Archive | January 2011

WheelHouse Santa Barbara’s Bakfiets and Christiania cargo bikes

We broke up our LA visit with a day trip up to my birthplace, Santa Barbara. WheelHouse is an amazing shop: it’s huge and it’s full of gorgeous bikes. They have a rental program so I took a Bakfiets out for an hour (for just $15!) and had a blast. This was a newer version of the bike and it was amazing how well it handled compared to the one I tested out in Seattle–which I think wasn’t Dutch Bike Co’s rental vehicle, by the way, as Alex called it “Fritz’s old Bakfiets.” This new Bakfiets was also easier to manipulate than the Gazelle Cabby I checked out yesterday. WheelHouse Erik gave me the technical explanation, but it was a bit over my head.

In addition to being a great ride, it’s a nice change to ride a bike with normal seat and pedal placement (and this applies to all cargo bikes). On my Milano, I have to keep my seat a bit lower than I’d like so I can reach the ground easily. I also have to keep my feet on the outer edges of the pedals and aim my knees out to the sides a bit to avoid banging into the Bobike Mini. I don’t think either would be an issue had I had the foresight to request a proper Dutch bike as my push present, but I’m overall happy with the Bianchi Milano.

After riding up and down the waterfront bike path, we returned to WheelHouse and swapped the Bakfiets for a Christiania. What a neat bike! Its three wheels make for an incredibly sturdy vehicle, but the handling took a lot of getting used to. The rider has to shove the handlebars to the side to turn the bike. Not to call it a clown bike, but it reminded me of the swing bike I saw at the Cyclecide bike rodeo at Bumbershoot last year. I mostly just did figure 8s in the parking lot because it’s really fun to turn! The kids liked it a lot, too. Boxcycles sent me a link to this video of real trick turning on a Christiania, which put my riding to shame.

Flying Pigeon LA’s Gazelle Cabby

The littles and I are in LA for five days to visit family and see the sun. I got in touch with Flying Pigeon LA a while back and arranged to rent a cargo bike. They don’t have a regular rental program, but Josef said I could take out a Nihola, Christiania, or Gazelle Cabby. Naturally, I chose the Dutch one.

Once I got to the shop I started having second thoughts and was going to wimp out and take one of the trikes, but then Josef started saying how great it was that someone wanted to take out the Cabby and how it’s so fast and nimble and I felt obligated to pretend I was cool. Just like my first try on the bakfiets, I immediately veered to the side, careening into the gumball machine of the market next door. Fortunately, Josef had darted inside to grab his camera phone so he didn’t see my gaffe.

My brother met me at the shop (on his wife’s commuter bike, heh) and we went for a little ride together along the Arroyo Seco bicycle path. We realized it was our first bike ride together in a long time, probably since vacationing with the family on Texel as teenagers. The only thing missing was Oma leading the way, yelling “You kids keep up!”

The path was great–down in the river basin, far from cars. We rode a couple miles to an “End path” sign, conveniently right next to a small park. The trail was slightly uphill (very slightly uphill, but it doesn’t take much when hauling 60 pounds of kids and stuff) so the trip back down the basin was even more fun. My brother had to head off to work before we were done in the park so I was on my own for the return leg and, of course, took a wrong turn. I rode up Griffin Avenue a couple blocks and realized my mistake when I saw the “Montecito Heights” sign and noticed how high I was above the freeway.

It was good to experience a hill on the Cabby, something I probably wouldn’t have done voluntarily. It was hard. I think I’m just not suited to hills on any bike. The Cabby was fun to ride, but harder to handle than a normal bike, just like the bakfiets. The cargo area didn’t provide much storage area in addition to the kids so Josef stuck a basket on to accommodate our stuff. The kickstand was a bit hard to wrestle on and off, but I think that’s just the nature of any double kickstand. I liked the padded, separated shoulder belts. Just a three-point harness, like most Euro products. The two separate straps means they can easily go on a helmet-wearing kid with no pesky ducking and squishing.

Bakfiets test ride

I can’t believe I’ve never rode a bakfiets before. I’ve had plenty of opportunities, but never bothered, figuring they’re not for me. But I’m hoping to rent one this weekend in SoCal and wanted to see what I was getting myself into. We all went to Dutch Bike Co. this afternoon and the kids and Dan watched me practice up and down the block alone…and run right into a wall (thank goodness they insisted I start with the cart empty!). Those things are hard to handle. I thought they were only for rich Dutch women too lazy for real bikes, but I have newfound respect for them.

