What we’re riding these days

We’re all on bikes with 26-inch wheels now!


Both kids outgrew their bikes in August and due to the bike boom that has oodles of people getting new bikes (yay!) but makes it hard to find bikes (boo) we’re making do with what we already have.

My 11-year old is riding his big brother’s handed down Islabikes Beinn 26 Large.

My 13-year old is on my old mountain bike, a 2004 GT I-Drive 2.0. That means he’s got disc brakes and a front derailleur! …though it isn’t currently going in its granny gear so I need to futz with it a bit. A full-squish mountain bike isn’t the most practical Pacific NorthWET school commute bike due to the lack of fenders, but it’s got a bit of a built-in rear mud guard and I bought a $10 zip-tie-on Bontrager Enduro Front Fender from REI, which has become our go-to bike shop thanks to curbside pickup and more availability than our nearby shops. Most importantly, he’s always wanted a mountain bike and I only use the thing once a year when there’s snow on the ground, like four years ago during icemaggedon. When he first got his hands on the bike he wanted to hit every unpaved patch of ground near home. Three flat tires later (never on his chunky tires, just me and his brother) I ruled that the alleys were too full of hidden blackberry brambles so now we stick to the many unimproved roadways with their plain gravel.

I had been dreaming of a Frog for his next bike–the Frog 73 8-Speed 26-Inch Kids’ Bike is “an 8-speed hybrid bike for 12 to 14 year olds” and it’s really light–on par with the Islabikes my kids have been spoiled by. At $600 it’s a serious investment, but light bikes are worth it and putting it through two kids sort of makes it feel half the price. BTW, here’s my reivew of Frog Bikes on BikePortland from a year ago. Fortunately (?) there are no Frog Bikes to be had anywhere so there’s the whole $600 saved. Once he grows another few inches he’ll fit on an old hybrid my neighbor gave us when they moved away (as well as on all my bikes!), but it’d be nice to find him a fendered bike before that.


As for me, I’m still on my Surly Big Dummy. (The loaner Urban Arrow e-assist bakfiets went back in June.) Nowadays I always have my two-bike tow hitch attached just in case we run into trouble and I need to carry both kids and their bikes, though fortunately that hasn’t happened (not to mention we rarely leave the house so there’s not much trouble to run into). If you’ve noticed my bike is sporting mismatched tires that’s because while taking a close look at my front tire while fixing a blackberry sticker flat, I realized the old black tire was dunzo. In a normal year I would have bought a replacement Schwalbe Marathon Plus, but they’re probably not in stock anywhere…plus they’re $50 a pop. Lucky for me, while purchasing a couple small things at Crank’s going out of business sale a while back, Justin threw in two cream tires because no one wanted them. You also may have noticed I’m no longer running a front fender. That’s because I forgot to adequately weigh down the back of the bike while I was fixing that flat and it took a nose dive into the floor, tacoing the fender. It’s metal so it might bend back into shape, but I haven’t tried to do that yet. I’m also not sure it’ll fit around this massive 26 x 2.35 tire.

So there’s the punch line: three bikes with 26-inch tires, but with a total of four different sized tubes!


In a pinch the wrong-sized tube can do the job–in fact, I started the white tire with a too-narrow tube from the mountain bike before the kid had grown into it, but I like to have the right sized tube in each tire.

Happy Ninth Birthday, Big Dummy!

Three weeks belated, but oh well. It’s been the least exciting year from the Big Dummy’s perspective–until mid-March I was only biking to and from work each day and since then it’s primarily been one-mile grocery runs once a week–but she’s still my favorite bike in the whole wide world.


Despite biking less than any year in recent memory, the Big Dummy got to do what she does best and carry some impressive loads. I scored some nice free furniture on the side of the road during various grocery trips: an outdoor furniture set, a table, a dresser. I also carried each kid, though not both kids at the same time.




Read previous birthday posts:

Christmas Tree by Bike 2020

I had hoped to skip the Christmas tree (it’s not my holiday, it’s not much of a celebratory year, Chanukah came and went well before Xmas, it’s a waste of a live tree…just to name a few), but my 13-year old really wanted to chop down a tree again so chop down a tree we did.


I don’t know the name of the u-cut place Andy showed us three years ago and I wasn’t sure it was open, so I did a bike-by a few Saturdays ago and got the details–open Friday-Sunday 7:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m., any tree $30. The following day the 13-year-old tree chopper and I (and Pixie) bundled up and biked down.


