Happy Eighth Birthday, Big Dummy!

First a confession: for the first time in eight years I didn’t ride my Big Dummy on its birthday! I have a cold and I got out the door five minutes later than planned so I rode the e-bike* we’re borrowing instead. But the Big Dummy is still my favorite bike of all time and gets a lot of action.

Here are a few of the fun things the Big Dummy got to do this year:

1) I learned I can still carry both kids, but it’s not easy now that they outweigh me.

2) Surly Bikes let me borrow the new e-assisted version of the Big Dummy, the Big Easy. It was fun! Obvs I hauled it around with my Big Dummy. I wrote about my first impressions and a full review over on BikePortland.

3) I carried camping gear (but the kids rode their own bikes) to a new-to-us campground, Oxbow Regional Park. We led the Kidical Mass PDX group so we had lots of company…as well as vehicle support for getting up the huge hill upon leaving the campground. My younger son opted for a lift in the truck up the hill, but my older son was game to ride up so I loaded my heavier gear into the truck trailer and we slowly crawled our way up. And we’d do it again! The only bummer about this campground is we couldn’t bring the dog. Here’s my review of the trip for BikePortland.

4) MOTHERLOAD, “a crowdsourced documentary about how cargo bikes will save the world,” is out! And my Big Dummy is in it several times. I rode my Big Dummy to the Portland showing in July.

5) Working full time means I don’t bike with the kids these days–one rides to and from elementary school on his own and the other rides the school bus to and from middle school. I usually ride the Big Dummy to and from work, but don’t use it at work (leading biking, walking, and hiking tours for Around Portland Tours). However, every so often I do use it for work, like my recent tour guest who needed to rush to the airport after our tour and was game to have me tote her luggage with us so she could take the MAX to PDX near the end of our ten-mile loop through town rather than call for an uber after the tour. And then I towed the extra bike back to the office from the MAX station. So fun!

Happy happy!

* The e-bike we’re borrowing is an Urban Arrow and it’s awesome! Here’s my review of it on BikePortland.

Read previous birthday posts:

100 posts on BikePortland

I just wrapped up my time as BikePortland.org family biking columnist. Writing the weekly column has been a blast. I’ve profiled biking families in Portland, promoted kid-friendly events (lots of Kidical Mass PDX events, but other stuff, too), and written about just about everything imaginable. Here are links to all my posts in one spot!

