My Life Parenting

Becoming a Bike Person

Brandon took the kids up to Wisconsin last month while I worked on the house (they didn’t need to suffer the lack of hot water), so he had our minivan and I borrowed his mom’s car. It was the nicest, and coincidentally or not, newest car I’d ever driven (a Subaru Forester). I mentioned it on Instagram Stories, and boy do people love them! Tagline: accurate. I was spoiled very quickly. It was super fun to drive and had some novel bells and whistles, so going back to our minivan was a tiny bit of a bummer.

We have been a single-car household for years and we don’t need a new one, yet I found myself researching. Looking at vehicles that we do not need and would rather not spend money on. I enjoy driving more than Brandon (it’s fun for me, just something that needs to be done sometimes for him), but neither of us are particularly interested in car makes and models. Is it reliable? Does it fit our family of five and the things we need to transport? Cool. Run for as long as you can and you’re our car.

I did successfully transfer my ‘must research cars’ energy into ‘must make my bicycle the cutest in the land,’ which I guess is an improvement? It’s far less expensive at least, though I do find my wish list adding up. We live in a very walkable area, and we do walk a lot — more than we drive. But I often find myself walking somewhere and schlepping things home* with tired and sore arms. So why am I not using my bike more? I aspire to be a person effortlessly and stylishly riding my bicycle everywhere (sundress flapping in the breeze), even though mine has mostly spent its time in the garage. And now that Eleanor has learned to ride and loves it, she wants me to join her.

Public Bike C7

I have what is apparently not a very good bike (I know it is not top of the line and people have not hesitated to tell me so), but I don’t have a lot of knowledge in that area. It’s comfortable and easy to ride, and of course the Liberty of London floral pattern is adorable. I dropped it off at a local shop for maintenance and I’m eager to ride again, but I never did get a basket for it and it is begging for one. Hence my new obsession. Pretty baskets! A more stylish helmet! Do I need panniers and a rack!? And is my bike really so bad? A bike is a bike is a bike to me. I don’t know.

Liberty of London for Target Bicycle

Cute Beach Cruisers and Dutch Bicycles - Linus, Brilliant Bikes, Public, Electra Townie and Loft | Making it Lovely

Now I appeal to you, oh people that know much more about these things than I do. Knowing that I appreciate style, but do want function along with my form, have you any recommendations? Do I need a Wald basket for bringing home groceries even though wicker is far more cute? Panniers or a big crate, or something else entirely? The bike world is a little intimidating to me as an outsider and I’m not super sure where to look for information. How do I know when/if I should upgrade? I’m not going to be racing or doing trails. I’m going to ride around town and go to Trader Joe’s, and I would like my bike to be cute and comfortable while doing so.

Serena & Lily - Public Bike C7

Point this researching energy in the right direction, please!

* I always try to have reusable bags with me, and Envirosax is my favorite. The roll up nicely to fit in my purse, they’re durable, they come in great colors and patterns, and the wide shoulder straps make them comfortable even when filled with heavy things.

PHOTOS: Public Bike C7 • Making it Lovely • Manufacturers noted above • Serena & Lily

Sources & Paint ColorsNeed design help? Let's work together.

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  • Chelsea
    August 3, 2018 at 2:39 pm

    We just recently became a one car family again when one of our cars died after 13 years. We bought two xtracycles and we’re loving it! I can bike around all three kids (ages 1, 3, and 5) and still have room for a few bags. The kids are so so happy on the bike- what kid wouldn’t prefer to ride on a bike over being strapped in a car seat. I highly recommend xtracycles!

  • Sarah
    August 3, 2018 at 2:49 pm

    I’ve owned half a dozen cute bikes and worked in the bike industry. The perfect cruiser grocery getter bike is a unicorn. Here are my two cents; the bike you have is a great place to start. Ride that for a year or so in the way you intend for errands, etc and see how it works out. It’s not perfect but hey you already own it! Then watch to see what other riders in your area have, and learn from them. People love to talk about their bikes! You can see really good reviews at
    For accessories you will definitely need a helmet you love and a really good bike lock, like a krypotonite with the extra loop to secure your wheels. You’ll also need front and back lights, the higher the lumens the brighter they will be and the more you’ll be seeen by cars. A wicker basket is pretty but won’t last through much rain or a few seasons of regular use, so consider the looks vs practicality. I have one but use it only for light items and store my bike in the garage. If you put too much weight on the front by filling up a basket with heavy things most cruiser or step though bikes get weighed down and start to act squirrely. Some bikes are designed to carry more at the front and many times these are ones with the metal basket built into the frame, a great feature is a spring between the diamond frame and the front head tube which will stabilize for loading. Another fave feature is a double kickstand. A wicker basket will mostly only hold your purse, not even a laptop bag, so also get a back rack and panniers. Panniers can be expensive so look at rei or for used ones before you commit. That’s how you’ll do your grocery hauling and laptop and lunches and picnic blankets. Good luck! What works for you won’t necessarily be what others swear by so start small, try it with what you have, and go from there.

