Our California winter means that sometimes we have to dress like this:
We made it through the big cold spell without much bother. I'm pretty sure the drivers complained more about the cold than we did. I always think it's funny when people give us so much credit for riding around in the winter. After a few minutes of biking, I'm usually sweating. Drivers are the ones who have it rough--having to wait for the heater to kick on, taking off the kids' jackets to fit in the carseats, getting out of the car just as their bodies have adjusted to the warmth. Sounds like hard work to me! Riding certainly helps us keep the heat down in the house because we come in from the cold and it feels toasty warm already.
Our California winter means that sometimes we have to dress like this:
And sometimes like this:
Sometimes we resort to this:
Big Brother found a great way to keep his eyes from watering:
We see this guy riding along our route home on the wrong side of the street and on the sidewalk. I keep wanting to ask him why he does it but I don't have the nerve. He has a nice bike, a Cannondale road bike, and he rides for at least 3 long blocks on roads with clear bike lanes. My guess is that he eventually makes a left turn and he doesn't want to do that across traffic. It's amazing to me the variation in comfort-levels people have while riding. I just want to scream at him "It's not legal and it's not safer on the sidewalk!" He's obviously not doing it to be a jerk but he's not helping the bikers-as-scofflaws perception people have.
In other news, here's a chicken on a bike:
And here is a toy that my children will NEVER have the joy of playing:
Here is a crappy bike parking situation at the downtown Embassy Suites hotel (they had wanted me to park at the racks on the waterfront and I said "Heck no!":
And finally, in case you were wondering how our bike commuting is going, here's Big Brother rocketing along on his Isla Bike. He actually hasn't been riding as often because our morning timing often puts us way behind schedule these days. Also, one day he refused to ride because I couldn't find his black gloves and only had his blue mittens. Joys of parenting.
We have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to try out an REI brand Afterburner trailer bike (similar to this but single-speed) because it's just a bit too big for our friends' son (thanks, Dan and Ashlie!). Yesterday was the first day that we got to take it out. We were headed out and Big Brother asked sweetly "Can I ride my own bike?" Unfortunately, it was a route that I wasn't comfortable taking him on. Since Little Brother was coming with us, we hooked it up to the Bullitt.
The Afterburner is a seatpost-mounted trailer bike. I've always been a bit leery of this design, especially because I usually see dads (it's always dads) racing down the bike trail with their kid flopping dangerously side to side on their wobbly trailing bike. The Mundo wouldn't be able to handle a seatpost mount but I have seen a Mundo hacked to be able to hook up a Burley Piccolo. The Piccolo mounts to a specific rack, creating a much more stable ride, I'd imagine. Dorie, from Hum Of The City uses a Roland+bike on the back of their Bullitt which attaches similarly to the Piccolo.
The Afterburner hooked up easily to the Bullitt's seatpost. Since it's a pretty beefy seatpost, I had to do a bit of adjusting but it is literally just two standard allen bolts and a quick release. Within a few minutes, we were ready to ride.
I was surprised that it didn't feel too weird to have an additional 5' and 50ish pounds trailing behind me. I wouldn't necessarily say that Big Brother's pedaling made much of a difference, it felt like it offset the weight of the set-up and its drag. However, I would stopped pedaling a few times to see if he could push us and we kept moving! He was having such a great time!
I wanted to test the Afterburner out on a standard bike to see how differently it handled from being on the Bullitt.
Today, we rode out on my touring bike, Oscar. If anything, Big Brother's movements were more pronounced with the lighter bike. I noticed that as we would ride, I'd need to do a bit of extra steering to counter his movements. It was a bit unnerving when we were passed by cars. It wasn't scary but we were more wobbly than usual. He was able to pedal the two of us much easier and wanted to do all the work.
I really enjoyed being able to help him get more exercise than he does in the cargo bike and it was much easier than letting him ride on his own in areas that didn't have very good bike infrastructure. I think that with a little more practice, I'd get used to the extra movement. It was great to have some extra space in the Bullitt box, too. Big Brother was really happy to be able to pedal and ride routes that I won't let him, yet.
On the other hand, the quick release kept hitting against my legs (more so on the Bullitt than Oscar) and I could see how the wobbliness from bike's design could cause problems. It was just a bit worse than when the boys get really rambunctious on the Mundo but if you're not used to it or prepared, even just a little added excitement from your co-pilot could send you well off your intended path. Overall, the trail-a-bike felt solidly built on it's own. I think that if it had higher gears, Big Brother's pedaling would be a bigger help.
