Archive | July 2013

Kiddie Kilo at the velodrome

We attended our first FREE kiddie race at the Marymoor Velodrome two weeks ago and it was awesome! This was Grand Prix weekend, the velodrome’s biggest weekend of the season, so there were Kiddie Kilos on Friday and Saturday, but usually the kid stuff is on the first and third Friday of the month for June, July, August, and September. Kids ages 2 to 12 are welcome (with parental permission, bike, and helmet) and the heats are divided depending on how many kids show. July 19th had a record setting 60 kids so after the balance bikes/training wheels lap, each age had its own heat.

Marymoor Velodrome

The park is great with a small train play structure very close by, plenty of room for riding little bikes around, and bike race watching.

Marymoor playstructure by the velodrome

The track is surrounded by grassy slopes and people set up picnics at the edge to watch while eating dinner. There’s even a beer garden down by the track.

Picnicking spectators

The kids ride on the flat asphalt at the bottom of the tilted part of the track…though some of the bigger kids opted to take to the real track. The littlest kids took one lap and the bigger kids could do two if they wanted–that started at the six-and-under lap, I think. My three-year old just started full-time pedaling (he learned in April at Cascade Learn 2 Ride, but he hasn’t been motivated to really ride until the Pedalheads open house a few weeks ago). Unfortunately, he hasn’t picked up braking yet so he kept going once he finished his lap (or maybe he was just having too much fun to stop) so I darted through the grass after him and caught up about 1.3 laps in.

Racing on the flat asphalt

The remaining 2013 Kiddie Kilos are:
August 2
August 16
September 6
September 20

The racing starts at 7pm and Kiddie Kilo is the 4th event. Kids are free, but over 16 admission is $5 per person. My Cascade Bicycle Club membership card got me in free for Grand Prix weekend, but that’s just for the special weekend. Rain cancels racing and their twitter is the way to track the latest info.

Kiddies on the outer loop, waming up racers on the inner loop

I hope we can make it out again this season. We drove this time, but I would love to bike over early and have Mr. Family Ride meet us with the car after work to take kids and their bikes home for a reasonable bedtime. Pedaling home a quiet, empty bike and skipping bedtime mayhem would certainly be a nice ending to a day of Kiddie Kiloing :)

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Seattle Kidical Mass bike camping 2013

12 families, consisting of 19 adults and 19 kids on 19 bikes conquered the hills of Bainbridge Island for our second annual Seattle Kidical Mass bike camping trip!

Kidical Massers at camp

The group ride to the ferry met at Ballard Commons Park and headed 7.4 miles (map) through the locks. The kids and I skipped the fun group ride so we could check out the Amtrak traveling Exhibit Train, here Saturday only. En route, we were mistaken for a Seafair Torchlight Parade float as we biked down 4th Avenue…which is the parade route, but this was ten hours before parade time. Obviously, a sign I had overpacked.

My overpacked "float"

I was sad to miss riding in with our friends, but the Exhibit Train was awesome, even if we only spent five minutes rushing through it.

Amtrak Exhibit Train detour

It was fun wheeling my cargo bike through the Amtrak station. Long bikes aren’t allowed on Amtrak (unless they’re boxed and weigh less than 50 pounds). Many of us hope that rule will change someday, but in the meantime I use the old mamabike for train trips and this is the closest the Big Dummy has been to a train:

Cargo bike *near* train

…but back to the camping trip!

I love the bike lane for entering the ferry terminal. Cars came from the left to share this toll booth, but it was easy to navigate our way through. We were directed to lane 37 for bikes only. Cars lined up to our left and motorcycles to our right. Several families arrived early and were able to board before cars and the group ride arrived later, with just a few minutes to spare and were stuck on behind the cars. We don’t take the ferry often so I don’t know if it always works this way, but it was amazing how accommodating to bikes they were.

