Archive | December 2015

3rd Annual Kidical Mass to Olympic Manor Holiday Lights Recap

Despite the icky weather, the weekday scheduling, and my assuming no one would show up, we had 11 people on six bikes for our Olympic Manor ride this year! Thanks to all for showing up. (Surly Big Dummy with two kids, Xtracycle EdgeRunner with one kid, Metrofiets with one kid, Larry vs. Harry Bullitt with one kid, Brompton folding bike, regular bike.)

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This ride is relatively far away for us (5.2 uphill miles) so we usually leave home early in the day and gradually meander our way to Loyal Heights via a park or toy store stop and lunch stop. But given the all-morning rain, we holed up at home until the last moment this year.

In addition to the fine tuning of our layers, I’m also still fine tuning our bike choices. And how wonderful to have choices! Usually. I love that the kids want to ride their own bikes more and more (I think. Usually. Because that means less hauling and less work for me.) but I tried to suggest we ride the tandem plus trailer bike for this ride so the kids could do a bit of pedaling to keep warm while not having to be responsible for propelling themselves uphill on their own little bikes. Last year thanks to a sick kid, I took the old mamabike and trailer and it worked great, but this year I conceded to their suggestion of riding separate bikes.

Big mistake.

We started out somewhat OK (but not quite OK) layers-wise. Both kids in rain pants for extra leg layer, little kid put on snow boots but decided they were uncomfortable (big kid still doesn’t have new, bigger snow boots) so they were both in tennis shoes, sweaters and snow jackets, snowboard helmets, balaclava only on small kid (but balaclava packed along for big kid), no one in snowboard goggles, it turns out they needed to see the number on their twist shifters so each kid had a handlebar mitten on the left handle, but thinner of our two glove options on the right hand (they can’t shift well in their thicker gloves, but I had them along for just-in-case later). Do they look like adorable little Fiddler crabs or what? And ohmigosh, I didn’t notice Pixie in the window when I took the picture! I told her she could come with originally, but then it was so cold and rainy I decided she should stay home and be comfy albeit lonely.

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My six-year old made it one block before he declared he was tired and I offered to carry him and his bike, which he quickly agreed to. My eight-year old made it half way. They both had frozen paws so we swapped thing gloves for thick and to deal with their frozen feet, I put my spare rain jacket on the six-year old as an apron to hang over his feet, and had the eight-year old tuck his feet into the Xtracycle FreeLoader bags. It seemed to do the trick. And of course there were quite a few mentions of “Next time I suggest we take the tandem, we’re going to take the tandem!” But the good thing was that I finally got to do a two-kid, two-bike haul with my new tow hitch! It worked great!

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And by the time we arrived to the start point, the rain had stopped and we even saw blue skies off to the west!

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However, I didn’t lash the front wheels to my Hooptie well enough and lost one during the course of the ride. Talk about embarrassing to hear “Watch out! Loose wheel!” and realize I’d loosed a wheel at my followers. Fortunately, no casualties and I was able to quickly retried the lost wheel. And that certainly will never happen again. Still loving the Gear Ties, but I shouldn’t have tried to share my twinkle-light-holding Gear Tie with the 24″ wheel.

This was our first year holding this ride on a weekday and the Loyal Heights Community Center was open! So despite arriving 20 minutes late (“Meet up at 4pm so I can take pictures while there’s still some light and we’ll roll at 4:45”) we were the first there at 4:20. We stopped at the play structure, our usually meeting spot, which worked well since the day-long rain had finally stopped (yay!), but soon migrated to the community center for warm lobby, train table, and Duplos.

Our three-mile route worked well, and it was great to have cut out the last uphill block to busy 96th last year, though 95th still proved to be a steeper downhill than what we normally do for Kidical Mass. Note to self: test ride this route and see if it seems better for next year.

The ride was awesome overall. There wasn’t a lot of car traffic, but there were still a few people to shout “Happy holidays!” to. I stopped us to take a picture of this decorated van I don’t remember from years past.

