Friday, December 17, 2010

Personalized Bike Art

I am not into tchotkes. While life with three boys and my own overly-relaxed attitude about cleaning cause us to live with a certain degree of clutter, I tend not drawn to little things that sit on shelves. I am, however, pretty addicted to Etsy. I love the idea of all these artisans working away at home, knitting and painting and sewing and silk-screening and baking. There are times I get on Etsy, not because I want to shop, but I simply want to see what people out there are making. And I find all sorts of cool stuff.

Some weeks ago, I was drawn to an Etsy shop. It wasn't because these artisans were making things that I was particularly searching for. No, I went to their shop because I learned that the artists behind indigotwin are identical twin sisters from Maine. And I have identical twin boys. And we had lived in Maine. So as I was perusing indigotwin's very cool folk art, I got an idea. How about a family Christmas gift? And wouldn't it be cool to have those personalized portrait statues? And while it was really personalized, maybe we could include something really personal, like one of our bikes?

So I emailed indigotwin, and they were totally up for the idea of creating our family portrait complete with bakfiets. I filled out the questionaire and mailed them a few photos. They emailed me a sketch of their design and we had a nice back-and-forth about a few changes. And then, a package arrived on our porch. And no, I couldn't wait until Christmas to share it with my family.

So now on one of our shelves, sits this very cool portrait statue of my family and our Dutch bike and I love it:

Cortney and Kristen totally got it right. They even included the polka dots on the bakfiets, the first set of removable wall stickers we used to decorate the box of our bike:

And here are a couple of close-ups so you can really admire indigotwins' work:

Yup, that's me. Complete with purple eyeglasses, blue hair streak, essential coffee mug,
and orange hoodie with bike graphic.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Ethicist takes on Family Biking

Randy Cohen, a.k.a The Ethicist, is an avid bike commuter. Look at his response when a parent asks about the ethics of transporting his kids by bike.

Could you ever imagine a parent asking about the morality of transporting a child by car?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Path Less Pedaled Visit to New Haven... On their blog

So I last posted on The Path Less Pedaled Laura and Russ's visit to New Haven. Here is their posting on their time in New Haven with some amazing photos, including a shot of the Full Hands family in its entirety (a very rare sighting given that I normally like to be the one taking the pictures).

Image copyright: Russ Roca of

You can find more photos by Russ at his photography website.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Path Less Pedaled Visit

I'm not sure how I discovered Laura and Russ's blog, The Path Less Pedaled, but I found it early on when they were selling off most of the stuff they owned and started packing for their across-the-country bike tour. While I have yet to bike tour, I was immediately drawn to their unfolding story. Travel and bikes are two things of which I am incredibly fond and Laura and Russ are both creative people, a jewelry maker and photographer respectively. Their blog is more than an awesome adventure story, it is also filled with stunning photographs of people, places, and food. Reading their posts, brought me back to my travel adventure days and make me yearn for the time when I am back out there.

Therefore, it was exciting to see that, now 14 months into their journey, Russ and Laura were going to ride through New Haven. P and I happily offered them a bed in our home, thinking of all the times kind strangers helped us out along the way during our years living and traveling abroad. The boys were really excited to have them as guests and each night before they went to sleep asked, "Will Russ and Laura be here when we wake up in the morning?" S and C quizzed them on all the States they had ridden in and loved checking out all the electronic gear that the duo had with them.

Here Russ is going over a blank map of the United States so C can draw the route
Russ and Laura pedaled this past year.

I like knowing the guys saw one more example --up close-- of people making different life choices than the mainstream. Who knows? One day they may decide that they, too, want to take off on a year-long bicycle adventure and they can tell the tale of when "The Path Less Pedaled" (as C referred to them, often instead of their names) came and stayed at their home.

Russ, a Southern Cali native, braved some chilly temps to join me at Elm City Cycling's
monthly Bike to Work Breakfast

The boys are excited to meet Mona, Laura's 'pet' skunk who has traveled this journey as well.

Laura checks out the map before departing on their next leg. They'll make it up to Boston, then take a train back to Oregon, where they'll work, save money, and strategize where they'll bike to next.

You can imagine how much this pedal powered phone charger really intrigued the fellas.

