Archive | December 2011

Balance bike hauling

Two kids and two balance bikes on the Big Dummy is a breeze! Much better than two kids on the city bike with two balance bikes towed by trailer. We met Biking with Brad and kids for a University of Washington parking garage tour. We had planned for rain and with the college virtually shut down for the holiday break, it seemed like a good dry and empty place to bike up and down ramps.

The kids all had a blast on the ramps, but it never rained so after biking around a bit outside, checking out the cool rocks in the Geology Department, and lunching in Eastlake, we headed to the I-5 Colonnade Mountain Bike Park for more technical terrain. We got to Franklin by turning left on Hamlin so now I know the best route! Of course I was paced by a four-year old (on his sweet new 20″ six-gear bike) so I’ll have to try it alone to verify that it’s flat enough.

The littles loved the mountain bike park, too, and I couldn’t believe how much my two-year old rode after riding up and down the ramps in the garage. Brad took his Big Dummy (with huge new Schwalbe Fat Frank tires) on the switchbacks, but I got a bit of rest and talked the two-year old out of hopping down a few black diamond jumps.

I think I could come here every day! It even rained a bit while we were there, but it was almost impossible to tell since we were shielded by the freeway. It’s educational, too. Many pillars sport wildlife posters with animal and mountain biking information.

While we were eating lunch I noticed a cyclist stop to take a picture of Brad’s bike parked outside. Apparently I’m still a little bothered by my bike getting short shrift. But then he took a picture of my bike, too, and I let it go. However, Brad did show me up when his wife took the bus over to the colonnade after work and he carried his whole family home.

First bike tow

It was only two blocks, but I towed a bike with my bike! A neighborhood mom posted that she was giving away a 16″ boys bikes and while I still intend to use my Bike Works voucher, I just can’t pass up a free bike! Again, I assumed it would be blue like last time (which turned out to be pink and covered in princesses), but he seems cool with red. And if he ever starts pedaling, maybe he’ll get to pick out his own bike.

While I was loading the bike, a guy walked by and asked if I was going to seat a third kid on it. It was fairly stable with it’s front wheel secured in the FreeLoader, but not stable enough to take a passenger. Although now that I’m thinking about it, I’m sure there are riders who’ve tried.

The bike’s in really good condition and just needs some handlebar rust steel-wooled off and the seat could use a patch. I told my husband that I ordered a kiddie Brooks saddle for it and he just rolled his eyes. After tilting up my new saddle a teensy bit, it’s perfectly comfortable, but he hasn’t stopped grumbling about it.

Ill-prepared for rain

We’ve had such a long dry spell, I didn’t heed the slight chance of rain in today’s forecast. I didn’t pack rain gear for any of us and haven’t even thought about keeping our three seats dry while parked. Things started getting grey and misty while the bike was parked for a couple hours in a friend’s garage during a playdate, but the kids were game to stay out and kill time until the library opened.

We rode around Green Lake looking for a coffee shop with covered bike parking, but ended up exposed at Starbucks. I sort of covered the Yepp seat with a shopping bag and draped a blanket over the rest of the FlightDeck. It didn’t do any good and everything got wet when the rain kicked in. Fortunately, I have my BikeCap secured to my seat post so that was along for the ride and kept the most important seat dry (important because it’s fragile Brooks leather, not because it’s mine).

I wanted to go home and hide indoors, but the kids convinced me to stay true to my word and take them to the library. We circled the building looking for covered parking and decided the clump of trees in front of the building was the best bet. I’ve noticed bikes and dogs parked there in the past and now I know why. It didn’t keep the bike completely dry, but it was much better than being parked at the bike rack.

Again, I wanted to call it a day and head home, but we kept to our original plan and made a stop at Trader Joe’s. I’ve noticed sheltered bike racks deep in the parking garage, but the railing was somewhat covered by the overhang and there were way fewer bikes than normal parked there. I guess I’m not the only Seattleite turned off by today’s rain. And I still haven’t done any real plotting to deal with future rain.

