Totcycle | Family Biking

Tots on bikes, kids as cargo, family cycling, and other high-occupancy velo goodness.

Not caring how much our bikes weigh since 2008.

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Tuesday
Oct052010

Deals on Wheels

What is the deal with ...

all of those tweets about family cycling gear for sale? Well, I've added a new Family Biking Deals section of the website. Go check it out - we've got some fabu pink and lime green Dutch child seats, and a real-deal mamafiets right now. Oh, and my wife's rejected recumbent (hot tip: getting your wife a used recumbent may not be the wisest way to get her back into cycling. hardly cycle chic. but comfy).

Consider it a virtual swap meet for family-friendly bikes, seats, and sundries. Those kids do grow, and I've received a number of emails from readers looking for help selling or finding the type of Euro-eso-teric or domestic-but-obscure family cycling gear we like up here on the Totcycle.

We will also add hot deals from stores, the interwebs, eBay, or Craigslist as we come across them. And come across them we do - I have a number of alerts and RSS feeds set up for tasty keywords like xtracycle, Dutch, bobike, and so on. We receive no compensation from these posts, unless there is an affiliate deal, and we'll make that clear if so. If you have a store or business, and a special deal to offer the Totcycle tribe, we're all ears.

These listings are a free service to the family cycling community, with no guarantees as to the condition, safety, or usability of items listed. Be careful buyers and responsible sellers, please.

To list an item, just send an email, with title, price, location, description, shipping/pickup options, contact info, and photos/video. Entries may take a day or two to show up here. Post a comment or let us know if it sells.

Stay tuned with our Deals RSS feed, or follow on Twitter or Facebook.

But what about the local bike shops? Isn't this evil?

Not so much, in my opinion. While we in Seattle are lucky to have several family-everyday-biking-savvy shops that deserve your business, what are you going to do when your family outgrows that bakfiets or bobike seat? Part of what makes a $1,500-3,000 bike or $200 child seat make sense for a family that can front the cost is knowing that after several years of good use, it will retain much of its resale value, lowering the cost to only $100-200 per year.

Besides, most local bike shops just stock a trailer or two and a plastic bathtub of a rear child seat amongst all the car-topper bikes, and can be distinctly unhelpful when it comes to ordering in or installing things like front seats (you mean suicide seats?). If they are open to learning about ways to ride a la familia, great, give them your business. You'll get some warranty and installation support and hopefully excellent bike service down the road. If not, best of luck selling recreational bikes and lycra at ever-decreasing margins.

Why are you spamming Twitter with these Deals?

I'm not sure I'll keep doing this on the main Totcycle feed. Depending on volume of deals or complaints, I may set up a separate Twitter account. Please give me feedback on whether you do or don't want Deals tweets.

Tuesday
Sep142010

Mt Baker-Rainier Kidical Mass Sept 2010

Stoked about this MADSEN, photo by Aaron

Updated: NEW START TIME at 2pm

Did you know that South Seattle was home to no fewer than four Black MADSEN cargo bikes, all with electric assist?

I did not, although I had heard of a mythical StokeMonkey assist MADSEN down that way. But a few weekends ago at a BikeWorks event, I had the good fortune to meet up with these Black Riders of the Family Biking Apocalypse, including Morgan Scherer of familybike.org (which puts on most excellent family bike demos year-round), and Brynnen Ford, whose MADSEN minivan was featured in this excellent series from Alan Durning. And I got to try their bikes, one with an eZee upgrade from Cycle9, and the Stoked MADSEN, motor from Clever Cycles, installed by Aaron's Bike Repair.

It felt pretty amazing to pedal comfortably up steep hills with bionic legs, and accelerating to cruising speed from a stop was also very nice. It didn't feel at all like "cheating," and in fact would probably get us to bike even more, especially if we lived in such a hilly part of town, or had bigger kids.

Morgan's bike had some sweet modifications done by Haulin' Colin, including a front frame-mounted rack with giant Wald basket, bolted on using the braze-ons on the top/down tubes (and presto, MADSEN have just released their 2011 lineup, including a similar front rack!). That big plastic bucket fills up quickly when you have 2 kids and groceries to move, and I'd love to have one of these for ours. She also had Colin weld a trail-a-bike style hitch to the back, just behind the fender, so her older son can hitch up to the MADSEN for longer or more traffic-y rides. Very cool idea.

