Archive | February 2012

Chilly Hilly with one passenger

I don’t like hilly or chilly, but when my friend Jake (who also rides a Big Dummy to ferry his three-and-a-half-year-old daughter around) asked who was crazy enough to join him at Chilly Hilly, Cascade Bicycle Club’s first ride of the season, how could I say no? We took the last of the four ferries to Bainbridge Island, which I think was a good move. Here’s the crowd from the 9:35 ferry, all three lanes–fast (18 mph and up), medium (13-17 mph), and slow (12 mph and slower)–were completely full:

I should mention I would never have considered the ride if I hadn’t already planned to spend the day with the lighter (under 30 pounds) kid. For the first time in two and a half years we’d finally planned to do a divide-and-conquer weekend: I was to take the big kid swimming on Saturday while Mr. Family Ride took the little kid balance biking, and then we’d swap on Sunday. Things didn’t go according to plan, though, when the little kid decided at the last moment that he wanted to come swimming, too. I don’t know if this is a lesson in not sticking to the plan, but in the locker room I lifted the little kid and pulled a muscle in my lower back. I could barely move, but figured sitting in a warm pool for an hour couldn’t make things worse so I hobbled out with the kids and periodically hissed at them, “Don’t touch Mama…Mama can’t move!” while they cavorted around. I somehow got them showered and dressed and we made it home in one piece (we were in the car, by the way) and Mr. Family Ride whisked them away for the rest of the day so I could lay on a heating pad. I still can’t believe I made it out on the bike yesterday. I warned Jake I could possibly chicken out due to immobility, which I felt like a complete a-hole about considering his brother is unconscious in the hospital after a bike crash. I woke Sunday feeling stiff and sore, but so much better (which I still find amazing considering how poorly I started out).

The Sunday forecast had threatened rain and snow for the last ten days, but the weather was great. After reading about last year’s ride on Tubulocity I knew things couldn’t possibly be as bad this year. The earlier riders would have been pretty cold, but we had sunny skies the whole time–though a few snowflakes fell on us. The kids were troupers. I dressed my guy in a snow suit and put chemical heat packs in his snow boots and he must have been toasty enough because he fell asleep ten miles in. He woke up when we got to the cider stop where we discovered when you take the last ferry and then make slow progress, you miss out on some of the goodies. They found the last couple allergen-free energy bars (allergen-free!) for the kids and we got our cider and banana fix.

Going into the race we planned to do the full 33 miles, but when we stopped for a run-around break nine miles in, the volunteers at the intersection let us know that the southwest corner of the island is the hilliest part and we agreed to take the short cut, making our ride only (only!) 20 miles. The hills were big, but there was only one hill we were forced to walk. Jake recently put an electric assist (BionX 350W 48 volt) on his Big Dummy, but didn’t use it in a show of solidarity…and because he had a lot of riding to do after Chilly Hilly: uphill to the hospital and then home to Shoreline. A lot of the hills looked huge from the crest of the previous rise, but once we’d coasted down and gotten into the hill, they weren’t too bad. We didn’t see too many other riders due to our late start, but many of the brave participants we encountered walked the hills. So it might be encouraging to enter the course earlier and share the road with more riders and walkers, but it was also nice to have the road mostly to ourselves. I was able to slalom a dozen feet up the killer hill before I gave up and walked. That was my first time having to walk the Big Dummy up a hill and I’ve concluded it’s much to heavy to push on an incline.

We got to the finish line at 2:56–just before course closing time. They ran out of chili (yes, Chilly Hilly is also chili hilly) just after we got ours and the corn bread was long gone. The chili was terrific and we met the mayor of Bainbridge. But most exciting was hearing about the Squeaky Wheels annual Bike for Pie ride in the summer. This year’s will be on August 19th with a 32-mile challenge ride and 12-mile family ride. Here’s last year’s map. I think we’ll be back.

The ferry home was packed, both with Chilly Hilly and FHR riders. I was a little scared to share space with the pirates, but I’d seen them patiently lined up for the 9:35am ferry (after supposedly having been drinking since 8am) and they were well behaved now, too. One big guy had a lot of fun shouting “On your right!…On your left!” as we were riding off the ferry, but that was it for belligerence.

