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Why don’t I ride my e-bike more?

I’ve been awarded a wonderful opportunity to borrow an Urban Arrow electric-assist bakfiets for an extended amount of time, of which a few months have elapsed. I’ve always loved bakfietsen (also known as longjohns, frontloaders, and box bikes) and have several times rented them when visiting flat cities before e-assisted versions were common. Getting my hands and feet on one that’s spacious enough and powered enough to carry my two big kids is simply awesome! However, I don’t ride it exclusively and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Thanks to @stuuart for recently asking me about this on Twitter:

What a great question! I feel a bit silly that I hadn’t considered this before, but I’ve taken some time to put significant thought into the matter–both while using and while avoiding this wonderful bike. Here are my ranked numerous–but minor–reasons.

1. It’s heavy. Yes, it has a motor that counteracts (and then some!) the weight of the bike while rolling along, but most people end up needing to maneuver their bikes while not rolling quite a bit. The Urban Arrow weighs 112 pounds. My Big Dummy isn’t light at 75 pounds, but that’s a significant difference, plus I’m used to its weight distribution and am fairly good at lifting parts of it to move it around without hurting my back. Granted that wasn’t always the case: graduating from a mere 50-pound bike of regular length that I could easily move around while the kids were seated on it (one at the front and one at the back, so their weight was nicely distributed) I spent my first couple months of Big Dummy ownership with an aching back as I got used to not being able to lift and redirect the tail of the bike while the kids both sat upon it. So perhaps I could get used to the weight of the Urban Arrow if only I would use it more often. As it is, to get the bike inside at work I awkwardly move hand over hand to the front of the bike to lift the nose wheel up the curb, then paw my way back to the rear rack and lift the back of the bike up the curb while shoving it forward through the door.

It’s not awful lifting the bike up this curb, but it’s not fun.

At home I have a makeshift ramp up the shallow steps to my back door, but I still need to lift the rear of the bike just an inch or so to prevent the bottom bracket from scraping. I can usually get the bike out of the house with just one of the French doors open, but I often have to open the second door (which requires bending down to undo one latch and stretching up to undo the other) to get it back inside. Not the biggest inconvenience, but it’s an additional step I don’t need to do with my Big Dummy and all these things add up to sometimes irritate my bad back.

I know a cargo biking mom who took up weight lifting to increase her strength and ensure she could keep riding her longtail as her kids got heavier. I have yet to prioritize time to any exercise outside of bike commuting, but I really like this strategy in theory.

I know another cargo biking mom whose bakfiets was stolen. When I heard her lamenting the weight of her bike I mistakenly thought she’d replaced her cargo bike and I’d missed the announcement. But no, she was talking about her folding bike she’d been making do with for all trips. “Totable” folding bikes can require a lot of carrying around–something she didn’t need to do with her bakfiets, obviously. We don’t always appreciate how much bike lifting goes with certain bikes or certain circumstances. I have a folding bike and I need to be in the right mood (free of back pain, sufficiently rested) to want to take it along on transit where I know I’ll be lifting and carrying it a lot. It’s extremely convenient and I love having it, but it’s heavy–not only in actual pounds (it’s 30 pounds) but also because I need to lift and carry it a lot.

This isn’t a direct correlation, but it’s a good “note to self” that I could very well get used to the Urban Arrow’s weight and heftitude: I used to think if I had Pixie before my Big Dummy I would have bought a dog-specific basket. Or at least a deeper basket. I felt this way for a couple years before realizing the existing shallow basket works well enough. I’ll consider myself adapted to the Urban Arrow’s weight once I stop complaining about it. Last week I brought the UA to work, assuming I’d use it to tote my 12-year old to a doctor’s appointment, but when our schedule changing I stomped my foot and whined, “I could have taken a lighter bike today!” I’m clearly not very far along the road of getting used to its weight yet.