  1. Family Biking: Madi Carlson, signing off – 2019/11/19
  2. Family Biking: Kids + leaves = fun! – 2019/11/13
  3. Family Biking: Gladys Bikes’ Saddle Library is the place to go for mom butts – 2019/11/05
  4. Family Biking: How to fit two tweens on a family bike (the end) – 2019/10/29
  5. Family Biking: Thoughts on carrying tweens and biking less – 2019/10/22
  6. Family Biking: Two tweens on a family bike (part two) – 2019/10/15
  7. Family Biking: Intersections are scary, until you wiggle around them – 2019/10/08
  8. Family Biking: Join us for the Kidical Mass Pumpkin Farm Ride – 2019/10/01
  9. Family Biking: Frog Bikes are a quality, lightweight option for young riders – 2019/09/24
  10. Family Biking: Volunteer for new middle-schooler community rides – 2019/09/17
  11. Family Biking: Here’s how to ace Walk + Roll to School Day – 2019/09/10
  12. Family Biking: Two tweens on a family bike (part one) – 2019/09/03
  13. Family Biking: Food cart pods are almost the perfect spot for bikes, kids, and pets – 2019/08/27
  14. Family Biking: Go beyond parks and campgrounds with these bike camp hacks – 2019/08/20
  15. Family Biking: The ABCs of a summer bucket list – 2019/08/13
  16. Family Biking: Time to start planning your bike-to-school route – 2019/08/06
  17. Family Biking: You can’t go home again, but bicycling helps – 2019/07/31
  18. Family Biking: Reassuring relatives about biking with baby – 2019/07/23
  19. Review: ‘Motherload’ film gives cargo bikes their due – 2019/07/16
  20. Join us for ‘Motherload’ film screening and bike parade this Thursday – 2019/07/09
  21. Meet Skip Spitzer; a carfree, climate-change-fighting, single dad – 2019/07/02
  22. Family Biking: Oxbow Regional Park is a great bike camping destination – 2019/06/25
  23. Family Biking: Join Kidical Mass for a weekend camping trip to Oxbow Park – 2019/06/18
  24. These summer bike camps still have a spot for your kid – 2019/06/11
  25. Family Biking: How to Pedalpalooza with the little ones – 2019/06/04
  26. In front, in back, or at your side? Where should kids ride? – 2019/05/28
  27. Family Biking: We all fall down – 2019/05/21
  28. Feeling the strength of moms on Mother’s Day – 2019/05/14
  29. Grab the kiddos and get ready for the Gorge Pedal – 2019/05/07
  30. No school on Bike to School Day, let’s rally with ‘Red for Ed’ instead – 2019/04/30
  31. 300 people turned out for the annual Kidical Mass Easter Ride! – 2019/04/23
  32. Family Biking: Join us for the annual Kidical Mass Easter Ride – 2019/04/16
  33. Family Biking: Here’s how to bike to the cherry trees in Waterfront Park – 2019/04/02
  34. Review: Surly’s ‘Big Easy’ smooths out family biking and cargo-hauling – 2019/03/26
  35. Family Biking: A tire pumping primer – 2019/03/19
  36. Family Biking: First impressions of the Surly Big Easy electric cargo bike – 2019/03/12
  37. Family Biking: Author and illustrator Alison Farrell comes to Storytime March 10th – 2019/03/05
  38. Family Biking Column: My recap of the Worst Day of the Year Ride – 2019/02/27
  39. Carfree travel with kids: Taking the family around L.A. by transit – 2019/02/26
  40. Biking through Vancouver BC’s protected intersection – 2019/02/19
  41. How to throw a winter bike-to-school party – 2019/02/12
  42. Family Biking: Learning to ride a pedal bike – 2019/02/05
  43. Family Biking: No, you don’t need an e-bike (but you’d love having one) – 2019/01/29
  44. Family biking profile: For the Kurtens, the right bikes helped them go carfree – 2019/01/22
  45. Join the family biking fun at Kidical Mass planning meeting – 2019/01/15
  46. Family Biking: Join us for a new ‘Storytime’ event series – 2019/01/08
  47. Family Biking: Share your new bike stories! – 2018/12/27
  48. Family biking profile: A new(ish) rider and her toddler take to the streets – 2018/12/18
  49. Family Biking: Beyond mama bear rage and toward healthier responses to bad drivers – 2018/12/11
  50. Family biking: Our annual tree-by-bike tradition – 2018/12/04
  51. Saddle height hints, ballast before babes, and other tips for settling into family biking – 2018/11/27
  52. Family Biking: Come join us at Cranksgiving – 2018/11/20
  53. Family Biking: Get ready for puddle season – 2018/11/14
  54. Family Biking: Let’s (not) talk about safety – 2018/11/06
  55. Family Biking: Beat winter blahs with a plan to pedal more – 2018/10/30
  56. Family Biking: How straps can unlock your bike’s carrying capacity – 2018/10/23
  57. Family Biking: How to get Halloween night right – 2018/10/16
  58. Family Biking: What’s your favorite rain gear? (I asked my kids too) – 2018/10/09
  59. Family Biking: It’s bike-to-pumpkins season! Here’s where to go – 2018/10/02
  60. Family Biking: Time to plan for Walk and Roll to School Day – 2018/09/25
  61. Family Biking: Can’t ride? What’s your backup plan? – 2018/09/18
  62. Family Biking: Join us for Kidical Massive this Saturday (9/15) – 2018/09/11
  63. Family Biking: A bike light primer for the approaching season – 2018/09/04
  64. Family Biking: How was the first day of school? – 2018/08/28
  65. Family Biking: Get ready to bike to school – 2018/08/21
  66. Family Biking: Sidewalk cycling can be a savior – 2018/08/14
  67. When moms escape: Tackling the unpaved Trask River Road route to the coast – 2018/08/10
  68. Family Biking: A cautionary tale of kids riding too-small bikes – 2018/08/07
  69. Family biking profile: Elizabeth Decker has rediscovered the fun – 2018/08/01
  70. Family biking: What type of infrastructure is important to you? – 2018/07/24
  71. Family biking profile: Sara Schooley is sure you’ll like e-bikes too – 2018/07/17
  72. Family biking profile: Kathleen Youell moved to Portland to live carfree – 2018/07/10
  73. Family Biking: Preludes to pedaling their own set of wheels – 2018/07/03
  74. Grab the kids, load up your bike, and cool off at a local watering hole – 2018/06/26
  75. Family Biking: Make this the summer you pedal to camp with the kiddos – 2018/06/19
  76. Finding a family-friendly Pedalpalooza – 2018/06/13
  77. Family Biking: Taking kids and bikes on MAX light rail – 2018/06/05
  78. Family biking profile: Ali Reis and her daughter Lark – 2018/05/29
  79. Sunday Parkways is perfect for families: Here’s how to get the most out of it – 2018/05/22
  80. Talking about family biking (and why I want to share your stories) – 2018/05/15
  81. On the exhaustion of motherhood and why I want to bike with other families on Mother’s Day – 2018/05/08
  82. Snacks, shade and seven other ways to make this your best spring ever – 2018/05/01
  83. Bluetooth speakers and a “Rolling Jackass”: These are a few of my favorite things – 2018/04/24
  84. Here’s why more Portlanders don’t bike with their kids – 2018/04/17
  85. My first Ladd’s 500 – 2018/04/16
  86. Humans, bike maps, and of course, Google: How to choose family-friendly routes – 2018/04/10
  87. Come to the Kidical Mass planning meeting and help us build an all-ages bike network – 2018/04/03
  88. A big, all-ages turnout at annual Kidical Mass Easter ride – 2018/04/02
  89. What prevents you from biking with your young children? – 2018/03/27
  90. Family Biking: An introduction to Kidical Mass in Portland – 2018/03/20
  91. Where to buy used kids’ bikes in Portland – 2018/03/13
  92. Biking with the family dog – 2018/03/06
  93. Tips for tackling toddler helmet hesitancy – 2018/02/27
  94. How to keep little bike passengers cozy in the cold – 2018/02/20
  95. Here’s how I’ve carried my kids by bike for the past 10 years – 2018/02/13
  96. Partying on the Worst Day of the Year Ride – 2018/02/12
  97. Introducing our new Family Biking column by Madi Carlson – 2018/02/06

