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!