Thursday, December 10, 2009

flat tire tip: match your valve with the tire logo

I acquired most of my bike maintenance skills at a lovely bike co-op called the bikerowave. One of the things that impressed me about the bikerowave was that there were so many knowledgeable volunteers, happy to share their knowledge with me. The things I learned there has probably saved me hundreds of dollars.

One volunteer there - was a persnickety old-ish man who was very particular in his tastes. He liked certain brands of bikes, in certain years... and poo-poo'ed everything else. Among his idiosyncrasies, was insisting that every time a tire was installed on a bike, that the logo from the tire match up with the valve stem.

When asked about this - he always replied that installing tires this way just "satisfied his aesthetic standards." To that end, it is a nice way to make everything is nice, and neat - if you think people are paying attention to the alignment of your tire logos... that is ; )

Only recently did I learn that there is another incredibly valuable reason for installing the tires on your bicycle this way.

It helps you diagnose flats!

Note the logo of the tire aligned with the valve

After 3+ years of commuting, I've noticed that the types of flats I get are more of the "slow + annoying" kind and less of the "fast/catastrophic" kind. The latter is often easy to diagnose the cause of the flat, e.g. nail, screw, huge piece of glass, tube explosion, etc.

The former (slow + annoying) can be somewhat difficult. If you find yourself getting flats for no apparent reason, there very well may be something embedded in your tire. A great way to find this out is to examine the tube after you remove it from your tire.

Pump up the tire and see if you can see, feel, or hear air coming out of it. For subtle and tricky flats, submerging the tube in a small basin of water will typically yield the source of the flat. Sometimes it takes a few passes through the water before you see the small bubbles trickling out.

Once you identify the problem in the tube, use your valve as a reference point and find the corresponding place on the tire where you think the origin of the flat is. This is almost impossible if you DON'T match the tire logo up with the valve.

This morning I got a flat, found the whole in the tube, then used the location of the tube to try to identify where the flat was coming from in my tire. It worked like a charm... there was a tiny piece of glass just barely poking through. Because I had the logo matched up with the valve, I was able to track down the source and remove the glass. Because it was so small, it may have been impossible to find the shard of glass by sheer visual examination or carefully running my finger through the inside of the tire.

So the next time you get a flat, line the logo (or writing) of the tire up with the valve. It'll help you prevent future flats by identifying the cause, faster!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

a tale of two roads/routes

A family bike ride can be made or broken by route selection. Saturday afternoon we went for a ride to a regional fast food establishment that people are kind of crazy about. Without much thinking (on my part) we took a major arterial road, with a bike lane to the restaurant. I take this road every day as part of my commute and find it very easy to ride. But riding with a bike trailer and spouse, I found it to be quite a different experience. Not nearly as enjoyable. I could see it in my wife's eyes that my hasty route selection had made for less than idyllic ride.

Cause let's face it... when we go for family rides we're all in search of that "blissful" ride with the sunshine, birds chirping, butterflies dancing, and all other utopian notions that accompany the fun that comes when the entire family is on the bike.

After we ate - I started to rethink our route home. While we could've easily retraced our steps and hustled home... I didn't want to do that. Sure, going back down the road with a bike lane was direct, but was that how I wanted to ride home? With very little effort, I devised a route that took us through the city center, and along a residential road almost all the way home. As you can see from the picture, the residential road took us slightly further south than we wanted, but the peaceful ride more than made up for the 1/4 mile detour. George squealed in delight on the way home. My wife added her vote of approval, the ride home was "the family ride" feel we were looking for.

Some thoughts for next time and family route selection:

Bike lanes are good for individual riding, commuting, and direct trips. They are not as nice for family riding because of traffic volume, and it is difficult, if not dangerous to ride two abreast.

