Bicycle babble: Updates on our newest additions

We’ve added two (or one-and-half?) new bikes to our fleet since May, but I haven’t talked about them much here.  Time to change that!

Meet Midnight

The Kona Dew Deluxe that I purchased in early May is my primary bike these days.  While I was excited to have finally made a decision, I was concerned about ride comfort with the aluminum frame on bumpy city roads.  I also experienced some knee pain after my first few rides (despite having the bike fitted) that brought a few twinges of buyer’s regret.

I’m happy to report that the ride quality is just fine, and my knee pain seems to have resolved (maybe I just needed to get used to the position?).  The nine gears (only a single ring in front) work well for most of the riding I’m doing, though I’m not sure I could get it up a steep hill pulling a loaded trailer without a lower gear.

While it seems like a nice addition to a commuter bike, I don’t use the front basket all that much.  Putting any kind of weight up there changes the bike’s handling significantly (trickier than riding with G in front of me in the IBert), so I usually leave it empty, or reserve it for bulky but light items, like our picnic quilt.

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I wasn’t really set on naming this bike, but “Midnight” popped into my head a few weeks ago, and it stuck.  I’ve been spending a lot of time on Midnight lately (#30daysofbiking post coming up next week), and I’m very glad that I’m not riding BUB for my 15-mile RT school commutes.

Meet Apple Jack

We’ve been enjoying our Burley Piccolo [trail-a-bike], recently christened “Apple Jack” by Gabriel, since mid-May.  We started out with short jaunts, but by the end of May, Matthew and Gabriel completed the 4-mile ride to G’s preschool.

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It is now our child bicycle conveyance of choice for shorter trips.  On longer trips where we really want to move and plan on spending significant time on larger roads, we still turn to Big Blue, though we’ll eventually use Apple Jack for these trips too.

Matthew and I each have a bike with the Burley Moose rack (propriety rear rack to which the Piccolo attaches) mounted.  I use Midnight and Matthew uses his road bike.  Installing the racks was no easy task; it left us wishing we’d left it to the bike shop, where the installation probably would have been included with our purchase.  Live and learn, I guess!

I’ll admit to being a little bit wobbly when riding with G on Apple Jack.  I’m fine at normal cruising speeds with both hands on the handlebars, but slower speeds and signaling turns is a little shaky.  The stable handling is where Big Blue really shines.  (A tandem with a kid-sized stoker set-up would also work well.)

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First post-broken leg ride
While he’s still pretty hesitant about riding independently, Gabriel loves pedaling along on Apple Jack and being part of the “bike team.”  I’m looking at this picture and realizing that we still need to get a fender for Apple Jack!

Big Blue’s new role

Between me finally getting a new bike (I had been using Big Blue for many solo trips, just because it’s a much nicer bike than BUB) and the addition of the trail-a-bike, Big Blue didn’t see much action for a couple of months.

We took her into the shop for a tune-up at the end of May, and then didn’t use her until July 4th.  A week or two after that, while installing our new Hooptie, I noticed an oily puddle under the rear tire that lined up with the internal hub.

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Hooptie installed, but going nowhere due to the hub issue
Instead of hauling the entire bike into the shop, I decided to remove the rear wheel, which turned out to be no simple feat with the internal hub, but with the help of YouTube videos, Matthew prevailed.  The diagnosis was a missing o-ring (that was not replaced when the hub was serviced in May).

With some new transmission oil and the o-ring back in place, we were in business, just in time for my family’s visit, when I was planning for all of us (5 adults and 2 kids — we had just enough bikes for everyone) to ride together.  Alas, that ride would have taken place the morning after G broke his leg, so it never happened.

It was nice that the longtail was fully functional, because Gabriel was in no condition to be riding a bike for a few weeks there, so we reverted to Big Blue while Apple Jack collected dust.  Getting him onto the bike was easier than getting him into the car.

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I removed half of the Hooptie and put his Yepp seat back on for the time being (the Yepp seat fits works with the full Hooptie, but this made it easier for me to lift him into place when his leg was still hurting a lot.

I think G is now at a point where we could ditch the Yepp seat and just let him ride on the rear deck with the full Hooptie in place.  I still need to make some seat pads (planning to use garden kneeling pads and heavy duty velcro to secure them to the deck.  We’re still waiting on the back-ordered U-tube footrests from Xtracycle, but for now he can stick his legs into the bags.

Future bike purchase

I know, I know, I just bought a bike, but then Surly went and released the 2016 Disc [brake] Trucker in a really lovely blue (where was this a year ago when I needed it, Surly???).  Despite the color, I’m still not set on the Disc Trucker over the Salsa Vaya (that sloped topped tube and already having integrated shifters are key points for me).  Given my new, longer commute, Matthew is really encouraging me to get one or the other.  I’m not in a huge hurry to take this step, but it will likely happen — maybe in the spring?  When it does, it will be time to find a new home for BUB,

Brain and body boot camp

So much to say, so little time!  I just completed my first week of dietetics classes.  My career exploration over the past 6 months (and really over the past year, if you count the PA school detour) led to this point.  I’m about as sure as I can be that this is a good decision, maybe 98% certain (and yes, that 2% unsure is really scary for me!).

