Archive | April 2016

One more thing/30 Days of Biking

“One more thing” is the closest thing I have to a theme for this round of #30daysofbiking. There’s just always so much I want to share about biking and it’s been a convenient way to tuck something unrelated at the end of each post. I’m making my “one more thing” the first thing on this last of the 30 days. Tonight’s “one more thing” was an 11pm impromptu ride with Pixie up Kite Hill in Gas Works Park. It was a beautifully clear day in Seattle, the kind where I gasp and stop pedaling when I first catch sight of Mount Rainier. It was also a beautifully clear night. I pedaled past a fire twirler in the flat part of the park and arrived up the hill just as a paper lantern was being released.

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I don’t often bike just for the sake of biking (and I brought my wallet along in case I felt compelled to hit a grocery store on the way home and turn my ride into an errand), but I adore the silly-ride component to 30 Days of Biking and consider a 11:59 p.m. pajama-clad circle in the living room just as important as any other ride. So I’m happy to end my month with a ride with no purpose other than getting out on my bike.

I sat on the hill with my little dog shivering in my lap and watched as two more lanterns journeyed up and over the Space Needle. I had a lot of company on the hill. I was kind of surprised, but I guess 11pm on a Saturday night isn’t all that late for most people. I was surrounded by conversations: two people arguing about work stuff, a small group practicing some sort of dance behind me, three college-aged kids with a camera speaking in Japanese, and more. It didn’t take long for me to realize I was the only buddy-less person in the park (sorry, Pixie, you don’t really count). I stayed a while longer, enjoying the view and surrounding chatter, but eventually bundled Pixie back into the bike basket and headed down the hill, thoughts of aloneness filling my head. I spend a lot of time alone these days. Maybe not a lot of time, but every other weekend without the kids still feels like a lot. It’s great having the luxury to easily travel to Portland and other places kid-free, but at the same time, all that travel is in large part about keeping busy. I’m just not very good at being alone and get stir crazy. If I sound pitiful, please know it’s not that bad! I had to check just how long ago I shared I’d been called profoundly sad–this past December, on the Big Dummy’s birthday. Not even five months later I no longer feel that way. Yay me! I wouldn’t say I’m back to normal yet, but I’m a helluvalot more used to my new normal. And still: biking makes everything so so so so so much better.

It’s two-fold.

The simple act of biking is so joyful. Just as a bike makes it easier to escape an unpleasant situation, such as my one more thing on the 18th, it also makes it easy to escape a bad mood. It’s really hard to stay in a grumpy mood while biking, and I’m a bit of a wallower so sometimes I try to stay grumpy in vain.

And then there’s the community of the biking public that continually lift my spirits. There are days I’ve had trouble shaking a bad mood, but I’m able to have a string of pleasant biking interactions that fix everything. Often it’s bumping into a friend and either stopping to chat for a few minutes if we’re traveling in opposite directions or sharing a few minutes of our separate-though-momentarily-parallel rides. And sometimes it’s just having a favorable interaction with a stranger, like the helmetless guy on a brakeless fixie while his normal bike was in for repairs who was happy to follow my kid-friendly route through South Lake Union on Thursday or a nice “Hey we have the same helmet” conversation at a red light on Friday. Not to mention the wonderful people I meet through bicycling. I’d imagine it’s not the only way to meet cool people, but I sure don’t know any other way. Today at my Urban Cycling book reading at the Burien Library I got to meet Meredith, a fellow family biker, in person for the first time…though I feel like I already knew her thanks to social media interactions. And yesterday was the same, though way different with Stevil Kinevil of All Hail the Black Market, my friend I hadn’t actually met in person before. He’s no family biker, but we still talked about all the pertinent stuff: bikes, art, homebirth, kittens.

These thoughts cheered me up as a wound my way down the hill and noticed several more groups of not-alone-people. Just past the fire twirler a guy on the edge of his group of friends noticed me and asked of no one in particular, “Hey, who’s that dude on the bike?”

Me! I’m that dude on the bike! Alone, but not really.

One more thing:

Just because April is now over doesn’t mean I’m quite done covering our month of bikey exploits. We has the most amazing time in Minneapolis over Spring Break. Visiting the birthplace of 30 Days of Biking during 30 Days of Biking was such a treat. And I intend to tell you all about it. I meant to do so today, but I’m just not organized enough. I hope to take advantage of the #TBT (throw-back Thursday) trick and get it written on Thursday when I can pretend it was my intention to post in May all along.