We’re borrowing an Urban Arrow

Fun times in the Family Ride household, we’re borrowing an Urban Arrow Family, the original e-assist bakfiets. These days, most of my writing is in my weekly column on BikePortland.org, and lately I’ve been musing about ways people can carry two tweens on a family bike. I reviewed the Urban Arrow and shared some additional thoughts about carrying tweens and biking less after lots of unexpected comments (silly me not to expect this) about “wtf are kids that age doing on your bike? they should be on their own bikes!”

There are always going to be people who think e-bikes are cheating, putting kids of any age in cars is OK but on bikes is not, and that everyone should be able to bike as fast and as fearlessly as they.

I’ll have one more post in my series of big kids on family bikes to go over various options I’m aware of (and please comment here or on BikePortland if you have solutions to share!) but in the meantime, we’re having a great time using the e-bakfiets. It’s a tight squeeze getting both kids in there, so we’ve started playing Pokémon Go as a distraction to the cramped conditions and it’s fixed everything.

Since it’s a big, precious bike I’m a little hesitant to bring it everywhere and lock it up out of my sight, but I’m still doing a fairly good job of putting it to good use. I almost didn’t take it to the pumpkin farm because I wasn’t sure it could go 33 miles on one charge and I was nervous about the lack of bike parking at Liepold Farms. But in the end I decided I really should be using the bike I said I’d use! So I brought the charger along and replenished some of the three-of-five bars I spent while riding to the farm and we made it home just fine. Parking worked OK, too. These last three years they’ve let us pile our bikes right by the entrance and I used a cable to attach the bike to the little gazebo I parked under.

This year the farm made a point of saying “Parking included in price” so perhaps next year they’ll add something for bikes. A bike rack would be nice, as would a discount. This year a parking attendant told us we were the only bike they’d seen.

* Here’s my Strava recording of the ride to the farm.
* Here is the Flickr photo album.

And here are some selected photos with descriptions…

I couldn’t find Pixie’s harness so we used her life jacket instead to buckle into the kid straps and it kept her in the bike nicely. The kids need a couple more inches of bench width to fit next to one another so I have the lighter kid sit on the front bench:

This is how Pixie would ride if she wasn’t strapped in. She loves leaning out the front of the bike, but it makes me very nervous. I tried for half a block to convince her to sit back down to no avail before I stuck her in my backpack during this initial voyage:

Charging up the e-bike battery and the Pokémon Go device while eating lunch:

Annual ruler photo!

It hailed on us!