Anyhow, I am enrolled part-time at Fontbonne University.  Over the next three years, I will be completing the junior- and senior-level dietetics coursework (9-11 hours/semester), followed by a year-long internship (unpaid and you pay for the privilege) before I can sit for the R.D. exam.

I plan to continue working part-time, so classes plus paid work will be a full-time job.  My current coursework is pretty basic, which is okay, because getting back into the swing of being a student, and balancing work, school, and home, will be enough of a mental challenge for now.

On the physical side of things, I am on campus three days a week, and I plan to bike for as many of those trips as possible.  The 15-mile round-trip bike ride is much more than I’ve been doing recently, since most of my weekly “errand” rides are within a two- to three-mile radius of our home.  Fortunately, the weather gods have been smiling on St. Louis, which has made the bike commuting quite pleasant, if not entirely easy (so far, the trip home always seems easier than the trip there).

In case the additional 45 miles of biking a week weren’t enough, Matthew and I just started another aerial silks class.  It took us awhile to find something that worked with our schedules, but after a 5+ month hiatus following the Intro Silks class, we began Silks 1 last week.  I was pretty nervous going into it, but Intro Silks, plus some open gym sessions, evidently drilled things into our brains and muscles fairly well.

Our first Silks 1 class also marked the first time we traveled to Bumbershoot by bike.  Despite being a perfectly bikeable [just a hair over] four miles away, the timing and weather conditions during the winter session consigned us to car trips (or walking plus bus for me, a couple of times).  So in addition to the extra biking to school, I’ll be getting an additional 8.5 miles on the bike with this.

This sudden increase in activities will leave me less time for writing, but I am using Twitter and Instagram more (yes, I may be a bit addicted to my four-month-old smart phone), so follow me there if you haven’t already!

 

All the biking

I just returned from my first (of many?) bicycle trips to Fontbonne University.  I am in the process of enrolling in their dietetics program, though it’s not yet a done deal.

Anyhow, it would have been 15 miles round-trip, but on my way home I went an extra mile out of my way to bypass a stopped-on-the-tracks train (see reality of delay).  Definitely farther than I’m used to riding these days, especially in warmer temps, and very full sun on the way home!

The past week has been all about the biking (78 miles total, which is a lot for me these days).  Last Thursday, I biked to the store to get some supplies for Saturday.

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On Friday, G and I biked to his school for some end of summer school festivities.  After seeing him take to this [much too small] bike on the school playground, I joked that maybe we just needed to get him a pink bike.

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It was pretty hot when we biked home (he was on the tag-along), but he was a trooper.  He took a great nap that afternoon!

Saturday was a scorcher, which made it perfect for the World Naked Bike Ride.  I decided that after two years of the blue tutu, I needed to change things up a bit.

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“Lady of the Lane” refers to lane control, as I explained to a few inquiring minds throughout the course of the evening.

‘Twas another great WNBR in StL — always sad to see the ride come to an end!  We did continue the festivities at a lovely after-party hosted by some friends, where we were joined by additional bikey friends, some who rode, and some who didn’t participate in the ride.

We probably covered 25 miles in the course of getting to the ride, the ride itself, and then back home, and on Sunday, I was okay with having a little bike break.

It wasn’t a complete break, though.  On Saturday afternoon, I assembled the Hooptie for Big Blue, and we installed it on Sunday morning (the installation was MUCH easier than the assembly).

Unfortunately, we discovered a big oil stain under the rear wheel — for whatever reason, the internal hub was leaking.  I decided riding the bike in that condition might damage the hub (maybe equivalent to driving a car around without any transmission fluid?), so other than a tiny Hooptie test ride, Big Blue is out of commission.

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We removed the rear wheel (thank goodness for YouTube tutorial videos!), and I dropped it off at The Hub yesterday.  I’m hoping we have it back in time for my family’s upcoming visit — I have big plans for all of us to go on a bike ride, but Big Blue is an important part of being able to accommodate the whole group (five adults and two kids).

On Tuesday, G and I covered a good bit of ground, including a lab visit for routine blood lead testing.  He did great and was all smiles afterward.

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That afternoon marked G’s first trip to Tower Grove Park (~3.5 miles away) on “Green Bike” (i.e., the tag-along).  He was very excited because it also marked his first time riding Green Bike on Kingshighway — we just used it for a short stretch, during which he pedaled along singing, “We’re flying; we’re flying!”

Last night, Matthew and I biked to the second-to-last Whitaker music fest at MoBot.  (Next week, we are hosting a Cycling Social ride for the final concert of the season.)

And that brings us up to my morning adventures.  I was a might disappointed to arrive on the Fontbonne campus and, after a bit of searching, find this less-than-inspiring bike rack:

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You have to weave through parked cars and then traverse the rocky surface to access it.

