Moving right along

The three weeks since December 12, when I wrote my “Life Goes On” post literally flew by, am I right?

I was feeling rather bah-humbug-y going into the holidays, what with trying to coordinate holiday gatherings around a toddler’s nap and early bedtime and general ennui about gift-giving.  Mid-month, I read “The Case Against Buying Christmas Presents.” The post really resonated with me, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it.

As Christmas drew near, I felt tremendous pressure to both give great gifts and even more so to come up my own list of what I wanted.  This is difficult because the answer is either a) nothing or b) a really specific item that I’m researching and figuring out exactly what I want, at which point, if I decide that this is indeed an item I want to spend money on, I will buy it for myself.

Needless to say, we enjoyed some nice family gatherings, and I enjoyed seeing Gabriel’s general excitement, but I’m rather glad the festivities are behind us.  I clearly would benefit from finding some way to address my feelings about gifts before next December.

Holidays aside, the past three weeks were far from dull in their own right, with action in the employment, speech therapy for Gabriel, and longtail realms.

Matthew and I both interviewed for the same position.  What’s odd to me is not that this happened, but rather that it hasn’t happened before, given that we’re both in the same field, with very similar educational backgrounds and career interests and fairly similar work histories.  Our general attitude for positions that we’ve both applied for in the past has been that, collectively, we double our chances if we both apply for a job opening, though I’m curious how employers view this.  For example, would employers see both of our applications and just avoid them altogether, in the interest of preventing [in their minds] marital strife or perceived awkwardness?  I certainly hope that would not be an issue, that our applications would be judged independently on our qualifications, but one never knows.

Speech Therapy
We’re still waiting to hear from the therapist, but, after a third evaluation, Sir finally qualified for speech and language therapy services with First Steps, a state-funded program for kids birth through three in Missouri with very affordable sliding-scale fees.  Since he’s not all that far from three, we’ll also be starting the process to see if he will qualify to transition to the age three-and-up services, which are offered through the school district.

Longtail cargo bike
We’ve more or less decided on the Edgerunner.  We’re still playing with specs and final details (gearing, accessories, etc.), but we’ve moved to the “contacting a local bike shop to get things moving” phase.  We’ve done a lot of research, but making this large of a purchase without ever seeing, much less riding, the bicycle in question is more than a little nerve wracking.  Finalizing the purchase, really making it happen, will be a bit of a leap of faith, but such is life, I suppose.

Family bike options

After our recent longtail test rides, Matthew’s view was that we should just buy something — whatever choice we made would be good enough and we would most likely enjoy having the bike.  Worst case scenario, we could probably sell the bike for a decent price.

Longtails revisited
I agreed, to some extent, so I pulled together some prices and basic information for three longtails: Yuba Mundo (specifically, the Mundo NuVinci Lux), Surly Big Dummy, and Xtracycle Edgerunner.  I ruled out the Kona Ute, considered in my previous detailed comparison, due to the larger wheel size (bigger wheels equal higher center of gravity, meaning heavy loads are harder to balance).

I added the Big Dummy (previously ruled out due to price) back into the mix since it was one of only two longtails we were actually able to ride, and it seemed like it might have a slightly more aggressive geometry (i.e., be faster and more nimble, assets on longer rides and hills).

I’ve also read numerous good reports on Xtracycle’s new Edgerunner, which features a 20″ rear wheel, meaning the rear rack sits 6″ lower than the other longtails we’re considering.  As explained in the above-linked article, this “lowers the bike’s center of gravity and makes the loaded bike feel less unwieldy and top-heavy.”  As described, the Edgerunner seems to have many of the advantages (“a sportier, more nimble feel, which makes for a quicker-accelerating and more confidence-inspiring ride”) that made us reconsider the Big Dummy, but at a lower price point.

Photo from Splendid Cycles
Edgerunner, photo from Splendid Cycles

So once again, we crossed the Big Dummy off the list, and we were left with the Yuba Mundo NuVinci Lux and the Xtracycle Edgerunner, both of which would cost about $2500 (before tax), fully outfitted for our needs (rear child seat, longtail cargo bags, lights, center kickstand, etc.).  Gulp!

But what about midtails?
In the midst of these considerations, I read this post, singing the praises of the Kona MinUte, a midtail cargo bike.  We actually test rode, and had an opportunity to get a good deal on, a 2012 MinUte back in April, but I was pretty set on a longtail at the time.  The post on the MinUte, as well as this review of midtails in general, had me reconsidering.

While a longtail will fit on light rail cars (although getting it to/from the platform could be a challenge in some cases), it will NOT fit on bus racks, nor can it travel on Amtrak.  While I don’t often take combined bus/bike trips, having the option is appealing.  Also, a midtail really might be plenty of bike for our needs.

While the Kona MinUte may have been the one that got away, the midtail blog post had other inspiring rides, including this Workcycles Fr8.  I love that it has the option of a front seat for older kids.  I may have been sold on this bike, except that, with only eight speeds, I’m worried about how it will handle hills, of which we have our share.

Workcycles Fr8, fully decked out for passengers, photo from J.C. Lind Bike Co.
Workcycles Fr8, fully decked out for passengers, photo from J.C. Lind Bike Co.

