DIY midtail cargo bike

As I mentioned yesterday, Sir started preschool this week.  He’s been waiting to go to “Baba’s school” (my MIL, Sir’s “Baba,” is his teacher) all summer, and thanks to our trial run in the spring, we were pretty confident it would be an easy transition for him.

So far, so good.

In some ways, it’s probably a bigger transition for Matthew and me, and I’m not talking the emotional, “my baby’s going to school” thing, but rather the very practical “getting Gabriel to and from school” issue.

G’s preschool is about four miles from where we live, and I’m already mourning the loss of the super easy half-block walk to childcare that we enjoyed for the past 14 months.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Fortunately, G’s preschool is more or less on Matthew’s way to work, so the general plan is that Matthew will take use the longtail and handle both drop-off and pick-up on most days.  But there will invariably be days (including this past Monday), where there’s a scheduling conflict, and Matthew either has to be at work early or stay late, and the timing for child shuttling will not work for him.

We realized almost as soon as we got the longtail that, in an ideal world, we would have not one, but two Big Blues for such times.  (Since we sold the trailer, the longtail was our only way to transport G by bike.)

But alas Big Blue cannot clone herself, and we really can’t justify purchasing another bike right now (though that doesn’t stop me from looking and dreaming — n+1, right?).

However, when we were going through the whole Yepp child seat debacle (in which I bought a “standard” model on EBay, when we needed the Easyfit for the Edgerunner), we noticed a particular accessory, the Easyfit Carrier XL, which claimed to extend a regular rear bike rack so one could fit both a Yepp child seat and panniers.

With this accessory, we could use the single Yepp Easyfit child seat on multiple bikes.  After a bit of discussion, we decided to adapt Matthew’s back-up bike (a Giant hybrid) for this purpose.*

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What you need

  • A good bike — you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but visit a bike store instead of a discount store.  You’re going to be transporting your child, so you want something that is safe and reliable.  Matthew took his bike in for a tune-up to make sure all was in working order before adapting the bike.
  • A heavy-duty rear rack.  Most rear cargo racks are meant for loads under 50 pounds, and some are only rated for 25-30 pounds.  If you’re carrying a preschooler plus other cargo, you need something that can handle more than 30 pounds.  Matthew found this Axiom Journey rack — reasonably priced, with a capacity of 110 pounds.
  • The Yepp Easyfit Carrier XL, along with the Yepp Easyfit Seat.
  • Panniers that work with the rack (more on this below).

Optional

  • When Matthew took his bike in for a tune-up, the mechanics mentioned that he was probably due for new wheels.  Given the heavy (and important) load he’s planning to carry, he opted for a more expensive, heavier-duty wheel.
  • Matthew also added a center [two-legged] kickstand.  This is not nearly as stable as the center stand that is on Big Blue (where I can leave G unattended if necessary), at least for short periods.  It will help make the bike a sit more stable when loading and unloading, but Matthew will still have to be there, helping support the bike, anytime that G is in the seat.

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The Easyfit Carrier (silver) bolts onto the rear rack (black), and the seat quickly and easily snaps into the port on the carrier (similar to the built-in port on Big Blue’s rear deck).

After getting everything set up, we discovered that Matthew’s basic grocery bag style panniers did not work when the child seat was attached.  The built-in hooks that attach the pannier to the top bar of the rack were too widely spaced (to work with the child seat in place), and not adjustable.

While new panniers were not part of the original plan, Matthew has been wanting something different (waterproof, with a built-in rain cover) for awhile now, and Ortlieb’s roller-bag panniers fit the bill (their clips for attaching to the top bar of the rack are adjustable).

This is not a free, or even a super-cheap, way to transport a child, especially if you don’t already have the Yepp seat, but for us, it made a lot of sense.  If you already have a decent bike, it’s a lot more affordable than going out and buying a midtail or longtail.

Now I can, say, use Big Blue to drop G off at school in the morning, leaving both the seat and his bike helmet at school, and Matthew can use his pseudo-midtail to pick G up in the afternoon.  This does, of course, involve some planning ahead: Matthew remembering to ride the correct bike and me remembering to leave the seat and helmet.

We still don’t really have a plan for dealing with weather (i.e., pouring rain, thunder and lightning, or icy/snowy roads) other than using the car.  Matthew can easily take the bus to/from work in these conditions, but, sadly, the bus route is not convenient to G’s school, so we may still find ourselves car-bound a bit more than we prefer.