I really like the idea of having an interim solution to allow the boys to ride but still be connected to my bike (and my riding decisions). I look forward to doing some more testing with the Afterburner and probably try it out on a couple more bikes to get a good feel for how it changes the handling. If we end up liking this set-up, I think we'd go for a Piccolo instead. I can see having a trail-a-bike as a good option for days that my dad might go pick Big Brother up from school or trips with just one child (Little Brother would still need to wait a few years, unless we went with a Weehoo) and not have to deal with a big cargo bike. It's a great idea for longer rides where kiddo still wants to pedal but you don't want to be tied into having to go at their pace or distance.
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 Post--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.
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.
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!!!
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.
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).
I was on Twitter this evening and saw an article @Cyclelicious had posted regarding a 90-year old driver who "accidentally" pushed the gas pedal instead of the brake, drove up the sidewalk and pinned two 6-year-old children, at least one of whom is in critical condition. I used the word "accidentally" in quotations, not because I think he injured the children maliciously but because I feel that when you take the wheel of a 2000-pound+ killing machine, you are fully responsible for your actions and any resulting destruction. I truly, truly hate to see any crash described with the words "driver lost control of the car" as an explanation for deaths and injuries the driver caused. There are no car accidents, this is the carnage that happens daily because we live in a car-centric culture that puts these vehicles' value over the lives of children. It disgusts me.
Sadly, these stories are often brushed aside without a second glance. However, right after I was on Twitter, I quickly popped over to FaceBook and the very first photo I see is a friend who had driven passed the scene of the very same crime, complete with SUV still parked against the storefront. She captioned it with this:
"Omg...Apparently a elderly man drove forward & hit two kids! As I make my way to buy some cupcakes. — at SusieCakes."
The hard part was the following comments to the photos.
"well at least you have cupcakes? Cupcakes make everything better."
It just hurts my heart to know how desensitized we have become. I know that these are good people and I have nothing against them. It's just that this is exactly how our society sees car-carnage, it's just a part of our lives. Nothing to see here, move along, go get cupcakes--I hear they fix everything. This is why nothing is going to get better, we don't even see a problem. Children are killed every single day by car drivers (not the cars themselves, they don't magically run into people on their own, mind you). More children die at the hands of someone at the wheel than guns, cancer, murder, disease, and yet nothing makes the front page of the news. Nothing shocks us enough to realize that we need to get these things off the roads. Even the AAP doctor's ridiculous rant against carrying children on bikes acknowledges that a car is the MOST DANGEROUS place to have your infant (even restrained). Even this misguided woman hits right to the point with her very last word: “Get everybody to walk to school, get traffic-free streets — they’ve done that in some communities, ‘no cars on this street.’”
While I try to keep my postings fairly positive, today this hit me harder than I was expecting. The good thing is that as soon as I needed uplifting, I reread Dorie from Hum Of The City's latest post about fear. Dorie is a car-free mama as well who was run over by a driver months ago. She has been painfully and slowly recovering but explains perfectly why she is still getting around by bike. Read it, she is incredible. (You have no excuse, I've linked to it four times. And you can find it here: http://humofthecity.com/2013/10/16/the-only-thing-we-have-to-fear/).
A ride to Doughbot Doughnuts is the best way to start a weekend, always. A bike ride to Doughbot with 24 other fun folks is even better!
This was the first ride of our new riding schedule. Sacramento Kidical Mass now has a "board" of involved individuals and we are working on getting a real website up. We now ride each 4th Saturday of the month with varying times and routes. Our goal is to make Sac Kidical Mass a regular part of Sacramento's biking experience. It's hard for families to juggle additional activities already but by ensuring a fun ride each month, we are able to attract more people to the event and families don't have to worry if they can't come because there is always next month's ride.
A couple of the new "official" Kidical Mass plans are to include a waiver for parents at the start of the ride (which helps collect rider information to count participants, emergency phone number for the ride, and email address to keep them updated for future events. We also had the top 10 guidelines for rider safety and enjoyment.
Our September ride started at Grant Park. It's a great place to hang out while riders assemble. It was pretty awesome to watch the cargo bikes start filling up the park! We had three Yuba Mundos, one homemade bakfiets, one Workcycle bakfiets, and our Bullitt (that makes three bakfietsen for those counting and using proper Dutch terminology), one Fr8 bike from Workcycles, four kiddos riding their own bikes (!), an adult trike, and three other "regular" bikes.
Our ride was about three miles long, mostly down 24th street which had more stop signs but fewer car drivers than the main drag 19th street. We stayed together and followed traffic laws. Big Brother stayed with me as my co-leader. I was so impressed at his riding ability and how quickly he is improving--at each stop, he'd get his "power pedal" ready for a strong push-off! Seth, one of our awesome KM "board" members, played sweeper and kept everyone together.
