Archive | December 2013

Snowboards on the bike

The best thing about carrying snowboards on the bike are the wisecracks:
“You on your way to go shredding?”
“Off to the snow now?”
“It’s a long hike to the mountains!”

Snowboards on the bike

Nope, I just dropped them off to get waxed. I’ve done a little bit of biking in snow, but I prefer my snow an hour’s car drive away.

The kids and I dropped them off at evo on Monday, a short mile and a half away. There’s a snazzy bike rack out front–here’s a picture I took of the day they put it in six months ago:

Bike rack at evo

However, the service department is around back, accessed by two narrow driveways with cramped parking lot. I could have squeezed against the wall, but I took the empty adjacent parking spot.

evo, the backside

For drop-off day I put the two adult snowboards horizontal on one side–the bar end/foot peg worked well to aim them out and away from my pedal–and the two kid boards vertical on the other side so I’d have a bit of room for kid gear in the front of one of the bags. I was a bit worried about the big boards tilting down and scraping the ground, but they stayed put.

Snowboards loaded two to a side

I put my Xtracycle WideLoader on for pickup yesterday so I could fit groceries on one side of the bike and all four boards on the other.

Snowboards, four on one side

I don’t own a LongLoader and my pedal bumped the boards as I tried to wheel out of the parking spot, but bunching up my jacket and shoving it next to the boards did the trick.

My jacket as LongLoader

Check out that clearance!

Result of my jacket as LongLoader

And to assuage my fears of the boards tilting out the back and scraping the ground, I cradled them in my cargo net.

Cargo net snowboard cradle

Now there are simpler ways to carry snowboards. We saw a guy on a regular bike with one snowboard strapped to his backpack. It took quite a few bell dings before he looked over to see us waving at him, so he had probably experienced his fair share of snow wisecracks. I didn’t think to shout, “Hey, we’re carrying snowboards, too!” and I’m worried he didn’t notice. There’s a lot to notice about my bike at first glance.

It’s a shame we didn’t wait until today to pick up the boards because we had our first in-town snow of the season.

Snow today

The streets were white with snow when we first peeked out the window, but by the time we hit the road, hail had washed most everything away.

Snow today

Next snow (if there is a next snow), I plan to have us tool around on separate bikes. I’ll probably opt for my mountain bike with knobby tires.

Cargo bikes (and us!) as media darlings

We were in the newspaper yesterday!

A picture of our picture.

Mel–our elementary school’s crossing guard (who bikes to work!)–tipped me off as we passed him on our way to preschool. We tend to leave the house five minutes late despite my best efforts, but for a miraculous change, we were out the door five minutes early and I had three quarters in my messenger bag.

Here’s the online version: Cargo bike as 2-wheel minivan is here for long haul.

And it all started last last Friday with Cargo bikes the new minivan for cycling families, by the local Associated Press. Same article, but with video and more pictures.

The article titles are a little misleading as it’s not only about families, but a cargo bike is certainly a minivan replacement. I love that the article spawned a complimentary piece north of the border: Cargo Bikes: Haul Stuff on Two Wheels with a photo of a mom (Hi, @Sunrise604!) hauling a Christmas tree by cargo bike.

Some friends laughed at me for

Carlson’s enthusiasm has caught on. Two friends have bought similar cargo bikes and have started riding.

Apparently I have inspired more than two people. Which is great! I’m also mortified for having been quoted as saying “damn.” Something else to blame that f—ing box spring for. I have yet to live that down. But if it somehow helps to inspire, so be it.

I made the mistake of reading the comments on the local KOMO version of the story. First rule of reading comments: DON’T READ THE COMMENTS! There were only a few comments when I looked and they weren’t as horrible as I’d expected: it must be hard to ride in those shoes and I probably won’t ride when winter hits. I’m sure there are more and worse comments now. DON’T LOOK!

Thank goodness I wasn’t photographed in flip flops–those incite riots! Remember the Bicycle Times cargo bike cover? I wear flip flops a lot in the summer. And I go clipless on my road, cross, and mountain bikes. They’re both perfectly comfortable.

As for weather, I still feel like a Southern Californian living in the Pacific Northwest so I’m quite proud of myself every time we go out in drizzle. Which is often. Bring on the rain and bring on the [light] snow. I’m still not ready to ride with the kids up on the deck in deep snow. If we replace the double trailer, I’ll haul them by mountain bike like I did during Snowmageddon. Assuming we get snow like that again. More likely, now that we’re all pedaling we’ll just go out near home and practice snow biking on individual bikes. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m excited for snow biking…though I won’t be disappointed if we don’t get real snow. I still prefer my snow an hour’s drive away, associated with a ski lift.

It feels odd to write this on a rare day we didn’t bike. My first grader is down with a stomach bug and I didn’t want to drag him out to bike his little brother to preschool: 2.2 miles away, about 20 minutes each way. I wouldn’t have wanted to drag him out in a car, either, though it didn’t occur to me. Though this is really more a matter of Mr. Family Ride being out of town than transportation choices. Last week the preschooler was down for a day with the same bug and I was able to leave him home for ten minutes while I walked the healthy kid two blocks to school.

