Archive | November 2013

Upcoming: December Kidical Mass to Seattle Center Winterfest

Sorry for the short notice!

Have you ever wondered if there’s a family-friendly bike route to the Seattle Center? Well, there is! Starting from Fremont it’s 7 miles versus 2.5 miles, but it’s scenic and fairly traffic free–no Mercer Mess or Aurora Ave to cross!

Kidical Mass Seattle - December

Join us to check out the joy and mayhem of Winterfest.

This is the route we’ll take:

Meet at Milstead & Co (770 N 34th St, Seattle, WA) in Fremont which adjoins the covered outdoor History House sculpture garden where we can huddle with warm drinks in case it’s rainy.

Here’s the Facebook event if you want to RSVP.

Second Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride

In continuing last year’s Thanksgiving Family Group Ride tradition, we took a fun bike ride around Lake Union Thanksgiving morning. This year there were 42 riders! (Or so. I didn’t think to count.)

To accommodate families working around naps and cooking, we had a timeline. The only bad part is that now everyone knows when I say “firm,” I don’t really mean it. We’ll wait for you if you’re on the way! But our littlest riders appreciate an on-time departure. Thankfully we didn’t lose any riders before the start.

Rough timeline:
10:00 – Start gathering at Gas Works (near the play barn)
10:30 – *Firm* depart
11:00-12:00 – Playground by Daniel’s Broiler
12:30 – Starbucks warm-up stop
1:30 – Back to Gas Works

My six-year old rode the whole thing on his 20-inch-wheeled bike with three speeds, but I opted to carry my four-year old and his 16-inch-wheeled single speed bike as he’s not so capable on even small hills. However, there were kids on small bikes, including a balance biker who passed me twice! There’s a variety of riding surfaces for the Lake Union Loop and it’s all pretty kid friendly, with sidewalk options for all the busy parts. I added photos of the ride to my saved map to show most of the different parts, indicated by yellow pushpins:

The day started out very foggy, but no rain! And relatively warm (mid-forties, I think). It was a great day for hanging out with friends new and old. The ride was relatively flat, though many had to walk up the steep half-block at Hamlin. Perhaps next year we’ll coast along a floating esplanade in its place!

Many of my photos are posted here, but see the Flickr set for even more.

By the way, for bicyclists interested in a bigger Thanksgiving Day ride, check out the Annual Seattle Thanksgiving Day Ride to benefit Northwest Harvest.

I was thankful my two kiddos wanted to ride/walk their bikes home (which lasted for a bit over one of our last two uphill blocks).

Happy Thanksgiving!

Seattle Cranksgiving 2013 – Family style

Another year, another Cranksgiving! We’ve participated three out of four times now–the first, third, and this fourth one (the second coincided with a Kidical Mass ride). Last year the kids wore their Halloween costumes (Seattle Neighborhood Greenways), but today our bike wore the costume: salmon! I figured it made most sense to have it swim backwards/upstream and please know this is not a statement about Seattle’s bicycle infrastructure (or lack thereof), the kids are just really into salmon.

Salmon costume

There were so many people this year–126 according to Cranksgiving sponsor Seattle Bike Blog: 126 Cranksgiving riders haul 1,443 lbs of food to Rainier Valley Food Bank. Sadly the big salmon blocked me from climbing onto my FlightDeck to snap a picture from on high, but you get the idea:

The crowd at Seattle Cranksgiving 2013

There were no spoke cards left when we arrived, but I was able to lay hands on a manifest right before they ran out. Neal’s wearing the festive Twin Six Yule Tide T in the top picture if you’re curious.

Seattle Cranksgiving 2013 manifest

Seattle Cranksgiving 2013 manifest

I reeeeeeally wanted to finish on time this year after having been so late to the finish last year, but with the 1:30 cut off that only gave time for one stop if my team of illegally large size was going to stay together and take the Lake Washington Loop south. In previous years I’ve caught the light rail train as I don’t know a way down to Columbia City from downtown otherwise, but this year I thought it’d be a nice change to actually ride the whole thing. I like to pick and choose my method of cheating :) Previous years’ cheating has only involved using the train (which might not be against the written rules, but it certainly feels like cheating); this year I amassed a team much larger than three–we were 18 including kids (though four members bailed for naps), some teammates hit a grocery store not on the list, and I even showed up with pre-bought groceries when I heard a friend lament that the food bank never had spices.

Univeristy District farmers market

We started at the closest stop, the University District Farmers Market (my first visit to their new location–it’s great!) and some of us hung out there while others hit a couple other stops and returned for the big ride south. I think each of us ran into someone we knew and I got a chance to check out some of the other participants. Love this banana costume!