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And the Flying Spaghetti Monster looked as good as always.

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We lost a couple families who peeled off towards home before our stopping point (always OK!) at Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse, where we had treats and played with the many kid toys.

Heading home, we stopped by a friend’s house around the corner who has the second-best light display (second after the holiday house, currently still undecorated after the explosion). Our friend’s house gets more elaborate every year. The last two years the light-up Christmas trees tell jokes between songs. This year we heard: “What did one snowman say to the other snowman?” “Hey, do you smell carrots?” Ha ha ha! We live in the best neighborhood!

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Happy holidays! Happy Solstice!

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Brrr…how we deal with cold

Seems timely to write a post about bundling up for the cold. I forget much of what I know about rain and cold each year. I figure it’s a survival mechanism, not laziness (please humor me on this). We tend to underdress and hone our cold-weather or wet-weather layers as the seasons begin to change. Partially due to having to locate all the bits and pieces of gear, partially having to figure out what has been outgrown and needs to be replaced, and partially that intentional forgetting. If I’m on the cargo bike I don’t often get too cold since it’s heavy, most places are uphill both ways, and I’m a mom–I’ll suck it up and give every article of clothing to my offspring so they may stay layered up while I grin and bare (<- that was intentional, though I’ve never had to bare so much as to be indecent. But I would. Comes with the job.) it. But those non-pedaling kids need an extra layer or two.

So we’re still in the process of getting enough layers on when we leave the house, but we were just about there on Saturday for 40 degrees with rain:

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  • Merino wool base layer…
    …is not part of this picture because I’m too cheap for fancy base layers, but merino wool long sleeved shirts and leggings are awesome and your cold kids deserve them. Instead these guys had on their usual uniforms of sweatpants and t-shirts.
  • Rain pants.
    Better than nothing to help block the wind. I haven’t yet located their snow pants and it’s probable the bigger kid has outgrown his.
  • Sweatshirts…
    …are a good idea, and hoods fit under helmets, but neither kid wanted to wear a sweatshirt. However, my eight-year old has his Blue Angels flightsuit over his sweats and shirt so there’s an extra layer right there. ADVICE OF THE YEAR: OFF-SEASON COSTUME AS EXTRA LAYER.
  • Snow jackets.
  • Extra old adult snowboarding jacket as bonus extra layer (on the front kid).
  • Extra adult rain jacket as apron for extra layer over legs with added benefit of draping over feet clad in regular tennis shoes (on the front kid).
  • Feet tucked into Xtracycle FreeLoader bags (rear kid).
    I’ve seen photos off this as a means for having somewhere to put kid feet if one doesn’t have running boards, stirrups, or U-tubes down there, but it also seems to be pretty insulating. I need to find a pair of size 4 snow boots for the big kid and we’ll up our footwear game. The little kid has grown into the big kids size 3s from last year, but I think I need a pair for each kid before either will want to boot up.
  • Warm gloves. BUT I need to insulate my Xtracycle Hooptie. The metal conducts cold. I’ve heard bar tape and pool noodles both work nicely. I should do something soon.
  • Balaclava (just on the front kid). Call it a ninja mask if they seem reluctant to wear them–that always works. Um, except on the rear kid today.
  • Snowboarding helmets and goggles. The goggles don’t stay put very well with bike helmets so we switch to their snowboarding helmets when it gets cold.
    The rear kid is holding his away from his face because he picked all the foam off them a couple years ago. I remind him of this fact every time he says they’re uncomfortable.

But even with our almost-there rain-and-cold gear, I worried about dragging them all the way to our planned destination of the Seattle Center. They had wanted to ride their own bikes and miraculously I was able to talk them out of that just before we set out (even after applying BarMitts and BikeMitts to their little handlebars and pumping up the little kid’s slow leak I’m too stubborn to change and rather have been successfully reinflating weekly for the last three months…ha, I win, slow leak!). They’ve biked all the way to the Seattle Center in group rides in warmer weather and I can easily tow them if it gets dicey, but I just wasn’t feeling it, plus we had to detour by the library to return some books on the way and despite being a few blocks off the Burke-Gilman Trail, the Fremont Library isn’t very easy to access in a kid(s)-riding-solo way.

