Archive | February 2014

women on wheels

I just got home from Women on Wheels at Gregg’s Cycle in Green Lake. It was terrific! Huge turn out, many raffle tickets bought to support the represented non-profits, and a panel of five local female executive directors of bicycle organizations (Cathy Tuttle of Seattle Neighborhood Greenways, Deb Salls of Bike Works, Elizabeth Kiker of Cascade Bicycle Club, Holly Houser of Puget Sound Bike Share, and Barb Chamberlain of Washington Bikes).

I particularly like seeing a mixture of serious cyclists and transportation bicyclists. I even met a couple serious cyclists who have cargo bikes for carrying their kids on the side! I was a little intimidated, I have to admit. Yes, I own a serious road bike and a mountain bike, but only because Mr. Family Ride got them for me early on, hoping I’d take to cycling. And I did…but only once he added a beach cruiser to my fleet.

Nowadays, ten years later, I enjoy riding my road bike. I love a chance to feel fast and nimble compared to my workhorse cargo bike. Of course the road bike is usually encumbered with something kid-related, be it trail-a-bike and trailer to form Engine Engine Engine:

Or just a trailer (this is from a couple days ago, shaking crumbs loose…wish I could do this with the Big Dummy!)

Road bike and trailer

Or a hop-on kid:

The wrong bike

But once or twice a month I get to go out all alone. My last time out with the road bike was this past Saturday for a hair cut. I wasn’t in a hurry heading home, but it was drizzly and I was really cold, shivering at each red light. On a few solo occasions I’ve taken the 75-pound Big Dummy rather than the 20-pound road bike for the sake of staying warm, and probably would have this time, too, had I not been running late on the way down.

I caught up to lycra-clad man on the flat part of Dexter and would normally have hung back to not engage in the whole woman-passing-man rigamarole. Interestingly, I didn’t even realize there exists a woman-passing-man rigamarole until this moment. Sadly, it’s second nature. Very often, if I’m pedaling along faster than a guy, I’ll pass him only to be overtaken a moment later. Yet then he’ll slow down to his previous speed. I don’t think it’s ever intentional, but it is a bit annoying. So I usually just slow down if I catch up to a guy dressed in a lycra. This, too, I didn’t realize until the moment I caught the guy on Saturday. But it was much too cold to slow down. So I kicked it up to late-for-preschool-pickup pace rather than just-quick-enough-to-warm-up and all was good (though my legs were a bit sore the next day).

Road bike unencumbered

In terms of women on wheels in the general sense, Women on Wheels isn’t the only thing going on. The National Women’s Bicycling Forum is next Monday at the National Bike Summit. I won’t be there, but many friends will and I can’t wait to hear all about it.

And meanwhile, I’ll do my part to get more women out there on wheels so the novelty of being passed by and/or passing women wears off. This Sunday, join me for Critical Lass rides to Bike Expo where we’ll check out the Cycling Wisdom by Women, for Women panel. And Saturday, it’s Kidical Mass to Bike Expo.

Snow Day with Hum of the City

Three days before our super snowy day, Hum of the City was in town from San Francisco. She blogged about the visit–Return to Seattle: Snow day!–but didn’t include any pictures of our fair city so I’ve taken it upon myself to provide a supplemental post.

I figured it’d be fun to ride a mile from her hotel to the #BikeLove Party in Nord Alley to mix some bike stuff into the work trip. I should have thought to offer ferrying her there on my FlightDeck, but I’m not a very practiced adult toter so I went the bike rental route instead. My first idea was to grab a Timbuk2 “bike share” bike which seemed appropriate given the store’s proximity and their #BikeLove Party sponsor status…but I worried about the first come, first served availability of their small fleet. So instead the four-year old and I set out for Counterbalance Bicycles because I thought their rentals were Breezer Uptowns, Hum of the City’s kid toting bike of choice when we first met. Plus the kids’ new bikes (to be blogged about soon) needed new-bike tweaking–derailleur adjustment on the big one, rubbing fender fix on the little one–so I was happy to hit a bike shop. It was dry, but very cold, when we set out–the four year old is in balaclava (“ninja mask”), ski goggles, snow boots, and ever-present oversized snowboard-jacket-cum-straitjacket:

Setting out with bikes for more bike

I was in my warmer Bern helmet with helmuffs, but my cheeks turned red from the cold within minutes:

Cold ride

We dropped off the bikes and headed, unencumbered, to University Village for lunch. There we discovered frozen fountains:

Frozen fountain at U-Village

Counterbalance replaced the rental fleet with Civia Twin City bikes, but I was still able to provide Hum of the City with a step-through frame and these new bikes have more gears (though Breezer Uptowns come in an eight-gear variety, too). The handlebars seemed very wide and I, uh, may have caught them on the chain link fence of the Burke-Gilman Trail detour. I wish I’d thought to take the bike for a little spin myself, but I just dragged it around. As is my way, I hadn’t thought through carrying three bikes plus one kid without the Xtracycle WideLoader…though naturally I was excited about the challenge. Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately for my cargo cred), my son wanted to ride his own bike so we set out separately.

