Last week was exhausting. I ended up driving to work more days (have I mentioned that I have a car sitting out front for the next month while my parents are away?). The 38 mile days were getting to me and the boys were both up frequently through the nights as they were both still feeling the effects of their colds. The incident with the van driver really threw me off, too. One of my readers sent me a message with some info based on the email address on the van, along with all the great online support from other bike riders, which gave me the confidence to report the guy to the police. They took my report seriously and sent an officer to my house to document the "assault." I wish I had had more information about the guy or the van but I reported what I could. Thanks, awesome community!
Since my boys couldn't go on the Gibson Ranch Kidical Mass Overnight last weekend, I had told them that I'd take them when they could. Another of our friends couldn't make it with his son, either, so they joined us. They'd never been bike camping before.
Our friends took the HaulaDay, which is a fantastic cargo bike for newbies because it fits everyone with its OSATA adjustments, light weight, and easy maneuverability (however, my friend did manage to drop with kids on the back on his first attempt but they were on the grass so it didn't count. Everyone drops a kid now and again).
I took two of the kids' bikes along with much of the other gear because the Bullitt is way too easy to overpack. Now that I have the Cycle Truck Caddyrack, my cargo capacity has doubled! It's so easy to tow bikes.
Big Brother was forced to ride on his own because I ran out of room for him on the bike and because I thought he could. The route is mostly bike trail, except for the first four miles and last 2 miles.
Once we were on the bike trail, our friend's son got on his bike, too. This was his longest ride and he did really well! There are quite a few intersections along the Northern Bike Trail (which is probably why it's not too popular with the roadies). Both boys on solo bikes did a great job on listening to my directions and making good judgements while they were riding.
It took us about 4 hours to get to Gibson Ranch. We were told to set up in the grass around the cabins. It was nice and grassy but a little close to the cabins and their occupants for my liking.
The boys had a fantastic time riding around the site and the playground. After dinner we ran around in the dark until the boys passed out. I was exhausted about 4 hours before they finally were.
In the morning, we packed up fairly quickly, as quickly as one can with children present (we finally left around 9:45am). One of those children decided he was hungry every 30 seconds and we ran out of food.
None of the boys wanted to ride on their own and since I hadn't really planned on carrying Big Brother, I had to do some quick (relative to me) thinking to arrange everything between the two cargo bikes--three bikes, three boys, everyone's camping gear, and all the toys.
It was a long, hot 17 miles back home but we managed to get there at about a 7mph pace--just about half our arrival time! It is great to know there is such a convenient bike overnight, especially for having the kiddos ride much of it on their own. The last .5 to Gibson Ranch is on a busy stretch of road without much shoulder. There are many "Share The Road" signs but it is still unnerving, especially for less-experienced riders. Our friend's kid was back to sitting on the HaulaDay deck by that time on our arrival while Big Brother, who has more road riding experience, rode on the street with us in traffic. On the way home, he was too tired to navigate and maneuver that same stretch of road back to the trail so I was glad he had chosen to hitch a ride.
Another successful camping trip! During this busy time, I'm so glad to have been able to escape for a few days and get in some rejuvenating adventure.
I'm looking forward to our next bike trip!
Sorry for the big gap between posts. I've been working up in Natomas teaching Project Ride Smart to a fun group of 5th graders. It's made life a little extra crazy these days but is so worth it. I love that job. During this three week contract, I also somehow managed to book up my weekends--last weekend I volunteered to assist at an LCI seminar. This weekend was our first official Sac Kidical Mass campout at Gibson Ranch Park.
Last year, we threw together a longer trip up to Negro Bar in Folsom but because of the distance and hills, the trip was less accessible for new bike campers and families. This trip was a flat 13 miles that mostly followed bike path until the last few miles of rural roads. We had 20 people for our adventure, many of whom had never been bike camping, yet.
We managed to get to Gibson Ranch in about 3 hours, just above the 4 mph average we accounted for. It was a lovely, quiet route that was mostly free of traffic and road bikers. Perfect for our heavily-ladened riders and the solo kiddos who kept trucking along.
We had a beautiful shady spot and could spread out all over the lawn. The central tables were immediately covered in food and the adults rested and refueled while the children ran around.
One of my favorite parts of bike camping with a group is checking out all the different and awesome set-ups people have.
As the sun went down, the neighboring wedding party cranked up the music and the large Boy Scout group turned on a movie, something about going to space camp. It was noisy but I fell right to sleep. We were rained on a bit throughout the night. Good thing we had such a sturdy group of campers! Even though we were relatively close to home, no one called for back up in the middle of the night. I consider that a success!
