Archive | June 2011

Chicago’s J.C. Lind Triple Lindy

We visited J.C. Lind Bike Co. in Old Town Chicago to rent a cargo bike for the day. I figured I’d want to take out the Winther Wallaroo, a super-fancy Danish cargo bike, especially after reading the Let’s Go Ride A Bike review of its three-wheeled counterpart, the Kangaroo. I was a little intimidated by its adjustable seats (front facing, rear facing, fully reclining, oh my!)–were we dressed well enough to even be in the same room as this beauty queen? After test riding it in a parking lot near the shop, however, I was more intimidated by its handling. The Wallaroo is long! And therefore hard to manipulate. I’m sure I could get the hang of it given more practice, but I swallowed my two-wheel pride and it didn’t take much convincing on Jon Lind’s part for me to take out the J.C. Lind Triple Lindy.

The Triple Lindy is a really nice trike and I got a lot of shouts and smiles on the lakefront bike path. The frames are produced in the Netherlands, which I think is a selling point, but Jon was proud to report that at some point they’ll be made locally in Chicago. All other parts are made in Chicago and I’m pretty sure we rode by the mechanic who assembles them because I heard a guy say to his companion “Hey! Those are the bikes I build.” It has a lot of great features, including an optional rain canopy, you can check out on the website.

The step plates over the front fenders are very cool and there’s also an option to get a door on the front of the bike for passengers not big enough (or human enough–it’s called the doggie door) to reach the platforms. You might notice the toddler hand smudges on the shiny wood. I should have kept a moist cloth handy to keep it looking pretty. The exciting new optional frame colors (Fire Red, Orange, Royal Blue, Apple Green) probably work to distract from smudgy wood, though.

The only weird thing was the placement of the shifter. It’s on the seat post–something to do with cables of only two feet being available until recently. Jon mentioned they might change its location, which I hope they do because it was awkward to reach down between my lets to change gears. And I imagine it’d be near impossible to do so while wearing a shirt, for those fancy moms and dog schleppers. It was nice having foot brakes and the hand brake, but the position of the hand break in the middle of the handlebar took some getting used to. I forgot to ask why it’s in the middle.

We did a lot of riding to get a feel for the bike. There weren’t a lot of hills to be found, but it was great on the small rises we faced. My original plan was to ride south to Cloud Gate to take cool pictures of the bike, but Jon had me a little scared of riding on the tilted portion of the LFP by Navy Pier. Apparently trikes are happiest when they’re on flat terrain. So when we got sidetracked at Oak Street Beach, I wasn’t too disappointed. We hung out for a bit and then headed north through Lincoln Park. I wanted to check out the lily pond and the zoo–Jon said one is allowed to push a cargo bike through the zoo like a stroller–but I didn’t notice any signage and before I realized it, we were at a beach on the north end of the park. So we chilled on the beach and bought ice cream from an ice cream trike.

The shop is great, too, by the way. The boys enjoyed running around on the rubber floor mats, made from Schwalbe recycled tires. I was quite taken by the accessories wall and after hearing the melodies played by Jimbob Love on his many pedicab bells the other day and the ice cream trike today, I got a bell. I got one similar to the Triple Lindy’s bell so we could think back fondly on today if ever we get a chance to “on your left ding dong” anyone.

Chicago: Kids love Jimbob Love’s Pedicab

I couldn’t get these kids to smile at the camera all day, but as soon as they hopped in Jimbob Love’s Pedicab, I got big cheesy smiles. OK, the baby couldn’t take his eyes off Bobby, but can you blame him? The guy oozes cool.

But first the beginning of our trip…

This is the first airplane trip we’ve taken without car seats! We’re staying in downtown Chicago and should be fine with public transportation, walking, and biking. In the past I’ve had to bring my big BOB single stroller, mostly for carting the car seats and luggage around the airport. That thing easily holds big wheeled suitcase, little wheelie bag, two tiny kid backpacks, my messenger bag, a bag of snacks, and the big kid perched on the handlebar (while little kid is on my back). I’ve never once bothered to get anything out of the little wheelie bag on the plane so I got a Tom Bihn Super Ego messenger bag to hold just as much stuff, but fit under the seat (Which, by the way, Jimbob Love called “cool bike bag”). So considering how comparatively light we’re traveling, I thought we might give public transportation to the airport a go. I couldn’t fully commit, though, so I told myself that if we were up and ready to leave the house at 9am, we’d go for it. Otherwise we’d go by car at 10.