2. I love riding my Big Dummy. We’ve lived here two and a half years now, but it’s still a novel treat to live in a neighborhood and city I can easily enough get everywhere with my beast of a bike. When I lived in Seattle (in “a neighborhood on the side of a cliff” according to a friend from a slightly less hilly neighborhood) I always took a regular bike if I was making a trip without my little passengers. I never understood why Seattle friends with cargo bikes took their big, heavy bikes when they didn’t need to. I’m still not sure why Seattle dwellers do that, but here in a flat part of Portland I love taking my comfy, familiar cargo bike on every excursion–because you never know when you might need to carry something big that won’t fit easily on a regular bike.

3. I’m used to being very slow. Everyone passes me when I’m on my Big Dummy–even when I’ve got absolutely no cargo on board. But I’m used to it. I like being slow enough to notice things I’d miss if I were going faster and I’m good about giving myself sufficient time to get places at my slow pace. And if I really really need to hurry I can usually pick up the pace a bit, even on my heavy bike. On the other hand, it’s a treat to get places 10 minutes early when I ride the Urban Arrow! Or to take an extra 10 minutes before leaving. Sometimes I take my road bike to work instead of my Big Dummy and it’s the same feeling. I enjoy being fast from time to time, but it’s not a daily craving for me like it is for some. I’m happy to putter along.

Apparently the Urban Arrow is a “slow” e-cargo bike, according to a friend who owns a different e-bakfiets and has more experience than I with the various e-bakfietsen on the market. Obviously that makes it the perfect e-bakfiets for me! Having used the same Bosch assist when borrowing the Surly Big Easy, I can say that the Big Easy longtail is much zippier. I chalked that up to the different geometry of the bike–the Big Easy is a mountain bike with the rider canted slightly forward while the Urban Arrow has a cranks (feet)-forward position putting the rider completely upright. It’s very stately! And fast. But apparently not fast-fast.

4. I’m better at loading big things in the Big Dummy. This is another thing that would surely change with practice, but while box bikes like the Urban Arrow are wonderful for tossing in bag after bag of groceries, longtails like my Big Dummy are excellent at carrying bikes and other long objects. I’ve been able to carry one kid and his bike with the Urban Arrow by laying the bike across the unoccupied part of the box, but it’s wide. I found the door I’m using as a bike ramp while on my Big Dummy and I can’t imagine having carried that with the Urban Arrow. I haven’t taken to carrying cargo straps with the Urban Arrow so I’m not really giving it a chance as a big-stuff hauler.

On person’s abandoned door is another person’s bike ramp!

5. It’s fancy and it’s not mine. I’m always nervous locking up or dinging a new bike. I feel an additional layer of nervousness with the Urban Arrow since I’m simply borrowing it. I think I’m using it enough to be a good ambassador even so, but I cannot bring myself to take it anywhere I’ll need to leave it locked up outside for hours. Fortunately it can stay indoors at home and at the office and there are lots of other places I can take it and not need to leave it unattended for an amount of time that will make me nervous.

6. I still get a bit range anxiety. It’s not as bad as it was in the beginning, but it’s one more thing to think about. I’m not used to plugging in my bike and often don’t bother plugging it in unless I know for a fact I’ll be using it in a few hours. This left me with an almost dead battery and a sick kid to fetch from a canceled sleepover…nearby, but down a big hill. (I left the motor off to get to him and used it at Eco/lowest mode on the way home and ran out of juice at the top of the hill, phew. But I felt bad that it took me an extra couple minutes to get to my sick kid and then an extra handful of minutes to get him home, all because I’m not good about plugging in.) For most people range anxiety all but goes away after living with an e-bike for a short time. That said, every so often I’m surprised to hear a long-time e-biking friend fret about battery life.