They were excited to have a Kidical Mass down their way, as was I, so they ran with it. Without further ado, I present September's ride, this Sunday Sept 19th! Meet at 2pm at Mt. Baker Park, and we'll depart at 2:30pm, for a ride to Full Tilt Ice Cream on Rainier, and then loop back to the start. I may be tempted by the sweet Georgia Gold sandwich (pulled-pork with mustard BBQ sauce and slaw) at Roy's.

Here's the map and route: http://tinyurl.com/28mtbrb.

Detailed notes from Alex and Morgan:

What the map fails to convey are the following: 1) south of S Genesee St we will go on a short trail through Genesee Park, 2) on the one block of S Alaska St between 38th Ave S and Rainier Ave S, people could move to the sidewalk (this is a brief, but somewhat steep hill with sometimes heavy traffic), 3) after crossing Rainier, we would actually go through Columbia Park behind the library, 4) after going on Hudson for a block, we would turn right on Rainier and proceed to Full Tilt Ice Cream via the sidewalk.

The Trek Triathalon will be happening that day, but we think that if we start at Mt. Baker Beach at 2:30 the route should be clear of triathletes.

As for you North Seattle Ridazzz, some of us will be either riding down there, or perhaps riding to the Westlake Light Rail Station and taking it to the Mt Baker stop, depending on weather and laziness and thirst for multimodal adventure. Let us know if you're up for that in the comments.

Tuesday
Aug242010

Larry vs Harry Bullitt: Family Style

Portland with a Bullitt

Larry vs Harry make stylish, relatively lightweight, modern reinterpretations of the Long John style of Danish cargo bike, where the load sits on a low platform in front of the rider. Think Old World Northern European cargo bikes mashed up with North American car/pimp culture, with a generous helping of messenger attitude and alu-high-zoot build. The lovechild of Steve McQueen, Cleopatra Jones, and an 1800s greengrocer. They have enormous curb appeal, are certainly the "sexiest" cargo bikes out there (if you like splashy, racy bikes). But how might they work as an everyday family cargobike? And am I cool enough to ride this bike? Based on the photo above, it appears that my kids have the look down.

We took a Bullitt for an extended demo this weekend in Portland, courtesy of Splendid Cycles (value: $25, which is their typical 24-hr rental fee). Travelogue and shop info here (they do ship, and to date have sold more outside of Portland than in). In terms of review comparisons, our regular family ride is a MADSEN cargo bike with "bucket seating" in the rear, and our first family cargo bike love was the bakfiets.nl Dutch family cargo bike, which we've rented on many occasions. Here's what we thought ...

Design and Build Features

In a word, splendid.

  • The paint schemes are incomparably delicious. More drool here.
  • The components are higher-end than I've previously ridden. Shimano Alfine 8-speed internal hub seemed even smoother than my Nexus 8, and still tolerates shifting under mild-moderate pedal pressure. Or choose an external 27-gear drivetrain.
  • The Alfine hydraulic disc brakes were easily the finest brakes I've ever experienced on a cargo bike. And unlike many, I actually appreciate the hub brakes on bakfiets/Dutch bikes. But these were powerful, very easy to modulate, and absolutely confidence-inspiring.
  • A unique and fantastic feature that I would love to see on other bikes is a quick-release stem height adjuster that quickly moves the handlebars up and down, for aggressive vs more upright riding styles, different height riders, and bigger kids (the bakfiets bars tend to clock older (4-5yo) kids in the helmet).
  • The tires were a Schwalbe hybrid I hadn't seen before with smoother tread centrally and more aggressive grip laterally. They worked fine, and I wonder if they might be helpful cornering in the rain.
  • The centerstand deploys easily and releases very cleanly by rocking the bike forward. While it lacks Val's handlebar release lever, at least there's no fiddling with feet or fingers to work the latch, as on some bakfietsen. That said, the bakfiets.nl stand is a 4-point stand that is unbeatable when it comes to letting big kids romp in and out of your parked bike. With the Bullitt, I'd keep a eye on wilder kids, or think about a rear brake lever cinch. But overall, stable enough, I think.
  • The wheelsets seem moderately burly, not in indestructible Workcycles territory though.
  • As for the cargo options, the stock bike ($3100) will need an additional aluminum honeycomb with nonskid platform from LvH ($230), or a box of some kind (see options here). Me, I'd probably build my own. The Bullitt child option, while sleek as all getout (and priced accordingly at $550 for side panels, folding seat with belt, and raincover, on top of the $230 deck plate), isn't really wide enough for my 2 kids. 
  • Bullitt Boat BikeBut the frame has a number of features that lend itself to cargo hacking (4 postholes, plentiful bolting options). Given how much fun the MADSEN has been to "upgrade" (DIY infant seat, Gelato Bike, etc), I would enjoy designing a reasonably lightweight but wider box with locking bench seat and rain cover. Splendid has a "Mr. Mom box" that's more in the direction I'd go. But I'd be tempted to try using the honeycomb deck with textured aluminum sidepanels that flare out. And then there's the Boat Bike option - how rad is this?
  • I would vote for rear rack braze-on's though. The dropouts are drilled for a rack, but unless LvH come out with a rear rack of their own we'd need to kludge one on. The bakfiets rack, by contrast, comes standard and is rated for major weight, which opens up a lot of rear cargo ability.