Seattle Cranksgiving banana-costumed participant

And check out this cool front rack. He meant to find a big back of rice, but the DIY platform worked OK for produce, too.

Nice haul at his first stop

Knowing we couldn’t possibly make the 1:30 cut-off time, we eventually headed towards Ark Lodge Cinemas via the well-marked Lake Washington Loop. I’m a sucker for a well-marked route!

Heading south on the Lake Washington Loop

Group shot before dropping down through Lakeview Park.

Cranksgiving group shot

The above overlook is also where Andres declared he had spare pannier space and offered to help anyone with cargo. This was followed by the obligatory offer from each of us to take on more cargo. Needless to say, everyone kept their stuff.

Something the kids and I learned winding down Lake Washington Boulevard: lone riders don’t care for an “Allez! Allez!” as they grind uphill in the opposite direction, but groups of college cyclists love it.

Photo courtesy Neal Poland

Photo courtesy Neal Poland

The view was magnificent, clear enough to see Mt. Rainier. My Mt. Rainier pictures didn’t do it justice so here’s a pretty building instead.

View from the Lake Washington Loop

But riding along Lake Washington Boulevard wasn’t so nice. There were a lot of impatient drivers and we saw a couple near misses as drivers nearly swerved into oncoming traffic rather than wait a couple seconds before passing us. I’m going to steer clear of the area outside of Bicycle Sunday when it’s mostly closed to cars.

Cars on the Lake Washington Loop

The tail end of our ride was along Rainier Avenue. I take to the sidewalk here, as did everyone I saw (though most riders arrived before us so I don’t know if everyone is scared of the street here). For more on Rainier Ave, read Davey Oil’s Why I’m Riding on Rainier Avenue series.

Rainier Ave sidewalk

Unfortunately I missed the whole party at Ark Lodge Cinema. I heard muffled announcements and cheering while escorting kids to the potty and while I ferried our food to the Rainier Valley Food Bank there was a raffle:

Photo courtesy Neal Poland

Photo courtesy Neal Poland

The kids weren’t torn up about missing the festivities, but they didn’t understand why we biked through two playgrounds without stopping so we hit the Rainier Community Center play structure as soon as we finished dropping off the food.

Rainier Community Center playground

We took a slightly different route on the way home, with less busy lake-side riding (one mile instead of four), a pleasant little climb up through Coleman Park, and the I-90 Bike Tunnel–so much fun for the kids to yowl echoey train sounds through.

I-90 Trail

I-90 Bike Tunnel

The next two miles seemed very uphill, but I’m not a good gauge of appreciating a new route over the hill I know.

22.8 miles later we were home with another Cranksgiving in the bag.

For those curious of our team’s family bike makeup:

  • Bullitt
  • Cetma Largo
  • FollowMe Tandem coupled to regular bike
  • Surly Big Dummy (2)
  • Yuba Boda Boda
  • Yuba Mundo

Upcoming: Second Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride

We had so much fun last year, we’re doing it again! We’ll ride all the way around Lake Union (about 7.5 miles) with several stops along the way. Feel free to rush ahead or drop out early as naps/meals/football-viewing plans dictate.

Second Annual Thanksgiving Family Group Ride

If you’re on Facebook, join the Seattle Family Biking Facebook group and RSVP for the event.

Here’s our rough timeline:

10:00 – Start gathering at Gas Works (near the play barn)
10:30 – *Firm* depart
11:00-12:00 – Playground by Daniel’s Broiler
12:30 – Starbucks warm-up stop
1:30 – Back to Gas Works

Here’s the route. There’s one steep section of about half a block:

Family Ride coffeeneuring in Seattle

I had a lot of fun participating in errandonneuring so there was no doubt I’d do the Third Annual Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge and all ensuing Chasing Mailboxes challenges. I figured it’d be too easy, except for the part where I’d have to narrow it down to just seven coffees. I mean, we got waaaay more than seven days to visit seven coffee shops, I already bike every day, drink coffee, and–hello!–live in Seattle: birthplace of Starbucks, city with highest per capita bicyclists able to ride one-handed while drinking a cup of hot coffee, and home to five million kid-friendly coffee shops. But I nearly didn’t get it done thanks to an unexpected weekend car trip to Salt Spring Island, a Sunday lost to a pulled back muscle, and days where I failed squeezing in a coffee purchase despite being out and about all damn day. I wasn’t even sure until tallying today if I’d coffeeneured seven times–thank goodness I forced an evening stop on Saturday in case my Sunday submission is tossed out for cheating.

Following are my stops with the summary essentials: “1. where you went (address and website, if possible), 2. the date you went there, 3. what you drank 4. a detail or two about your coffeeneuring ride, and 5. total mileage.”
I’ll also throw in any tidbits on kid friendliness of the coffee shop stops.

