Archive | July 2012

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

Allez Alley! and a Tour de Seattle

Since we couldn’t show up to the Wooden Boat Festival until after the ships were done blowing their noon-time horns (“Too loud!”), we started our big day out at Nord Alley in Pioneer Square for the Allez Alley! Tour de France viewing. It was great! There was coffee and baguettes, stickers and bike maps, and le Tour playing on a big screen. It’s every weekday, but if you need help choosing a day, go Thursday–there will be prizes! Here are the details:

  • Weekdays, July 2 – 20nd 11:30-1:30 *not showing on July 4th and tour rest days
  • BYOL (bring your own lunch)
  • Prizes and deals from Pioneer Square
  • Cycling teams, bike clubs and cycling enthusiasts encouraged to come

Enter through NORD ALLEY behind 314 1st Ave South, Seattle 98104 (between Jackson & Main and Occidental Ave & 1st Ave South)

Street photographer Constance Brinkley was on hand and took some marvelous shots of the event, many of which feature my little guys shoving baguettes in their mouths.

Photo courtesy Constance Brinkley

Then we went on a bit of tour of our own. Maybe the Tour cyclists would consider it a flat stage, like what the encountered in France today, but I found it quite hilly. Pioneer Square is already quite a haul from home and while Lake Union Park is only 2.5 miles back towards home, I usually end up on the sidewalk of 2nd when heading north from Pioneer Square because everything else looks too steep. It was quite useful being in an alley behind the Bicycle Alliance of Washington–they said, “Can you make it up Western? Why not take that?” What a great idea! Apparently I can only think of Western in terms of riding to Pike Place Market.

We never made it to the big wooden boats–the boat-building tent was just too fun and we barely made it out to set them afloat in the model boat pond. I was happy that the spray park was turned off for the festival, but we saw two kids take unintentional dips in the model boat pond so not everyone stayed high and dry.

The next leg of our grand tour was to Wedgwood for a chiropractor appointment. I’ve only previously gone by old mamabike and bus–where the bus does all the hill work–or car, but I figured since I’d made it to Lake City a month ago, Wedgwood could only be easier. Ha! Going north on 35th Ave NE from Meadowbrook Pond is much easier than going south. I had to stop for short rests twice on the way up. A roadie biked by during my second break so I shouted “Allez! Allez!” to him and he acknowledged that it’s quite a hill. Nice to know that it wasn’t just me. As we headed home, I saw a second roadie on the hill and he’d half unzipped his jersey, having overheated. Given the time of day, I had assumed they were both commuters, biking home in full bike gear, but considering they weren’t carrying bags, perhaps they were just out for rides in search of big hills.

I don’t trust the Veloroutes hill calculator–I think it makes an average of the grades along a hill, but by selecting the right block I can calculate a 12.4 % grade. Ouch.

I’ll poke around, but I don’t think there’s a flatter route. I’m feeling a bit torn about this. I love Dr. Gita and she’s the best in the biz for pregnant women and babies. Am I lazy for wondering if I shouldn’t find a closer chiropractor now that the kids are bigger and I’m smaller (as in, not pregnant)?

This wasn’t part of our tour, but this morning we took a new combination rig out for a test ride: road bike + new-to-us Craigslist trail-a-bike + double trailer. The idea is that it’ll get the five-year old pedaling a real bike sooner since he’s not eager to give up his balance bike and while he loves riding bikes with training wheels around the REI show floor, we haven’t taken much time to try out the 16″ pedal bike in our garage (which doesn’t have training wheels). He’s dubbed this contraption Engine Engine Engine, though I would have gone for Engine Engine Caboose. It was fun for ten blocks, but we’ll take it to the beach tomorrow to see how we like it for ten miles.

Today’s miles: 27.9
July cumulative: 33.6 miles

Kiddie crit and new trailer bike

Did you know that many local bike races include a kiddie lap? And they’re free! We had a great time at the Recycled Cycles Brad Lewis Memorial Criterium kiddie lap last year so I couldn’t wait to sic the boys on the course again today.

Like last year, it was rainy and cold, so the kids wore their rain gear and gloves…but the other racers looked ready to brave the elements. There was a nice showing of kids (I count 14 in my picture, but there may have been a few more that snuck in before the word “Go!”) and I think there would have been many more had the weather been better.