Residential roads are nice. The traffic is slower, and cars expect to travel at slower speeds. We had a minivan drive patiently, slowly behind us for several blocks without trying to pass us (though they could have if they were in a rush). I doubt you'd get the same offer on a major street. The less direct/detour is far worth it. Let's face it, if you are on a family ride, are you really in a rush anywhere? The residential roads allow you to ride next to your family members in a much more calm environment.

Routing has never been easier with online mapping tools like google maps, google earth, and mileage tracking sites like gmaps pedometer (our route linked) that allow you to share your routes (or record them for future use).

What are your experiences with family bike route planning?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mud, Sweat and Gears

My new obsession is entertaining notions of family bike touring. To me, nothing sounds like more fun. I know that George is just barely knocking on 8 months old right now, but when he's eight years old - what are the possibilities? There are plenty people out there touring with their children, but finding information about these adventurous souls can be difficult sometimes.

Enter Bicycling Magazine stage left... While I love to roll my eyes every time I get this publication because it panders (too heavily) to roadies and the lyrca crowd. Every issue has one or two nuggets that are good to read.

Now this is a guy I can relate to. His wife isn't as hardcore as he is, though supportive. Three sons, 9, 7 and 1.

They started out in Portland and made it halfway across Canada, jumped on a plane and finished around Nova Scotia.

My favorite excerpt from the book is his account of eating the "Trucker's Paradise," the token "so disgustingly large dish that we'll give you an amazing prize for finishing it," ala the old "96'er" in the Great Outdoors. They ordered two! I'll let you find out for yourself what happens. From the small bit in the magazine, this seems like a lighthearted read and definitely worth your while if you are into family bike touring.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

another great resource for bikes & parents

For those of you who are looking to efficiently organize the copious amounts of information on blogs/websites (that you are interested in)... you've got to get yourself a google reader. Link
There is simply no better way to stay on top of all the websites you regularly read. In stead of stockpiling them all in your "toolbars menu", you just have one site to visit. It's amazing.

Anyway, my google reader frequently recommends sites I might like, and I found one that I'll definitely be reading frequently. It's called Bikes as Transportation.

The very first article I stumbled upon (and may be of interest to KBD readers) is an article about bike touring with an 18 month old. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this blog and see what kind of juicy morsels get stuck in the cracks.

One of my co-workers just bought a bobike and I hope to convince him to do a review and put pictures up of him and his cute daughter.

Stay tuned for upcoming blog posts on adjusting to cold weather riding and other fall adventures.

Monday, September 21, 2009

bruised knees, bruised egos

I saw this woman on my way into work the other day. I've seen her bicycling with her child before, and cursed myself for not catching a picture. This time I got it!

Some people would see this and say to themselves, or to the mother, "shame on you, exposing your child to risk."

Somewhere... somehow... bicycles and bicyclists allowed themselves to be portrayed, labeled and branded as risk taking imbeciles on par with adrenaline junkies who base jump and dive with sharks.

When you start bicycling with your children, then people really pull off their gloves and they let you know what a meth-smoking, irresponsible parent you are.

This post is grounded in a couple of experiences. First, my sister Dawn got yelled at by a bunch of people when she was bicycling, WITH her child, in the street. People told her she should be on the sidewalk. I could write a ten thousand word essay as to why bicycling on the sidewalk is no guarantee for safety, and why you are exposing yourself to additional risks that are not present on the street. There is a long standing belief that bicycles belong on the sidewalk, this is simply not true.

Children, yes - should learn to ride safely, both on the sidewalk and street and should certainly be monitored when learning to ride.

The other experience happened to Ashley and I. We went on a trip by bike to Costco and had to cross a busier street. We safely crossed the street, but had to stop in the middle of the median/center turn lane to wait for a few cars to pass. This woman looked at me like I was Abraham ready to sacrifice Isaac. She gave me the dirtiest look, and mouthed, "that is a baby."

As if I needed a reminder that I was transporting my first and only child around. George was not in traffic, nor was he in danger. But this woman really wanted us to know that she disapproved of us taking our baby on a bike ride.