It was very cool riding with both kids in front. They happily sat next to each other and I could interact with Brandt so much better than when he’s behind me in the Bobike Maxi. it was also a nice change to pedal and sit normally. I keep my seat on the Bianchi Milano a little lower than I’d like so I can reach the ground more easily, and I have to keep my feet at the edges of the pedals and my knees out to the sides a tad a bit so I don’t bump the Bobike Mini in front of me. I’m not sure if owning a bakfiets is in my future, but it’d be nice to make a habit of renting them here and there.

Getting to car-free

Yesterday we took the bus north for the first time (we usually go south to the Space Needle or downtown) for the sole purpose of getting shampoo at Northgate Mall. It certainly took longer than taking the car, but was much more of an adventure. I’ve heard it’s possible to walk to Northgate so I wonder if I could bike there. Even if there’s a flat enough route, it’s so congested I imagine there would be a lot of sidewalk riding involved to feel safe.

Today’s car-free shopping trip was for dog food. I usually drive to Greenwood, but I just discovered Wally Pets in Wallingford has our brand–uphill there and downhill back home! The best for picking up heavy items, obviously. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to bike over because the three-year old really wanted to ride his bike. We haven’t been out with the balance bike much lately, and never for such a long trip (with such a boring destination), but it worked out great. The way home was mostly baby on my back, big kid on the balance bike, and dog food in the stroller, but there were periods of baby, toddler, dog food, and balance bike all piled on the Bob. This would be a great opportunity for utilizing the Ergo to attach a load to my back. I think a 14.5-pound bag of elderly dog food would fit just fine. I might tuck it into a pair of toddler overalls to create “legs” that hang out to the sides and hold it in place.

Let’s Go Ride a Bike just ran a post about Car-free Shopping Strategies and a lot of readers shared that they make use of ordering online for groceries or just heavy items. Sounds like a good plan for dog food and big bottles of fancy shampoo…provided I order before running out. It’s nice to know they can be obtained in person car-free without much hassle.

New parts

My only bike riding lately has been to ferry bikes to and fro Ride Bicycles on Roosevelt for Christiaan to fix them up. It started with repairs/tuneup on the crashed city bike which led to ordering a double kickstand to make things less wobbly while standing still (I’ll have to learn to avoid icy patches to make things less wobbly while moving). So far I’ve only had fenders put on the road bike, but that’s a great start. I didn’t note the model, but they’re Planet Bike so I’ll fit in just fine here. The mudflap looks a little silly to me, but it’ll keep me from kicking up schmutz on the trailer. Hopefully I’ll get around to having the mountain bike done, too, before our next snow (ug, I can’t believe I’m mentioning snow so casually).

So yesterday I picked up the Dolce and dropped off the Milano. It was a pleasant change to ride both directions to the shop. Every trip I wonder if there’s someone sitting in the Latona Pub watching me ride one direction and walk back minutes later day after day. I probably don’t look like a bike thief dropping off my conquests at a chop shop on account of the two pint-sized accomplices.

Today we walked to the shop to pick up the Milano sporting her fancy new Pletscher double kickstand. This thing is so cool! It folds up to the side so it even looks good when not in use. The top tire lifts a little bit off the ground when the kickstand is engaged and Baby Rijder figured out how to lean a little to make his seat rotate back and forth.

Cleaning out my bag I found my receipt from the last set of modifications courtesy of Dutch Bike Co. Fritz replaced the back rack with a Civia Hyland Rack that sits farther back than the stock rack. Attached to it are two Wald 582 Folding Rear Baskets. Speaking of cleaning, I gotta get those holiday decorations off the bike! I might leave the little lights in the front on for visibility, but the star lights get in the way and the tinsel is just embarrassing at this point.

Fenders, fenders, everywhere!

I’ve decided I want fenders on all my bikes. I’m sure the weather will clear up at some point, but right now it feels like it’s going to keep raining forever. I keep the double trailer hooked up to my road bike (2005 Specialized Dolce Elite) and would like to start using it again. We haven’t taken it out since September since Baby Rijder decided he’s not comfortable in it, but I’m hoping the four-month break and more comfortable Nutcase helmet will be the ticket to a happier passenger. The trailer will be an easy way to keep them warm and dry, but it’s no use if I’m scared of getting myself muddy riding fenderless on wet roads.

I tried to stick them in the trailer first thing in the morning (first thing in the morning=10am despite the fact we got up at 7:30), but it didn’t go so well. The little one started crying and then the big one started crying so I bagged the whole plan and drove to our morning excursion instead. After playing and napping I gave it another go, this time with no rushing around and double the number of toys and snacks. I also decided not to stick the stroller in the back of the trailer because it disrupts the flap, leaving an air and rain gap.

