Happy Fifth Birthday, Big Dummy!

Another year, another bike birthday post. I think bike years are faster than human years, because it feels like much more than five years since this life-changing bike entered our lives.

I got the Surly Big Dummy primarily as a kid carrier, but now that the kids are riding mostly on their own bikes at ages nine and seven, its role is changing a bit. I always take the Big Dummy when we go out just in case I need to carry a kid and his bike, but that happens less and less these days (yay!). I worry a bit about the kids turning into bike-averse tweens so I want to be equipped to scoop them up on my bike after any little crash, tired spell, or tantrum. The kids weigh 125 pounds together, but without them on the deck, the Big Dummy rides like a regular bike so it’s fun to get to ride it around empty most of the time.

Today we biked five miles to the Seattle Center to see Space Santa in the Space Needle (he’s the coolest!) and the Big Dummy’s most important role was bike rack. I feel a little guilty relegating my sweet bike to such a mundane job, but apparently decent parking is the most important thing. Bike parking at the Seattle Center leaves a bit to be desired. There are a couple stationary bike racks (on the west side of the Armory and one I noticed today under the monorail track near the EMP), but most of them are small Cora racks that aren’t bolted down and get dragged around the center (and shouldn’t be considered safe to lock to). Looking at the Cora rack specs, I see my bike at 76.4 pounds weighs more than these six-bike Cora racks, plus it’s easier to anchor in a convenient spot–at the base of the Space Needle at the start of our day out, for instance.


I saw a couple bikes locked to Cora racks and a couple more smartly locked to fences. The Parking Squid used to live at the Seattle Center (it’s across the street from the aquarium now), but security guards yelled at people who tried to lock to it since it didn’t look enough like a bike rack.

Heading home the Big Dummy got a bit of a birthday surprise when we were number 666 at the Fremont bike counter. Very fitting with Surly’s surly-lowercase-ess persona. Fun fact: my handlebars–not the stock flat bars that come on Big Dummies–are Surly Open Bars that measure 666mm wide, rock on.


And the deck came in handy when we stopped to forage for chocolate on the way home. Note: this is best done with a Haulin’ Colin Rolling Jackass centerstand.


One little exciting change to the Big Dummy, as of yesterday: now I match the majority of cargo biking moms with MKS Grip King pedals. These were on my Surly Straggler (my “me” bike), but I swapped them out a while ago for Shimano A530 hybrid pedals, that are flat on one side and SPD clipless on the other. So now my Straggler is sportier and my Big Dummy is snazzier!


Don’t worry that the Big Dummy has been getting bored with her passengers getting so independent. We’ve been delivering loads of old stuff to the thrift store. A very noble job and there are the makings of many loads left in my basement I hope to clear out before her next birthday.


Read previous birthday posts:

Christmas Tree by Bike 2016

“Go Team Christmas Tree!” is one of the many things people shouted at us as we biked home with our tree this year. There’s something to be said for parading six miles with a big tree. Last year we got the tree just half a mile from home. That was the first time the kids rode their own bikes so that was exciting and new (for them–I would have liked carrying both kids and tree because the bigger the load, the more points). We probably would have gone to the same tree lot, but it doesn’t seem to be there this year and the kids suggested the Swansons Nursery Reindeer Festival. So this year was both kids-on-their-own-bikes and far-away-tree. Fun!


Six uphill miles is too ambitious for my seven- and nine-year olds to do all in one shot so I planned for a stop or two on the way there. This would also make for a nice break from the cold and rain. We started with one and a quarter of our steepest uphill miles to doughnuts. Pixie the dog came along so I hoped the kids would eat their doughnuts inside Mighty-O while I kept Pix company outside, but they voted to keep the pack together. Fortunately it was early enough (and uphill enough) in our journey that they were plenty warm and they downed their doughnuts quickly enough that they didn’t get chilly sitting still outdoors.


We made it three more miles when I dropped my chain which dragged my front derailleur mount clamp out of place.


Naturally this happened while the kids were half a block ahead of me (I can usually keep up with my nine-year old on hills, but every once in a while he joins his little brother to leave me in the dust), but they eventually heard my hollering and came back for me. They don’t go through intersections without me so they would have discovered my absence soon enough. However, I’ve been encouraging my seven-year old to do a bit of bikey wandering and for a mile leading up to this catastrophe he was u-turning around the Fremont Avenue Greenway traffic circles to zoom back and practice bike-by high fives with me. Now he’ll probably assume I’ve broken my bike every time he gets far ahead of me.


While setting my derailleur back to the right spot, my seven-year old pointed out he had a flat tire. I move my repair stuff from bike to bike and don’t always have everything with me (and never keep kid tubes with me unless we’re bike camping). I had my bike pump and a tube for my 26-inch tire, but no patch kit or tire levers. Oops. Fortunately we were very close to JRA Bike Shop so I loaded up my little dude and his bike and off we went.


