Our fifth bike trip to Portland

This time: BoltBus, Palm Tree Ride, Islabikes.


We’ve just returned from another lovely trip to Portland. We’ve gone twice by Amtrak Cascades (with the old mamabike–my longtail would need to be taken apart and boxed for train travel) and now three times by BoltBus.

At BoltBus

I still think the train is more pleasant with kids, but the bus is cheap and takes my cargo bike…provided there’s room. And we take up a lot of room. Here’s our four-day-trip luggage spread out (I remove and stow my WideLoader in a FreeLoader bag, but everything else comes off the bike):

Bike unloaded for BoltBus

Previous drivers have been very accommodating, having me stow my bike before everyone’s baggage, and from the sidewalk side (normally bikes are shoved in from the street side). A couple have helped with the bike lifting to speed things along.

For our Friday 10:30 a.m. bus of a three-day weekend, the driver didn’t think we’d fit–he had a full bus with three bikes already on board. He checked our boarding number versus that of the other passenger with bike (and trailer) hoping to board. Our group B beat his group C so as soon as he gave me a leery OK, I removed half the baggage from one of the cargo compartments, shoved in my bike, and then stuck everything around and on top of it. And then the other guy somehow fit his bike in as well. He was headed down to a Christmas tree bonfire–and had apparently been at Burning Gardens, too, but we didn’t recognize one another’s bikes. Obviously, both our bikes are more recognizable than our faces.

The other bike waiting for BoltBus

My initial assessment of our driver as grumpy and not bike friendly was totally wrong, by the way. The kids made him thank you cards which he cheerily accepted at the end of the trip. And we got to see him an extra time because I left a helmet on board and had to track him down at the Greyhound station where he was happily waiting for us by the door, ready to end his long day of work.

Urban Adventure League Palm Tree Ride

On Saturday we headed to Velo Cult to meet some friends for the 10th Annual Palm Tree Ride. I collected a couple lost Canadians on the way over and brought them along. Always the ride leader :) This photo shows a monkey puzzle tree, but there were plenty of palm trees to be enjoyed–my evidence here on Flickr.

Portland Palm Tree Ride at monkey puzzle tree

The tree talk was great (I didn’t know monkey puzzle trees before), but I was also in it to check out people, bikes, and accessories. Like Timo’s cool mirror:

That mirror!

We went a bit of the way up Mount Tabor for a gorgeous view of Mount Hood. Most riders took pictures of the mountain, but I opted to take pictures of the picture takers. The kids were not impressed–they’re loyal to Mount Rainier.

A view of Mount Hood

The ride also encountered a couple friendly cats. One almost jumped in Kath’s bakfiets box while were waiting to rejoin the ride after the cargo bike detour (we had to skip an uphill walking segment with barrier). And this mean-looking tomcat left the hood of his lawn car to make friends with Brock of The Sprocket Podcast.

Brock and guard cat

We couldn’t have had better weather. We saw frost on a couple blocks that hadn’t seen sun all day, but otherwise it was sunny and almost warm. I thought I was getting sick later in the day, but it turns out my hot face/flushed cheeks were a slight sunburn. Sunburn in the winter!


Mr. Family Ride joined us (via Amtrak Cascades) Saturday afternoon for an appointment at the Islabikes Fitting Studio. The company is based in the UK and recently opened a by-appointment-only showroom in Portland. I read about Islabikes when they first hit the states and then met Tim and saw the bikes at the Washington Women of Cyclocross Festival last summer. Sadly the kids weren’t with me that morning. My six-year old borrowed a CNOC 16 for the Fiets of Parenthood, but today was a test ride of the two 20-inch models. Note: it’s not necessary to visit the Fitting Studio to test ride–the size chart is very accurate and Tim is happy to help via email or phone.

At the Islabikes Fitting Studio

I’ll write more about the bikes in a future post, but enjoy these pictures of the test track/bike box velodrome in the meantime:

Islabikes test track

Islabikes test track

And if you go in, don’t show up in snow boots. My four-year old (above) test rode in shoes with inordinately high soles.

It was just our luck that the company founder, Isla Rowntree, was visiting town for a week. Always nice to be able to shout “I LOVE YOUR BIKES!” at the person responsible.

Back to reality

On Monday we said goodbye to Portland and its lovely bike infrastructure. Here’s Kath of Portlandize using a crossing button for bikes:

Kath and bike crossing button

And a bike passing lane on the way to the Hawthorne Bridge:

Bike passing lane

But home in Seattle we were met with the familiar sight of a taxi (sometimes delivery truck or regular car) parked halfway in the bike lane and halfway on the sidewalk next to the J.P. Patches and Fab statue. Sigh.

The usual

Of course Portland isn’t without its [very few] faults. You may have noticed the yellow van parked in the bike lanes two photos up. The driver pulled over right before I took my picture. By the time I got alongside, he was walking around to the front of the van, presumably to pop the hood.

