Archive | March 2012

Family Ride meets Hum of the City

Hooray for the Internet. Two months ago, A Simple Six e-introduced me to Hum of the City so we could coordinate meeting in person today in Seattle. Having just spent a few rain-free days in Portland where she discovered the awesome BionX electric assist, it was only fitting for me to stick her on my plain ol’ Surly Big Dummy, lead her over some hills, and summon the rain to help cement the dream of upgrading to e-assist in her mind.

Actually, I kept things flat for the most part. I even thought about trying to meet down at Gas Works Park rather than at my Wallingford house so we could avoid hills all together. But hey, she rides in San Francisco! And the weather was much too crappy for an outdoor rendezvous. So instead, I planned a series of stops at which to dry out. We started with second breakfast at Solsticio, right on the Burke-Gilman Trail and then some chocolate sampling at the Theo Chocolate factory. I took us off the trail to take the bike lane up 34th into Fremont to show off one of Seattle’s two green bike boxes, but she’d just seen a bunch of them in Portland. This was probably the only time I’ve ever caught a green light at Fremont and 34th so I couldn’t point out our sole bike traffic light for the southwest corner (it wasn’t worth stopping in the rain), but the old school man-in-the-house sharrows by PCC made the detour worth it.

And soon we were eating chocolate. The kids were quite taken with the display for Theo World Bicycle Relief 70% Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bar. And I learned
Theo’s is a Bicycle Benefits member, a wonderful organization I’ve been meaning to join. At half off a classic chocolate bar, it won’t take too many visits for the $5 reflective sticker to pay for itself…not to mention the sixty other participating Seattle businesses (and oodles of non-Seattle businesses).

We walked across the street to pop into Free Range Cycles, but our real bike shop destination was Dutch Bike Co. I’d forgotten about the Burke-Gilman Trail bollard removal so we detoured along the sidewalk of Leary for several blocks. I feel fortunate it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk in Seattle. I don’t utilize the sidewalk every day, but it’s useful for certain car-congested areas around town and since I already travel about the same speed as a pedestrian, it works great. It’s not legal to bike on the sidewalk in San Francisco so this was a new experience for the Hum of the City crew.

Then we headed towards home and the hills. I took us by Essential Baking Company to show off our fish-shaped bike corral, but an empty, rainy Seattle bike corral is not as cool as the bike-laden Portland ones. Sigh. We took Densmore uphill so we could pass the bike tree. I usually take Meridian uphill, but then we would have missed the bike corral and bike tree. It feels less steep than Densmore to me, but checking on veloroutes, Meridian comes up at 5.3% grade and Densmore 4.9%. And Stone is 4.1%, but that requires three extra blocks uphill so it’s less direct. The hills didn’t phase Hum of the City. The last photo was taken at Densmore and 40th, where they were all smiles, but I was hoping for a short rest and ended up cursing the motorists that insisted on stopping at the intersection so we could cross.

REI indoor parking

Gone are the signs proclaiming “U-locks only–they’re watching you RIGHT NOW” (or something like that) at the Flagship REI, replaced by “ADDITIONAL BIKE PARKING INSIDE!” I appreciate that exclamation point! It’s very exciting!

I didn’t go by customer service to ask how long the indoor rack has been around because I didn’t want to get caught in the receiving-the-animal-footprints-hidden-around-the-store-scavenger-hunt-pamphlet-time-suck, but a nearby worker told me it’s been around a few months.

I was probably a little too excited about the indoor rack and left our helmets and jackets on the bike. They stayed put, but it’s probably not a good idea to leave unlocked items, even with no scary warning signs. Plus, REI is a perfectly acceptable place to lug large quantities of gear around.

I don’t usually go to REI to shop, I go for the awesome play area and the adjacent World Wrapps.

I wanted to try on Smartwool arm warmers so I eventually herded the kids down to the bike department. I couldn’t really tell the difference between S/M and L/XL (neither could the boys), but they look and feel nice. However, after seeing the SockGuy bike chain arm warmers on Back Alley Bike Repair’s Ben last week, I really want some of those.

We discovered some other cool stuff in the bike department. And I discovered I can take pictures of everything and not feel the need to spend any money.

There were lots of exciting kiddie helmets:

A Timbuk2 bag with cool bikey pattern:

Po Campo bags. I had no idea they were available to the masses!

And a rack for both men and women of casual cycling wear by Club Ride.

A week ago in the windowless Children’s Museum I complained about not being able to see outside and gauge the weather conditions, but today I realized those big REI windows area a mixed blessing. We watched the rain start falling…and keep falling…and we kept playing while waiting to see if it stopped.

In terms of getting to REI, I’ve never taken the same route twice. I meant to study the map and memorize a route over from South Lake Union, but forgot to do so and winged it. Naturally, that meant I had to stop and check the map on my phone. So still working on a favorite route over.