1 / one / uno / een

  1. Ballard Coffee Works (2060 NW Market St, Ballard, WA 98107)
    Kid corner with train table, books, and stuffed animals! We met up with two other biking families and the five collective kids (and their beverage swilling parents) had a great time.
  2. October 5, 2013
  3. French press (Surprisingly bitter. I usually take my coffee black–like my components–but this cup of mud scared me towards fancy coffees for the rest of the challenge.)
  4. Fun detail #1: The bike with the Mike O’Brien campaign poster sharing our bike rack turned out to be The Mike O’Brien’s bike. Talk about truth in advertising.
    Fun detail #2: DOGS!
    After my kids monopolized the two large stuffed dogs in the Ballard Coffee Works play area and ogled a few dogs tied up outside, we adjourned to Gas Works Park to take advantage of the unexpectedly terrific weather. There we met artist Matt Josef who literally just rolled into town, parked, and took the dogs out to stretch their legs. He has plans to bike cross country with his SO and the dogs, but this visit was by car while he works on a commission. He let me hold little Paco for so long he should have been worried I wouldn’t give him back (but I did. And I later gave him my copy of Elly Blue’s Four Paws, Two Wheels which is awesome despite–because?–my submission didn’t make the cut).
    And then our friends from coffee returned to the park with their dog! Their DoggieRide trailer is really nice. I love the pop top.
  5. Miles: 8.5
Our bikes from inside Ballard Coffee Works

Our bikes from inside Ballard Coffee Works

Artist Matt Josef and his dogs

Artist Matt Josef and his dogs



DoggieRide trailer

DoggieRide trailer

2 / two / dos / twee

  1. Milstead & Co (770 N 34th St, Seattle, WA 98103)
    No kid-specific area, but the inside is spacious and the cafe connects to the even more spacious History House Sculpture Garden full of neat stuff, like a chunk of the Berlin Wall in the foreground of my photo below. Again, we met up with a couple other biking families. Coffeeneuring is even more fun with company!
  2. October 6, 2013
  3. Theo mocha with house-made vanilla
  4. Fun detail: We stopped by Fremont Brewing Company a block away to check out the new bike corral. This place is kid-friendly, but no coffee. Twice (April 2011 an November 2011) we’ve had Kidical Mass rides end here. I think we’re due for another big visit!
  5. Miles: 3.4
Theo mocha with house-made vanilla at Milstead & Co.

Theo mocha with house-made vanilla at Milstead & Co.

Inside Milstead & Co.

Inside Milstead & Co.

Ouside (but covered) Milstead & Co.

Ouside (but covered) Milstead & Co.

Fremont Brewing Company

Fremont Brewing Company

3 / three / tres / drie

  1. Makeda Coffee (153 N 78th St, Seattle, WA 98103)
    Toys next to the couch and comfy chair in the back. We biked over with Forrest and his brand-new-to-him folding bike. His other ride is a regular bike to which he connects a trail-a-bike when he rides with his kid.
  2. October 12, 2013
  3. Mocha–with my most favorite Seven Roasters. This would have been the place to get the black coffee.
  4. Fun detail: We chose Makeda so we could hop seven blocks north to visit the new G & O Family Cyclery. My first visit to G & O was the day before, but I think I could happily go there every day.
  5. Miles: 8.6
New folding bike and Makeda Coffee

New folding bike and Makeda Coffee

Toys at Makeda Coffee

Toys at Makeda Coffee

4 / four / quatro / vier

  1. Wheelhouse (2113 Westlake Ave Seattle, WA 98121)
    A rare kid-free outing! I was out for a hair appointment and intended to grab a coffee at The Crumpet Shop in nearby Pike Place Market, but as soon as I walked in the door, the barista shouted “We’re out!” at me. I’m assuming she meant they were out of crumpets, not coffee, but that gave me the opportunity to make my first visit to Wheelhouse on the way home. We bike by Wheelhouse often and it makes me happily remember Santa Barbara’s shuttered WheelHouse Bikes. No kid stuff, but outdoor seating is always a good thing for littles.
  2. October 19, 2013
  3. Mocha and cardamom cake
  4. Fun detail: I stopped by the Cycling Tweed Rally in Goorin Brothers and saw e-bike conversions by Madboy Electric Vehicles.
  5. Miles: 9.9
Sitting outside Wheelhouse

Sitting outside Wheelhouse

Cycling Tweed Rally at Goorin Bros.

Cycling Tweed Rally at Goorin Bros.

Cycling Tweed Rally at Goorin Bros.

Cycling Tweed Rally at Goorin Bros.