And I couldn’t figure out which lane I should use for heading to the BoltBus stop. I know there’s no sidewalk bicycling downtown, but that’s all I know about downtown Portland. The lack of the word “ONLY” made me think I was welcome in the middle lane so I rode six blocks between the rails (aw, just like Westlake at home…not that familiar means good). The left lane was a bit backed up with cars and it didn’t seem very Portland-like to have to be stuck in that.

Biking the Transit Mall (badly)

I asked the Twitterverse once we were on the bus:

so now I know the error of my ways. SW 6th Ave is part of the Portland Transit Mall and I should have been in the left lane and should not have turned right over the rails. Oops. Ideally, I would have gone a bit out of my way and just avoided the Transit Mall.

Something to try out next visit! Miss you already, Portland.


In honor of the last of the year’s Disaster Relief Trials [bikes saving the world after mock disasters–yeehaw!] wrapping up last weekend in Eugene, I’ve finally gotten around to sharing pictures and words of my experience in Portland some three months ago. Like everything awesome and bike-related, DRT was founded in Portland, with the first–and only 2012 DRT–occurring last Pedalpalooza. This year there were a bunch of them: first was Seattle, then Portland, Boulder (which turned into actual disaster relief when it coincided with the floods), Victoria, and Eugene.

I helped organize the Seattle DRT, which had the convenient side effect of making me ineligible to participate in the hard part of riding the event. Actually, I’m sure I could have participated in the Seattle event had I wanted to–ours wasn’t a race, but rather an expo event as part of the Bicycle Urbanism Symposium with a marked route so my having chosen that route didn’t give me any advantage–but it was fun to camp out at the water crossing with the kids (plus, where would I have put the kids?!) and photograph the event.

Watching Seattle DRT

I wasn’t planning to take part in the Portland DRT, but when organizer Mike Cobb said competitor Mark Ginsberg, a bicyclist attorney would sponsor me in order to get more women on the course, how could I say no? So I registered and sent in my rider profile and bio and I few weeks later, the kids and I had our first cargo-bike-on-Bolt-Bus experience!

Our first DRT-related event was the Joe Bike Grand Opening/5-Year Anniversary/DRT Kickoff Party Friday night. I followed Katie and Dave of A Most Civilized Conveyance over. This would soon be a familiar sight for me, by the way–Katie’s back as she led me over Portland bridges.

Riding over the Hawthorne Bridge with Dave and Katie

There were so many cargo bikes at the party! But the most amazing thing was watching DRT competitor Cory Poole arrive on skateboard with his daughter in/on on the cargo trailer he towed and managed with a hand-held brake.

DRT bikes at Joe Bike

I was a nervous wreck the morning of the event. It’s not often I can participate in events without the children in tow and on those rare occasions I generally have them with me until the last possible moment…like for last year’s Girls of Summer Alleycat. But Mr. Family Ride flew in late at night the eve of the big day and played at the hotel pool with the kids so I could fly solo. Arriving alone and on time made for a lot of time with nothing to distract me!

I was antsy, under-caffeinated, and under-water-bottled–the day was shaping up to be hot and I only had one water bottle–so I asked around for nearby coffee and bike shops. I thought I was unprepared, but when Sterling heard I was hitting a bike shop, he gave me some cash to pick him up a new tire. A purpose! So off I went to Water Avenue Coffee and River City Bicycles for two more water bottles and a fancy new 20-inch tire for Sterling. He was in the e-assist class so I was not at all tempted to sabotage him. Mr. Family Ride and I had just watched a show about the last 100 Tours de France and I was intrigued by the footage of long-ago riders wearing spare tires crisscrossed on their backs. Would a 20-inch tire fit over my head? It did! Wearing a tire sash made for a much better entrance than shoving it in my cargo bag.

To the rescue!

The Bullitt seemed to be the bike of choice–though there were other cargo bikes, bikes plus trailers, and of course, Cory’s skateboard. That’s Austin Horse on the left, movie stunt double and eventual DRT winner. Big time!

Bullitts at DRT

Austin and the rest of the Open Class took off first and then we Citizen Class riders hit the road. Our goody bags contained important stuff like after-party drink coupons and a DRT-logoed stainless steel Kleen Canteen pint cup as well as many local bike maps, Yuba cargo straps, and a laminated checkpoint map with clip for attaching it to our handlebars. Here’s a bit of a peek at Katie’s map as we made our way over the St. Johns Bridge.

Peeking at Katie's map on the St. Johns Bridge

Beautiful bridge, by the way:

St. Johns Bridge

This was after a long flat ride alongside train tracks during which we exchanged waves with train conductors (the kids have trained us well), the first checkpoint at which we had to uninflate and reinflate a tire, and a big climb to the start of the bridge. I thought Portland was supposed to be flat!

Heading to Checkpoint 1

And we traveled so far, to “North of North Portland”, for our second checkpoint to fetch a long, empty box.