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 1:15 pm

      Thank you, this is so helpful! Taking all of this into account, except when I went to pick up my bike from the bike shop I found out that my bike won’t take a rack on the back, so there go the panniers for now.

  • Stacy Campbell
    August 3, 2018 at 3:57 pm

    I waited years before buying a step-through because I like(d) to ride my bike for work and needed something that would fit me (I’m 6’1″) and had plenty of gears to get up hills. Once I went back to work full-time I couldn’t get away with coming into work slightly sweaty and disheveled so I ditched riding. This past October I bit the bullet and found a girls bike that would fit me (Simcoe!) and then made the absolute best purchase of my life a Copenhagen Wheel. It’s an electric assist wheel that works along with an app to flatten hills and increase the riding experience by 100%. I now arrive to work looking as good as if I stepped out of my car or off the bus. But I’m RIDING every day! I don’t know what I’ll do once the rain starts but I’m enjoying riding so much these days I might just get some rain gear. If hills are an issue that prevents you from biking at all I highly recommend. Once I got the wheel it felt just like when you learn to ride as a kid. Freedom! I didn’t know how many barriers I subconsciously had to riding because of hill apprehension. Removing that was a dream :)

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      I just read about the Copenhagen Wheel in the Bicycling magazine at my doctor’s office! (It was there, I figured cool. Topical.) Such a cool motor.

  • Stephanie Austin
    August 3, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Xtracycle! We’ve had one for years and just this summer replaced it with a new one. We will likely add e-assist as well because we do actually use it for hauling kids and groceries which gets heavy on hills. They are spendy but so worth the investment!

  • Jacqui Bennetts
    August 3, 2018 at 5:18 pm

    No matter what as long as it is safe you go ride your pretty bike. When I was very poor I got a $20 second hand bike that had no gears and only a back pedal break and I rode that thing everywhere, I added a basket at the front with fake flowers all over it and a wire box at the back for shopping and away I rode it to work took it on the train to jobs all over till one day I didn’t lock it properly and it got stolen from outside my house by some drunk wanting to ride it home (it was such a clunker no one else would ever have stolen it. The thing is this bikes attract passion about makes and models from aficionados and the flash ones attract thieves. Pimp your current bike to use for errands and fun, and go have fun on it. You have to decide if your a helmet wearer ( not sure of your laws there) we have to wear one by law in NZ but I would any way a brain injury is not a fashionable personal modification I would want. If you area is so walk -able then it is mostly extremely bike ridable so you likely don’t need electric but if you get the bug to do all your errand on a bike t might be nice down the track to up grade. I did get panniers in the end after a few years when I was riding to work everyday so I could get changed at work. Go have fun.

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 1:27 pm

      I, too, have no gears and a back pedal brake! And I’m adding a basket. Let us hope a drunk does not steal it (nor anyone else). Definitely wearing a helmet, but the one I have is from my roller derby days and there’s no front bill (which I assume protects my face from road rash?). Anyways, thanks!

  • Nicole L
    August 3, 2018 at 6:44 pm

    That xtracycle is genius! Looks so handy to use with kids who aren’t ready to ride on their own!

    We bought new bicycles two years ago and one thing I recall is that most cute bicycles are great only if you’re in a flat flat flat area. They’re made to look cute cruising a beach boardwalk, not to ride around a city, and a bike that isn’t comfortable and easy to ride won’t get used. I’d recommend getting as lightweight a cycle as you can, unless you’re getting electric assist. I had an old (heavy) model and when I got a new bicycle I was shocked at how much easier it was to ride! Even with the added weight of a pre-schooler in a trailer it was more manageable. Check out your local bike shops and test ride as much as you can!

    For baskets there are lots of cute metal ones that come with handles (so you could carry them into stores or the house!), I had a front one on my old bike and it was great for small/light errands. One for the back would be more practical for anything more than one small bag of groceries. Also depending on your other accessories (light, water bottle holder, bell, etc.) you may not be able to fit everything on the front.