I came home on Eastlake since it spreads out the climb home the best, but my ideal route towards REI probably won’t include it. So back to the drawing board. And I’ll hopefully experiment again while it’s still 20% off season.

I did make an interesting discovery while crossing the University Bridge. It was commute time so there were a lot of bikes on the road and each biker that passed me seemed to get a little extra pep in his/her pedaling. Only one turned and said the obligatory “You’ve got quite the load there!” but I think they were all thinking along those lines…It’s miserable and rainy out, but at least I don’t have to lug all that weight around. Yay me! I feel like I should have noticed this phenomenon sooner, but apparently it takes six overtakers in quick succession to teach me a lesson.

Minneapolis brings the sun to Seattle

Mr. Family Ride’s friend, Martin, took a break from Minneapolis’ gorgeous weather and grueling bike races for a business trip to Seattle. He came a day early so I dragged him on a slow-speed 15-mile jaunt around town.

I don’t understand the allure of single speed bikes (other than beach cruisers at the beach and Dutch bikes used when visiting the Netherlands), but when I jokingly said Martin would be most comfortable on Mr. Family Ride’s “single speed” cruiser, he agreed it was a good plan. He wasn’t used to the cushiness–he rolled up his pant leg despite the chain guard and kept forgetting he had a kick stand at his disposal. But in retrospect, it probably was the best bike to keep him comfortably moving at my speed.

A trip to the Ballard Locks yielded a salmon smolt spotting in the fish ladder and a front-row seat to watch the fishing ship Excellence get pushed through the big lock by a tug boat. But most exciting was seeing a Yuba Mundo cargo bike as we left the locks. Not that I know every cargo bike in town, but I try to spot them all and I’ve never previously seen a Yuba. The dad was carrying two kids and lives on Queen Anne, and I didn’t notice a motor on his rig. Wow. I told him about Totcycle and Kidical Mass so hopefully they’ll come out for a future ride.

We continued along the Burke-Gilman and braved the beach for a while, but it was pretty cold out. Martin said repeatedly how nice it was to see snow on mountains again (easy to appreciate it when one’s had a mild winter!) so he got an eyeful of it from Golden Gardens.

We weren’t the only crew to ignore the temperature and focus on the clear skies–the parking lot at the beach was packed and we saw lots of bikes cruising around. We even saw three adult-kid tandem bike pairs on our ride home. That’s looking like a good idea as a future setup. Plus the FollowMe Tandem coupler I’ve already been dreaming about, I guess, since I’ve got three seats to fill. I’m not ready to think about kids riding separately yet.

Springtime. Finally.

Having been out of town during the 61 degree day two weeks ago, today was my first spring-like day in Seattle this year. I was a little too excited for the weather and didn’t dress warmly enough (removed my helmuffs, no socks, no sweater under jacket), but I wasn’t the only one. I saw a lot of people in shorts. We all hid our discomfort, though. Blue skies! Blue skies!

Our first stop was Wrench Bicycle Workshop on Dexter. This was my first time with both boys on board going southbound on Dexter (I think it’s steeper that direction), but I braved the incline because they’ve got a dog (though he wasn’t there today) and wrench-shaped gingerbread cookies. Buck gave me a free sample bike bell so while we couldn’t feed our dog addiction, I fed my bike bell addiction. Where to put it! So many bells! He also let me borrow a screwdriver to slide my current bell back in place.

I think they’ll do a lot of business given their location on bike-heavy Dexter. We’ll be stopping in again, too, now that the boys know there’s a dog involved. There are also several exciting construction sites on Dexter. Now that the big crane has left the construction site on Stone, we’re in need of some new ride-by entertainment.

Next up we swung by the Seattle Center to see the Angry Bird on the Space Needle. The boys weren’t impressed, but I thought it was pretty cool.

And then we headed to our real destination: [storefront] Mushroom Farm which I’ve been eager to check out since reading about it on Loop-Frame Love. Unfortunately it was closed. I asked at the Starbucks next door and they thought it had ended on Wednesday. Or maybe it wasn’t closed–when we left Starbucks at 12:40 I noticed a hand-written sign in the mushroom farm’s door, “12:35. Back by 1:30 pm.” But we were ready to move on.

Since we were already in Pioneer Square, we checked out Back Alley Bike Repair. Tubulocity just did a great write-up of the place. The alley is very picturesque and Ben (whoa! Same name as the dog at Wrench) is great. I must have a look about me that says “I have a bike bell problem” because he immediately started showing me bells. I swear I didn’t say a thing! He (rightly so) thought I needed a bell that would fit around the seat post handlebars. He showed us a bar end bicycle bell that would totally do the trick, but it was a little too hard for the four-year old to twist and ring. At least he’s got his kitty cat bell down on the frame by his feet.