*This set-up is still, technically, in testing mode.  Matthew’s used it for a few short rides around our neighborhood with G, but it has not been proven over time and distance.
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Crazy days

When it rains, it pours, right?  Well, that was certainly the case during yesterday afternoon’s surprise thunderstorm, and it seems to apply to life this week!*

Picking up where we left off . . .

Collision aftermath
. . . I wasn’t expecting to hear anything about the bike until Wednesday, but the insurance adjustor pushed things a bit, and by late Monday afternoon I received word that Baby Jake’s frame was bent.  Bike totaled, case closed.

The driver who hit us was insured, and I should be receiving a check for replacement cost of the bike.   Which means I need to decide on a replacement.

Easy answer is replace with current model year Kona Jake.  The 2014 frame is orange, which, just, no.  Fortunately, the 2015 frame is a lovely blue.

2015Jake

Stock photo of 2015 Kona Jake from konaworld.com

The stock photo is odd to me, because it looks nothing like my fendered, smooth tired, commuter ready (rear rack, milk crate, etc.) Baby Jake, but I guess that’s the bike, underneath it all.

But of course there’s the voice in my head saying, “Do I really want the exact same bike?”  There are so many options out there . . . .

Twelve hours after the accident (around 1:00am on Monday morning), it became clear that my bike wasn’t the only thing injured in the collision.

Turns out that being in a car that is rear-ended is pretty much a classic cause of whiplash, and my neck wanted me to know it.  So now there’s a medical/bodily injury claim in addition to the property damage claim.  I’m hoping some physical therapy will get things back on track with no lingering effects.

Preschool and car trouble
For his first day of preschool, Gabriel traveled by car, rather than by bike.  Not what I had planned, but I was driving the car anyway to drop Baby Jake off at The Hub (perhaps the one and only time after Sunday that I won’t be paranoid about having the bike on the back of the car — it was already pretty messed up, what was another hit going to do?).

We were ready for the second day of preschool, though.

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Shortly after I took this photo, I was headed for yet another car trip (more than usual this week), when I noticed that one of the car tires looked suspiciously under-inflated.  After ten minutes and five complete cycles of the air compressor at a nearby gas station, I finally managed to get the pressure up to around 20psi (35psi is recommended for our tires), and I admitted defeat.

By that point, I had an appointment that I was in danger of being late for, and no great way to get there other than the car (would have had other options if I’d planned ahead).  I wasn’t sure I should be driving on the tire, with whatever was going on, but it was a relatively short trip [by car], so I went for it.

Fortunately, I found a gas station with a repair shop just a block from my destination.  I dropped the car off and made it to my appointment.  Meanwhile, the mechanics removed a nail and plugged the tire.  I breathed a big sigh of relief when I got the call that all was well (car trouble really stresses me out — I hate feeling so helpless!).

We’re due (or overdue?) for new tires anyway, so this incident just provided a little nudge.  For some reason, I thought my Kevlar-lined bike tires were as expensive (per tire) as our car tires, but that’s not quite the case.  I think a car tire is a bit over twice as much as my bike tire of choice.  Anyhow, after tomorrow morning, we should have new tires on our old car.

My plans for today include not leaving the house, and I’m hoping that’s the end of the excitement for the week (knock on wood)!

*Note to self: Self, you were right to be paranoid about parking the car under those big, old trees across the street.  Fortunately, with that in mind, our car was parked on the nearby cross street (away from big trees) when yesterday’s storm tore a big ol’ branch off of one of said trees.
Posted in Biking, Health | 2 Comments

Hot bikes and unfortunate events

Who says you can’t ride a bike when it’s 100 million degrees outside? (Spoiler alert: I should have stuck with the bike and avoided the car.)

For better (we had a bunch of great students!) or worse, our cooler than average summer lulled us into thinking we could get away with an end-of-August CyclingSavvy workshop.

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We did get away with it, but it was HOT.  With forecasts for actual temperatures just shy of 100°F, and heat indices of up to 110°F, we made a last-minute change, and instead of doing both on-bike portions on Saturday, as originally planned, we split things up to take advantage of the “cooler” (you know, just 90°F and 110% humidity) morning temperatures.