    And definitely get the best lock you can buy! Even crappy bikes are a target for theft, it’s so frustrating!

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 1:33 pm

      I am in a flat flat flat area! And I bought a basket with a handle — didn’t realize that was a thing, but seems handy. Apparently my bike can’t take a rack or basket on the back.

  • Meg
    August 3, 2018 at 9:19 pm

    There is a really helpful Facebook group—Chicago Family Biking. The people in the group are always willing to answer questions and give tips. Plus there is an Oak Park contingent in the group. Good luck!

  • Linda K
    August 3, 2018 at 10:03 pm

    For carting things around, definitely get a rack with panniers. I had the cutest wire basket on the front of my Electra but as soon as I put something a little too heavy, the attaching contraption broke. I like my Electra for looks and lugging. But for commuting or longer rides, I use a more functional bike. I was ogling a Brooklyn brand bike the other day, but haven’t ridden one. Agree with others that your current bike is probably fine for now, and to decide whether or not biking is for you. Enjoy!

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 1:35 pm

      Going to ride my current bike for a while before spending $$$ on something new. Bummed to find out from the bike shop that racks aren’t going to work on it though!

  • Hill in Rochester NY
    August 4, 2018 at 5:19 am

    Extracycle is great. Also check out Radwagon electric assist cargo bike. It is my “minivan” mama bike that lets me carry a four-year-old in a Yep seat, 50 pounds of groceries, our rain jackets, and my work things on our 6-mile roundtrip daycare drop and daily commute.

    August 4, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Great read!I live on an Island off Cape Cod,MA great for my bike. I purchased a Pink Schwinn after searching online for one. Found it at Sears at the Cape Cod Mall, the last one for women!
    I have always rode a bike growing up off island and on summers!I love peddling thru the tiny streets into town.I have a rack on the back and await my basket, always wear a helmut. Come Autumn I wear bike gloves,I love it.

  • Elizabeth Scott
    August 4, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Nicole, check out Madsen cycles – very cute and in fun colors! I live in Hyde Park in Chicago and love ours for taking my daughter to activities, grocery shopping and lakefront picnics. Love your blog!

  • Holly
    August 6, 2018 at 9:05 am

    Your bike is adorable and if it works for you, why not use it?

    I don’t care for biking (at least on my bike) so a few years I bought a kickbike, which is awesome, fun to ride and stylish. It is a bike/scooter hybrid, and exactly what Jessica Fletcher would ride if she were a hipster. It always gets at least one, “Wow!” when I take it out, and riding it always makes me smile.

    • Making it Lovely
      August 10, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      You win for the Jessica Fletcher hipster reference!

  • Nicole
    August 6, 2018 at 10:10 am

    I live in France and never got my drivers license here so now that we live in the suburbs, I have been forced to become a bike person. Mostly I love it and appreciate how no car forces me to get fresh air and exercise even when j am unmotivated- honestly, this is the best thing about the bike. I have a baby so I have a baby seat and dream of the day I can add panniers since it is tricky to go grocery shopping, etc with just my front basket. I tend to think that my cheap bike is better than a fancy version because I do not want to have to worry about bike theft- I am constantly dumping the bike to quick run in to buildings and collect children, so far so good. I am also not going for long rides for fun when a fancier bike might have an advantage, which is something you might not be doing so long as the kids aren’t all bike- mobile. I say put your money into fun accessories and then invest in a fancy bike when the bike habit is more established.

  • DD
    August 6, 2018 at 10:51 am

    Hear me now: always wear a well-fitted bike helmet and insist that your children wear theirs. No excuses, no whining, ever. Even gentle rides on the sidewalk can lead to spills and impacts that may cause concussion, particularly dangerous for children. Thankfully, kid helmets are so cute these days; a rambunctious boy in our neighborhood has one with bright orange spikes across the top! He thinks he’s a punk stegosaurus! Be stylish, be cute, have fun—but above all, be safe. Best wishes!

