Marital Aids

I have stopped trying to turn my wife into a cyclist — a bike commuter; more than just the occasional recreational ride. But I haven’t given up on getting her to drive less.

All her driving still drives me bonkers. She drives to work, she chauffeurs the kids around, she does the shopping. Not necessarily because she wants to do all that stuff, but because that stuff needs to get done.

Meanwhile, her virtuous husband bikes to work and back nearly every day — knowing that the virtues of my bike commuting are somewhat negated by the vices of an unequal partnership. And even if that didn’t bug me, I know that she is burning fuel on my behalf even if I’m not the one behind the wheel.

I write on this here blog every week, preaching to the choir about bike commuting. Meanwhile I have utterly failed to make the case to my own bride.

So I’ve begun to acquire some accessories I like to call marital aids. My hope is to reduce the burdens on my wife down to the basic burdens of being married to me.

Here they are:

Marital Aids

The Bike

The bike is my wife’s crappy Costco Motiv. I love this bike.

Why? It fits us both very well. If we ever get to the point where we both want to use it on the same day, I’ll consider that a good problem to have. Easily resolved: New bike.

The Trailer

The trailer is a Ridekick powered bike trailer, which I reviewed previously before I bought one of my own. Yes, it’s a battery-powered marital aid.

Why? Well, I considered a cargo bike kit, cargo trailers, and other solutions. I finally admitted that a little electric push up hills gets me over the hurdle of my own laziness when contemplating carrying cargo. My laziness is rarely an issue when it’s just me on the bike with no extra weight.

But our home seems to be uphill from everywhere else in town. In those moments when something needs to be schlepped, my mind immediately anticipates the strain of two particular hills — I hear a whispering in my skull that says, Screw it! Use the car. Or worse: Screw it! Have her schlep it.

Furthermore, I’m hoping my wife will learn to like the Ridekick. Then we will be able to ride places together without her ever feeling the need to dismount and push her bike up hills.

(Why? Why, for God’s sake, do people push bikes up hills when they could use a granny gear? A pet peeve of mine that will eventually become an entire article.)

The Rear Rack

It’s a Planet Bike Eco Rack.

Why? I bought this a long time ago. It was cheap, basic and at my local bike shop.

The Panniers

Those are Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers, more suited to round-the-world expeditions.

Why? They were free. My employer gave us all a set of these panniers with the company logo last Christmas. Also, they make better grocery panniers than the cheap ones I used to have (before I worked in the biz).

Ortlieb Pelican Shopping Pannier
Ortlieb Pelican Shopping Pannier

If I were to buy some new grocery panniers like regular people have to do, I’m really liking these Ortlieb Pelican Shopping Panniers. Although I haven’t really tested them, I’m given them the provisional Ortlieb presumption of quality.

They have about the same capacity as the Back Roller Classics (18 liters as opposed to 20), but they can stand on their own four feet when empty. The closure is a little more sensible for mere shopping — rather than looking like you’re going on an underwater bike tour with SpongeBob Squarepants.

Also: The colors are pretty.

The Rack-Top Bag

It’s a Vaude Silk Road Plus, which sadly is hard to come by these days. But other rack-top bags would fulfill the same function.

Lone Peak RP-700 Expandable Rack-Top Bag
Lone Peak RP-700 Expandable Rack-Top Bag

Why? It’s my man bag; my glove compartment. It mounts with Velcroâ„¢, so it works with any rack.

It has two loops so I can mount two different blinky bike tail lights, and I will always have the lights on any bike I’m using as long as I have this bag.

An alternative? I don’t know. The Lone Peak RP-700, similar to the RP-350 reviewed by Bob Caravona, but it’s expandable for the overstuffing that I tend to do.

Maybe it would look like I’m always carrying around a six-pack cooler. I could live with that.

Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand
Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand

The Kickstand

The bike didn’t have a kickstand (as you can see in the first photo). I put on this Copenhagen Dual Leg Kickstand from Velo Orange.

Why? When you are loading groceries (or anything) into panniers on both sides of the bike, it helps if the bike is standing straight, not leaning to one side.

I had no idea how much I would like this kickstand. I mean, how much can you really like a kickstand?

I found that this is helpful at bike racks too. You know how on some bike racks, the bikes are all leaning left and right and on each other like they have no respect for personal space? Not with this kickstand. The bike stands at attention at bike racks, making the other bikes look like sloppy drunks.

Copenhagen Dual Leg KickstandI’m also fascinated by the design; how the legs of the kickstand scissor together and pop into place where they belong.

The only getting-used-to factor is that you don’t just lean the bike away from the kickstand and then kick it down or up. Instead you have to lift the front or rear of the bike off the ground about an inch, and then kick it into position.

To Be Continued…

I’m not done accessorizing this bike yet, but I’m off to a good start.

In fact, I think the next challenge is getting my wife to expect — as in anticipate — that I will do the errands I am now equipped to do. Right now, she’s still pretty well adapted to my shirking, biking habits.