Madboy Electric Vehicles

Madboy Electric Vehicles

5 / five / cinco / vijf

  1. Solsticio (1100 N Northlake Way, Seattle, WA 98103)
    No kid stuff, but we love Solsticio. It’s right along the Burke-Gilman Trail with great food (smoothies!) and big glass garage door that’s open in the summer. It was a perfect place to stop after our Kidical Mass ride to fall colors in the Arboretum.
  2. 11/3
  3. Pumpkin spice latte and allspice cake
  4. Fun detail: We stopped by the Rent-a-Ruminant goats on our way home. They’re so sweet!
  5. Miles: 9.3
Trail-adjacent Solsticio

Trail-adjacent Solsticio

Solsticio, and Kidical Mass fall helmet craft

Solsticio, and Kidical Mass fall helmet craft

Rent-a-Ruminant sweethearts

Rent-a-Ruminant sweethearts

6 / six / seis / zes

  1. Swansons Nursery (9701 15th Ave NW, Seattle, WA 98117)
    I thought we’d hit a coffee shop in the afternoon, but we got sidetracked at a playground while parading with our friends on their new bikes. Thank goodness the Reindeer Festival in the morning had complimentary hot apple cider. I didn’t snap a picture of it so I’m including pictures of the rest of the reindeer games.
  2. 11/9
  3. Hot apple cider (free!)
  4. Fun detail: A love story! As we were getting ready to leave the park with our parade of friends, a very curious squirrel ran up to our bikes and scurried quickly away several times. I was starting to get a little worried he would jump into/onto one of the bikes and bite a child, but on his third trip in, he grabbed my friend’s brand new Bullitt cargo bike and hugged (humped?) the front tire. Of course in the back of my mind I wondered why he hadn’t chosen my bike, but I’ll admit the Bullitt is a sexy bike.
  5. Miles: 15.9
Swansons Reindeer Festival

Swansons Reindeer Festival

Swansons Reindeer Festival

Swansons Reindeer Festival

Bow cheeka bow bow

Bow cheeka bow bow

7 / seven / siete / zeven

  1. Black Coffee Co-op (501 E Pine St, Seattle, WA 98122)
    No play area, but very spacious. I noticed a bookshelf full of games, but I don’t know if any were kid games. I led a group ride here, Critical Lass rides to the Broadway cycle track and goes Coffeeneuring to celebrate the last day of the Coffeeneuring Challenge which is explicitly against Rule 8: “You may not combine your coffeeneuring ride with any other ride such as an organized century, populaire, or brevet.” Oops.
  2. 11/17
  3. Mocha
  4. Fun detail: I got to carry an extra kid (80+ pounds!) 10 feet. I had hoped to carry him half a mile the
    rest of the way to the coffee shop, but in an amazing display of teamwork, an extra bolt was located and used to repair his trailer bike on the spot at the mid-point of our ride.
  5. Miles: 11.7
Coffee and company at Black Coffee Co-op

Coffee and company at Black Coffee Co-op

Quiet kids at Black Coffee Co-op

Quiet kids at Black Coffee Co-op

Temporary extra load--woo hoo!

Temporary extra load–woo hoo!

Critical Lasses fix a bike

Critical Lasses fix a bike

alternate / suplemento / extratje

  1. Uptown Espresso (500 Westlake Ave N, Seattle, WA 98109)
    I popped out solo in the afternoon to see my friend’s work in a pottery show (hers were the best, by the way), hoping “Wine, snacks, and live music!” meant “Wine, snacks, live music, and coffee” but no such luck. So afterwards I went around the corner to the closest coffee shop.
  2. 11/16
  3. Latte. I haven’t been to “Home of the Velvet Foam” since having a dairy-free nursling so this was to be my first exposure to Velvet Foam. I figured latte was the way to go with Velvet Foam, but I didn’t like it. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had a latte before so it’s probably me. I’m back to black coffee now that the challenge is over.
  4. Fun detail: while I love (not) sitting on the side of the street swapping my bike shoes for fancier shoes, I’m tempted to once again search for normal-looking shoes with SPD cleats. I’m not very DIY-inclined or I’d try Instructables: High-heel, clipless bike shoes. And there’s Retrofitz who will turn regular shoes into bike shoes. Of course I could just change the pedals. That’s not nearly as exciting, but unless Mr. Family Ride tossed his old pedals when switching back to Speedplay, there should be a perfectly good pair of SPD pedals with a big plastic flat thingy clipped to one side of them somewhere in the basement. Hey, thanks Coffeeneuring Challenge for all allowing me to puzzle this one out!
  5. Miles: 7.9
Uptown Espresso, Home of the Velvet Foam

Uptown Espresso, Home of the Velvet Foam

Bike parking in South Lake Union

Bike parking in South Lake Union

Hauling two (and three!) bikes

Last Sunday was an epic kid-and-bike-hauling day: two kids plus three bikes on the Surly Big Dummy:

Photo courtesy DBC Photo

Photo courtesy DBC Photo

20-inch kid bike in the left FreeLoader bag, 16-inch kid bike and my grownup cyclocross bike on the WideLoader on the right. FreeLoader buckles pulled as tight as possible, a few bungee cords, and one toe strap holding my cross bike snugly to the Yepp FlightDeck adapter made things work. The ride was only a mile and a half, but all uphill. It was much easier than the ensuing cyclocross race and I think that was easier than riding back home alongside the kids (blog post on riding with kids coming soon).