Slow ride through No No Po

Katie calculated we rode 36.6 miles. The shortest route for Citizen Class should have been about 30 miles, but we made a bonus stop at Checkpoint 4. It wasn’t on our manifests, but it wasn’t listed as “Open Class Only” on our laminated maps so we played it safe. Checkpoint 4 was the fun offroad section and mybagisbigger took this excellent photo of me there so I’m happy for our extra stop:

Photo courtesy mybagisbigger

Photo courtesy mybagisbigger

Also contributing to the extra mileage was riding too far along the Columbia River for Checkpoint 5. We weren’t the only ones to do so. This guy is shouting, “I’ve only got my babysitter until 2pm!”

Riding too far along the Columbia River

With the help of some of our friendly competitors shouting “Turn back! We’ve gone all the way to the end and THERE’S NOTHING THERE!” we found our way. Ooh, maybe this was part of the disaster scenario, but the participant consensus was that the laminated map had the wrong street address. No biggie, I’m used to being lost and we eventually made it there and that guy got a backup babysitter lined up. All good!

Checkpoint 5 had FEMA volunteers providing helmet stickers for emergency information and empty buckets to fill with water from the river. Open Class filled their two buckets full while we filled them 3/4 of the way. I only have one Xtracycle WideLoader so I loaded both my buckets on one side at first and did a practice lap after shouting, “No one watch! I’ll probably tip over!”

Two buckets of water take one

It didn’t feel too tippy, but I decided to better distribute things and moved one bucket to my FlightDeck, fairly well secured to the stoker bars with cargo net and bungee cord. I feel I had a bit of an advantage at this point–a couple weeks prior my younger son fell asleep in his Yepp seat for the first time without his straitjacket (my snowboard jacket wrapped around him backwards to keep him warm) on and he flopped around like crazy. I haven’t appreciated how still he sits on a regular basis! The sensation was very similar to the 3/4-filled bucket of water riding behind me.

Two buckets of water take two

At this point, Katie and I joined forces with Joyanna, riding a regular bike plus trailer. Her setup was great for the buckets. Fortunately she didn’t make the extra stop at Checkpoint 4 because it wouldn’t have been very fun offroad.

Riding with Joyanna and her trailer

Katie was an awesome leader. I felt guilty just tagging along while she did all the navigating and pace setting. Heck, Katie has even done the navigating and pace setting for me in Seattle! Finally Katie showed signs of slowing so we took a much-needed water break on the side of the road–next to a blackberry bush as luck would have it. Somehow the story morphed into a folk tale of we three passing a bunch of other competitors, stopping to go blackberry picking, and then passing those same people again. Ha! I laugh because we were about ready to keel over.

Blackberry stop

But soon enough we were passing those people and picking up our three eggs (to represent fragile medical vials). The checkpoint staffers offered us water, which I sorely needed, but not until I checked, “Is there a time penalty if I accept some?” I didn’t realize I was so competitive!

Then we headed into Downtown Portland where we received specific routing advice to get to the finish line. We were instructed to ride along the waterfront, which I can only assume was to mimic navigating a zombie apocalypse.

And back at OMSI we discovered the six-inch-deep water feature and meter-tall barrier. Katie, Joyanna, and I unloaded our water buckets and eggs and helped each other bike by bike over the barrier. Then we growled at one another and sprinted for the finish line. We turned in our eggs–they all survived!–and emptied our water buckets into the Clever Cycles Dutchtub.

My DRT manifest

Ours certainly wasn’t the only teamwork of the day. The team from Joe Bike opted to take it slow and rode as a group, helping with bike repairs all along the course–fellow DRT participants and random stranded bikers alike. It was great to see them merrily ride across the finish line in a big pack shortly after us.

Naturally, it was the feats of the family bikers that had the biggest impact on me. The lovely and amazing Emily Finch was one of the event organizers and I caught her making a quick run home to drop off a bunch of stuff, including her husband’s Christiania, after which she’d ride back on her daughter’s 20-inch Gazelle to fetch her own bakfiets. I wish I had seen that! I can coast downhill to school on my son’s little bike, but I couldn’t imagine actually going anywhere real on it.

Emily Finch, DRT organizer

But I didn’t catch up with Emily again until the after party at Velocult. This is my other favorite picture of the day, from dontbecreepy’s Flickr. We’re arguing. Emily is claiming I’m awesome for having carried a box spring on my bike and I’m reminding her that I *didn’t* carry a box spring on my bike. However, I appreciate my friends’ selective memories on this.

Photo courtesy dontbecreepy

Photo courtesy dontbecreepy

I was so excited to see an Emily Finch slide show live in person! But there were technical problems…which I think might also be part of the live slide show experience. But I saw it later and it’s awesome. And I’m in it!

And a couple other fun family bikers–Andy and Chele–had just that afternoon returned from a family bike tour and since Andy’s Big Dummy was out of commission, having lent pieces to a tandem bike for the trip, he carried the whole family in Chele’s bakfiets. Quite impressive!

Full family bakfiets

Is it wrong to lump doggie bikers in with family bikers? I don’t think so. I’d seen pictures of Rando the pug before, but this was the first to see him in his “Pugeot” sidecar.


