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Lai King, Mike Becker, and Family

Lai King and husband Mike Becker have made personal and family bike riding part of their daily routine. Moving away from using cars to bikes has been empowering and fun. This full-time mom of two busy girls, biking advocate, and self-proclaimed “serial volunteer” has sage advice about how to bring bikes into all aspects of your life.

You have been very active advocating for women to ride more. What is your biking history?

I come from a cycling family and have been riding bikes my whole life. Mostly for commuting and play as a kid/ young adult and now commuting and for fitness. 

When we moved to Milwaukee about 10 years ago, Mike bought me a road bike so we could ride longer distances together. It wasn’t always fun for us to ride together and I found the Bella Donnas, which was one of very few all female non-competitive road bike groups in the city at that time. I learned a lot from weekly rides with this group of women and saw it grow from 5 to about 100 members pretty quickly. It was so empowering to be able to group ride with like minded women and learn basic mechanical and riding skills together. Many of the women I rode with have since become very dear, lifelong friends. 

The Bella Donnas quietly changed directions a few years ago and while there were offshoot groups formed there was a hole in the women’s cycling community in MKE. There were a whole lot of women that wanted to ride with other women on a regular schedule and learn to be a better cyclist (and that means a whole of different things to individuals). I distinctly remember the day in January 2017 that Berta Glodowski and I received a text from Amelia Kegel. It basically said, “Milwaukee needs a cycling group for women. You two know how to make it happen. Wheel and Sprocket will 100% help you. Let’s get it together by Expo.” 

In three months, we rallied a group of 13 women with varied levels of bike and professional skills to help create Cadence Cycling Milwaukee. By the end of our first season (2017), we had 80 members riding 5 days a week from sites around Milwaukee. It was mind blowing and humbling, and we continue to grow and developed our group as we just wrapped up our 2nd season. We are registered non-profit organization that not only prioritizes empowering women to cycle in a group with confidence and skill, but to also provide volunteer help to various cycling-related charities and events in the area. We believe that we are stronger and better together.

What types of bikes do you ride?

I get around mostly by bike. Since I’m the mom of two little busy bodies, I am often cruising around with them on the back of my Xtracycle Edgerunner long tail cargo bike. It’s my own version of the minivan, less the responsibilities of a car, headache of traffic, and I always get front row parking. I love that I can fit three, sometimes four kids, plus groceries on that bike. It’s been a complete game changer for our family. I ride this bike 12 months a year.

When I’m on a Cadence ride, you’ll find me on a Trek Domane. It’s taken me thousands of miles on many scenic roads around the Midwest for the past few years. 

If I’m lucky enough to get out with Mike for a date to the movies or dinner, you’ll spot me on my vintage orange Philips 3-speed cruiser.

When it’s time to hit the trails or play in the snow, I’m out on my Salsa Mukluk fat tire. That bike is crazy fun.

There are more in the arsenal (there always is, right?!) but these are the regulars. I also ride a Bublr bike pretty regularly. They’re just so convenient.

What type of riding do you do with your family?  What are your goals for riding  with your family?

My girls are really into cycling on their own, too. Both have been on their own two wheels for years. We’ve really worked with them to be safe urban cyclists and they often ride along with us on commutes to school, the grocery, the park, and more.

 We love to do annual charity rides together like the UPAF Ride for the Arts and Bike the Drive in Chicago. They’ve been participating their whole lives in the back in a Chariot trailer, on a tag-a-long, and now on their own two wheels.  I’m sure they’ll ride a portion of the Trek 100 with us in a few short years ;) 

We also love riding the MKE county trails together. What a treasure the Oak Leaf and Hank Aaron State Trails are to the City of Milwaukee! This year, both girls have gotten into mountain biking and gravel trail riding that has really been fun for us to do as a family. There are some really great trails around Milwaukee. I’d like to be able to keep us riding year round for years to come. 

How has riding with the family changed your lives?

Riding with kids has been a game changer. I first became interested in cargo bike on a trip to Amsterdam but didn’t really see anything like it here. Then I found the Xtracycle and our lives have been forever changed. The kids hated going in their car seats in the car. I hated struggling to get them buckled in and dealing with traffic, parking, and hauling toddlers around.

 I think that starting to ride with me from such a young age have made my kids really observant and engaged in our community. At bike speed, they really see people and places—not like the passive travel in the backseat of a car. They know which streets have bike lanes, which intersections we try to avoid, where the bike racks are, where the good alley shortcuts and big potholes are and how to dress appropriately for the weather. They’ve also learned a few “bad” words from me yelling at drivers that use the bike lane to pass on the right or get too close when they are distracted by their phones. We’ve gotten really involved with Bike to School Day at their school and it’s so great to see the bike rack filled with 30 tiny bikes on a very regular basis.

What reaction do you get about riding together?

Most people think it’s great and comment that they wish they could do the same. They can, they just sometimes need a little nudge and advice. 

Bike commuting can get overwhelming with clothing, gear and routes and general anxiety about road safety. It’s also not cheap— however, it’s a lot less expensive and, I believe, healthier, than driving. 

I’m always happy to share my experiences. I’ve had people comment to me at stop lights that it’s child abuse for me to be biking with my kids on city streets.  I’ve also had a person honk and scream out their car window, “ Mom power!” 

We’re just out there doing our thing and hopefully it brings awareness and inspiration to folks.  Biking is so liberating and I wish more people could experience the feeling.

Tell me about your favorite moments riding with your family?

There are so many fond memories. We’re a biergarten family and I love the many summer evenings when we pack a picnic dinner and ride the trails to the biergarten together. 

We rode about 15 miles of the Riverwest 24 together this year. That was a blast!  I also really enjoyed biking 25 miles on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago with them this year. It’s so much easier now that my daughter Brooklyn is on a 20” bike with gears. There really aren’t any bad times when we’re on bikes together!

What advice would you provide to others about riding with your family?

Just try it. Make sure your bikes are in good working order and properly fit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen kids on bikes with flat-tires and in poor working condition. 

Start slowly and with an easily manageable distance. Kids are amazingly capable and strong. 

Be a good example and role model for your kids. Show them how to ride safely— it’ll be a lot easier and enjoyable for all involved! Ask questions— local bike shops and community boards are a wealth of information.