Bicycle limbo

Six months later, the great bicycle hunt continues.  Yes, that’s right, I have yet to replace Baby Jake.  While I haven’t spent every waking moment thinking about this decision, it is always somewhere in the background.  So where do things stand?

If I could walk into my preferred bike shop right this very minute and buy a Salsa Vaya [3], I think I’d do it and be done with it.  Is it 100% my ideal, dream bike?  No, but I’d call it good enough.  Unfortunately, that’s not an option.

At this point, seven-plus months of riding non-road bikes is making me question whether or not I even want a road bike configuration.  I spent most of my time on Baby Jake with my hands either on the hoods or the tops (possible thanks to the secondary brake levers), and very little time in the drops.  So, in addition to the touring bikes I was originally considering, I’m somewhat considering some kind of a hybrid instead.

I mentioned to Matthew the other day that I just wanted a non-longtail version of Big Blue.  I really like that bike.  No, it won’t win any speed contests (except maybe among cargo bikes), but it’s just so sturdy, and capable, and reliable.  I haven’t put in any particularly long rides on it (nothing over 10-12 miles), but I’m always pretty comfortable.  And, while it’s not quite a step-through frame, I do like the easy mount-dismount with the sloping top tube.

In that vein, I’m rather in love with the Kinn Cascade Flyer.  Of course, even if I could get one here in St. Louis, it’s significantly over budget. (We could probably set this up as a bike that both Matthew and I could ride, which might make the expense more justifiable, at least in my head.  AND it’s already set up to accommodate our Yepp child seat.  Just sayin’.)

Kinn
Source: Kinn Bikes

The Surly Long-Haul Trucker is still on the possibility list, though at this point I’m tempted to wait until the fall and see what colors they’re offering in 2016.

But that’s months away, and, in the meantime, I am actually riding less because, when Big Blue is not available, I don’t have a bike I really like riding.  Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have the perfect bike, but there is something about having a bike you really love, and I’m not the only one who feels this way.  As stated in a recent Hum of the City post:

A long time ago, I was reading advice on what bike to buy. The article is now lost to the internet wayback machine, but it said that when you go looking for bikes, there is often the bike that you think that you should buy, because it’s the practical or affordable choice, and the bike that you want to buy, the cool bike, which is the bike you desire whether or not it’s practical or affordable. And the author said: “Buy the cool bike.” Why? Because you’ll ride the cool bike, and not leave it in the garage . . .

. . . but I can testify now that with a bike this beautiful and practical, I found myself making up useless errands to run so that I could ride it more often.

In contrast, when Big Blue is not available, I find myself putting off errands that I could do by bike [on BUB], waiting for another time, which then often ends up being a time when I’m out and about in the car.  And while I’m not sure it’s entirely rational (I rode the bike to work 12 miles RT for six months, and it was fine), BUB just doesn’t feel all that reliable.

Much as I would like to make a decision, this all adds up to me being “n-1” and pretty firmly stuck in bicycle buying limbo, while the weather is inviting me to get out and ride more!*

* n = current number of bicycles one owns.  Since there’s always a bike out there that’s newer, better, or serves a different purpose, many bicyclists say their ideal number of bikes is n+1.  n-1 = 😦

The bicycle reveal

With the weekend’s lovely weather, we finally pulled out G’s new bike.  Our original plan was to try the initial [non-training wheel] ride on grass, so there would be a soft surface to cushion falls, but the thawing ground was too mucky for that.  After a bit of brainstorming, we realized a rubber playground surface would be a good option (better than our original idea, really, due to less resistance and a more even surface).

When G woke from his nap on Saturday, we asked if he wanted to go to the park.  Matthew aired up the bicycle tires and propped the bike up in the yard (no kickstand), then stood by with the camera, ready for the big moment.

I led G to the backyard (Peter Pan sword in hand).  The sun was really bright, and for a few moments, G didn’t see the bike at all.  When he saw it, it took a few moments to sink in . . . .