It’s fun to haul big, impressive bike loads. I’ve hauled hauled cargo bikes with my cargo bike, but usually I just haul the two kids and their two bikes:

Dragging two bikes

The picture above is from two months ago, the day before the Ballard Greenway celebration when we tested the route. That was my first time dragging two bikes and I had them on the wrong sides–the hand brake from the bigger bike poked my Yepp seat passenger in the back at every bounce. Oops. So this is how we roll now, 20-inch bike on the left, 16-inch bike on the right:

Dragging two bikes

I’m careful about making tight turns and this means I sometimes have to do a bit of route adjusting, but it works surprisingly well. I don’t think I’d tip over if the wheels touched one another during a turn, but I’d have to park and straighten things out. Bikes with wheels smaller than 16 inches fit completely in the pocket (and even the 16-inch bike fits in the pocket if it has to) so here are a couple pictures of our journey to this point…

Two balance bikes, one in each pocket with other gear (snacks, extra layers) shoved in where space allowed:

Big Dummy + two kids + two balance bikes

Or Two balance bikes on the same side, using the WideLoader for days with lots of other gear:

Bicycle Day

Our next two configurations were…
– 16-inch pedal bike plus small balance bike (Kinderbike Mini)
– 16-inch pedal bike plus 12-inch balance bike
Both of these were most easily done by dragging the 16-inch pedal bike rear wheel from one pocket and putting the smaller bike completely in the other pocket.

I didn’t use the WideLoader for any of the above unless I also needed to carry a couple big bags of stuff, but it came in handy for 16-inch pedal bike on one side and two little bikes on the other. Three bikes!

Carrying 3 kiddie bikes

I had intended to have some sort of hitch built back when we were at the dragging-one-bike stage, but didn’t get around to it. Apparently the Xtracycle rear crossbar is the perfect width for a fork mount from a bike rack. Here’s the one on Edward’s (the mechanic who built my bike) Big Dummy:

Edward's Big Dummy trailer hitch

Perhaps I could stick one out to either side. That would keep the bikes very stable, but it adds a bit of time to the whole process and stowing the front wheels separately will probably end up taking up just as much room.

But back to dragging from the FreeLoaders…

I’ve dragged a tiny bike out the back–once with our 10-inch-wheeled Kinderbike Mini during an on-the-bike-off-the-bike-back-and-forth-dance along the Alki Beach boardwalk, but I prefer having the weight completely in the bag with no drag if possible. However there’s more cargo room with less bike in the bag. Our 16-inch wheel takes up about half the bag:

16-inch wheel in FreeLoader bag

And our 20-inch wheel fills enough of the bag that I can only fit something small in front of it:

20-inch wheel in FreeLoader bag

Things would be a bit easier if I didn’t have the Yepp seat’s leg supports pushing front wheels out at an angle, and every bike is a bit different, but following are some pictures of how our specific bikes fit. Reinforcing with bungee cords or cinch straps (non-stretchy, like a toe clip or Yuba Cargo Straps) is great, but I’m lazy and if I can make it work without extra effort, that’s what I do. For our 16-inch Sparkle BMX-style bike, threading the buckle of FreeLoader bag through the fork works best for keeping it straight:

Buckle through kid bike fork

However, I just had a front brake put on the Sparkle so now I’m worried about messing that up if I try to squeeze the strap through. So far just going over the top is working OK.

Buckle over kid bike fork

Notice three pictures up that I’ve fastened the buckle through the spokes. I used to be scared of doing so, but saw a friend securing her bikes thusly so I’ve been doing the same…until I noticed a couple bent spokes. Doh! The bike should fine, but I don’t want to bend even more. Despite all the weight I put on my bikes, I have never broken a spoke and I don’t want to start now. Fortunately, whether through the spokes or not, two snugly fastened FreeLoader buckles keep the 20-inch Danish Mosquito in place without extra help.

Doh, bent spoke

This isn’t the case with our other 20-inch kid bike, the impulse-purchase Trek Jet from replacing stolen items day. This bike’s different shape requires a bungee cord from frame to Yepp adapter to keep it from flopping to the side. Although I hurriedly buckled through the spokes on the way to cyclocross last weekend and it sat fine sans bungee.