Leaving Counterbalance Bicycles with a rental bike

We encountered one icy patch on the Burke-Gilman Trail, but it’s been dry enough that slippery streets weren’t a worry.

Ice on the trail

Carrying the bike downtown was fun. At an intersection in South Lake Union, a woman crossing the street said she’d seen me from the bus on Eastlake and what on earth was I up to?

We happy houred at the hotel for a bit so by the time we got to the #BikeLove Party it seemed to be winding down. Apparently the food disappeared in a flash; biking and love make people hungry. But I got to introduce Hum of the City to a bunch of people she’s only seen in pixel form before. And on the way back, we got SNOWED ON!

Biking in light snow with Hum of the City

For some reason, I figured Hum of the City had more snow experience than myself (since most people do), but we were perfectly paired in our excitement over a handful of snowflakes and quickly agreed that any amount of snow falling upon us counted as “biking in the snow.”

Biking in light snow with Hum of the City

I took the Civia back home with me, though had the weather been warmer, it would have stayed at the hotel overnight to be used for a three-mile waterfront pedal to our lunch date the following day. I’ll have to bring Hum of the City to the Elliott Bay Trail on her next visit because she missed a most beautiful ride.

Elliott Bay Trail

In heading to Fuji Bakery to meet Hum of the City and Jen of Loop-Frame Love and Ballard Greenways, we took the Amgen Helix Pedestrian Bridge. I’d only been over once before with the small mamabike and that was a tight fit in the elevator, but I was able to get the Big Dummy in–the trick was wheeling into the elevator backwards. And heading back over we fit three adults, one four-year old, kid bike, and Big Dummy.

Road Side Repair Class at R+E

It’s no secret that I’m not the most bike-fixey of family bikers. On the one hand, I like to demonstrate that one can know next to nothing about bike maintenance yet still successfully bike all over the city with kids. But it’d certainly behoove me to be a bit self-sufficient.

I used to be an accomplished flat-tire changer, back at bike-friendly UCSB. I kept two spoons, borrowed from the dining commons, in my backpack to use as tire levers and quickly changed many a flat. But I haven’t changed one since then. Nowadays I walk my flat bike to the closest bike shop. Or allow a friend to do my dirty work–thanks, Tom!

Friend fixing my flat

Part of my problem is that I’m loathe to attempt any full-attention-requiring feats with my two little “helpers” in attendance. But I’m also intimidated by my bike–disc brakes and dynamo hub in the front, disc brakes and wheel-hiding bags in the back are new since college. Not to mention the 76.4 pounds (not counting any rocks in my FreeLoader bags) of bike to manipulate.

But after nearly six years of family biking it’s time to change! I’ve been talking about taking Bike Works’ Bike Repair 101 (formerly ABC: Adult Basics Class) for at least a year, but haven’t been able to find time to commit to a six-week class. Fortunately I went poking around online and found this page about repair class at nearby R+E Cycles. I called to check the date of the next class and learned they’re taught on demand. I think other shops probably do this, too. For instance, I found a very old class calendar on Recycled Cycles’ website, but have since seen repair classes advertised on their sidewalk placard.

So I gathered three friends, which cut the price in half, and we met at R+E one night last week for

Road Side Repair
(max. 4 people per class)
In this 2 – 3 hour class you will learn how to fix the things that stop your ride.

  • Check your bike pre-ride
  • Fix a flat tire
  • Fix a broken chain
  • Deal with broken spokes
  • Make a minor adjustment to your shifting & brakes
  • Pack tools and parts appropriate to your bike, your skill, and your specific ride

Frosene of Bikelava–Artisan Peddled Baklava had the smallest bike–a lovely new-to-her Rodriguez–so John put it up in the stand for the duration of the class and we all worked on it in addition to our own bikes.

Roadside Repair Class

Check out the built-in bottle opener! I think all Rodriguez bikes have this.