The Ride ...

Has a learning curve of a few blocks, and then is delovely. Having spent some time on bakfietsen, child-up-front tandems, and other bikes that use similar steering mechanisms, I thought I could just jump on a Bullitt and go at this winter's family bike demo. Err, not so much. But I take it all back! It does feel twitchier than similar bikes at first, especially unloaded. But after a few blocks, and certainly after a few hours of riding around with kids, it was juuuuuust right.

The bike is lighter than other versions of this style, which translates to zippier acceleration and noticably better hill-climbing. The frame is stiff enough to stand and mash up a hill, and the riding position (while adjustable) is generally more sporty than Dutch sit-up-and-ride bikes (the latest bakfiets.nl incarnation, if anything, seems to have an even slacker foot-down position). While I got my family cycling start on such upright bikes, lately I've been enjoying a slightly more sporty riding position, especially where non-flat rides are concerned. As for speed, this bike tends to slay the field in Danish cargo bike races, where it does enjoy a home-town advantage. With a lightweight platform or box this would be plenty speedy as an everyday commuter with special cargo powers.

The frame, however, is not a step-through. The top tube lends stiffness to the frame, and is low enough to easily get over, but it does limit the rider size to 5'3ish and up. Which is a bummer, as Kim is 5'1". Then again, she prefers the way the MADSEN feels to cargo forward bikes like the bakfiets anyway.

Family-Style

As much as I love our MADSEN, I do really like having the kids up front, as it's the social aspect of cycling a la familia that has me hooked. Conversations and parenting are easier. However ... this is not a big box. In the MADSEN, I can seat kids kitty-corner if they're starting to play the helmet head-butt game. In a bakfiets.nl long, the box is long enough to put one up front, and there's more shoulder room on the bench seat. In the Bullitt as we rode it (kids on a cushion, no belts), there were some turf wars. And then Luc wanted to move around and Drew tried to "tie him down", for safety.

Portland with a Bullitt     Luc does Portland

Kids plus cargo is cramped in the standard box, but it naps well.

So with my kids, it felt overall tolerable and safe enough for quiet streets at low speeds. But for carrying any cargo plus my two kids at higher speeds around town, I'd want a bigger box, restraints of some kind, and the option to put one behind me in child seat purgatory. I tried to make Drew ride behind the handlebars in the "penalty box" (there are handy footrests there), but she had crochal interference with the top tube. These are all doable adaptations for a motivated and handy parent. But the MADSEN and bakfiets.nl come that way stock, and have more room for cargo. I'd want a rear rack with sizeable panniers on the Bullitt if I was everyday cycling with 2 kids.

In the event of rainy climate, there is the LvH raincover/spray skirt, which is sleek and seemingly sidecar-inspired; I'd need some moto-goggles for the kids with that one. But I might prefer a bakfiets style canopy, with more of a cozy, warm, flashlight under the blankets feel. Splendid Cycles says Mike Cobb (of Yuba Mundo bag-designing fame) is on the case - exxxcellent.

For more than 2 kids, there's no question that a bakfiets or MADSEN would be preferable. They have more room for kids and their inevitable cargo, and again, come standard with multiple-kid design features. I especially like the lip on the bakfiets box that lets kids leap in on their own. Because they will try, and it's better that they don't bend your chainguard or ding their perineum in the process. Speaking of which, my box will have a rounded or foam-protected edge, and that front headset would have a tennis ball or similar cushion.

So which family cargo bike reigns supreme (remembering that I haven't even included xtracycles, Mundo's, or others in today's comparisons)? I love all three of these bikes; they all have tradeoffs. Price, inexpensive vs performance vs durable component choices, hill-climbing ability, extra kids and cargo versatility, riding positions, curb appeal ... and first impressions can be deceiving. If you have the opportunity to travel to a bike-friendly burg like Portland with extended demo opportunities, do it. Or make friends with that guy in your town with one of these. Or post questions below. But carefully consider your own family's needs and environs, current and future. It seems for us that the "ideal" family bike changes every year, so think versatility, or resale value at least.