Bainbridge ferry bike entrance

Lane 37

Riding onto the ferry

This year’s 7.4-mile hilly route from Pegasus Coffee House to Fay Bainbridge Park was slightly different than last year’s…and slightly better!

Rather than follow the BIKE ROUTE sign and turn left on Falk, we continued straight through DO NOT ENTER (for cars) sign for a noticeably less steep hill. Yahoo!

New, better route

At Fay Bainbridge, the kids immediately hit the beach to create a sea life museum

Fay Bainbridge Park beach

while some of the big people set up camp.

Fay Bainbridge park bike campers

And camp was right next to the beach:

Tents by the water

There’s a different hike/bike-in camp area up the hill, but the camp host said we could camp in either area. Someone said our beach area might officially be the kayak-in camp area. We didn’t share space with any kayakers, but there was a quiet couple (who I worried may feel their quiet weekend away disrupted by so many children, but they dinged their bells merrily at us the following day as we crossed paths in Winslow) and a mellow bachelorette party. Camping down here also put us right by the playground.

Playground at Fay Bainbridge Park

New at the campground this year was an automated pay station so campers need not have cash on hand. The camp host instructed us to pay $5 per bike rather than $5 per person, resulting in free kids.

We played, dined, and hung out at the campfire. One of my favorite parts of the evening was charging Julian of Totcycle’s iPhone with our snazzy new BioLite CampStove.

BioLite CampStove

I learned a neat trick from Julian in the morning. I asked if our route back to Winslow was less hilly than last year’s and he said, “It’s not bad after that first hill” and then conveniently put some distance between us while riding out so he couldn’t hear me cursing him. Heh. Or maybe it was just my imagination. But he does look a little shadowy and sneaky on the ferry home. In his defense, the hill out of Fay Bainbridge Park is definitely the worst. I had to stop halfway off to eject a passenger and walk the remainder.

Arriving back to Seattle

Several of us arrived to the ferry home after the initial bike boarding. This time, they stopped the cars after having just filled the bottom level and let us ride up the sides to join our friends at the front of the boat. Again, very accommodating! If only the ferries went everywhere. Mr. Family Ride really would have liked it to deliver it directly to our front door at this point–he took some of my overpacking into the trailer and later discovered the extra stuff had pushed one trailer tire against the body of the trailer. I should have been more sympathetic, but I’m used to extra drag. I also shouldn’t have reminded him I rode Chilly Hilly with my rear brake rubbing this year. Not motivating talk.

Heading home from bike camping

Everyone seemed to have a terrific time and I heard several “Let’s do this again!”s. Just like last year, I was impressed by the eagerness to return to the punishing hills. Now I’m curious if the cheerleaders of last year have made it back to Fay on their own. As for new challenges, several local family bikers have expressed interest in exploring the Iron Horse Trail, but I’m a little leery of carrying even a lighter camping load through gravel…not to mention how to get to the gravel. We biked through the Snoqualmie tunnel a couple years ago and it’s…gravelly. And not all hard-packed gravel.

But I do want a chance to try packing less. I’m not ready to give up my full-sized pillow just yet, but I think I could be convinced to leave the four camp chairs at home. I don’t think the Wheelha.us family was exaggerating when they said their kids wore swim suits for the ride and only brought along a pair of sweatpants each for when it cooled down at night. Now that is packing light! I think I brought six changes of clothing per kid. Plus swimwear. Plus jammies. And way too many stuffed animals. We’ve already discussed NO TOYS for next time.

Too many toys

More photos of the trip on Flickr.

Family biking and seat height

For the first time in over five years of biking with babies on board, I’ve put my bike saddle at the correct height. (Maybe that first year with the beach cruiser/Bobike Mini doesn’t count…I’m not sure there’s such a thing as a seat too low on a beach cruiser.)

