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Mar192010

« Take the Day UFF »

My wife's been either ill with norovirus or busy with work these past few weekends, so the kids and I have had some days to fill. Naturally, bikes were involved. 

So we've been taking the day UFF. UFF? Urban Family Flâneurs. Flâ-whâh? I warned you I was half-Gallic. A flâneur, in the words of Charles Baudelaire (via wikipedia, not my own erudition) is "someone who walks [bikes] the city in order to experience it." A way to stroll about Seattle by bike, at the speed of discovery, with the freedom to stop and jump out whenever fancy or boredom strike.

For the bike nuts, an UFF day is like Grant Petersen's S24O. But with kids. And cargo bikes. And no overnight. Yet.

After breakfast, I grab diapers, wipes, water bottles, sundry kid snacks (booty, fruit, and whatnot), load up the MADSEN, and off we go. We often have at least one destination in mind, but the rest is improvised. Pass a park? Stop and romp. Discover a pocket beach? Why not. Hungry/thirsty? Stop for a treat. It's like credit card touring, without the touring. Sculpture Park or Aquarium? Disturbing the peace at the Sculpture Park it is:

Inside at the Sculpture Park

Naptime? Seat the kids in sleep mode and off we go. The bike gets them to synchronized sleep like nothing else. Arrive at a picturesque location or favorite cafe, park the bike near an outdoor table or window seat, and enjoy some precious grownup time (just don't get arrested, like this poor Danish mom). Come home by bedtime after a day of bike serendipity

A "Hemingway" at Miro Tea (Rooibos tea, grapefruit, strawberry, mint, ice, seltzer) & Sleeping Children (Sugar, spice, everything nice)
For UFF days with young children, a bike with multiple seating positions and nap capability is really nice to have. On our MADSEN with front Bobike Mini seat, Luc can be up front when awake, telling me about "dat, a-dat, and dat," and in his DIY baby seat when it's nap time, reasonably protected from sun/drizzle. Drew can sit on the back bench when awake, or "get cozy" down in the bucket on cushions when it's her naptime. 

A bakfiets would also work well for UFF days (especially with rain cover), or maybe a bike with trailer and bike-mounted child seats (for varied seating positions). Longtails (xtracycle, Yuba Mundo) could do well for older children that don't nap, or young children that nap well in child seats (mine don't). You'll want a stable centerstand, so you can walk away from the bike during the nap. 

Kidical Mass at the LocksLast weekend, our UFF day started with a trip to Kinko's to laminate some Kidical Mass spoke cards, then a lovely KM ride to the bike expo, via the Locks and trainyard. We saw a bit of Ryan Leech's trials demo, and the German artistic cycling whiz kids (they're youtube-bike-blog-famous). Luc was a particular fan of the latter. Lots of clapping and "so big" gestures. 

Zigo TrikeWe ate and drank our fill of electrolytes and energy bars (Larabars are seriously delicious, "Lance juice" is not), drooled over some folding bikes and Metrofietsen, took a spin in a Zigo trike, and headed off by naptime. OK, a bit late for naptime. Drew had a meltdown in the bike parking lot. Pilot error. 

They both fell asleep in minutes, leaving me with a picturesque ride by the Sound, through the downtown waterfront, over to West Seattle, around Alki Beach to our friends' house for an early St Patrick's day stew. The ride ended with an uphill that put the uff da in UFF day. 

Sculpture Park at SunsetAfter imbibing many green drinks, stew, and cupcakes, it was getting late, so the twin-in-law graciously brought the kids home in her car, and I rode the bike home solo, catching Aaron from Aaron's Bike Repair on his way home from the shop on his Big Dummy, who showed me a killer downhill past the new mixed-income housing "projects", and told me of a stokemonkey install on a customer's MADSEN, in the rear rectangle behind the seatpost (tempting!). Rode back on what is, temporarily at least, a protected cycletrack by the container ship docks, and stopped at the Sculpture Park to enjoy the sunset. 

More epic than typical UFF day (35 miles, which is a cargo bike "century")

So take the day UFF. No plans necessary. You can cover some distance during the naps, or experience your own neighborhood in a new way. See where you wind up, and come home by bedtime (or after). In a similar mode, here's a Dutch "papa day" by bike. How do you st/roll?