I planned to leave the bike at Ride Bicycles, but didn’t want to wear them both for the mile-walk home (or walk at three-year-old speed) so my bright idea was to bungee the stroller to my back. I couldn’t get it to work so I used the Ergo baby carrier (plus bungee cord for extra support) to wear the stroller. Something felt very unkosher about using a baby-attachment tool to ferry around a stroller, but it certainly did the trick. Now I’m wondering what else I can Ergo to my back while the kids are in the trailer. Thanksgiving turkey, maybe? Kid balance bike?

The trailer ride was not a smashing success. BR screamed for 30 seconds and then calmed down and happily snacked and chilled out for the rest of the five-minute ride. I’ll have to see how the ride home from the shop in a couple days goes before deciding if we need to take another break. I’m sure there’s still plenty of rain planned for the future so those fenders won’t go to waste.

Next up will be to get the mountain bike (2004 GT I-Drive 2.0) fendered up so I can ride without fear on snowy or icy days. I think the nubby tires should do the trick on our snowy roads, no studdeds or zip ties needed. I’m worried it might be a bit of work to get the trailer to fit on the bike due to the disc brakes so this might not be an immediate project.

Speaking of fenders, Portland’s Worst Day of the Year Ride has a name-the-mascot contest and I’ve submitted the super awesome suggestion: Fender. They probably won’t select it because it’s too wimpy a name for those too-tough-for-their-own-good hippies who ride without fenders, but I haven’t lost yet! We’re not planning to go down for WDYR, but it certainly looks fun. Maybe next year.

Bungee plus basket

Note to self: don’t crash your bike the one day of the week the bike shop is closed. You’ll want to drop it off ASAP to get it fixed so you don’t have to deal with it the next day.

Amazingly, the kids were totally cool getting back on the bike today after yesterday’s crash. I didn’t want to walk the mile home at three-year-old pace so I bungeed the trailer stroller (called the “trailer stroller” because it lives in the double trailer). It’s probably not a good idea that I’ve discovered a way to add even more stuff and weight to the back of the bike, but how exciting!

Dan wrenched the handlebars back into alignment so the bike rode over fine and it’s probably fine to ride in general, but it could use a good going-over. And I’m still recovering from the shock of crashing so I’m happy to have the bike out of my hands for a while. I probably overreacted when I left our helmets at the shop, too. But if I want to ride a different bike I can always use the kids’ old helmets and go without myself or see if Dan’s fits me.

In car news, we just discovered Dan only has three payments left on his lease. I think we could easily function as a one-car family. At some point he’ll start commuting to work in Bellevue by bike, but in the meantime I could give up my car to him. I do wish I’d opted for a small station wagon instead of the sedan. But at least I have new roof racks! We had plans to go snowboarding in Vancouver last weekend, but Dan’s check engine light came on. Rather than cancel our plans, we had Rack N Road attach a roof rack to my little car. I’ve wanted one for a while so it all fell into my master plan.


Almost three years of riding with kids with no problems, but today I had my first crash. It was a solo crash, so it could have been worse, but it was plenty embarrassing. We rode out of the way to hit the ATM on the way to music class and it was out of service so the frustrating part is that we shouldn’t have even been there. I was turning right from 45th onto Stone, right in front of Archie McPhee. So at least I chose an extremely high-profile intersection in which to crash.

I’ll admit I don’t have any experience in riding on icy roads. I barely have any experience driving or walking on icy roads. Nothing seemed slippery for the mile on the way to the bank and I saw the white on the road, but I didn’t think my slow right turn would end in disaster. The bike slid out from under me and we landed on our right sides. A woman pulled over right away and helped me lift up the bike. Thank goodness, because it’s impossible to lift it alone, even with the extra adrenaline from a crash. Another woman pulled up in a minivan and offered to put the bike in the back and the kids in her two car seats and drive us all somewhere. If I hadn’t been so embarrassed, I would have been very touched. Baby Rijder was understandably scared and crying, but Brandt still wanted to push on to music class. He got a little freaked out by the women fussing over us and started crying, too, but as soon as I thanked them both and got us on our way, he was totally fine.

I can’t believe we got off with barely a scratch. My right knee took the brunt of the fall and has a nice big scrape to remind me of the incident. Baby Rijder got a mini road rash scrape on his nose. Of course when we got home and I said, “Wait here a sec while I grab the camera!” he walked into a table and gave himself a nice big welt on the forehead. Plus the skin under his nose is chapped from runny nose plus weekend in the snow. So he looks more banged up than he really is. Sheesh.

The bike didn’t make it out scot-free, either. The handlebars are pointing off to the side a bit so we crookedly rode home (what a way to avoid a trip up 50th!) and got the car. Amazingly, we were only five minutes late to music class. Naturally, Ride Bicycles is closed on Mondays, but I plan to drop the bike off tomorrow to have it fixed back up. Actually, I was very tempted to lock it up outside the shop today and be done with it.