It had started out a little messy as it took me a good 20 minutes to get everyone settled on the bike and layered up (including running back inside for the old snowboard jacket to toss on the front kid). It was really too cold for us to be outside so long without moving. Fortunately, they conceded to my wimping out and we didn’t make it past the library, reading books and doing puzzles for long enough for my shoes to dry out. I, uh, was in ballet flats because I need to go get the zipper on my boots repaired. Then we walked (I walked the bike) around the corner for a late sushi lunch and that was our whole day.

I figured at least now I had everything figured out for a do-over on Sunday. And for the record our ride, small that it was, was very fun. The rain, wind, and cold were pretty intense, but we created a song: “It’s a perfect day if you’re a ______” with verses about dolphins, worms, platypuses, sockeye salmon, chinook salmon, coho salmon, etc.

Sunday started with dry skies, but I was feeling a little skittish about tackling our colder colds so we took the bus. Also, with three destinations planned (Space Needle, ice rink, model train), I didn’t relish having to drag around a bag containing our three helmets and all our extra layers. We don’t do any busing outside of our once-a-month orthodontist visit, but I wouldn’t mind incorporating it a bit more.

Here’s some even colder cold last year in full gear and no complaints. But he also rode his bike part of the way and had a couple months of acclimating under his belt by this point:

Setting out with bikes for more bike

I think we might do Chilly Hilly on the tandem and trailer bike this year and I’ll most likely get some chemical heat packs for them if we do.

Do you have any great cold-weather family biking tips to share?

Happy fourth birthday, Big Dummy!

How time flies, the best bike in the world is four today! And on this special day comes the obligatory gear/accessory updates, recap of the past year of mamabike-related exploits, and a summary of our deeds of the day.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes: After three years of procrastination, I finally got the Xtracycle Hooptie! And will post about it at some point.

But the bigger news (well, more unique news) is my new two-bike tow hitch! No more bag-and-drag!! Bag-and-drag is AWESOME, for the record, but 20 inch and bigger wheels take up all the cargo space. It’s gotten hard to carry two kids, two bikes, and still squeeze in our other stuff (snacks, toys, bike event craft supplies, impromptu groceries).

(Picture of bag and drag above, tow hitch thingy below)

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Made by Haulin’ Colin at Cyclefab (p.s. nine days until A Very Open House at Equinox Studios Creative Industrial Complex where Cyclefab resides–you should go!), it’s a custom job, but I’m sure he’d make more. So why the hitch? While the kids (8 and 6 now) are riding their own bikes more and more, I always ride the mamabike in case of exhaustion or tantrum so I’m towing as much as always. Also, the kids have recently each moved up a bike size (20″ and 24″ Islabikes) which means they both have quick-release front wheels now! And if I put a wheel of 20 inches or bigger in my right pocket, it often pinches my rear derailleur cable. This isn’t an extremely big deal since I have a triple on the front and can make do with the range it provides, but I prefer to access to all my many gears. And now that the kids are both sitting on the deck, a wheel 24 inches or bigger means the rear kid needs to sit side saddle (see the bag-and-drag picture) which isn’t horrible, but also isn’t ideal. Now if they both sit side saddle, it’s noticeable and takes more muscle on my part to manage…although I joke it’s the only core strengthening I get.