Though not tree-related, the best thing we encountered was Milwaukie’s new mural by Jeremy Okai Davis of Bing-cherry-creator Ah Bing and Dorothy and Hurtis Hadley, owners of Oregon’s first Black-owned bakery.


The tree experience was the same as usual–grab a saw, tromp around in search of the perfect tree, watch the kid hack at it for a while, then finish the job myself. This year he dragged the tree most of the way back to the bike so that was new. And perhaps next year he’ll be big enough to do all the sawing.


I tell myself we avoid the big hill on the ride home for the sake of the kid(s), but it’s just as much about me not having to haul the weight of the tree up the big slope. Plus, the flat way home takes us by Cartlandia for lunch to-go. Thus our trip is four and a half miles (38 minutes) there versus seven miles (one hour) back. I’m still amazed there’s such a place so close to home.


Book review: Bike & Trike

Bike & Trike is a lovely 48-page picture book by children’s book author Elizabeth Verdick. Follow the story of Trike, a lonely outgrown tricycle who meets his replacement, the exuberant and somewhat reckless Bike. The action-packed tale will keep young readers (ages 4-7) on the edges of their seats with a bike race that’s a scoop of The Little Engine That Could with a dash of The Tortoise and the Hare and a pinch of Yoda and Luke. Not only does everything work out OK, but the ending is unexpectedly sweet.

Bike & Trike isn’t only for bike-loving parents and their kids, it’s also a classic story about conflict resolution and could be a useful tool in anyone’s toolbox for helping kids navigate transition…or just for dealing with siblings. I see shades of my kids in Bike and Trike and it brings back memories of clashes with my own little brother a lifetime ago. It’s a good book for accompanying kids making the leap from one wheeled vehicle to the next, but having a beloved book to refer back to during any tricky time is a boon. (“Remember how both Bike and Trike crashed and then got right back up?”)

It’s got a great read-aloud cadence right from the start:

Trike is a rusty little fellow,
a trusty little fellow,
on three worn-down wheels.

Warning: “summer bees, skinned knees” might just get stuck in your head, too.

The illustrations by Brian Biggs are an adorable mix of correct bike anatomy and whimsy. I’m quite smitten by Trike’s spindle of a seatpost and Bike’s stylish head- and tail light that float in the air above his fenders. Lights and fenders?! Yep! Bike commuters will love that Bike’s a practical bike with dynamo lights, fenders, and a horn.

See more about the book, including a colorful preview, online ordering information, and printable coloring sheet at the author’s website.

30 Days of Biking 2020 – day 17

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

TGIF! I’m so grateful my kids’ teachers are working so hard to connect and organize classes while we’re all staying home, but I’m still getting the hang of getting the kids online in the right places at the right time. I’m sure it’ll get easier once their schedules settle into place. And it’s nice being home with them and getting to see a bit of what they’re working on. Today I took my 13-year old out to look for the new Minecraft Earth spotted cow tappable between his two classes. He found two of them!

It felt almost normal, doing something not tied to running an essential errand. Very on brand for 30 Days of Biking :) I hope to practice the ride to middle school this weekend, so even though I’m skipping days left and right I like knowing I’ve got something planned.

On this day in 2017 we were in Santa Barbara for the day, having gone to Los Angeles (where my father and brother live) for the week.

Our spring break used to fall in April so we usually traveled during 30 Days of Biking, thus all the out-of-town flashback posts, giving the impression we’re adventurous jet setters.

I was born in Santa Barbara and attended college at UCSB so I’d biked there both as a kid and a young adult and it was really fun to pedal around with my own kids. This was also our first trip anywhere with them big enough to ride their own rental bikes (versus me carrying them with a rental cargo bike) so that was especially cool.

Today’s miles: 2.8
Yesterday’s miles: 0
Days missed: 4
Total April miles: 69.7

30 Days of Biking 2020 – day 15

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

Happy birthday to my newly minted teenager today! We took a ride as a family, to pick up to-go sushi at the kids’ favorite nearby conveyor belt place. I really like the concept of eating lots of take out to keep local restaurants in business, but it’s not in my budget so today’s sushi was extra special. Thanks to having taken a random route on the way home from Target the other day I biked through the shopping center that houses the sushi place and saw that they were open.

I tried to make the day special with waffles for breakfast, presents between online classes, and birthday cake outdoors post-sushi. I’m so sorry for all the kids celebrating birthdays during the pandemic. I think he had an OK day, but I also feel like I didn’t do enough, sigh.