And yet more options . . .
In addition to reading [cargo] bike blogs, I am part of a cargo bike Facebook group, Revolutions per Minute.  While it provides great inspiration, it’s really not helping me narrow my choices.

Someone recently posted information on the Circe Helios, a bike that can either be a tandem (with a rear seat that adjusts to fit riders as small a 3’6″, i.e., only four inches taller than Sir) or a longtail, depending on how you outfit it.  Brilliant!

Decisions, decisions
Our [temporary?] decision is that we will stick with what we have for now, using the IBert front seat until he outgrows it (any day now) and then switching to the trailer.  Since we haven’t used the trailer all that much, I made myself use it over the weekend, to see how I really felt about this option.

As far as general handling, speed, etc., pulling Sir in the trailer on my road bike felt pretty comparable to riding my hybrid (more upright, less-aggressive riding position) with Sir in the front seat (which is kind-of how I imagine riding one of the cargo bikes would be.

However, when it came to riding experience/fun factor, there was no comparison.  In a way, I’ve been spoiled by all of these lovely rides I’ve had with my beautiful, smiling boy in front of me, right between my arms, continuously and effortlessly interacting with one another as we travel by bike and take in the sights (hence the appeal of that Fr8 with the front seat).

While a rear-mounted child seat on either a mid- or longtail would not allow quite the same level of interaction as the front seat, it would have to be better than having my little passenger WAY the heck back there in the trailer.

The limited rider-passenger interaction, combined with the fact that, with his helmet on, Sir’s head is already brushing the screen cover on the trailer, may mean that this budget-friendly option’s days are numbered, almost before they’ve begun.

A pseudo bike date

Sunday night we had a long overdue date night.  I’d read about Fork & Stix, a new Thai restaurant, in one of the recent foodie magazines (don’t remember if it was Feast or Sauce), and it’s been high on my list since then.  The restaurant’s location just off The Loop meshed well with another item that was high on my to-do list: ride the Kona Ute [longtail bicycle] at Big Shark.

We arrived to a packed bike shop thirty minutes before closing time.  With no hope of getting help anytime soon, we hunted for the Ute and MinUte.  We finally found the MinUte, which I mistook for the full-out Ute, near the back of the shop.  After a few minutes of standing there drooling on the bike failed to draw any sales associates, Matthew went to hunt someone down, while I decided to take matters into my own hands.

The bike was up on a small rack, so I decided to take it down for a better look.  In the course of doing so, I discovered that the front tire was completely flat — couldn’t ride it like that.  Sensing closing time approaching, I wanted the bike to be ready to ride, so I grabbed a nearby floor pump and started attempting to refill the tire.  My do-it-yourself efforts finally drew the attention of one of the mechanics, who came over and said he’d take the bike back and get it ready to ride.  Fine by me.

After what seemed an age — I guess the tube wasn’t holding air, so he had to change it — he rolled out the MinUte, and we headed out for our test ride.


We had a few goals for this test ride: 1) Get me on the Ute; 2) see if the larger (20″) frame would work for me, since that frame size would be better for Matthew; and 3) see how the bikes felt with weight on the cargo racks.

We were two for three on those goals.  Unfortunately, after going nowhere for over a year, the Ute sold sometime in the month since Matthew rode it, so I didn’t actually get to ride a longtail.  The MinUte (i.e., mini-Ute, a regular bike with many of the heavy-duty cargo features of it’s larger sibling) gave me the chance to try the frame size (the 20″ was fine for me).

We then loaded the bike with human cargo, each taking a turn with the other as passenger on the rear rack.  An adult human passenger (especially with no foot rests or official hand-holds) is probably the trickiest cargo possible, with a high center of gravity and the natural inclination to react to, and attempt to compensate for, the bike’s movement, instead of leaving that task to the driver.  I enjoyed being a passenger, but felt pretty unstable operating the bike with Matthew on the back.


This really is the smaller of the two bikes.  The angle here makes it look extra long, but I really thought the MinUte was the Ute at first.  The panniers, which come standard with the bike, totally rocked.

Now, for the dinner part of the date.  Fork & Stix is a small Thai restaurant, specializing in northern Thai cuisine.  We started our meal with the vegetable tempura appetizer and an order of [two very tiny] spring rolls.


For our main course, we shared two dishes, Khao Soi (above), a soup which is a northern Thai specialty, and Pad Thai, a more familiar southern Thailand dish (all their other northern Thai dishes featured pork, so the Khao Soi was our main vegetarian option for trying northern Thai food).


Both dishes were quite tasty, and it was fun to try something new.  It was not the best Thai food ever (Matthew recommends a restaurant in Salt Lake City for this), but a good meal nonetheless.

I think our next Thai outing will be to King & I, a restaurant I’ve never visited, due to Matthew’s being less-than-impressed with the food on a visit many years ago.  Given recent reviews I’ve read, I think it’s worth another try.

I would have loved to cycle to the bike shop and our dinner destination, but a tight schedule that involved dropping Sir off at grandma’s, [Matthew] sneaking in a thirty-minute gardening blitz, and getting to Big Shark before they closed at five left no time for that.  In some situations you can travel faster on a bike than in a car, but this was not one of them.