Three themes for the year:

  • Camping! There was a lot of camping! I don’t consider myself a practiced bike camper (or any kind of camper), but whereas in past years we went once each summer, and only for one night, this spring and summer we went a bunch of times and twice for multiple nights! We took the Clipper to Canada again for Spring Break Victoria, BC multi-day bike camping! However, our friends brought our gear to the campsite and back so this should be considered “supported bike camping”. We also led a family bike camping trip for Swift Campout (photos on Flickr here) that had 65 people and 2 dogs! And the kids did an S24O (sub-24-hour-overnight) when I fetched them from swim camp at 3pm and whisked them away to Fay Bainbridge, only to wake them up at 5:30am to deposit them back at swim camp by 9:00! However that involved me riding to and from Fay Bainbridge Park twice (the hell I was gonna pack up camp by 5:30am! I’m like the slowest tent un-pitcher in the world). And that was the day I realized that while Fay Bainbridge is relatively close for bike camping, it’s farther than I want to bike to twice in one day. I don’t think I can claim S24O for myself due to my extra time spent away from home versus the kids’ time spent away from camp.
  • Kidical Mass family bike rides are still going strong in Seattle. We led a ride on the same day as all the other Kidical Masses for Kidical MASSive…and ours had 221 participants!
  • Carry all the things! I carried some exciting stuff this last year: huge bike speaker, teeter totters to a Kidical Mass and PhinneyWood Summer Streets, 300 potatoes after DRT (first home from the Central District with a bunch of other stuff, but then just the 150 pounds of potatoes to FamilyWorks), our new tandem bike, lawnmower, tradeshow booth, two Christmas trees, dogs! (if you noticed the dog in the bag-and-drag photo, we’ve been dogsitting two small dogs, separately, the last couple months)

But back to today…
Today’s biking started after I walked the kids two blocks to school. I recently started hosting a weekly #coffeeoutside called #coffeeoutsideforher (but everyone is welcome, not just women). Currently, we meet every Thursday at 10am in the Gas Works Park picnic shelter. I post a reminder to my Instagram each Wednesday. It was drizzly at the time, but earlier rain meant there were some fun puddles. Uh, note that I always caution the kids not to ride through puddles because you never know what might be lurking in them…like a pothole that could toss you over your handlebars. Although last time I tried this argument my six-year old said, “But Mama, I’m a pro.” I can’t argue with that.

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Next up I realized shortly before the kids were done with school that I wanted a Square credit card reader for my iPhone and I wanted it now. I opted to take the Straggler instead of the Big Dummy, which goes against the rules of The Big Dummy’s Birthday, and that must be the reason I confused the two mail stores and went uphill the wrong direction to the UPS Store and had to turn around and head to the closer and woulda-been-flatter FedEx Store. I think had I been on the 80-pound Big Dummy rather than the 35-pound Straggler, I would have thought things through and not mistaken one store for the other. Hills, man.

Finally, we had planned to attend the Seattle Neighborhood Greenways #Party4OurStreets 5:30-7:30 p.m., but things seemed to conspire against us. We set out early, kids reluctantly on the mamabike rather than their own bikes because I don’t want them riding through downtown to Pioneer Square, especially in the dark and rain. It was dry and not very cold when we headed out so our rain gear was stowed in a bag and we only planned to ride to South Lake Union for a very early dinner before the event. But then we got a phone call and had to head home to quickly help a friend. On the way back the rain started up, but the kids didn’t want to stop and don rain gear. It’s hard to get back into the swing of cold and rain after summer and we’re still getting back into the groove of layering up out the door and stopping to add rain gear as soon as rain starts. 10 minutes from the venue (and still on time at this point!), my six-year old finally admitted he was cold so I pulled over to help him put on his balaclava, rain pants, and shoe covers. My eight-year old was shivering, but just wanted to push on. I figured we’d all dry out over the two hours so I didn’t force the issue.

A block later we came to the first block of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane…or rather the construction tunnel taking the place of the first block of the 2nd Avenue protected bike lane that none of my friends will ride through. I have only taken the lane in the safety of group rides and otherwise slowly navigate the tunnel. Today I had my Xtracycle WideLoader on because I was carrying a box of books to sell at the party (oh hey, Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living is out now!) which caught on the one tunnel post that protrudes into the bike lane. And we tipped over. By the way, this has happened once before–coming home from bike camping a year or two ago when I caught it on a car parked sticking a foot into the Dexter bike lane. I think I don’t ride with it often enough to clear unexpected obstructions. Though I’ve had a hundred successful rides with it, on many of which I avoid certain favorite routes due to very narrow spots.

