Happy Sixth Birthday, Big Dummy!

Time for the annual love letter to my Surly Big Dummy. I love my beast of a bike as much as ever. While I lamented that My Cargo Bike is a Glorified Bike Rack eight months ago, my Big Dummy has proven her worth in much more exciting ways since.

Best bike for a broken foot.
I broke my foot in May and while walking was a pain in the foot and hopping was a pain in the butt, I was fine on the Big Dummy. It’s easy to get on and off, especially thanks to the Rolling Jackass centerstand by Haulin’ Colin at Cyclefab. Being able to slowly heft my broken foot in the walking boot over the low top tube while the centerstand was engaged was extremely helpful. Then it’s just a small shove forward with feet planted on the ground (even possible with one foot unable to bear much weight before I got the special boot) to get the bike rolling. Same goes for parking the bike: engaging the centerstand while stradling the bike and being able to slowly and clumsily lift that broken foot over the top tube while the bike was rooted to the ground made getting around foolproof. Not to mention it’s just a super sturdy and stable bike. Now that I’m thinking about it, I feel more comfortable and confident on it than any other bike.

Photo courtesy VisitKitsap.org

And more than just everyday biking around, the Big Dummy made it possible for me to still go bike camping with my broken foot. Note: I probably wouldn’t have gone at all if I wasn’t in charge of leading the group trips, but I’m glad I didn’t cancel because it all worked out fine. Our tandem had become our go-to camping bike, but I didn’t feel confident piloting what’s kind of a bigger beast than the Big Dummy. It’s five pounds lighter, so that’s nice, and the six panniers mean I pack a tad less than on the Big Dummy, but as you can see from the photo I’m often the only one pedaling. I still have high hopes for it as a camping rig in the future (and it’s really fun to ride with just one kid and minimal stuff!)

Photo courtesy Neighbor Kelly

I didn’t do any kid toting while my foot was broken so this meant my kids got to ride their own bikes to Fay Bainbridge Park and Illahee State Park for the first time. Those were big and hilly rides for them and I didn’t have them carry any of the gear to help ensure they stayed happy and helpful.

Best bike to carry a kid with a broken arm (and his perfectly fine little brother).
Shortly after my broken foot healed, my 10-year old broke his arm and I found myself carrying both kids all the time again (apparently it’s a rule that if you carry the older kid for any reason, you have to carry the younger kid, too…so says the younger kid). Tall and heavy kids are not all that easy to carry without an e-assist, but I lucked out with the way they ended up arranging themselves and it worked just fine. Since I keep only the left rail of my Xtracycle Hooptie on the top of the bike (the other rail is down low on the right for stepping up to the deck), my 10-year old with the broken left arm sat backwards at the front of the deck to hold the rail with his good arm. Then the eight-year old sat sideways or backwards to have adequate legroom. This put the heaviest part of the heavier kid at the closest spot forward and the lighter kid more forward than had be been sitting forward-facing. I was delighted to find out I can still carry them both easily! Especially considering I wasn’t back up to full strength after the broken foot.

It’s a mountain bike!
After moping and whining about not being able to fit camping gear on my old full suspension mountain bike because I really wanted to bring a mountain bike on my second trip to the Deschutes River Trail, I made the startling realization that the Big Dummy is indeed a mountain bike. One forgets when she covers it with kids and groceries and a little doggie. It was really fun to ride on the trail and it was really fun to discover it fits in my friend Jolene’s van! I hope we can have more adventures together that involve the Big Dummy being driven somewhere.

Fewer hills, more riding.
Moving to Portland three months ago means everything is a lot flatter now (no, I’m not saying Portland is completely flat–it’s just that our neighborhood in Portland is a lot flatter than our former neighborhood in Seattle) and I’m perfectly happy to ride the Big Dummy everywhere for everything and my love for my Big Dummy is stronger than ever. The Big Dummy has been to a farm in Boring and IKEA so far.

A new dinghy.
I’ve always thought Brompton folding bikes make terrific dinghies tucked in a Big Dummy’s cargo bag, and now I have one! Portland buses have only two bike rack slots so it’s the only way we can all three bus and bike together. And it’s a great loaner bike as it’s incredibly adjustable so several friends have borrowed it already, though I don’t always get to carry it to them via the Big Dummy and that’s really what it’s all about.

How we spent the big day.
Er, I didn’t even ride the Big Dummy today. But three friends did! Two families (three adults, three kids) were down visiting from Seattle for the weekend, though yesterday the Big Dummy sat home yesterday and we used a plethora of other bikes: I borrowed Kath’s bakfiets for Lindsey to carry her baby with, Jen rode my Surly Straggler with one of her kids on the Burley Piccolo behind it, Jen’s other kid rode the Islabikes we just outgrew, John rode my All-City Nature Boy Disc single-speed cyclocross bike, my kids rode their own bikes, and I rode the Brompton in case Lindsey wanted to swap bikes. I figured we’d do the same today, but Jen wanted to ride the Big Dummy (so I rode the Straggler and carried her kid so she could enjoy the bike empty).

And then she and John switched bikes so he could ride the Big Dummy.

Photo courtesy Lindsey Bikes!

And then once we got home from our day of swimming and checking out the neighborhood, Lindsey took a spin on it.

Now that cargo bikes are so prevalent (at least in Seattle and Portland) my Big Dummy hasn’t seen action like this in a long time. Back when it was the only small Big Dummy in Seattle (not to mention one of few cargo bikes) I felt it was my duty to have it available for anyone who wanted to test ride it.

In general Big Dummy news, Surly now makes a Big Fat Dummy. I love that this bike exists. I personally have no need for one (and I’m not sure if I’m tall enough for it), but there are a lot of people doing fun stuff on them.

So here’s to another year, Big Dummy! …who just this moment I remembered I named Babe last year. Let’s see if I remember to use her name more now. I’m sure many adventures await us in the coming 12 months.

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