Kid bike secured with bungee cord

Carrying a bike with a full-sized wheel works pretty much the same way. The bigger wheel leans out to the side more so I usually need a bungee cord to hold it in.

Adult bike secured with bungee cord

It looks floppy in the close-up, but it tracks nice and straight.

Dragging an adult bike

Adult bikes are much easier to carry without the Yepp seat–or at least, without the Yepp seat at the rear of the FlightDeck. Here’s my road bike on Davey Oil’s Xtracycle EdgeRunner. It has the same Xtracycle FreeLoader bags as my Big Dummy and I can buckle the middle strap up and over across the FlightDeck from one bag to the other.

Preparing to taxi the EdgeRunner to its home

If I’m towing a big bike and no kids, I’ll often remove the Yepp seat to stow in the non-bike FreeLoader pocket.

See the Xtracycle Bikes in Tow Flickr gallery for more fun pictures. And please, pass along any tips and ideas!

Added November 18:
Here’s a picture of my friend Tom towing a balance bike and 16-inch pedal bike by putting the back wheels in each pocket and keeping the front wheels up off the ground with bungee cords so there’s no drag and still cargo space in front of the bikes! Notice is also has a hitch on his bike for towing a full-sized bike. Little does he know I’ve been working on a post with pictures of some of his cool stuff :)

Tom towing two kid bikes

Parading with friends on new bikes (part one)

There are a lot of new cargo bikes in town! G & O Family Cyclery just opened in Greenwood (our first visited blogged here) and is responsible for two friends’ new family rigs. Today we met with Elisabeth on her one-day-old Bullitt and Sara on her three-day-old Xtracycle EdgeRunner (and her husband, Dave, on his not-new, but awesome Dutch bike).

Parade start at G&O

We met at G & O and headed a couple blocks south to catch bike-friendly N 83rd (which is also called the Interurban just to make things confusing because it’s not the main Interurban we rode today) a couple blocks east and hop on the new Fremont Avenue Greenway. A bit over a mile later and we connected to the Interurban Trail.

Bike parade on Fremont Ave Greenway

Bike parade on the Interurban Trail

My original plan was to ride into Shoreline, but we decided to stop at Bitter Lake. This meant we only took one block of Linden cycle track (map of our route).

Bike parade hits a bit of the Linden cycle track

The five kids had fun at the Bitter Lake playground, even when the drizzle started. Elisabeth hung out in her Bullitt box to stay warm, but eventually we adults got too cold and urged the kids to call it a day.

Cuddled in the Bullitt box

This was just a practice parade as we’re waiting on a new bike addition to the stable and one other family bike that’s on the way. But for a parade planned the night before, this was great! And I like the route so I think we’ll do it again…with an indoor destination–Sky Nursery was my original plan, though we’ve never been.

Bike parade at Bitter Lake

Carrying two bigger kids on a regular bike

I’m going to declare the current incarnation of The Old Mamabike (Bianchi Milano with Bobike Mini and Bobike Maxi) officially outgrown. Here we are six months ago, living the multi-modal high life:

The old mamabike

The weight limit of the Bobike Mini front seat is 33 pounds and my four-year old is a little bit heavier than that fully clothed. And there’s a comfort issue. Little kids fit great in front, but I’ve replaced my stem twice to accommodate longer legs (each kid hit a point where his knees bumped against the handlebars uncomfortably) and my extended reach has me leaning forward into the kid helmet a bit. This wasn’t such a big deal with the Nutcase in the photo above (note: helmets with rounded backs, like Nutcase and Bern, are most comfortable both in trailers and if you have a kid rammed against your chest), but his pointy-backed Giro pokes me in the sternum. If he wasn’t over the weight limit, it’d be worth looking into more swept-back handlebars. It’s fascinating how replacing small pieces can totally change a bike.

Removing the seat (and windscreen) is easy–just pull out a pin and yank it out of the bracket thingy. I haven’t removed the mounting bracket yet–I’m not sure which kind of stem I have (though I suspect it’s the easier one)–so I guess I’m not fully committed to a change yet.

Bobike Mini mounting bracket thingy

I started phase one of old mamabike conversion the other day by removing the front seat and windscreen…though it was really just so I could bring them to the house and see if they’ll fit on a Madsen bucket bike for another family biker who is looking into front seats. It looks like it’ll fit!

Bobike Mini on Madsen

I want to get the bracket off so we can really test it, though. And in the commitment department, I left my front seat and windscreen in the garage so I’m motivated to move on my next steps. And also because we don’t have a garage or much storage space. It’s not the first thing I’ve snuck into there, hee hee.

