It was chilly for us this morning at about 30 degrees Fahrenheit and in typical Bustamante family fashion, we were "pretty much" prepared.
Yesterday, I threw both boys in the Bullitt due to time and schedule issues as well as my laziness about dressing them for warmth. The whole ride was a mess of "he took the blanket!" "my face is cold!" and so on and on and on. Today, I finally got around to call Splendid Cycles
to order our Blaq Designs
cover. Sadly, they're still in production and will take a few weeks to get here. That's what I get for waiting for the last minute.
Today, Big Brother got to ride his bike. He had his gloves, scarf, a couple layers of shirts, his big jacket, jeans, and his snow pants from last year that were smaller than I had expected. We pulled out the driveway and he immediately lost it emotionally. It was too hard to pedal with the big pants on. I kept urging him to keep moving but he wouldn't, he'd coast until he got really wobbly and then struggle to find his footing again. It quickly became a safety issue because he wasn't listening to me or reacting quickly enough. We pulled over and I took the pants off, leaving him with just his jeans. It was pretty frustrating considering how long it took us to get everything on him and then all the work to take them off again on the side of the road. Pretty silly to think we were only traveling less than a mile. He was totally happy once he could pedal again and then he just complained about his fingers being cold while he rode the rest of the way to school.
Little Brother got the blanket to himself this morning, which made life much easier. He's still too little to really figure out how to get his thumbs in the thumb-holes so mittens are a much more feasible option for him. These are waterproof ones from last year. Under his warm jacket is his fleece jammy top because he woke up late and under the blanket, he's wearing flannel-lined pants that we got from a thrift store. He was okay on our way to school but as we headed back, he took his gloves off and immediately regretted it. I tried to get him to just keep his hands under the blanket but he wasn't having it and he fussed the whole 8 minutes back home.
Lessons learned today: Buy the dang cargo canopy before the weather turns south! Also, make sure the layers fit and work before you actually need them. However, hot tea after a chilly ride fixes everything (except a loose BionX wire which I need to have Tim deal with as soon as he gets back from his fun Southern California vacation. I lost power 3 times on the way in to work and again once on the way home which was a bit more of a worry as the battery was also powering my lights! Luckily, I can pinpoint the offending wire and jiggle it enough to get rolling again).
I ordered two pairs of thermal pants for Big Brother from Sierra Trading Pos
t--they were about $5 each with an additional 30% discount. I also got the boys a fleece neck gaiter as well (~$6 each). I don't really like the idea of them wearing scarves, especially on the bike where it could get caught in something. This way, they can pull them up over their noses without them falling off or getting tangled. It's hard for me to justify really investing a lot of money into expensive winter gear because we don't need to use it much and most likely, it'll be too small by the following year. Sierra Trading Post had some nice inexpensive gear and if you sign up
, you can get $10 off your first purchase (and I'll get $10 for referring you!) so go for it!
You might think that Californians don't know how to dress for Winter. You're probably right.
In fact, you can tell that rain is in the forecast by the number of college students wearing Uggs with their jeans. People here think hoodies are appropriate rain jackets.
I always feel silly when we start complaining about Sacramento Winters. I know it's nothing like the real Winters that actually snow and people have to worry about their brake cables freezing and whether the bike lanes have been plowed. Still, it's pretty darn cold for us. This week marks the first real cold spell and it's quite a drop from what we've been dealing with so far. I keep worrying that we're not adequately prepared for the weather but I have to keep reminding myself that we managed to live through last year, our first winter without a car.
To be honest, it wasn't even that bad. The mornings and evenings were cold and foggy, the wind sucked, and the rain was sparse. As long as we had lots of layers and lots of lights, we were fine. The boys did have snowsuits that I made them wear once or twice but they hated them. I'm hoping that the suits still fit but I haven't made them try them on, yet.
This year, since we have the Bullitt, I'm ordering a rain cover from Blaq design
. They make incredibly beautiful weather covers. This will give us just a bit more flexibility and comfort on the really cold and/or rainy days.
Stacy's ride, photo via ASimpleSix.com. They have real winters.