0. I’m worried about getting spoiled/e-bikes are cheating. This one doesn’t get a real place in my numbered list because E-BIKES AREN’T CHEATING so it’s not one of my reasons. However, enough people tease that e-bikes are cheating that it always bears addressing. And I’ve heard lots of people voice concern that they’ll get spoiled when considering getting e-bikes. While I love switching to turbo mode (the most powerful of the four modes) to charge up big hills, I don’t think it’s left me spoiled. I also love using the e-bike to carry both kids far distances, nor has that spoiled me. E-bikes are amazing and fun and zippy, but they’re still bikes. When I’ve stupidly set out without enough battery, I can still pedal the bike once there’s no more juice. I can also choose flatter routes if I’m on a regular bike. Someone with the mindset that e-bikes are cheating isn’t going to change their mind based on my shared experience, but I love adding more biking to our lives by replacing long transit trips. I picked my kids up at the airport (14 miles away) on New Years Day. It was cheaper, quicker, and funner than using the light rail and the bus–which would be my other method of picking them up since I would never carry them all that distance on my Big Dummy or expect them to ride their own bikes (even in the middle of the day in nice weather…which it wasn’t) that distance. Other people are replacing car trips with this sort of trip and that’s the real game-changing awesomeness e-cargo bike create. Now that e-bikes have been around for a bit and lots of data is available, there are oodles of easy-to-find articles with better ammunition than my anecdotes enumerating how much more people bike when they switch to e-bikes.

Bundled up with food and dog for a long ride home from the airport.

I really wish I could find the link to a video I saw a long time (eight, ten years?) ago of a former professional cyclist (maybe mountain biking?) who carried her kids around with an e-assist cargo trike. I was confused at first because obviously this woman was strong enough that she didn’t need a motor. But that’s the thing: you don’t need to need a motor to make very good use of one. While I’ve never thought e-bikes were cheating, it’s taken me a long time (until writing this, in fact) to coalesce my thinking on the matter in regards to people like this cool mom. It’s easy to see how wonderful e-bikes are for people who couldn’t otherwise bike where they need to go or carry what they need to carry, but they’re also wonderful for people who can get by with non-electric bikes.

Has the Urban Arrow spurred any changes to our lives? Heck yes! I consider myself lucky that my kids don’t have a lot of activities and interests far from home and at weird hours. But I signed my middle schooler up for an after-school class that’s close to home but far from school with a very short window to get him there. I never would have done that without the Urban Arrow. As it is, we arrive a few minutes late, but in checking with the organizer I learned that was OK with them as well as OK in terms of my kid not missing valuable intro time or activity time. I’m not sure what we’ll do about the program once we’re not using the Urban Arrow anymore. Possibly carpool with a family coming from the same school…but we all like avoiding using cars. The next fastest choice would be for he and I to ride our tandem bike, which I’d like to make part of our regular repertoire in general, but it’s going to take a lot of practice and possibly some knee pain on my part (he’s not the most consistent pedaler). But for now, he loves his class and I love being able to carry him there quickly with the Urban Arrow.

Off hours arterial riding is fun!

I’ve got a new habit (as of yesterday): on weekends I take advantage of sparse traffic and ride certain arterials (a.k.a. busy streets) on the way to work.

The dream started one day over a year ago when I turned south early to avoid construction. I arrived to SE Powell Boulevard–two lanes in either direction with center turn lane to keep everyone driving fast, speed limit 35 mph. I had planned to cross the street at the closest light I could find, but looking beyond the wide street I noticed the street I was on dipped down in elevation. I was loathe to lose altitude (I was on my Big Dummy, though not carrying any extra weight, but still) so instead I stayed on Powell’s sidewalk and continued eastward. It’s a loud and busy street which makes it unpleasant to walk along so I didn’t see any people on foot during my 30-block journey. But I did see lots of cool things! I realized I’d never even seen Powell through a bus window (my usual way to see what’s on an arterial) so this was all new. I was excited to see a bowling alley (though now it’s a Target store), a family-friendly brewery, and cool murals. As I often do, I thought of the Netherlands where there’s space for people on bikes both on quiet streets and busy streets–because, duh, that’s where people need to get by bike. Planning for transportational bicycling and not just recreational makes for such a different and more robust bike-friendly network.

I’ll never ride in the street on Powell (except for one very short block I make use of that I mentioned on BikePortland: Family Biking: Intersections are scary, until you wiggle around them), but yesterday and today I enjoyed zooming down Division (speed limit 25mph) and I might add some other regulars to my weekend morning repertoire.