I keep–sorry, kept–my seat low enough to get a foot down to the ground easily. I figured until my aging knees started complaining it was A-OK. I’ve often thought about raising it a teensy bit to see if I felt speedier, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Then I really meant to raise it all the way to optimal height for the Portland DRT since I’d be racing over 30 miles with no kids on board…but I forgot. But that thought planted the seed and a week later, I raised it up up up. Looks like it’s almost a two-inch difference. Whoa.

New seat height

I feel it’s a luxury to be a woman of average height (5’5″) in the bicycling world–I can easily find a bike frame sized to me, that allows me to lower my seat this much. I have a 16-inch Surly Big Dummy, the smallest one they make. But I’ve read of women five inches shorter than me happy with 18-inch Big Dummies. I was mystified how this could possibly work, but they must do what I’m relearning: if you don’t want to slide forward off your saddle at every stop, you pull up next to the curb:

Foot on curb

or lean on something:

The push button lean

Actually, I can reach my toes down to the ground while in my saddle sometimes (I haven’t figured out why this only feels stable sometimes) so I’ve got four options.

And now I understand why there are riders who are concerned with space to stand between a front kid seat and their saddle. I never had to leave my saddle on the old mamabike. I was surprised to find I fit behind it at 9+ months pregnant, but I never needed to slide forward off my saddle. I think my Bianchi Milano (“old mamabike”) is also the smallest one they make.

I appreciate there are cyclists who refuse to compromise on seat height. Not having an extensive cycling background before getting into it with the kids, I was more concerned with our safety and my laziness (i.e. not wanting to slide off my saddle at every stop), than my comfort.

There’s one more element to successful cycling with one’s seat way too low, in case you’d like to give it a go: you have to pedal with the middle of your foot. The most efficient way to pedal is with the ball of the foot, but sliding your foot forward compensates for the lower seat height. Full disclosure: I didn’t realize I was doing this until the other day. My pedal position is WHACK on the old mamabike. To avoid heel strike with the rear kid’s feet, I slide my feet both forward and to the edges of the pedals. Using the outer edges also means I don’t have to aim my knees out to sides quite as far to avoid hitting the front kid’s seat. So I just figured that bike had trained me to use the middle of my feet on the pedals. Elly Blue recently wrote a How to Bike in High Heels article for Bicycling Magazine to which I wanted to comment online: “Yes, but what about the part where it makes your saddle feel too low?” Now I’m glad I didn’t weigh in (I was turned off by the “This application will be able to post Tweets for you.” Uh, no.) and embarrass myself. Weeks after my aborted article comment (yes, I’m a bit slow to make these connections) I realized wearing shoes with heels forces me to pedal with the balls of my feet, doing away with my seat-height-compensation solution. Aha! It all makes [some] sense now.

But long story short, two days into the higher seat, I haven’t tipped us over and I haven’t gotten annoyed over having to actively keep us upright at each stop. I feel more efficient, but I don’t know if I’m faster. Faster is good because it’s hard to get out the door on time. I think we were a bit faster on the way to Wheelie Fun Camp this morning–we weren’t late–but I’m not organized enough to time myself.

Looking at this selfie I wonder: is the seat too high? It’s going to be hard to lower it now that I’m liking my new-found height.

New, higher, seat position

That’s not to say there’s no period of adjustment: my six-year old got stuck up here and needed help down.

Stuck on the higher saddle

But me? I think I’m good! Gimme a few more days of not tipping over before I can speak more confidently about it. Life wasn’t awful before so I don’t wish I’d done it sooner, but I probably should toss on a pair of heels to better appreciate biking in ’em…

Checking out the new Xtracycle EdgeRunner

This isn’t a review–I love all cargo bikes equally and have trouble getting a feel for the nuances of a bike during a short test ride; this is a “yay new bikes to admire and ride!” story with a couple items of interest at the end.

We saw the new bikes last Saturday while in Portland for the DRT, but I was too busy saving the world to do any test riding. The bikes were in Seattle on Sunday at the soon-to-be G & O Family Cyclery while we were headed back to town, but I was able to check them out on Monday at Ride Bicycles, my bike’s birthplace.

