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Biking while pregnant: an interview

Jessica Baltzley is a cyclist living in St. Paul.

Jessica Baltzley
Courtesy of Biking in Mpls

Biking in Mpls: How long have you lived in Minneapolis, and when did you start biking here?
Jessica: I’ve lived here since 2006, so 9 years. I started biking about a year after I moved here.

Biking in Mpls: Did you bike before that, or how did you get started?
Jessica: I lived in Florida which is not very bike friendly at all. Other than riding around as a kid, and in college I rode my beach cruiser around to class sometimes, I didn’t really ride. I didn’t own a bike when I moved here. Not a real bike.

Biking in Mpls: What was the thing that caused you to get started biking?
Jessica: Seeing how many other people were doing it. At first I thought it seemed unbelievably impractical to ride your bike downtown and then after awhile I was like, I think I could do that. Then I started trying to ride downtown. After that I saw people riding in the winter and I was like, no way. A year later, I was riding in the winter. Once I started doing it I realized how much faster it was and I could leave when I wanted and get where I wanted to be when I wanted, and not have to wait for a bus, and not have to wait for someone to come get me. It made a lot more sense to do that.

Biking in Mpls: When you started biking did you buy a bike right away or did you just use what you had?
Jessica: I rode my beach cruiser downtown with its big awkward handlebars that would almost hit the sideview mirrors of all the parked cars. Then I got a used bike from Craigslist and rode that. I don’t even remember what it was now, just an old vintage frame.

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Biking in Mpls: What sorts of things do you do on your bike besides getting from point A to point B? Do you do any group rides or racing?
Jessica: I used to, this year I’ve kind of scaled back. I like doing long adventure rides or gravel races, like gravel centuries. I don’t really race race, I more do them for fun. I’m not particularly competitive. I do it more for the challenge and the scenery, and for personal improvement to see if I can improve on my own times. Last summer I did a ride called Oregon Outback, which went across Oregon on off-road, dirt trails. I like doing casual racing but not anything serious.

I like general group hang-outs with my friends, ride to breweries, ride to each others houses. Last year I led the women’s weekly Hub group ride. This year I think my friend Loretta is leading it, but last year I led it. It’s just for women, it’s a road ride, and I think it’s Wednesday nights. This year I decided I’d take a year off from that.

Biking in Mpls: I see you’re riding a road bike, have you been able to ride in that position even though you’re pregnant?
Jessica: Yeah, it’s very upright for a road bike. It does work very well right now with my condition. It’s getting to be a little uncomfortable. I’ve had some really sweet friends offer to put upright handlebars on it, so I might take them up on that pretty soon, but for now it’s working. I thought about buying a cheap step-through frame so I don’t have to throw my leg over, but I’ve made it this far. I only have two more months, so I’m going to try to tough it out. If I do have to do more transit and walk a lot the last month, that’s okay.

Biking in Mpls: Has anything changed since you’ve been pregnant with regard to bikes?
Jessica: Yes, I haven’t been doing any of the long endurance rides. I was hoping to do it up until my third trimester but I found that I’m way more winded and tired than I used to be. I think I had some really awesome role models who led me to believe it would be a lot easier than it’s been. A couple of my friends who’ve had babies and continued to ride bikes were just such badasses. It turns out I’m a little more tired than I thought I would be.

Biking in Mpls: Has being pregnant affected the way you feel when you’re riding around town at all?
Jessica: I’m a lot less risky. I wasn’t really risky before, I was always a very conservative rider, but now I’m extra, extra, extra conservative. If a light’s about to change, I’m stopping. I won’t take certain roads that I never would’ve worried about. If it’s raining I don’t really like to ride when it’s raining. The drivers are a little more unpredictable when it’s raining and it’s more slick. Rain didn’t used to bother me at all, now I’m just a lot more careful.

And I’m a lot more angry at cars when they do more assholey things. I’m like, “I have a baby!” I’m sure drivers think I’m being irresponsible by riding but I don’t see it that way. I don’t see them as being more entitled to the road than I am. I’m outraged when they’re careless because they’re not thinking about the lives they could be putting in dangers.

Biking in Mpls: When you have your baby, do you know what you’re going to do to bike around?
Jessica: We’re going to wait until he’s a little bit older. We’re playing with some different options. My friends have been really helpful posting links every time they see anything about biking with a baby. We’re probably going to get some kind of trailer that we can secure the baby carrier to. Once he’s a little older we’ll look into getting a regular kid trailer, and a trail-a-bike when he’s much older like 3 or 4.

Biking in Mpls: What’s your favorite thing about biking?
Jessica: My favorite thing is the feeling of complete independence it gives me. I don’t have to rely on anything but my own two legs and feet to go anywhere. 

Jessica Baltzley is a cyclist living in St. Paul.

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This post was written by Lindsey Wallace and originally published on Biking in Mpls. Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @bikinginmpls.

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