These experiences, and others... have led me to believe that if you are going to be a part of any lifestyle or past time that isn't the norm, then be prepared for people to look down on you.

We live in such a risk averse, sterile, germaphobic, anti-bacterial world. Parents are scared of letting their child walk one block to school, meanwhile you can hear their arteries thickening as their poor child is neglected a basic human right - exercise and fresh air.

George is about 7 months old, and I'm already aware that I'm an example to him. I want to set an example that is one of courage - courage to live in a way that is healthy, happy, and rewarding. People will likely look down on us as I take him to school by bike, or pick him up from a sleepover on my bike. Part of me thinks it's jealousy, and an other part guilt. People know that they need to be living healthier lifestyles.

We know that we can't continue to consume gas the way we do. Our economy, the environment, our infrastructure - won't support it. We can't continue to shelter our children under the "guise" of safety by transporting them everywhere in a car.

I grew up in an era where I played with lead paint in my toys, where my mom breastfed me while she drove her car, and I walked to school.

While I'll always be concerned for the safety of my child(ren), I'll never equate safety with a car trip.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

bike trailer 101

Last weekend we had our first foray into bicycling with our child. Now this blog can be built on actual evidence, rather than "hearsay and conjecture," Lionel Hutz's favorite kinds of evidence. It was a total success, and I'd like to go over some of the nuts and bolts of the event, for anyone interested in recreating this experience.

First, the facts:

a. George is approximately six months old.
b. Our trailer is a Burley Bee
c. George's car seat is a Peg Perego Primo Viaggio

George - excited as I am?

Many people want to know, "how old does your child have to be to ride in a trailer?" The Burley website says that a child should be strong enough to hold their head up unassisted. Most of the reading out there says that trailers are intended for children as young as 10-12 months. It's really a floating figure, and if you have any doubts you can always consult with your child's pediatrician... also stated by Burley.

Because our Bee is designed for children a little larger, we decided to look into securing his car seat into the trailer. I didn't know how, or if this would work, so we were a little curious about the outcome.

It turns out that the Bee is designed really smart, and totally allows for all kinds of alterations to how you use it. With little effort, I quickly realized that securing the chair would be as simple as securing his chair when we use it in other cars, without the base.

When we use George's seat in our car, we just click it into the base. But when in other cars (when we haven't brought the base), it sits on top of the seat, and then you bring the lap part of the seat belt over George's lap, and into the two little slots on each side the seat, designed to secure the strap (picture below).

Overhead view of the car seat secured in the trailer. Note how the nylon strap holds the infant car seat in place

We did the same sort of method with the car seat in the trailer. We used a ratchet type nylon belt to loop in between the frame and up and over the car seat. The results were surprisingly sturdy. This allows you to quickly tighten and loosen the strap, which is important when trying to put your child in the trailer, or take them out. With very little effort and ingenuity I was able to fasten George's car seat in the trailer that made me completely certain it wasn't going anywhere.

Doubling the nylon strap around the frame allowed us to cinch the child seat in the trailer VERY securely

I would imagine that this type of set up would work well for most Burley's and other child trailers where the inner roll cage/frame is exposed.

Now that we've got security down, I want to look into enhancing visibility of the trailer for both day time and night time use. I've emailed the guys at Bike Trailer Shop and I'll let you know what I find out.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

a b(ee)iking we will go!

We finally took the plunge! We bought a near new Burley Bee on ebay. Unlike other people, I've had great luck on eBay (knock on wood). I bought it from a guy who had over 2000 transactions with a 100% approval rating. Good grief that guy is awesome, I thought my 16/100% status was robust. But I digress...