The head badge is very pretty:

Xtracycle EdgeRunner head badge

The kids and I were most taken with the Hooptie and didn’t pay close attention to anything else about the bikes. Other than trying (and failing) to sit in the Wheelha.us family’s Hooptie, I have no experience with one. My six-year old was very excited about sitting backwards when we rode the white ER. That pretty panel on the X2 bags is removable and customizable.

New EdgeRunner with Hooptie

Then they both sat backwards when we took out the blue bike. This one is the original ER with its deck lower than normal. And it’s the same bike Hum of the City reviewed. And now it has a Yuba Bread Basket–I totally want a frame-mounted basket on one of my bikes some day! This was the first time I biked with one, though, and I fully expected to crash as I hear one can become mesmerized watching the basket. Fortunately, I stayed upright. A frame-mounted basket can carry lots of weight with no change in steering, though the load can’t be higher than the handlebars without getting in the way. Currently, my steering gets a little wonky if I put lots of heavy stuff in my front basket.

Older EdgeRunner with Hooptie and Bread Basket

Here’s a panda shot photo comparison of the different deck heights:
Left: My bike with 26-inch rear wheel
Center: New EdgeRunner with deck over 20-inch wheel, but three-inch gap for battery for three inch difference
Right: Old/custom EdgeRunner with deck super low over 20-inch wheel for six-inch difference

Panda shots: Big Dummy, new ER, old ER

But the true purpose of this post is two-fold. First of all, Xtracycle is planning another tour of the new EdgeRunners later this year. I’m sure they’d love to be contacted with suggestions of local bike shops in your area to host them :) And second, after talking to Robert I realize Mr. Family Ride may not be the only person with an aversion to 20-inch wheels and there’s help for that–so I must share!

Here’s Robert from Xtracycle who toured with the bikes. He’s super cool.

Robert from Xtracycle

He had a Surly Big Dummy before he started working for Xtracycle, but it was stolen. They suggested he use the company EdgeRunner and despite his little-wheel misgivings, he obliged and loved it…after a short two-week adjustment. Apparently “Unless you want to ride over logs in the wilderness” it’s fab. He suggested Mr. Family Ride email him (I have Robert’s email if you are in a similar situation and would like professional help) about it so I’m working on that happening. When I brought it up, though, Mr. Family Ride became appalled that my bike has 26-inch wheels rather than 700cc so that’s step one.

Kona cargo bikes have 700cc wheels and I know many people have trouble managing the weight of two kids on the back of a Kona Ute due to its deck being just a little bit higher than my FlightDeck over its 26-inch wheel. But these are all just random numbers to me so I took a picture of my bike next to Jennifer’s Kona Ute at farmers market yesterday. Yup, noticeable difference.

Kona Ute 700cc wheel next to Big Dummy 26in wheel

Here’s a sweet little video Xtracycle put out about the EdgeRunner today: Ross Evans Talks About EdgeRunner

And one last picture, Christiaan of Ride Bicycles test riding my bike. Not nearly as funny as when he took a spin on my toddler’s 12-inch bike, but still worth sharing:

Christiaan on my Big Dummy

Bike with me to Spoke & Food July 30th

Spoke & Food is coming up Tuesday, July 30th. Twenty restaurants around Seattle will donate 20% of their evening revenues to Bike Works. You don’t have to bike to dinner for your dollars to count, but it’s definitely more fun that way!

Join me, representing Familybike Seattle, for a family-friendly, easy-paced ride from South Lake Union Park (860 Terry Ave N, Seattle, WA, meet next to the MOHAI building) to Julia’s in Wallingford (4401 Wallingford Ave N, Seattle, WA).

Gather at 5:15 p.m. and ride at 5:30 p.m.

Spoke and Food

Facebook event for this ride
Spoke & Food Facebook event

If Wallingford isn’t your dining ‘hood of choice, here’s the full list of participating restaurants.