But there are signs she sees the potential. There was the time she asked me to go to the liquor store, and the time she asked me to pick up some Rice Crispies. Small loads, on the way home. But it’s a start.

When she sends me all the way across town to get 50 pounds of whatever, without apologizing for asking, I’ll know the marital aids have paid off.

That, or when she asks me to show up at the door dressed as a bike messenger. I’ve got to be realistic. That’s not going to happen.

Marital Aids (Part 2)

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16 thoughts on “Marital Aids”

  1. Joel says:


    I really enjoy your postings. I am nowhere near the level of cycling that you are but I will do my best to catch you.

    You mention “Granny Gears” and my mind immediately goes to hills. Spinning the crank at seventy cadence per minute with a Granny Gear is still going to be faster than a two mile an hour walk up a hill. It is so hard for me to convey to potential cyclists that I try not to breath hard or burn my muscles. Stiff headwind, shift it down a gear or two, a steep hill, shift it down as far as you can, heavy load, shift it down again, tired today and do not feel like using the bike, shift it down a gear. My theme is repetitive: enjoy, give yourself a little extra time and go a little slower and feel better at the end of the ride.

    Going into my seventh month of commuting on my “tank”. Forty-five pounds of bike, 210 plus pounds of rider, thirty to forty pounds of additional gear, “It’s not heavy, it’s my commuter bike.” I just finished my six month tune-up to include repacking the wheels, crank, chain cleaning, and adjustments. Runs like new.

    My cogs run the standard fourteen to twenty-eight teeth on a 26 inch wheel. I do not have any serious prolonged hills on my ride so I do not need true Granny Gears but if I start using a cargo trailer you can be sure that I will customize the gearing to only top out at fifteen miles per hour and trade the high gears for two lower ones.

    Spring is coming and I am addicted to bicycle commuting.

    Did I mention that I just like to ride my bike?

  2. Andrew says:

    Buy her a proper Oma bike with from beer box for carrying everything. Gazelle Azor Batavus make bikes for just getting around. Park it beside the door and put flowers around the box then say nothing.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I told my wife about your suggestion, Andrew, and she said she knows manipulation when she sees it — and it wouldn’t work.

  3. Katie says:

    I am 160 lbs. My bike is 100 lbs. My kids are 33 and 18 lbs, respectively. Plus whatever cargo we are carrying. There are hills we cannot climb, no matter how low a gear, no matter how comfortable we are going slow. Sometimes we walk– and I’m ok with that.

    Congrats on all your great gear! Living a car-free mom life has been great for me so far, and I wish you and your wife luck in getting closer to that goal.

  4. KYouell says:

    Dear me, please educate me about granny gears! I have a bakfiets (I’ve been told it weighs 90 lbs) and the 2 kids together weigh about 90 lbs and, well, I’m not going to tell you what I weigh! I need something to help me get loads up hills and I don’t want e-assist if I can avoid it with better gearing. I’d like to learn more and my last google session didn’t get me things I could understand.

    FWIW, in our house we are the other way around. My husband asks why we can’t take the bus somewhere (we don’t have a car) and I’m always thinking we should be biking. It’s not like I make him tote the kids! 🙂

    (BTW, here from a RT by @ellyblue)

  5. csh says:

    Dear Judgy McJudge: When I had my commuter bike, I _tried_ the granny gears on our steep Seattle hills. It was like pedaling a couch (not my simile, unfortunately – girl at REI came up with it). Hated it. Preferred to walk a couple blocks. Please don’t let it bother you any more.

    Now I have a bitchin’ Trek Lexa and can do the hills without walking the bike.

    But still, never will I judge a sister walking her bike. She’s on her bike fergoodnesssake.

  6. BluesCat says:

    I suffer from OCGCD (Obsessive Compulsive Gear Changing Disorder). If the bike I’m riding has 24 gears, I’m gonna try to use as many of them as possible; even if that means changing my route to add a mile or more of ups and downs so I MUST use a wider range of gears. The root cause of my OCGCD is probably that when I need to replace the chain ring set or rear cogs on ANY of my bikes, I want to make darn sure I’m NOT doing it just because I have ONE chain ring or ONE cog which has worn out; I want my money’s worth!

    Ted – Yeah, I’ve just about given up on trying to get Mrs. Cat on a bike. Although, she DID see a tadpole trike the other day and went “Hmmmm?” (That’s Gram-Momma-Cat-Speak for “I MAY want to consider that if Grampa Cat will just shut up and let me do it on my OWN schedule.”)

    KYouell – The Bakfiets I’m familiar with have an 8-speed rear hub. Ted’s wife’s Motiv Stonegrinder has 21-speeds. When put in the smallest of the three chain rings on the front, and the largest of the seven cogs on the rear wheel, that’s the Granny Gear which makes you believe you could climb a vertical wall (of course, you’re going to be spinning the pedals like a maniac if you DO try it).

  7. Kevin Love says:

    Hi Ted, and thanks for a fascinating post.