I had hoped both kiddos would make it around the course now that the toddler is over his freeze-upon-eye-contact-with-strangers phase, but he apparently had a flashback to last year and ran off course and didn’t want back on. Perhaps he’s just better suited to cyclocross–he sure liked that.

There were lots of grownups racing, too. We watched the Cat 4 men compete while eating lunch. They’re fast! I don’t know a lot about crits, but I know that a prime (preem) is a prize awarded to a racer who finishes a specific lap first. I know this because Mr. Family Ride won a used car in a crit in the Midwest (Wisconsin, maybe?) which allowed him to move to San Diego where we later met. So yay for criteriums and primes! But kids, stay in college that last month–the car will keep until you get your degree. Then pack up your bikes and move to warmer pastures.

We live less than a mile from Recycled Cycles (though I have to study a map to find my way there because I get lost that easily) so I didn’t pack the boys back on the mamabike for the ride home. This was Mr. Family Ride’s first time riding with the children. I wish they’d behaved a little more predictably unpredictably (you know what I mean, right?) so he could see what I’ve had to experience, but they trailed after him like baby ducklings.

They opted to take the stairs and runnel up the first of the hills while I took the long way around. I put the five-year old and his bike on the Big Dummy for the steepest block home, but he got back off for the last two blocks. Next year: everyone pedals and lugs themselves the whole way home…or so I hope.

This morning I decided I need a trailer bike (a half bike that attaches to the back of an adult bike that the child pedals). Recycled Cycles only had new ones and the other Recycled Cycles only had a pricey Burley Piccolo. Now if I were recommending a trailer bike, I’d say only get the super stable Burley Piccolo. It comes with a special rack that it connects to and is much more stable than the cheaper ones that connect to the seat post. I’ve seen many trailing kids riding an awkward angles which can’t be comfortable for them or the parent. I’ve also long had my eye on the FollowMe Tandem Coupling which attaches a kid bike down at the hub level, making it one of the few systems that will work with a rear seat. However, I’ve heard Clever Cycles hasn’t had them in stock for a while. And they’re heavy. Not that I’m afraid of heavy as it’s all I know. But I’ve got a plan. I’m going to stabilize the trailer bike with the trailer (a solution I first saw at Moving Planet last year) so the cheaper the better. Seattle has a great Craigslist–I scored a used Adams Trail-a-Bike very close to home.

En route to the trail-a-bike, we had our first ride on the repaved and repainted Ravenna Boulevard. I’m confused by the helmet-less bike lane icons. The bike path by the Olympic Sculpture Park has no helmet, but I figured that was an old one. There seem to be two varieties of helmeted bike lane guys–the head with regular helmet, and the one that looks like that plastic thingy that comes in your bag of Ikea hardware that hides the screw on the side of your bookcase. I can only assume SDOT accidentally used the wrong stencil.

The seller had two trail-a-bikes, one folding and one non-, both of them blue. I initially figured we’d go for the one the five-year old deemed “more blue” since I don’t think in terms of carting things around by car these days. Who needs folding if it’s just going to live in the garage and out on the road? But just because the Big Dummy can’t go in the car, doesn’t mean the trail-a-bike won’t someday do so. Its current task is to get the preschooler comfortable pedaling in small doses and hopefully onto a pedal bike soon, but it could probably fit in the trunk of the car with the folded up trailer and the road bike on the rack. And perhaps some day down the road it will connect to a tandem bike with Kid-Back cranks and we all pedal!

The folding model was less blue, but the real problem was that the non-folding model had a sweet parrot horn on the handlebars. The sellers generously moved the parrot from one bike to the other and the folding model was ours! The kid is most excited about the horn, naturally. I’m glad I got a folding one because the thing is huge! It was hard to get in the FreeLoader folded in half; I’m not sure how I would have carried an unfolded one.

Fortunately, we’d also stopped by Ride Bicycles to see if my Xtracycle Utility Belts were in. They were! So now I can easily buckle my middle buckle through the hole in the Yepp seat. There’s a lot of extra belt, but I can’t bring myself to trim it down just yet. I imagine I’ll eventually buy six (or maybe eight if I trim these two down) to carry big exciting loads, but for now I’m just sticking with two to make loading regular-sized loads easier. There are currently four more belts at the shop if you’re in need–$10 a piece.

Today’s miles: 5.7
July cumulative: 5.7 miles
June cumulative: 376.2 miles