Holiday lights, traffic lights, and bike lights

I went on a Christmas lights ride with Jen of Loop-Frame Love last night and learned the most amazing thing: the little T’s painted near where bikes wait at intersections are sensors that trigger stop lights to change for bikes. Here’s the older style T we biked by in Ballard:

And here’s a newer style bike icon in Wallingford (N 34th St at Stone Way N):

Read all about the triggers on Loop-Frame Love: The Magic Stoplight and Seattle Bike Blog: The magic little biker near the stop light.

A couple salient points: from SBB commenter JRF: if a sensor doesn’t work, report it and SDOT will adjust it within a few days. And from Jen’s update after meeting with a traffic engineer: placing the crank over the trigger will have best results, especially if you don’t have a steel frame.

The holiday lights were great. My four-year old wisely opted to stay home and warm, but my two-year old fared OK for a while under a blanket. Jen’s six-year old is on a trail-a-bike so he was able to keep warm pedaling. I can’t wait to have help pedaling!

We didn’t make it all the way to Olympic Manor, but we saw some great Ballard lights. The best house had Santa, Frosty, a helicopter, and a firetruck:

I was very impressed by Jen’s USB-rechargeable Expelion 250 CygoLite. Of course, I was more into it when I thought she said it was called “psycho light,” but no matter the name it’s extremely bright. I’m still loving my dynamo lighting, but the Expelion is a great alternative for battery-resenting riders who want a very bright light and don’t want to wait (or pay) to have a dynamo hub installed.

Foot pegs and Brooks saddle

Second day in a row visiting the Space Needle. We used to have a discounted season pass, but this year we’re just going once (well, twice) as part of the cheap Winter Special CityPASS. I didn’t realize Space Santa wasn’t Earthside yesterday so it was necessary to utilize our visit-twice-within-two-days coupon today. But first we stopped at South Lake Union Park to take a closer look at the empty model boat test pond. Yesterday we circled it per our usual routine and saw a guy taking a photo of a model sailboat laying in the empty pond. My picture isn’t nearly as poignant, but much more fun…until the kids finally ran back over with green slime all over their gloves. They declared it algae, but I’m pretty sure it was fermented goose poo. So no gloves for the rest of the day.

Oh, and it’s a nice shot of a stroller in the FreeLoader. I remember the days I thought I could only bring the stroller if I used the double trailer…and more recently carefully bungeed to the OG mamafiets. It’s quite nice to just toss it in the bag and know it’ll stay there. And the hole in the FlightDeck provides a perfect perch for Sockeye Salmon.

Space Needle Santa was a partial bust (poor baby!):

But I got closer to finding the perfect bike-and-Space-Needle shot by laying on the ground a couple steps below the bike in front of the box office. My usual Space Needle bike rack has been torn out and replaced by a construction zone so I locked up to the railing right out front. It wasn’t crowded enough for me to feel too guilty about parking illegally. And yesterday as we located the bike on the 40-second ride down, the elevator operator mentioned she’d been admiring it from her post.

I normally take Westlake heading south of Lake Union, but with the construction lately, we either take Dexter and miss the lake altogether or brave the sidewalk of the Broad Street tunnel under Aurora. I’ve even contemplated biking on the east side of Lake Union more often, but I just don’t like it over there–too crowded on Eastlake, too hilly on Fairview. Today we took 9th on the way south, but heading home discovered that Terry is open to bikes and peds. The BICYCLISTS SLOW DOWN DANGER AHEAD sign didn’t phase me–those signs should be placed at every intersection in SLU. It’s all dangerous down here if you go too fast. So our new route takes us only a block out of the way and allows us a great view of construction equipment and up-close encounters with construction men. Win-win.

We paid a quick visit to a cool bike rack on 11th in the U-District (Health Alliance International, 4534 11th Ave NE). One either has to lift his/her bike over the curb or wheel through the dirt to get to the rack so that’s not ideal, but it sure looks nice. I didn’t think to check out its pedigree, but will in future. It’s always fun to browse bike rack manufacturer sites.

Finally, we made it to Ride Bicycles where Edward put foot pegs on the Big Dummy so the big kid can climb aboard on his own and ride more comfortably. They’re just bar ends and Edward found a spare pair of grips to trim down to size to make them extra fancy and foot-friendly.