So, on Saturday morning, I biked about 5.5 miles to our class location.  I’d looked up bus times in case I wanted to bus part of the way home, but we finished up right around 11am, and I was still feeling pretty good.  I made it home, where I planned to wimp-out and drive the car to our class starting point on Sunday.

For context: Saturday’s session (Train Your Bike) involved a lot of on-bike time for students, but, other than demonstrating a few things, not much on-bike time for instructors, so even with biking both ways, I probably topped out around 12 or 13 miles on Saturday.  In contrast, the Road Tour involves everyone (instructors and students) biking 10-12 miles.  These are very slow miles, with a lot of long breaks throughout, but still.  If I biked both to and from class, plus the route, I would have logged almost 25 miles on Sunday, including the return trip at peak sun and near-peak heat.

Sunday dawned, and Matthew really wanted the car to take Gabriel out to Cedar Hill to see his cousin and her new baby.  I reluctantly ceded the car, and biked the few blocks to the bus stop.  The bus-bike combo halved my time on the bike, leaving me just a couple of miles through Forest Park to our meeting point.

Unfortunately, the bus doesn’t run all that often on Sundays, and while it worked to get me to class, I wasn’t confident the timing would work as well on the way home, especially because we didn’t know exactly when we’d finish.

I was concerned that by the time the tour ended (around 12:30pm, after I’d put in about 18 miles in the heat), I really wouldn’t be in shape to safely bike home.

So I decided to bum a ride, and asked a student who doesn’t live too far from me if he’d mind giving me (and my bike) a lift, at least as far as his place.  He kindly agreed.

We rolled back into the parking lot just after 12:30pm.  It was HOT, but everyone made it! After a bit of finagling, we managed to get both bikes on the [trunk] bike rack on his car, and we headed out, both ready for a shower and some A/C.

We were stopped at a stop sign when, WHAM! Rear-ended.*

I’ve always been paranoid about transporting my bike on my car for the very reason demonstrated yesterday.  If you have an accident while your bike is on your car, you potentially lose TWO (or more, if multiple bikes) of your vehicles in one swoop!

In this case, it was not my car, but the guy who was giving me a ride home was not so lucky.

Fortunately, all of the people involved are okay-ish (though my neck is not so happy today), but the bikes, not so much.

I dropped Baby Jake off at the shop this morning.  They’ll give me an estimate for parts and labor for repairing the [significant] damage (it will be in the hundreds), and we’ll go from there.  They will also check to see if the frame is bent — if so, it’s replace for sure.  If not, we’ll see how the repair costs look.

The irony, of course, is that with the way events unfolded, I neither got home faster, nor spent less time outside by opting to ride in the car instead of just biking home (we could have waited in the car, but it didn’t have A/C, so sitting outside in the shade was cooler).  And now my bike is out of commission.

*The circumstances seem pretty cut-and-dried to me, and all indications are that this will be resolved quickly and easily, but I’ll follow advice I was given to not go into too many details of the collision until all is said and done.
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Pacific time — What we did in Portland

It took a good 5-6 days of being stuck between Central time and Pacific time (so, Mountain time, technically), but we’re more or less back to our regular routine around here.  Now it’s time to review our trip before I forget anything important.

Lodging
We stayed in four different houses/apartments over the course of eleven days in Oregon.  We started in a VRBO house just southwest of Mt. Tabor in Portland.  After three nights, we moved to a VRBO apartment in the Buckman neighborhood of Portland.  We loved this location — very central for biking, plus some things within walking distance — and we were here for five nights.

At that point, we headed out of Portland for a couple of days.  Our road trip took us to a VRBO cabin in Prospect, Oregon, just south of Crater Lake.  That was our home for two nights as we explored both Crater Lake and the abundance of amazing waterfalls in the area, many of which are quite easily accessible (i.e., short walks/hikes that were relatively easy for Gabriel and my MIL).

We stayed in Portland at my SIL’s apartment for the final night of our trip.

Transportation
While in Portland, we mostly got around by bike, other than the trip from and to the airport.  We shared a rental car with Matthew’s mom.  My MIL shouldered most of the work of shuttling other people around in the car, and we enjoyed most of our time in Portland car-free.*

Over the course of six days (not counting the bike-free day when we drove to Silver Falls), we put in 60 bicycle miles in Portland.  Our highest mileage day was 14 miles, and our lowest was 9 miles.  If anything, I expected those numbers to be higher.  It felt like we were all around the town.  I guess the lower than expected mileage is a testament to Portland’s density?