When they boys are in the Bullitt, it's pretty easy to just cover them with blankets. In the rain, we cover the blankets with ponchos (at least until we can get the cover). On the Mundo, lots of layers for cold and rain gear for rain. Yep, it's that simple.
One added change this year is Big Brother's solo biking. I want to let him ride on his own as much as possible and so far, it's working well. We ordered his Isla bike
with fenders so he could splash through puddles. For added visibility, he now has a great set of Planet Bike
lights front and rear as well as a new spiffy Ikea reflective vest ($2.99!).
For myself, it's a little trickier. I'm trying to Portlandize by wardrobe by adding wool for warmth and rain protection. My SmartWool tights failed at the seams after a couple weeks of riding, they just didn't have enough give. The Muk Luks were 50-50, literally--one pair arrived almost unraveled but the other pair has held strong and is super soft. I have one other pair of fleece-lined Xhilaration tights which are also great even though I got a size too small. They are really thick, very stretchy, and super warm. I tend to over-layer myself so it's a good thing I ride a big bike and can peel things off as I warm up. I usually go with two sets of gloves and socks, thermals under my pants, and many layers of tops. I wish I had more sweaters to replace the 5-6 shirts I end up wearing so I'll probably need to visit the thrift shop soon. The only other thing I make sure to bring is a long scarf that I can wrap around my face, cover my ears, and warm my neck.
Kath is my style-hero. She also has an awesome Blaq Designs cover.
Finally, we finish our Winter-biking prep by decking the bikes with lots of lights. Last year, we go a couple of battery powered strands of outdoor holiday lights. I broke them eventually, of course, so I plan to get another set and take better care of them.
I feel better about going into Winter having experienced one car-free already. I assume that we'll learn new tricks, have some miserable rides, enjoy the crisp air, and suddenly be surprised that Spring shows up again. You couldn't pay me to put away our bikes for three whole months!
Here we go!!!
I love when a company has values
that I can support! Not only did I get a quick reply from the folks at Planet Bike
regarding Big Brother's broken light, turns out that their customer sales person, Kristin, is a family biker on a Big Dummy! Here's what she told me in regards to their repair/warranty policy:
I’m sending out a back case for your Beamer 1 today. We’re definitely big on repairing rather than pitching things in the landfill and we refurbish the majority of product returned to shops for warranty and end up donating it to bike advocacy groups. We’ve also always offered free shipping on all of our small parts to encourage our customers to rebuild whenever possible.
So, great customer service, grassroots advocacy, and folks who are just like us. I'm now a bigger fan than I was before! Thanks, Planet Bike!
See this gorgeous baby above? Don't let those sweet-doe eyes fool you, this kid is pure maniacal genius. Never before have I known a child as sure of himself as Little Brother. He amazes me every day, especially with his jaw-dropping Strider bike talent. However, I'm pretty sure that every time we go out, he gives me about 20 new grey hairs. I can see why some people would hang up the towel and prefer to keep their child indoors.
This afternoon, the boys woke up pretty crabby from their nap so I suggested that we go out for a little bike ride before papa came home. I clipped a light to Little Brother's jacket and hooked up Big Brother's to his bike. I only got one photo of our short walk because the majority of the time, I was chasing after the little one at full tilt because he so fast. Big Brother knows to stop at corners and to look out for nearby cars, Little Brother doesn't. I was especially on guard because it was just about dusk and people were coming home from work. At one point, Big Brother crashed when he slid onto the grass and got his wheel stuck in the gap next to the sidewalk. As I screamed for Little Brother to stop, I began to panic as he got farther and farther away while Big Brother was still on the ground trying to pick himself up. I almost had to make the decision whether to leave BB and run after LB or risk having LB cross the street or turn a corner. I scarcely got BB up before I had to take off at full speed to barely catch the little monster (which I say with love) who cackled the whole time. The kid had gotten almost an entire block away from me. It was terrifying. We had a good 2-year-old appropriate talk about stopping when I say stop and why he can't get too far ahead of me. Luckily, Big Brother hadn't been hurt and had ridden along with my frantic chase.