Box Bikes vs Box Store Bikes

On the way back to our abandoned car, after returning the Bullitt, we got caught in a rain shower. Drew hopped off the Brompton's main tube and dove into our trailer, staying warm and dry. So there I was, easily transporting 2 kids and bags in safety and comfort using nothing more than a $300 trailer. Yet all the while, visions of my dream Bullitt Box danced in my head. Is there something clinically wrong with me? What do I have against trailers? Why even consider a $3,000 family cargo bike when a beater bike with trailer or xtracycle upgrade will get the same job done? Aren't bikes just humdrum "appliances" in evolved cycle cultures? So says the owner of this bike:

So This Century, By Mikael Colville-AndersenThat's a pretty sexy vacuum cleaner you're fetishizing there, Mikael (see Lovely Bicycle for a rebuttal). But I love the message in this poster. And while $3-4,000 cargo bikes are not going to save the world or take the US market by storm (big box bikes? try big box stores ...), they are captivating, cool, thrilling, and fun in ways that bike trailers are not, for driver or passenger. And arguably cooler than most cars. A Bullitt in a movie would run right over the Hollywood "bikes are for losers" trope. And in your neighborhood, bikes like these can mutate people's notions of transport in important ways. It was a bakfiets sighting that sent me on my giddy family biking journey, after all, and the way more affordable MADSEN is also a head-turner and assumption-tweaker.

So yes, I want a Bullitt. And no, it doesn't make practical or financial sense for us (we have multiply redundant ways to transport stuff by bike). Is it too soon to have a midlife crisis?

Monday
Aug232010

Portland With A Bullitt

What with minimalism being the new new thing, and our house starting to feel like an audition for that reality show about hoarders, Kim asked me to take the kids anywhere but here for the weekend so she could spend the weekend putting our house on a radical diet.

So we went to Portland, impromptu style. Which meant driving, as the Amtrak pricing and schedule wasn't looking so hot. Plus, there was that last time ... The drive down was well-timed for naps, and we stopped by a river to run around and get muddy. And there might have been a "Happy" meal. I'm not proud. Overall, with stops and traffic, it took about the same time as the train.

We planned (if you can call day-of requests to borrow a house "planning") to stay at our PDX friends' house, as they were traveling too, but the people with the key were out of town, yadda yadda. Enter Hotwire, and a cheap hotel room near the Convention Center (the Crown Plaza often has killer rates on hotwire). Drew was giddy about her own bed, TV, and pool, and became very conflicted about whether it was OK to turn back the sheets on her bed. And after a prolonged second- and third-wind bedtime, I fell asleep lulled by the sounds of my two kids breathing - a sweet and novel feeling.

I brought the Brompton and trailer, but forgot the front ITchair for Drew, so she elected to surf the main tube in front of me, which worked well on quiet side-streets. Also forgot the bike map, but the thing about Portland is that if you ride a few blocks you'll intersect a bike boulevard (AKA "neighborhood greenway" AKA "what is wrong with SDOT that they don't realize that these are relatively cheap and win-win for cars and bikes") or other bike facility, and their bike route signage is reliable enough to steer you right.

Portland with a Bullitt 

On our way to Laurelhurst Park (great playground for 1 and 3yos), we stopped off at Splendid Cycles. They opened in May, and focus exclusively on cargo bikes, serving as a showroom for local Metrofiets and Ahearne Cycle Trucks, as well as the Larry vs. Harry Bullitt and Kona Ute. Luc was asleep in the trailer, and the shop's owner Joel welcomed us inside with sleeping son, and let us stash the napmobile in the back.

Having worked as the buyer at Portland's Bike Gallery, and brought in the first MADSEN's and Bullitt's, Joel knows bikes, and is passionate about cargo bikes. And was relaxed, tolerant, and just plain sweet with my kids, as was his wife Barb, who drew tigers on the sidewalk with Drew the next day. Big warm and fuzzy thank you, Spendid Cycles. Portland - your cup runneth over with family-friendly bike shops.

Tried a Portland-built artisanal (that's a bit redundant; even the kettle korn karts are bike-powered by popcorn artisans in this town) unique dual 24" Metrofiets with Drew, and quite liked the handling. These are some seriously fine-looking, well-built bikes. Joel described the ride as more "Old World" than the Bullitt or MADSEN, and it does indeed ride much like the European bakfietsen (cargo bikes) that inspired it. But it did feel sprightlier somehow, not sure if it was the weight, larger front wheel, or just how dapper it was.