BikePortlandMap

We covered a lot of southeast Portland, some of northeast, and a bit of northwest.

For us, the rental car was essential for our day hike at Silver Falls State Park and the side trip to Crater Lake, and it was nice for getting to/from the airport (but we could have taken a cab), and otherwise a huge PITA (long wait for pick-up at the airport, then arguing that we had reserved/needed a 4-door vehicle vs. the 2-door they were trying to stick us with, then having to swap cars after two days due to brake and electrical issues).

Food
While we were in Portland, we were on the “bakery-a-day” plan (good thing we were doing all that biking!).  The bulk of our pastries came from Ken’s Artisan Bakery and St. Honoré Boulangerie.  At Ken’s, we love the Oregon croissant (though we weren’t quite as impressed this trip, compared to last time), the vegetable quiche, and the cannele.  At St. Honoré, we love the mirliton (a small tart, filled with almond batter and fruit — two years ago we had pear; this trip, they had cherry, which was amazing!) and the cannele; we also had a nice chocolate croissant here.

We tried one new bakery this trip, Crema.  Matthew liked their fruit danishes, though I wasn’t amazed (not enough cream cheesy filling and too much of a sweet glaze — I like my pastries barely sweet).  I enjoyed a piece of their chocolate espresso bread (heavy on the chocolate, light on the espresso).

Outside of bakeries, my favorite food came from Pad Thai Kitchen (on SE Belmont), Boke Bowl, and ¿Por Que No? Taqueria.  We ate at another Thai place and a French place that were okay, but not remarkable.  It is quite possible that we spent as much money at bakeries over the course of the trip as we did on food at restaurants.

Vegetarian rice bowl at Boke -- the tofu in here was amazing!

Vegetarian rice bowl at Boke — the tofu in here was amazing!

The other food highlight that I should mention is the delicious paella served at my SIL’s wedding, from none other than a catering place that makes only paella.  They knocked the vegetarian version out of the park with delicious white beans, mushrooms, artichokes, and other veggies.

Because we had full kitchens at all of our places, we also did a decent bit of eating in, which helped budget-wise, and nutrition-wise, too (ensuring we ate at least some beans and had some grain variety).  This option was also very nice in Prospect, where dining options were limited (grocery options were also quite limited in the area around Crater Lake, so plan accordingly).

Things to do
So, what did we do other than riding our bikes from bakery to bakery?  Mostly lots of low-key stuff.

We visited a couple of playgrounds with Gabriel — easy, free, and fun way to pass time with a little one.

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Playground at Dawson Park in N/NE Portland

Other than renting the Bullitt, our only paid entertainment was a visit to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), which felt like a blend of the Science Museum and the Magic House in St. Louis (paid admission, unlike our Science Center).  You could probably spend an entire day at OMSI, but our visit was limited to just a couple of hours, which, after torturing Gabriel by walking through the [to him terrifying] dinosaur exhibit, were mostly spent in the Science Playground, a wing just for the 6-and-under crowd.

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The Science Playground had a sandbox!  With construction equipment!  Sir was in heaven.

We did a bit of shopping in the stores around the 3500 block of SE Hawthorne, as well as a quick visit to Powell’s books in downtown Portland.  (I was disappointed to discover Powell’s was not just used books, but rather a mix of new and used.  They also don’t have a “used” section; rather, the used books are mixed in with the new, and, at least for children’s books, their offerings seemed to skew heavily toward new.)

Most of our remaining time was spent with family and new friends, celebrating my SIL’s wedding (for which Gabriel was a ring bearer).

That’s all for now, though I have at least two more trip-related posts, one on Crater Lake and one on bike infrastructure in Portland (I made myself take pictures this time around!).

 *Between the rental car and the borrowed bikes, we didn’t end up using public transit, but a friend told me that Portland has a great app that makes it very easy for a visitor to use the system to get around (assuming you have a smart phone).