Bottle opener on Frosene's Rodriguez frame

Aerial shot:

Roadside Repair Class

Taken from my FlightDeck if you couldn’t guess:

My photo perch

We laughed, we learned, my bike was the guinea pig for fixing a broken chain when John noted my dirty chain was not just disgustingly dirty, but also stretched out and due for replacing.

Chain replacing lesson

From now on I vow to clean it weekly and lengthen its life. And I’m no longer scared of my tires…though thank goodness my Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires are incredibly flat resistant because it was soooo hard to get the steel bead in and out of the rim.

I recommend the class to everyone not already in possession of these skills. And if you’re in Seattle and available Thursday night, you can do it for free! From the Rodriguez Bicycles Facebook page:

Free Bicycle Repair class Thursday Feb 20th @ 7:00pm! Come down to Peddler Brewing Company on Leary Way just past 15th in Ballard to get greasy with me. I will be going over basic mechanical and maintenance procedures such as : Fixing a Flat, minor adjustments of brakes and derailleurs, how to repair a broken chain, proper cleaning and lubing, etc… If anybody has any specific questions concerning their bike, feel free chew my ear a bit (figuratively, you sickos) and we’ll get it all straightened out. I hope to see y’all there.

And visit R+E this Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. for their annual Bike and Pike Open House.

Want some online bike fixing inspiration? Watch Cascade Bicycle Club’s video: Fix-a-Flat with Robin Randels, one of my Seattle Critical Lass co-founders.

Checking out the Beacon Hill Greenway

Sadly, I had to cancel Explore the new Beacon Hill Greenway with Kidical Mass last Sunday on account of snow. We weren’t up for the long trek to Beacon Hill in those conditions, but made the most of the snow close to home. However, I checked it out (a.k.a. route tested) the Wednesday before the scheduled ride…otherwise known as Seahawks Parade Day.

I had called for the ride to start from the playground at Judkins Park, assuming the restrooms of such a large park would be open year round and justify starting the ride 0.6 miles away from the start of the greenway…but they were on seasonal closure. Something to keep in mind if we get a chance for a do-over before public park potty season starts.

Judkins Park playground

However, starting north of the freeway meant I got to ride over this six-block-long ped-and-bike bridge alongside the freeway that meant avoiding a dip and climb. Google maps tells me this is part of the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail–a different type of greenway, not to be confused with Neighborhood Greenway.

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail to the Beacon Hill Greenway

Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail to the Beacon Hill Greenway

I don’t know what the view looks like on regular days, but on Seahawks Parade Day there was no one leaving Seattle and standstill traffic into Seattle:

View of I-90 from the Mountains to Sound Greenway Trail

And that took me straight to the Greenway.

Arriving at the Beacon Hill Greenway

Looking back towards the trail used to access the greenway shows the DEAD END sign Transportation Nag writes about (among others) in Not Dead! It’s a Living End!

North end of the Beacon Hill Greenway

Due to the closed restrooms, I made plans to stop in at Hello Bicycle for kids in need of a pit stop and for a quick toe thawing. Playground-to-playground rides are tough in the cold season, though I had planned to bring lots of blankets and extra outer layers along to share at the end point.

Hello Bicycle

And finally, Jefferson Park playground:

Jefferson Park playground

My original plan was to ride to the south tip of the greenway and return to Jefferson Park, but it was a slight downhill the whole way after the park and I didn’t think it was worth climbing back up if there were little riders along. So here’s the route, though I think a future ride might start much closer, like at the Beacon Hill Library, because the beginning of the greenway has a hill, too.

I think the Beacon Hill Greenway isn’t completely done, but when it is, Beacon B.I.K.E.S. will organize a celebration. I found some of the transitions a little confusing so I hope those will change. Following a turn of the greenway through a two-way stop often meant stopping to wait for free-flowing cross traffic which felt a bit awkward–these would be more comfortable as four-way stops. There were quite a few of those. And it was interesting to see a combination of speed humps–one across the whole street or divided into two or three humps. The three-piece speed humps didn’t encourage the few motorists I encountered to slow at all.

Two-part speed hump on the Beacon Hill Greenway

Three-part speed hump on the Beacon Hill Greenway

But there’s a lot of good stuff, too! The views are amazing up here:

View from the Beacon Hill Greenway

And there’s a Little Free Libaray at 3307 Lafayette that would make a fun stop. It didn’t contain any children’s books when I route tested, but I could hopefully recruit a nearby Kidical Masser to seed it with something for the kiddos ahead of time.