It was tricky fitting two big pumpkins with two big kids. The bigger pumpkin filled the bottom of the bike and I used Pixie’s leash (I hadn’t thought to bring straps, oops) to attach the not-quite-as-big pumpkin to the Urban Arrow’s very sturdy rear rack. It slipped a bit to the side while biking home, but stayed on the bike:

Thank goodness for charging up during lunch! We made it all the way home without much juice to spare:

I’ll never quit my Big Dummy <3 One of the pumpkins was vandalized (maybe by squirrels? it had a soft spot so it probably smelled tasty) so I grabbed a replacement at New Seasons Market with my forever-bike:

We helped with a bike move!

We had a great time on Tuesday helping with the Books with Pictures bike move! Or rather Bike/Walk Move for Books with Pictures, and there was a lot of carrying and hand truck wheeling the three busy blocks between buildings. Going into it I wasn’t sure how long the kids would last, but they made it three hours without complaint! Doughnuts at the outset and a lunch spread in the middle made that possible. I made 11 runs back and forth with one kid coming each time while the other helped with loading and walking loads. Neither were keen to carry things on their own bikes.

I may not have announced my new-to-me cargo trailer on the blog: I have a Haulin’ Colin heavy duty cargo trailer now! I’ve borrowed Haulin’ Colin trailers in the past and eventually got my own hitch to borrow my neighbor Velotron’s. With my move away from Seattle, and then his move away from Seattle, the trailer has become mine! It’s 5 feet by 2 feet and I’ve carried 500 pounds with it, but it can handle even more weight…I probably can’t, though!

More about Books with Pictures
I’ve known of Books with Pictures proprietor Katie Proctor since before I met her thanks to her blog, A Most Civilized Conveyance, on which she recounted biking to the birth center in labor! And showed photos of the amazing baby-seat-carrying boxes on her cargo bike. Katie is one of the two founders of Kidical Mass PDX (I’m currently Co-Director with Sara Davidson) and we’ve held our last two organizers meetings at Books with Pictures.

We pledged our help on the Books with Pictures Great Big Move! Kickstarter, which is now fully funded, but still worth checking out to see the fabulous prizes and updates.

KOIN channel 6 was out filming on Tuesday for a followup to their article last year: Inclusive comic book store has something for everyone. The new video should show up online soon and maybe I’ll remember to update with a link here.

More BwP events
The last event is going on RIGHT NOW through tomorrow: Build the Shop: Work Party, Jun 21 at 10 AM – Jun 22 at 6 PM, but keep an eye on the BwP Facebook events page and more might pop up.

More on bike moves
The Move By Bike page on SHIFT has a lot of great info and links for joining future bike moves.

BikePortland.org February 1st, 2013: Portland bike move breaks record, gets national attention.

Video! Streetfilms: Portland Bike Move! (from 2004).

And there’s a book! How to Move by Bike: Tales and Tips to Inspire by Steph Routh.

This is the empty direction in which I’m carrying two kids, one bike, and one dog, ha!

The trailer came in handy later in the day when the combo of doughnuts and milkshake left my little one too icky-feeling to ride home.

Riding to the Oregon coast via the Trask Trail

I’ve already recapped last summer’s trip to the coast with Elle of Tiny Helmets Big Bikes over on BikePortland.org: “When moms escape: Tackling the unpaved Trask River Road route to the coast” (heh, I didn’t choose the fun title), but I never got around to uploading all my photos so now that that’s done, I’m re-recapping it, though more briefly.

I was on my Surly Straggler with 43mm-wide tires and Elle was on her Surly Troll with 2.4-inch-wide tires.


Route details from Oregon Bikepacking:

While not technically easy, this the most straightforward, easiest dirt route to the coast from Portland. Starting from the end of the MAX line in Hillsboro, we route you through the least pavement possible to Mount Richmond and then on gravel up to the Barney Reservoir and along the North Fork of the Trask River directly into Tillamook.

Expect clear cuts, steep and loose gravel climbing, logging trucks, and plenty of pickups to keep you on your toes. And despite all that, it’s still a little gem of a route and one of our all-time favorites.