Like always, I hadn’t put a lot of thought into the route home. A lovely group of cyclists from Portland took an elevator up from the waterfront, which is exactly what I would have done on my smaller bike. I considered my options as I rode along Alaskan Way (flattest and longest route through the locks, quickest route along Lake Union, or Ship Canal Trail), but I looked up Broad Street and knew I didn’t have another big hill in me. I caught up to Cascade’s Robin Randels at a red light and she slowed to my pace so we could ride the Elliott Bay and Ship Canal Trails together. I mentioned we nearly got lost a couple times and she taught me a new term: Dan Henry. Apparently there were these cool little markings all over the course.

We parted ways in Fremont and I took Stone Way home. This shouldn’t have surprised me, but a jogger passed me. He started walking a block later, but I was too far back to shout “Suck it, jogger!”…which turned out to be a good thing because he’d only stopped to enter his building.

I hadn’t planned to start my Bike for Pie training quite so early, but I left my bike lock key at home this morning (in the open garage door–doh!) so instead of going in search of new sunglasses and groceries, the little guy and I stopped at Irwin’s Bakery where we could watch the unlocked bike through the window. I would have taken a steeper hill than Meridian if I’d planned in advance, but any hill qualifies as Bike for Pie training. And the marionberry pie was terrific.

A couple blocks from Irwin’s a woman walking her dog recognized my bike from the ferry. I told her about Bike for Pie, too. I hear it’s normally a locals event, but I plan to bring a fleet of Seattleites over with me.

I haven’t taken the ride number off my bike yet and I think I’ll leave it on for the week. I saw a guy in Ballard this afternoon with his still on, too. And at the grocery store a guy said it looked just like the number he got at a stage race in Vancouver decades ago.

The new Recycled Cycles (from the viewpoint of a non-cyclist)

I checked out the new Recycled Cycles last Wednesday (and Thursday). It’s not an attractive building and it’s not right on the Burke-Gilman Trail, but it’s huge and despite being across the street from pungent Fremont Brewing, it doesn’t smell like a brewery inside. I once worked in an old brewery building and once they reopened the brewery below us, the smell was not so great to share space with all day long.

They served free coffee on opening day and if the mechanics are drinking that same strong brew, the place is going to do a lot of brisk business. Speaking of coffee, they also have adorable coffee cup bike bells. Right next to the BikeGlow.

I think the mix of old and new is probably a lot like the original Recycled Cycles, but my only experience with the other shop is 1) carrying a bored toddler around for a few minutes three years ago while Mr. Family Ride looked at bikes and decided it was his favorite shop and 2) carrying a bored preschooler and bored toddler around for a few minutes after last year’s kiddie criterium.

The bin of used saddles was particularly exciting for my two-year old. Both the blue Lemond and brown Brooks saddles were gone when we went back on Thursday (second trip was because the four-year old was sad to have missed out–he was quite fond of the saddle bin, too, and created the game of sitting on the saddles one-by-one on the floor).

There’s a wonderfully priced new 2011 18-inch Kona Ute in the shop and when I chatted with Scott, the owner, he mentioned they want to carry more cargo bikes. I wish I’d thought to suggest they should consider a Lego or train table to go with the cargo bikes. There’s certainly room for it. Or there would be if there weren’t so many bikes in every available spot.

I was impressed with the womens shoe selection, too. The Shimano mountain bike shoes weren’t bad looking and the the DZR Jetlag Urban Cycling Shoes are “the first and only SPD compatible slip on.” I should probably go back a third time and try them on.

I talked to a mechanic who likes problem solving and expressed an interest in figuring out a passenger wind/rain shield. I recently discovered this great DIT: Shade and rain covers for the PeaPod LT tutorial. My PeaPod III doesn’t have the crossbar so it wouldn’t work as easily, and ideally I’d shelter both kids. However, I already own a BOB stroller rain shield and I just happened to have it in my FreeLoader so I showed it to Joe and he may already have an idea that involves tent poles and a trip to Tacoma Screw.