It was the best. Each and every part of it. As I told a few of the car drivers who pulled up alongside to ask what we were up to, “We’re saving the world!”

Cargo bike on BoltBus

I never thought I’d see the day–my big bike, down in Portland!

Big Dummy in Portland

Previous trips have been on Amtrak with the small bike, but now that BoltBus is in the Pacific Northwest, anything that fits in the luggage bay is welcome. The experience is quite different than taking Amtrak Cascades, but it’s cheap and it worked!

Bike at BoltBus

The bus picked us up on the east side of Union Station, right where S King St runs into 5th Ave S. A northbound BoltBus was at the curb so it was apparent where to go, but otherwise there was no signage or attendant. My ticket confirmation suggested I show up 15 minutes early and I think that’s because there’s not much one can do before that time. We all milled around until our bus arrived and then awkwardly milled around more, not knowing what to do. Eventually, we all rushed at the luggage bays to shove our stuff in. I heard someone describe the experience as “You get what you pay for” and it is indeed cheap, but the driver was very nice and when he noticed my bike, he cleared out one of the luggage bays (the whole bay! I felt a guilty I was given so much room!) and then helped me lift in the bike.

Here’s a picture of the bike in the luggage compartment before I put my small wheelie bag on top of it. I removed the Yepp seat and shoved it alongside to make the bike lighter and smaller, but it looks like it would have fit even with the seat in place. I also removed the WideLoader and stowed that inside a FreeLoader bag, but that may have fit on the upper side of the bike as well. Either way, it’s easier to manipulate with fewer poking-out appendages.

Bike in BoltBus

As for on board the BoltBus, my main takeaway was: it’s much smaller than the train. Duh. It looks so big from outside, but once we were confined to our seats and surrounded by extremely quiet people, it felt very very small. A four-hour train trip with little kids is long, but it’s helpful to fill the time by walking repeatedly to the dining car for a change of scenery. And the train seats have that useful table. I thought the bus would have seat-back tray tables like an airplane, but we only had a drink holder by our feet. So we didn’t bother with coloring and made do looking out the windows. Everyone else seemed to be traveling solo so all the chatter was from us: “Mama! Mama! Cement mixer truck!” and “Ooh! Train tracks!”

But we survived. The women behind me declared the children excellent travelers. She must like construction equipment, too, I guess. And we arrived 20 minutes early.

I neglected to plan our first afternoon in town, so out of habit we headed directly to Clever Cycles. I figured I could wheel my luggage-laden bike inside and the kids could play on the Lego table while I checked out the pretty bikes. We were in town for the Disaster Relief Trials and I discovered one of the bike mechanics was building himself a Stokemonkeyed Xtracycle EdgeRunner to compete in the e-assist class. He did his best to scare me. Or maybe he didn’t mean to scare me with his “Oh yeah, last year I was like you and thought civilian class was just going to be a fun ride with friends. It wasn’t. Not at all. So hard.” Nice guy.

Clever Cycles

Fortunately, Clever Cycles didn’t have a Nihola cargo trike on the floor so we didn’t have to do any test riding. The kids just love the window on the front of that bike–specifically to test ride with the big stuffed doggie in the shop because it is SO FUNNY to have that stuffed dog looking out the window. And between the potty breaks and pep-talking mechanic I made playground plans.

We found Kath and her bakfiets at Grant Park and check out her snazzy new Radio Flyer wagon canopy:

Kath's bakfiets canopy

I wish I’d taken a picture without my bike in front, but here’s the whole thing, sort of:

Kath's bakfiets with canopy

And just to throw one only-in-Portland thing at you: Slappy Cakes for brunch the following day, which even on Friday had an hour-long wait. Yes, that’s a hot griddle right in the middle of the the table. Amazingly, only one finger was burned in the brunch-making process when the three-year old tried to reposition a strawberry, poor little guy. They had fun; I was a nervous wreck the entire meal.

Slappy Cakes

Fiets of Parenthood 2012 recap


Team Family Ride tipping over at Fiets of Parenthood Seattle 2010:

Photo courtesy Tacoma Bike Ranch

Team Family Ride not tipping over at Fiets of Parenthood Portland 2012:

Photo courtesy Bike Portland

Not that I didn’t have a blast two years ago, but there’s a whole new dimension of fun when you don’t embarrass yourself in front of the local family biking superstars.

Our Seattle team was comprised of four families:

  • Team Car Free Days: Anne plus big kid on Xtracycle, Tim plus big kid on Surly Big Dummy. Kids also had a kid bike and Brompton along
  • Team Totcycle: Julian and toddler on Brompton folding bike + ITchair, kindergartener on kid bike
  • Team Flick: Kevin borrowing Anne’s Xtracycle to tote wife and two elementary-school-aged kids
  • Team Family Ride: me on regular bike with front and rear kid seats for toddler and kindergartener

We Emerald City folks are hardcore so we didn’t just cruise the two miles to the competition, we dragged ourselves out of bed early to bike 3.5 miles to Slappy Cakes (“Make Your Own Pancakes, Right at your Table!”) where we over-fortified ourselves for the big day. No small fingers were singed, amazingly.