Gorgeous mural by N.O. Bonzo on the side of Oregon Theatre on Division

On weekends I can already leave home five minutes later thanks to significantly less traffic meaning shorter light cycles for the many stop lights I hit. But looking at it from a different perspective, the dearth of traffic at 7:30am on a weekend means the big roads that don’t have stop signs every other block are pretty much deserted. I want to know our arterials better. I tend to confuse the east-west streets I avoid–Hawthorne, Division, Belmont (in fact, I thought I was listing them in order just now and I see I’m not)–and which one houses which cool businesses. I never know landmarks friends refer to on arterials. Not that this as all ended as of this weekend, but at least I’m going to get a handle on Division. I’ll explore extending the zippy section of my commute, but this weekend I’ve stuck to my usual greenway route along Clinton just until crossing the light of Cesar Chavez and then I head north a block to Division. Division is at a slight downhill here so even though it’s only one lane in each direction, I can pretty well keep up with traffic if I encounter any. And I can get a sense of where Pok Pok is in relation to Salt & Straw and Bollywood Theater and see street art I’d otherwise miss.

Mural by GATS PTV on the side of the Oregon Theatre

I’d imagine this is similar to people on e-bikes being able to keep up with traffic on streets they previously avoided. I was on my zippy road bike today so I continued along Division even after it flattened out and then used another arterial (12th, 25mph) to head north. I wouldn’t do that on a slower bike nor on a weekday, but I can see how an e-bike would make those situations that much more comfortable.

If you’re curious about looking up speed limits in Portland, PBOT has this great interactive map: Current speed limits on Portland streets map. I used it for this post.

Do you similarly ride arterials sometimes? Or feel like you’re missing out in the same way I do needing to steer clear of such busy and fast but exciting streets?

Happy Eighth Birthday, Big Dummy!

First a confession: for the first time in eight years I didn’t ride my Big Dummy on its birthday! I have a cold and I got out the door five minutes later than planned so I rode the e-bike* we’re borrowing instead. But the Big Dummy is still my favorite bike of all time and gets a lot of action.

Here are a few of the fun things the Big Dummy got to do this year:

1) I learned I can still carry both kids, but it’s not easy now that they outweigh me.

2) Surly Bikes let me borrow the new e-assisted version of the Big Dummy, the Big Easy. It was fun! Obvs I hauled it around with my Big Dummy. I wrote about my first impressions and a full review over on BikePortland.

3) I carried camping gear (but the kids rode their own bikes) to a new-to-us campground, Oxbow Regional Park. We led the Kidical Mass PDX group so we had lots of company…as well as vehicle support for getting up the huge hill upon leaving the campground. My younger son opted for a lift in the truck up the hill, but my older son was game to ride up so I loaded my heavier gear into the truck trailer and we slowly crawled our way up. And we’d do it again! The only bummer about this campground is we couldn’t bring the dog. Here’s my review of the trip for BikePortland.

4) MOTHERLOAD, “a crowdsourced documentary about how cargo bikes will save the world,” is out! And my Big Dummy is in it several times. I rode my Big Dummy to the Portland showing in July.

5) Working full time means I don’t bike with the kids these days–one rides to and from elementary school on his own and the other rides the school bus to and from middle school. I usually ride the Big Dummy to and from work, but don’t use it at work (leading biking, walking, and hiking tours for Around Portland Tours). However, every so often I do use it for work, like my recent tour guest who needed to rush to the airport after our tour and was game to have me tote her luggage with us so she could take the MAX to PDX near the end of our ten-mile loop through town rather than call for an uber after the tour. And then I towed the extra bike back to the office from the MAX station. So fun!

Happy happy!

* The e-bike we’re borrowing is an Urban Arrow and it’s awesome! Here’s my review of it on BikePortland.

Read previous birthday posts:

100 posts on BikePortland

I just wrapped up my time as BikePortland.org family biking columnist. Writing the weekly column has been a blast. I’ve profiled biking families in Portland, promoted kid-friendly events (lots of Kidical Mass PDX events, but other stuff, too), and written about just about everything imaginable. Here are links to all my posts in one spot!