More about the event from Spoke & Food:

The fourth annual Spoke & Food event will take place at a up to 20 host restaurants in 20 different Seattle neighborhoods on the evening of Tuesday, July 30th, 2013 from 5:30pm to 9:30pm. If you have yet to ever participate in this important and fun community building event, this is your year to do so!

Participation is easy. All you need to do is to bike to and from one of our participating host restaurants on the evening of our event. Invite your friends or family to meet you, bring your neighbors, pack up your kids or go at it alone.

Each of our participating host restaurants have agreed to donate 20% of ALL of their patron revenues from the evening of the event directly to the local non-profit that we select each year. This means 100% of the funds raised via the restaurants go to helping a local Seattle area non-profit. The 2013 Spoke & Food event will benefit the Bike Works non-profit.

Cargo bike on BoltBus

I never thought I’d see the day–my big bike, down in Portland!

Big Dummy in Portland

Previous trips have been on Amtrak with the small bike, but now that BoltBus is in the Pacific Northwest, anything that fits in the luggage bay is welcome. The experience is quite different than taking Amtrak Cascades, but it’s cheap and it worked!

Bike at BoltBus

The bus picked us up on the east side of Union Station, right where S King St runs into 5th Ave S. A northbound BoltBus was at the curb so it was apparent where to go, but otherwise there was no signage or attendant. My ticket confirmation suggested I show up 15 minutes early and I think that’s because there’s not much one can do before that time. We all milled around until our bus arrived and then awkwardly milled around more, not knowing what to do. Eventually, we all rushed at the luggage bays to shove our stuff in. I heard someone describe the experience as “You get what you pay for” and it is indeed cheap, but the driver was very nice and when he noticed my bike, he cleared out one of the luggage bays (the whole bay! I felt a guilty I was given so much room!) and then helped me lift in the bike.

Here’s a picture of the bike in the luggage compartment before I put my small wheelie bag on top of it. I removed the Yepp seat and shoved it alongside to make the bike lighter and smaller, but it looks like it would have fit even with the seat in place. I also removed the WideLoader and stowed that inside a FreeLoader bag, but that may have fit on the upper side of the bike as well. Either way, it’s easier to manipulate with fewer poking-out appendages.

Bike in BoltBus

As for on board the BoltBus, my main takeaway was: it’s much smaller than the train. Duh. It looks so big from outside, but once we were confined to our seats and surrounded by extremely quiet people, it felt very very small. A four-hour train trip with little kids is long, but it’s helpful to fill the time by walking repeatedly to the dining car for a change of scenery. And the train seats have that useful table. I thought the bus would have seat-back tray tables like an airplane, but we only had a drink holder by our feet. So we didn’t bother with coloring and made do looking out the windows. Everyone else seemed to be traveling solo so all the chatter was from us: “Mama! Mama! Cement mixer truck!” and “Ooh! Train tracks!”

But we survived. The women behind me declared the children excellent travelers. She must like construction equipment, too, I guess. And we arrived 20 minutes early.

I neglected to plan our first afternoon in town, so out of habit we headed directly to Clever Cycles. I figured I could wheel my luggage-laden bike inside and the kids could play on the Lego table while I checked out the pretty bikes. We were in town for the Disaster Relief Trials and I discovered one of the bike mechanics was building himself a Stokemonkeyed Xtracycle EdgeRunner to compete in the e-assist class. He did his best to scare me. Or maybe he didn’t mean to scare me with his “Oh yeah, last year I was like you and thought civilian class was just going to be a fun ride with friends. It wasn’t. Not at all. So hard.” Nice guy.

Clever Cycles

Fortunately, Clever Cycles didn’t have a Nihola cargo trike on the floor so we didn’t have to do any test riding. The kids just love the window on the front of that bike–specifically to test ride with the big stuffed doggie in the shop because it is SO FUNNY to have that stuffed dog looking out the window. And between the potty breaks and pep-talking mechanic I made playground plans.