Shortly after the talk, LB somehow got in front of Big Brother and me again and as he neared a curb, he very lazily started to skid to a stop but kept getting closer and closer to the edge as a truck sped up to the cross street's stop sign. I screamed again and my heart stopped for a second. This time, I scooped up my biker boy along with his Strider (thank goodness it's a light bike!) and carried him the rest of the .5 mile home as he screamed and kicked. Trying to explain that his freedom to ride hinges on his ability to listen to directions is difficult. He understands but I don't know how to get him to follow through. I think we're going to be doing a lot of red-light, green-light practice bike rides in the near future. I would love some advice from others who have taught their free-spirited children about bike safety. Big Brother tends to follow instructions better and it probably helped that when he was a crazy 2-year-old, we only had to focus on him. Now that my attention is split between the two kids, it's a lot more nerve-wracking.
One more bummer of the short ride, Big Brother's new Planet Bike 1-watt light was broken in the fall. Considering how minimal the fall was--a slow skid down, how short the distance that it fell was, and the fact that the mount/light didn't even hit the ground, it's pretty disappointing. The two thin strips of plastic that slide into the mount sheered right off. I've sent an email in to Planet Bike and am hopeful because they are into refurbishing and replacing worn out parts instead of creating a product that needs to be thrown away entirely.
Big Brother and I rode over to Practical Cycle this afternoon to get the Peanut Shell reinstalled since we don't have a socket wrench to do it easily and I needed to get out of the house.
The Mondo Slings held up beautifully!
As we rolled into the shop, we were greeted to a wonderful surprise! Our friends, the Oldens, had just finished purchasing an orange Mundo! The whole family was there! I didn't even know they had been thinking about getting one but they had borrowed our Mundo yesterday for Kidical Mass. I love having an extra cargo bike to share!
These guys are not new to family biking. You've probably seen them featured here many times. They are the family we call when we think of something silly to try out and I'm always shocked at how willing they are to join our shenanigans. We've ridden up to Folsom and back on a whim together, camped at Beal's Point, zipped off to The Davis farmer's market, and they joined our crazy Xmas tree adventure.
A couple of years ago, they got a trailer to bike their kids around, but as the kiddos grew, they had a harder time getting out to ride. We did a lot of kid-swapping or loaned them our Mundo for Randy to ride. Now, they have a great bike that both Jennifer and Randy can transport their kids easily.
Watching their new bike come together!
They added the Monkey Bars because the munchkins are 7 and 4, old enough to not need the Peanut Shell but still need some peace of mind that they are contained, even when sleepy. They chose two Go-Getter bags for tons of waterproof cargo space, two Soft Spots for comfy seating, and topped it all off with a set of lights, Nutcases for the kids, and a sturdy lock. Another smart move was swapping out the standard tubes for thick, self-sealing ones and tire liners. They had put a lot of thought into exactly what they needed for their comfort and happiness.
A beautiful Mundo portrait!
Our Mundos are already best friends.
We finished up the night with pizza and a night ride home with Jennifer--such a wonderful way to end the weekend!
Welcome to the Mundo family, Oldens! What will our next adventure be?
Continuing with our monthly Kidical Mass rides, November was our cargo bike food bank run to support Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. We got a few bins to place around the downtown area and asked participants to bring a donation. Unfortunately, the bins didn't get much attention, however, our riders certainly made up for it!
We met up in front of Practical Cycle
and took advantage of their great big grassy area across the street. Our friend, Jarrod of 8legs2wheels.com
, showed up with coffee that had been donated from Old Soul
. People started trickling over, meeting one another, and checking out some of the awesome rigs.
Edible Pedal's delivery bike took a break to ride with us.
Any bike can carry cargo!
Monica, of Carsick Designs
, got some great photos of some of the individual cargo bikes and the ride that you can view here
Just before we headed off, I climbed up my Mundo and did our guideline rundown:
- Make individual decisions and be responsible for your family's safety.
- Obey all traffic signals and signs.
- Use hand signals. Wave hello to people, too.
