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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
While planning our trip to Portland, we were perplexed by the problem of how we get to the train station car-free. My parents had left a day earlier with Little Brother so we only had one child to deal with. A taxi wouldn't work unless we had a car seat for Big Brother and he's not big enough for a booster, yet. I didn't want to drag around a giant car seat and all the taxi services we called said they didn't have car seats available. We decided that we would all head downtown via light rail and hang out until the midnight train. Then Jose would take a taxi home. However, by 7pm we were all tired and fussy, it was cold outside, and the idea of hanging out downtown for 4+ hours was less appealing. Jose finally conceded and offered to ride us over on the Mundo later that night. He hadn't wanted to because he was worried that riding downtown around midnight would be dangerous. I assured him that he would be safe riding the 4 miles back home.
Around 10pm, we piled on the layers and loaded up our gear. Most of our things rode up with the g'parents but Big Brother and I each had our train supplies--a blanket, books, extra set of clothes, and lots of food.
I love seeing all the reflectiveness of our Carsick Designs bags! They certainly made riding at night feel safer!
Big Brother and I rode on the deck and I wore the giant backpack with my things in it. Big Brother's bag and our food fit nicely in the panniers. Our long stoker bars were perfect for me to reach around the big guy. I tried to sit as far forward as possible to make it more comfortable for Jose and I offered to walk on the hills but he rocketed up them like a champ! We chatted along the way, really enjoying the peaceful night ride.
It wasn't long before the late night caught up with Big Brother. I was very glad that I was behind him because he felt so comfortable on the Mundo that he set his head down and fell right to sleep!
And he stayed that way until we got on the train!
The Mundo really came in handy as we were walking around the station platforms because it carried all our bags like a luggage cart. Finally, it was our time to board. We waved good-bye to papa and he rode home safely.
I'm not sure I would feel comfortable leaving any bike at the station if we were all going on a trip. However, with a few solid locks and stripping off anything that was removable, it'd probably be pretty safe. Unfortunately, Amtrak doesn't allow oversized bikes aboard their trains. If they did, we'd travel much more often. We have taken normal-sized bikes on this train before but you have to box them.
Riding the train was an interesting experience. Big Brother slept pretty well and I slept okay. The people behind us had some interesting conversations and swore like sailors. At one point, one of the guys was bragging about his latest DUI (my guess is that's why he was on the train instead of driving). They also all seemed to smoke and there were at least a couple of people who were sneaking cigarettes onboard--one was caught by the conductor and almost got kicked off the train. The smells in the train car was probably the worst part of the whole thing, followed closely by the lack of wifi (which they have on commuter trains but not their long-distance ones!?). My only other complaint was the lack of fresh, healthy food options.
However, peacefully riding up the mountains without having to worry about traffic and paying attention to the road was unbeatable!
Big Brother was free to move around so he didn't get too antsy on the long journey and he even made a new friend!
The weather was constantly changing and it didn't bother at all!
The train wasn't very luxurious but it was an adventure. I was exhausted by the time we got off, 15 hours later. I made my dad come pick us up because I didn't want to navigate the walk to the Max station and spend another 45 minutes riding another train to get closer to my brother's house in the country. It cost $147 for the two of us (Big Brother was half-price). Traveling with our whole family, especially if it was roundtrip, would have been prohibitively expensive but it worked well for what we needed.
If train travel was less expensive and didn't feel as dingy, I'm sure many more people would chose it over driving. It's a shame that we don't subsidize mass transit to the same degree as we do for personal vehicles. Train travel is far superior to driving in my opinion but we need to get it up to a quality in which people see its value--more frequent trips, more destinations, more train staff, cleaner facilities, cheaper tickets. The benefits of train travel--safer travel, less carbon output, community experiences, more efficient use of time, and better options for households to become car-free or car-light, make me want to continue exploring by train.
Due to a trip to Portland, a sick boy, and a crappy Weebly phone app that's not working, I've fallen behind on posting. Here are some photos from the last week to keep you occupie in the meantime. Stories will follow in a few days. Enjoy!
This is us. We're fun.