This was my first visit to JRA’s new location and I love the new, bigger space! It was also perfect timing for avoiding a downpour and to warm up for a bit. They had a small Surly Big Dummy built up so I took it out for a test ride. Amazing how light it is without all the kid stuff on it. My bike weights about 75 pounds, but this one was easily heftable. I didn’t realize the deck is green this year and I can’t get over how cute the matchy-matchiness is!

JRA has great commuter bike stuff, like Rainlegs rain chaps and Bar Mitts handlebar mittens. We also like their bike bell and horn selection and picked up an orca and dinosaur.


Outfitted with a new kid tire and tube, checked-over mamabike, horns, spare tubes, patch kit, tire levers, potty breaks, and doughnut, we were ready to roll again. One mile and fifty puddles later we were at Swansons Nursery.
Model train!
Koi pond!
Christmas trees!

Unfortunately no Curly the Camel this year, but we were forewarned by the website that he’s temporarily away due to a hurt leg. We also happened to see a friend who works at Swansons at our doughnut stop and got the full scoop. What luck! It was nice to get confirmation that it really was just a hurt leg and this isn’t another “Moe the miniature donkey is spending the winter in Hawaii” thing that we didn’t buy for a minute two years ago.

The whole tree experience is pretty cool at Swansons. The kids rain through aisles of trees hanging from the ceiling and soon found “Fluffy,” the perfect tree. Everyone was extremely helpful and very complimentary about the kids’ tree choice. I left the kids watching the tree shaker (to remove loose pine needles?) while I paid and unlocked the bikes.


Biking through the drive-through tree pickup area was way fun.




They were pretty excited about the bikes and did all the loading. My Big Dummy wore its Xtracycle WideLoader so I could load it on the side (pro tip: load your tree on the left side so people passing in cars can see it and be impressed), but Fluffy was bigger than last year’s tree so we put it on top of the deck. I secured it with my favorite long lashing things: a Yuba Cargo Strap and Xtracycle Utility Belt and the Swansons guys tied Fluffy’s trunk to my Hooptie very securely.


To break up the ride home we stopped to get pizza to go. Again, the kids didn’t want to wait inside warm and dry without me and Pixie, but we were between rainy spells and they hopped around enough and crashed their bikes into one another over and over to stay warm. The bummer about having the tree up on the deck was that I didn’t have a nice spot to put the pizza. My other usual spot is in the front basket, but that’s Pixie’s domain now. So I wrapped it in my rain skirt to keep it from the drizzle and bungeed it atop the tree, hoping it wouldn’t leave a square wilty spot on Fluffy during the final two miles.


It was an action-packed five hours/12 miles and we look forward to celebrating the season with Fluffy until it’s time to take him to the bike-based tree bonfire :)

Recap: 2016 Thanksgiving Kidical Mass Lake Union Loop

‘Twas our rainiest Thanksgiving Day yet. Here’s the Flickr album of 115 photos, many of them blurry, all of them grey and wet. But our annual Thanksgiving ride is rain or shine so there was never any thought of canceling.


Check out previous rides to see less rainy, more exciting photos:

I wasn’t sure anyone would make it out to join us, but we met with on other family at Gas Works Park for the start and word of another catching up along the way.

Official start-of-ride group shot (my children are both hiding): two adults, three kids, one dog / two longtail cargo bikes, two kid bikes, one balance bike:


While I stopped to load one of my kids and his bike onto my cargo bike, we were joined by three more adults, one tween, one dog / one cycletruck, three regular bikes / one dog trailer:


Our first new bicycle infrastructure this year were the flexiposts protecting the bike lane over the University Bridge:


Despite the weather, we stuck to our schedule and stopped at the little playground at the southeast corner of Lake Union from 11ish to 12ish. And good thing, we were joined by another dad and kid! This made our final tally 11!
11 people: 6 adults, 1 tween, 4 kids, 2 dogs / 1 Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike, 1 Xtracycle EdgeRunner longtail cargo bike, 1 Larry vs. Harry Bullitt longjohn cargo bike, 1 cycletruck cargobike, 3 regular bikes, 2 kid bikes, 1 balance bike (the balance biker was off and on), 1 dog trailer.


This year we did ten loops around the Lake Union Park model boat test pond (except for me who did zero so I could take pictures and my seven-year old who raced around 13 times):


And then we enjoyed the other new bicycle infrastructure along our annual route: the Westlake Bikeway!


One other change this year is that the Starbucks in the AGC building was closed for the first time! We stopped for a beat to consider our options while cars streamed through the drive-thru (which wasn’t open to bikes, of course).