There were more sprinkles on the way home but I didn't hear any complaints, not even from the adults! We bypassed the playground and lunch stop to get home quicker (although we lost a couple to Thrift Town at the end of the journey). Our riders peeled away toward their own homes as we rolled off the bike trail.
We had a great group of riders and a very successful trip. A huge thank you goes out to Keith, Melissa, and Jarrod for all their planning and preparations! I can't wait for the next Sac Kidical Mass Campout!
I needed to get a table from my folks' house. I called my friend Neil who has a truck--a giant flatbed Cycle Truck, that is (actually he also has a pickup but that never occurred to me and it wouldn't have been much fun). You might remember Neil from that time we moved a couch with his homemade bamboo trailer.
Since Neil was on Dad-duty (doody?) today, we caravanned over with his two cargo bikes, the other a Nihola Trike.
I got to ride the Flatbed and was really impressed. The fat tires and long wheelbase made for a smooth ride. Neil has it set up as a very upright riding position which was really comfortable. I might need to turn my Bullitt's stem around to copy him.
At my folks' house, we surveyed the load, piled it on, and strapped it down. I think the lamp in front makes the whole package. One of the biggest differences about the Cycle Truck vs. my Bullitt is the ability to strap things down. The Bullitt's narrow bed and our wooden cargo box don't leave many spots to attach tie-downs or have a solid base for a wide, heavy load. Cycle Trucks, however, have numerous attachment points and a nice, wide bed.
Riding the first couple of feet was a bit wobbly and turning was nerve-wracking but then Neil added some air to the front tire and the whole thing rode much more smoothly once I got my balance.
We were quite a site to behold! I had no trouble taking the lane and other drivers slowed down to give me a wide berth. I almost think I should carry a table around at all times! It's a great reminder for drivers to give 3' when passing. It was fun to see other people, especially guys in trucks, take a double-take as we rolled by. I didn't have any issues starting/stopping or keeping my balance.
On the way home, Neil didn't want me to have all the fun with his bike so we traded. It was harder for me to ride the Nihola with it's trike-steering and having to counter balance on the banked roads. I am not a trike fan.
Such a fun morning adventure!
John Lucas has done it again! Our friend, Neil, is now the lucky owner of the very first flat bed Cycle Truck. It still has a ways to go to get to its full load maximization but with John's awesome frame and Neil's ingenuity, this is going to be the coolest work truck in Sacramento!
I finished up my last day of teaching for Project Ride Smart in Natomas for the season and I could not be happier with the experience. It was amazing to watch the students develop bike handling skills and acquire practical road safety knowledge. These kids are already better riders than most people out on the roads and know more rules than many of the motorists, too. They will be so much better drivers (of any vehicle they choose) as the grow up. This program really is an investment into the children's own safety as well as for the greater community of road users. We need this as standard curriculum all over the United States!
Of course, my last day wouldn't have been exciting enough on its own so the road decided to throw me a giant chunk of glass to tear through my tire. Luckily, the flat happened at the beginning of the trail and I was in a safe enough location to wait for my mom and the boys to pick me up. Sometimes it's great to have some help from a car and my wonderful mama. Now I have another excuse (not that I needed one) to go visit my friends at Practical Cycle!
Today was our first real crash on a cargo bike that was moving. I've dropped both bikes a few times when getting on/off or while walking with it. They've always been slow and controlled falls, no damage to anyone or the bikes. The last time I was hurt on a bike was the incident last year with Zorro, although Jose took down the Bullitt on his first attempt out (no kids, thankfully) and that damaged the box a bit.
I've always told people that if you're going to go down, it's most likely going to be in one of the scenarios that we've experienced already. Those falls aren't so scary once you've gone through one or two. However, today, we were moving fairly quickly and I went down pretty hard but, as crashes go, it still wasn't that bad.
We had taken the long way home along the bike trail and after going through Old Sac, Big Brother wanted to ride along the promenade to see the sparkly cement. I agreed because they had been so accommodating the whole ride and Little Brother was fast asleep. To get up the ramp, I had to maneuver across a set of parallel train tracks. The whole time, I was being extra cautious about crossing them with my wheel at an angle so as not to get stuck (parallel cracks/edges are one of the top causes of solo falls, and solo falls are the top cause of injury to bicycle riders). The first track was fine and I thought I had turned my front wheel enough to get over the second--I hadn't. I knew as soon as I felt the first rumble of my wheel that I was going down. I have no idea what hit the ground or anything beyond my roll off the bike.