The boys walk Russ and Laura out as they head off after three days in New Haven.
Yes, we have a lot of firewood that needs stacking!

Off they go!

Check out Russ and Laura's Facebook page. You can see some photos of their time in New Haven, including a great portrait of the FullHands family.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Our Turn-- Beer Bike!

We found the perfect keg holder for our backyard bash a couple of weeks ago...

Awesome or Ridiculous?

On Thursday, both C & S had school fields trips to go bird watching down near the Long Island Sound. For school trips that the kids can't travel by city bus, parents volunteer to drive so we needed to bring the boys' car booster seats with us that morning.

Packing the bike for the commute to school, I couldn't decide if we were just so awesome for pulling this off (two booster seats, two backpacks, my lunch bag, my laptop) or just plain ridiculous....

Picture two sets of legs hanging over these sides....

Friday, October 1, 2010

"No Ridiculous Car Trips"

Please take the time to watch this video of one city's brilliant campaign to get folks out on bikes. It not only is exciting for its message about choosing a bike to get around, but for its pure marketing genius.

No ridiculous car trips from Martin Lang on Vimeo.

Monday, September 27, 2010

2010 Xtracycle Freeloaders & Our Yuba

Hey-- go on over to Xtracycle's blog,, and check out our posting about Xtra's 2010 Freeloader bags on our Yuba.

Yup, they work well together. Really well.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bike Geekery

This summer I bought another fabulous bike-themed t-shirt on Etsy by Loftymornings. I have a few other shirts from this wonderful seller, Kate, and they are soft and fun and people always comment on them. I fell in love with this graphic immediately.

Every time I wear this tee, my boys comment that the drawing actually looks like me a bit-- it's not quite my hair and I do always ride with a helmet, but I wear glasses and yes, I have been known to let long periods go by without shaving my legs (great detail on the shirt that I don't know if you can see in this photo).

At some point in school today, I looked down and saw this.

Yes, I was wearing my right pant leg still clipped.

I was spoiled in the past. Given that our bakfiets had a fully enclosed chainguard (and skirt guard), I never needed to worry about what I was wearing while riding. When we switched over to riding the Yuba this summer, I either sported shorts or capri pants so I never thought much about the pants-getting-stuck-in-the-chain thing. Last week, I had a rude awakening within a block of leaving the house when the bottom of my pants caught in the chain. I was lucky that I held on and didn't dump the fellas in the back. I had to quickly pull over, ask the boys to dismount, free my pants from the chain, and tuck and roll the right pants leg so we could continue the ride.

I now clip my pants when riding. Yet when I arrived at school today, I forgot to liberate my pant leg from this oh-so-attractive neon orange binding so was walking around just so.

Bike Geekery at its finest....

p.s. Any Yuba owners out there adapt some sort of chainguard for your bike? Would love to see some examples.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Ride, Families, Ride.

After my fun making box cargo bike/bakfiets t-shirts and then adding another long-tail bike to our fleet, I have wanted to try my hand designing a new shirt representing our Xtracycle and Yuba bikes. These weekend, I pulled out my EZScreen Print and set to work. We went for simplicity for the saying, simplicity in the bike design.

While they are not quite up to professional quality silk-screened shirts, I was pretty pleased with the results. We did have a bump in the purple shirt when we pulled the squeegee over the screen so we did blur the silver bike some. F declared that this one is a bit "squidgy, " which sounds right to me. We just decided, however, that once it dried, it just looks like the bike is in action. We'll take that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

And we did it all by bike....

As soon as it came out of his mouth, I turned my head and looked directly at him. I couldn't stop the huge guffaw from escaping before I asked, "Did you just say what I think you said?"

"Yes," he confirmed, half-laughing himself, half-chagrined.

We have become one of those family. We swore we never would. We had held off pretty well for eight years. We met in the Peace Corps. He was the volunteer traveling with the smallest bag. I was impressed. We've valued simplicity and loved down-time, hanging out together, reading, sitting on porches. We had no car. We had a set of twins. Then one car. But we kept to one car and had a third son join the party. Then we began riding bikes. We took turns being the at-home parent, paid work being necessary but not the main focus. We've tried to be thoughtful and intentional in our parenting. And we never wanted over-scheduled kids and held off on joining outside school activities for a time. We've believed in unscheduled time and running around and riding around on bikes and seeing what adventures we came upon.