Speaking of Edward and Big Dummies, here is his Big Dummy, sporting waterproof covers he custom made for his FreeLoaders:

And he’s got a sweet trailer hitch for pulling bikes around. I’m not planning on anything so burly for my bike, but maybe some day I’ll be a big-time bike hauler.

I also joined the cult of Brooks and swapped out my slightly uncomfortable saddle for a more uncomfortable B17S. But it’s so cool! I hear they wear in. It’s mostly just slippery and I slid off a couple times on the way home. But it’s so cool!

It’s called a cargo bike for a reason

I wish someone had reminded me I own a cargo bike today. Rather than utilize it, I bused from Wallingford to Lower Queen Anne to Phinney to retrieve Mr. Family Ride’s beach cruiser. I’d lent it to a friend’s visiting brother months ago and the time came to bring it back home.

A bit after noon, the little one and I took the 31 from Wallingford to Lower Queen Anne to retrieve the big kid from preschool. The three of us caught the 26 south a bit down Dexter and walked up a flight of stairs to Aurora to grab the 5 back north to Phinney. We take the bus occasionally, but Thanksgiving was the first time we’d transferred from bus to bus (to get to West Seattle–and just one way, since Mr. Family Ride met us out and drove us all home) so today was pretty big.

We hung out and played for a couple hours and then hit the long road home. OK, OK, it’s just 3 miles by bike, but it felt long given we were two-thirds into our adventure. I had hoped to wear the little kid on my back and perch the big kid on the handlebars for the two-block uphill walk to the bus stop, but the big kid wanted to walk and I didn’t have the patience for an extra half hour (at least!) tacked onto our trip. I finally talked him into a seat on the top tube once my friend wrapped it in bubble wrap. It wasn’t too comfortable for either of us, but I didn’t relish the walk uphill–or two more buses–so we headed downhill to see how much of a pain it’d be to walk all the way home. Turns out it was a really big pain so we bagged the plan after two miles and caught the 44 at the edge of Wallingford for the final mile home.

It wasn’t until this evening that I realized what I should have done is tow the cruiser home with the Big Dummy. Duh! There’s even a Flikr gallery of Xtracycle Bikes in Tow. No photo of an Xtracycle with kiddie seat in the rear position towing a bike, but I think with a couple bungee cords, it’d work OK. I should probably practice so I’m prepared for next time, though I feel like I wasted my one opportunity for a one-way, all-downhill bike tow.

Detour discovery

After a couple days ignoring the detour by the Stoneway Village construction site (wait, now it’s called Prescott Wallingford), I heeded the sign at 38th and turned right up the hill.

It was a little confusing since after the first two signs, everything was oriented for southbound Interlake traffic. I guess that makes sense for pedestrians and bikes coming from the neighborhood, but since the southbound Stone bike lane is unaffected by the construction, I think many detour users are northbound bikes and it may have been a mistake. From looking back over my shoulder to see the signs, I think we were supposed to rejoin Stone Avenue at 40th, but even though that would have allowed us to see a little bit of the exciting construction site (the best part of the ride up Stone), I didn’t want to lose the extra altitude I’d gained. The next block was even steeper, but I was committed…and only had the little kid on board so it wasn’t too bad.

I’m glad I stuck with it because we discovered the turtle street mural at 41st and Interlake.

Later in the day, with both kids on board, we checked out the new bike lane on 45th. I agree with the Seattle bike blog article commenters that it’s not enough to make this block safe, but any additional markings can’t be bad. I hope it’s a move towards more separated bike lanes, even if it’s just paint separating the lanes for now. We don’t ride on Dexter a lot (because it’s a hill we can avoid on Westlake, plus we’d miss the Lake Union seaplanes and boats), but I like its new bike lane.

And one last ride for the day: I went out solo in the dark to attend the monthly preschool parents meeting. I had trouble deciding which bike to take since there are so many choices! I took the road bike last month so I could ride fast, but tonight I was too lazy to lace up my clipless shoes and didn’t want to deal with putting lights on my beach cruiser so I took the new bike. Wow, those dynamo lights (Alfine Dynamo hub with Lumotec IQ Cyo R N Plus lights) are bright! I don’t think I’ll be content to ride any other bike at night now.