  1. Family Biking: Madi Carlson, signing off – 2019/11/19
  2. Family Biking: Kids + leaves = fun! – 2019/11/13
  3. Family Biking: Gladys Bikes’ Saddle Library is the place to go for mom butts – 2019/11/05
  4. Family Biking: How to fit two tweens on a family bike (the end) – 2019/10/29
  5. Family Biking: Thoughts on carrying tweens and biking less – 2019/10/22
  6. Family Biking: Two tweens on a family bike (part two) – 2019/10/15
  7. Family Biking: Intersections are scary, until you wiggle around them – 2019/10/08
  8. Family Biking: Join us for the Kidical Mass Pumpkin Farm Ride – 2019/10/01
  9. Family Biking: Frog Bikes are a quality, lightweight option for young riders – 2019/09/24
  10. Family Biking: Volunteer for new middle-schooler community rides – 2019/09/17
  11. Family Biking: Here’s how to ace Walk + Roll to School Day – 2019/09/10
  12. Family Biking: Two tweens on a family bike (part one) – 2019/09/03
  13. Family Biking: Food cart pods are almost the perfect spot for bikes, kids, and pets – 2019/08/27
  14. Family Biking: Go beyond parks and campgrounds with these bike camp hacks – 2019/08/20
  15. Family Biking: The ABCs of a summer bucket list – 2019/08/13
  16. Family Biking: Time to start planning your bike-to-school route – 2019/08/06
  17. Family Biking: You can’t go home again, but bicycling helps – 2019/07/31
  18. Family Biking: Reassuring relatives about biking with baby – 2019/07/23
  19. Review: ‘Motherload’ film gives cargo bikes their due – 2019/07/16
  20. Join us for ‘Motherload’ film screening and bike parade this Thursday – 2019/07/09
  21. Meet Skip Spitzer; a carfree, climate-change-fighting, single dad – 2019/07/02
  22. Family Biking: Oxbow Regional Park is a great bike camping destination – 2019/06/25
  23. Family Biking: Join Kidical Mass for a weekend camping trip to Oxbow Park – 2019/06/18
  24. These summer bike camps still have a spot for your kid – 2019/06/11
  25. Family Biking: How to Pedalpalooza with the little ones – 2019/06/04
  26. In front, in back, or at your side? Where should kids ride? – 2019/05/28
  27. Family Biking: We all fall down – 2019/05/21
  28. Feeling the strength of moms on Mother’s Day – 2019/05/14
  29. Grab the kiddos and get ready for the Gorge Pedal – 2019/05/07
  30. No school on Bike to School Day, let’s rally with ‘Red for Ed’ instead – 2019/04/30
  31. 300 people turned out for the annual Kidical Mass Easter Ride! – 2019/04/23
  32. Family Biking: Join us for the annual Kidical Mass Easter Ride – 2019/04/16
  33. Family Biking: Here’s how to bike to the cherry trees in Waterfront Park – 2019/04/02
  34. Review: Surly’s ‘Big Easy’ smooths out family biking and cargo-hauling – 2019/03/26
  35. Family Biking: A tire pumping primer – 2019/03/19
  36. Family Biking: First impressions of the Surly Big Easy electric cargo bike – 2019/03/12
  37. Family Biking: Author and illustrator Alison Farrell comes to Storytime March 10th – 2019/03/05
  38. Family Biking Column: My recap of the Worst Day of the Year Ride – 2019/02/27
  39. Carfree travel with kids: Taking the family around L.A. by transit – 2019/02/26
  40. Biking through Vancouver BC’s protected intersection – 2019/02/19
  41. How to throw a winter bike-to-school party – 2019/02/12
  42. Family Biking: Learning to ride a pedal bike – 2019/02/05
  43. Family Biking: No, you don’t need an e-bike (but you’d love having one) – 2019/01/29
  44. Family biking profile: For the Kurtens, the right bikes helped them go carfree – 2019/01/22
  45. Join the family biking fun at Kidical Mass planning meeting – 2019/01/15
  46. Family Biking: Join us for a new ‘Storytime’ event series – 2019/01/08
  47. Family Biking: Share your new bike stories! – 2018/12/27
  48. Family biking profile: A new(ish) rider and her toddler take to the streets – 2018/12/18