So why did I pick the Burley Bee you ask? Well, it's quite simple really:
  1. It is a Burley. I trust their products. I've seen them in action, and they are good enough to have spawned countless impostors. For me, that is the sign of a good product.
  2. It is their economical brand. In these tough economic times, you have to save somewhere
  3. It has everything you need, and nothing more. Can convert to a stroller, if you want, but is primarily a bike trailer. That's what we wanted. Some of the other trailers out there are much more customizable, but honestly, we already have a bob for everyday stuff + jogging, and I'll give you a $1M if we ever used something like this. I think you pay more for the ability to put all their fancy doo-dads on the trailer, but we're bike folk.
  4. Technically this should be a subset of 2, but we're still kind of toying with the idea of winning/acquiring a Madsen, so we didn't want to put all our eggs children in one basket trailer.
  5. It seats 1-2 kids. Just in case George has a sibling. : )

That's about it for the rationale. I'll let you know as soon as we get it. Pictures and adventures to come!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

KidsBikesDads goes to Portland...

Last week I went to Portland, the self professed bicycle capital of USA. While they may be oozing with bicycle infrastructure and culture, I know a few other Bike-friendly cities *cough* Boulder, Davis *cough* that might take issue with this claim.

City boosterism aside, Portland is GREAT for bicycling, especially in the heart of downtown. I was in town for the National Safe Routes to School conference. I was really stressed out, as not only was it my first national conference, but I was also presenting. Later, my stress would be compounded twelvefold as two of my bosses came and watched my presentation... but that is for another day.

As it pertains to this blog... my company's headquarters are in Portland - and they have a stable of bikes to choose from, to loan out to visiting friends and staff. I was given three options, a foldable bike, a hybrid, or the cargo bike.

CARGO BIKE! The utility bicyclist in me couldn't refrain. What's more, the bike turned out to be a Madsen. Madsen cargo bikes are beautiful... but I always wondered how they handled.

As I set out on the office, I had quite a big load to haul. Not quite Madsen worthy (I hear they can haul 600 lbs!), but still a load big enough that you wouldn't want to carry it on your back. In LA I'd look like a pretty big fool, rolling around on a cargo bike in a shirt and tie. Not in Portland, I blended right in...

Poor attempt at trying to capture what the back of the bike looked like en transit. I rode from our office to the conference. But where would I park such a bike, one might wonder?

Safe Routes Conference planning to the rescue! Not only is bicycle parking ample in Portland, but special events parking is double the pleasure. These handy little fixtures are portable, space efficient, and provide parking for about 10 bikes per stable, I reckon. Locking up was a sinch, as the Madsen has a clever design where they've added a diagonal support that stems from the seat tube to the horizontal bucket support part of the frame. It was the perfect height for convenient locking.

The Madsen was super responsive, and easy to ride. I quickly concluded that my wife would be able to handle this guy with little difficulty, especially with our littl'n in the back. The shifting was clean and the breaks were more than strong.

One of the things I really liked about Portland, was that the majority of their bike shops cater to transportational bicyclists. Cargo bikes, fenders, panniers, racks... were all abundant. In many of the shops I went into, the road bikes were in the back, with the more utilitarian designs up front. Can you imagine this $3,200 Bullit sitting out front of a store in LA? Forget about it.

Another sight that brought tears to my eyes... bike corrals. Bike corrals are so awesome for many reasons. But a couple that come to mind:

  1. they symbolically show that bikes belong on the street.
  2. they also show how much more space efficient accomodating bicycle parking is compared to cars
  3. they display a city's willingness to put other modes of transportation above cars.
There's probably more, but those are the ones I like. In my profession, we kind of roll our eyes every time someone mentions Portland, as if we've never heard of it or that we weren't aware of how great it was. However, my trip reminded me just how much they deserve the accolades... and also how badly I want to win this contest...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

dads: what (not) to wear on the bike

Bicyclists - often critiqued for what they are wearing. In this case, it's more of what they should be wearing more of. Snapped this picture surreptitiously on my way home from work the other day.