The boys stayed in the box because we had our weather protector on but neither was buckled so they both got tossed around. Big Brother fell across Little Brother (who was awoken) but neither was hurt or even very shaken up. There were no tears, no anger, no fear and I think it was helpful that I was staying calm so they didn't freak out. It was also our luck that we weren't in traffic or had to worry about any outside danger, we could pick ourselves us slowly and asses the damage.
I had rolled off the bike pretty gracefully, if I do say so myself (my dad might have another version since he was right behind us). My wrist is sore, I have a few weird aches and pains but no bruises that I've found, yet. I didn't hit my head. The only thing I can't explain is that the tip of my left ring finger has a numb feeling. I may find some new things tomorrow, I'm certainly feeling more sore and more grumpy now that it's been a few hours.
Our poor Bullitt shows some damage. Sadly, most of the damage has to do with our new weather protector. The snap on the side was ground down (same thing happened when Jose went down), an unused mount that was screwed into the side tore out, the foot rest is scraped, and the front attachment for the cover came out.
It's all minor cosmetic damage but still frustrating. The cover window is scuffed but nothing torn or cracked. I used a bit of super glue for the front mount and I'm hoping that the side snap will still function (we paid $5 to replace it last time). I may have to use a bit of glue to seal the cracks on the back corner. It's interesting to me that it's mostly the same parts that Jose's crash dinged but I was going faster so it's more pronounced. My dad is suggesting a roll cage or bar to protect the most vulnerable parts. This is one of those instances that I kind of wish I had a Cycle Truck instead because of the sturdiness of the integrated box.
My dad asked how I thought it would have been different crashing on the Mundo, which I thought was a pretty interesting question. The first thing, however, would be to point out that this crash probably wouldn't have happened on the Mundo because I could have been watching the front wheel and seen that it was running too parallel to the track. However, it's hard to say what the difference would have been for the crash part. Big Brother would have rolled off the bike from a slightly higher position, Little Brother would have been buckled into the Peanut Shell, and I would have been about the same. I guess it's impossible to know because the situation would have been different. Overall, I think it's pretty important to point out that we are almost totally fine and have no permanent damage. I could have gotten this hurt by tripping down the stairs, so it's not necessary to make this into any more than the mishap that it is. But if it helps another person realize that crashing on a bike with kids isn't the worst thing in the world, I'm happy to share my story.
It's annoying to have fallen for such a common mistake, one that I was even consciously trying to avoid. So, to make myself feel better, I'm ending with the video of Jose crashing. Enjoy!
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).
If you've been reading lately, you'll know how excited I've been about our custom Carsick Designs panniers for the Mundo. I've been struggling with the Yuba bags for quite awhile because the Peanut Shell on the back keeps us from using the Go-Getters and the Baguettes have never quite fit for us, either (plus we had to warranty the first set due to problems with the seams, buckles, and pockets). My new set have been sitting in the shed since I got them because I didn't want to break them again.
I first saw Carsick Designs' work years ago at a bike swap and have ever since drooled over their bags but never made the leap into customer-dom. Once I finally got to know Brian and Monica as people, I wanted the bags even more because they're so awesome. To top it all off, my friend Jen has had a beautiful set of hot pink panniers that she got from her hubby for Mother's Day over a year ago and every time we ride together, she has to rub them in my face (totally kidding because she's super nice and would never do that but really, you can't miss those suckers, they're bright!).
My frustration with the Mundo's actual cargo caring ability finally reached a head when I was trying to figure out how we would go touring on the Mundo without a good way to carry gear AND the kiddos. I emailed Brian and Monica to ask about making a Freeloader-style sling bag set.
We met up at a local coffee shop a few days later, Monica took notes of what I was looking for and Brian mapped it all out using a piece of yellow plastic fabric. I picked my fabric color--safety orange, of course!
Just a few days later, I got a message saying that they'd finished a prototype and wanted to see how it fit. We met back up at the coffee shop. Brian got the prototype on, made a few markings and notes here and there, it was already almost perfect!
Then, they had to torture me a little more by posting photos of the whole process online.
However, about a week later (yesterday), I got the final message: "They're ready, when can you get them?"
I wrote back: Tomorrow!
So without further ado, here they are!
