Archive | July 2012

My first Critical Mass

I love riding with Kidical Mass and Critical Lass so tonight I checked out the original gangster, Critical Mass. My only experience was Critical Mass has been seeing it create chaos while on foot in San Francisco, but I trusted Davey Oil when he said Seattle’s Critical Mass is mellow and even family friendly.

Davey met up with The Main Tank and me at the Seattle Center parking squid where I tried to get him to fix the tire I tried to check the pressure of and only succeeded in half un-inflating. Instead, he put on his teacher’s cap and fixed the loose part on my pump and had me do it myself. I don’t know what the vegan equivalent of “Teach a man to fish” is, but that’s just what he did :) And I swear I will take his Bike Works Adult Basics Class next time around!

Photo courtesy The Main Tank

The Main Tank crew didn’t come on the ride, but Davey and I found Totcycle in Westlake Park, leading Seattle Bike Blog to call the event KrIDical Mass.

Photo courtesy Seattle Bike Blog

I thought one of the riders had decided to leave on account of all the kids in attendence, but it turned out he was just starting the swarm. It’s probably really cool when there are more than 30 bikes, but this evening riders got on their bikes one by one and joined in with the swarming until we were all riding circles around Westlake Park. Eventually someone led us out of the park and the ride proper began.

Davey warned me ahead of time there would be no preset route and anyone could ride to the front of the group and lead the ride. I had assumed this meant one person would take over and lead the entire ride on a route of his or her choosing, but the ride saw multiple leaders and we peaceably meandered around downtown. We ended up on the Elliott Bay Trail, which didn’t seem very Critical Mass-y to me (take back the streets, don’t occupy a bike-friendly trail, right?), but it’s a lovely trail and the route I’d take home so I was game. Davey stopped to get a blanket out for Little Oil so I stopped to unpack snacks for the kids and then everyone else stopped as well. Totcycle and I decided to call it a day and head north up the trail and everyone else wandered off or got out their own snacks. It felt quite like a Kidical Mass ride by this point, but Davey assured me Critical Mass generally doesn’t end in a snack and blankey stop.

Verdict: it was weird, but worth going to. I’d do it again and be prepared for anything.

Seattle Critical Mass is the last friday of each month, rain or shine, 5:30 p.m. at Westlake Center.

Today’s miles: 34.3
July cumulative: 387.9 miles

Music and mayhem

I’ve finally joined the ranks of the tunes-blasting family bikers! I’ve wanted to get a portable speaker for my iPhone all year, but it took seeing how much fun my friends are having with them to finally get around to it. Lindsay of You Ain’t Got Jack led the charge with a very affordable iLuv speaker and now The Main Tank is rocking one locally. And Julian of Totcycle is sporting a super cool bicycle boombox. I just went for the cheapest one I could find at Target yesterday–the iHome iHM60. I wish it pulsated like the As Seen on TV Music Bullet, but quality is more important than flashiness. Or you can have both: it looks like the newer models change color.

A dad at the playground admired my bike today and mentioned his friend in Tucson makes a Bike Boom Box. Now that looks cool! He started out just making solar-powered ones, but now those of us not in sunny Tucson can get a battery-powered version.

Other newness is a new, different Brooks saddle. My former B17S has found a new home on a friend’s road bike and I’ve moved on to a B68S (although now that I’m looking at the site, it seems that I have the Imperial version–extra fancy). So now I’m back in the club. And I’m back down lower to the ground. I might raise my seat a bit higher because it was nice being up at normal height while sitting on the squishy Schwinn saddle, but it’s also nice to be able to get the ball of my foot on the ground, too. Ah, the decisions of the precious-cargo cargo biker.

On the way to the bike shop and the park, the three-year old (as of yesterday! Big boy!) took to hitting his big brother. We were on Ravenna Boulevard, one of the rare instances of the bike lane being to the left of car traffic so I woman in an SUV slowed to my pace and tried to reason with my child for a couple blocks. Her heart was in the right place, but it felt a bit less safe having a driver leaning out her window, slowed to a crawl alongside us for what felt like quite a long time.

With Mr. Family Ride out of town, I had to bring the brawling brothers along on tonight’s Critical Lass ride. Please know that children connected by trailer, trailer bike, bike seats, etc are fully welcome along on Critical Lass rides…I just prefer the rare opportunity to ride solo with the lasses. And other than the little one shoving his brother off the picnic table during Robin’s fix-a-flat tutorial, the ride was without incident.

Today’s miles: 28.2
July cumulative: 324.9 miles

Kidical Mass South (and long bikes fit in the Westlake station elevators!)