30 Days of Biking stats:
April 28 miles: 16.5
April 29 miles: 14.3
April 30 miles: 11.7
April cumulative miles: 437.3

Burien test run

Route update:
I ended up light railing to the reading, thinking it would be quicker…but it wasn’t! Oh well. But for future reference, what I would have done differently than my Burien test route is stay on the Delridge-Highland Park Neighborhood Greenway (PDF) a bit longer and then follow Barb Chamberlain’s helpful advice:

Original post:
In preparation for Saturday’s Urban Cycling at Burien Library book reading, I biked over to see how long it would take (1:40 with stops for pictures). I decided ahead of time I’d bike all the way there and take the light rail back so I could also check out the route between the library and light rail. I also decided ahead of time I’d want to go multi-modal the day of the reading since I’d be bringing a heavy box of books. Now, I don’t think it’s necessary for my “street cred” to bike the whole way there ahead of time, but I did the same for my reading at the Kirkland Library last month, even though I had to bus/bike the day of due to time constraints. But it’s a good excuse to bike somewhere new because I’m not very good at biking for the sake of biking rather than biking for an errand.

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Since I was on my quick little road bike alone with no kids to worry about, I didn’t do my usual amount of route research and just let Google maps guide me…even though that process didn’t work out for me so well a few months ago to Auburn. But my Burien route turned out to be somewhat OK. Mostly, I discovered that while taking the light rail back home was quicker than riding, it was long enough to be kind of boring and the ride out wasn’t as hilly as I had feared so I think I’ll ride the whole way Saturday after all.

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This was my first time on the Delridge-Highland Park Neighborhood Greenway and it was great! It’s steep at the beginning, climbing up from the West Seattle Bridge Trail, but once up on the ridge, it’s fairly flat. I would not want to do this with a heavy bike, though. There are also lots of well-marked wiggles at intersections to make the crossings safer. My Google maps directions took me off the greenway about halfway along so I’ll stick to the pleasant route on Saturday.

While heading from the library to the light rail station, the weather suddenly changed. As the sun disappeared and grey clouds rolled in, I rode up to and along a high grassy ridge. The weather and terrain transported me back to a childhood trip driving across the Afsluitdijk between my uncle’s house in Amstelveen (next to Amsterdam) and my grandmother’s house in Groningen. It was bewildering and I couldn’t imagine why Seattle would have a dike. Then a plane roared overhead and I realized I was next to an embankment hiding and muffling the airport. Ah! Of course I would have realized this had I studied the map ahead of time, but I wouldn’t have had my nostalgic experience.

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One more thing:

Heading down 2nd Avenue I saw a new downtown bike counter being installed! I was number 35, but it doesn’t officially open until Monday at 7:30 a.m.

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30 Days of Biking stats:
April 27 miles: 21.5
April cumulative miles: 425.6

Bike towing with a tow hitch

I first shared pictures of my Big Dummy’s two-bike fork-mount tow hitch in my Happy fourth birthday, Big Dummy! post last December. I’ve used it a lot and adore it. It’s made by Haulin’ Colin/Cyclefab and I hear he’s going to make more! …well, once I do some measuring of mine (tomorrow in the daylight, I promise!). I used it on Wednesday to pick up my road bike, repaired after having been hit by a car when a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend was riding it. (He’s fine! And only the front wheel of the bike was damaged.)

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And hey, silver lining: the old wheel didn’t have overlapping spokes so I couldn’t fill it with spoke cards. New wheel is spoke-card compatible!

Dragging a 25-pound bike around is no big deal so I hauled it down to Mountaineers Books to pick up a box of Urban Cycling books for Saturday’s book reading at the Burien Library. Unhitching the bike only takes a couple more seconds than would lifting it out of the cargo bag so I locked up responsibly.

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Pretty views by Harbor Island:

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And while East Marginal Way South and Alaskan Way South can be pretty horrible on weekdays (I don’t think all the freight trucks operate on weekends, thankfully), the trucks were at a standstill in the center turning lane as I headed back north and only one car passed me in this long stretch. Many people ride on the sidewalk on the other side of the street here.