Seriously, I could not be any happier! The bags are well made, incredibly sturdy. The buckles and straps are strong. The long pocket inside has a high-quality, smooth zipper with an overhang of fabric to keep water out of it. Brian also made sure that the zipper started on the side closest to the seatpost so that the Peanut Shell's legs don't get in the way. I would have never thought of that little detail but it shows how much these guys know what they're doing. The bags attach to the deck really well, I loosened the deck a little to slide some of the straps underneath and that will help hold the bags on even better. The side panels are strong mesh with a bungee tie so things don't fall out the sides. There are two grommets in the bottom so water can drain, especially good because I opted to not get any sort of cover (which wouldn't have fit anyway because of the kid seat. The straps can be criss-crossed to hold down really large items (or lap blankets as Stacy does). To top it all off, there is a huge panel of Iluminite fabric (in orange!) to increase our visibility even more.
I am in love with these Mondo Slings!
By the way, I also got a couple of Carsick Designs's Goodie Bags to keep me fed on our rides (Yeah right, those boys of mine always eat all my food). The only problem is that Jose wants one and I don't want to share.
The Mondo Slings cost about $175 for the set and are made by two super nice people here in Sacramento. You can customize the color and fabric, add pockets, and really make them exactly what you're looking for. You can find Brian and Monica by clicking here or on Facebook.
I'll keep you posted on all the fun things I can shove in them--like camping gear, shopping bags, small animals, etc.
We're already almost halfway through 30 Days Of Biking and we've managed to keep biking every day. It's so funny compared to last year--that was a challenge, congratulating myself with each passing day. It was the beginning to our new life, although I hadn't really noticed it, yet. Back then, it was amazing to be able to count the days that the car had stayed parked. Next, we started realizing that we couldn't keep up with the number of days in a row. Now, we've come to realize that this weekend is going to be the first time since the beginning of the year that we will be borrowing my parents' car and needing to pay for gas! I don't even know what the price of a gallon is anymore.
It is surreal to think back on how much our lives have changed just from last year. Just today, we sold the final reminder of our pre-bikecentric fleet: the yellow double Chariot. Amazingly enough, we were able to sell it for just under what we had put into it. Off it goes, like the red single Chariot and the Yepp Mini, to bring biking joys to another family with youngsters. One more family on the road, enjoying the feeling of freedom and independence that only a bike can give.
So before our shed gets too comfortable being extra spacious, it's time to officially announce the next addition to our fleet: a Bullitt!
We had settled pretty early on a long-john style, mainly because we need to be able to carry our dog and because it's an awfully convenient way to carry kids, groceries, cargo. The Mundo has been great to us. I love how it rides like a tank and plows through everything we ask of it. We already know that we can tour with the Mundo, run errands, and haul our little ones, but ultimately, we decided that it would be better to have a different cargo bike to balance out our needs. It will be fun to start trying out new adventures with the Bullitt!
Between the two bikes, Jose and I will be able to do anything! No more bike juggling just to get the kids home! The only thing that made us choose this bike over John's Cycle Truck (an amazing bike!), was the already-designed kid seat with seat belts and rain cover. I would have never been able to come up with such a beautiful set-up and, truthfully, the Bullitt was my first love. Getting a chance to ride on with David of Convoy Cargo Bikes in London, had sold me back then, Practical Cycle's decision to start selling Bullitts, sealed the deal. Check out Hum Of The City's thorough review if you don't believe me (although we aren't getting an assisted one...yet...).
Our Bullitt is going to have a custom wooden box with child seats. Since it's not going to rain for another 8 months, we decided to hold off on getting the Blaq Designs rain cover just yet. This is a huge investment for us! Last year, we felt that the Mundo was the biggest step we had ever taken and now, a year later, we are upgrading once again. Although I get some benefits for working at the bike shop, this is over double the cost of the Mundo. Still, when you think about it, it's less then the cost of a terrible car, fewer than 6-months of a car payment, more joy than we could even count, and people pay this much money (and more) for a slick-carbon-5 pound ghost of a road bike. This is not a toy for us. This is a vehicle of change, a tool to facilitate the life we feel is appropriate for our family.
The only reason I continue to write--besides the fact because it gives me an excuse to push my limits and try out new adventures--is because I want to share our experience, hopefully showing that this lifestyle change is much easier than you might think. I know that it has even surprises myself to think about how smoothly this transition was. While I am a little bummed at how uneventful this year's 30 Days Of Biking has been, it's impossible to fathom how much this means to us. Luckily, I do have April's bike overnight coming together soon!