Heading home I discovered what I think are new BIKES WATCH FOR TURNING TRAFFIC signs on Seattle’s most dangerous block for bikes. But they might not be so new since I’ve been turning off 45th at Burke lately.

The signs in the other direction make me a little dizzy with the sideways bike icon, but it’s nice to see so much signage to protect bikes from cars. I also realized today that as far as I know, this is the only Seattle street with sharrows in the uphill direction and bike lane in the downhill direction (usually it’s the reverse). This block’s bad reputation is paying off with a lot of extra attention.

Wheel stabilizer versus beer

My new front-wheel stabilizer (Civia Loring Basket Fork Spring) met its match today when I loaded the front basket with my small messenger bag, a pineapple, half a salmon, and six bottles of beer. It didn’t flop all the way to the side and bang the frame, but it wasn’t at all stabilized. The bike doesn’t handle as smoothly with such a heavy front load so I’m not upset about the spring not being stronger. I’ll use it as a gauge for having loaded the basket too full.

This got me thinking about the future front rack of my old bike. My plan is to put the big kid on a pedal bike coupled behind my bike with a FollowMe Tandem and move the little kid to the Bobike maxi rear seat and carry his balance bike on a front rack (because I have a feeling he’ll want his wheels along often). Now I realize a frame-mounted rack is crucial–it will be able to carry more weight and not affect steering. I recently first read about frame-mounted racks when Hum of the city reviewed a Yuba Mundo with bread basket. I want to see if the Azor frame mounting front rack that comes on WorkCycles will fit my frame. Haulin Colin makes heavy duty frame-mounted racks locally, but I’m stuck at the idea of having to repaint my celeste green Bianchi Milano. So that’s plan B.

This afternoon the four of us had a lovely early (4pm!) Valentine’s Day dinner at Ivar’s Salmon House. We’ve never been there before so I was surprised by how fancy it is. The view was great, as was the food. The kids rode their balance bikes down and I locked them at the bike rack outside. Very bike friendly place, easily reached by runnel from the Burke-Gilman Trail (or by normal roads one block away).

I gave Mr. Family Ride the Park Tool PZT-2 Pizza Tool. Since Ride Bicycles has a Park Tool account, they just stuck it on their next order. One can also order a PZT-2 from Amazon and other places, but that’s not nearly as exciting. I’ve put the pizza cutter next to a Playmobil man and toy train for scale. It’s quite big. Big and awesome.

Hauling balance bikes and bags

I haven’t wanted to admit this, but I can’t fit both balance bikes and a bunch of other stuff in the FreeLoaders. Today I was determined to make it work and went down to the garage alone (it’s way too hard to load the bike any way other than haphazardly with two monkeys running around), but didn’t find the perfect solution. I realized I’m going to need to remove the FlightDeck to slide the middle FreeLoader buckle over. I think once I have better access to that buckle (sometimes I wedge my hand under the Yepp baby seat foot rest and get it buckled, but usually I don’t bother) I’ll be able to secure a balance bike and big bag. Today I used a bungee cord which felt like cheating, but it’s a step towards bigger more exciting loads.

I was glad I brought the balance bikes today because after a preschool potluck near Green Lake, I let the boys loose at the lake. We started at the big hill (Papa Ball Hill, as we call it) by the Bathhouse Theatre where the boys cruised down over and over for a good hour. I thought that was it for balance biking, but they crossed over the bike path to explore closer to the water’s edge. Very close to water’s edge as they rode on a little pier.

Fortunately neither boy got wet, which was more of an issue when they took a biking break to toss rocks in the lake. Despite hundreds of hours of experience throwing rocks into water (second in popularity only to digging in sand), you’d think they’d be better at keeping their feet dry.

My favorite part of the day was riding alongside the boys 3/4 of the way around the lake. I had so much fun when we raced around the vacant UW parking structure with Brad and kids, but I only had one kid to keep safe since my bigger balance biker kept up with the faster half of the group. Today they mostly stuck to the gravel on the side of the path and we didn’t have run-ins with other bikes, pedestrians, or dogs. It was so much easier than I could have imagined. I don’t think we’re ready for six wheels on the Burke-Gilman Trail yet, but perhaps it’s not so far off.