Another comfort item with the old mamabike is the seat height. We had a good five-year run with the low seat, but ever since I raised the Big Dummy’s saddle, I don’t find the old mamabike as comfortable. Now that there’s no front seat and I can slide safely off my saddle if need be, I’ve raised it up to proper height–looks like an inch and a half or so:

Raising the old mamabike seat

I still have some heel strike in the back, but now that I’m using it for the four-year old, rather than the six-year old, I think I can raise the foot rests up. Or I could hide his favorite yellow shoes that are three sizes too big. So here’s the current look. It’s so odd to see it unencumbered by front seat. I always stare open-mouthed at people who ride by on Milanos with no kid seats and whisper, “The future!” I imagine this as my around-town bike someday (unless you’re in contact with my husband, whom I’ve promised I’ll sell the Milano when we get a used tandem to attach kidback and Burley Piccolo as one of our other next steps).

The old mamabike--sort of

Why bother with the next step for the old mamabike? Because I like having a bus-able, two-kid-carrying bike. So what to do? One option might be a different front seat, many of which are highlighted in Hum of the City’s A front child seat for older kids. I saw one recently at the Ballard Bikes to School Kick-Off Event. It’s mounted on the seat post, but it’s really a front seat.

Big kid front seat (on the back)

And soon to the market is the Mac Ride front seat. It launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday and I’m really tempted to get one while they’re cheap.

Though with any front seat I’ll most likely have to move my seat back down, though maybe not the full inch and a half. A lower profile seat will be more comfortable with a bigger kid–and I won’t have to keep my feet at the edges of the pedals and aim my knees out to the sides. And it will keep the old mamabike the same size for busing.

My original idea for the old mamabike, long before the idea of upgrading to a cargo bike, was to move the little kid to the rear seat and put the big kid on his own bike, attached behind with a FollowMe Tandem coupling system–now available locally at G & O Family Cyclery. In an interesting parallel, my friend who previously rode a Kona MinUte midtail cargo bike with her son, has just upgraded to a new regular bike with FollowMe Tandem. Note the bikes are connected at the hubs so it’s nice and stable–and doesn’t interfere with the part of the bike where a rear kid seat would sit.

FollowMe Tandem coupler in action

I think maybe I still want to do this. I like having the front of the bike all to myself. And I could fit a basket up there! Maybe something little and awesome like the Portland Design Works Takeout Basket or big and awesome like the Gamoh King Carrier.

But do I really want to lug around our heavy Danish Mosquito? The above photo is a week out of date–the trailing kid just upgraded, too, to an Isla Bike. I’m eager to get some feedback about the FollowMe with both the heavy and light kid bikes on our hilly terrain.

The not-so-simple parts are that I’ll need two open slots on the bus bike rack…though we usually travel at non-peak times and get the three-bike rack all to ourselves. And I’m not sure how long it takes to uncouple the kid bike. I’m not very adept at showing up to a bus stop with lots of time to spare.

If you’ve been reading closely, you might suspect there’s a Kona MinUte that will soon need a new home. Now that could work! Holds two kids and fits on the bus! But even if Kona hadn’t discontinued the MinUte, it’s not fair to use such a cool bike as a backup bike. Not to mention that during the sole two-mile ride we took on a MinUte, the kids were happy as clams for the first mile and then pummeled each other nonstop for the second. Although…they happily rode a horse together at a birthday party this summer which momentarily made me think they’re ready to share a small cargo bike deck.

Two on a horse, happily

Until five minutes later when they couldn’t share a tractor.

Two on a tractor, not happily

So what should I do? I’m going to ride the old mamabike around a bit to make sure I still love it as much as always (I’m pretty sure I do). It won’t work for the two-kid morning school run right now, but I can easily do preschool pickups and use it on non-preschool Thursdays and Fridays as long as I don’t want to carry anything big and impressive. If you’re so inclined, please weigh in because I’m awfully indecisive.

If money were no object, it’d sure be nice to get:

  • FollowMe Tandem coupler
  • Small 20″ Isla Bike
  • 16″ Isla Bike (not needed for the old mamabike conversion, but while we’re dreaming here…)
  • Mac Ride–overkill if I’m getting the other stuff, but why not? Maybe just for fun on my mountain bike.

Mistaken for homeless

A funny thing happened on the way to the bike shop today. We were waiting at a red light to cross Aurora (here, if you’re curious) when a guy in a big truck hung a U-turn to pull up behind us. He opened his car door to lean out and address me.

“Can I give you five dollars?”

I figured I must have misheard him, but couldn’t reconcile the words into something expected like “Do you realize your kid’s backpack is dangling off your bike?” or “Is there a troll nearby?” (as happened earlier today, in Fremont).