First shopping with the Big Dummy

I took the new bike grocery shopping for the first time this morning. It didn’t really count, though, since the kids didn’t want to come along. It took me forever to get the bags loaded into the Xtracycle FreeLoaders, but I imagine I’ll get quick at it in time. The main problem was that even with the seat adapter raising the kid seat, the middle FreeLoader buckle was buried under the Yepp’s foot rests. I probably should have removed the seat (easy to do if I bothered to keep the key to it handy), but I wanted to practice with full kid gear in place.

While I was struggling with the bike, a woman easily loading groceries into her car chatted with me. Turns out she had heard of my bike from Ride Bicycles, where she’d bought her city bike. She also has a Kona Ute longtail, which I’d heard about from Ride Bicycles, too. Small town, Seattle, sometimes. I lamented not bringing a bungee cord along so she offered me a scarf from her trunk, but I did OK just perching the last bag in the front basket.

Shopping done, I loaded the kids onto the bike for a trip to South Lake Union Park for Cookies, Crafts & Carols, a festival aboard the Virginia V (our favorite boat), the tugboat Arthur Foss, and the visiting Schooner Adventuress. I was a bit nervous about the bike being locked to itself, but I wanted it closer than the bike racks (plus I didn’t want to walk all the way from the bike racks with two cold kids). Fortunately, it was easy to keep an eye on it from various portholes.

The only bad part about Big Pink (just a temporary name, in hopes I can come up with something more creative) is that I keep trying to manipulate it like my old bike. It’s misleadingly agile on the road, but very heavy and therefore not as easy to muscle the rear of the bike over a couple inches or walk the bike in a curve. I haven’t dropped the bike yet, but I’ve had to keep it from tipping and my back is not happy about it. I keep thinking “it’s supposed to be just like a normal bike” but that’s compared to a riding a box-style cargo bike, not compared to my normal bike I’m used to.

On the way home, we swung by the Wallingford Center to say hi to the Green Carolers and Santa. This may be our only boys-in-bike-helmets-with-Santa photo of the season.

The Green Carolers sang their way over to Green Lake for the Pathway of Lights, but we opted to skip this year and meet Mr. Family Ride for pizza on the way home. He demonstrated proper locking technique while I tried hard to pay attention, but I think I need a refresher course. Somehow I’m supposed to get the U-lock around the bike rack, frame, and wheel all at once, while making sure the U side isn’t against the rack in case someone takes a pry bar to it because I wouldn’t want him/her to steal a bike with a damaged frame. Then the cable part has to thread through a million things. I think I’d need several additional locks to get it as secure on my own. So between loading groceries and locking/unlocking I’ll have tons of time to get aquainted with my new bike.

A little more Portland

Last morning in Portland. We rode up to Waffle Window which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s on the side of Bread and Ink Cafe which sounds like a tattoo parlor/bakery, but is just a restaurant. I love walk-up windows. It’s such a luxury leaving the kids in their bike seats and not having to lock up. More drive-through windows that allow bikes would be great, too, of course.

After a dog walk and romp at a nearby playground, I crammed our luggage back into the two big blue bags. I decided I didn’t want to wear the laptop in my messenger bag again, so I shoved that in a blue bag, too. I figured the boys shouldn’t have to carry too much, either, and bungeed their little backpacks atop the blue bags. As well as the bike lock, since it no longer fit in a blue bag. My laptop is pretty big and heavy and I probably should have listened to Mr. Family Ride and left it at home, but between free Wi-Fi on the train and at Inn Beervana, I couldn’t resist bringing it. I think I may have scared Brian off from cargo and family biking, though, as I yawed left and then right as I wobbled my way upright and away from the inn. I shouted over my shoulder than I’m not usually so heavy and unsteady and he shouted back, “I sure hope not!” so I think we’re cool.

Next up was tweetup part two where we met @inkandpen, owner of the marvelous Yuba Mundo with boxes pictured below and @sarahgilbert, maker of the one less minivan bumpersticker creator and rider of the stylish Electra Townie Xtracycle. Not to belittle the awesomeness of Seattle biking families, but there are some wonderful people down in Portland! Now I see why Totcycle went down to visit so many times last year.