As predicted, enough time has passed that I’m willing to do this again, though in general I still don’t like the idea of taking a bike trip where I know I’ll have to hike-a-bike (walk my bike over terrain too hard or steep–or both!–for me to pedal). And now I know to:

  • Hit the road much earlier, say 6am instead of 10am
  • Bike downtown to catch the MAX rather than Gateway (takes the same 35 minutes and shaves 30 minutes off the trip!)
  • Spread my load over four panniers instead of just two
  • Vary my tire pressure–max for paved sections, low for gravel
  • Book a campsite at Trask River County Campground ahead of time
  • Filter water along the way rather than be stubborn/lazy and get thirsty

Coming back it’s tempting to do highway 6 again, especially if it’s a Monday. I’ve since heard details of how horrid that route can be, but I suspect early weekday trips tend to be much milder than weekend ones. Another option would be to take the Nestucca River Road route now that the detour of last summer is resolved.

30 Days of Biking 2019

Hi April, bye April! Last month was another 30 Days of Biking, during which thousands of people (5721 this year!) pledged to bike every day in April and share their adventures online with the hashtag #30daysofbiking.

This year I biked 503 miles over the course of the month (per the Ride Report app conveniently and automatically tallying my rides) and while I didn’t blog each day like I did last year for 30 Days of Biking 2018, I mostly kept up on Twitter and Instagram.

It was a pretty rough month, with a kid down with a cold and then his first seasonal allergies (which I experienced for the first time last year so I can really commiserate) and some other stressors, but even so it was probably the first April during which there were no down days during which we didn’t need to bike somewhere and had to think up an excuse to ride. One of the fun things about 30 Days of Biking is the 11:59 p.m. driveway pajama ride to hit the quota.

My mileage was quite a bit down from normal given the fact that my sick kid was the one who goes to school 4.5 miles away (the other kid’s school is only one mile away) plus he was away for a week of Outdoor School. For comparison, March saw 734 miles and 30DoB 2018 saw 602.

Note: It’s not about the miles! I don’t normally tally my miles so it’s fun to add ’em up just in April. The real beauty in utility cycling is those who can do it all with less than 100 miles a month.

We mostly just did the regular stuff this month: school, taekwondo, grocery shopping, but there were a couple special highlights:

April 8th, while my 12-year old was away at Outdoor School, my 9-year old and I went multi-modal and took the light rail to Beaverton and biked to a trampoline place. Much of our trip was on the Fanno Creek Trail, but the roads on either side were huge and we had to stick to the sidewalk a lot. But we’ll be back, including the cheap and fresh sushi lunch spot in the strip mall next to the trampoline place.

April 13th was the Ladd’s 500! Like last year, I didn’t have the kids this day so I could stay all day. Last year I had trouble deciding which bike to bring so I decided to bring them all: cargo bike, single speed, folding bike, and longboard skateboard. And last year I was on Armando’s 10-person team and did a few rounds of 30-lap stints. This was a bit different and I brought only two bikes, planning to only ride one (my single speed) the whole time, but swap to my Straggler if I got tired. The Straggler came along to pull my cargo trailer full of pop-up tent, camp chairs, snacks, and single speed. This year was mostly different in that I was on a two-person team with Joe “Metal Cowboy” Kurmaskie so we each rode 50 miles in 25-lap increments. It was a lot harder than last year, but really fun! Last year I did a bunch of bonus laps that didn’t count towards my team toting two photographers and one podcaster around on my cargo bike. This year I carried relay organizer Barstow around in my cargo trailer once I was done. That was just as fun as all the racing! See a bunch of great photos by Eric Thornburg here.

April 21st was the “opening day” of Kidical Mass season with our annual Easter Ride. This ride is always huge and this year over 300 people came! The ride is pretty far from home so I had originally planned to take a regular bike and pedal two miles to light rail and then catch two trains to get there because it was a bit far for the kids. But in the end I went solo so I could bike the too-big-for-light-rail bike the whole way there. This felt like cheating since I didn’t need to deal with the train nor did I have to figure out how to carry the Kidical Mass PDX banner with my regular bike.

April 26th we made our school PTA movie night a “bike-in” movie night and went early to hand out prizes to anyone who biked, scooted, or walked over. It was really fun with 25 people biking over for Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. We can’t wait to do this again–movie night and 30 Days of Biking.

Recent writing

Hi Family Ride readers! I don’t post here as often as I used to because I write a weekly family biking column over at BikePortland.org. Also find me over at Kidical Mass PDX. We’re currently enjoying our annual 30 Days of Biking and I’ll write a recap at or after the end of the month.

Lately on BikePortland.org I’ve written my first-ever product review of the Surly Big Easy (the new e-assist version of my own bike)–Review: Surly’s ‘Big Easy’ smooths out family biking and cargo-hauling.