We were up on time and the only sucky part was the six-block walk to the bus stop from home. The first three blocks were uphill and we were running five minutes late so we had to run the last block. I had the little kid on my back and stacked everything else (including folded up stroller) on the big wheeled suitcase while the big kid ran alongside me. In retrospect, I should have removed my huge laptop from the messenger bag slung over my shoulder and kept it in the suitcase until bagcheck. Next time. My shoulder is a little sore from lugging the heavy load to the bus and through the airport. My husband borrowed a coworker’s car with car seats to fetch us from Midway airport so the day wasn’t all public transportation, but it’s important to leave room for improvement.

This morning was all about trains: L train to Metra train to The Choo Choo train-themed diner (food delivered via model train) in Des Plaines, with Metra train to L train back to Chicago. Then we explored downtown (aka, I got horribly lost trying to walk three blocks back to the hotel). I almost hailed a pedicab, but ended up finding the Chicago River and the water taxi, which is almost as exciting as a train. Then we walked a bit more to Navy Pier for the ride-on Kiddie Express Train. I saw pedicabs at the entrance to the pier and checked with one that kids are allowed to ride, having already decided I didn’t want to walk anymore. There were two pedicabs there at the time, the young guy I talked to and a cigarette-smoking guy shouting at passersby, “You want a ride, yes?” I told the young guy I’d look for him when we were done with the kiddie train.

Fortunately the young pedicab guy was gone by the time we returned because all three of us were drawn to the yellow music-issuing chalkboard-encased Jimbob Love’s Pedicab. It was so nice to get pedaled around for a change! I had been looking forward to when I can put a kid on a FollowMe Tandem to help with the pedaling, but now I want one of them to grow up and become a pedicab driver and do all the work. Bliss!

Bobby showed us a nice bike route out of Navy Pier, but I didn’t pay close attention so I’m not sure I’ll find it again. The riverwalk, however, I’ll be able to find, and it should be nice to cycle on a weekday. Today it was moderately crowded, but Bobby’s harmonic ringing of his four bike bells cleared the way. If it wasn’t so far away, I’d be tempted to go to tomorrow’s Northcenter Neighborhood Garden Walk just for the free Jimbob Love pedicab rides.

Not such a car-free week

I was curious to see what my car use would be this week. I’ve had full access to my car since dropping my husband at the airport on Sunday. I’m a little disappointed by how much driving we did, but the week felt a bit urgent as we’re leaving town Friday ourselves. Here are the sad stats:

Monday: morning car to grocery store, afternoon bike to library and park
Tuesday: morning car to swim class, afternoon bike to beach
Wednesday: morning car to Tom Bihn, afternoon car to chiropractor, afternoon bike to kiddie festival
Thursday: morning car to swim and Tom Bihn (to retrieve credit card–doh!), afternoon bike to bank, grocery store, bike shop

I almost skipped our afternoon trip today, but we all needed a break from my frenzied packing and cleaning. As usual, our simple trip turned in to a cool adventure, thanks to traveling by bike instead of car. Locking up at the bank, we met a very cool dredlocked man (whom I’d imagine is known by everyone in Seattle and a fixture of the local bicycling scene) who said my bike reminded him of a Cuban bike. I wasn’t aware of a big biking with babies trend in Cuba, but it totally makes sense. I’d love to go investigate…

There were a lot of bikes at the Whole Foods bike racks and I admired a vintage-looking Mickey Mouse bike bell on the bike next to us. Nothng else too exciting, though. Trader Joes tends to get the flashy bikes, while Whole Foods gets the no nonsense variety. <insert high-price grocery store joke here>

Then the boys demanded we stop by the “puppy bike shop!” but unfortunately, Christiaan of Ride Bicycles wasn’t in with his house-sitted puppy. However, the mechanic who rides an Xtracycle was there and we talked X until my passengers got impatient.

The photo is from crossing over the freeway. It’s much more exciting to ride over the bridge when traffic is zooming by in both directions…but it’s more environmentally satisfying to scoff at the backed up car traffic. Today we had a bit of each.

Solo beach trip

I found my way to Matthews Beach Park today. Not the most efficient way, of course, because that wouldn’t be keeping in character. I followed Google maps suggestion to leave the Burke-Gilman and get on Sand Point Way. But the boys got to see a construction site, including flagger who stopped our traffic for a few minutes, so that was cool. On the way home we were smart and picked up the trail at the edge of the park.