I’m very excited about the new family biking programs at Bike Works, including Kidical Mass rides the third Saturday of the month (the next one is August 18th…but I’ll be Bike camping and eating pie).

I’ve never biked all the way to Bike Works and wasn’t sure what the hill up from Lake Washington would be like. Plus I left the house 30 minutes later than intended (surprise, surprise). I thought I might have to give up when I got to Genesee Park if the hill looked too big and it was already after 11. But the ride wasn’t bad without the balance bikes and beach gear on board. The late start also motivated me to ride faster and I made it in 65 minutes–just 8 minutes longer than the Google maps estimate.

The jog around Harrison Street was a construction closure I’d been warned about–both that it exists and that there’s no detour signage. Fortunately, a cyclist passed me just before we got to that point and I was able to follow him back to the Lake Washington Loop. I had the impression he slowed down a bit so I could keep him in sight–thank goodness because I’m sure I would have gone some extra not-flat blocks otherwise.

A lot of riders showed up–33 people spread over 18 bikes. Here’s Bike Works’ Davey Oil just back from a long work trip to Portland.

True story: the ride ended at Full Tilt Ice Cream and one of the flavors was called CB’s Something-Or-Other. I figured the CB was for Caspar Babypants, local kindie rocker, but Davey guessed Carrie Brownstein. He’s obviously still mentally in Portlandia. The change in him is noticeable–he’s, like, cheerful. Now, I’ve never thought of Davey as particularly grumpy, but he likes to share stories (ask him about the Ride the Ducks tour and the meat cleaver) that paint him as a grumpy guy. I’m sure it’ll wear off after a while, but he’s all sugar and spice for now. Oh, and we were both wrong: the CB was for CB’s Nuts.

Here’s ride leader Morgan Scherer giving Bus Chick a lift. Meanwhile, Bus Nerd was test riding Bike Works’ Sun Atlas Cargo Bike. It’s available for rental and I think they might rent it!

And I met Drew, a mobile bike mechanic (website coming soon here: The Bike Ranger), who made these awesome running boards out of old skis. They’re so cool!

Julian of Totcycle was also representing the north side of Seattle and five-year old Drew wowed us with a moving FlightDeck mount.

The ride was beautiful, with a lake-side turtle-viewing stop and then a picnic and wade in Lake Washington.

And as previously stated, we ended with ice cream. Here’s a lovely shot of the parking lot: one parking spot = one minivan, one scooter, or five longtail bicycles.

Julian took his Xtracycle on the light rail this morning and told me longtails fit in the Westlake station. Wahoo! I’d been planning to get off after just a few stops, at the Stadium station so I could avoid any elevators. Much better being able to ride all the way to the end of the line.

We could even fit both our long bikes in the upper elevator. And to be clear: the bikes are horizontal, and with the little kids still in their seats.

Because Kidical Mass and ice cream was not excitement enough (Summer! Sun! Must do everything bikey!), we headed to Gregg’s Cycles’ 80th anniversary celebration. We timed our arrival perfectly: just in time to catch the face painter before her stint ended and then get balloons from Jami, the Balloon Biker.

Gregg’s is at the end of the newly redone Ravenna Boulevard buffered bike lane. The five-way intersection is still a hassle, but I love that there are two different bike lanes here.

Mr. Family Ride met us at Gregg’s and bought a rear rack for his bike. I think this is very funny because I asked him a few weeks ago if he wanted to think about a pannier and he got all bike messenger-y and snarled, “All I need is my courier bag!” No pannier(s) yet, but that’s his next step. I should probably get him a kick stand and a rear-view mirror now.

Today’s miles: 25.3
July cumulative: 296.7 miles

Sending family bikers back to Florida

So we didn’t make it out in a big group again, but our big day out has had a big impact! My friend claims they don’t bike much at home, but she bikes alongside the kids to school as well as to the grocery store. Connecting the kids to her could increase their range so we talked tandems and kid backs, but she likes the idea of the KidzTandem Triplet, with the kids in the front.

Thursday we took the bus to the Seattle Center and the only biking we did was on the Pacific Science Center’s High Rail Bicycle. It looks precarious, but it’s impossible to tip over.

The big kids were disappointed by the 100-pound weight minimum, but found plenty of other exhibits to enjoy. And outside the Pacific Science Center the kids had fun splashing around in the Fountain of Creation and on the parking squid. The bike wheel on the top of the parking squid appears to have fallen off, but that makes for more kid climbing room. It was nice to see bikes locked to it today; it’s usually only covered in kids. I’ll know it’s been completely accepted the day I see a dog tied to it.