But here we were in the kitchen, early yesterday morning, gearing up for our first Saturday morning of the new season, when I heard him say, "So you don't wear the cleats now. First you have your cello lesson and then we'll head off to soccer practice." And so it begins....

Despite the idea of one activity per season sounding quite good and something we stuck to in the past, life has changed around these parts. Thanks to visiting an open house at our local music school four years ago, the boys became intensely interested in playing instruments. We held off for a year but then started with the older two. Music lessons suddenly meant one individual lesson, one group lesson per week... x2. OK, four commitments outside of school. And then the young guy began begging to start playing an instrument. And he and one older brother got really into backyard sports and made a plea to try soccer this fall. Do we tell them at ages eight and five that no, you already play an instrument so that's it for right now? I guess we could have but that wasn't sitting right with us. And so we have signed up for local recreation soccer, thankful that it isn't one of these crazy intense ones gearing toddlers for World Cup Play.

And so this is what our Saturday looked like:

  • 8:30AM: Sara on Xtracycle Radish with F off to soccer practice across town (even though there's simultaneous practice at the park across the street from our house, but it's farther away from the music school). ~4 miles
  • 9:00AM: P on the Yuba with S & C off to the music school. S's individual cello lesson begins. Fifteen minutes later C starts his group lesson ~ 2 miles
  • 10:00AM: S leaves park to ride to the music school. Locks Xtracycle near the Yuba. Transfers S's soccer gear from the Yuba to the Xtracycle. Brings F to the end of C's group music lesson. (Next week, F's group lesson will start right after C's; we had a bit of 'reprieve' this week) ~ 2.5 miles
  • 10:05AM: P leaves music school with S, now riding the Xtracycle, and heads to the site of his soccer game. ~1.5 miles
  • 11:00AM: Sara and F and C ride the Yuba downtown and then head home the next hour. ~ 2.5 miles
  • Sara pulls up the high curb going to our driveway and blows out the back tire on the Yuba. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh. Damn, the front tire we could deal with at home. The back tire is more complicated....
  • 11:30AM: P and S on Xtra, downtown then home. ~ 4 miles
  • 1:00 PM: Sara and F back together on the Xtra, off to a birthday party, again on the other side of town. ~ 4 miles
  • P loads the twins and the Yuba in the minivan and brings it to the bike shop to have the back tire fixed.
  • 3:00 PM: P, now on the Yuba with two functioning tires, rides C & S to a different birthday party, this one at the local natural history museum. ~3 miles
  • 3:15 PM: Sara and F leave birthday party and hit downtown local coffee shop for Sara's much-needed iced coffee. Then they are off on to the Farmington Canal Trail, heading north, in order to get to Old Navy so they can buy a blank t-shirt. Sara needs to make F's "5" birthday shirt that night since F's birthday is the next morning. ~ 7 miles
  • 5:00 PM: Yuba, P, C, and S arrive home from museum. ~3 miles
  • 5:45PM: Xtra, F, and S arrive home from successful bike trail, t-shirt shopping excursion. ~ 5.5 miles
With the exception of bringing the Yuba to the bike shop, we did this all by bike. If my math is correct, P and I rode about 39 miles on cargo bikes with our boys, ferrying them to two soccer practices, two music lessons, two birthday parties, and one shopping excursion . How's that for simple living?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

1st Days of School and Race Day

We had TWO first days of school with F, our youngest, starting preschool last week and the twins, C & S, beginning second grade on Tuesday. We, of course, had to take first day snaps of both days, including gearing up on our bikes for the commute. Our new daily commuting set-up look like this: P takes F to school on the Xtracycle Radish while I ride the Yuba Mundo with the older fellas (with the bakfiets retired for daily commuting).

F's first day of his last year of preschool

Notice our sweet new Xtracycle Freeloaders on our Yuba. While we did purchase these sharp-looking Yuba Go-Getter messenger-style bags, we found them too big for daily commuting with boys' legs hanging over the sides. They will be great for big shopping trips, serious hauling, etc. but when we saw that Xtracycle was looking for Yuba and Kona owners to test out their 2010 FreeLoaders, we jumped at the chance and were chosen to participate in the testing, much to our delight. We will be posting a review of how these bags work on our Yuba on the Xtracycle blog, but want to get through a couple of weeks of school commutes, music lesson hauling, and soccer practice runs first to see how the FreeLoaders fit our needs. Initial reaction though = awesome.

