolton Family Medicine, said her family does "ice cream trips" by bike, taking all-day outings of up to 25 miles to Concord or Carlisle with her son, 13, and daughter, 9. Her husband, Philip, used to pull their daughter in a buggy. When she got too heavy, the family had to wait a year or two until she could keep up on her own bike (actually a hand-me-down from her brother).
   The Keyes' son also has helped maintain trails as a volunteer with the New England Mountain Bike Association; Philip Keyes is executive director. Now the couple has an off-road tandem, which "is a blast," said Nanyee, 37. "Our son can keep up, but not our daughter."
   For some mothers, cycling isn't always kid stuff. Lisa Monsen of Clinton goes for road rides every other weekend, when her children, ages 2 and 3 1/2, are at their father's, and during two-hour lunch breaks from her job as receptionist at Bolton Family Medicine -- sometimes with Dr. Keyes.
   Monsen used to have a child seat for the back of her road bike but said she was never really comfortable with that. "I have a mountain bike now and would like to get a trailer" for more stability, she said.
   "I don't ride every day or every week," said Monsen, 32, although she has been a "serious" rider for 10 years and enjoys long tours. "I'm thinking of doing the Boston-New York AIDS Ride this year or another charity ride," she said.
   Last year she and boyfriend Mark Reid did a two-day, 150-mile fund-raising bike ride from Boston to Provincetown for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Cycling is "a lot of fun," she said, "and you don't have to be a Skinny Minnie, either -- you can be any shape and ride a bike."
   Peg Bissell of Templeton has her son, now 20, to thanks for getting her into mountain biking. Five years ago, she had a new cross bike with knobby tires but no one to go off-road with her. As a Mother's Day treat, son Kyle took her riding on the trails at Barre Falls Dam.
   "I was kind of anxious. As a kid, I was always on asphalt," said Bissell, 45. The trail was "just exhilarating. I giggled the whole way," she said. "That was a turning point in terms of my attitude about biking. On-road had gotten a little boring, and uncomfortable."
   Bissell, in turn, turned her roadie husband on to the dirt scene, and now they ride almost every weekend, on the Barre-Templeton rail trail, in state parks, "anyplace that has cross-country skiing," she said.
   Judy Kane of Auburn, mother of four and grandmother of eight, started biking with her husband, Dennis, when their youngest children were pre-teens. Back then, cycling was an escape from hectic duties such as driving the children to ballgames. "It gave us some very nice special time together away from the kids," said Kane, 55.
   The Kanes bought three of their children mountain bikes for graduation gifts, and now they take three-generation off-road rides during family vacations in Jamaica, Vt., and on the Cape. The youngest grandchild, age 5 months, went on his first bike trailer ride last month on the Minuteman Bikeway in Arlington, strapped into his car seat. His sister, age 3, rode along on a two-wheeler for two miles.
   "It's really nice to see something we love so much and value so much carried on through the generations," Kane said.

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