Yesterday was thunderstormy so we waited out the rain at home and then split up for an us bike/them car visit to REI and its indoor play structure. We eventually migrated to a nearby playground and I made the mistake of not specifying “Who [of my kids] wants to sit on the mamabike while I wheel it to the playground?” and I ended up with all four kids on board. Heavy!

Today we were on the bus again–the 44 to Ballard for the climbing gym, the locks and salmon ladder, and the SeafoodFest. We stopped in at Dutch Bike Co for a drink and the kids played Ring Around the Rosie next to a bakfiets. Gezellig!

Today’s miles: 0
July cumulative: 154.8 miles

Riding with Floridians

My friend and her kids are visiting! Last year we got around town with a combination of busing and bike/car–the boys and me on the old mamabike while she and her kids used my car. I’d thought of borrowing bikes for her kids (ages 7 and 5) since they pedal around Florida, but I didn’t want to subject them to our hills.

Thanks to the Big Dummy and Engine Engine Engine, I thought we’d add biking to the mix this year and had her bring the kids’ helmets. My original idea was to stick my two guys in the double trailer and utilize one of her strong pedalers while she carried just one kid on the Big Dummy’s FlightDeck. Unfortunately, my little engineer is a bit greedy and didn’t want to give up his new perch so we compromised on letting him do the downhill portions and letting the big kids split the uphill.

I was hoping to avoid a downhill start for an easier homecoming, but I couldn’t deny the visiting monkeys a visit to Gas Works Park. They dominated the play barn and schooled a parkouring college kid in a game of tag. My guys did some milder climbing…until my five-year old somehow followed the accomplished climbers up a stone archway. Climbing up to rescue him was the definitely the hardest thing I had to do all day…but it didn’t make the bicycle hill climbing seem any easier.

I wore out the seven-year old less than half-way up the hill so I swapped him for his sister and realized I need a little girl to pedal with! It may have just been that she fit the trail-a-bike better than the boys, but she was SO CUTE!

The boys and I came to Gas Works yesterday, too. We got to see Tall Bike Bobby in the middle of an infrastructure showcase ride as he passes through Seattle on his west coast tour. Tall bikes are impressive to begin with, but even more so parked next to Kinderbike minis!

Today’s miles: 12.3
July cumulative: 147.7 miles

Our second Bicycle Sunday

Today was our second visit to Bicycle Sunday to ride the three-mile stretch of Lake Washington Blvd while it’s closed to cars. Our last visit was three summers ago, five weeks before our second kid was born. That day we drove down and brought our bikes on the back of Mr. Family Ride’s big car which we’ve since gotten rid of (yay!). My Bianchi Milano city bike sported just the Bobike mini front baby seat at the time.

Today we left the car and Mr. Family Ride at home and biked down. The seven hilly miles to the start of the event were hard, even though this was the more-downhill-than-uphill direction, but I’m glad to have done it and skipped my original plan of letting the light rail train do most of the work. I haven’t taken the Big Dummy on the light rail yet and I don’t think it will fit in the elevators I’ve used with my old bike so I was planning to ride an hour south to the SODO station and ride just a few stops.

I didn’t study the route too closely ahead of time, but it was OK since there are signs started from the Burke-Gilman Trail, pointing bicyclists to and along the Lake Washington Loop. I also caught up to a couple roadies at a red light and they took me through the Arboretum. I think the Arboretum may be slightly more hilly than the signed Lake Washington Loop, but when we stopped at the crossroads I noted the other route started uphill and agreed we should do their original plan and take the downhill choice. It was nice to have other riders to follow, but we parted ways after a couple hills. He was training for STP and doing the entire loop and she was just out for a ride, only (only!) riding support for STP this year.

A bit more than an hour from when we left home, we made it to the start line! I like that the sign was changed from BICYCLE SUNDAY to BICYCLE DAY. It has such a nice ring to it.

This was my first time using my Xtracycle WideLoader. I could fit both balance bikes on one side…but that meant I had to amass close to 20 pounds of stuff for the other side to keep things balanced. The kids didn’t ride the whole closed course–the first mile included several stops to pick dandelions and then they got confused by a couple intersections than let cars through the closed course. I was a bit confused by it, too, to tell the truth. And then they just tired out and let me carry them to the Seward Park playground where we set up a picnic and I lazed in the shade while they dug in the sand pit. I think our next visit might not be until they’re both pedaling and can better appreciate what’s going on down here.