Two miles of flattish riding tired them out, but they still weren’t done! I thought they were ready to let me load them back on the Big Dummy, but they took one last opportunity to fly down a fairly steep grassy hill. They figured out it’s a lot easier to run the balance bikes up the hill on the side and then remount to coast down. I hope this lesson will stick and they’ll walk their bikes on the long hills near home. When Mr. Family Ride escorts the kids down to the water he often ends up carrying two bikes and one “I baby white kitty cat, can’t walk!” kid uphill to return home. It think he could probably figure out a way to carry all three items at once, but he patiently ferries things in half-block increments.


I dropped the Big Dummy on its side for the first (and second) time today. Fortunately there weren’t too many witnesses–just the fifty or so families gathered at the fire station for the open house. I was trying to engage the kickstand while the wheels were on the grass but the bike was centered over a cement plate. I think I would have been fine parking it completely on the grass, but as it was, the bike tipped away from me. Not a stellar moment in demonstrating how fun and safe family biking is. It was surprisingly easy to get the bike upright. The big kid scurried out from under the bike so I only had one kid plus bike to heft, but it was much easier than lifting the city bike (which I dropped a few times). As soon as I got the bike up and tried again to set the center stand, it tipped over towards me. Third time was the charm, though, and I finally got the bike parked and locked and we ate Top Pot Doughnuts and wandered through the remodeled fire station.

Done with the fire station, we killed a couple hours at nearby Cafe Bonjour which has a bike rack right out front, but were later surprised to discover the SAGA School has no bike racks as we arrived for the Kinderfasching costume party. We left with one painted puppy face and two balloons. The boys had the idea to stick the balloons in the holes of the Yepp seat foot straps (better picture here) and they stayed put once I fastened them down. They even made it through two unbucklings and rebucklings as we stopped at Trader Joe’s on the way home (because three stops just isn’t enough when you’re on a cargo bike and full of sugar).

Ninety-minute ride

This morning’s ride to Georgetown was our longest non-stop trip. Google maps estimated the trip at 58 minutes, but Google maps neglected to mention the Airport Way South Viaduct closure so with map checking and turning around, it took us an hour and a half door to door. The kids were totally fine with the long ride. It probably helped that we saw lots of trains along the way: streetcar, monorail, Amtrak, light rail, freight.
I was excited to show the boys the SODO Trail I discovered last month. They liked being so close to the light rail train and admired the transport-oriented murals.

Our detour from the closed bridge took us to the 4th Avenue South bridge over the train tracks. Great view of the train yard, but the sidewalk is narrower than 1st Avenue South–or at least feels narrower thanks to the railing on the street side. We met a couple pedestrians on our way over and it made me thankful for my narrow longtail.

I had hoped today’s route to Georgetown would be a winner. The friends we visited live very close to Oxbow (Hat N Boots) Park so I imagine we’ll take this trip often in the summer. I decided early in the ride I didn’t like the route, having started on Eastlake. Never mind the car congestion, the hill is just too big to be worth it unless I’m going somewhere near the top of the hill, like REI. Google maps might think Eastlake is my fastest route to anywhere south, but my uphill speed must negate any advantage over taking the much more pleasant Westlake.

On the way home we took the 1st Avenue South bridge and discovered even more new construction. As I was waiting at a light on South Horton Street, wondering if the Eliot Bay Trail was really just across the street, I saw a bike go by. Thank goodness! She saw me and we waved at each other and moments later I realized it was Del Rey, local blues singer and frequent cargo bike ride participant. Had it not been so grey out, I would have recognized her sparkly gold helmet. Plus she wasn’t on her familiar Dutch bike, preferring her Brompton these days. I decided she probably hadn’t recognized me on my new bike, either, so I set to chasing her down. This is actually an Xtracycle pedaling towards us in the bike lane! What are the odds?