There were several things about the "dude where's the beach" twins that irked me. One was that I kept passing them, only to stop at a light that they would run. When the light inevitably turned, I'd catch up with them, pass them, only to have the process repeated.

It's one thing to run a light when no one's around, or when it's dark, or both. It's quite another to do it when another bicyclist is waiting there, patiently, lawfully... for the light to turn. It's this kind of irrational behavior that give bicyclists a bad name.

Of course, if flippant traffic etiquette were their only infraction maybe I could let them pass. But their get ups, or lack thereof - I found to be particularly distasteful. I suppose it could've been worse if they were flabby and hairy, but muscular and glistening, riding around (as twins) is a little contrived, don't you agree?

For everyone's sake - put a shirt on. I don't care if it's a stretched out company polo from your 5 week stint at kinkos. Just cover it up when you are on your bike. If they were on a beach path I think I'd give them a pass, but not 8 miles inland.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

fancy new baby tote'n machine

Tonight I was riding home and I noticed this fancy contraption sitting in the front window of a store called Sporteve. I hadn't noticed this store before, so I googled them. Sporteve is L.A.'s first active wear store to understand women's needs.

Pretty shnazzy eh? It appears that the name of this jalopy is a Zigo. Zigo is the first mom or dad powered family transportation. What a great slogan! Now that's the kind of company I can get behind. This looks similar to a product I spotted several months ago in Santa Monica. This one looks a little more sporty, and probably a little less expensive. Retail on this bad boy is about $1300.

Maybe this weekend I'll hop over to Sporteve and take a spin. From their website - they say you can put even newborns in this guy. George and I will DEFINITELY go check this out. Stay tuned for more info.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

it takes a village

Riding a bicycle for transportation can be a daunting task... just as an individual. When you throw kids, partners & spouses into the mix, bicycling can seem Everest-ean. We've drug our heels a little bit at biting the bullet. Often times we wish there was a community and people we could dial into who've gone before us - or at least meet with fellow minded folk about biking with their kids.

CICLE to the rescue!
image = Streetfilms

Several months ago... CICLCE announced the formation of a Bicycling with Kids Committee. I'll be serving on this committee, along with several other volunteers highly motivated to make it easier, and more enjoyable to ride a bike with your child.

The Kids and Bikes committee has had one organizational meeting thus far, and will be having another meeting this Saturday. If you are interested in being a part of this committee or CICLE in general, please contact me!

This is a very exciting development for people who want a community of like minded bike/family folk. I'm really grateful to be a part of it.

Friday, May 29, 2009

bicycle touring - with kids?

Right now I'm reading this book - it came to me by way of a latent endorsement from a friend and fellow bicycle enthusiast.  I'm really really enjoying it.  I've tried a couple of books as my "before I fall asleep books" and none of them stuck.  I had kind of been in a rut since reading East of Eden - which is so amazing that it's somewhat difficult to immediately transition to another work.

There is something so honest and endearing about Barbara Savage's account of her bicycle trek across the world with her husband.

Then when I read on the back of the book that she had been tragically killed while training for a triathalon... it quadrupled the "sieze the day" - ness of the book.

The one issue I continually think of when reading this book and considering whether or not Ashley and I could do something like this is, "what do people do with their children?"

Obviously adventures aren't just for the childless - so what are we to do?  While the once in a lifetime trip might have to wait untill all the little-ns are out of the house - how can we/I scratch the bicycle-touring itch with young children?

Paul Cooley over at CarFree Family has taken several-day trips, with his two children, with much success.

I'm kind of hoping to get out as soon as the end of the summer on a little overnight bicycle trip.  George will only be 5-6 months at this point, so it will need to be something pretty mild.  But by next summer you can count on a real hum-dinger of a trip.