  49. Family Biking: Beyond mama bear rage and toward healthier responses to bad drivers – 2018/12/11
  50. Family biking: Our annual tree-by-bike tradition – 2018/12/04
  51. Saddle height hints, ballast before babes, and other tips for settling into family biking – 2018/11/27
  52. Family Biking: Come join us at Cranksgiving – 2018/11/20
  53. Family Biking: Get ready for puddle season – 2018/11/14
  54. Family Biking: Let’s (not) talk about safety – 2018/11/06
  55. Family Biking: Beat winter blahs with a plan to pedal more – 2018/10/30
  56. Family Biking: How straps can unlock your bike’s carrying capacity – 2018/10/23
  57. Family Biking: How to get Halloween night right – 2018/10/16
  58. Family Biking: What’s your favorite rain gear? (I asked my kids too) – 2018/10/09
  59. Family Biking: It’s bike-to-pumpkins season! Here’s where to go – 2018/10/02
  60. Family Biking: Time to plan for Walk and Roll to School Day – 2018/09/25
  61. Family Biking: Can’t ride? What’s your backup plan? – 2018/09/18
  62. Family Biking: Join us for Kidical Massive this Saturday (9/15) – 2018/09/11
  63. Family Biking: A bike light primer for the approaching season – 2018/09/04
  64. Family Biking: How was the first day of school? – 2018/08/28
  65. Family Biking: Get ready to bike to school – 2018/08/21
  66. Family Biking: Sidewalk cycling can be a savior – 2018/08/14
  67. When moms escape: Tackling the unpaved Trask River Road route to the coast – 2018/08/10
  68. Family Biking: A cautionary tale of kids riding too-small bikes – 2018/08/07
  69. Family biking profile: Elizabeth Decker has rediscovered the fun – 2018/08/01
  70. Family biking: What type of infrastructure is important to you? – 2018/07/24
  71. Family biking profile: Sara Schooley is sure you’ll like e-bikes too – 2018/07/17
  72. Family biking profile: Kathleen Youell moved to Portland to live carfree – 2018/07/10
  73. Family Biking: Preludes to pedaling their own set of wheels – 2018/07/03
  74. Grab the kids, load up your bike, and cool off at a local watering hole – 2018/06/26
  75. Family Biking: Make this the summer you pedal to camp with the kiddos – 2018/06/19
  76. Finding a family-friendly Pedalpalooza – 2018/06/13
  77. Family Biking: Taking kids and bikes on MAX light rail – 2018/06/05
  78. Family biking profile: Ali Reis and her daughter Lark – 2018/05/29
  79. Sunday Parkways is perfect for families: Here’s how to get the most out of it – 2018/05/22
  80. Talking about family biking (and why I want to share your stories) – 2018/05/15
  81. On the exhaustion of motherhood and why I want to bike with other families on Mother’s Day – 2018/05/08
  82. Snacks, shade and seven other ways to make this your best spring ever – 2018/05/01
  83. Bluetooth speakers and a “Rolling Jackass”: These are a few of my favorite things – 2018/04/24
  84. Here’s why more Portlanders don’t bike with their kids – 2018/04/17
  85. My first Ladd’s 500 – 2018/04/16
  86. Humans, bike maps, and of course, Google: How to choose family-friendly routes – 2018/04/10
  87. Come to the Kidical Mass planning meeting and help us build an all-ages bike network – 2018/04/03
  88. A big, all-ages turnout at annual Kidical Mass Easter ride – 2018/04/02
  89. What prevents you from biking with your young children? – 2018/03/27
  90. Family Biking: An introduction to Kidical Mass in Portland – 2018/03/20
  91. Where to buy used kids’ bikes in Portland – 2018/03/13
  92. Biking with the family dog – 2018/03/06
  93. Tips for tackling toddler helmet hesitancy – 2018/02/27
  94. How to keep little bike passengers cozy in the cold – 2018/02/20
  95. Here’s how I’ve carried my kids by bike for the past 10 years – 2018/02/13
  96. Partying on the Worst Day of the Year Ride – 2018/02/12
  97. Introducing our new Family Biking column by Madi Carlson – 2018/02/06

