A lot of people struggle with the decision to trade in their car for a bicycle. It seems that factors such as convenience, lack of accessibility, and weather often end up outweighing potential benefits like improved physical condition and environmental sustainability. But those who have chosen to forfeit their four wheels for two rarely seem to regret it. Maybe there is something more to cycling than getting your heart rate up and feeling better about your carbon footprint.
Take Emily Finch for example, a suburban mother of five, who in 2009 decided she was ready for a change. Having recently rekindled a relationship with her left-wing father, Emily had taken an increased interest in sustainability and had started to imagine alternative possibilities for the future of her family. She began to wonder what their life would look like without the minivan, and needless to say, she found the idea intriguing.
Of course, when you have a family of five young children to transport, it isn’t quite as easy as picking up a basic model at your local cycle shop. Yet in a testament to her bravery, Emily sat down one night and typed “family bike” into her internet browser. She came across the Bakfiets Dutch cargo bike, and everything changed.
It arrived a few weeks later and her adventure began. Despite being thrilled by the possibility she saw before her, it wasn’t exactly love at first ride. Emily has become an active cycling ambassador on social media, and speaks honestly about the immense physical exhaustion she experienced the first time she loaded up her kids and took to the streets. As she struggled to move the giant machine (the bike itself weighs over a hundred pounds), she feared she had made a mistake.
25 lbs oats, 25 lbs masa, 50 lbs of oranges, & a 74 lb zombie who wants to eat my brain, among other things. pic.twitter.com/KGpi9Abg
— Emily Finch (@1lessgmsuburban) February 16, 2013
Committed to her decision, though, she decided there was no going back. She persevered and one ride at a time, got stronger and more efficient, developing her own technique and learning how her body worked with the bike. “I just kept biking… I got used to it and I’m one with the bike now,” she declares proudly on her Twitter page. She has been going strong and inspiring those around her ever since. As expected, there have been some trying moments for this biking family, but they’ve learned to get through them together. When it rains, they dress warm and get wet. When tantrums happen, Emily says bungee cords are her savior. She has also motivated many of her friends to start biking with their children, building a community and support system, from which they all benefit.
Yet despite all the success there would be one more obstacle to face in this tale of transformation. Having ridden her bike – and six children – into the hearts of many, Emily awoke one morning in late 2013 to find that her famous bike had been stolen from her home in Portland. There was a huge public outcry as the community sought tirelessly to help her recover her family’s means of transportation. Unfortunately, even with the support of numerous social media campaigns to find the Bakfiets and return it to its rightful owner, the bike was never found.
Minor ankle sprain had us riding the bus this week. Yawn. pic.twitter.com/GYdPOcm3
— Emily Finch (@1lessgmsuburban) January 10, 2013
Did this stop Emily? Not a chance. She was already addicted to the lifestyle, and with the support of the community she managed to continue toting kids and cargo around the streets of Portland on various bikes she borrowed from local shops, eventually having a custom bike built just for her by a local builder. She has since been back on the road with no sign of slowing down.
The point being, once she was hooked, she was hooked and nothing was going to stop her from living the life she wanted. Showing how the bike had become an integral part of life for her and her family, this is a story that truly demonstrates how big of a difference cycling can make in the lives of people who embrace it. Emily credits bicycling for restoring her happiness and maintaining her sanity. She bikes because it makes her happy and helps her deal with the stress that inevitably accompanies being a mother of six.
In addition to improving her own quality of life, Emily is also teaching her children healthy coping mechanisms and encouraging them to take their own active approach to cultivating the life they want. Setting a great example, she is showing them that making the time to take care of yourself every day is something no one else can do for you. Emily is clearly someone who knows how to appreciate the simple pleasures in life, delighting in the satisfaction that is to be found in family and good health.
It might be a very different challenge than conquering mountains, but Emily’s cycling achievement is equally impressive and inspiring. “I love my bike,” she says. “Because it’s changed my life. I can’t really explain it. In the end, my bike just brings me happiness.” Her story reflects the fact that hard work becomes easy when your work becomes your play. A reminder to never underestimate the value of loving what you do, Emily’s story proves that it is never too late to make a change. How has owning a bicycle changed your life? Share your story here.