 

 

 

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Using my words

I have a lot to share here, but it all feels trivial.  And I don’t feel fully qualified to talk about what isn’t trivial, as Heather so pointedly stated a few months ago:

Because who the hell am I? I am a white woman raised in a white household, a white woman who has experienced nothing but privilege her entire life. I have never known persecution or been maligned because of my minority status. I have never had to worry that the color of my skin would in any way cost me the slightest luxury or basic human right.

 

Yet who the hell am I to NOT talk about this?  Though I have yet to be there physically, most of my heart and mind feel stuck in Ferguson, MO.  This is important.  There is so much to read and process — so much background to understand about how we got to this point and so much wisdom and grace needed to begin to move forward, to change.

MotherTeresaQuoteRecommended reading

St. Louis: A city divided

What’s unusual about St. Louis — and goes a long way to explain the tension of the Ferguson protests — is not racism per se, but the way the metropolitan area has chopped itself into bits, remaining socially and economically segregated long after the racist laws were erased from the books.

For the Sake of Michael Brown

It may take a village to raise a child, but many administrators and parents in better-resourced parts of our region had no problem saying quite publicly that Michael Brown and his brothers and sisters did not belong in their village.

What I Did After Police Killed My Son

Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. Because if a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy — that was my son, Michael — can be shot in the head under a street light with his hands cuffed behind his back, in front of five eyewitnesses (including his mother and sister), and his father was a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who flew in three wars for his country — that’s me — and I still couldn’t get anything done about it, then Joe the plumber and Javier the roofer aren’t going to be able to do anything about it either.

 

Alternatives to guns?

Over the weekend, I asked Matthew, “Couldn’t police officers just use tasers and stun guns?”  You know, something less permanent than putting a bullet in someone?

After reading a bit more about the uses and limitations of such weapons, I think the answer is, yes, maybe, but not as long as everyone and his brother is running around armed with real guns in this country.

And, sadly, we seem headed in just the opposite direction, given what this situation has revealed about the militarization of police forces (haven’t read the book I link to, but it looks worth a read).

Walking in the street

While we have far from a full, clear account of exactly what happened between Darren Wilson (the police officer) and Michael Brown (the victim) on August 9, the accounts of Wilson initially stopping Brown because he was “walking in the street” really struck me.

For some background, the term “jaywalking” did not exist until the invention of the automobile in the early 1900s:

The term’s dissemination was due in part to a deliberate effort by promoters of automobiles, such as local auto clubs and dealers, to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong.  (Wikipedia, emphasis mine)

If our streets were for people instead of for cars, would Mike Brown still be alive?

I don’t mean to over-simplify this, or direct attention away from the very important issues of inequality or injustice, but I can’t help but wonder.

White privilege

White privilege.  I think those are hard words to hear.  What do they mean?  What do they call us to do?

Yesterday, parishioner at my church recommended the book Witnessing Whiteness by Shelly Tochluk as a starting point for this important discussion.  I just requested a copy from the library.

If you’re in St. Louis, and want to be part of a discussion group, check out the YWCA (dates/times are for 2012 — I wrote to ask them to update the page, as I believe there will be a group starting in September 2014).

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Say something

Despite living less than 18 miles from Ferguson, MO, I didn’t hear about the events that unfolded last weekend (and continue to unfold) until more than forty-eight hours later.  In a small cabin south of Crater Lake in Oregon, I received a garbled second-hand account of the rioting and looting from my MIL, who had just spoken to her brother.

I turned to the internet, where I learned about Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a police officer, and I watched with a breaking heart from hundreds of miles away: loss, hate, hope, anger, love, grief.

—————-

After nine years in St. Louis, I’m no stranger to the fact that the region has race issues.

I’m often struck by the make-up of crowds that I’m in, how in a city that is split almost exactly fifty-fifty between white and black, that racial mix is rarely represented at a given place or event.

In May, I took G to be tested to see if he would qualify for speech services through St. Louis Public Schools.  Our assigned testing site was Gateway Elementary and Middle School in north St. Louis City.  As we were leaving, we were caught in the halls during a class change at the middle school, and I was struck by the fact that I did not see a single white student in that hallway.  I wasn’t surprised, exactly, but all I could think was, “It’s the year 2014, and segregation is alive and well.”

This is not an accident, but rather the result of concerted historical efforts in St. Louis (as well as other cities), to separate white people and black people, and “protect property values,” through the use of [racially] restrictive covenants in real estate, which created white neighborhoods and black neighborhoods.