Fiets of Parenthood Seattle 2010Ogled the new Ahearne Cycle Trucks too. Heard that an xtracycle longtail-standard version of the cycle truck is in the works. Hells yeah. Balanced extra freight. 

And then decided to give the Bullitt another try. I rode one unloaded around the block at the Family Bike Expo this winter and had an embarrassing amount of trouble with the wobbles (like the dynamic bike blogging duo of Dottie and Miss Sarah this week). Worried that it was too "sporty" of a bike for me. But our neighbor Daniel and his righteous blue Bullitt at the recent Tour de Fat and Fiets of Parenthood convinced me to try again.

And we loved it. Lurved it. Review to follow, for those who need their bike lust not to be touching their travelogue on the plate.

In fact, we borrowed it for the weekend! We hit up Laurelhurst Park for play & picnic. Met up with Travis and his sweet, engaging trio of rapscallions at the Alberta Street Fair. Drew was a bit crushed out, although you wouldn't have known it from all the frowning. Kael singing the theme song from Phineas & Ferb (her new show from the hotel) sealed it. Luc caressed the chain of an especially fine xtracycle parked next to a cool Dutch kids' bike. Note the crochet on-street bike parking cozy. Yeah, rub it in, Portland. We couldn't even find a business on Capitol freaking Hill (our epicenter of smug cycling) to accept an on-street bike corral (I'm looking at you, Caffe Vita).

Portland with a Bullitt

Dinner at Burgerville (of bicycles in the drive-through controversy and fame), the easiest bedtime EVER, and up again for pool, superhero antics at the North Park Blocks, scrumptious baked goods at Pearl Bakery (mmm, tastes ... artisany), and then picnic and free-ranging it at the Sunday Market. Here's Luc hydrating himself in the fountains - who needs a Camelbak? I'm pretty sure that water was portaged from pristine artesian wells by NAHBS bicycles in leather-coddled mason jars. Right?

Portland with a Bullitt

We (well, I) wanted to demo a ShuttleBug and Clever Cycles' latest import, Christiania trikes. But instead we just mosied back to the car and drove home to an unrecognizably decluttered home. THANK YOU miss Kim and Catherine (our beloved interventionist)! MWAH!!! The effect on our kids was instantaneous. They discovered and engaged in toys and books that had been lost in the thrift-shopped plethora of it all. For some of what inspired us, read the Simplicity Parenting book, and blogs like Rowdy Kittens. It's like a Glade Plug-In full of Ritalin, but without the weight loss and insomnia.

And please, don't get me wrong. We're not exactly trying to live in a hard drive with only a Moleskine notebook for shelter or whatever else the latest NYT style section definition of minimalism is. And I do acknowledge the fact that consumer-culture-conditioned lust for shiny pretty bike objets is part of what motivates me, and trips like these. Or that my stable of bikes could hardly be described as "minimal," even after a Craigslist selling binge. But we had ourselves a grand adventure in Portland on a pretty tight budget, the first time I didn't come home from Portland with a new bike bauble. We'll see how long that lasts. Damn that Bullitt was nice. 

Friday
Aug202010

Fiets of Parenthood - The Movie

The Fiets of Parenthood Family Bike Games last weekend were dynomite!

95+ degrees in the hot hot sun, 100+ participants, 140+ servings of most delicious gelato from D'Ambrosio in Ballard, and $800+ raised for Bikeworks thanks to very generous donations from Globe Bikes and our Haul winner!

Our new BFFs Car Free Days wrote it up better than I could right here, and don't miss the Flickr photopool.

Kim and I feel so lucky to have such co-conspirators as Tim, Anne, Clint, Leslie, and their hardworkin' kids, and to be surrounded by so many enthused and hardcore family cyclists here in the Puget Sound. We might even have ourselves a family bike scene going on up here ...

So here it is. Fiets of Parenthood - The Movie:

Fiets of Parenthood Family Bike Games from Totcycle on Vimeo.

Photos from flickr users carfreedaysbikejujuclintonloper, and unclejojo, with permission.

Monday
Aug092010

Gelato Bike!

Our friends Mike & Catherine were married 10 years ago in an igloo on top of Wild Bill Hill in the Scottish Lakes high country, officiated by a friend who'd recently become a pharoah in the Universal Life Church. Just another Pacific Northwest wedding.