We also checked out the Seward Park beach and utilized the FreeLoader bag full of sand toys I’d packed. I had a great view of the boulevard from my shady spot under a tree and I noted a lot of tandems whizzing by. I’m particularly interested by tandems since I figure that will be one of our future setups. I even saw one triple. It was piloted by three adults, as were all the tandems. While I did see quite a few kids out, I wondered if the majority of the riders we saw were just taking their regular weekend spin around the lake, no matter if it’s Bicycle Sunday or not.

Since my brother and father both live in LA, I’ve been reading about CicLAvia with great interest and had hoped for a similar feeling today. I didn’t get it. Interestingly, I just missed seeing CicLAvia co-founder Adonia Lugo at the beach. She and Tom of Seattle Bike Blog had just departed the Yoga for Bikers post-ride beach break. OK, maybe Bicycle Sunday is a bit like CicLAvia if I can run into (well, almost run into) such non-tandem-riding-type people :)

The Main Tank and family met us at the beach for an afternoon of swimming, sand play, and pizza. Mr. The Main Tank suggested we head home by going up into the Central District for one big hill intead of several up and downs were we to head back along the Lake Washington Loop. My mild morning headache had gradually reached the pounding headache point so I (fortunately?) don’t remember most of the gory details, but we spent a lot of time on Rainier which the still-coherent part of my brain found interesting since I’ve recently read Davey Oil’s three-part series Why I’m Riding on Rainier Avenue. We stuck to the sidewalk which was good because we moved so slowly (with me the slowest by far), but was also bad because I was a bit too wide with the WideLoader. I’d decided the balance bikes looked better (yes, purely for looks) with their handlebars next to one another so I was even wider than this morning when the balance bikes were nose to heel. In the future I am going to have to stick to routes that don’t involve any sidewalk when I’m rolling so wide. I only banged into one newspaper machine and took out one orange cone, but there was a lot of careful maneuvering required.

I’m not sure I could have made it back up the Lake Washington Loop, but I feel like I should probably try. After a long recuperation.

Today’s miles: 21.3
July cumulative: 97.8 miles

Bikes in the Wallingford Kiddie Parade

Huge turnout of family and kid bikers to ride in a big decorated group in today’s Wallingford Family Festival and Kiddies Parade! I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Fourth of July Bike Parade decorations, though we didn’t go for red, white, and blue this day. We had long balloons for helmet ears, pipe cleaners for antennae, streamers to weave through spokes, and Bicycle brand playing cards and sparkly stickers for spoke cards.

I was very excited to see Molly’s new mamachari bike, recently scored on Craigslist. I hadn’t heard of these amazing bikes until Hum of the City found one on San Francisco Craigslist a month ago. Very similar situation to this one: bought in Japan dirt cheap and shipped free by the owner’s company when moving to the States. This bike’s owner had a third child and stopped using the two-kid-conveying rig. Today the five-year old rode her own bike in the parade so the three-year old sat in the back seat and ceded the front seat to a big stuffed animal, but both kids fit very nicely onboard.

And Kimberly of CoolMom wowed us all with her daughter’s on-bike doll seat. This one came on the bike, but The Main Tank found this add-on Ride Along Dolly.

The festival was awesome and even better this year now that it’s in Wallingford Park rather than out on the street. The kids mostly split their time between the bounce houses and the wading pool, but they also made use of the playground and omCulture’s obstacle course. I was able to tear the little one away from the wading pool to rock out to half of Caspar Babypants’s generously long set.

But the excitement doesn’t end there! Matt of Tacoma Bike Ranch was up in Seattle to pick up a kid-sized cargo trike and brought along his extra Xtracycle WideLoader to sell me for cheap. Oh, the things I’ll be able to carry now!

Today’s miles: 1.7
July cumulative: 76.5 miles

Biking to Family 4th

Unless you like waiting in line for an hour or more, biking is the only way to get to Seattle’s Family 4th at Gas Works Park. Next year I’ll take pictures of the long lines–they’re frightening. This year they added a second regular entrance, but when we rolled up at start time, long lines stretched in both directions. Fortunately, there’s also a special bike parking entrance with its own bag check and absolutely no line. Here are the bike racks at 12:15. The green tent at the edge of the field is a bike tune-up station provided by Gregg’s Cycles.

Arriving early not only means scoring a parking spot at the end of the bike rack, it also means no lines for the free bounce houses! So that’s what we did for quite a while. I talked to a dad who biked down with his daughter. He lives only 4 blocks away and didn’t know about the bike entrance ahead of time. Happy surprise for him. His friends had walked down and immediately turned back to fetch their bikes.