- Follow right-of-way rules with all users of the road.
- Share the road, avoid the door zone.
- Ride single file in bike lanes.
- Keep at least a "ghost bike" of space between you and the rider in front.
- No one passes the leader. No one gets left behind.
- Have fun!
- Make new friends!
We had walkie talkies to help keep everyone together and with 62 counted riders, it was incredibly helpful!
Our ride was an easy 2.7 miles through downtown to Edible Pedal, where the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services' truck would come pick up the donations. We stopped a couple of times to gather everyone back up after getting spaced out between red lights, but everything went smoothly.
My amazing Big Brother rode his Isla Bike to Practical Cycle, as well as the entire Kidical Mass ride and back home--10 miles total! He took a great nap afterwards that was well deserved!
We collected 3 big bins of food and warm clothing! I think this is going to become a regular event and we already have begun figuring out ways to increase and improve the ride. I realized too late that it would be good to bring a bin to our local food co-op to gather donations and hand out flyers. We would also continue the ride all the way to the food bank next time. More advertising and outreach is needed to fill the bins ahead of time, as well.
After the ride, Little Brother hitched a ride home in Neil's Nihola and we learned that a trike with reachable wheels is not a good idea for children as curious as him. He did have a blast and only minimally terrorized his little friend.
He also gave back her doggy eventually.
It was a beautiful day for a ride and so much fun to meet so many new family bikers and catch up with our friends. If anything, the huge increase in ridership from these last two rides shows that Sacramento is a prime location for family biking and these rides are both needed and wanted. As long as we can grow comfortably and in control, our Kidical Mass rides are going to be quickly established into Sacramento biking culture (which will hopefully lead to Sacramento general culture, too).
We didn't melt!
I know this isn't exciting for people who live in places like Portland and Seattle, but for us Sacramentians, rain is a Big Deal. People freak out when it starts getting wet outside. Heck, we think that Ugg boots are appropriate footwear for times like these.
However, we rode in the rain and lived to tell you about it.
Actually, it may have been more of a heavy mist but it's just about as good as we can get around here.
We are working on ordering a rain cover from Blaq Designs
, more for the very crisp mornings than the actual rain, but it will make the boys more comfortable and that's a good thing.
Our friends Neil and Kara just got a Nihola
from Practical Cycle
which comes with a great weather cover. I got to give the bike a little test ride and LOVED it! Compared to the Christiania I have ridden in Portland a couple of times, it's a world of difference. It has a much smaller turn radius and feels very nimble and easy to control. I could see my mom feeling comfortable riding our boys around in something like this.
I love seeing more and more families find the joy of cargo biking!
My last post was a photo journal of the quick trip I took to Quebec. While it is an amazing place, I certainly didn't have nearly enough time to thoroughly check it out. The weather was surprisingly lovely--crisp and mostly clear, although the rain picked up on our last evening in town. I walked around a fair amount but since we only had one free day during the conference, I was pretty limited. I did manage to reach a fellow cargo biker (car-free, in fact!) through the (R)evolutions Per Minute
FaceBook page but because he was farther out of town than my schedule would allow for, I wasn't able to meet up with him and his locally built bakfiets. I did manage to find the bike shop that people had recommended, Velos Roy-O
, but alas, it was closed on Sundays! I had to settle for watching longingly at all the riders going by.
From my "window licking" I could tell that this was an awesome shop--Bromptons, Linus Bikes, tons of accessories, and locally-made Arkel bags!
This says "The cyclist is not a fallen motorist, it is a miracle pedestrian." --Jacques Faizant
My eagle eyes spot the only bike track (or only bike infrastructure besides bike racks, actually) that I've seen.
You can tell how good a restaurant is by the number of bikes parked out front. This one had a huge waiting list so we didn't make it in.
Les Quebecois, they're just like us! Must have been drive your bike to work day.
I drowned my sorrows in gravy and cheese curds.
While I didn't see many bike riders with helmets, and certainly no children on bikes, all the kids at the skating rink, even the teenagers, wore helmets. Interesting.