As uniquely wonderful as that was, not to mention the tele'ing under the stars down the hill for sphincter-obstructing amounts of fondue and whiskey afterwards, part of them felt they'd missed out on the big-traditional-wedding thing. 

So this month, 10 years later, they got remarried at Golden Gardens beach in front of over a hundred friends and family from all over the globe. The celebration featured all of the things they've loved over the past decade: sailboats, Cuban dancing, pizza, and gelato. And it ended up being pretty much the best night ever - we're all still basking in the afterglow of a singularly wonderful evening. Veraci brought the pizza oven cart from the Farmer's Market. M & C arrived in a home-built Wharram catamaran that also got started 10 years ago, our friend Maiensy led the dancing to Picoso's live show, and me, I rolled up in a custom Gelato Bike

Gelato Bike in action ...

Want to build one? It's a day's work, and not hard to do. Get yourself a MADSEN. Buy some 1/2" copper pipe, a pipe cutter, torch & solder kit, and some T-piece and 45-degree bend connectors. Drill with 5/8" bit through the top corners over the bucket but not out through the bottom of the lip. Hack together something like this:

Guess what this is about to be ...

Solder it together (the morning of the wedding). Take measurements from your structure and sew up some appropriately stripey gelato cart fabric with some kitschy ric-rac trim. Hack up some insulation board into a bottom layer that sits where the benches go, mid-layer with slots for gelato trays, and top cover, and cover with contact paper. Add dry ice & gelato & people that like dessert:

3 scoops of helmet

Last two photos by Hauke Gentzkow

We're wicked excited to have this now. In the winter I'll be lowering the canopy and sewing up some waterproof Sunbrella striped awning fabric with 3M reflective piping and clear roll-down sidepanels, for cozy cozy winter riding. And attach the poles more securely, no doubt.

And this weekend we'll be serving up gelato at the Fiets of Parenthood Family Bike Games! Don't miss it. But chances are you'll see the gelato bike again at Kidical Mass. All we need is an xtracycle blender setup and we'll have a fully integrated complete bicicletti treat fleet

Why gelato, you may ask? Well, Catherine's half-Italian, and it works with Neapolitan pizza, etc ... but it's also just so tasty. The lower fat content, higher serving temperature, and lower air content make it healthier and tastier (the flavors are "brighter") than ice cream. If you live in Seattle, don't miss our gelato sponsor - D'Ambrosio Gelato, recently opened on Ballard Ave. But feel free to defend your frozen confection of choice in the comments.

Saturday
Jul172010

Fiets of Parenthood Family Bike Games


 Fiets of Parenthood Seattle!

On Sunday August 15th from 3-6pm, at the John Stanford International School playground in Wallingford (2 blocks from the Burke Gilman Trail), Totcycle, Car Free Days, and friends invite you to Seattle's own Fiets of Parenthood Family Bike Games!

Our aim is simple: to celebrate and inspire families going by bike with kids

But what is this "fiets" you speak of?

Fiets is Dutch for bike, and they're way ahead of us in the cycling a la familia department. To wit: this Mama Bakfiets race - one of our models for this event. Another inspiration is the old-timey "constructeur" race format, which tested not just riders, but also various bike designs with real-world load-carrying challenges. 

What with all the ways to carry kids by bike, we thought it'd be fun to get together a bunch of high-occupancy-velos - xtracycles, MADSEN bucket bikes, bakfietsen, family tandems, and front child seats to go with the more-familiar-in-the-US bike trailers, rear seats, and trail-a-bikes.

And pit them head-to-head in a real-world test of family cycling prowess:

Trick mounts and dismounts. The dropped toy. Sacks of groceries. Blackberry picking on the go. Rain shower. Pothole slalom. The "door zone." Diaper change on a bike.

As for kids riding solo, we've got them covered too, with a kids' bike skills challenge packed with features:

Teeter-totter. Joust practice. Cone slalom. Evil Knievel "ring of fire." The skid zone. A stop sign. 

So whether you're already riding with your family, or are just "bike-curious," come on down to our free family cycling extravanganza! It's free. All are welcome to "compete" in this barely competitive fun challenge. Or just to scope out all the ways to go by bike with kids. We'll have a bike decoration station, so bring your bike!