We met up with some friends, including Andy and his awesome Xtracycle (the photo’s from Touch-A-Truck at Magnuson Park a couple weeks back, btw):

But before I get to the Xtracycle, I was pleased to see I can pack enough stuff for the beach just on my bike (last time my husband pulled a trailer full of crap, too). Except for the big green truck that has to come with us everywhere, I brought minimal beach toys and just one small towel, but it did the trick. Andy, on the other hand, was able to throw just anything onto his X, including a retired metal pot. Yeah, the cooking kind. Talk about a big scoop! My kids would love something like that at the beach, but not until we have more storage room.

I took the X for a spin with the seat down most of the way, but it was still too big for me. However, it was enough to make me fall in love with Xtracycles a little more. I rode with the kids one at a time–not for safety reasons, but because it was too hard to get them out of the playground sand pit–and they both liked it. The four-year old is even able to dismount solo, I learned during a slow turn when he catapulted himself off to run back to the sand pit and snatch his precious green truck away from his little brother. I’m still worried about sibling friction with them so close together, but they’re finally getting to a stage where they play together more than they fight over toys (unless the green truck is involved, obviously).

Best discovery was the Rolling Jackass double kickstand (the names of these things!). With handlebar deployment lever! I didn’t realize the price tag was $400 as I was testing it out today. Whoa. But worth it.

Rain again?

It really felt like summer yesterday. Today, not so much. I had plans to check out the Solstice Festival–no, not the naked bike parade portion in Fremont, but the after-party just down the hill in Gas Works Park. But I was too wimpy to brave the rain. Finally the drizzle let up at 3:30, just in time for us to ride to a birthday party in the neighborhood. So nothing too exciting today–just wanted to whine about the rain. It’s much harder to deal with following a sunny day.

Transit travails

We met a friend at View Ridge Park this morning and it seemed like a perfect bus-to/bike-home trip. I usually use the Metro trip planner for bus trips, though I don’t find it user-friendly. It didn’t present me with a good option for today, but Google maps did (or so I thought).

We biked a mile onto the unversity to catch the 71, but the bike route was pretty sucky, involving a steep gravelly hill and having to walk the bike off a curb. Furthermore, Google didn’t know the 9:04 bus was an express so it blew by our stop. The driver noticed my flabbergasted look and was kind enough to point ahead to the next stop. I threw the kids back on the bike, slung on my bag, had the rear kid hold our snack bag since I’d already folded up the baskets, and flew after the bus. It seemed like he was waiting for us, but as soon as we reached the tail of the bus, off he went again. So we chased him around a corner and caught up for the next stop.

If that wasn’t enough, the little kid (in his bike helmet still, by the way) tripped on the way to his bus seat and got a huge lump on his forehead. Not our day! But the two blocks to the park were nice and flat and the ride home was fine. And the stop we ended up meeting the bus at (University Way NE and NE 43rd St) was a nice big covered stop that will be easy to reach in the future.

The weather turned gorgeous by the afternoon so we hopped back on the bike to check out Baldolero in Tangletown–a lovely slightly uphill on the way there, downhill on the way home ride. The outside area was unfortunately 21+, but the non-bar side was empty so the kids had the run of the place. The food was meh.

Parking karma

Yesterday I beat the a Google maps bike directions estimate by three minutes–uphill to Whittier! So I felt I could adequately compare bike and driving options to my hair appointment today. Google told me it’d take 12 minutes to drive to Ballard and 23 minutes to bike there. Considering I have the world’s worst parking karma and the time needed to walk from my awful parking spot, I decided things were equal for the ride over. The 28-minute bike versus 12-minute drive on the way home probably couldn’t be argued into a wash, but I didn’t point that out as I left my husband trying to work from home while minding the four-year old.

I noticed the old train tracks that cross the Burke-Gilman bike path by 6th Avenue NW have been spray painted red. I’m considering it a little bit of beautification (well, safetyfication anyway) of the west side of the trail while the east side is being fully revamped.

I was tempted to stop in at Dutch Bike Co on my way by, but I don’t want to have to admit I’m still having a bit of trouble on the hills even with my awesome new hub. Today was fine with just one passenger, but I haven’t made it up the steep and short route with both kids yet. However, I’m still not completely over the neverending cold so I have high hopes things will be great in a week or so.