At Doughbot, we piled into the shop where we were greeted with an entire tray of doughnut flowers! We made ourselves comfortable and devoured the entire platter. A HUGE thank you to Dannah and Bryan for making delicious doughnuts and coffees AND for allowing us to take over their shop!
After we had imbibed enough sugar, we all peeled off in different directions. A few of us headed around the corner to Southside Park to let the kids run around. Coincidentally, that was also where the Tweed Riders were gathering but we had other plans and couldn't join this time. It was great meeting up with old friends whom we hadn't seen for awhile and meeting new friends who will hopefully become Kidical Mass regulars! I'm already looking forward to October's ride--a Halloweeny ride around East Portal Park full of fun dress up and silliness! Be sure to save the date--October 26th, more details to follow.
I finally got around to popping back into Practical Cycle today. I've missed the place and those guys! Little Brother and I dropped Big Brother off at school. BB rode his Fire Bike again today but it had been having problems with chain slippage and the grips had basically melted off. Also, the Mundo's rear brake had stopped working. I bundled it all up and rode down to Old Sac.
Little Brother and I got to hang out with Tim and Cassidy while Tim took a few minutes to tighten our bikes back up and get them in good shape again. Big Brother's bike got spiffy new grips and the wheel was adjusted to take up the slack of the chain. Tim even pumped up the Fire Bike's tires as they had gotten a bit low...
I also got a chance to check out the new Monkey Bars for the Yuba Mundo. They look really nice and it seems you can adjust the seat to lower it down enough for the shorter riders. It didn't look like I'd have a problem, though. To be honest, I really think that they're a better design than the Hooptie from Xtracycle. I like the cleaner lines and it felt less wobbly than the Xtracycle that was a few bikes over. Now, I'm totally drooling over them. I think it'd be great for our upcoming summer vacation ride--the Tour De Whine and Chocolate (don't try to google it, I'm making it up as I go).
We packed up the Fire Bike again and rode back to pick up Big Brother. Little Brother squeezed in a nap along the way. It was so nice to have working brakes again! Big Brother immediately noticed the change in his bike and was thrilled! I almost couldn't keep up with him on the way home. I may have to deflate his tires just a bit...
These past couple of weeks, I've had the honor of working with the San Juan school district's Safe Routes To School program in Citrus Heights. It is incredibly clear that these children are in DIRE need of bicycle and pedestrian education. They live in neighborhoods that are very poorly suited for safe transportation--car drivers speed down narrow roads, bike lanes are filled with giant garbage piles, and sidewalks disappear and reappear without warning. The kids that do bike or walk often do so with little regard for legality or safety. Although the coordinator, Dan, has been working with the schools for the last few years to provide SRTS education, he is met with much difficulty and resistance due to over-crowded classes, crazy scheduling (many schools only have 1-2 PE classes/week), and dwindling funding. Although it would be wonderful to have enough time and money allow for a thorough instruction, Dan has done a fantastic job with the resources he has had to work with.
One new part of MY own education was the introduction to pedestrian classes for the first through third grade classes. Never before had I realized the immense need for proper pedestrian classes. Although the basic lesson breaks down simply into "STOP at the edge, look left, look right, look left again," it is incredible to me how many children and adults are never taught how to cross a street. To my utter horror, in each of the classes we taught in, children would raise their hands and proceed to tell us a story of how their friend/brother/dogs/someone they knew had been hit by cars and were killed. I was floored. Dan assured me that they were, in fact, telling the truth and that he hears things like that all the time.
Today, while we were practicing crossing at a crosswalk in front of the school, a group of second graders were watching a car that had stopped and was waiting for them to cross. The driver continued to inch forward, unsure if the kids were crossing or not (they were INSIDE the crosswalk). Because the students hesitated longer than this driver had patience for, even though it was his moving forward that made them uneasy, he sped through the crosswalk. To top it off, he felt the need to lean out the window and swear at them! Stupidly, this man was driving a company car while he did it. I caught the name and called his shop to relay the situation to the woman on the phone.
Although working with these students and having to watch the terrible examples that the adults around them set, can be incredibly exhausting, I love this job. I love to see when our lessons suddenly click in a student's brain. I hope they go home and start critiquing their parents' behavior and point out that rolling through a stop sign is the wrong thing to do. Planting the seeds of proper transportation techniques early on will help them make better choices as they grow up.
Teaching these students helps me realize all the lessons I need to pass on to my children. On our way home from my children's daycare, about three blocks away, we all walked together and talked about how to cross streets safely, what to look out for, and why walking somewhere is so much fun. It was a nice reminder to slow down even more and appreciate the very basic, wonderful form of transportation that is our own legs.
This is us. We're fun.