    I’ve just got two comments:

    1. I agree with Andrew. You really do need a better bike. If I were your wife I too would be disinclined to cycle on that bike. To start with, the lack of fenders means that if the road is wet she will be showered with filth. I don’t know your wife, but my experience is that few women really enjoy being showered with filth. I recommend David Hembrow’s excellent description of a proper utility bike here:

    As to convincing your wife to give up the car, I would recommend looking at the financial benefits of going car-free. Interestingly enough, my best source is CAA. See their handy car costs calculation guide here:“costs”

    Please note that they cleverly leave out car parking costs, which can be quite high. Where I live, if I wanted to drive my car to work, I would have to pay about $200 per month to park the car near where I live and another $200 per month to park the car near where I work. With taxes, that would be well over $5,000 per year.

    Even if I were to live in far-flung suburbia, if I wanted to own a car there would still be capital and maintenance costs for a garage and driveway.

    When you add up all the costs, odds are your wife’s car habit is costing over $10,000 per year. You can have a conversation along the lines of “Going car-free would allow us to retire XX years earlier.”

    Or do whatever else you want with the money!

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I don’t know your wife…

      A couple things about my wife:

      First: She’s a helluva pedestrian. When she gets out of her gotta-get-things-done mode and can relax, she’ll walk anywhere. And even though she’s about five inches shorter than me, I can hardly keep pace with her on foot. She has no aversion to effort. To her, driving is about time management. (I wouldn’t want you to think she’s some kind of lard ass who doesn’t like to move her body.)

      Second: We live in a fairly dry place. Fenders aren’t a necessity most of the time — but I’m considering putting fenders on the Motiv. She likes the bike she has. We’ve talked about getting her a new bike. If I thought that was the magic bullet, I’d pull the trigger.

  8. Graham says:

    If you’re successful, please let me know how you did it. I’ve been trying to get the Mrs. into cycling for a few years now, and while she isn’t averse to the idea, it hasn’t really seemed to click with her.

  9. Robert says:

    When my wife started spin class, I almost yelled in anger. I bike commute so that she can drive to ride in a gym. I’m very glad I held back my opinion about this because now she and I ride together once a week, on the road and sometimes trails! Since gears seemed to be a challenge, I gave her my IGH commuter (see Bianchi San Jos8 at Sheldon B) and BINGO! She loved it. A brooks B17 (women’s) and 24 miles were no problem. I’m going to stoke the bike love with some matching bar tape for mothers day. I’ve kept the kids spinning through the years and now I need to work on them to push mommy to ride them to school instead of driving….. never give up!

  10. Mark H says:

    @KYouell: If you have a bakfiets with internal gear hub, it’s a bit complicated to put on a granny ring since you need a rear derailleur or something to take up slack in the chain. And there will be chainguard clearance problems if you have one.

    One common thing to do to get a lower gear is to put on a larger rear cog (you’ll probably have to replace your chain too). The drawback there is that you also reduce your high gear.

    To have your cake and eat it too you can either get a new hub with wider gearing, or get something like the Schlumpf Mountain-Drive bottom bracket/crankset (which will act like a much smaller chainring- though it might actually be too low).

  11. Karen says:

    Definitely add some fenders. They are very nice to have around during monsoon season and when the snow is melting in the winter. You know, I believe Absolute has some Breezers on sale . . . .

  12. Cheryl says:

    Tsk, tsk….. Most of us who start riding and walk up the hills at the start know nothing about the mechanics. We have a bike or just bought one like we had as kids 50 years ago. I have 3 gears and coaster brakes. The old grannies you see walking up are the ones that didn’t QUIT after the first hill! I told my husband at the time this isn’t fun and is humiliating. But we still bike weekends. I’ve only heard about granny gears the last few months when I started reading some bike blogs…. We bought our bikes 7 years ago. I have a Townie 😀
    Keep biking!

  13. NS says:

    I’ve also been trying to get my OLD young lady to get on two wheels. We are both 30, but I just can’t seem to get her on two wheels for longer than the end of the street and back. She blames it on the convenience factor, and if its 1 or 2 degrees too hot/cold forget it. I think she’s just lazy, and whats more annoying is after watching my body transform(not in to a robot) to a healthier me, it is now impossible for HER to get fit, because of the SAME resons(excuses)keeping her from getting on a bike(now the only way anyone in this world looses weight)… just wondering if this is a familiar story throughout commuting/cycling families, or should say “singles”… bad i know.

  14. Shanna Ladd says:

    The thing that is a challenge right now for me is having enough down time… home time. I hear it often from other moms with a family & kids. There is just so much to do in addition to work outside the home. It isn’t that driving a car made life less hectic for me. but it seemed like it should. And like you mentioned we have been well educated into believing the car will help us be more efficient even if it doesn’t. Your message is quite powerful, positive and makes a difference. The bike set up looks very nice. Simplifying life is helping me get a handle on this issue.

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