A trip to Portland: Day one

We had so much fun in Portland last time so we jumped at the chance to go down again, as suggested by Julian of Totcyle in the “Family Bike Rumble?” section of the Summer in Seattle Schedule. The trip was timed to coincide with Fiets of Parenthood, in its third year.

Since Amtrak doesn’t allow unboxed oversized bikes, the original plan was for a truck and cargo trailer to haul down all the big bikes, but that ended up falling through so I took the old mamabike down. I hadn’t carried this heavy a load on it since our last trip down, but after a few wobbly blocks of adjustment, we were in business. The timing was great: I loaded the bike up early in the afternoon and picked my kindergartener up at 3:30 and we headed straight to the train station for a 5:30 Amtrak Cascades…with a quick stop at the Theo Chocolate factory.

Inside the train station I made the mistake of unloading the front kid first and my rear-heavy bike tipped backwards. The picture would have been better with the five-year old laying in his seat, but he wasn’t too happy about the situation so I rescued him before documenting my gaffe. The bike was really stable given the heavy rectangular bags on either side so I just left it supine for a while and shoved it along as the line moved.

Three and a half hours later we arrived in Portland, retrieved and repacked the bike, and rode just one mile over the Broadway Bridge to our hotel. I only saw one cargo bike during that one mile–a custom-looking longtail locked up outside an office building. I also got a “You go on! I’m going to tell my friend about you!” which was nice, but made me think that guy must not get out much. Or maybe he just got off a train from a less bikey city, too.

Saturday morning we woke up earlier than I would have liked and headed to the PSU Farmers Market in search of exciting bikes and exciting food. Food we found in spades (including high quality, hand crafted, small batch, artisan pickles–I kid you not!) but we only found one notable bike: a Rejuiced Bikes, though I couldn’t tell its function. The white bucket had “Hand washing station” written on it so maybe it’s a velo food cart of some sort. There’s only one saddle so a single driver is able to pilot the contraption, whatever it is. The boys were intrigued for a while, but once they spotted the banana slug nearby, the magic was gone. I’ve adored Rejuiced Bikes since I first saw them at Bumbershoot last year and hoped we’d have time to make it to Maker Faire at OMSI this visit to see the full fleet.

All day I had the feeling I wasn’t taking the best routes, including as we left PSU and rode between street car train tracks. Hey! It feels just like riding in South Lake Union! But this not-so-bike friendly street took us by Bike Gallery where I was able to pick up a Portland bike map. No kid-carrying bikes to ogle there, but I saw a Trek Transport cargo bike for the first time. The front rack and cargo bags both look really nice. I didn’t look closely, but I’d imagine the bags would fit on any longtail bike.

I didn’t immediately utilize my new bike map, though, and ended up at the Burnside Bridge when I’d been aiming for the Hawthorne Bridge. But that meant we got a nice look at the white stag.

I missed another turn shortly after the bridge and stopped at a bike corral to orient myself. These bike corrals are everywhere, by the way! With many many more to come–the city can’t install them fast enough. Do I sound jealous yet? Because I am!

Finally I found my way and met up with friends for a ride: Kath with one of her two kids in her bakfiets, Emily with five of her six kids in her bakfiets/coupled kid bike, and Elle of Tiny Helmets Big Bikes, visiting from Sacramento on Emily’s Christiania Boxcycle, with one of her two kids. Emily’s awesome kid hauling was publicized in June in a Bike Portland article: With six kids and no car, this mom does it all by bike and she just got back from Long Beach last night where she spoke at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit. Here is her presentation for those of us not lucky enough to attend to see–it’s awesome:

During my last Portland visit, I met Emily and Kath at a park so I didn’t realize how fast Emily is! I didn’t get a lot of great pictures because I was focused on just keeping up. I was able to learn from her technique and will apply it to the Big Dummy, though it won’t work on my little bike: from most every stop or up any slight hill, she stands in the pedals to get up to speed quickly and then is able to keep her momentum going. I didn’t realize it was possible to stand and pedal a bakfiets and I credit Emily with inventing it. Kath can do it now, too. And despite having one kid with pedals, Emily seems to do 95% of the work. She cycled through three daughters on the back and while they’re each adorable, they were all more interested in lip syncing, dancing, and perfecting their backwards-seated pedaling.

Elle was no slouch, either, keeping up on the heavy trike. And riding with no hands! That’s a folded up FollowMe Tandem Coupling on the back–the same system Emily uses on the bakfiets to attach the kid bike. We’ve just about outgrown the current setup of the old mamabike so I think I want one, too.

We were quite the sight, pedaling around Portland with Emily’s music blasting from her new Ion Tailgater, cleverly kept in a laundry basket behind her bakfiets. We took a lane on Hawthorne to create our own Critical Mass/Critical Lass/Kidical Mass/you-name-it at one point, but we didn’t have to work very hard to get noticed, even in Portland. At one point, Emily pulled up next to a tall bike at a red light. I’m not sure which rig was more a sight to behold. And then we saw a guy on a regular bike holding a huge plank atop his head with one hand. Emily shouted “You’re awesome!” to him and he shouted, “You’re awesome, too!”