So bummer! Sorry kids! They were unscathed, of course, but were unhappy. And freezing. Had they not been freezing, I think they would have wanted to still go to the party, but I took one look at their little faces and said we could go home if they wanted. And they wanted. We stopped in Westlake Park to get a hot dog for the six-year old, but the eight-year old just wanted to go straight home to a hot shower. Not too surprisingly, we all had fun on the ride home. An Uber driver rolled down his window to laugh and say hi as he saw me holding the hot dog out for my six-year old to take his “red light, hot dog bite!”…and then zoomed forward as the light turned green so he could pass us from the right-turn-only lane on our right and continue straight into the bus-only lane before merging to the left. Grrr. We admired the parked boats by MOHAI as we biked through South Lake Union Park…and had to dodge a Vespa on the path. That can’t be legal! Grrr. As you can tell, I’m a tad grumpy after the crash. Of course there was the obligatory brother-on-brother pummeling when they couldn’t agree on the lyrics to the “red light, hot dog bite!” song, but stopping to watch a barge go through the open Fremont Bridge helped distract them.

I look forward to reading details of the party. I heard I won something! Of course we’re all winners when we choose to ride bikes…we’re just more winning when we keep the rubber side down.

In reviewing last year’s birthday post, I see I spent a lot of time talking about my then-new Surly Straggler (who also just had a birthday, but it didn’t get celebrated because that only happens for the amazing Big Dummy! But still totally loving the Straggler.) This year we got a new bike, too, which I fully intend to post about at some point. It’s a previously-owned, locally-made Rodriguez tandem to which I hook a Burley Piccolo trailer bike. It’s awesome! Two of our camping trips were taken with it. The kids don’t do a lot pedaling yet–which I knew would be the case because we see other kids on tandems–but overall the bike weighs about ten pounds less than the Big Dummy so it’s more pleasant to take hilly bike camping. I think we’ll gradually use it more and more because I can’t imagine the kids riding their own bikes many places in this city still, but rest assured the Big Dummy will never leave our fleet.

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I also see that a year ago labeled myself “car free” with the car title still in my name for “a little while longer”. LOL, that “little while longer” finally came a few days ago so now I am car free. For real this time. The last time I used my former car was when I borrowed it two summers ago for Portland Fiets of Parenthood. I can’t remember the time I used it before that. So the Big Dummy is even more my One Less Minivan now. As a family, I feel that we’re less car free than before which weighs on me. To explain: the car left with the-former-Mr.-Family-Ride 16 months ago. So while I enjoy the freedom that comes with never having to think about a car, the kids now spend every other weekend in a car. I feel a bit inauthentic when I think about being car free. Like the much bigger adjustments this change to our family entails, I think it will just take time to get used to the new normal and maybe at some point I’ll feel comfortable using the term “car free”. But either way, I’m ecstatic not to need to deal with a car now.

So since this is a blog and not, like, a wiki, I feel obligated to provide a teensy more info for human interest purposes. (Being a blog and not, like, a wiki is also why I can use “like” so freely…and I wish I could find a link to the brilliant, but scary, piece I heard on NPR a few years ago about “like” becoming part of the lexicon of professionals–like lawyers and doctors! Not to mention so. Many. Exclamation. Points. And periods after each word in a sentence for emphasis.) Anyhow, to answer your questions:
1) The kids? They’re totally fine! Phew.
2) Me? I’m “profoundly sad”. I’m not sure if that was a diagnosis or an observation, but it fits. UNLESS I’m riding bikes, that is. Or talking to people about bikes. Or thinking up group bike rides. Or writing about bikes. So basically, way more often than not I’m perfectly fine. Because bikes are magic and make even profoundly sad people happy. And I’ll eventually be fine 100% of the time, of course. Also, while I find it difficult to be without the kids every other weekend, that does mean 100 less pounds on my bike every other weekend so I can ride a lot farther. And ohmigosh it’s really easy to travel as just one person with one regular bike! I’ve taken the train to Portland and Vancouver to hang out with family biker friends. It takes like (like!) five minutes to pack and I don’t need to go to three different grocery stores to get the appropriate train and travel snacks. So there’s that!
3) If you have any other questions, I don’t know that I can answer them, but contact me anyway! Advice always welcome.

