The Artist, the Dutchman, their Kids, and their Very Practical Bikes

by Cherie Walkowiak - reposted from October 2014 Newsletter

Meet Ann, Wouter, Katie and Sebastian!

After doing a "flight check" (Kids seated?  Check!  Helmets fastened?  Check!  Seat belt buckled?  Check! and... Liftoff!!!), they ride 2 miles from the eastern end of the Monta Loma neighborhood in Mountain View to Stevenson School in the mornings.  They ride the kids on the back of their Yuba Mundo (their SUV) to avoid minivan mayhem, and because riding a bike has the effect of clearing the cobwebs out of your brain, like a mental washing machine.  There's also the benefit of getting exercise.  Even though they're not pedaling, the kids are active when they ride on the back.  It increases their balance and core strength.

Ann McMillan is a full-time impressionist artist.  She rides her Gazelle, a typical Dutch bike, to her studio in Palo Alto where she paints beautiful planar landscapes.

Ann and her Gazelle

Ann and her Gazelle

Wouter Suverhropp (whose name is pronounced like wow-terrific!) is from the Netherlands.  He considers himself a utilitarian cyclist, which means he uses his bike for transportation rather than for sport.  Wouter explains that the Dutch came to realize long ago what one needs in a bike for functional cycling.  It needs to be practical, pleasant, and low maintenance.  You need to be able to grab it, throw your stuff in, and go.

Pointing to Ann's bike, he shows me the perks that come built-in on all Dutch bikes.  For safety, there is always a front bike light, a rear bike light and reflector, pedal reflectors, a reflective stripe along the tire walls, drum brakes, and an embedded bell (which looks like a shifter).  For convenience, all Dutch bikes come with a chain guard and internal hub, so you don't need to worry about chain grease getting on your pant leg; wheel fenders to keep the wet weather and mud from spashing up on you (because the Dutch ride rain or shine); and a sturdy kickstand to keep your bike from falling over.  Dutch bikes are also designed so that you sit upright when you ride, giving a poised rather than a racey feel to riding a bicycle.  Finally, any proper Dutch bike will have some sort of, preferably stylish, cargo space.  Ann has installed a crate on the back of her bike into which she can throw her materials and go.

They got a pair of his/hers Dutch bikes for a song through a Dutch email list Wouter belongs to.  And they got their blue Yuba Mundo for $600 on Craigslist.  REI now carries them as well.

When she is not in her special seat on the Yuba Mundo, Katie's favorite things are dancing, music, books, cats, runnings as fast as she can, and provoking her brother.  First grader Sebastian loves mechanical sculptures, Rube Goldberg machines, water mazes and marble runs.  In his younger, more carefree days, Wouter rode 11 miles to work and back each day, rain or shine, on the shoulder of the freeway (which is actually legal in the Netherlands!!).  With his current parental responsibilities and time constraints, he does not ride the 17 miles to work each day from Mountain View to a semiconductor company near Highways 17 and 85.  We can hardly blame him!!