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Reader Comments (12)

Wow -- that hemingway drink looks tasty! What fun you've come up with :-) We're in Redmond (WA) this weekend and I wanted so badly to bring a bike, even just a road bike for a workout, but it wasn't to be :-( One day I'll "bike seattle" :-)

March 20, 2010 | Unregistered Commentershetha

I like that term. I used to do that via stroller a lot. They were prolly my best parenting of tiny children days ever. I think we need to plan a good UFF day soon as well. We have a day off soon, maybe I will.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMamavee

Love days like these.

One of my seven-year-olds was feeling a bit yucky while on a family picnic last night with friends. We padded the bakfiets box and he actually slept, yes, slept (a seven-year-old!) in the box. It was a wonderful thing.

Am curious to hear what you thought about the Zigo. A local friend is particularly interested in one, but no where close in which to test ride...

Hope your wife is feeling better.

March 22, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersara

"credit card touring without the touring" -- ah! that's what we've been doing all this time! i love it!

Is that a float of cream on that Hemingway? Looks tasty.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpatrick

I'm so impressed with your map-- those kids had a great dadventure! You even pulled off a nap-- nice.

And okay, I know you are probably just that much stronger and fitter than I am, but how in the world do you do this without an electric assist?? My two children are 80 lbs, put together, and the bike itself is maybe 90? My range, with them in my own Madsen-with-no-motor, is about eight miles, there and back. Any farther and I seriously bonk. Sigh. It feels like a losing battle trying to get stronger faster than they can grow larger!

March 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

oh i love UFF days! reminds me of that kid's book "Here Comes the Train"....a dad and his son & daughter ride their bikes to a bridge to watch the trains pass underneath. simple, sweet - and oh so perfect. just like an UFF day.
enjoy your adventures : )

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterheather in toronto

Yeah, I wanna know what you thought of the Zigo too!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShoopee

Patrick - just foam. Shaken, not stirred. But a cream float sounds tasty.

Anna - That's a very flat route, except the West Seattle hill, where I had to walk the bike up the last 2 blocks. And lots of breaks. And "cargo legs" from doing this a lot in the past few months. Plus, your kids are heavier than mine!

Shoopee and Sara - The Zigo is a neat invention. I think it could work well for less bikey parents that worry about the stability of a 2-wheel solution, for short multi-modal trips around town (what with the stroller, adult bike conversion options). The handlebar/brake cable popoff looks well-designed, the "pod" was up to quality-bike-trailer snuff, and the kids enjoyed their short ride - it's a nice view for them.

But I think I'm just not a "trike guy." Granted, I'd need to spend more time getting used to the handling, but at first, a trike feels squirrely and paradoxically tippy and "backwards" compared to a 2-wheeler. I understand that it probably would take considerable speed and an off-camber turn to tip a loaded trike, but it feels tippier than it is, at first.

Also, I just don't need all the conversion options - I don't jog, don't love strollers in crowded places, and am happy to ride a cargo bike all by my lonesome after a kid drop-off. And while I love having kids up front, the cover (which appears to offer excellent weather protection) doesn't allow as much interaction as on a bakfiets.

March 31, 2010 | Registered CommenterJulian / Totcycle

Thanks for your thoughts about the Zigo! My husband and I are going to ride one this weekend. We're debating between that and a Madsen, but we can't test ride the latter where we live (Chicago).

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShoopee

If you're talking about the "killer downhill" at 30th SW and SW Brandon, it's part of my commute. I call the bottom of that hill by the golf course "frosty hollow" - it is always about 5 degrees colder than everywhere else. And coming UP that hill - at 5:30 PM, on an empty stomach, when you just want to be home... it's a killer!

April 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBikejuju

Like usual, I'm late to the party but I expect I'll be the last one here when the beer runs out....

Julian, you inspire me so much. I can't tell you how much that I think "Damn I wish I was as cool as him" when I read your blog posts. So much that I have to take weeks between reads to recover my grip on my much-less-worthy biking reality.

Dude, you rule at the family bike thing.

(reading this again, it sounds like I'm trying to be ironic, or worse, mocking. But I'm not. I'm serious. You do rule a the family (emphasis on the family part, because as we know, it's pretty easy to geek out on the pure bike part when you are kidless) bike thing. Adventures like this inspire me to to try harder. So thank you!)

April 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTim K

Looks like much fun! Wonderful! I like the idea of UFF a lot. Should also try it now - after knoewing what fun it means. So i will try it in Berlin - i´m curious if it works the same. Thanks a lot for that hint!

April 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKinder Party

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