The effects of these covenants are still apparent in St. Louis City and the surrounding suburbs today.  For a closer look at how this played out in and near Ferguson, check out Jeff Smith’s excellent post, “You Can’t Understand Ferguson without First Understanding these Three Things.”

————-

I’ve been in Kinloch and other parts of north county.  I vividly remember an assignment in grad school, which involved visiting a number of parks in the metro area, assessing them from a usability perspective (okay, we say people should just get out and exercise — what are the sidewalks and the parks near their houses like — is that really feasible???).  For the exercise, we were assigned partners and a list of parks to assess, ranging from nice to not-so-nice.

My [white, female] partner and I were in a large, but clearly under-resourced, park in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in north St. Louis County (we may have actually been IN Kinloch, or not far from) when a couple of police officers approached and asked what we were doing there.

I don’t remember exactly what was said, but it was clear to my partner and I that the officers assumed that only thing white people could be doing in that park was buying or selling drugs.  We explained our assignment and showed them our park inventory sheet, and they let us continue.

I was fairly new to St. Louis at the time, and the encounter was both surprising and saddening.  Despite being across the street from a decent-sized apartment complex, we were the only people out in the park on a Saturday morning.  Was drug-dealing really the only thing that happened in that park?  Was the perceived (and perhaps real) danger just too high for residents to use the park for recreational purposes?

————-

I know people who live in Ferguson, including our real estate agent and a fellow CyclingSavvy instructor, who is also a small business (a bike shop, of course) owner there.  There is a great organic farm and farmer training program within the city limits, and a Saturday Farmers’ Market.  This is also Ferguson, MO.

But as the events of the past week demonstrate, there are some very real issues that we must face, not just in Ferguson, but in the entire St. Louis metro area (and in other parts of the country as well), issues stemming from a long history of racial injustice and disparities in education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

At the same time as my heart breaks at the continued violence and unrest, there are many more heartening stories, and images, of a community and region pulling together.  My hope and prayer is that this won’t just “go away,” but will lead to real, honest dialogue; enlightenment; and then action to change things.  This process won’t be easy or painless, and change won’t happen overnight, but we can, and must, do better.

 

 

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Test driving a Bullitt cargo bike

When we visited Portland two years ago, I had good intentions of visiting bike shops and test driving some cargo bikes, as I was already dreaming about adding something with serious kid- and cargo-carrying capacity to our fleet.  Alas, somewhere in the mix of vacation with a 14-month-old, this just didn’t happen.

Sadly, there are zero bike shops in St. Louis that carry cargo bikes (if I won the lottery, I’d open a bike shop specializing in family, cargo, and commuting bikes — anyone want to fund this???).*

Anyhow, when we were planning our return trip to Portland, just a few months after purchasing our own cargo bike, I prioritized trying something new-to-me.  A bit of research revealed that for $25 we could rent a Bullitt bicycle (a bakfiets or Dutch long-john cargo bike that I’ve read about over at Tiny Helmets Big Bikes) for a day from Splendid Cycles.  I emailed the shop owners, settled on a date, and that was that.

On Thursday morning, we blew right past Splendid Cycles and were partway down the Springwater Trail (along the Willamette River) before we realized we must have somehow missed the shop.  We backtracked and found the shop right at the trail head.

They put a lime green Bullitt up on the repair stand to look things over, while we browsed their other offerings and chatted with one of the owners.

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Can I sit in here?  Gabriel’s a fan of this model with the sweet rain cover.  Also love the detail work on the box!

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Gabriel checking out Big Blue’s (AKA Roadrunner) long-lost twin, with the Hooptie accessory (the wrap-around bar he’s holding onto).  I’m totally wishing we included one of these when we ordered Big Blue.  I imagine we’ll end up getting one, we’ll just have to eat the shipping cost.  With the Hooptie, we could carry Gabriel and one or two of his friends, which could come in handy.

Before we knew it, our rental Bullitt was ready to roll.  The guys at the shop assured us that we’d adjust quickly to the steering and general handling.  Specific tips were to not look at the front wheel, and that it would be trickiest at low speeds.  We’d decided Matthew would be driving it first, so he set out for a little trial run before hitting the streets.  (To Gabriel’s delight, Splendid Cycles is located right across from a concrete manufacturing plant with lots of big machinery — his idea of a “scenic” bike ride.)