The train ride home was pretty much the same as the ride down, though I’ve discovered it’s easier to take long trips in the morning so the journey is more of an adventure and not a tired and tiring schlepp. So this afternoon’s 3.5-hour trip felt even longer than Monday’s morning excursion. This time we got our own set of four seats, though no table in the middle…which meant jumping back and forth! Also no toddler on a leash across the aisle this time. The couple closest to us escaped to a different train car as soon as we sat down. Probably a wise move–ours wasn’t a very quiet train car.

We arrived to Seattle at 6:30, by which time we were all exhausted and I had a headache. We’re rarely out in the dark so that was novel. The lit-up buildings led to our discovery of a model train display in the window of the downtown Macy’s. We’ll be back in light of day to check it out. Both kids fell asleep on the ride home, which took until 8pm. I moved even slower than normal and had to stop and rest on the way up Densmore twice on account of the heavy load.

In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do anything different packing-wise other than leave the laptop behind. We didn’t run out of clothes or need to purchase anything other than food. That’s a success in my book. And odds are our next trip will be in warmer weather and require less bulky clothing. I think we’ll be back once the big kid is on a pedal bike to have Clever Cycles install a FollowMe Tandem Coupling on this bike. I’m hoping this happens before the little kid outgrows the Bobike mini front seat. He’s OK weight-wise, but at some point he’s going to start complaining of his knees hurting as his brother did. I could probably swap in different handlebars if the timing doesn’t go according to plan, but that’s not as cheap as not needing new handlebars.

Portland: Clever Cycles, Tweetup, Burgerville

We took friend, beer writer, and innkeeper, Brian Yaeger, to Clever Cycles today. I was hoping to bully Brian into buying a bakfiets (I can see him transporting kegs, dog, and inn supplies in the box), but he opted to test ride a really nice Breezer while I was occupied at the World’s most kid-friendly bike shop‘s Lego table. He didn’t leave the shop with a new bike, but they have ten Breezers in his size on sale so he’s got a bit of time to think about it.

My one purchase was supposed to be a bell for the Bianchi, but instead the boys chose loud little horns to put on their balance bikes. They honked them merrily as we test rode the Nihola trike. The boys had so much fun riding in it with the shop’s stuffed dog last time that they insisted taking it out for another spin–this time with even more stuffed animals.

Back in the shop we checked out a very cool KidzTandem, which the boys were too small for, but certainly seems like a great way to get a slightly bigger kid helping with the pedaling.

And we saw up close the brilliant double bar ends Xtracycle FlightDeck kid handles. There’s an Xtracycle in Seattle with them in the middle of the FlightDeck that the rear kid uses to hold.

But the most intriguing product we saw was the Salsa Cycles Anything Cage being used as a beer growler holder. It’s designed to hold yoga mats and similar sized objects, but Clever Cycles discovered it perfectly fits a growler, too. Brilliant. Brian seemed quite taken with this, too, though he wouldn’t need such a cage if he had a bakfiets…

Our next stop was Seawallcrest Park to meet a bunch of local biking families. The park has the greatest corkscrew slide the likes of which you’d never see in a new park. I had the pleasure (ha) of going down the slide twice to rescue my little guy who was fine most of his trips up and down, but needed a lap to ride on a couple times.

Here’s a shot of the assembled family bikes from the top of the slide: @built‘s road bike, @KYouell‘s bakfiets, Andy’s Surly Big Dummy, my Bianchi Milano, and the amazing @1lessgmsuburban‘s bakfiets coupled to a kid bike with a FollowMe Tandem. Emily’s 10-year old rode a separate bike, but she had the other five kids (two in bakfiets, one in Bobike junior on her rear rack, one riding the kid bike attached behind her, and one on the rear rack of the kid bike) with her. So impressive! Oh, and she baked two cakes and brought a thermos of coffee for us all!

Back to more Xtracycle accessories, I got a good look at Andy’s bar end foot pegs. Perfect for climbing onto the FlightDeck and resting little feet upon.

Once it got dark and cold I followed Kath to bike-through dinner at Burgerville, where 5% of the proceeds were supporting her friend’s kid’s preschool. I was excited to visit Burgerville because they are very accommodating of bikes thanks to the work of Portland biking mama Sarah Gilbert a couple years ago.