Here’s to fewer tummy bugs, more cargo bikes, and more fun!

December BONUS Kidical Mass to Olympic Manor holiday lights

‘Tis the season to hone those cold-weather-kid-bundling skills and bike at night to see holiday lights! Olympic Manor is slide one of Red Tricycle’s 9 De-Lightful Neighborhood Light Displays and was the destination of December’s bonus Kidical Mass ride on Sunday, December 10th. Regular Kidical Mass rides occur on the first Sunday of each month.

We started gathering at Loyal Heights Community Center at 3:45 when it was still light out so I could get some pictures before it got too dark and blurry (here’s the full set of photos).

Kidical Mass massing up

It was still a bit light out when we arrived to Olympic Manor, but that meant we could admire the view of the Puget Sound behind the houses. I had expected rain and dark skies; the sunny, but cold day messed with our timing.

Olympic Manor

My plan was to follow the route from last year’s Critical Lass ride to Olympic Manor, but I accidentally took us on the reverse route and then turned east a block early which resulted in a hellacious and busy hill. I stopped for a beat halfway up and several riders had to walk up. I think they all forgave me and hopefully they forgot about the hill a few blocks later, like I did. I also promised I have the best route picked out for next year. I do! It’ll be great!

Riding through Olympic Manor

But soon enough we were back on track. Sadly, the Flying Spaghetti Monster wasn’t lit yet. I don’t know if we were too early in the evening or if he hasn’t been strung with lights yet. Some neighbors were still setting up their displays as we rode through.

Not-yet-flying FSM

Heading to the after-party we saw a great light display at Bicycle Bob’s (the guy who lives across from Salmon Bay Park and sells used kid bikes). The peppermint wheels on the train spin and I’d imagine the “20.00” sign mean it’s for sale.

Bicycle Bob's

Then we discovered a train mural on the side of Grumpy D’s Coffee House, our end spot:

Grumpy D's

And my bike sported a train Christmas tree ornament we’d found in the morning. The lights are just cheapie Ikea battery-powered indoor lights. They held up OK in drizzle last year, but one can find safe outdoor battery-powered lights online, I hear.

Train ornament and lights

There were a couple instances of cold kids here and there. My kids fared OK in snow pants, winter coats, thick mittens or gloves, and snow boots. One wore his balaclava (helps to refer to it as a “ninja mask” for reluctant wearers). Underneath they wore cotton socks, jeans, and sweatshirts. Ideally they’d wear wool socks and wool base layer, but we don’t own wool base layers and have outgrown last winter’s wool socks. I discovered their ski goggles don’t fit comfortably over bike helmets so I’ve got to search the basement for their snowboard helmets for future very cold rides. I didn’t take quite as much care with my outfit as the heavy bike keeps me warm enough and I’m often down to short sleeves and no gloves for my last hill on the way home in any weather. This day I wore fleece-lined tights and skirt, two pairs of cotton socks under boots (and my toes still froze–I need to find my road bike shoe shoe covers, I think they’ll work for regular shoes/pedals), snowboard jacket, and too-hot-for-most-seasons Bern helmet with Helmuff ear covers. My waterproof cycling gloves didn’t keep my fingers warm, but holey, fuzzy mittens did!

There were several families who didn’t make it out for the ride. Afternoon events are hard. I worried we’d have trouble leaving our warm home late in the day so I circumvented that risk by hitting the road at 10:30 a.m. This worked great because we stopped by G & O Family Cyclery and saw No Spandex Required receive her new Xtracycle EdgeRunner.

21 participants in the form of 9 parents and 12 kids upon 11 bikes: a Bullitt (Totcycle!), two Surly Big Dummys, a Kona MinUte, an Xtracycle, two regular bikes with rear kid seats, two solo adults, and two solo big kids.

After the ride at Grumpy D's

Happy second anniversary, Big Dummy

Happy second anniversary Big Dummy

It’s been another amazing year with the Big Dummy!

The Big Dummy on her birthday

In keeping with last year’s Happy Birthday, Big Dummy, let’s take a look at some of the awesomeness of the past year, thanks to the amazing cargo bike:

The Dummy started her day with the usual school run, during which I learned if a guy in a stinky older truck rolls down his window at a red light and says, “How much for the bike, $1500?” the correct answer is not an approximate price including kid stuff, with hurried explanation of dynamo lighting. Next time: “I’ve seen a new Sun Atlas Cargo bike for $500! Add on stuff and go up from there.”

Once the kids were away at school for a few hours I headed off to an appointment. Normally, I’d ditch the Big Dummy and take my quick (and 55-pound-lighter) road bike, but several friends have lately mentioned they choose their cargo bikes for all trips, even when they’re riding alone. I started feeling a little guilty about neglecting the Big Dummy for such excursions so off we went on a 15-mile trek to Harbor Island and back. And it was fine. A cargo bike can certainly be an only-and-everything bike and maybe if I stopped scheduling appointments with as little time to spare as possible I’d start treating my cargo bike as such.

So here’s our anniversary ride:

Sandwiched between buses on 3rd, which is the least evil of all the evil downtown streets.