3rd Annual Kidical Mass to Olympic Manor Holiday Lights

Let’s do this again! And on winter solstice again! Check out last year’s recap or just go straight to last year’s Flickr album.

Monday, December 21, 2015
Meet: 4:00 p.m. Loyal Heights Community Center playground
Roll: 4:45 p.m.
Tour: Olympic Manor neighborhood holiday lights
End: 5:30 p.m. Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse
Length: Exactly three festive miles

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Come to the park at 4pm to have time for playing, stringing lights, and taking photos of our lit-up rigs while there’s still a bit of daylight left. We’ll roll out at 4:45pm. I’m chopping off that last hilly block from last year so this year will be even more fun!

Here’s the route. (And see image of map below…I can’t seem to embed with my route adjustments staying put at the mo’.)

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We’ll finish up at Grumpy D’s Coffeehouse around 5:30 p.m. There’s a warm fireplace near a group of comfy chairs, plenty of table seating, and toys! Hang out a bit for peppermint hot chocolate and other treats.

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Join Familybike’s Sustainer Circle for #GivingTuesday!

Commit to a small monthly donation, the price of a fancy coffee or lunch, and support Familybike in making transportation cycling accessible to all Seattle families!

My first experience with Familybike was in June of 2009 when we drove our bikes down to check out Bicycle Sunday. Riding along Lake Washington Blvd, 35 weeks pregnant with my second baby, barely still fitting on my city bike with first baby in the front bike seat, I came across the most amazing thing: a Family Bike Expo. This was the day after Seattle’s second-ever Kidical Mass so I had seen a couple cargo bikes, but I was amazed to see so many in once place! I parked my bike to meet and talk to Morgan Scherer.

I was surprised when a browsing mom wanted to test ride my bike. Just a regular old bike with a basic front seat like every single mom in the Netherlands has. And just like that, I became a part of the movement. Especially once the new baby turned one and migrated from the bike trailer to that basic front seat and his brother moved to a new seat on the back. I brought my “regular old bike” to several Family Bike Expos. Morgan liked having an example of a normal bike that carried two kids.

There’s much more than Family Bike Expos, too…

  • The Kidical Mass family bike rides Morgan and I lead each month
  • The amazing and affordable rental fleet
  • Get-Started Family Biking and Biking in the Rain workshops (So much great info–I don’t think there’s a program like this anywhere else!)

You don’t have to be a world leader or a billionaire to give back. #GivingTuesday is about ordinary people coming together doing extraordinary things. Join the Familybike Sustainer Circle to support families in saving the world by getting out on bikes!
Give between $5 and $25 a month
Familybike Seattle is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation, and all donations are fully tax-deductible!

You also GET STUFF for joining the Familybike Sustainer Circle, like fabulous prizes, a 10% discount at G&O Family Cyclery, and A BIG PARTY at the end of January. See all the details on the Familybike Sustainer Circle page.

Donating a small amount monthly is unnoticeable to you, but has a big effect on Familybike Seattle’s effectiveness.

There’s nothing I love more than family biking and I’m proud to be on the board of Familybike Seattle. Our programs reach a lot of families and your contribution will mean we can help even more people and save the world that much faster :)
We at Familybike Seattle believe that biking as a family increases our individual, family, and societal quality of life, while at the same time moving toward sustainable lifestyles and communities.

Join the Familybike Sustainer Circle!

Family bikes at Bike Expo 2013