C & S's first day-- second grade! Clearly, a chillier morning than F's first day of school.

Labor Day brought New Haven's big running race. C and S ran the kids' fun run and Peter completed the 5K. Our bikes served us extremely well as streets were blocked off all over downtown and parking for cars was hard to come by. We happily zipped straight down to the Green and found a nice tree to lean the bikes up against, U-locking them twice together. Our long-tails received lots of attention and we especially loved it when the races were over and we could get right out of Dodge, getting nods from the policemen manning the streets, allowing us to ride down roads where no cars were allowed. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh. We had a vision of a world where streets were for bikes first, cars second, and it was good.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Friends & Bikes

We are quite lucky that we have friends who put up with our crazy bike love. More than that even, our friends often are fully supportive of our bike habit.

Case in point-- this weekend, we had good friends from Maine visit. When they asked what they should bring, we listed bike helmets and bathing suits as the two most essential items to pack. We never want to pressure folks into riding with us, but we do want to give them the opportunity to see the city the way we do if they wish. At any point, if we had a visitor say that they were uncomfortable cycling here in our city, we would make other transportation decisions. However, the E-J crew was game, leaving their car parked in our driveway and getting around New Haven on two wheels. All-in-all, we had five kids, four adults, four bikes: three cargo and one English roadster (it turned out to be great thing that we haven't yet sold the bakfiets).

On Friday night, J gamely went with me to pick up pizza here, braving the nutty traffic as parents were dropping off their kids off at Yale this weekend. J rode P's 1968 Rudge while I took the bakfiets, perfect for carrying multiple pies. Even though downtown was extremely crowded, we could zip right up into Kitchen Zinc's alley, getting a great view of the cool perspective installation called Square with Four Circles.

Image courtesy of:

Three of the restaurant's staff came out to check out our box bike, admiring it with much praise. As we turned our bikes around to head back home, a wedding party was just coming up the stairs to pose on the side of the Shubert Theater. It was just a great moment watching the purple-clad bridesmaids and decked-out bride, and it made me be glad, yet again, to live here.

The next morning, we had a school picnic to attend. This time we needed to get the whole crew to the other side of town, with a stop to pick up coffee and supplies. B was willing to ride the Xtracycle with one kid, I took the bakfiets with two, P on the Yuba with the other two. We got to see how our Yuba handled with a much bigger passenger (a tall 8th grader!) than we are used to riding, It was an unqualified success although P's thighs got an extra good workout. When we reached Willoughby's, we loaded the big box container of coffee into the bakfiets. I was glad that I had over a year of experience riding the twins in the box because I was able to handle the weight of a four-year-old, a ten-year-old, and coffee for 50 people. And then, we cycled off to the park, pleased that we arrived by bike with all of our guests and supplies without using any gas.

R and A, our two younger visitors, remarked on what a friendly city New Haven is. I must say that being out on bikes definitely helped cement this impression for as we rode, many along the street called out and greeted us. We were happy to wave and return their greetings. And for all the times we come across impatient or irate drivers unhappy about sharing the road, these other interactions-- the positive words and friendly greetings-- make us feel like we really belong to a great community. And I am glad our friends agreed.

Back at home; Smiles all around!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Pirate Ship Bakfiets

This summer has been lots of riding, very little blogging. I am far behind in sharing some of our bikey highlights, including anything about our new orange Yuba. However, I figured it was time to get photos of our pirate ship bakfiets up since we have since dismantled the ship and the bakfiets will soon be decorated with a For Sale sign...

With a nod of thanks to all the other pirate-ship-decorated box bikes out there (here, here, here), we finally fulfilled F's long-time wish and turned our box bike into a pirate ship for New Haven's Summer Cycling Celebration. P rigged an awesome mast that was well-placed so one could still see while riding. I wish I had gotten better photos of the bike but I bet there are a number of pictures of it floating out there since people stopped us a bunch of times to take pictures. F, who constantly likes to dress like a pirate, happily stayed in character. We were able to put his pirate hat right over his helmet and taped on a red feather for an extra touch. The pirate hat covering has been abandoned but he is still wearing his red feather on his helmet, which is quite cute.