Now that I'm back home and almost back to the land of the living with all the illnesses that have been raging around the family, I'm ready to get back to my bike(s)!
Today, there was a forecast of about 70-90% chance of rain and in typical Sacramento fashion, nothing materialized except a few tiny sprinkles. The boys were waiting for rain with their raincoats that proved to be totally useless today. At least we're ready when it finally happens (hopefully...). We still don't have a rain cover for the Bullitt and I think I'm just trying to see how long we can go without it. I know that I'll be kicking myself in a month or two, though. However, last year, we did just fine with the boys on the Mundo in rain gear.
The little guys each rode their own bikes to Big Brother's school while I jogged and walked alongside them on the sidewalk. I was so proud of Big Brother when he stopped before a driveway and waited for me because the truck parked in it was idling. Little Brother, being Little Brother and only 2.5 years old, is more of a challenge to keep in control. It's great when they ride together because Big Brother is a great teacher and really helps to set a good example.
An update on the Tour de Whine & Chocolate: we changed cell phone carriers to Credo
, a company known for progressive activism and happens to offer unlimited data for on-the-go website updates. Also, a hugely exciting development, we got two new sleeping bags for the kiddos! Deuter
offers two amazing kids' sleeping bags: Little Star
for Little Brother-sized children and Starlight
for Big Brother-sized ones. These bags are each over a pound lighter than the adult-sized bags we've been packing for the kids and much, much smaller when rolled up. The bags both have an extra panel that extends as the children grow but for now, provides extra toe warmth. The boys are thrilled to each have their own special bag and I am really excited about giving the bags their first test run soon. Since the weather has finally shifted and although it's staying relatively warm during the day, nighttime falls to about 35-40 degrees. I'm wondering if a cabin or KOA would be a good way to go. Also necessary for winter will be a sleeping pad for extra insulation. In the warmer months, we got by with just letting the boys sleep on the ground since they're small and don't wake up stiff like us old folks.
A perfectly proportional fit!
This was found at REI for about $30 or so. The long version should be good for both kids if the sleep toe-to-toe and it was super light and less bulky than other non-inflatable ones.
I need to start thinking about our next bike overnight as it's been too long since our last one. My goal is to start hitting some of the hills around town (ha!) with the bike loaded down to start getting the strength needed for longer days with real hills. Good thing we have a few days off next week! As long as we stay healthy, I think we'll be on the road.
This sign is warning bike parkers that it will disappear in November.
The original Tiny Helmet.
For Big Brother's 5th birthday, we decided to get him something pretty special--his very own well-built bicycle. We're big fans of quality bicycles and really believe that a solid, high-quality bike is a sound investment. With the bicycle education program that I work with, I see some of the bikes that kids ride (or at least try) to ride on and it's shocking how terrible they are! No wonder kids don't want to ride more often. I can't imagine riding a horribly fitting bike with clunky components that barely work. Yet, that's what most kids have to settle with. Of course, for many children, riding a bike is a rare occurrence, not a main form of transportation. We decided that if we wanted our kids to love biking as much as we do, we need to give them the same opportunities to have something that they will love to ride and that fits them well.
A brief history of Big Brother's riding experience: he started out in a single Chariot trailer, followed with a double when his brother came along. Once we got the Mundo
, he was a much more involved passenger. His first "real" bike was his Strider
where he learned to tear up the sidewalk.
Around 4, we decided he was ready for pedals. He borrowed a super heavy 12" bike from friends, a Performance brand bike we called the Ice Cream Bike. He learned pretty quickly once he was on this bike because it was small enough for him to feel comfortable. However, it also weighed about 30 pounds and the fenders kept breaking off and lodging in the wheels.
Ice Cream bike.
He quickly outgrew the Ice Cream Bike so we moved him up to the 16" Specialized Hot Rod that I had picked up at a garage sale for $10. It was a bit challenging at first but he figured it out quickly and grew to love his Fire Bike. We had to get the grips replaced because they melted off and the rear wheel had to be pulled back because the chain kept falling off and getting jammed. There was no chain guard for his pants.
Even Storm Troopers ride bikes to school.