At my puzzled, “Uh, what?” he spelled it out for me.

“You’re homeless, right?”

I was mystified and replied, “Sorry, I’m confused. Why do you think that?”

He explained it was the kids on the bike and he didn’t mean to embarrass me. Though, ya know, he didn’t have his glasses on. But really, were we OK?

I assured him we were OK, thanked him for checking in on us, and no, I wasn’t embarrassed. At this point I was starting to freak out about this guy in a big truck driving around without his glasses, but my husband is trying to convince me he was just trying to put my mind at ease. Hopefully I’ve helped change this guy’s perception a bit. I’m working on a more engaging and educating response for next time.

Do we look homeless?

Do we look homeless?

Maybe it's the snowboard jacket blankie?

Maybe it’s the snowboard jacket blankie?

Of course I had to see if this is *A Thing* and found this article by Joe Kurmaskie, the Metal Cowboy in this Bicycle Paper article, Before My S.U.B. Was A Status Symbol:

“Which would help more, clothing or money?”

I was so thrown by the question that I paused to let it compute. Was she asking if I needed charity? To a writer of some standing in this town? An author with his own bike rack in front of Powell’s Books? A man in the process of hauling donations to his kid’s school?

She shook her head, as if to dispel the insensitivity of her question.

“I’ve offended you. Take both.”

She handed me the bag of clothes before I could react. There was a $20 bill on top.

It’s nice to have company.

And I should admit I’ve been called homeless before–by friends. Completely different.

Twenty minutes later we arrived to G & O Family Cyclery where I immediately related the story to Davey Oil, Tom Fucoloro of Seattle Bike Blog, Kelli Refer, and Adonia Lugo and asked for an honest opinion if we looked homeless today. They assured me it was him and Adonia made a joke about his having forgotten his “glasses of classism”.

Heh, now I realize under all our layers the kids were both wearing their Hobo Inn t-shirts.

Life in a box...a fancy Bullitt bike box

Kidical Mass to fall colors in the Arboretum

We had a great six-mile ride (three out, three back), complete with unexpectedly terrific weather, from Gas Works Park to the Washington Park Arboretum today. We started with 20 participants, picked up 4 more en route, and were joined by 3 late comers for quite a big group! Of course there were the usual peel-offs for naps and similar reasons, but I think it’s safe to say everyone had fun.

Kidical Mass ready to ride

The group was comprised of a variety of bike types:

  • regular adult bikes
  • regular bikes with front seats (Bobike mini, iBert)
  • regular bikes with rear seats
  • regular bike with Weehoo iGo trailer bike
  • regular bike with trailer
  • Surly Big Dummy lontail cargo bikes
  • Kona Ute longtail cargo bike
  • Cargo Joe folding longtail cargo bike
  • Yuba Boda Boda midtail cargo bike
  • Madsen bucket bike
  • Bilenky Viewpoint tandem with just one parent this time and kid in rear seat
  • four kids on their own bikes

The ride was fairly flat–first half along the Burke-Gilman multi-use trail and second half along the Lake Washington Loop, a signed bike route where other road users are very used to seeing bikes. I toted my four-year old and his 16-inch single-speed bike, thinking it better suited to my six-year old on his 20-inch three-speed bike, but we had a rider on a 16-inch bike who did great. Naturally, we’d adjust the speed of the ride to accommodate any rider. I’ve promised my little guy we’ll plan an all flat and downhill ride soon–today’s ride would have had him walking uphill and needing rest breaks. Here’s our route:

We stopped at the Arboretum’s Oak section, just north of the Visitor Center, where everyone immediately pulled out snacks…because snacking is one of the most important parts of successful family biking.

Kidical Mass in the Arboretum

We also did some craft projects with fall leaves and pipe cleaners. My helmet leaves were a little too big for comfort, but twig antlers worked well.

Fall helmet craft

I also got to heft an Islabike. So light! I don’t know how much our bike weighs, but it’s definitely more. Comparing our 20-inch kid bike with the 20-inch Isla would be an even bigger difference. I think I want a bike scale. Of course, what I really want is two Islabikes, but I’d settle for a scale. For now.

Sparkle bike vs. Islabike

The first leg of our ride took a quick break to watch the weed-munching rental goats under the freeway. Later, the kids and I took a closer look on our way home. They almost escaped two nights ago, but are securely contained now. This one is my favorite:

Visiting the goats

And this is one is the kids’. They’ve named her Best Friend. Next time we visit them, we’ll bring pumpkin. check them out if you’re nearby–they’re adorable!

Visiting the goats

In Kidical Mass news, we’ll be holding monthly rides. Next ride with be Sunday, December 1st, with full details coming soon.