Little Free Library on the Beacon Hill Greenway

Biking in the first Seattle snow of 2014

The snow storm that’s been pummeling Portland and meant the cancellation of the Worst Day of the Year Ride moved north last night and left us with three inches of snow. Initially, I planned to keep the Kidical Mass on the Beacon Hill Greenway happening. I was hesitant to carry the kids there on the Big Dummy, fearing shady Interlaken Drive would be icy, so I checked out the bus situation and saw the 48 could take us all the way there. But this would mean bringing three separate bikes, whereas I’d originally hoped to carry the kids the whole way, due to a hill at the beginning of the Greenway. But no matter, I ended up canceling the ride when others reported kids wanting to stay inside…and I really wasn’t sure we could handle the one-mile ride to the bus stop.

The kids made do playing in the house snow for quite a while, but craved bigger and better things so we made for the park. We couldn’t locate our sled so we decided to bring snowboards. By this time much of the street snow had melted so I could have managed the Big Dummy, but I already had my mountain bike on my mind (I only pull it out for big snow, though I hope to mountain bike on it again some day) so I shoved the kid snowboards under the flap of my All-City Low-Profile backpack and we were set. My tires suggest 35-65 psi so I set them at 45, figuring that was good and low for any snow I might encounter. I didn’t think to check the kids’ tires; I guess they were probably overinflated for the conditions.

Ready to snow ride

The four-year old had a bit of trouble getting started pedaling in his snowboard boots, but he quickly adapted and lurched along.

Kids riding in the snow

The picture above is the snowiest block–most was completely clear or partly slushy. The sidewalks were pretty snowy and the little one had to walk his bike up a few hilly blocks through that sidewalk snow. They each fell a couple times, but were up quickly and ready to keep going.

Kids riding in the slush

The park was a winter wonderland, with sledders and snowmen galore.

Snowboarding in the park

Thankfully it’ll all melt away and life can return to normal tomorrow.

Upcoming: Kid stuff at Bike Expo

Save the dates! Seattle Bicycle Expo is coming up and it’s big fun for kids and their keepers:
Saturday, March 1: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 2: 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

The Cascade Kids’ Zone (back left corner of level two) is a blast. Last year it featured oddles of carnival games:

Carnival games at Bike Expo 2013

and craft projects:

Bike craft projects at Bike Expo 2013

Even the not-specifically-for-kids things are fun, like running the wrong way up the green bike lane carpet shouting, “I’m a salmon!” and pedaling a stationary bike at Watts-Up?

Watts Up at Bike Expo 2013

Non-pedalers should check out the Learn to Ride Class Saturday 9:30-10:45 a.m. (Bike Stunt Area on level one) and all kids should hit the Wheelie Fun Stunt Course Saturday and Sunday 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Bike and helmets will be provided!

Wheelie Fun Stunt Course at Bike Expo 2013

Last year a bonus stunt course was added outside, but no guarantees that will happen again so try to hit one of the early ones.

Bonus Wheelie Fun Stunt Course at Bike Expo 2013

We also enjoyed last year’s indoor picnic area provided by Nutcase Helmets. Kids ran and rolled on the artificial grass and colored with sidewalk chalk while parents perused the adjacent Kenmore Camera Photo Contest entries (you can still enter photos through February 25th!). This year it’s called “Lounge & Spinathon Area” so it might look quite different.

Lounge area at Bike Expo 2013

Lounge area and photos at Bike Expo 2013

The presentation you can’t miss is “Look Ma, No Car!”…An Intro to Transportation Bicycling for Families by Morgan Scherer of Familybike Seattle Saturday 10:15-11:00 a.m. on the level two Main Stage. She’ll also be available both days at the Family Bike Expo:

Family bikes at Bike Expo 2013

Last year the family bikes were at booth 306 (back left corner on level one–here’s the floor plan). I’ll be there most of the time as well and we’d love local family biker volunteers to hang out with us at the booth–sign up here. Bring your bike, bring your kids! Conveniently close to the potties and the food court.

Also not to miss are the German artistic cyclists, Saturday 11:00-11:20 a.m., 1:20-1:45 p.m., 3:00-3:15 p.m., and 5:00-5:15 p.m. in the Bike Stunt Area. The kids and I were mesmerized by them four years ago–here’s someone’s video of Corrina Hein from that day:

and my oldest posing with his heroes:

Brandt and the German artistic cyclists

Many of the booths will have fun stuff for kids. I hope to check out everything, but especially

Foosball at Bike Expo 2013

I’ll lead a Critical Lass ride to the event on Saturday and a Kidical Mass ride over on Sunday. Details on those coming soon.

Bring a friend and save some cash: Cascade has a livingsocial deal going for two one-day tickets for $9.