As he's gotten more comfortable riding and gotten better riding in the street, I realized that his skills were being hindered by the Fire Bike's terrible geometry. The crank arms were too short for him to get a full leg extension, even though he was on tiptoes when stopped. The extremely high raiser bars were awful for his stability. The cockpit of the bike was really short and wasn't going to give him much growing room. It seems like bike manufacturers just find "kid-sized" parts and slap them together without any regard to the actual end product.
But then we found Isla Bikes
! They have a US distributer in Portland, OR where we were planning on going around Big Brother's birthday anyway so we set up an appointment to test out the CNOC 16
. Sadly, Big Brother got sick while we were in Portland so Little Brother helped me check out the bikes instead.
The pro balance biker.
Yikes! This is the CNOC 14 and Little Brother was just about able to fit!
Tim had been really great about answering all my questions beforehand via email so I was pretty sure we were going to be heading home with a bike. The only thing that bothered me about the bikes is that the 16" US version has to be converted to a rear coaster brake instead of the two handbrakes that are shown on the website. They do this to comply with old US standards that were put in place because children's hands were too small to grip brake levers on crappy kid bikes. Isla Bikes have proportional brake levers that are easy to use and fit a child's hands but they still have to follow the rules. Big Brother's never used handbrakes so it's probably a good way to transition him over to better brakes but I'd still rather have him be able to use a freewheel for efficient pedal position when he stops, as well as being able to enjoy the better braking system of rim brakes.
However, the second I walked into the showroom, I knew we were going to be getting an Isla Bike. Tim was a great help and explained the sizing and features of the bikes, as well as all the options. Big Brother would fit on the CNOC 16 and we could outfit it with fenders for year-round riding. This bike didn't fit a kickstand, bottle cages, or a rack, though. Tim assumed that he'd be able to fit this bike for about 1.5-2 years, as the bikes are made proportionally to children's rapid growth. Isla Bikes wants to ensure your child's comfort and appropriately sized bike. Their bikes are sized 1 year old+, 2 year old+, 3 year old+, etc but designed to overlap so you can skip a bike once your child has outgrown their current ride. The next bike Big Brother should fit is the Beinn 20 Large
which has rim brakes, 7 speeds, and can be fully customized with all the awesome goodies like kickstands, racks, fenders, and bottle cages. It can even be kitted out as a hybrid, mountain, or road bike.
Tim said the bike would be ready for us to pick up on our way home the next day and as long as it fit in the car (if it didn't, G'ampa would be taking the train back) Big Brother would have his new bike!
On Wednesday, we were heading home and surprised Big Brother by taking him into Isla. He was so excited and agreed that he'd be happy to take the bike home. He also tried to take home the demo helmet but finally decided he'd part with it and just keep the CNOC. Tim taught him how to use the front brake and let him zoom around the bike box course.
Yep! Looks good!
Getting the low-down.
Now that Big Brother's been able to ride the CNOC a few times at home, the biggest change I can see is how fast he is! I have to work to keep up! The 5 pound difference is pretty extreme when you're only 38 pounds to begin with. I think he's already ready to raise the seat up (which does make me think he won't last the full 2 years with the bike). Because he's such a good rider, I don't think Tim realized he'd already be comfortable with less of his foot on the ground. It's a good thing that the bikes have such a high resale value, although Isla Bikes also has a buy-back program that is usually good for up to 30% of the bike's original cost. It will be interesting to see if this bike gets passed down to Little Brother as he just about fits the CNOC 14 and will certainly be ready for it by his next birthday in April.
The happy boy on his first real ride.
Big Brother's new bike accessories that he got from his aunt and grandma for his birthday. Thanks!
The difference between these two bikes is amazing! Besides the geometry, the quality of components is impressive on the Isla Bike. Every detail has been well thought out and perfectly scaled to fit a small rider. I'd imagine the best comparison is the new women's bikes that actually take women's specific proportions into account, instead of just getting a small men's bike and painting it pink. I'm really proud that Big Brother now has a real bike that he'll be able to ride happily and hopefully won't think we're torturing him by not owning a car.