  • MB
    August 6, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    My 2 cents as a fellow Chicago bike rider below! While cute is a great aspirational goal, it will be for naught if the outcome is frustrating. So here’s what I’ve learned the past few years:

    -front baskets and rear baskets make steering and using the kickstand a little harder due to the weight distribution/higher center of gravity.
    -easiest is paniers. I have one that converts with 1 zipper to a backpack.
    -bike you own is better than a new bike without some research in to how your ride, where you’d like to ride, etc. Ride that pretty bike for a while and see what frustrates you, if anything, and what’s holding you back.
    -If you go with a rear basket, grab a cargo net for the top to keep everything contained. That trunk locker is cute! But definitely limits what you can put in it, which is more the point, no?
    -Get out there and riiiiiiiiide! Start small, use google maps bike feature to route to new places, and expand from there!

    (oh, and finally, and most sadly, bike shorts are a godsend. Ugly as heck, but your tushie will thank you if you’re a regular rider.)

  • Tricia
    August 6, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    I rode my bike to work every day for a few years when I lived in Denver. I shared a car (a Subaru Forester!) with my husband and he also biked to work. It was wonderful! It got me in shape and boosted my mood. But it took some planning in terms of weather and wardrobe. Definitely get a rack and pannier. If something doesn’t fit in your pannier you can strap it to the rack. The pannier I have is the best gear purchase I’ve made (besides a helmet). It converts to a tote or backpack and is cuter than a lot of the utilitarian ones I see. (This one: and the price here is a steal). My only complaint is that it’s water resistant and not water proof. We recently got a Hamax bike seat for our daughter and she loves it. I rode an old purple 70s or 80s Panasonic bike that I got at a police auction when I started riding. It was heavy and had friction gears but it looked cool. After riding it regularly I realized I wanted something lighter and with better shifters. I bought a boring looking bike that was a work horse and loved it. But now a few years later I’m wanting something different again. :) I would recommend riding what you have and you’ll soon figure out what you wish you could change.

  • bnease
    August 6, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    I have a Public C7 and love mine!

  • Antoinetta
    August 7, 2018 at 3:58 pm

    As a Dutch mom, I did everything on my bike, it was my main transportation. And before my kids could ride their own bicycles they were on mine plus groceries and a stroller. Now I don’t think all that’s needed here but for groceries and maybe one child on the back rack , your bike needs to be sturdy but not fancy.All you need is a good 3-speed bike with a chain guard (so your pants/skirt etc. would get caught in it) for the same reason have a skirt-guard on your back wheel also. Make sure that the rear rack is solid, able to carry some weight so when you fill up your panniers (get a good size one you can actually put stuff in) it won’t wobble. You can install a wooden crate up front instead of a basket for more groceries and will even out your weight distribution. Of course a good lock is a must and lights! also reflectors on the side of your wheels is nice to have. Go to they are in Chicago, they sell Dutch style bicycles. Make sure that you make your bike fit for you ( maybe change the height of your saddle or steering system). There are lots of colorful accessories around for bicycles to sprucing it up a little bit. Hope this was helpful!

  • Lynn
    August 8, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    I have a friend with 3 children and she also loves her Madsen.

    I too am on this same journey, trying to transform myself into a cute bike commuter. I used to ride a 1 mile flat commute daily. While my commute is only 5 miles now there is a major hill in the middle. I am trying to just power through and get stronger, but it’s really hard to convince myself if there’s any shred of “not today” in me. I got an electra loft 7 speed. it’s freaking adorable and i do love it, but wonder if i need something lighter, more appropriate for the hill. i am intrigued by the Copenhagen Wheel mentioned above!!!!

  • Sarah
    August 10, 2018 at 10:28 am

    I love items from Basil – I’m pretty sure they are a Dutch company. I have the Bloom double panniers – they are perfect for groceries, lightweight when empty and sooo pretty, and the aqua flowers match my bike’s colour perfectly!! I prefer to put groceries in the panniers, as items in my wicker front basket always seem to affect my steering (although that may be my lack of coordination!)

  • Sarah
    August 10, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I thought I would share my bike as well:

    It wasn’t cheap, but there is no comparison to any other bike I’ve ridden before. So comfortable!

  • Kelsey Williams
    August 10, 2018 at 3:54 pm

    So fun! I have a Linus Mixte and LOVE it. It has an internal gear (or something like that) so you can switch gears even when you’re not pedaling and the chain won’t fall off (at least that’s what I was told). I have three gears but wish I had eight as I find myself on gear 2 most of the time and would like to switch but 1 is too easy and 3 is too difficult. But overall I am super impressed with it. A cargo bike would be awesome, but we live in the suburbs so it’s not as easy to get places on bike as a family.

  • Sian Emmison
    August 14, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Thanks for the mention! We are a small family company and it means a lot!

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