Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Anatomy of my Longtail

You might have noticed that here at We Go By Bike, in addition to loving two-wheel power of all kinds, we have a special affinity for cargo bikes, and longtails in particular (Fabi's family has one, and you can see descriptions of the two my family own here). A longtail is a really convenient way to get your bike to carry more for you, because with the back wheel & frame all extend-o and the front half of the bike being normal, these cargo beasts pretty much ride like normal bikes even though they are carrying a station wagon's worth of stuff. Most "regular" bikes can be converted into longtails, either by you if you have bike mechanic skills, or at your local bike shop (you can learn more about them on Xtracycle's site: they are the original longtail creators and I'm just their happy customer, unpaid for my positive opinion). We are continually impressed by how much they can carry, like Fabi's post about the 30lb bag of cat litter, and Andy's legendary trip to Costco last fall (a flat of Diet Coke, two gallons of vinegar, a 30-pack of toilet paper, 15 rolls of paper towels, and a duffel with Andy's work clothes and lunch box).
However, I still don't think that their trunk space is well-known: recently I brought dinner to a friend with a newborn baby, and when I stopped by later to pick up my dishes, she said that she had almost taken them along to a Farmer's Market, hoping to bump in to me, but wasn't sure if I would be on my bike and unable to take them home. Au contraire! This bike holds a ton of stuff, so I snapped a little picture diary of yesterday's grocery store trip, just to show you how awesome my longtail can be when it's stuffed to the gills.
First, the full-body shot: my Xtracycle Radish longtail parked in our garage with a full store load (although this pic was actually from a couple months ago, I just wanted to give you the big picture).
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App 
Here was my actual grocery run from yesterday (clearly we eat a lot of Cheerios at our house; General Mills ought to give me a stipend for being their mobile billboard by riding around town with that recognizable yellow box). This trip was not so big that I needed to utilize the plastic deck behind Alton's blue child seat, but that sturdy surface provides a resting spot for things with easy bungee tether points all around it. Zero dollars per gallon!
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Here's a side view of the bags. These are Xtracycle's own "Freeloader" bags, which you can see are open on top and sorta shaped like a sling, with adjustable straps so that you can tighten the sling snugly to your load. On the inside of each bag is a large velcro pocket, which is really handy for keeping some things out of the weather, or for stowing items that you need and use on the bike all the time.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
As I mentioned above, the longtail really does ride like a regular bike even when its loaded down, and part of how this is accomplished is because those sling-bags keep weight low to the ground. Even still, it's important to try to balance your weight somewhat so that you don't notice a "pull" on your heavier side. You can see that on this trip I loaded my bags pretty full on each side, and made sure to mirror my gallon of milk on one side...

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
...with a seven-pound bag of apples on the other side.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Somehow, no matter how much or little I buy at the store, I usually wind up with no room in the rear bags for my purse and personal accoutrements. For this reason (and for the reason that it's pretty), I have a handlebar basket on my bike as well. It's a fabric bag with some kind of plastic stiffener inside to help hold its shape, a drawstring top, and even a strap to carry it like a purse. You can see that on my handlebars I also have a cage to hold Alton's (green) water bottle. Handy to pass back to him for a drink while we are riding!
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Inside the fabric basket on this trip were my purse and two Pooh Bear stowaways. I'm not sure how they ended up coming along on with us, but I was glad that I had room for them!
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
The bike came with only one set of mounting points for a waterbottle cage (bikes that are more touring or mountain bike specific usually have at least two), so I use that one for my own water bottle.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
My seat's trunkbag underneath is where I always keep a cable lock and key, so that I never have to remember to bring a lock with me, and so that it's stowed out of the way under my seat between the footholders of Alton's child seat.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
I usually also carry a waterproof seatcover, to protect the leather of my super-comfortable Brooks saddle in the Oregon rain drizzle.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Then you have me, or part of me at least. Alton snapped this picture and I guess this is all you get from a four-year-old's perspective.  But on this somewhat chilly and wet day I was wearing a jacket, pants and cycling gloves in addition to my omnipresent orange reflective vest.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
My last piece of cargo: my son Alton. Since his pic includes a face, you can also see him utilizing our helmet earwarmers, little triangle sleeves of black fleece that I made which slip onto our helmet buckles for in-place earmuffs on the ride.
Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App
Now let's get going before that ice cream melts!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

30 Pounds of Shopping

Earlier this week Gabe and Dani were sick with some 24-hour bug, so while the two sickies were taking their nap, Matthew and I decided to head out on the Dummy for an easy-going lunch at the grocery store deli.  While I was walking around, I realized we needed a new bag of cat litter and bought a bag.
Aside from what was supposed to be an easy lunch turning into one of those days when I wonder why I bother leaving the house with my 2-year old, I was sitting there wondering what was I thinking buying a 30 pound bag of cat litter when I’m on my bike?  As the time approached for me to head out, I started getting nervous about loading up my bike.  I was wondering if I was about to fall on my face – taking my child with me. 
I cautiously lifted the bag, keeping an eye on people staring at me like I was crazy, and eased the bag into the side saddle.  It was a perfect fit.  No fussing with it at all, it slipped right in there.  Aside, from the bike pulling a little bit to the left (the side the cat litter was on) we had a very balanced ride back home.    
(A 30-pound Good Mews cat litter bag loaded on Fabi's Dummy)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Big Red-y

Big Red is ready to go! Andy finished all of his work on his longtail cargo bike, which is a red mountain bike converted into an Xtracycle. After the gears, pedals, and brakes, he installed the rear rack deck and bags.
Eager to take advantage of our ever-increasing bike cargo capacity, we grabbed Big Red and the Bakfiets and took off last Sunday morning.
 We hit the grocery store and adjacent Farmers Market...
...then once finished with selecting our purchases, we unlocked our bikes near the Market entrance amid murmurs of "Wow, look at those bikes," "Pretty cool," etc. We were donning helmets when some friends of ours stopped by to say hello--they said they recognized our bikes right away and knew it was us! What notoriety.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rollin' Around on a Monday

Tonight we decided to run our errands by bike.  We first went to the library to drop off some (overdue) books.
 Then we went to our old house to get some things done and had planned to grab some dinner out.  The kids wanted burgers so as we were headed out, we ran into Andy and Alton.  We invited them to dinner and bike-pooled.  I’m sure it was quite a sight, two long tail bikes, hauling three kids (in total), and a mountain biker riding down the street.
(Andy & Alton on Big Red
After everyone was full, it was time to say good-bye to the Rhyne boys and finish up with yet another trip to Home Depot. 
With everything in order and everyone in tow we headed home.  Not an eventful bike errand evening, but a successful one.      

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Dani Learns to Balance

For Matty’s birthday we decided it was time to buy him a balance bike.  We searched several different stores and got several different opinions and eventually settled on a Strider balance bike. 
His birthday was two weeks ago and he is yet to ride his Strider bike.  Dani however, LOVES it.  She wants to ride it everyday…in and out of the house.  

On Saturday the guys took off to run some errands and Dani and I got some special Mommy-Daughter time.  It was such a beautiful day we decided to head out – me on foot, Dani on the Strider – and walked about ½ mile to our local grocery store for some dinner at the deli and then another ½ mile to the park.  
This was the first long ride Dani had ever had on Strider so she was still wobbly, but by the time we were headed home; she was putting her feet up and trying to balance!  Now she is addicted even more than  before. 
 I’m such a proud Mama.