Tuesday, February 12, 2013

To the Next Level

It's been an eventful month on the bikes for our family. First, I wrote about returning to cycling after a long series of weeks stuck in the car due to a minor injury. I discovered that in the interim of not riding, my son (and nearly-constant riding tagalong) had grown and was bursting out of the comfy blue child seat he'd been using for the past two years.
(Above, Alton munches a snack in his seat - Spring 2012)
It was time to take the big little guy to the next level. When your ride is an Xtracycle, the progression for a kiddo who has outgrown the buckles 'n straps is a set of "stoker" bars! Stoker is the term used to describe the person who rides on the rear seat of a tandem bike, behind the "captain" who steers. Although longtail bikes are not true tandems (because the rear rider does not have pedals), you can still anchor a set of handlebars behind the saddle to allow a stoker to take a ride on that sturdy deck. Xtracycle (the maker of my longtail) also designed an attractive set of wooden platforms to give your kiddo a footrest. Last weekend, we hit our favorite local bike shop, Clever Cycles, for a set of those footrests, and a craigslist "stem" component and salvaged set of handlebars saw our son in a whole new riding position!
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Bundled up for a chilly Sunday grocery store run, we swung by the home of our blog co-author, Fabi, to ask her to take our picture. You can see his booted feet on those wooden platforms, and his hands are wrapped securely around the new red grips he picked out. This seat behind the parent is meant for a child rider who has the capability and understanding to sit and balance upright with handlebars, but might not be riding his/her own bike because of speed or distance of the ride, or lack of visibility and safety on the road.
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Our son just turned five, and is at an age where he can ride his own bike and enjoys it, but can't be a solo rider on these family errands just yet because he needs to stick to the sidewalks (with MUCH supervision from Mommy and Daddy) and gets tired out. Enter the stoker! He can climb aboard the deck, which lowers his center of gravity compared to the child seat, and hang on securely for the duration of our roam around town.
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Alton reports that he loves his new setup! He requested a pad for his bottom (which I've already made, by the writing of this post!), and said he might need the platforms a little higher under his feet. But we're all loving the easy on/off of the stoker bars. Our boy is growing up!
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Friday, February 1, 2013

Ten Things I Hate Love About Riding in Rain

I began penning this post in my head a week ago, during one of my triumphant first rides "back in the saddle" after my auto injury, which I wrote about earlier this week. I looked outside in the post-breakfast light and saw a sprinkle in progress, so I put on my waterproof gloves as my five-year-old son Alton and I set out. Even riding at our slow (under 12mph) speeds, a sprinkle in the air is all it takes for me to feel like I'm riding into the spray of a garden hose and thoroughly drench my face and my attitude. "I hate riding in the rain," I grumbled inside my head as I uselessly swiped my gloves across the lens of my glasses. There are some Portland-area riders who wear their mud-spattered rain pants as a badge of honor, and look disdainfully at fair-weather cyclists who let their pedals gather dust through winter (and fall and spring--it IS Oregon, after all); I am not one of these die-hard cyclists. Riding your bike in the rain without being completely sopping and miserable represents an investment in gear to keep you dry, time to take a little extra care with your ride, and forethought in how you will keep your belongings from getting soaked (unless, of course, a bike is your sole means of transport, in which case these "costs" are peanuts compared to the cost of owning and maintaining a car), so I have to plan ahead. I sympathize, and will admit freely to occasionally submitting myself to the lure of sitting on top of four wheels instead of two when it's really pouring.
However, last Friday was not one of those days. It was not pouring down rain, just that aforementioned annoying drizzle, and so rather than driving I was out on my bike grouchily squinting through my foggy glasses...when I decided to turn my attitude around. There isn't anything that I can do about the rain--I live in Oregon, for heaven's sake--and so instead of letting my mood gloom over like the sky, I'll focus on the positive. Maybe someday these will become my first thoughts when I see the drops spatter on the pavement!

Top Ten Things I LOVE (or will eventually learn to) About Riding in the Rain:

  1. Free moisturizer for my skin as the droplets slowly skim down my cheeks.
  2. Fewer people out and about overall: cars, bikes, and pedestrians.
  3. My bike, bags, jacket, and helmet all get a rinse-off.
  4. I burn more calories, either by shivering in damp clothing, or by sweating inside my rain pants.
  5. Rainy days mean slightly warmer weather; there's a BIG difference between 37 and 47 degrees.
  6. It makes me appreciate dry, overcast days, not just sunny, sparkling, cloudless days.
  7. People gape at me, astounded that I would ride in such "awful" weather which, I'll admit it, makes me feel like a badass.
  8. I might see a rainbow. Cheesy, I know--I don't care.
  9. I wipe off my glasses over and over and over again, so they've never been so clean!
  10. It accustoms my son to say, when I hesitate about pedaling through a shower, things like, "Mommy, it's only water."
Happy wet riding!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Back in the Saddle Again...