Just wanted to get this out of my system cause I've been thinking about this a lot lately and when I put it in writing, somehow... it makes me more accountable.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

getting the little guy on a bike

So George may not be ready for the training wheels just yet, or to try out the new helmet that a friend gave him - but I see little point in waiting until George is one before we hit the road. I was reading the most recent issue of Momentum and there was a little blurb about biking with children. Mostly it was run of the mill advice about waiting until they can hold their head up, and how most child helmets are only for kids aged 1 and up.

I think we are going to get the Burley Bee. The BikeTrailerShop has them for a very reasonable price, and they seem to be safe and easy to use.

The Momentum article also mentioned the Burley Snuggler -a nice adapter for infants to fit inside trailers. While the Burley site says that they aren't specifically for bicycling, they can be used for jogging and walking. See - if it can be used for jogging then it can definitely be used for leisurely rides around the neighborhood. We'll just take it slow.

In other news - look at this contraption, the Taga.

According to the Taga website, the Taga is Taga is a multifunctional urban vehicle, uniquely designed to suit the needs of today's parents and children. Taga combines the benefits of a premium stroller and a carrier bicycle to create a new transportation modality.

Leave it to the Dutch to come up with something innovative and cool looking to tote children around. It'd probably cost you an arm and a leg to get it shipped over here - but man you'd be the envy of the block in one of these bad boys.

Well, maybe not your whole block, but I'd envy you.

Friday, April 24, 2009

tote'n the little guy (or gal) around

The time will soon be at hand when George, Ashley and I are capable of going out together - by bicycle. Obviously this day can't come soon enough. I've been kicking around many solutions to the problem - and this is what I've come up with so far.

If you want to take your child out while they are still in infancy - your best bet is probably a bakfiets retrofitted to fit an infant car seat (see my friend Josef's bike), or pull a similar maneuver in a bike trailer. While neither are endorsed by companies or their crafty lawyers - there is mounds of anecdotal evidence to suggest that you can safely travel with your child before they can hold their head up (the nebulous time most child - bike related gear gives you the go-ahead).

So what am I going to do? Several people have asked me for my opinions on the subject... but first I wanted to show you some of the bikes and contraptions that make this decision difficult:

For your viewing pleasure I've divided them into apperati that I'll likely acquire, and the ones that are unlikely. Unfortunately for me - the "Unlikely" category are also the most coveted. Big Time.

We are probably going to start out with a Burley trailer. Why Burley? They seem to be the right combination of price, design & aesthetic. There are some other child trailers out there, but they are either super obscure, or too expensive. Burley is an old name in the bicycle industry and my friend has one of their utility trailers which performed well on our trip from Los Angeles to San Diego.

If you are looking to buy a trailer - might I recommend these guys? I like people who specialize. The Bike Trailer Shop is a great online resource for all your bike trailer needs. I've purchased several items from them, with excellent customer service. Because they are specialists, they can give you great advice for any bike-trailer related question you might have. I would also like to mention that their prices are almost always the lowest in town... and by town I mean the internets.

I haven't purchased a trailer yet... and if there are any generous bike-trailer reps out there that want me to test their product - I'm your man.

Once I do - I'll get to work rigging it so George can hit the mean streets of LA with Ashley and I. How else will he get a bitchin' summer tan come May? We're already supposed to have a good base tan and we're dreadfully behind. ; )

Stay tuned for more info on taking your baby in a bike trailer.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

park it, dad.

One problem facing bicyclists is finding a good place to park their bicycle.  We live in Culver City - and I must confess that while the bicycle parking is often convenient - more often than not it is substandard.  Most of these racks are what we in the industry would call "wheel benders."  Basically, they only support a front or rear wheel if you lock your bike the way the rack was meant to be used.  Not only is this dangerous for theft reasons, but it also makes your bicycle vulnerable to damage from being knocked over while un-attended.  Here are some wheel benders through out Culver City:

Downtown - Culver Plaza

City Hall

Culver City Aquatic Center

Veteran's Park



While most of the parking is substandard, there are some good racks out there.  These racks are also downtown.  What I like about them is that they are minimalist, space efficient, and support your bicycle while allowing it to be locked securely.