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One more thing:

While my big kid was playing with circuits in an after-school engineering class, my little kid and I went to the grocery store. Three days in a row riding with just the little kid, how fun! We didn’t have a lot of time and decided my Straggler with Burley Piccolo trailer bike would be our fastest machine. He’s only been on the Piccolo once because we usually use it with our tandem bike and I stick his less-eager-to-pedal-hard brother back there and use the stronger kid as my tandem stoker. But even with him happily pedaling, this rig was heavy! Trailers and trailer bikes are awesome devices and I love that a regular bike can be made to carry a kid or two with them, but they’re not the easiest to lug around. Having all the weight on two wheels either in on-bike seats on regular bikes or with a cargo bike is just a lot easier in my experience.

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30 Days of Biking stats:
April 26 miles: 23.8
April cumulative miles: 404.1

Commuting with mini commuter

On Monday, my six-year old and I retraced our pedal strokes from Sunday’s errand (bottom of page). I tried to level the playing field this time, though: I had him carry all the stuff in a pannier, thinking it would make him slower and I rode my single-speed bike, thinking it would make me faster.

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We have three pairs of Swift Industries panniers for bike camping with the tandem plus trailer bike. One set is regular/big sized that I got for my Straggler and the other two sets are small, that I figured we’d use both on the tandem and with the kids bikes–they both have Islabikes with little rear racks, but this was the first we’ve tried a pannier.

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It didn’t work, he still destroyed me on the hills. He left with a cheerful “See you at the top of the hill!” each time and hollered “Car up!” for me each time he saw a car. He has also decided he wants a Garmin for his birthday. I really like my Garmin Edge 25 for me, but I think he will be OK with the cheapest bicycle computer I can find. Any suggestions on good kid bike activity trackers is welcome!

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Riding with just one kid is pretty fun and not something I often have the chance to do. As they get older and more independent, I’m sure we’ll do this more and more so this was a fun little glimpse into the future. We varied our route on the way home to swing by the bike tree at 3728 Densmore Ave N. Had my kid been Strava-ing, his ride would have shown him riding past the tree twice, but we only have my Strava record of my 1.9-mile trip to go by.

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One more thing:

While the kids were at school I biked over to Cascade Bicycle Club to turn in my ride leader waiver from Saturday’s Earth Day Kidical Mass ride. Halfway there I stumbled upon the All-City Cycles demo event at Counterbalance Bicycles. As luck would have it, I was riding my All-City Nature Boy Disc so I left it at the demo tent and borrowed an All-City Log Lady, their new mountain bike, for running my errand. The flat six-mile trip wasn’t the best test ride, but I hit every puddle and patch of gravel. Which is pretty funny considering I kept suggesting to my kids on Saturday’s ride that they stick to the Burke-Gilman Trail proper rather than the gravel shoulder. I hope I can remember how much fun I had and allow them to ride freely without complaint next time.

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The Log Lady was pretty fun and I think I need to go mountain biking again soon.

30 Days of Biking stats:
April 25 miles: 13.4
April cumulative miles: 380.3

Short day/tall bike

Sunday, April 24th: We had a very mellow day. Since we decided Saturday afternoon to cancel our bike camping trip, I didn’t have anything planned for the day and it was hard to motivate to go out just for the sake of going out given the rain. There were a few breaks in the rain and during one of them we headed three blocks to our school playground: the six-year old on his bike, the nine-year old on his scooter, and me walking my tall bike. Poor Pixie the dog didn’t have a vehicle of any sort.

Here’s one of our many races, all of which ended in arguments, punches, or tears (of course):

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I must say “it’s not a race!” 200 times each day, but it seems to have no effect.

I’ve only ridden my tall bike once before, the day I got it over a year ago. I really need to take it out more often because it’s fun! Also, it’s just like riding a bike.

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I also need to learn how to mount it like a pro. I climb on at a wall…and then ride back to that wall to get off. Photo courtesy of my six-year old and his adorable thumb:

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I’ve watched videos of getting on and off tall bikes for inspiration. Here’s a really good one out of Portland (of course).

One more thing:

Later in the day I ran a quick errand with just my six-year old. He fancies himself quite the cyclist and wants to start racing when he’s 10 and be in le Tour de France when he’s 23. Plenty of time for him to come to terms with downshifting to a reasonable gear for climbing our steep hills rather than mashing up and tiring himself out before the day is done. I’m sure he’ll listen to his coach better than he listens to his know-it-all mother. Here he is demonstrating “aerodynamic” after defining it for me.