So the title of this post is painfully punny, but expresses how happy and comfortable I feel to be, once again, cruising along on my trusty bike steed after about two months of not riding. Back in early November, around the time that my blog co-author Fabi and her family found themselves completely without car transportation for several weeks, I was involved in a minor auto collision (in my car). Struck from behind while my head was turned to one side, my shoulder/neck muscles, ligaments and spine were, to put it technically, out of whack. I found myself at multiple chiropractic appointments per week, stretching and getting injury massage, and avoiding my bike out of fear of prolonging my recovery period or putting my ability to keep up with my own massage training courses in jeopardy. Fortunately, my chiropractor approved of my rate of rehabilitation and recommended that I get back on and ride for healthfulness, exercise, and to see how my injured area would do once I was back to my "normal" routine.  So now after mostly using four-wheeled transportation for the end of last year (I am resolutely not finding out how much Christmas cookie weight I gained while I was sedentary), I am riding around all of my regular neighborhoods and errands.
Surprisingly, a lot has changed in two months! I lost muscle tone and my seat calluses (I was sore sitting down after my first ride), and my little co-pilot got bigger. The first time I went to put Alton on his bike seat on my longtail after this hiatus, I had to loosen straps and reinforce my stance holding the bike up. The little guy (who just turned 5), has gotten more adept at riding his own bike, so one of our first outings together was one mile up the street to the movie rental place, with me riding my longtail in the street and Alton riding "Little Red" on the sidewalk next to me. He did great! But that was no surprise, since he and his daddy took a ride right after Christmas to our main city library, a 5+ mile round trip.
Alton hitched a ride some of that time on Andy's "Big Red" longtail bike, which has a sturdy deck to sit on and handlebars for Alton to hold, while his little bike gets strapped down in the saddlebags. Now that he's outgrowing that blue child seat on the back of my bike, we'll get a set of rear handlebars attached to the back deck of my longtail as well, so that it's easier for the little guy to get up there and his center of gravity is lower than in a child seat. Not to mention that his long legs will be busting out of his footrests, soon!
We've made a few changes to our cadre of bikes in the few months that I've been off the bike, too. Just before my accident, we sold my hybrid bike...
...and then just this week, our best biking buddies and co-authoring family, the Zawalskis, opted to purchase our Dutch bakfiets for some fun side-by-side riding with their two youngsters. It's been a couple of years now since our family cycling went from recreation to obsession, and we're learning a lot about bikes, our abilities, how we like to ride, and to always, always stay flexible! Whatever we do, I'm glad to be doing it from the seat of a bike once again.

From Their House To Ours

Early in 2009 my husband and I decided to purchase a kid trailer for our bikes.  We had two kids ready for biking, and one seat wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  Shortly after we purchased our trailer, the Rhyne’s shared with us these crazy-amazing bikes they discovered called cargo bikes.  The cool thing was that even though we had two kids, we could still have them on the bike with us because the cargo style bike, are longer than a regular bike.  It became my mission to acquire said bike.  I sold the trailer I had within a month of buying it and I started doing my own research on what would be best for us.  I checked out Clever Cycles and other bike shops in town to try my options.  At Clever Cycles I fell in love with the Bakfiets. But then again, who wouldn’t??!!  It’s a totally awesome bike that was totally out of our budget!  So, I started looking online for the runner up which was the dummy.  I found someone selling it on Craigslist in Eugene.  Since no one else was selling a Bak, I jumped on this dummy and have been riding it ever since.
I still loved the idea of having a Bakfiets so when Katie and Andy mentioned that they were looking into selling their Bakfiet, I knew that I had to at least have some time with the bike and see if it would be a good decision for our family to purchase it from theirs.  We had the bike on a week long trial and of course, I loved it.  Having two kids and a Bakfiet, for me was easier then having two kids on a long tail, especially on the cold rainy days.  There was no way that my husband and I could afford to have both bikes, so I’ll admit it, I cried when the time came to return the Bak to the Rhyne house, but then my husband had a great idea.  He said, ‘you have been considering selling your long tail (gasp!  I know!) for a different long tail that is a better fit for riding’ (on the dummy, I can’t stop and put my foot down, which sometimes worries me with the two kids on the back).  He said, ‘why not sell the dummy, buy and use the Bakfiets until we don’t have a need for it anymore, and then you go back to a long tail?’  It was tough to think about selling my dummy.  We have had some really good times over the past year and half and I thought that maybe some day my kids would ride this bike and remember being carried on it.  Saying goodbye to the dummy was also saying goodbye to the visions of all the rides my husband and I would take with the kids; long day trips with picnics, bike camping, touring, etc.  And then I realized, we don’t really do that enough to justify keeping it.  It was the bike that started it all and in many ways has changed my life, but I also know that having the Bakfiets is a better fit for my style of riding and my kids.  So after a lot of bak and forth, and a long conversation with Katie about the pros and cons, we decided that we will be listing our beloved dummy for sale and we are going for it with the Bakfiets!
Andy, was kind enough to deliver it on his way to the grocery store today and even though it will be hard to say good bye to the dummy, we are looking forward to new adventures on our new ride. 

No pictures…yet, but it’s a busy week coming up.  We’ll keep you posted.  (Edit from Katie: I added a picture of Fabi's old bike, the "Dummy," with her two kids on the back, and a picture of her new Bakfiets!)