We couldn’t leave without a run-around in Pioneer Square. The Fallen Firefighters Memorial made for a nice slide–after some reverential firefighter talk.

And I eyed the cobble stones a block away as a possible place to take the boys and their balance bike on Paris-Roubaix day. Less trafficky cobble stones would probably be better. Or maybe just rocks or gravel. The first baby was born on Paris-Roubaix (and the second during le Tour de France) so it seems like a bike race to honor with a little event.

And just one last picture of the gorgeous blue sky–from South Lake Union Park where we stopped to check in on the construction of the armory (it looks done!) and examine the Schooner Zodiac moored near the Virginia V.

The final excitement of the day was finding pothole patches along 44th–our soon-to-be Neighborhood Greenway. Next step, bike markings!

First RAW monthly ride

I left the kids at home this morning to join RAW (Real Active Women) Retreats for their first group ride. I consider myself more sort of active than real active, but “pace: casual, 15mph, no drop” sounded good to me. It was raining when I left home, but after yesterday’s sun I hoped for the best and almost left without my rain pants (thank goodness Mr. Family Ride talked some sense into me) and tucked my sunglasses into my bag. Three of the ten RSVPers showed up and Tracey led us towards Seward Park, a destination I’ve only reached by utilizing (or: cheating on) the light rail before.

The route after the University Bridge was new to me and very scenic–Fuhrman to Boyer to Lake Washington Boulevard. Also scenic was the freezing rain that turned to hail and then snow as we rode through the Arboretum. Then rain again, then more snow. I thought we all looked well-outfitted, but I wasn’t the only one with frozen toes so we took refuge in the Madrona/Leschi Starbucks, five miles shy of our turn-around point. The huge snowflakes looked much prettier from inside the cozy cafe while we thawed our hands on warm drinks.

We almost kept heading south, but decided (possibly due to my wimpiness and suggestion that we save the full trip for a future monthly RAW ride) to change our out-and-back 25-mile route to a shorter trip and include a trip by Montlake Bike Shop for dry socks. However, instead of turning north on 24th we went south and the half-mile climb warmed our wet toes up just fine. Veloroutes calls the grade 7.2%, but it certainly felt steeper than that. Things got easier (and scenic again) as we took the winding route through Interlaken Park on our way back to North Seattle. Tracey then let us play with her adorable bear-suit-clad baby and dog while she fed us potato leek soup and Irish soda bread. And wouldn’t you know, the sun came out!

I put on my sunglasses (probably for the last time for at least a week, wah) and zoomed home. I was feeling quite accomplished and passed a couple other bikes up 45th…but then my chain fell off at a red light so I slunk over to 44th before they had a chance to catch back up. The group ride was 18.6 miles instead of 25, but my transit to and from the ride bumped my mileage up to 22.2.

The monthly rides (which may occur more often when the weather improves) are only part of RAW–the 3-day cycling and yoga retreats on Vashon Island are the big draw. Tracey is a wonderful ride leader, whooping encouragement at passing cyclists and my favorite–her right turn signal includes a cheery upward finger point…though that may have been because all our right turns took us up big hills. Whatever the reason, it made me smile every time. Also, I chuckled when I typed an email with the subject line “RSVP for RAW,” two Cascade Bicycle Club events that would be fun some year.

Burke-Gilman Trail reopening shindig

This afternoon I bundled the boys into snow gear and we headed 10.9 miles east along the Burke-Gilman Trail for the reopening celebration. We generally head west on the BGT so it’s a treat to see the more woodsy terrain on [a very small portion of] the Lake Washington Loop.

But woodsy means more tree roots buckling the trail so thus the repaving project. The trees make for great scenery, and the view of Lake Washington is breathtaking and much of today’s route was alongside the water.

I’ve only been this far on the trail once, when we rode to Kenmore a year and a half ago, so I don’t remember the condition of the trail, but it’s terrific now. The asphalt is wide and perfectly smooth with gravel shoulders for accent color (or possibly rainwater runoff).

I didn’t think it’d be wise to have the kids stand around outside in the cold weather after sitting on the bike for an hour so we arrived an hour early and overshot the party site by a half mile to thaw out at the Town Center at Lake Forest Park. We’ll have to come back in better weather and visit Honey Bear Bakery, but today’s visit was just to Ross to replace my scratched sunglasses and the little guy’s summer sandals (I lost one last week). Odd shopping list considering today’s weather, although the sun did come out a couple times today–you can even see shadows cast by the bikes at the shopping center’s bike rack.

I was very intrigued by the rear shock on the bike next to me on the rack.