We arrived to a closed-to-traffic block next to Clever Cycles and entered what looked like an outdoor bakfiets showroom. Yeah, there were other bikes in attendance, too, but there were at least a dozen bakfietsen. I don’t blame the Portlandians, if I lived there–or anywhere with mild topography–I’d want a bakfiets, too! Every bike is worth mentioning, but the one I was most excited to see was the Kinn Cascade Flyer. It’s a brand new midtail (shorter than my Big Dummy, but longer than a normal bike) with high quality components and lots of exciting features, like lockbox, swivelling deck, and the ability to fit on a bus bike rack. I spent the first half of the weekend grumpy about not having my cargo bike along so I asked Alistair if the Cascade Flyer will fit on the train. He thinks it will, but will make sure.

And this was my first in-person look at Shetha’s lovely hot pink Bilenky longtail. Someday I’d like to see my pink longtail next to it–they’ll be besties! She wasn’t competing and her bike played baiku (bike-themed haiku) station.

One of Clever Cycles’ XL Workcycles bakfietsen was outside and available for test riding. I think they use it for transporting normal-sized cargo bikes. I didn’t try it, but I noticed it goes in reverse!

Not a bike, but the Dutchtub bike-conveyed hot tub was there, too. Filled with cool water so mostly patronized by Seattle kids because, remember, we’re hardcore.

The kids tore it up on the obstacle course first and made it look easy. I contemplated borrowing regular and balance bikes for the kids, but they were too happy at the bike decorating station to be bothered. My bike is now covered in stickers and Mr. Family Ride’s rack is adorned with pipe cleaners.

The “parent cross” event featured the same obstacles as the kiddie course, but with two pickup stops to simulate real life.

  • Weave through cones
  • Ride off the curb
  • Pick up two dropped toys
  • Circle around big plank of wood
  • Teeter totter
  • Pick up three bags of groceries
  • Joust through three rings
  • Avoid pothole

Time bonuses were awarded for each kid on board and deducted for each missed obstacle. The course favored fast bikes with big kids who could jump down to pick up cargo and handle the jousting. Emily borrowed an extra kid to defend her title with seven (seven!) passengers on board:

But the big winner of the day was Tim of Car Free Days with just his daughter on the back of his Big Dummy. Woo hoo, Seattle! I placed 15th out of 18, but was ecstatic just to have stayed upright. The toy pickup wasn’t bad, but the grocery bags were heavy! I saw paper towels in one of the bags and assumed they were just bulk, but only one bag was light–the others contained onions and cans and were too big to fit in my baskets so I gave the lightest to the front kid, one heavy bag to the big kid, and slung the third over my non-jousting arm.

I didn’t leave empty handed (well, I did, but a t-shirt will come in the mail); I won the “funny” category of the baiku contest. All baikus here.

The post party (a.k.a. dinner) was held at the Hawthorne food truck pod where I photographed evidence of Emily’s husband being no slouch, either. He used his Christiania to carry his regular bike and a whole lotta kid bikes. He did great in the competition, too, and kept the rubber down the whole time. Just as I was thinking, “I wouldn’t want to ride a trike on an incline like that…” one of the other trikes in the Fiets tipped over.

Many more pictures and words on Bike Portland.

A trip to Portland: Day one

We had so much fun in Portland last time so we jumped at the chance to go down again, as suggested by Julian of Totcyle in the “Family Bike Rumble?” section of the Summer in Seattle Schedule. The trip was timed to coincide with Fiets of Parenthood, in its third year.

Since Amtrak doesn’t allow unboxed oversized bikes, the original plan was for a truck and cargo trailer to haul down all the big bikes, but that ended up falling through so I took the old mamabike down. I hadn’t carried this heavy a load on it since our last trip down, but after a few wobbly blocks of adjustment, we were in business. The timing was great: I loaded the bike up early in the afternoon and picked my kindergartener up at 3:30 and we headed straight to the train station for a 5:30 Amtrak Cascades…with a quick stop at the Theo Chocolate factory.

Inside the train station I made the mistake of unloading the front kid first and my rear-heavy bike tipped backwards. The picture would have been better with the five-year old laying in his seat, but he wasn’t too happy about the situation so I rescued him before documenting my gaffe. The bike was really stable given the heavy rectangular bags on either side so I just left it supine for a while and shoved it along as the line moved.

Three and a half hours later we arrived in Portland, retrieved and repacked the bike, and rode just one mile over the Broadway Bridge to our hotel. I only saw one cargo bike during that one mile–a custom-looking longtail locked up outside an office building. I also got a “You go on! I’m going to tell my friend about you!” which was nice, but made me think that guy must not get out much. Or maybe he just got off a train from a less bikey city, too.