Did I mention we hope to be raffling up a Globe Haul Mixte bike from Globe Bikes? Proceeds to Bikeworks? Or that we'll be serving up frozen treats from our very own custom Gelato Bike

Here’s a rough schedule, for those that might not be able to make the whole event:

3pm until it runs out - Gelato Bike
3-6pm - Bike Decoration Station
3:30pm - Kids’ Bike Skills Race and “Slow Races"
4:30pm - Adult/Child Family Cycling Challenge
5:45pm - Raffle Drawing 

Bring food/snacks/water; we’ll have some hydration on hand as well. The event is free, but please bring some cash for the raffle! 

Big big thanks to ...

Need more inspiration?

And don't miss the original Mama Bakfiets race, complete with egg carry slalom and "jousting"!

Tuesday
Jul132010

Kidical Mass in July and August 2010

You will be relieved or dismayed to learn that children are not allowed in the beer garden.On Saturday 7/31/10, Kidical Mass will meet up at Ballard Commons Park just before 9 for an on-time 9am departure to Gasworks for the New Belgium Tour de Fat! See our inaugural KM post for the route.

Bring your freak bikes, your kids, and a fly outfit or costume. The Tour de Fat looks to be a lot of fun, and we'll arrive in time for their 10am bike parade, which is "a costumed celebration of human-powered transportation". Quoth their 3rd Commandment:

3. May every generation come forth:This is a family friendly event. Costumes, bikes and a parade? We were thinking like kids when we created Tour de Fat.

Last year we LOVED the Tour de Fat, and are looking forward to the parade, art bike demo corral, and the vaudevillian performances. The parade last year was a slow fun ride down the Burke Gilman, looping back to Gasworks, with plenty of freak bikes and mobile sound-systems. Update: This year's parade route is shorter - only 3 miles, just in Fremont. and will involve a dance party at the Troll!

Print out their registration form and drop it off before the parade to save time. If their big bike parade isn't your cup of tea, there will be plenty of other bikey entertainment (schedule TBA).

As for August ... SAVE THE DATE of AUGUST 15th! Fiets of Parenthood details to follow (here they are!), but that's the weekend you don't want to miss. Seriously. Cancel those flights. Respondez "Non" to RSVP (sorry Cascade distance ride people ... there was no other weekend that worked, and it seems like you're riding somewhere in the gol-dang PNW every weekend this summer). You won't need high viscosity chamois cream on our ride. But then again, a different kind of paste may come in handy on the diaper change challenge.

 

Saturday
Jul102010

Bobiked Up Beyond Belief

After a year of trolling Craigslist for a used Bobike Maxi rear child seat, I happened across a trade-in/discard on the floor of Dutch Bike Seattle at a nice price, and now we have both a Mini and a Maxi. Mamafiets here we come!

Dad, kids, and tiger on their way to the wading pool. Must ... not ... complain about the heat.

I've chosen the Globe Live Mixte for our test bike ... I wonder if it's not Dutch enough (meaning sturdy indestructible hi-ten steel) to handle 2 kids plus parent, what with its lightweight curvy aluminum frame, but oh well. So far it feels a might bit flexy, but it's a nice smooth ride. I would have used my actual Dutch bike but as it's not a step-through frame, I'd need to attain levels of yogic flexibility to get a leg over with kids on front and back.

As far as the handling goes, between the low-ish trail, centering spring, weight on the porteur rack, and a centering weight in the front seat, you'd need an advanced degree in steering geometry to understand what's going on. But so far, it seems to work.

For those in the market for kid seats, I'm a big fan of the Bobikes (not the latest Star Wars-y ones, though), although we're used to having chest buckles over here in car country. See our front child seats article for more on fitting and such. Their Dutch kid seat competitors, GMG, previously keeping alive the kind of bent-metal-tubing seats you might have ridden in "back in the day", have also come out with some great looking new Yepp front and rear seats (AKA Mini and Maxi too). All the modern Dutch trimmings are there - windscreen, "sleeping roll," and even a locking mechanism on the quick-release! Not as necessary here in the US, where folks are more likely to gawk at than rip off such setups. See them & compare with bobikes and iberts and more at Clever Cycles.

Visualize helmets if you must. Matching ones, of course.

Whether you're in the market for a front or rear seat, or both, do take a look at the Dutch seats. They are decades more evolved than what you'll find in your local bike shop. They do have less "plastic bathtub" wrap-around coverage than the US rear seats you'll find, but I personally am OK with that. And for Dutch front seats, you generally need a more upright bike with some stem showing. But you need that anyway, right?