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“A new bicycle?”

“For me?”

We helped him climb on (which worked better after suggesting that he first put down the sword), then back off, so we could adjust the seat height.  He wanted to get back on, so we went to the park like this.  With no prompting, he was singing, “Biker boy, biker boy,” as he pedaled.

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He took a few spins around the playground (with one of us assisting, as above) before deciding to ditch the bike in favor of playing Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

We went out again on Sunday afternoon, this time for some sidewalk riding, still sans training wheels.  In general, we’re giving him quite a bit of support, but he did do half a lap at the playground, and all of the riding on Sunday, with just one of my hands on the back of the seat, providing fairly minimal, though not insignificant, assistance.  (I don’t recommend this method if you have a bad back!)

On Sunday, I let him tip over into the grass a few times, and we laughed it off.  We did have some tears from a non-moving fall (a dismount issue), that led to a handlebar jab to the neck — ouch!

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We’re torn, knowing that we could put on the training wheels and let him zip around independently right now, instead of this rather parent-intensive model.  On the other hand, once the training wheels go on, convincing him to lose them could be a little tricky.  I think we’ll give the non-training wheel, parent-assist model a little bit more time.

On the way home on Saturday, G commented, “This bike isn’t very colorful.”  I agreed, and asked him what color handlebar grips he would like (the original grips need to be replaced anyway — I almost bought a new set before we gave him the bike but was overwhelmed by the color choices).  He decisively responded, “Red,” and then said that he would like some “decorations” for the bike.

Adding some fun decals had already crossed my mind.  I’m a bit hesitant, wondering if that would make it look junky, or less appealing to a future rider, but realistically, this bike is starting out well-loved, so I’m not really expecting to get much for resale.  It’s probably worth making it more fun for him now.

I like the Outer Space kid’s decals at RydeSafe (or maybe just their Modular Kit), though I wish there were a bright green color option (though I guess G might prefer red anyway), and I like a few of the decals here.  Anyone know of other sources for fun, colorful bicycle decals?

Bicycle boy’s new ride

Ten days ago, on a bitterly cold Sunday morning, I ventured to West County to check out a Specialized Hot Rock.  Big thanks to reader Melissa for pointing out this listing on Craigslist (and for sharing her positive experience with this bike)!  I’m pretty sure I’d skimmed right over this listing multiple times, probably due to “Hot” making me think of the Hot Wheels bikes, and the fact that, although I know that Specialized is a good brand of bicycle, my radar was looking for Giant and Trek, since those are the brands of kids’ bikes that I’d looked at in bike shops.

Anyhow, the bike was well-loved, but the price was right (or right-ish; it didn’t come with training wheels, and I might have tried to bargain more if I’d known that new training wheels would cost $25 — in my head I was maybe thinking half that?).

Here she is:

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It could use new hand grips, and I’m thinking something colorful would be nice.  The current Hot Rocks come with chain guards, and we’re looking into adding one, but it may be more trouble than it’s worth.

Unfortunately, the weather is conspiring against us, so we have yet to even SHOW the bike to Gabriel.  We’d really like him to be able to hop on and ride when he first sees it.

The Sunday I brought it home was just too bitterly cold.  I mean, we probably could have bundled up and gone out, but it didn’t sound fun AT ALL.  That night, we got our first significant snow of the year, and for the next week, he would have needed studded tires to ride the thing.  And then more bitter cold.

The bike is nice and light, which was one of our goals in getting a bike-shop bike.  It has coaster brakes instead of hand brakes, which is not my first choice, but it should be fine for a first bike (and probably less confusing than having both coaster and hand brakes).

If you’ve been reading for awhile, you’re probably aware that our plan was to do the balance bike thing and skip the training wheel phase.  At this point, I would say that we’ve sort-of done the balance bike thing.