It’s been so lovely out–the weather is finally to the point where we don’t have to dart outside the moment the sun appears if we want to ensure we get a tiny dose of vitamin D; it’s there all day long! (Well this morning was a bit grey, but the sun is mostly out all day long!)

This day in 2015 we were on Vancouver Island for spring break. Two other families from Seattle met us there, but they traveled by car and carried a lot of our stuff for us (including the kids’ bikes and my mountain bike) so this was our first and only experience with supported bike camping! We took the Victoria Clipper over and back and visited all our friends in Victoria and camped in Goldstream Provincial Park. Now that was a birthday to remember!


Today’s miles: 4.5
Yesterday’s miles: 1.9
Days missed: 3
Total April miles: 66.9

30 Days of Biking 2020 – day 13

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

It seems like a weird time for frivolous shopping, but I’ve got a kid with a birthday coming up and I’m trying my darndest to keep things feeling relatively normal each day and I’d like his birthday to be fun. So yesterday I placed an order for basketball-style shorts (practical gifts are fun, too) at Target and today I biked over to pick them up. The new Order Pickup option worked really well, though our closest Target is a small one and didn’t have what I wanted in stock so I biked 30 minutes to the Target in Mall 205. I was tempted to opt for “drive up” shopping so I wouldn’t have to lock up my bike and go into the store, but I feared I’d have to wait in a line of stinky idling cars. When I arrived I couldn’t see any line of waiting cars, but going in was easy–one employee controlled access into the store, basically just having people wait to enter one by one in case someone was exiting, and my waiting bag at Guest Services was immediately to the right, ready for me after a peek at my ID.

I rode to the mall via the I-205 bike path and it was fine, but I opted to bike home on city streets since traffic is very light these days so I could get a change of scenery. I saw several cat trees free for the taking on sidewalk corners–it’s nice to know some Portland spring traditions are still happening.

On this day one year ago I took part in the Ladd’s 500 relay in which teams zoom around Ladd Circle 500 times (equals 100 miles). Two years back I was part of Armando’s fun 10-person team and rode a variety of bikes and even my longboard, but last year I was more “hard core” about it and formed a two-person team with Joe in which we switched every 30 laps. I rode my single speed and tried the sprint the whole thing. I also wore a thrift store prom dress. Cool pix by Aixe:

Today’s miles: 9.7
Yesterday’s miles: 0
Days missed: 3
Total April miles: 61.5

30 Days of Biking 2020 – day 11

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

The weather was nice today, though cooler than yesterday, so it seemed the perfect day to take a big bike ride. I ran the idea by my kids yesterday and they were game. We’d bike up Mount Tabor, our little local volcano. It helped that it’s the same distance as our practice run to middle school the other day. They’ve been up to the top once, when I carried them up testing the Surly Big Easy e-assist longtail cargo bike, and they biked partway up once, when we watched the Portland Adult Soapbox Derby.

The roads within the park are closed to cars temporarily to give space for social distancing on foot and bike so riding in the park was really nice! I have a great route up that’s a bit steep at the beginning, but otherwise the flattest way up, as well as the most scenic and least potholey.

The kids made it all the way up! My 12-year old (on the blue bike) had to rest several times since he hasn’t been biking regularly since last June, but back then when he was biking to and from school I think he could have made it up without stopping. My 10-year old had a mishap (his bike toppled onto him while he was waiting at the top for his brother and me to catch up) so I got to carry him the last little flat bit. I simply twisted a GearTie around his top tube, lashing it to my Xtracycle Hooptie rear bar, but I have my tow hitch attached (I normally don’t keep it attached because we all tend to bang our shins on it while walking around my beast of a bike) for any kid bike hauling of significant distance.

There were a lot of people in the park, all giving adequate space to one another. Two employees from the parks department walked from group to group and gave reminders about social distancing from people not in your same households. We read and snacked in the shade for quite a while before heading home, with a brief stop to snag a free tandem (tandem! the rare two-kids tagalong) Adams trail-a-bike that I had admired on the ride up a block before the park (and therefore a block before the significant climbing started), but opted to only carry on the way down. It’s not for us–I tried one once and crashed into a rose bush so Joe will bring this one to the WashCo Bikes nonprofit bike shop in Hillsboro and the right family will find it there. The last time I towed one of these (April, 2013) I also had the kids on board and it was not easy, but today was a breeze!