The Summer Cycling Celebration was sponsored by the city's local Street Smarts campaign. In keeping with this, we attached a sign to back rack of the bakfiets that said, "Even Pirates Need Safe Streets." The weekend after the Cycling Celebration, I was riding F to a birthday party in our still-decorated pirate ship when I heard the sound of pedaling and puffing over my left shoulder. A voice suddenly said, "Oh, even pirates need safe streets, huh?" Glancing to my left at the fellow bike rider now riding parallel, I replied, "Oh, that's right, Mr. Mayor." So Mayor DeStefano does ride even when not courting votes.

Beach Bike Culture

We just got back from an excellent week at the Jersey Shore. When I posted "JERSEY SHORE" to my Facebook status, I was quick to clarify that I wasn't talking about that Jersey Shore but the actual beach, ocean, and three boys with boogie boards. Funny enough, just hours after I'd updated my status, my husband went to buy dinner fixin's at the local market only to be surprised at how swamped it was for a Sunday evening. It turns out that yes, that Jersey Shore had intruded a bit upon our vacation as two of the cast members were also 'shopping' at that local market, accompanied by camerafolks.

Anyhoo, we had discussed bringing our bikes with us on vacation. The beach generally is a great place to have a bike, but after realizing that it would take a whole lot of advanced planning to get our bikes to the beach (especially our cargo bikes), advanced planning that we just didn't have in us, the bikes stayed locked up in the garage at home. I couldn't help but see some irony in this decision as we passed car upon car on the NJ Parkway laden with brimming bike racks. Here we ride bikes in our everyday life, yet were bike-free on vacation. I couldn't help but wonder if most of the biking vacationers are the opposite: bike riding on vacation but never in 'normal' life. Who knows? Happily, our rental was well-located. We could walk to the beach, market, ice cream shop, and my sister's so we didn't need to take the car out daily.

It was great fun to see all the colorful bikes out and about in our vacation town. Beach cruisers everywhere. I especially love the ones rigged with racks to carry surfboards and couldn't help but think that someone selling longtail cargo bikes at the Shore would have a real market. However, I didn't see an Xtracycle or Yuba among the crowd. I did love the bright blue tricycle adorned with front and back baskets that a local clearly used for grocery fetching. I liked that there was a huge range of bike riders-- people of all ages, pedaling away, enjoying the sun and salt air. I've long recognized that every day I ride my bike is like riding in a convertible, no need to put the top down.

One thing that struck me is the total lack of bike helmets among the beach bike riding crowd. I've read bike blogs long enough to know that the mention of helmets can set off a firestorm of pro vs. con comment debate. Thankfully, I don't have enough blog readers to set off such a firestorm and truthfully, I am not interested in doing so. Ultimately, wearing a helmet or not is your business. As a parent, I feel it is important that I wear a bike helmet. My kids are required by law to do so, and I personally would have a hard time with the whole, "Do as I say, not as I do" thing around bike helmets, married with the fact that I have a brother-in-law who is still alive after being hit by a van while he was out on a long ride. He spent many months in the hospital and now sports a multi-inch scar on his head, but his bike helmet saved his life (and thanks, too, that the next car passing was filled with doctors). Now if I lived in a European city where bike riding was the norm and bike helmets were not, I am not sure if I would wear a helmet. But I don't live in a European city with a strong bike infrastructure or culture. I live in a city where there is minimal bike infrastructure, where drivers still aren't terribly accustomed to sharing the road with bike riders, and where a number of cyclists pay little attention to road rules. It isn't a great combination. So always a helmet.