We’re borrowing an Urban Arrow

Fun times in the Family Ride household, we’re borrowing an Urban Arrow Family, the original e-assist bakfiets. These days, most of my writing is in my weekly column on BikePortland.org, and lately I’ve been musing about ways people can carry two tweens on a family bike. I reviewed the Urban Arrow and shared some additional thoughts about carrying tweens and biking less after lots of unexpected comments (silly me not to expect this) about “wtf are kids that age doing on your bike? they should be on their own bikes!”

There are always going to be people who think e-bikes are cheating, putting kids of any age in cars is OK but on bikes is not, and that everyone should be able to bike as fast and as fearlessly as they.

I’ll have one more post in my series of big kids on family bikes to go over various options I’m aware of (and please comment here or on BikePortland if you have solutions to share!) but in the meantime, we’re having a great time using the e-bakfiets. It’s a tight squeeze getting both kids in there, so we’ve started playing Pokémon Go as a distraction to the cramped conditions and it’s fixed everything.

Since it’s a big, precious bike I’m a little hesitant to bring it everywhere and lock it up out of my sight, but I’m still doing a fairly good job of putting it to good use. I almost didn’t take it to the pumpkin farm because I wasn’t sure it could go 33 miles on one charge and I was nervous about the lack of bike parking at Liepold Farms. But in the end I decided I really should be using the bike I said I’d use! So I brought the charger along and replenished some of the three-of-five bars I spent while riding to the farm and we made it home just fine. Parking worked OK, too. These last three years they’ve let us pile our bikes right by the entrance and I used a cable to attach the bike to the little gazebo I parked under.

This year the farm made a point of saying “Parking included in price” so perhaps next year they’ll add something for bikes. A bike rack would be nice, as would a discount. This year a parking attendant told us we were the only bike they’d seen.

* Here’s my Strava recording of the ride to the farm.
* Here is the Flickr photo album.

And here are some selected photos with descriptions…

I couldn’t find Pixie’s harness so we used her life jacket instead to buckle into the kid straps and it kept her in the bike nicely. The kids need a couple more inches of bench width to fit next to one another so I have the lighter kid sit on the front bench:

This is how Pixie would ride if she wasn’t strapped in. She loves leaning out the front of the bike, but it makes me very nervous. I tried for half a block to convince her to sit back down to no avail before I stuck her in my backpack during this initial voyage:

Charging up the e-bike battery and the Pokémon Go device while eating lunch:

Annual ruler photo!

It hailed on us!

It was tricky fitting two big pumpkins with two big kids. The bigger pumpkin filled the bottom of the bike and I used Pixie’s leash (I hadn’t thought to bring straps, oops) to attach the not-quite-as-big pumpkin to the Urban Arrow’s very sturdy rear rack. It slipped a bit to the side while biking home, but stayed on the bike:

Thank goodness for charging up during lunch! We made it all the way home without much juice to spare:

I’ll never quit my Big Dummy <3 One of the pumpkins was vandalized (maybe by squirrels? it had a soft spot so it probably smelled tasty) so I grabbed a replacement at New Seasons Market with my forever-bike:

We helped with a bike move!

We had a great time on Tuesday helping with the Books with Pictures bike move! Or rather Bike/Walk Move for Books with Pictures, and there was a lot of carrying and hand truck wheeling the three busy blocks between buildings. Going into it I wasn’t sure how long the kids would last, but they made it three hours without complaint! Doughnuts at the outset and a lunch spread in the middle made that possible. I made 11 runs back and forth with one kid coming each time while the other helped with loading and walking loads. Neither were keen to carry things on their own bikes.