Saturday morning we woke up earlier than I would have liked and headed to the PSU Farmers Market in search of exciting bikes and exciting food. Food we found in spades (including high quality, hand crafted, small batch, artisan pickles–I kid you not!) but we only found one notable bike: a Rejuiced Bikes, though I couldn’t tell its function. The white bucket had “Hand washing station” written on it so maybe it’s a velo food cart of some sort. There’s only one saddle so a single driver is able to pilot the contraption, whatever it is. The boys were intrigued for a while, but once they spotted the banana slug nearby, the magic was gone. I’ve adored Rejuiced Bikes since I first saw them at Bumbershoot last year and hoped we’d have time to make it to Maker Faire at OMSI this visit to see the full fleet.

All day I had the feeling I wasn’t taking the best routes, including as we left PSU and rode between street car train tracks. Hey! It feels just like riding in South Lake Union! But this not-so-bike friendly street took us by Bike Gallery where I was able to pick up a Portland bike map. No kid-carrying bikes to ogle there, but I saw a Trek Transport cargo bike for the first time. The front rack and cargo bags both look really nice. I didn’t look closely, but I’d imagine the bags would fit on any longtail bike.

I didn’t immediately utilize my new bike map, though, and ended up at the Burnside Bridge when I’d been aiming for the Hawthorne Bridge. But that meant we got a nice look at the white stag.

I missed another turn shortly after the bridge and stopped at a bike corral to orient myself. These bike corrals are everywhere, by the way! With many many more to come–the city can’t install them fast enough. Do I sound jealous yet? Because I am!

Finally I found my way and met up with friends for a ride: Kath with one of her two kids in her bakfiets, Emily with five of her six kids in her bakfiets/coupled kid bike, and Elle of Tiny Helmets Big Bikes, visiting from Sacramento on Emily’s Christiania Boxcycle, with one of her two kids. Emily’s awesome kid hauling was publicized in June in a Bike Portland article: With six kids and no car, this mom does it all by bike and she just got back from Long Beach last night where she spoke at the National Women’s Bicycling Summit. Here is her presentation for those of us not lucky enough to attend to see–it’s awesome:

During my last Portland visit, I met Emily and Kath at a park so I didn’t realize how fast Emily is! I didn’t get a lot of great pictures because I was focused on just keeping up. I was able to learn from her technique and will apply it to the Big Dummy, though it won’t work on my little bike: from most every stop or up any slight hill, she stands in the pedals to get up to speed quickly and then is able to keep her momentum going. I didn’t realize it was possible to stand and pedal a bakfiets and I credit Emily with inventing it. Kath can do it now, too. And despite having one kid with pedals, Emily seems to do 95% of the work. She cycled through three daughters on the back and while they’re each adorable, they were all more interested in lip syncing, dancing, and perfecting their backwards-seated pedaling.

Elle was no slouch, either, keeping up on the heavy trike. And riding with no hands! That’s a folded up FollowMe Tandem Coupling on the back–the same system Emily uses on the bakfiets to attach the kid bike. We’ve just about outgrown the current setup of the old mamabike so I think I want one, too.

We were quite the sight, pedaling around Portland with Emily’s music blasting from her new Ion Tailgater, cleverly kept in a laundry basket behind her bakfiets. We took a lane on Hawthorne to create our own Critical Mass/Critical Lass/Kidical Mass/you-name-it at one point, but we didn’t have to work very hard to get noticed, even in Portland. At one point, Emily pulled up next to a tall bike at a red light. I’m not sure which rig was more a sight to behold. And then we saw a guy on a regular bike holding a huge plank atop his head with one hand. Emily shouted “You’re awesome!” to him and he shouted, “You’re awesome, too!”

I got to see some cool bike boulevard signage as we whizzed down SE Clinton Street. These “bike flags” are a great way to mark a bike route!

But the closer-to-eye-level “toppers” were more noticeable.

It was a most memorable day! Here’s Elle’s write up of our fun day.

We returned to the hotel to meet with Totcycle and extended family at the pool. After a sufficient amount of splashing around, we toweled off the kids, threw them on bikes, and headed for Hopworks Urban Brewery. With their big bikes at home, too, Julian rolled on a Brompton folding bike with IT chair for toddler while his kindergartener rode her bike alongside…with boosts from dad up the mild hills. Julian was able to propel her so well, she left her cousins on bigger bikes in the dust–who were accompanied by parents on another Brompton and a regular bike.

HUB was very kid friendly with play area inside and huge ouside area, where we chose to sit. Out front there are grown-up-use-only stationary bikes that help power the place–patrons can pedal and earn a discount. The Bike Bar is quite striking with bike frames hanging from the ceiling. We met up with the Car Free Days family and Mr. Family Ride arrived from his afternoon train trip and the Seattle crew was complete.

Tomorrow: Fiets of Parenthood!

A little more Portland

Last morning in Portland. We rode up to Waffle Window which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s on the side of Bread and Ink Cafe which sounds like a tattoo parlor/bakery, but is just a restaurant. I love walk-up windows. It’s such a luxury leaving the kids in their bike seats and not having to lock up. More drive-through windows that allow bikes would be great, too, of course.