I do wonder if "Maxi" is the best branding choice for the US market (not that they currently care). Kind of like the (English) Brompton touring pannier that was recently rebranded as the "T-Bag." Perhaps the new Brompton US rep will fill them in on the multiple levels of wrong involved in that moniker. Similarly, makers of "Fanny-Packs" (which are making an inexplicable comeback with the fixerati youth) here in the US should seek branding consultation before launching in the UK. Glad I could help with all that.

Friday
Jun252010

Roll Your Own Kidical Mass

It's almost this easy. Photo from carfreedays.

I've been asked how to go about starting a Kidical Mass ride, and have been terrible about responding, swept up in bike fun as we've been. Besides, Kidical Mass was originally started by Shane Rhodes, Paul Adkins, et al. in Eugene, Oregon. They have great info up on their website, www.kidicalmass.org. But since Shane is juggling newborn twin boys (yay!!!), and Paul's got his own circus going on, I thought I'd post a few things I've learned here on our site: 

  • You're welcome to borrow from our Kidical Mass Seattle description and FAQ, and use Paul's Kidical Mass sign. Do let them know if you're starting a KM ride in your city, and post photos to their flickr group.
  • If you have an especially controversial Critical Mass in your town, you may have a bit of a branding problem to overcome (see this post). Your ride will speak for itself, however. Or pick a new name.
  • Certainly post flyers at bike shops, but also reach out to non-traditionally bikey venues, like schools, community centers, libraries, parent list-servs, etc. Social media (twitter, facebook, a blog) was very helpful in getting the word out here in Seattle. 
  • Then again, do collect emails for ride announcements, as not everyone will be following your social media feeds regularly.
  • To waiver or not to waiver? I've chosen not to. I am skeptical about the protection waivers offer, and worry that the message they send is that cycling is an extreme sport. I prefer to think of these rides as groups of like-minded families biking around together, with each parent owning responsibility for their kids, while looking out for each others' as well. I did, however, consider adding some umbrella coverage to my home insurance policy. We do live in America, after all.  
  • Count on some weebly-wobbly young riders showing up, and plan accordingly. Being used to passengering younger kids just about anywhere, I've had to learn to pick shorter, calmer routes. 2-4 miles seems doable for most. You'll still get kids telling you with pride that this was the furthest they've ridden in the city. If you're not planning a round-trip ride, remember that families will generally have to get back to the start.
  • Include a brief safety talk - pertinent rules of the road, intersection etiquette, signaling, and 1 or 2 abreast, depending on your local laws. I tell the kids that it's a single-file follow-the-leader ride (parents often riding abreast), because otherwise you can get a fair bit of jockeying for position. Given how many dangly helmet straps we often see, we'll probably start doing some helmet checks too. I'm reluctant to be school-marmy that way, but I think somebody's gotta do it.
  • Have an experienced sweeper at the back end of the ride, with tools, who can help stragglers or folks with equipment issues. Kids and parents show up on bikes that are in need of some mechanical love, at times.
  • Crossing busy streets without traffic signals can be scary. We do aim to be legal and courteous, so what we've found works well is to have an adult or two dismount and escort small groups of riders across the street. By "pedestrianizing" the adults, traffic is legally required to stop, but by crossing in smaller groups, we don't "cork" traffic. 
  • In general, try to avoid routes with lots of controlled intersections; if you have a sizable turnout, it can take a looong time to cross legally. Kids don't wait well.
  • Involve treats. I let go of my "food rules" on KM rides. We've featured popsicles, Mighty-O donuts, and other treats on rides. They're working hard, why not? Or serve GORP and organic orange slices, it's up to you!
  • As for ride ideas, we've had fun introducing families to our favorite A-to-B routes around North Seattle, riding to destinations like the beach & Green Lake, as well as riding to bike/family-friendly special events. In general, though, I think it's nice for KM rides to be their own special event, ending in a potluck or ice cream social. Otherwise the opportunity to socialize and sniff each others bikes dissipates in the larger excitement of the other event. For inspiration, check out KM Eugene's dynomite 2010 lineup of rides.
  • Scheduling is a challenge, for me at least. I really need to work on publishing a schedule in advance. In fact, it would probably work better just to pick a regular time, like last Saturday morning of every month. Evenings are doable in the summer, but weekend days have worked better overall, it seems.
  • Our general rain policy is that we ride in drizzle but cancel for downpours. Then again, last time we rode a downpour started one minute into the ride. We all got soaked, and bailed after a mile at Hale's Ales for a fun, impromptu long-table dinner. 
  • That's it and that's all! Any questions? Tips from other ride organizers or feedback from participants?
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