I may not have announced my new-to-me cargo trailer on the blog: I have a Haulin’ Colin heavy duty cargo trailer now! I’ve borrowed Haulin’ Colin trailers in the past and eventually got my own hitch to borrow my neighbor Velotron’s. With my move away from Seattle, and then his move away from Seattle, the trailer has become mine! It’s 5 feet by 2 feet and I’ve carried 500 pounds with it, but it can handle even more weight…I probably can’t, though!

More about Books with Pictures
I’ve known of Books with Pictures proprietor Katie Proctor since before I met her thanks to her blog, A Most Civilized Conveyance, on which she recounted biking to the birth center in labor! And showed photos of the amazing baby-seat-carrying boxes on her cargo bike. Katie is one of the two founders of Kidical Mass PDX (I’m currently Co-Director with Sara Davidson) and we’ve held our last two organizers meetings at Books with Pictures.

We pledged our help on the Books with Pictures Great Big Move! Kickstarter, which is now fully funded, but still worth checking out to see the fabulous prizes and updates.

KOIN channel 6 was out filming on Tuesday for a followup to their article last year: Inclusive comic book store has something for everyone. The new video should show up online soon and maybe I’ll remember to update with a link here.

More BwP events
The last event is going on RIGHT NOW through tomorrow: Build the Shop: Work Party, Jun 21 at 10 AM – Jun 22 at 6 PM, but keep an eye on the BwP Facebook events page and more might pop up.

More on bike moves
The Move By Bike page on SHIFT has a lot of great info and links for joining future bike moves.

BikePortland.org February 1st, 2013: Portland bike move breaks record, gets national attention.

Video! Streetfilms: Portland Bike Move! (from 2004).

And there’s a book! How to Move by Bike: Tales and Tips to Inspire by Steph Routh.

This is the empty direction in which I’m carrying two kids, one bike, and one dog, ha!

The trailer came in handy later in the day when the combo of doughnuts and milkshake left my little one too icky-feeling to ride home.

Riding to the Oregon coast via the Trask Trail

I’ve already recapped last summer’s trip to the coast with Elle of Tiny Helmets Big Bikes over on BikePortland.org: “When moms escape: Tackling the unpaved Trask River Road route to the coast” (heh, I didn’t choose the fun title), but I never got around to uploading all my photos so now that that’s done, I’m re-recapping it, though more briefly.

I was on my Surly Straggler with 43mm-wide tires and Elle was on her Surly Troll with 2.4-inch-wide tires.

Maps:

Route details from Oregon Bikepacking:

While not technically easy, this the most straightforward, easiest dirt route to the coast from Portland. Starting from the end of the MAX line in Hillsboro, we route you through the least pavement possible to Mount Richmond and then on gravel up to the Barney Reservoir and along the North Fork of the Trask River directly into Tillamook.

Expect clear cuts, steep and loose gravel climbing, logging trucks, and plenty of pickups to keep you on your toes. And despite all that, it’s still a little gem of a route and one of our all-time favorites.

As predicted, enough time has passed that I’m willing to do this again, though in general I still don’t like the idea of taking a bike trip where I know I’ll have to hike-a-bike (walk my bike over terrain too hard or steep–or both!–for me to pedal). And now I know to:

  • Hit the road much earlier, say 6am instead of 10am
  • Bike downtown to catch the MAX rather than Gateway (takes the same 35 minutes and shaves 30 minutes off the trip!)
  • Spread my load over four panniers instead of just two
  • Vary my tire pressure–max for paved sections, low for gravel
  • Book a campsite at Trask River County Campground ahead of time
  • Filter water along the way rather than be stubborn/lazy and get thirsty

Coming back it’s tempting to do highway 6 again, especially if it’s a Monday. I’ve since heard details of how horrid that route can be, but I suspect early weekday trips tend to be much milder than weekend ones. Another option would be to take the Nestucca River Road route now that the detour of last summer is resolved.