It is so nice to ride alongside someone familiar with the quirks of a trail. I was tempted to follow along all the way to Fremont (Hub and Bespoke to be exact), but I had promised the boys a visit to the waterfront carousel. I’m not sure what it’s like here on weekends, but it’s a great destination on weekdays. The arcade area is loud, but there’s a long quiet hallway linking the various businesses together.

We came home through the Ballard Locks. The fish ladder was deserted, but the kids didn’t want to get back on the bike after looking for salmon so for the first time ever, I was able to wheel an empty bike across the narrow walkways. Normally, this would be a great thing, but this was the Big Dummy’s inaugural visit to the locks and I wanted to see how easy it was to negotiate the sharp turns and impatient pedestrians.

Although all the photos look awfully wet, it didn’t rain on us until the last ten minutes of the ride–and then it poured. The kids weren’t jazzed about it, but at least they were in rain gear–which I’d luckily put on them for warmth.

The final tally of our day was 27.9 miles–over nine hours with two long and one short stops. Not our usual day, but it was a good one.

Three bikes in one day

I didn’t actually ride three different bikes today, but if I’d bothered to [learn how to and] pump up my road bike’s flat tires, I would have had a triple play. We started the day on the Big Dummy:

In the afternoon we took the Milano with the idea to get the new kickstand put on at Dutch Bike Co and then continue along to the beach. The shop was too busy (call first next time!) but the beach was great. Sunny and over 50 degrees meant flip flops for me!

It wasn’t quite flip flop weather, but it was nice not to come home with sand in my shoes like last beach day. The kids were OK in short sleeves and rolled up pant legs, but I huddled under a blanket.

By the time we left the beach it was getting dark and cold and I tucked a blanket over each kid. We stopped for dinner at the Totem House across from the locks that I just noticed has reopened (in October, apparently). It’s now owned by Red Mill, which Oprah declares “One of the 20 Hamburgers You Must Eat Before You Die.”

I remembered to bring my headlight along, but forgot to use the downtime at the beach to get it attached. So I quickly stuck it back in its old spot on the fork. Riding home I saw one bike without a light…not well, though, since my miss-aimed light only illuminated the trees far above her head.

On to the third bike…I delivered the kids home to Mr. Family Ride and took the Big Dummy back out solo for the monthly preschool parent meeting. I was feeling mopey about not being able to take the road bike out, but a passing cyclist shouted “I like your bike!” at me and cheered me up. Moments later another cyclist shielded his eyes as we passed each other. The bright dynamo lights certainly are wonderful at night.

Riding around at night is such a change–there’s a different batch of stuff to see. I discovered a house in our neighborhood with several bikes hanging in the living room. I’d love to go back with a better camera (and not accidentally set off the flash with the first shot, doh) some night.

I also used the light on my new clock for the first time. Wow, since when is 8:44pm so late? I left my flip flops on, as you can see. I brought boots and socks along, but left them in the FreeLoaders.

Chainguard choices and runnel run-in

I dropped the Big Dummy off at Ride Bicycles this morning to get a chainguard. For quick projects we hang out in the fish store next door, but this was a bigger job so we walked to nearby Cowen Park. We’ve only visited this park by bike previously and while I left my helmet at the shop, the boys kept theirs on so I arrived at the park on foot with helmeted boys. They ran straight for the zip line so I must have looked like an overprotective mother worried about play structure head injuries.

Another kid showed up in a helmet (though he arrived by bike) so they weren’t alone in their fashion statement for long. And they eventually got too hot and removed helmets and jackets, but not before some “dangerous” stunts on the swings.

We returned to the bike shop to bad news–the chainguard wouldn’t fit. They have a bash guard that will work, but it’s smaller than my current big ring so I’d have to swap that out for a smaller one. I left the shop thinking that was a good idea, but Mr. Family Ride later told me he thought I should leave the original ring set as-is to keep the bike running best. I wasn’t convinced, but after reading the chainguard entry in Sheldon Brown’s glossary, I’m thinking about giving up my quest for a chainguard and rather work on my whining about rolling up my pant leg:

Chainwheel discs, unlike the above styles of chainguard, are usable on bicycles with derailer gearing and multiple chainwheels. They are primarily intended to prevent soiled clothing, since the front derailer tends to keep trouser cuffs from being snagged. Unfortunately, many chainwheel discs interfere with obtaining the best possible front derailer adjustment. Should the chain become derailed on a bike with a chainwheel disc, it may become seriously wedged between the disc and the large chainring. Chainwheel discs are rarely found on high-quality bicycles.