We got back to the celebration site a minute late and the speeches had already started. The crowd parted to let us through–and applauded. It was very odd, but the boys loved it and we made our way through the surprisingly big crowd (given the weather and time of day, that is) to the back of the pack. The guy holding the EQUAL RIGHTS FOR BICYCLISTS sign turned it around halfway through the event to show the ONE BICYCLIST = ONE MOTORIST side. Here’s the seattlepi’s coverage of the event. We appear in photo 5.

The event lasted 20 minutes instead of the advertised 90. Good thing since snow started falling ten minutes into the speakers. I was unfortunately too busy with the kids to pay full attention, but I did notice a very nice raincoat on one of the audience members. I’m still using Mr. Family Ride’s Endura Luminite Jacket for heavy rain, but some day I’d like my own waterproof jacket.

The ribbon cutting was exciting. We love those big scissors and it signified that it was time to flee the snowfall. I’m looking forward to appreciating the new trail in the summer. A friend recently discovered the Park at Bothell Landing which we can reach by Burke-Gilman Trail and new-to-us Sammamish River Trail. But that’s for a 30-mile day in the future.

The ride home was slower going. Cascade Ambassador Brian and crew caught up with us and I hung on for a couple minutes to chat, but quickly admitted defeat and let them get on with their brisk ride back to civilization.

It was colder on the way home and I had to give up my coat to my four-year old. To break up the ride we stopped at U-Village for dinner (and thawing out) at boom noodle. This was the first time I’ve actually parked at a bike rack at U-Village. I usually tuck the bike under the overhang next to the outdoor play area, but it wasn’t raining when we arrived so I covered my saddle and parked responsibly.

It wasn’t raining when we left the restaurant, either, so I let the kids run around the play area a bit to warm up before the remainder of our trip (mostly because I didn’t want to have to give up my coat again). It started raining after five minutes so I hustled the kids onto the bike and we hit the road. Just as I was thinking, “At least it’s just raining and it’s coming down straight” the snow and wind picked up again. The big kid was warm enough to let me keep my coat and the little kid was asleep by this point. Spring can’t come soon enough!

A visit to Alternabike

The kids and I are visiting family in Los Angeles for nine days and took a break from La La Land to ride the four-year-old’s favorite train–the Amtrak Surfliner–to Solana Beach for a visit to Alternabike and Velo Hangar. I rented the Alternabike Gazelle Cabby in San Diego almost a year ago, but that was before they had a physical shop to visit. Yippee!

Laurel offered to pick us up at the train station, but it was just a 1.3-mile walk, so I pushed the boys in the jogging stroller up a hill I think would have been too big for me to bike up and over. I’m not sure this is the vehicle Laurel would have fetched us with, but it’s the coolest shop van I’ve ever seen:

And check out the shop–it’s very hangaresque:

With a stylish Brooks saddle stool at the counter:

And cute logoed cow bells in the bathroom:

And bikes! We didn’t ride the Cabby again, since there was only so much time in the day, but I lured the kids away from the Legos and sidewalk chalk out back to ride a few cargo bikes. I know a lot of people with Madsen bucket bikes, but this was my first time on one myself.

Zak of Bike Temecula and two of his kids met us there. He’s got a Metrofiets at home which sounds simply awesome. I’ll have to check them out on my next trip to Portland. Zak got pretty fancy on the Christiania (meaning he took the turns so fast I couldn’t watch), but kept all three wheels on the ground. I love the kooky handling of the Christiania, but kept it slow and cautious while Zak rode the Nihola.

The boys were excited to finally get their turn on the Nihola. They love this trike so much–ever since our first visit to Clever Cycles when they rode with the shop [stuffed] dog.

Zak and kids had to head back to Temecula, but my friend Gina kept the visiting hours going. Tuesday just so happens to be the day she takes a long bike ride out of San Diego so she didn’t hesitate to grab a couple of her roadie friends and bike 25 miles to Solana Beach.

When I met Gina she was a downhill mountain bike racer (something I’ll probably never try–too scary!), but did some cross country (regular) mountain biking on the side and led a ladies’ ride I went on (and slowed down) a few times. Then she went through a track racing phase, at which she kicked butt, and now I think she just bikes a million miles a week on the road. Oh, and she started a memorial bead business with a fellow cyclist. I have to admit I didn’t put a lot of thought into Gina’s beads when she first told me about them, but when my sweet little doggie passed away six months ago, I realized it was the greatest thing ever. So now Lyle, my very first bike passenger 18 years ago, is three Sisu Beads.

But back to today! Gina and her friends hadn’t been to Alternabike/Velo Hangar before so I was happy to introduce them to a new local (local if you ride hundreds of miles a week, anyway) shop. They couldn’t stay long, but I borrowed the Nihola and we rode a couple blocks together to a playground so the boys could get some play structure and sand time in before we had to head back to the train station.

All in all, an awesome day!