Here they are again.

A word of caution.  Bike theft is on the rise.  If something isn't secured by a lock - you are running the risk of it getting taken.  Especially with the economy in a funk, people are looking to make an easy dollar anyway they can.  Don't let your bike be a part of that cycle.

Also - don't compromise and park at a crappy rack where your bike isn't secure.   Ride around and find a light post, parking meter, bench, or something secure that will keep your bike safe.

If you know of any additional places in Culver City or Los Angeles that have substandard bicycle racks, shoot me an email here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a bike for the whole family?

Last week my wife and I were desperately trying to kill time - waiting for her to go into labor. Now that our son is here, I've got to get serious about this kids bikes dads business. He'll I'll be chomping at the bit to get out and ride together before I know it.

While perusing the streets of Santa Monica - we stumbled into a small studio space with these beautiful bikes pictured below:

The story goes - the seller made a trip to Copenhagen and noticed the beautiful bikes and wanted to distribute them here in the United States. They are called Trio Bikes. The genius of their design is that the Trio Bike can be converted from family carry-all, to normal bicycle, and to large baby stroller.

The front portion can carry up to 170 lbs safely, so for most people that could include a spouse/partner in front with child while the other spouse provides the legs. I was told that this weight limit could be exceeded, so long as the spouse on the bike seat is heavy enough to counter-balance the weight up front.

I took this little guy for a spin and was very impressed at how light it was. The Trio Bike rivals a Bakfiets in functionality, but seems to be a fraction of the weight. The Bakfiets are probably superior in quality/durability, but the Trio can be deconstructed to take up significantly less space than a Bakfiets.

One handling issue that needed to be addressed was the front disk brake. The bike itself is equipped with a coaster brake and a front disk brake. The brake was very squishy and I would not trust it with a fully loaded cargo. I'm sure that this could be resolved by any knowledgeable bike mechanic - so do not fret.

One additional feature of the Trio bike that was of particular interest to me was the infant seat adapter. I have yet to see a bike that safely addresses the needs of parents and families who seek to bicycle with infants. Josef at Flying Pigeon did a quality job McGyvering a child seat into his Bakfiets - but for those of us who lack the capital to push $2-3K around to get this dream off the ground... possibilities appear limited.

I've heard of some individuals procuring an infant seat adapter into a standard Burley-type trailer. I haven't found these for myself yet as my research has been cursory at best, but that is probably the option we'll be going if we can find something reputable and safe.

Back to the Trio - the aesthetics are quite nice and you have to give a tip of the cap to them for the functionality of its de/re-constructability. I prefer the rugged utilitarian aesthetic of the Bakfiets, but I also lack the space and or cash to store this type of vehicle.

Any of you have experience with these types of issues? If you are interested more in more info on the Trio bike let me know. I took the guy's card, but can't find it at present.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Advice from the pros:

Interview with Paul Cooley – Father, Bike-enthusiast, and writer of the Car Free Family Blog.

Making the transition to living a car-lite or car-free lifestyle can be an intimidating notion.   Fortunately – the Internet has made it possible for like-minded individuals to connect, from around the world.

I had the opportunity to chat with Paul Cooley of Car-free Family.  Paul is a writer, stay-at-home dad, and dedicated blogger.  Paul has a Masters Degree from St. Johns College in Eastern Classics.

KBD – Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions about the car-free lifestyle. How long has your family been car-free?

Paul Cooley - We sold our car on May 5, 2004, when my children were two and four years of age.  We did however, slowly transition to using the car less and less as a family, relying on our Burley trailer and the city bus system to get around.  And there had been times in my life previously where I had gone for stretches without owning a car, so it wasn't really such a sudden or dramatic transition.

KBD - What are the biggest challenges for a car-free family?