I got to see some cool bike boulevard signage as we whizzed down SE Clinton Street. These “bike flags” are a great way to mark a bike route!

But the closer-to-eye-level “toppers” were more noticeable.

It was a most memorable day! Here’s Elle’s write up of our fun day.

We returned to the hotel to meet with Totcycle and extended family at the pool. After a sufficient amount of splashing around, we toweled off the kids, threw them on bikes, and headed for Hopworks Urban Brewery. With their big bikes at home, too, Julian rolled on a Brompton folding bike with IT chair for toddler while his kindergartener rode her bike alongside…with boosts from dad up the mild hills. Julian was able to propel her so well, she left her cousins on bigger bikes in the dust–who were accompanied by parents on another Brompton and a regular bike.

HUB was very kid friendly with play area inside and huge ouside area, where we chose to sit. Out front there are grown-up-use-only stationary bikes that help power the place–patrons can pedal and earn a discount. The Bike Bar is quite striking with bike frames hanging from the ceiling. We met up with the Car Free Days family and Mr. Family Ride arrived from his afternoon train trip and the Seattle crew was complete.

Tomorrow: Fiets of Parenthood!

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10 thoughts on “A trip to Portland: Day one

  1. I posted this question in the Bike Portland Fiets of Parenthood post but I don’t think Emily saw it. Any idea where she got her oldest daughter’s Gazelle? Their US site doesn’t offer kid’s bikes but man oh man would I love dyno lights and a chain case for our commutes to school.

    If you could shoot her an email I’d be so obliged.

    • Kath asked her via Twitter (I think you can watch the conversation here) so hopefully we’ll both hear soon :) A Seattle family recently scored one on Craigslist so I wouldn’t be surprised if both were lucky one-time imports as families moved here.

  2. Jen of chicargobike is more than happy to help people set up dyno lights, if you’d be interested in doing it diy, Ash. Or maybe a trip to Amsterdam would be your best bet…

    After checking out the bike options in Amsterdam, though, I am actually really appreciating the light-weight options and the gears available here in the US. I think my kiddo can go a lot further and faster on his Specialized than he would be able to on a dutch bike. And that’s just not so relevant in Amsterdam, where the city is so compact and rides are so short.

    FamilyRide — Do you have any US lead for the FollowMe Coupler other than CleverCycles? They’re not carrying it any more.

    • I’d only heard that Clever was waiting on getting them, not that they weren’t carrying them. Hmmm. And still haven’t heard back from Emily about the bike. I think lately she’s been overwhelmed by local complaining about her music being too loud and internet trolls that her husband is a) horrible for allowing- her to ride, b) forcing her to ride, or c) absent. Been a weird couple of days. I’ll bug her again… and Clever about the Follow-Me’s. People even ask me about them so I want to be saying the right thing.

      • From Emily: Clever Cycles is about to or has just done a big order of FollowMe’s. Haven’t stopped stocking, just sold out b/c FM =awesome. Bought my Gazelle for Mary at Clever. They ship!

      • The Twitter reply from Clever:

        The kid-sized Gazelles didn’t sell so they don’t stock them anymore. Most sold at or below cost after over 18 months in stock.

        When I said that people ask me about Follow-Me’s and I don’t even have one so I think there is a demand for them, their answer was:

        Understood. We can’t sell at viable price without importing a quantity we can’t get before many months. Business.

        My take: look elsewhere for a kid’s Gazelle, but let them know you want a Follow-Me. Their customer service is worth the wait (and to the best of my knowledge the are the US source for them). It just costs a lot to ship them (from Switzerland if I remember correctly) so they are waiting in line for their big order.

        (I’m in a parenthetical mood.)

      • Well, good to have an answer about the Gazelle and I’m not surprised that they no longer carry them. I doubt many people want to spend that kind of money on a kid’s bike. We’ve been buying used for the 12 and 16″ and have a semi-well appointed 20″ waiting in the basement for the kiddo to grow a couple more inches but a 20″ true city bike with 3 internal speeds was definitely the dream.

        Not sure if we’ll head to Europe next year but maybe we’ll drag home a 50lb kid’s bike the next time we head across the pond.

  3. This is what Clever Cycles told me by email in July:

    “Unfortunately we do not currently have FollowMe Tandems in stock. I can add your name and email to our customer database if you would like to receive a notification if and when we start carrying this product again.”

    The last part of that last sentence really sounded pessimistic to me. But I’m not local and haven’t talked to them in person. I’m glad to hear they’ll get more in soon!

    I swear I saw pictures of an xtracycle with a FollowMe on the back, but Clever Cycles says they’re incompatible. Anyone know someone who’s modified an xtracycle rack to make it work?

    • Call Clever again if you want to preorder (or find out if they’re already on the way)! But you’re right–they didn’t have any for quite a while, but they will be available again soon.

      At Fiets I saw an Xtracycle with a trail-a-bike on the back–and here’s a very similar setup from the pictures on Clever Cycles’ website. Maybe that’s what you saw?

  4. Pingback: Spokespeople » Spokespeople Rides: Oct 6 to Bungled Bungalows & Craftsman Houses in Ravenna Park 2pm

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