I suggested we continue along our way and see if we stumbled upon anything open. Having a warm-up stop is pretty nice, but I was also anxious to get home and start wringing out our wet stuff.

Normally we would have biked under the Fremont Bridge before crossing on the west side for the most kid-friendly route, but my kids were so far ahead they didn’t hear my shouted directions so we strayed a bit from this official route. I guess that’s a hazard of the kid-friendly Westlake Bikeway ;)

We noticed the Fremont Starbucks was open as we stopped next to Yellow Dot Cafe to consider next steps. A phone call revealed the Fremont Caffe Ladro was also open so half the group headed there and half of us continued home.


I was happy to get the kids’ boots on the boot dryer and this was the first time I made use of our HotSnapZ Reusable Hand Warmers. The heat packs are so big that they don’t tuck into gloves or boots easily so we’ll have to do some plotting before we head out in the cold next. They’d work nicely in pockets for passengers, but not sure what to do about pedaling kids.


Happy Thanksgiving!

In keeping with my resolve to just keep pedaling…but also do more, I’ll share how we started our day when normally I would skip posting about this part:

The kids and I spent some time talking about Standing Rock. I told them about our friends who are out there, like Mike who is charging phones with his pedal-powered generator bike. We wanted to choose some items from the Standing Rock Needs You Amazon Wish List, but had trouble getting the shipping to work (which I see has a workaround now) so we gave to the The Official -Sacred Stone Camp GoFundMe instead.

Bikes on the bus

A tweet and Instagram of a video my seven-year old took of me removing our bikes from the bus got more attention than I expected (especially from France, bonjour!) so I probably should put it up here, too:

* Yes, it takes longer to load than unload…but not much longer.
* Yes, all Seattle buses have racks for two or three bikes (as far as I know).

I’m no bus-on-the-bike pro since we usually only bus once a month to get to our orthodontist 20 miles away. Our trip to Tacoma with Three Bikes on Three Bus Systems last month was quite educational and makes our usual one- or two-bus trip to Issaquah feel easy in comparison.

How to
Before our very first bike/bus outing I watched the video on the King County Metro “Loading your bike” page a lot of times and used one of the practice racks.

About our racks
The rack in my video is the Sportworks Apex 3, the newest style here in Seattle. I discovered this by reading the comments of this Seattle Transit Blog post: Metro’s Xcelsiors hit the streets.

While I don’t know everything about bikes on buses, I have picked up a few tidbits…

* Just yesterday I learned from a lovely mostly-bike-and-bus-based piano tuner, Audrey Karabinus, that if the rack won’t fold down from the bus as expected, push it in towards the bus first. Worked like a charm on yesterday’s sticky rack!

* And from a friend who works for Sound Transit, the old DL3/Trilogy and DL2 racks can hold wheels as small as 20 inches and the Veloporter can hold wheels as small as 16 inches. I’d guess the new Apex also goes down to 16 inches.

I refer to the racks by the style of hook they have:
Apex = black plastic hook
DL3/Trilogy, DL2 = black metal hook
Veloporter = yellow claw

I like using the old black metal hooks best since they’re the easiest to deploy. Even the new ones can be sticky…a bus driver told me that when passengers don’t treat them gently they get like that.

Do you have any bike-on-bus insights? Please share them in the comments below!

Biking in Downtown Seattle with Kids

Monday morning the kids and I escorted Russ and Laura of The Path Less Pedaled to their BoltBus and found ourselves downtown with three bikes, no school, and unexpected great weather. I don’t really like biking downtown with the kids so we don’t do it often. I prefer to bike “scary” places as one unit, either on the Big Dummy or tandem + trailer bike, but during non-peak hours it can be fun to be on three separate bikes…though we resort to quite a bit of slow sidewalk riding.


…but first, here are my photos from the kid-free weekend with Russ and Laura. And allow me to confirm that the breakfast burritos at TNT Taqueria are excellent. And our evening burritos mentioned in VLOG 027 were from Rancho Bravo. Seattle: not just coffee.

“VLOG 026 – Cranksgiving Seattle – Day 2 Part A” is the best of the Path Less Pedaled videos because Pixie gets the most airtime:

but VLOG 025 – Bikey Seattle Day 1 and VLOG 027 – Bikes Bikes Bikes in Seattle! are also great.

Back to the family biking stuff…
Our first stop was 5.5 blocks to Back Alley Bike Repair. I thought we had done a combo of street and sidewalk, but my Strava recording makes it look like we stuck to the sidewalk the whole way. Jackson Street has streetcar rails and can be pretty busy. At the bike shop I looked into replacing lost gloves and stolen helmet, but didn’t make any purchases. The kids signed the shop copy of “our” book, URBAN CYCLING: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living. Fun fact, even the page that looks like it’s signed by me isn’t–it’s been forged by (outsourced to?) Stevil Kinevil.