After a dog walk and romp at a nearby playground, I crammed our luggage back into the two big blue bags. I decided I didn’t want to wear the laptop in my messenger bag again, so I shoved that in a blue bag, too. I figured the boys shouldn’t have to carry too much, either, and bungeed their little backpacks atop the blue bags. As well as the bike lock, since it no longer fit in a blue bag. My laptop is pretty big and heavy and I probably should have listened to Mr. Family Ride and left it at home, but between free Wi-Fi on the train and at Inn Beervana, I couldn’t resist bringing it. I think I may have scared Brian off from cargo and family biking, though, as I yawed left and then right as I wobbled my way upright and away from the inn. I shouted over my shoulder than I’m not usually so heavy and unsteady and he shouted back, “I sure hope not!” so I think we’re cool.

Next up was tweetup part two where we met @inkandpen, owner of the marvelous Yuba Mundo with boxes pictured below and @sarahgilbert, maker of the one less minivan bumpersticker creator and rider of the stylish Electra Townie Xtracycle. Not to belittle the awesomeness of Seattle biking families, but there are some wonderful people down in Portland! Now I see why Totcycle went down to visit so many times last year.

The train ride home was pretty much the same as the ride down, though I’ve discovered it’s easier to take long trips in the morning so the journey is more of an adventure and not a tired and tiring schlepp. So this afternoon’s 3.5-hour trip felt even longer than Monday’s morning excursion. This time we got our own set of four seats, though no table in the middle…which meant jumping back and forth! Also no toddler on a leash across the aisle this time. The couple closest to us escaped to a different train car as soon as we sat down. Probably a wise move–ours wasn’t a very quiet train car.

We arrived to Seattle at 6:30, by which time we were all exhausted and I had a headache. We’re rarely out in the dark so that was novel. The lit-up buildings led to our discovery of a model train display in the window of the downtown Macy’s. We’ll be back in light of day to check it out. Both kids fell asleep on the ride home, which took until 8pm. I moved even slower than normal and had to stop and rest on the way up Densmore twice on account of the heavy load.

In retrospect, I don’t think I’d do anything different packing-wise other than leave the laptop behind. We didn’t run out of clothes or need to purchase anything other than food. That’s a success in my book. And odds are our next trip will be in warmer weather and require less bulky clothing. I think we’ll be back once the big kid is on a pedal bike to have Clever Cycles install a FollowMe Tandem Coupling on this bike. I’m hoping this happens before the little kid outgrows the Bobike mini front seat. He’s OK weight-wise, but at some point he’s going to start complaining of his knees hurting as his brother did. I could probably swap in different handlebars if the timing doesn’t go according to plan, but that’s not as cheap as not needing new handlebars.

Portland: Clever Cycles, Tweetup, Burgerville

We took friend, beer writer, and innkeeper, Brian Yaeger, to Clever Cycles today. I was hoping to bully Brian into buying a bakfiets (I can see him transporting kegs, dog, and inn supplies in the box), but he opted to test ride a really nice Breezer while I was occupied at the World’s most kid-friendly bike shop‘s Lego table. He didn’t leave the shop with a new bike, but they have ten Breezers in his size on sale so he’s got a bit of time to think about it.

My one purchase was supposed to be a bell for the Bianchi, but instead the boys chose loud little horns to put on their balance bikes. They honked them merrily as we test rode the Nihola trike. The boys had so much fun riding in it with the shop’s stuffed dog last time that they insisted taking it out for another spin–this time with even more stuffed animals.

Back in the shop we checked out a very cool KidzTandem, which the boys were too small for, but certainly seems like a great way to get a slightly bigger kid helping with the pedaling.

And we saw up close the brilliant double bar ends Xtracycle FlightDeck kid handles. There’s an Xtracycle in Seattle with them in the middle of the FlightDeck that the rear kid uses to hold.

But the most intriguing product we saw was the Salsa Cycles Anything Cage being used as a beer growler holder. It’s designed to hold yoga mats and similar sized objects, but Clever Cycles discovered it perfectly fits a growler, too. Brilliant. Brian seemed quite taken with this, too, though he wouldn’t need such a cage if he had a bakfiets…

Our next stop was Seawallcrest Park to meet a bunch of local biking families. The park has the greatest corkscrew slide the likes of which you’d never see in a new park. I had the pleasure (ha) of going down the slide twice to rescue my little guy who was fine most of his trips up and down, but needed a lap to ride on a couple times.

Here’s a shot of the assembled family bikes from the top of the slide: @built‘s road bike, @KYouell‘s bakfiets, Andy’s Surly Big Dummy, my Bianchi Milano, and the amazing @1lessgmsuburban‘s bakfiets coupled to a kid bike with a FollowMe Tandem. Emily’s 10-year old rode a separate bike, but she had the other five kids (two in bakfiets, one in Bobike junior on her rear rack, one riding the kid bike attached behind her, and one on the rear rack of the kid bike) with her. So impressive! Oh, and she baked two cakes and brought a thermos of coffee for us all!