Also no line for free face spray painting. Patriotic lion:

This lovely family went so far as to move from Bothell to Ballard so they could utilize the bike parking entrance. OK, perhaps that’s not why they moved, but it sure worked to their advantage today. They tell me this is the very last bakfiets to be sold by Dutch Bike Co. Very sad, but I can understand Seattle might not have the best topography for these bikes. I’ll have to stop in and make sure they’re keeping their rental bakfietsen. They’re extremely fun to ride if you can stick to level ground.

Next year we’ll stay out late enough for fireworks, but this year we opted to go home for later-than-normal-but-not-too-crazy-late bedtime. It’s fun to watch the park gradually transform from normal weekend crowd to wall-to-wall people, but if feels a bit of a let down to head home while people are still steadily streaming in. Last year we tried to ride the wake of a pedicab along the Burke-Gilman Trail for eight blocks before taking the short-and-steep route home, but this year I knew better and we charged straight up Meridian.

Finally, if you have a toddler, but no kickstand, try this:

Today’s miles: 3.9
July cumulative: 47.9 miles

Engine Engine Engine

Today was Engine Engine Engine’s first big ride. The trail-a-bike is a bit big for our five-year old–the handlebars are too high and the seat doesn’t go low enough–but he loves it! The trailer is a double so he could always squeeze in with is little brother if he wanted to take a break.

We decided ahead of time that we’d make a couple “station stops” on the way to Golden Gardens beach to make sure he didn’t get too tired–first at the Google steps on the ship canal and then at the Ballard Locks.

We were running half an hour late and I didn’t want to miss the super-low tide, so we (I) decided we’d skip the first station stop. It was a little windy when we left home, but very windy by the time we got to our second station stop, so we ended up skipping the final station, too. Sandy beach plus wind does not a fun day make. But the Ballard Locks were great! It’s peak sockeye salmon migration season so the fish ladder was full of fish. Our last few visits have been in the off-season and we’d been lucky to see a lone steelhead.

There were a couple moments of sunshine so their boys and their friends traipsed around the grounds and rolled down the grassy slopes for quite a while, but eventually the rain came and we took shelter across the street at Red Mill’s Totem House. The rain got progressively heavier and our friends eventually ran to their car and drove home while we waited for a break. I saw a few glimpses of blue sky and the rain slightly varied its ferociousness, but it never let up. The forecast promised a dry day with clouds and never acknowledged the rain, no matter how many times I pulled out my phone to check for updates. Summer in Seattle typically starts on July 5th so I don’t know why I was surprised. I worried that the middle engineer would change his opinion of Engine Engine Engine if he had to ride in the rain, but the kids were getting cabin fever so we braved it. We were almost appropriately clad: I was in rain jacket and shorts, the five-year old was in full rain suit and sandals, and the two-year old was snug in the trailer.

There was no complaining of cold hands or toes so Engine Engine Engine is still a hit. There wasn’t a lot of pedaling, either, but it’s just the first day out so I’m not too disappointed about that. I can tell when he pedals because the bike gets jerky. I think this will get smoother as he gets more used to pedaling and isn’t necessarily a result of the seat being too high. Engine Engine Engine isn’t as easy to haul around as the Big Dummy, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. I wouldn’t feel comfortable with clipless pedals with my Big Dummy or city bike with two kid seats, but since that’s what I’m familiar with on my road bike, I feel OK cleated to Engine Engine Engine. And that trail-a-bike is heavy so I need the extra pull they provide. I felt very cautious about the length of the rig so I stuck to the street along the whole Missing Link section whereas I normally would have used the sidewalk.

The rain finally stopped as we left Ballard so we swung through Gas Works Park instead of heading straight home. I didn’t mind the thought of resting before hitting the hill home…but then I hauled us up kite hill in a foolish move. But we made it to the top! My legs were not happy about it, but the kids played around while I rested. Last year we came here on July 3rd, too, and it’s fun to watch the set up for 4th of July.

I made it home without having to stop, too, but it wasn’t under normal circumstances so I’m not sure next time will be as easy. The two-year old needed a bathroom and the hundreds of portapotties were not yet open for business, but the park bathrooms had been locked up in preparation for tomorrow’s big rowdy crowd. So I was extremely motivated to get home as quickly as possible. Engine Engine Engine won’t be our everyday ride–and it’s probably not good for my little light road bike to pull so much weight–but we’ll take it out occasionally for some extra pedling action.

Today’s miles: 10.4
July cumulative: 44 miles