Then we rode a whopping 1.5 blocks to the Klondike Gold Rush Museum and National Historical Park. I thought we had stuck to the sidewalk since it was so close and on our side of the street (and rails), but Strava says we took to the road so I guess that’s what we did. It’s all flat down here, by the way, which makes it easier riding in the road with kids, knowing we can move along at normal speed and not uphill crawl speed. It’s a great little FREE museum, by the way. We spent a lot of time this visit and learned much more than last time. The kids were game to sit through the 25-minute movie, something they usually don’t have the patience for.


Then we went 16 in-street blocks (16!) and one park block through Occidental Square to get to Westlake Park for a snack and playground break. This took us along the 2nd Ave Cycletrack. I let my speedy seven-year old zoom ahead since he knows to wait at intersections. If there weren’t so many people in cars who either don’t notice or ignore the NO RIGHT ON RED arrows (we saw two such people today) I would have urged him to go through ahead of me. While stopped at a red light at 2nd and University I pointed out the silhouette for Sher Kung–one of 240 placed around Seattle on Sunday for World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. We attended the memorial ride for Sher Kung two years ago, which was the reverse of this part of our route (Westlake Park to Occidental Park). The kids sat on the Big Dummy that day and we felt safe in the company of hundreds of other bikes, but I wouldn’t have let them bike downtown on their own back then.


From the end of the 2nd Avenue Cycletrack we biked two blocks of Pike in the street. As you can see, I took the Big Dummy just in case either (or both) kid wanted a lift, but I got lucky and didn’t have to tote anyone.


Fun times at Westlake Park and the Holiday Carousel looks ready to go in a few days. The kids aren’t currently carousel fans so we won’t come back down for it.



From Westlake Park we rode the sidewalk for 10 blocks: a block of 5th alongside Westlake Center to cut across McGraw Square and stick to the sidewalk of Westlake until the street car rails peeled off. FYI, BUS ONLY is for bikes, too. Then we got back on the sidewalk for the last block of Westlake between Mercer and Valley because it’s a mess.


And then that long glorious stretch of the Westlake Bikeway. I learned that the yellow strip I thought was a divider between bikeway and sidewalk is actually a bike bridge between hot lava and piranha-filled river! It also looks like an effective way to avoid the carpet tacks.


There’s also a new trick called “The Limbo”…but also sometimes called “The Limo”. Pedal fast to build up speed and then coast past your mom like this:


We stopped for sushi in Fremont, then biked home at 4:30 in the dark (ugh, yes, dark at 4:30 p.m. way up here). We ride three sidewalk blocks up from the Burke-Gilman Trail before we can ride a couple street blocks. Yahoo for those sidewalk blocks this time because they brought us face to face with a new cat! He’s super friendly and the kids have named him Fluffy Star Nightmare.


Kidical Mass to Olympic Manor Holiday Lights 2016

Wednesday, December 21, 2016 (WINTER SOLSTICE!)
4:00 p.m. Loyal Heights Community Center playground
Roll: 4:45 p.m.
Tour: Olympic Manor neighborhood holiday lights
End: 5:30 p.m. Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse
Length: About three festive miles
Facebook event page


Read recaps of previous years for inspiration: 2015 recap | 2014 recap | 2013 recap | 2012 recap (Critical Lass)

Come to the park at 4pm to have time for playing, stringing lights, and taking photos of our lit-up rigs while there’s still a bit of daylight left. The nice part of holding our ride on a weekday these last two years is that the community center will be open! Good for hiding from possible rain and visiting the potties before we roll out at 4:45pm.

I’ll update with exact route info: this was last year’s three-mile route, but I will look into cutting out one more uphill block and see how this 2.8-mile route feels.

We’ll finish up at Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse around 5:30 p.m. There’s a warm fireplace near a group of comfy chairs, plenty of table seating, and toys! Hang out a bit for peppermint hot chocolate and other treats.

2016 Thanksgiving Kidical Mass Lake Union Loop

It’s that time again!
Seattle’s Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride Lake Union Loop is coming up next week.
On Facebook? RSVP here.

Same rough timeline as years past:

Thursday, November 24, 2016
10:00 – Start gathering at Gas Works (near the play barn)
10:30 – Depart
11:00-12:00 – Playground by Daniel’s Broiler
12:30 – Starbucks warm-up stop
1:30 – Back to Gas Works

As always, families are welcome to drop off early for naps/cooking/eating plans. We’re usually a much smaller group by the end.

Route map (it’s a CLOCKWISE LOOP if you want to catch us en route):

Recaps from Thanksgiving 2014, Thanksgiving 2013 and Thanksgiving 2012.