Yet at the Jersey Shore, while bikes were abundant, helmets were a rare sight. New Jersey state law requires any rider under 17 years to wear a helmet, but this was clearly not enforced in the beach towns we visited. There were a few times we saw kids on bikes with helmets but they were not strapped. My husband speculated that maybe beach bike culture predates the whole bike-helmet-safety thing. It wasn't as if the streets were terribly bike friendly, many riders on the shoulders of two-lane highways that run north and south in town that see cars whizzing along between spaced traffic signals, with nary a true bike lane. A high school friend who lives year-round in one of these towns said that at the end of this school year, a letter from the local police was sent home saying it would enforce NJ's bike helmet law, but she sees no sign that this is actually happening. I can't help but wonder if the 'different rules for vacation' thinking is at work with the no helmets on bikes at the beach. You know-- folks traveling engage in activities they would never thinking of doing while at home. I won't mention examples like *cough* *cough* riding helmet-less and in flip-flops on a motorcycle across a certain small island in Thailand to get to town for fresh watermelon shakes or sitting atop a sack of rice on top of an overly-crowded public bus as it speeds its way on a narrow, windy road in Laos.

So, I'll leave that just as an observation with no criticism or conclusion.

And yes, I DID so love in today's NYTimes the photo in the left-hand corner the page of rich party-goers happenings, captioned "JUDY and JACK HADLOCK, who came on bicycles to avoid the wait for car service after the event." No, they aren't wearing bike helmets but damn, you've gotta love Mr. Hadlock's frilly shirt, bow tie, shorts, and long socks combo, and of course, ultimately the fact that he and his wife traveled to the shindig by bike. Brilliant.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

What to Do With a White Bern Helmet When Mom is Not Wearing It....

Play Storm Trooper, of course,with water telescope and rocket-shaped bubbles container. We ARE supposed to encourage imaginative play, aren't we?

** I must say that F, our nearly five-year-old, has never seen any of the Star Wars movies yet (nor have our older fellows) yet he seems to be able to speak about it with some authority that I find quite unnerving.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cargo Bikes pictured in the Boden catalogue

Tucked among the mail today was a new Boden catalogue. For someone not terribly interested in fashion, I must admit that I really, really like Boden clothing. I first discovered their incredibly cool graphic t-shirts for boys (so beyond the usual stripes and trucks most companies were producing for fellas) and then fell for their amazing prints in their women's collections. I have a particular fondness for Boden's tunics.

As I was perusing its new women's collection for fall, I came upon a few photos of cargo bikes as props in their pictures, including a beautiful cargo trike with a cute dog as cargo. So the NYTimes last week and now a Boden catalogue-- Are cargo bikes becoming a widespread trend?

These photos are from Boden's website. There is a better shot of the trike and dog as cargo in the catalogue....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Summer Commute

My commute has changed this summer. While I commute with my older two boys during the school year and my husband brings my younger one to/from preschool, we have flip-flopped for the summer. This has required a bike exchange as well.

Therefore, each weekday F and I saddle up on the Xtracycle Radish which he likes to refer to as "The Rocket Bike." Bringing him to his camp increases my daily mileage. I just Mapped My Ride to learn that I am riding over 11 miles each day commuting. Our route takes us right through downtown and through parts of Yale's campus. On the bike, we have the advantage of going up a street that cars cannot currently because of ongoing construction. We hit one, long major hill which I could never pull off with the twins and bakfiets. While it's not part of the ride that I gleefully look forward to, I am happy that report that YES, I am riding up it. All the way. First gear is my friend.

When I reach F's camp, I am always extremely hot and sweaty, especially with this summer's extreme heat and humidity. I also do a quick face wash and wipe off my glasses after I get him settled. It definitely helps that I recently had my hair cut extremely short and that during the summer months, my work doesn't require me to dress in any formal manner. And happily, once I leave his camp for my work-- I get to ride down the other side of the hill. Ahhhhhhhhh.

This summer, I have seen so many bike commuters. It is great fun and makes me wish we had such an active bike commuting community throughout the year. However, witnessing the array of folks out pedaling these past two months gives me great hope for the future.