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I waited with our borrowed bike and trailer . . . .

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Several minutes later, they returned, and Matthew announced he was good to go.

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With lunch and nap-time looming, we set out on our three-mile trip home, which was significantly uphill.  I could tell the hills required a good bit of effort (more effort than I exerted pulling the trailer), but all-in-all, Matthew made it look easy.

After lunch, we were all tired, so I didn’t get my shot at the Bullitt until after nap time (can’t believe I waited that long, after all the excitement).

After naps all around, we loaded the bikes and set off for a short jaunt to a neighborhood farmer’s market.  I hopped on the Bullitt, tried to turn the bike in the direction I wanted to ride, panicked, and dumped it in the middle of the [low-traffic, residential] street.

By “dumped,” I just mean that the bottom edge of the box met the asphalt (at very low speeds).  Gabriel was just fine, strapped into the padded seat in the box.  I imagine this is not an uncommon first experience riding this style of bike, but it was an inauspicious start, and did not exactly make me confident about handling the bike in traffic.

I picked it up, Matthew gave me a couple more tips and a pep talk, and we headed out.  Once I got the bike up to speed, all was well — the stops and starts were the tricky part.  Unfortunately, stops and starts are part and parcel of operating a vehicle in an urban environment.

I quickly realized that my beloved “balance stop” was not an option [for me] on the Bullitt.  I needed to plan on each and every stop sign being a “foot down” stop, or there was a good chance of tipping.  Fortunately, many of the bike boulevards in Portland minimize stop signs, so the stopping situation was less annoying than it would have been in St. Louis.

I made it the half mile to the farmers’ market, where we bought some fruit and tomatoes.  As we were reloading the bikes to continue to our next destination, Gabriel asked, “Daddy drive bike now?”

Matthew was astonished, because Gabriel is usually all-mommy, all-the-time.  The next words out of Gabriel’s mouth were, “Mommy makes it tippy.  Daddy drive.”  Thanks for the confidence boost, bud.

We explained that I really wanted to try riding the new bike some more, and we offered to let him ride in the trailer instead of the Bullitt’s box.  Even after our tip, he was a huge fan of his spot up front in the box (he’d been complaining that the trailer was bumpy, which it is), and he opted to stick with mommy.

At this point, he decided that if he was stuck with me as the driver, he may as well think good thoughts, because he said, “You can do it, Mommy,”  and then proceeded to chant, “Go, Mommy, go,” for ten blocks of uphill riding.

We made it with no more than a few wobbles, but by the time we reached our second stop, I was ready to be done with the Bullitt.  I could ride it, but it wasn’t particularly fun, so Matthew and I swapped back.

IMG_5178

Of course, we neglected to get any photos of me actually riding the dang thing, so we had to stage this the next morning.  Note that the kickstand (you can see one of the legs bottom center) is down.  Also, I’m sitting crazy high because it wasn’t worth adjusting the seat height for a photo op.

I’m glad we tried the Bullitt, but after twenty-four hours, I was happy to return it.  Neither Matthew nor I ever really got comfortable to the point that we could use arm signals, which is an important part of riding in traffic.  We agreed that both the trailer and the longtail are much more nimble and easier when climbing.

The Bullitt (or similar bakfiets-type bikes) seems like a great option for really flat places.  Anywhere with hills, I would only want it with an electric-assist (which we didn’t try).

On the other hand, if you live somewhere flat or want to go for the e-assist, I can see the appeal.  I think with more practice, I would have adjusted to the steering.  Gabriel really liked being up front, and the cargo capacity is impressive (you could carry even more by adding a rear rack).  Compared with wrangling things into the longtail’s bags (or onto its rack), the ease of just tossing things into the box is quite attractive.

When we returned the Bullitt, Joel at Splendid Cycles said they had sold FOUR Bullitts the previous day (all with e-assist), one locally and three shipping to all parts of the country (Colorado, North Carolina, and, not too far from home, Springfield, MO).

All in all, I’m glad we had a chance to try the Bullitt, but I’m looking forward to returning home to our longtail.  There’s no place like home, and there’s no bike like your own!

*Big Shark very briefly had a Kona Ute and MinUte, and I did just see a cycle truck at The Hub a couple of weeks ago, but options are VERY limited.
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