We ask Harriet Pike about how it feels to ride a bicycle whilst 41 weeks pregnant, both to work and with her son Fitz on weekend outings to the park. And, we find out how a city’s burgeoning bicycle infrastructure has played a key part in where she has chosen to settle down with her family.
Whilst three miles may currently be her typical daily distance, Harriet is no stranger to big bike rides, having bicycle toured all around Chile, Peru, and Bolivia, up in the furthest reaches of the Andes. It’s all been meticulously documented on the website she runs with her partner, Neil, who works for Sustrans. So passionate are the two about the continent that they’ve even written a guidebook to hiking and touring in the Peru’s most iconic mountain range, the Cordillera Blanca.
These days, however, Harriet’s rides are far more modest in scope, given that she’s due to have her second child any day now. We found out more…
Firstly, when did you start riding with Fitz? What kind of outings do you generally enjoy together?
We fitted a Yepp Mini bike seat to my Surly Long Haul Trucker – the same bike I used to ride across the Andes – when Fitz was 7 months. There is a lot of conflicting advice on riding with a baby. But we don’t own a car, the bike is the best way to get around Bristol, and I felt we were ready.
What I particularly love about having him in the seat up front is that we can chat away, sing songs and I can see that he’s happy. Fitz loves being on the bike. We use the bike to do our shopping, cycle up to the zoo and swimming pool, or into the countryside so that we can explore the local woodlands.
Any changes you’ve made to your bicycle setup to accommodate this?
Half way through the pregnancy, I switched over the drop handlebars that I had on the Long Haul Trucker for swept back Mary On One flat bars. They’ve stayed put ever since and work really well with the front baby seat.
What I love about having him in the seat up front is that we can chat away, sing songs and I can see that he is happy. Fitz loves being on the bike.
Now that you’re almost due to have your second child, what rides do you feel comfortable taking on? Were you even still expecting to still be cycling at this point?
When I was pregnant with Fitz, I read a book called Pregnancy to Podium, in which a track rider rode all the way up until she gave birth. It contains lots of information on what’s safe to do whilst pregnant. Basically, it tells you to just listen to your body and see how long it feels ok.
I cycled up until 40 weeks before Fitz popped out, nearly always on traffic-free paths, and I have managed to keep biking during this pregnancy too. I’ve found that it was actually easier to cycle rather than walk, because I don’t have to carry the weight of the baby on my pelvic floor and legs. When I get on the bike I feel liberated because I can spin my legs. It’s actually my reduced lung capacity that hinders my cycling most.
What kind of work do you do, how far away is it, and are you still commuting there by bicycle?
I work part-time for Swoop Patagonia who plan and arrange adventures of all sorts to Patagonia. I advise the sales team using the knowledge I picked up on my travels. It is a 3.5km ride and only 500m of that is on road; it’s almost all bike paths. I commuted to work right up until I went on maternity leave with both pregnancies, and I took great pleasure in overtaking people on the steep hill to work whilst heavily pregnant!
Tell us a bit about the cycling infrastructure where you live… Did this play a part in choosing to live in Bristol?
There is a network of cycle paths and shared bike and foot paths, so that you can get around the centre without going on the roads. You see lots of kids riding bikes and bike trailers are pretty common. I feel really safe cycling here.
Bristol is a very cool city, really booming with lots of ideas, hope for the future and great communities and this is what first attracted us to Bristol. Well, that and a job coming up at an exciting travel startup. The geography of the city makes traffic diabolical, so many people cycle despite it being pretty hilly. There is a network of cycle paths and shared bike and footpaths, so that you can get around much of the centre without going on any roads. You see lots of kids riding bikes and bike trailers are pretty common. I feel really safe cycling here.
Once your second child is born… what’s next, bicycle-wise?!
Because of the low impact nature of cycling it is ideal for getting back in shape after childbirth. I have entered Bristol BikeFest, which is taking place two months after the baby is due. This is an 8hr cross country event in which you cycle laps of our nearby mountain biking trails. I am hoping that will force me to get fit! I may have to use a turbo trainer because it will be hard to get out and train. I’m not sure if I will do many laps but I wanted to have something to work towards.
I am keen that my kids enjoy whatever activities I am enjoying and don’t just get stuck indoors, so I had Fitz out buggy running from 6 months or on the bike. Recently, I have spent a small fortune on a Thule Chariot Cross 2 that I can run or cycle with the two kiddies in and hopefully get cycle touring at some point.
Harriet’s tips for pregant mums
- Listen to your body: it will let you know if you are pushing yourself too hard. Staying fit and healthy will help you, your baby and make your labour easier. You will also have good and bad days, so just because you can’t cycle one day doesn’t mean you won’t be whooshing along the trails the next week. Make sure you rest when your body is tired.
- Chat to your midwife about cycling: I found my midwives to be very supportive of both cycling during pregnancy and going trekking with a young baby.
- Avoid cycling when icy and wet. I fell off when it was icy and it really shook me up and wasn’t worth the worry.
- Stick to car-free routes where possible. the biggest danger is from being knocked off by a car.