Seven years ago:

Today’s ride was great, but given that we didn’t get out on bikes yesterday (yep, I’ve missed another day of 30 Days of Biking) and we took another big, multi-hour adventure of a ride, I wonder if I should try to get into the habit of taking smaller, simpler rides. I had also toyed with the idea of taking a smaller bike so I could keep up better and trust that I wouldn’t need to carry the kids at all…but then today we found that trail-a-bike so I would have missed out on that!


On this day in 2016 we were visiting friends in Minneapolis for spring break. The whole week was amazing! Being in the birthplace of 30 Days of Biking during 30 Days of Biking was amazing! The 11th was the day we went to Mall of America. We borrowed an Xtracycle from Perennial Cycles (thanks Luke!) for the week and biked to the light rail downtown, though I had read about people who biked the whole way to MOA.

Today’s miles: 9.5
Yesterday’s miles: 0
Days missed: 2
Total April miles: 53.8

30 Days of Biking – day 9

I didn’t bike yesterday. But I did today! Today I took a tiny trip to Grocery Outlet (no toilet paper but all the other stuff one could want), but I forgot to take photos so here’s Pixie enjoying the gorgeous day:

Both today and yesterday we spent a ton of time outside. Mostly reading, but also walking to the park and playing foursquare. I had planned to get us out on bikes yesterday, but I just couldn’t do it. Our neighborhood has wide streets with little traffic so it’s easy to keep socially distant on bikes, but extraneous trips feel especially extraneous. Even so, I find myself feeling happier today, and I think part of it is relief at having gotten failing 30 Days of Biking over with so I don’t need to worry about not wanting to leave the house going forward. The lovely weather (sunny and high of 76F today and my relentless allergic cough shouldn’t start up for a few weeks yet) is doubtless helping my mood, too, as has a successful start to the kids’ online classes. Related: PPS announced yesterday school will not meet again IRL this school year.

I failed at 30 Days of Biking once before and while that was a lifetime ago and quite a different situation, it was also OK and I learned a lot through failing.

On this day in 2011 we were visiting San Diego, renting a Gazelle Cabby bakfiets. It was so awesome to ride around my old neighborhood (as well as far beyond) with my kids and this super-fun bike.

Gazelle Cabby

Today’s miles: 2.4
Yesterday’s miles: 0
Days missed: 1
Total April miles: 44.3

30 Days of Biking – day 7

It’s April! That means 30 Days of Biking and biking every day and hopefully blogging about it each day.

Today wasn’t half bad. Everyone slept through the night, day two of school from home went well, and we got on our bikes.

This year, like last, I’ve got an elementary schooler and a middle schooler. Last school year I escorted them each to school and back, one mile to elementary, 4.5 to middle. This year working full-time had made it impossible for me to bike to either school in either direction. The elementary schooler was biking to and fro on his own while the middle schooler caught the school bus around the corner. Next year they’ll both be at middle school and my younger son is eager to learn the route. I think we’ll need to do a lot of test runs and this is certainly a great time to do ’em. There are a few busy, uncontrolled intersections so this practice is just as much familiarizing the kids with the route as it is getting me comfortable with the idea of them biking so far without me. I Strava’ed our rides and clocked us at 31 minutes there and 39 minutes back. I’m the slowest in the pack on my cargo bike, but my older kid’s lack of regular riding lately had him walking up the one hill on the way home so I suspect our numbers will improve if I switch to a zippier bike and as they get used to riding this much.

Given that it’s only the second day of classes moving online and schedules are still being finalized, I didn’t know until just before we left home that my middle schooler had a social studies class meeting an hour out. I didn’t want to cancel our bike excursion so I brought the laptop and he attended class at a picnic table at school. I was impressed that his teacher recognized the background right away and asked, “Wait, are you…at school right now?” I was even more impressed at my kid’s deadpanned, “What? I thought we were starting back at school today.”

The ride to and fro was a success. There were lots of people with dogs on the school grounds (most area school grassy fields turn into unofficial off-leash dog parks when school isn’t in session) but everyone kept their distance from one another. I’m not sure when we’ll sneak in another practice commute, but hopefully very soon.

On this day in 2013 my younger son learned to ride a pedal bike. We were invited to join a learn-to-ride class at Cascade Bicycle Club where my then-five-year old would be a ringer and my then-three-year old would be a regular student. They needn’t have invited us because the class was well-attended despite a downpour. Everyone started biking, including my little guy!

Pedaling! And puddles.

Today’s miles: 8.8
Total April miles: 41.9