G has had his Strider balance bike for over two years now.  He’s perfectly happy to scoot around on the thing, but I can’t get him to take his feet off the ground.  In general, he’s somewhat cautious/risk-averse, so, while this is a bit frustrating, it’s not terribly surprising (and we’ve benefited from his cautious nature in other ways, no doubt).

Anyhow, we’re planning to introduce the new bike without training wheels, but I’m keeping my expectations in check.  I really doubt it will work, but it will be easier to add training wheels (I already bought a set) than to take them off.  Now we just need the weather to cooperate!

 

Bicycle boy

Shortly before Christmas we were at The Hub, where I was looking at bikes, YET AGAIN (the employees have been very patient and helpful, but I can only imagine the amount of eye rolling that happens when they see me headed into the shop for the eleventy-billionth time).

Anyhow, on this visit, Matthew and G were with me, and after a bit, G headed over to the kid’s bicycles and hopped on a 16″ bike (with training wheels).  I knew he’d been working on pedaling his tricycle (which has been at my MIL’s house for the past few months), but I was unaware it was a fully acquired skill.

[Tri]Cycle Chic
[Tri]Cycle Chic
He needed just a bit of coaching on pedaling forward, not backward (to avoid the coaster brake), but within two minutes, he was riding that thing all around the shop, including some pretty decent steering maneuvers.

If that wasn’t enough to warm this bicycle mama’s heart, he started singing, “Bicycle boy, bicycle boy,” (an original song) while riding.  Now, I’m really hoping to find a pre-loved, bike-store bike for him, but darn if it wasn’t tempting to just drop the money on a new bike then and there.

In an ideal world, I wouldn’t get just any bike-store quality bike, I’d go with an Islabike (featured over at Tiny Helmets Big Bikes), which many consider the cream of the crop, due to having the lowest weight of almost any kid’s bike and having all components nicely scaled for little people.*  Of course, you pay top dollar for that (~ $400 for an Isla compared to ~$200 for a kid’s Giant or Trek), and, despite knowing the value of a good bike, I can’t see spending that amount of money on a bicycle for a three-and-a-half year-old!

Unfortunately, if we’re set on bike-store quality, this may end up being a new purchase, as almost two months of CL searching has yielded next to nothing in the “higher quality” department.  CL has a plethora of discount store bikes, which, for now, for this first bike that he’ll outgrow in two years, is pretty tempting.

Matthew’s really pushing to get something sooner rather than later, and I don’t want to delay and miss out on G’s enthusiasm.**

*See Hum of the City’s post on their kids’ bikes, including the 16″ Spawn Banshee, which seems similar to the Islabikes (similar price, too, though).
**No joke I saw a CL ad for a 16″ [wheel size] bike (which means pretty small bike/pretty young kid) that said, “Like new condition. Kid would rather play video games.”  And I’m thinking, “Really??? Really?!? As a parent, do you not have some control over this situation?”  I’m not worried about G choosing screen time over a bike because in this house, it really isn’t an option.

 

Cold weather biking with kids

Baby, it’s cold out there!  Matthew and Gabriel biked to school/work the first two days of the week (coldest on-bike temps for G thus far), but we switched to the car when the bottom really dropped out on Wednesday and Thursday.  The bike ride to school takes between twenty and thirty minutes, and, even well-bundled, that’s a long time to sit still in the bitter cold.

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Layers, from head to toe: Helmet (not pictured), thin-ish fleece hat, balaclava, sunglasses, scarf (also not pictured), long underwear (i.e., cotton pajama) base layer, sweatshirt, pants, coat, insulated mittens, insulated snow bibs, rain boots.

I took this picture a few weeks ago.  We since discovered that his snow boots from last year still fit, so we pulled those out for the really cold days.  And this week we finally talked him into swapping the sunglasses for ski goggles.

If you’re thinking, “It must take forever to get out the door in the morning,” you are completely right.

There are certainly mornings where I’m tempted to say “Screw it,” and take the car instead, but so far, we’re making this work (on the non-icy road days).