February 13, 2012
Cycling for how many years: I learned how to ride a bike when I was 6, so 25 years.
Favorite part about cycling: I love cycling because there is something so fun about being able to move yourself faster than you can walk or run. We deliberately chose to live close to Chicago’s lakeshore path, which means that my commute is approximately 90% on the path and 10% on streets. Riding home along the lake in the summer is a wonderful way to decompress. On days when I don’t commute by bicycle, I take the train or bus, which takes just about as long as riding my bike round trip. Doubling up my commute and exercise leaves me lots of evening free time.
Bike(s) you ride: I ride a purple Cannondale. I have a rack on the back where I can put a bag with my work gear on one side and I have cargo space on the other side for summer stops to the farmers market or other errands. I’m looking forward to adding a co-pilot or chariot in the summer months to take the baby out with me.
What three words sum up your cycling experience while being pregnant: Comfort, exercise, and fun
How did being pregnant affect your approach to cycling or your daily commute: I had “morning” sickness at the beginning of my pregnancy, and it corresponded with Chicago’s snowy 2011 winter months, so I didn’t ride for the first couple months of pregnancy. When the morning sickness was easing up, but still in effect, it actually motivated me to get on my bike the days the weather wasn’t terrible. Cold weather biking in the fresh air was better for my stomach than the normal smells of the bus and trains, and kept me from judging my fellow commuters for having garlicky lunches. Once spring hit, I biked to work almost every day until my 31st week of pregnancy. At that point the 13 mile (21km) round trip got to be too much for me, but prior to that I had logged 614 commuting miles (987km) while pregnant. From 31 to 40 weeks when I had my beautiful baby, I continued to bike to the beach, grocery store, and farmers market since those are shorter trips.
What (if anything) surprised you about cycling while pregnant? I kept on expecting to feel wobbly or off balance at some point and it never happened. I also expected that at some point I just wouldn’t want to bike anymore, but as my belly grew it became much more comfortable to bike than walk. I was also surprised by the reaction of strangers to seeing me bike with a belly. Chicago’s lakeshore path gets pretty crowded in the summer, and most people walking or running were just putting it together that I was riding pregnant before I was past them, but I did get the occasional big smile, and one “Go Momma!”
How did your family and friends react to you cycling while pregnant? My husband was supportive of my choice to continue biking, as were most of my friends and family. A few expressed concern, but after I explained I had the support of my midwife, and that I don’t consider biking any more dangerous than my other choices for transportation, they were respectful of my decision. When my mother asked about it, I reminded her that we were Dutch and that the Dutch bike everywhere. That reminder and the fact that the vast majority of my rides are on the lakeshore path were enough to convince her.
What (if any) special accommodations did you require to continue cycling throughout your pregnancy? When I was pregnant, I switched out the handlebars on my Cannondale for cruiser style handlebars, and got a wider seat. This allowed me to sit up straight, which is great for my back and made room for my growing belly.
What would you say to another woman interested in cycling while pregnant? What have you taken away from the experience? I would tell another pregnant woman to keep riding as long as she felt comfortable. I am so glad I kept riding throughout my pregnancy because at the end when it was uncomfortable to walk, I still felt good on the bike. It allowed me mobility that I may otherwise not have had.
In addition to cycling, what other activities helped you stay fit and active during your pregnancy? When I was pregnant I mainly biked and walked for exercise, with the occasional pre-natal yoga session.
Thanks Anna, for sharing your cycling-with-bump story with us!