Next week, F heads off to a new camp, his first 'real' one (not at his regular preschool). He will be joining his brothers at one of my most favorite places here in New Haven for a farm/ecology program called "Sprouts." This camp switch presents a bit of a commuting dilemma. Since P is riding over there anyway with the older boys, it would make sense that he would bring F as well, especially since Common Ground is on the opposite side of town from my work. However, with the boys grown so big, we really cannot take all three on a bike anymore, especially since there is a significant hill on this route as well. Therefore, if he was going to get them all there, he would have to take the car. And this would be a bummer in more ways than one. P has loved being able to bring the other fellows there by bike this past week, especially since pick-up and drop-off are so chaotic with a flood of cars waiting in line to leave or get their kids. P's been able to zip right up the drive and put the cargo bike right up against a tree without any delay. Also, I have a hard time thinking that we must drive to get all three of our boys to this FARM for an ENVIRONMENTAL program for goodness sakes; it just seems wrong.

So.... we are going to try this which will require a bit of patience and understanding from my boss and colleagues. I am going to ride the Xtra with one. P will ride the Yuba with the other two. And then, off I will go to work. Yes, I will be later than I have been all summer. And I will definitely be sweaty. But I will get there. And the car will stay parked.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

F is a TV Star... Ok, a Video Blog Star

At about the 40 second mark, you just might meet a cute pirate who looks familiar and look at that cool pirate ship bakfiets!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cargo Bikes getting ink in the NYTimes

I have much to blog about-- three new bikes in our house (!), our bakfiets pirate ship makeover, New Haven's cycling celebration-- but wanted to share this link with my friends who haven't checked out the Sunday NYTimes yet: Hauling Cargo, No Car Necessary. The trikes that George makes are pretty darn fancy. Had to laugh when he said that "glamour moms" purchase and ride these cargo bikes. I am SO not a glamour mom, but now I have another reason to like Kate Winslet.

p.s. While getting my toenails painted today, I was perusing a certain celebrity magazine that showed a photo of Kate Winslet riding her fancy cargo trike. I had to track it down-- here it is. Interestingly, this website has blocked out the face of Winslet's son. I did note when looking at the magazine's photo that while he was wearing a helmet, it was unstrapped.... Just saying.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Please Don't Squash the Cannolis

Heading off to one of my sister's home tonight. Can't show up empty-handed, right? Stopped here on my way home from work and picked up some cannolis. While I was rigging them to my snapdeck, a fellow rolled down the window of his car to say, "Be careful with those. You don't want them falling off!" It made me laugh. For some reason, I feel less jolly when people say the same thing thing to me when kids are strapped to the back....

Happy July 4th.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I started bike commuting because as a member of a one-car family, I needed a way to get from one place to another without buying another car. I wasn't looking to become a bike activist or advocate in any way. As my family started to ride together, we learned what works with biking in our community and what makes cycling here tough. Who doesn't want to make tough things in one's life a bit easier? However, taking on any such formal role of bike advocate just seemed too daunting with three young fellows and a full-time job. And there are simply logistics that don't work right now: the local community's formal bike advocacy group meets at a time I need to be home to feed my boys; the monthly Critical Mass rides also don't fit our schedule, etc. So I stayed content talking with folks whenever people asked about our bikes or riding with kids. I invited friends to join us on bike rides. I kept an eye out for bike events in which we could participate, a few Bike to Work breakfasts, a fun group ride here and there. But truthfully, I saw my truest act of bike advocacy as simply riding, riding nearly every day, riding with my kids, being out there and visible. I still think that.

But I can feel the urges, the whisperings that I must do more. I must contribute to making my community a place where more parents feel comfortable riding with their children. Where someone contemplates leaving her car parked for the day and rides downtown to the library and knows this is a valid and safe option. Where two friends might go out for the night just using pedal power to get them where they want to go.

And I must do more because my family now faces a dilemma.

We have three sons and two cargo bikes. We bike far more than we drive. We bike to school, to work, to music lessons, to camp, to church, to the farmer's market, to playgrounds, to friends' homes, etc. Both my husband and I have grown quite comfortable biking throughout our city with our kids in/on our bikes. But now-- our oldest two are about to turn eight. And they have grown. And the truth is, they are busting out of the cargo box on our Bakfiets. Yes, they are quite good cyclists on their own, comfortable riding their two-wheelers, happy to do so for some distance. However, we live in a city that simply does not have the infrastructure to make it safe for them to ride themselves most places. Our route to school brings us right through downtown with lots of impatient drivers racing to get to/from work and no bike lanes. We have no routes that would put us on quieter streets.