It won’t be such a pain when the weather warms up a bit more and I don’t have to wear long pants and maybe a solution will present itself before next winter.

After shoving my pants back into my boots, we headed to Wallingford Playfield for the monthly Spokespeople ride. I’d been warned we’d check out the 41st Street runnel on the way to the rose garden and considered taking a detour to avoid the hassle, but in the end opted to stay with the group and see how bad it is with a heavy bike. The kids walked up the stairs and someone helped carry the back of my bike (as well as his own bike) while I tried to keep my front wheel on track. I think it wouldn’t be quite so hard if there were runnels on both sides of the stairs so we could walk on the left sides of our bikes as we’re used to. Either way, I won’t be back to the runnel.

There were no roses yet, but there will be soon. It was still a beautiful day to be in the garden.

Then we headed downhill to the Theo Chocolate factory where I let the boys eat so many samples they got a bit crazy. I can only imagine how fast they would have pedaled us back uphill if they were sharing the workload. Some day…

Last beach trip with small bike

I can’t wait to take the Big Dummy to the beach and bring every sand toy we own, but today we went out on the Milano so I could get a new kickstand at Dutch Bike Co before hitting the beach on this first temperate day of the year. We had snacks and played with Don Juan, temporary shop dog, while his uncle Lance installed a Velo Orange Porteur Double Kickstand. I liked my previous Pletscher Two-leg Kickstands, but considering I’ve gone through two of them, it’s probably a good idea to try something new (plus Dutch Bike Co has decided to stop carrying them).

The beach was great. A bit on the cold side–somewhere above 50 degrees with a slight breeze–but very sunny. I downloaded Instagram so I can take postcard-y pictures now:

The slight breeze helped me discover that the new kickstand is not as good as the old kickstand was (before it broke in two, that is). I had to hold the bike upright after unloading one basket and even once I had everything off and thought things were steady, it tipped over. Thank goodness there are millions of trees in this city so I could prop the bike up for safe and easy reloading.

On our way to the beach we noticed a train table through the window of Snoose Junction Pizzeria so we stopped in for dinner. The place is full of bikes and trains! Unfortunately it no longer is also home to the Addams Family pinball machine which I had heard moved here from Sock Monster (where I also didn’t get around to visiting it in time).

It was dark by the time we left Snoose Junction, but Dutch Bike Co was still open so we swung by to have the kick stand taken off while it’s still in resellable shape. When I can get back in, they’ll put a super duper double kickstand on–I think this Hebie one, which comes on the WorkCycles Oma and Opa bikes.

I should have bought a spare front light while I was in the shop, but I didn’t want to pour most of my store credit into something other than the new pricey kickstand. I didn’t think we’d be out past sunset and I have yet to find a way to attach my Planet Bike Blaze effectively. I’ve had it down on the fork, but it aims up in the air, blinding pedestrians. I don’t have any handlebar room thanks to the Bobike windscreen, but there’s a light cut-out in the middle of the skirt so I’ve been meaning to find a way to poke it through there. But for today, we rode home with only a rear light. I was surprised and embarrassed to be the only bike with no light–even the runner we passed sported a headlamp. We took the Burke Gilman Trail, which is well lit between Ballard and Fremont and then up Stone Way’s bike lane, which felt fine with just a rear light since the cars only saw me from the back and there’s little side street traffic. At the top of the hill I switched to the sidewalk. It was probably nicer for the pedestrians I encountered that I didn’t shine a bright light at them. There wasn’t much foot traffic on 45th for a Friday night and we cruise at close to pedestrian speed so it worked well. But lesson learned and I’ll make sure I’m all lit up before taking the Milano out again, no matter the time of day.