Last weekend I had the fantastic opportunity to test out a local cargo bike builder's set-up: the Cycle Truck! John Lucas has been building bikes in West Sacramento for quite awhile now. His bikes are unmistakeable. Unlike typical long-john style bikes with a wooden box built onto the frame, his bikes are a solid one-piece design. The Cycle Trucks have linkage steering which means the front wheel is pushed forward, in front of the handlebars, and is steered by a connecting piece of metal. This was the most difficult style of bike for me to master and it takes some practice before riding starts to feel "normal." In fact, the first time I got on one of his bikes, I almost steered myself into a wall. However, with a little extra practice, I began riding like a pro. After this last week, getting back on a standard bike felt weird. My first ride back on the Linus almost made me stop to check if the fork had come loose.
I rode over to John's place in West Sac using the Mobic then folded it up and shoved it into the Cycle Truck to ride home with both bikes. The awesome thing about John's bikes is that they are made to be used. He doesn't worry about scratches in the paint and instead sees them as signs of use. Nothing on the bike is "fancy" or super expensive (although you could build one up that way if you wanted). The metal frame around the deck is so solid that you could rest just about anything on top of it to carry around.
The very first thing I did with the bike when I got home was load it up with firewood, beer, and camping gear to ride up to Folsom for a little bike overnight. I rode 30 miles that first day and didn't have any problems. The friction shifting was a fun change from the clicky index shifting that I've grown used to. The weight distribution was fantastic and instead of feeling like I was pulling a heavy load, it felt like I was lightly pushing it. It was a subtle difference from what I am used to on the Mundo but it was noticeable and it was comfortable.
I really liked being able to just throw things in the box and not have to worry about balancing the load or tying it all down.
In the kid-hauling capacity, while the Cycle Truck was certainly fun, I did feel that I needed more security for traffic riding. The open sides of the basket lead to arms and legs slipping out and a bit more wiggling around than I felt comfortable, especially with the little one. Big Brother actually had a blast and followed my instructions of keeping his body inside the box. Little Brother, on the other hand, didn't follow directions as well and we had a scary moment when he rebelled and stood up, pulling on the cables, having a fit while I was riding through a busy section of road.
There would be some fairly simple fixes that could be made to the basket to improve the kid-control, such as having a liner around the open bars and some sort of seat with restraints for the little guys.
Stability-wise, this bike is a tank. I never worried about tipping over or crashing. Even my dad gave it a test--he's never attempted to ride the Mundo, let alone carry a kid on the thing. There is something incredibly comforting to have the weight low to the ground. Steering almost feels like a dance, swooping slightly from side to side.
John is continuously tinkering with different styles of frames. He has this 20" wheeled bike coming together at the moment and has another plan in mind for a Nihola-like trike.
John built this green cargo trike while he was in China. It is one of only six that he made. It's hauling capacity is amazing--shown here carrying two Cycle Trucks and below with an entire family.
This three-wheeled trailer came together after he saw a homeless man carrying a ton of scrap in a similar style trailer. The front wheel is steered by the pole connecting the trailer to the bike. It tracked perfectly behind me and could carry as much as I could tow. The front wheel takes most of the weight so it was a really smooth ride.
One of John's recent developments to his own orange Cycle Truck is the addition of his pizza maker BBQ. The BBQ rests perfectly on the bike's frame and the propane cylinder rests on the deck inside. The way the cooker sits, the bucket is still completely free to hold the rest of the party gear--ice chest, beach chairs, basically anything you can throw in there.
After the initial learning curve that comes with linkage steering, this ride is amazing. Going up hills was not a problem for me, even packed with cargo. In fact, it rode a lot better with weight in the bucket. When it was empty, it was more rattly than I am used to. I would say that the Mundo rode better for me as a regular, unloaded bike but they were pretty equal when it came to carrying cargo. Although I loved having the kids up in front of me where I was able to see and talk to them, they had too much freedom to roam for my comfort. I felt more secure with them on the Mundo. However, with the low center of gravity, I never worried about tipping over in the Cycle Truck.
There are definitely a lot more pros to this bike than cons and one of the biggest pros is the fact that it's built here in Sacramento at an incredibly affordable price--about a third of what other "bakfiets" or long-john style bikes cost. If you are looking for something to carry pets, big kids/adults, large and unwieldy cargo, this is the bike for you. Every person I have ever seen on a Cycle Truck always has a giant smile plastered on their face. This bike is fun and useful--even as a picnic bench.
This is us. We're fun.