So what are we to do? Stop biking? We are not ready to do this and I fully resent the idea that we would have to give up bike commuting.

So right now, we are hoping that a new cargo bike set-up may solve this problem for us for the moment. We are sad that it is time to sell the Bakfiets, but excited about the orange Yuba Mundo that will join our family soon. How long will this extend our ability to be family bike commuters, I can't say. But I worry that my boys' growth will far outpace the changes our community needs to make it a truly bike-friendly city, a place where ten, eleven, twelve year-olds can ride to get to where they need to be going. And I know, I won't be able to haul them forever....

Do you live in a place where a young person can safely ride to school, to the library, to camp? Can kids do that in Portland, OR? In Cambridge, MA? In most suburban towns? How about rural communities? I want to learn more.

But the truth is, I don't want to move. Not now, anyway. So I need to get advocating in more formal ways.

This was a start.....

Thursday, June 24, 2010

LGRAB Summer Games continued

We've been keeping an eye of Dottie and Trisha's Let's Go Ride a Bike Summer Bike Games. Here's a report on our second phase that included these challenges:

June 7 - June 27: Learning Experiences
  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
  • Decorate your bike
  • Read a book about cycling
  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride
We decided to pull the family card for a few of these so happily have completed each of them but with different family members involved. The most exciting challenge for us in this group was taken on by our youngest guy who decided to "test ride" his brothers' two wheelers (no training wheels) and yes, he is off and riding now. He happily checks the tires before he rides and is insistent that he pump up the flats himself so another nod to F for performing our maintenance task-- however small, but necessary! We also took care of decorating our bike with our new Zero Per Gallon ginormous patch!

Read a book about cycling. We did that, too! I've been diving into Joe Kurmaskie's family cycling adventures but the bike book we want to share here:
How can you go wrong with a story about a duck who wants to ride a bike? Truly. Fun to hear Duck's friends' reactions (and see their expressions) watching him cruise on two wheels. My boys love author and illustrator David Shannon's books in general and one with farmyard animals AND a bike= cool!

Finally-- carry a load on your bike..... Well, this feels like cheating a bit since we are family bike riders so EVERY day both P and I are loaded up with children and their stuff on our two cargo bikes. When we first became parents, I remember a friend commenting, "I am my child's roadie. I have one little bag of stuff and they have two tractor trailers worth of things like a rock star." So we decided to show some snaps of our every day haul. I don't think we have yet mentioned that with the boys taking up that much more room in the cargo box that we expanded our haulin' capacities with a set of gorgeous hot pink, orange, and red Clarijs bags.

So here's a list of what goes in our Bakfiets on a daily basis during school time:
  • Two boys (roughly weighing 110+ lbs.)
  • At least two books-- pictured on top of this post: a Tin Tin collection and one of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson books.
  • Three lunch boxes (mine included)
  • Kids' artwork (an amazing amount after each school day)
  • My school bag with laptop
  • Two water bottles
  • Tissues
I did want to share a snap of "my favorite load" last week....

  • A 1/4 sized cello
  • Small kid's chair
  • A 1/2 violin in other side bag
  • Music books & sheet music
  • One cute musician
  • One iced coffee for the tired dad who accompanies one cute musician to his cello lesson then hands off the first cute musician to mom (who has the box bike with their two other sons) who in turns drops off a different cute musician down to the music school for his violin lesson which dad stays for as well-- Whew!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Big Bike Event at Our Home

We've been riding a ton, writing very little. I have much to blog about & need to keep up reporting on our participation in LGRAB Summer Games events. I couldn't however let yesterday's BIG BIKE EVENT AT OUR HOME pass without marking it here.

Our little guy, F, aged four and a half, learned to ride a two-wheeler yesterday. Yes! It was so exciting. He's been on a balance/push bike for over a year and yesterday, my husband raised its seat. F was riding his balance bike up and down our block with ease, lifting his feet higher and higher with longer intervals between putting his feet down. P, watching him, thought F could likely ride one of his brother's two wheelers. F was game. It took only a couple of spills (plus, he hasn't quite gotten stopping down) but off he went. It was truly magical!

I have to say thanks to all the bike bloggers out there that talked about bypassing training wheels and just go balance bike to two-wheeler. In this case, it worked perfectly.