Back to more Xtracycle accessories, I got a good look at Andy’s bar end foot pegs. Perfect for climbing onto the FlightDeck and resting little feet upon.

Once it got dark and cold I followed Kath to bike-through dinner at Burgerville, where 5% of the proceeds were supporting her friend’s kid’s preschool. I was excited to visit Burgerville because they are very accommodating of bikes thanks to the work of Portland biking mama Sarah Gilbert a couple years ago.

Bike + train to Portland

It wasn’t easy, but I crammed three days’ worth of stuff onto the bike this morning: clothes, toiletries, gifts, and snacks in the two big zippering Trader Joes bags in my rear baskets; toys and more snacks in the kids’ backpacks held on their laps; and small messenger bag, laptop, Ergo, and even more snacks in my big messenger bag. Thank goodness it was all downhill to the train station.

It was very easy getting the bike on the train. I left it fully loaded with kids and bags and walked it to the baggage car at the end of the train where I dumped everything in a big pile, folded up the baskets, and handed the bike over to an Amtrak guy who hefted it into the car and hung it from the vertical bike rack. I don’t know if this was by design, but our seats were next to the baggage car so I didn’t have to transport our stuff far and we could look at the bike through the adjoining window.

The three-and-a-half-hour trip was long, but easier than a car or airplane trip. We were seated in a cluster of four seats with a table…with a poor solo guy sharing our space. He was very patient and helped retrieved dropped toy cars and trains and somehow managed a bit of a nap. We paid a couple visits to the dining car, which was clear on the other side of the train. Also at that end of the train was the handicapped bathroom which easily accommodated the three of us, though even the normal bathrooms were more generously sized than airplane lavs.

Getting off the train was a snap, too. I loaded up all our stuff train-side as soon as I retrieved the bike so had to do very little carrying of heavy bags to do. The only casualty of the trip was one of the ears of the bunny bell.

My friend Andy, a recent Seattle transplant, met us at the train station, sporting some sweet holiday decorations on his Surly Big Dummy. Thank goodness for cargo bikes–I happily handed off my enormous messenger bag and the kids’ backpacks which easily fit in his custom cargo bags.

He led us on a tour or Portland, with our first stop Voodoo Doughnut. I noticed a “Skate Route” directional sign along the way which made me smile because nothing says flat land better than a skate route sign. We rode by several fountains we’ll have to come back to visit in the summer, admired the Portland Oregon sign, and stopped at the food cart pod on Hawthorne (which is apparently called Cartopia) for dinner. Potato Champion was unfortunately closed, but the rest were open, the heated tent was great, and they even turned on the little merry-go-round for the kids.

We headed up the Sockeye Salmon Street (you may translate SE Salmon St. as Southeast, but the boys insisted upon Sockeye) Neighborhood Greenway to Inn Beervana, my brother’s friend’s beer-themed vacation rental. Salmon was a nice quiet street and we saw a great bikey house on it–with bike wheels decorating several surfaces–but it was hardly the flat route I’d imagined. The parts of Portland we rode through weren’t hilly like Seattle, but they weren’t completely flat, either.

Clever Cycles in Portland

A bike shop with a play area and a toddler potty seat insert, does it get any better than this??

We carpooled with my friend and her two little boys to Clever Cycles in Portland today so she could get a new two-kid-carrying bike. She had her eye on a Gazelle Bloom with Yepp seats front and back. The bike was too big, but they had a great little Breezer Uptown 8. It’s got a Yepp on the front and Bobike Maxi (same as me!) on the back. They had to swap out handlebars and stem and also added a Brooks saddle and double kickstand. They didn’t have all the parts to attach a front rack so the eventual front basket is still being worked out. So keep in mind it will soon be even cuter than it is now:

While she was shopping I test rode a couple bikes. First I took out an Xtracycle. It’s funny–I know I want an Xtracycle in a year or two, but I’ve never been on one. I had planned to put the baby in the Yepp bike seat and have the big kid hang on behind, but the baby wouldn’t leave the play area. The play area’s puppy came along so I could still get the feel for carrying two beings. Naturally, the verdict is that I loved it!

I also took out a Nihola cargo bike. I thought it would feel just like the Christiania, but its handling is quite different…though also tricky at first. I should have taken a Christiania out again to compare, but I didn’t want to overdo it. Based on my recollection of my WheelHouse Santa Barbara test ride, I think I prefer the Christiania to the Nihola. But they’re both freaky. I think I’m just better suited to two wheels. Clever Cycles has a Gazelle Cabby hung from the ceiling so I pointed it out to the boys and reminded them of our LA Cabby adventure and told them we’d be using one in a few days, too.

Not much mileage to add to my 30 Days of Cycling tally, but it still counts!
Daily distance: 0.5 mile
Cumulative: 46.8 miles