We found Kath and her bakfiets at Grant Park and check out her snazzy new Radio Flyer wagon canopy:

Kath's bakfiets canopy

I wish I’d taken a picture without my bike in front, but here’s the whole thing, sort of:

Kath's bakfiets with canopy

And just to throw one only-in-Portland thing at you: Slappy Cakes for brunch the following day, which even on Friday had an hour-long wait. Yes, that’s a hot griddle right in the middle of the the table. Amazingly, only one finger was burned in the brunch-making process when the three-year old tried to reposition a strawberry, poor little guy. They had fun; I was a nervous wreck the entire meal.

Slappy Cakes

Pedalheads open house

Pedalheads Bike Camps had a booth at Saturday’s Wallingford Family Festival and I got this very exciting flyer:

Pedalheads Bike Camps open house!
Bike Skills & Safety Camps for Kids Ages 2 to 12

Seattle: Magnuson Park
Tues July 9, 1:00-3:30pm
7400 Sand Point Way NE
Mickey Merrium Field #7. Access of NE 74th.
Park in the parking lot of the Seattle Musical Theatre

Bellevue: Cherry Crest Elementary
Tues July 23, 9:30am-12:00pm
12400 NE 32nd St, Bellevue

There will be lots of riding and activities for all ages and skill levels so bring your bikes and your helmets (trikes, training wheels, and run bikes welcome, too). The activities will include an obstacle course, “bike bowling”, road riding skills, a safety session on helmets, and riding ramps and teeter totters.

The event is free and don’t forget, you are welcome to bring friends and family!

For more information, email leah[at]pedalheads[dot]com

Phone: 1-888-886-6464
http://www.pedalheads.com

My three-year old hasn’t been on his pedal bike since the April Cascade Learn 2 Ride class and this seemed like a great way to get him back on the horse. I also loaded up his balance bike just in case. So that’s a total of three people, four bikes traveling down the Burke-Gilman Trail. One passing woman on a road bike likened me to Superwoman :)

Carrying 3 kiddie bikes

We started at the Pedalheads tent with the obligatory helmet spiel. But a fun one! With helmet held to the side of the instructor’s head (“What’s wrong with my helmet?”) I love that stuff!

Pedalheads helmet spiel

I hope I’m not betraying any trade secrets, but it was just so fun and the sky was so remarkably blue that I had to take a million pictures.

After a couple loops through a cone-marked course, we moved on to bike bowling.

Bike bowling

I don’t think my cones are this sturdy, but we’re going to have to try it because IT IS SO FUN! I’m not sure anyone bowled a strike, but kids went multiple frames and the instructors were so quick in resetting the pins.

Bike bowling!

And there was a ramp that looked SO BIG at first.

Pedalheads ramp

Then a rousing game of What time is it, Mr. Fox?

What time is it, Mr. Fox?

The kids were coached to gently set their bikes down before running away from Mr. Fox.

Fleeing Mr. Fox

They sprinted even more quickly to retrieve their bikes at the end of each round. This is a camp that will tire the kids out!

Running for their bikes

Temporary tattoo break! (Photo taken from my FlightDeck)

Temporary tattoos

Rest time over! Teeter totter! I really really wanted to try it, but they deemed my bike too heavy and I’m too klutzy to maneuver the 12-inch or 16-inch bikes.

Teeter totter

And the ladder:

Ladder

By now it was pretty hot so the instructors set up a difficult cone course and each toppled cone resulted in a nice cool sponge thrown at the rider’s back. I was skeptical, but the children all loved it.

Wet sponge treatment

I can’t wait to compare our calendar with theirs and see if we can attend a full camp. I’m not sure if this is mentioned on their website, but one of the instructors told me the age for enrollment is the schoolyear age so my little guy can enroll in four-year old courses already–more possibilities!

Don’t miss their Bellevue open house on July 23rd!