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The longtail might have been in danger of getting hit by car doors.  After my appointment, I did stumble across some nicer racks . . .

20150723_094747. . . though clearly they are not expecting too many bicycle commuters.  There is a covered walkway to the left in the above pic, and I would love to see the bicycle parking covered as well.  Secure, convenient, and well-designed bike parking is an important piece of encouraging bicycling as a mode of transportation.

On my return trip, I was plenty ready to be back home and out of the sun.  All was well until I encountered this:

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Not only did the train come to a stop, it actually started rolling backwards for a bit (we were also delayed here on the way to G’s school last week).  After walking up to the tracks and confirming that the end was NOT in sight, I resigned myself to lengthening my trip a bit.  Fortunately, as a savvy cyclist, I had the skills I needed to easily navigate the reroute (east on Manchester to south on Kingshighway to west on Shaw), which included construction-related lane closures and the oh-so-special gutter bike lane on Manchester (I chose the travel lane and motorists were able to easily pass me using the center turn lane).

On the bike: Driver behavior — start ’em young!

Cute little bikey story from a couple of weeks ago . . .

Gabriel and I were headed home on Big Blue.  We were on a one-way neighborhood street with parked cars on both sides, leaving a rather narrow effective travel lane.  I was headed uphill and moving none too fast.  There was a car behind us, and after crossing an intersection, I moved over to facilitate a pass (they ended up turning on the cross street — isn’t that always the way?).

I noticed quite a bit of broken glass in our path (as is common toward the edge of the road), and I commented on it to Gabriel as we re-established our position in the debris-free portion of the street.

I couldn’t help but use it as a teaching opportunity to talk about why we don’t drive our bike on the edge of the roadway: more debris = more flats (not to mention other dangers).  It wasn’t the first time we’d talked about lane position on the bike, and he picked up right away, remembering a time we’d been in the car and seen some other bicyclists.

Gabriel: “Yeah, remember that time we were going to Baba’s and we saw those bicyclists riding on the very edge of the road?  That was NOT good!”

I agreed.  He went on, “It made me so angry my brown eyes turned black!”  Wowza, that’s angry!

We talked a little bit more, about how we didn’t want to be angry with them, we were just concerned for their safety.  I recounted the story to Matthew when we got home, and he said this had come up in a conversation he’d had with Gabriel a week earlier.  It’s rewarding to see him picking up on these things, and it helped reinforce my decision to go by bike, even on a really hot day!

Wet weather biking with kids (and preschool peer pressure)

When we first got Big Blue, my plan was to make G a rain cover, a la Lindsay’s instructions.  I already had the clip-off umbrella stroller sunshade and a big rain cover from our jogging stroller.  I purchased the PVC, zip ties, and heavy duty Velcro, thinking it would be an easy project (I also liked that fact that it would double as a sun shade).  I played around with it a bit, but I didn’t find it quite as easy to set up on the Yepp child seat as it seemed to be on Lindsay’s Peanut Shell child seat, plus, it was summer and there just wasn’t all that much rain (though the sun shade would have been nice).

Since then, it seems like most of the days when it’s raining and we need to transport Gabriel, it’s really raining (with heavy winds and/or lightning and thunder in the mix), and we’ve opted to take the car.

One drizzly day in March, I realized that the adult-sized poncho we bought at Crater Lake (when someone neglected to bring her raincoat on the hike (also, the hike where we almost got struck by lightning)) would make an ideal rain cover for G and his seat.

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Photo op while waiting for a looooooong train

The poncho solution is as simple as securing the kid in the seat, then placing the poncho (with the child’s arms INSIDE, not sticking out), and topping with the helmet.  To keep it from blowing around, I rolled the edges and secured them with a couple of clothes pins (you can see one near the bottom of the photo, behind G’s foot).

We weren’t using the poncho’s hood on this day, because it was just a little drizzly, and cool enough that he was wearing other head covering anyway, but in heavier rain, the hood could be worn underneath his helmet, for head to almost-toe coverage (again, if it has really been coming down, he would have had his rain boots on here.  We’ve used this successfully on a couple of wet days now.

Yesterday morning was just such a day.  It was sprinkling a bit as we all prepared to leave (me to a dentist appointment; M and G to school/work).  As I was leaving for my early appointment, Gabriel was angling for taking the car, and starting to work into a bit of a lather (apparently he was sad that they weren’t leaving at the exact same time as me).

When I asked Matthew about it last night, part of the story was that G didn’t want to wear the poncho on the bike because he “didn’t want kids at school to laugh at him.”

I was floored.  Really?!?  My 3-year-old has to worry that other freaking 3-year-olds will MAKE FUN OF HIM???  At preschool???

My heart hurt for my sweet, sensitive little guy, and my mama bear instincts definitely kicked in — WHO, exactly, was going to laugh at him, because so help me, I was going to find that little punk . . . .

The truth is, this stuff will happen.  Not to condone it, but short of home-schooling my kid and never leaving the house, we’ll have to deal with this.  Preschool seems a little early, but I guess it’s time to start practicing how we deal with these things.