Biking with buses

Weaving through the detoured waterfront trail, around delivery trucks and spitting pedestrians (seriously, I missed getting spit upon by three seconds).

Waterfront trail detour

And scooting around five police cars–fortunately I couldn’t see an incident they were all there for. Maybe it’s just a convenient place to park?

Po po in the bike trail

And finally across the street and along the Bertha construction.

Detour route, the scenic side

And then back north again. East Marginal Way South isn’t the most pleasant of streets with so many big trucks blasting by, but I like the view of Downtown Seattle in the distance. That’s Starbucks Headquarters with the big flag at the far right.

Heading towards Downtown Seattle

With the bike empty of passengers, I could have taken 3rd back to preschool pickup, but I opted for my familiar gentle slope of Western–which I learned by following an un-e-assisted pedicab–they make for good route finding! The only problem with using Western is the ensuing one-block salmoning at Pike Place. I’ve heard a lot of Seattleites plea for the block to be closed to cars and allow delivery trucks only at certain times. Hear hear!

Salmoning up Pike Place

This is the block of Pine I opted to skip. It wouldn’t be so bad with the empty bike, but it’s not nearly as exciting as riding along Pike Place Market.

Not climbing Pine

The bike’s anniversary present will happen tomorrow in the form of a minor tune. I’m still thinking about our next steps in terms of kid containment. I thought about a Hooptie and decided it’s not for me, but now I’m toying with the idea of half a Hooptie. I wonder if keeping just the right rail in would be comfortable for the kids and still allow me to do everything I’m used to. I could use the left rail as a running board with the option to lock it in up high if needed. First generation Hoopties weren’t easy to take on and off, but I hear the new ones are. I’d appreciate any insight!

December Kidical Mass to Seattle Center Winterfest

Despite unusually strong winds, our merry band of 15–seven adults and eight kids on seven bikes–made it to the Seattle Center the long way around. I wish I’d thought to ask the dad on the Bullitt how the wind treated his weather canopy. I was relieved today’s kids were all passengers because those gusts could have swept light little riders away!

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Our ride was 7.8 miles. I take a three-mile route when it’s just the kids and me, but I wouldn’t want to lead a group on it. And today’s ride coincided with the Seattle Marathon so this was the way to avoid the street closures, too. Once the Mercer West project is completed we can ride a cycletrack under Aurora and take a more direct route, but the picture I took of Mercer yesterday shows only the two eastbound car lanes are ready.

Mercer, for now

The blue line below shows today’s route. The orange segment shows a slightly less kid-friendly route I use for Critical Lass rides and would have worked fine for today with all the kids as passengers, but I figured I’d still show off the as-pleasant-as-possible route. The green segment shows our return route (and route most people on regular bikes would take in the outbound route, too).

The Google map doesn’t show the bike trail within Fishermen’s Terminal so I Strava’ed that segment–it runs parallel to 21st Ave West, but down within the terminal.

Fishermen's Terminal bike trail

We paused to check out a couple trains along the way–blue engine along the Ship Canal Trail:

Blue engine on the Ship Canal Trail

And trains carrying airplanes (!!) in the Magnolia train yard:

Snack stop in the Magnolia train yard

Between those two trains we rode along our one big street of the day, Gilman Ave W (turning into 20th Ave W at the Boxcar Ale House), but there were surprisingly few cars parked along it today so the bike lane alongside parking lane felt like a dreamy wider-than-necessary bike lane:

Gilman Ave. W with no parked cars

Then we reached the Elliott Bay Trail, which I think is the most beautiful bike trail in the world, but today meant BIG WIND. Waves usually don’t break on these rocks!

Windy waves in Myrtle Edwards Park

And the view to our right of a white cap and the stolen Victoria Clipper being towed back to shore while followed by a police boat.

Victoria Clipper on her joy ride

Then we started our climb to Lower Queen Anne with the West Thomas Street Overpass where our group shot at the top of the page was taken. And five blocks later we reached the Space Needle and International Fountain.

International Fountain and Space Needle

We spent 90 minutes inside the Armory checking out the Winterfest model train and eating lunch.

Seattle Center Winterfest

I didn’t notice much extra foot traffic due to the marathon, but there were lots of pedicabs making the rounds outside. I was quite taken by this detachable pedicab trailer:

Detachable pedicab trailer

He liked my bike, too, and in swapping bike bios I uncovered a couple cool things on his rig, like the Sunlite dual-cable brake lever so he controls the bike’s brakes with one hand and can detach the pedicab’s separate brake from the other side when he takes the trailer off. I’ve seen this lever before when looking at components for adaptive cycling and I think they might also be popular for tandem bikes. And the moss green ball on his handlebars is an adorable Trek Time Watch.

Dual-cable brake lever and Trek Time Watch

By the time we headed home the wind had lessened a bit and we saw a bit of blue sky! And, yes, I rode through the middle of that puddle.

Return trip with blue skies

Our next ride is in a week: Kidical Mass rides to Olympic Manor holiday lights on Sunday, December 8th – meet at Loyal Heights Community Center at 3:45 p.m.