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30 Days of Biking stats:
April 24 miles: 2.4
April cumulative miles: 366.9

Ride recap: Earth Day Kidical Mass

We had a terrific Kidical Mass ride to celebrate Earth Day! 35 people was one of our larger groups and 5.5 miles (each way) was one of our longer rides which made we worry about everyone having enough fun more than normal, but it went well! The weather was perfect and that always helps. Photos photos photos are here.

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We started the ride outside Husky Grind, a cafe alongside the Burke-Gilman Trail, for easy access to snacks and potties and room for kids to run around–that always makes for a non-stressful lengthy gathering-up process. I usually just start with an introduction and the Cascade Bicycle Club group ride safety briefing, but this time we did a sign-along, too. Big fun! (To the tune of “The More We Get Together”)

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I thought it’d be more in line with Earth Day to skip the direct route/Burke-Gilman Trail to Magnuson Park and ride the hard-packed gravel of the East Campus Bicycle Path and cut through the Center for Urban Horticulture instead. This made for some hills, like at the edge of the Montlake Bridge. This also made for crossing over the Montlake Bridge on the west side and then immediately back on the east side to get to the trail, but I thought that would be exciting for the kids. I didn’t hear any complaints so I’m assuming it was a good idea.

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We stopped to watch a bunch of turtles (14! Or maybe 12! I rely on kids to provide me with ride participant head counts and turtle counts and I don’t think I’ve ever received matching numbers) on a log while regrouping. Our Kidical Mass rides stay together as a rule, but sometimes we lose a couple families off the back for a few minutes of snack breaking, balance biking, or bird watching.

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We ended with a picnic in the Magnuson Park Children’s Garden/velodrome ;)

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Most of us migrated to the playground afterwards and while I had planned on a round-trip ride for a change, everyone was OK getting home on their own at different times so that was that.

One more thing:

Our original plan was to rush home from Kidical Mass, pack up the tandem plus trailer bike and go camping! But with all-night and all-Sunday rain in the forecast we put that idea on hold. We’re up for rainy camping once it’s warmer, but not for our first time out this season. We’re going rain or shine for family bike camping Bike Overnight June 4-5, 2016, but I hope to get out at least once before that.

30 Days of Biking stats:
April 23 miles: 11.6
April cumulative miles: 364.5

The right bike for the job

Bear with me while I get caught up on 30 Days of Biking posts. It’s a good problem to have when the blogging about biking every day is so much harder than the actual biking every day.

My father was in town for a couple days and I met him at the Frye Art Museum on First Hill on the 21st. Last time he visited we took the bus there and back, but this time he drove his rental car and I biked. Had it not been 30 Days of Biking I may not have considered biking and caught a ride in his car, but it worked great this way.

I don’t often visit neighborhoods with “Hill” in their names, but I do know the flattest way to most of them. Riding my slow and heavy cargo bike (75 pounds of bike plus 100 pounds of kids) has made things feel easier on regular bikes. And has provided me routes to take with my newest bike…that I realize I haven’t mentioned yet: a single-speed cyclocross bike, the All-City Nature Boy Disc.

I intend to use the bike for racing cyclocross (I only race once or twice a year), but I’m having a lot of fun riding it around town before cyclocross season. It certainly wasn’t the right bike for the day…per my Instagram:

Rain in the forecast, pulled muscle in my back, all-uphill destination, slippery museum floors? Of course that means I should take the fenderless, derailleurless, clipless-shoes-only bike. TGIF! #ibite

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Here’s my route to the Frye which is the flattest way from the Burke-Gilman Trail. Interesting to see I got a lot of PRs (“personal record” I think?) on Strava. Apparently my six-year old has been right all this time when he declares he was faster on his single-speed sixteen-inch bike than on his twenty-inch geared bike.

One more thing:

I swung by Back Alley Bike Repair on my way home (the shop that built this All-City Nature Boy Disc as well as my Surly Straggler) to check out their recent and on-going expansion. That meant I had to ride through downtown to get home. I’ve been avoiding downtown because there has been a lot of construction on 2nd Avenue. Some of it is building construction (where I crashed), but most of it is in the name of making permanent the 2nd Ave pilot bike lanes. The detours were horrible. I’ve seen in Portland first hand and in photos of many other cities that it’s not unreasonable to expect a detour be as good as the original infrastructure. But I was happy to see I could ride the entire way uphill in a protected bike lane. There was still a one-block sudden disappearance of the lane in the downhill direction, just to keep us on our toes.

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30 Days of Biking stats:
April 21 miles: 6.1
April 22 miles: 12.6
April cumulative miles: 352.9