PC - One of the things I didn't like about owning a car was that I would use it when I became frustrated with the children.  At the time, they were younger, and so I would drive around hoping they would fall asleep in their car seats.  (I am the at-home-parent).  I know, of course, what a horrible waste of gas that is.  I shudder to imagine what the collective impact on carbon emissions result from parents trying to get their children to nap.  However, though it was not the most ethical use of a motor vehicle in the world, I would still use it for that because the car was there, and because I think we're trained, in this society, to put ourselves in motion when we are feeling frustrated.


Now, when I'm feeling frustrated with being home with the kids, we have to go out and bicycle.  That is a much better way to dispel frustration.  However, there are times when I wish we could just drive up into the mountains or drive up to a lake.  There are places public transportation doesn't go and that would be too difficult to reach on a bicycle laden with two children plus food, water, etc.  That cultural expectation of being able to get wherever you want to go in an absurdly short period of time does not automatically vanish when you sell your car.

I also did a lot of river running and backpacking before I had children, and when I had a car.  That's a big part of my identity.  Now, I'm trying to shift that over into bicycle touring, but I really do have a love of wilderness travel that isn't assuaged by riding a bicycle full of camping gear down a busy highway.  I really should budget in a few more car rentals a year for taking my kids to the backcountry.  (We've rented a car twice in the last four-and-a-half years).


Most of the things people think of, as challenges --buying food, bicycling on snowy roads, riding on cold days -- are really just a matter of buying the right equipment.

KBD - Would you share with us one experience that you had (as a car-free family) that made you think, "see, if only other families had this type of experience then maybe they could do it to?"

PC - When the kids were three and five, we did a bicycle tour up into the mountains on our Bike Fridays.  The trip was probably close to fifty miles.  My daughter, who was the five-year-old, rode on the tandem the entire way, eight hours on the bicycle.  She was amazing.  My son, who was only three, bicycled the first ten miles, took a break in the Burley trailer, and then got back on the bike for the last fifteen mile climb up into the mountains.  I had not idea that my children would be that capable of bicycling on a long ride, though to be honest, they didn't contribute much to the work of hauling everything uphill with their pedaling.  That was one long grind for my wife and me, but it really showed us that the possibilities were endless.

KBD - Why did you start your blog, Car-freeFamily?

PC - I started my blog in January 2005, mainly because I found other similar blogs and listservs about being car-free inspirational.  I wanted to document that it was possible to be car-free and have children.

KBD - How do your children feel about bicycles?

PC - Both of my children love bicycles.  My daughter, who is now nine, can now ride almost anywhere on her own bicycle.  My son rides his own bicycle as often as he can convince me to allow him, but research shows that nine is about the age when a child's cognitive development and peripheral vision have developed to the point where they can navigate traffic effectively, so I usually don't allow him to ride places where the traffic is heavy. My son once told the public librarian, "I'm not a McDonalds, car, and television sort of boy; I'm a science, bicycle, and library sort of boy."

KBD – To close - What small, digestible chunks of advice would you give to families who are considering making the car-free adjustment?  Is there anything that you would've done differently?

PC - Katie Alvord's book, "Divorce Your Car," provides a wonderful overview of the problems associated with car culture and the various avenues you can take to avoid it.  That book, in conjunction with the Car-free listserv at Yahoo groups made me feel I had a community backing my decision to get rid of the car.  Human beings need community support, and getting rid of your car will be looked at as odd by many people, though the number of people we know in town who admire our decision is surprising.  Ken Kifer's bike pages are also a wonderful resource.


If you're planning on switching to bicycling as your transportation, it is well worthwhile to take a safety course from the League of American Bicyclists.  Many bicyclists put themselves in harm's way through trying to avoid danger.  Bicyclists need to assert their right to the road -- without being pushy or obnoxious -- and follow all the rules and regulations motorists follow.  At the very least read "Urban Bikers' Tips and Tricks."  That's a good short course on being safe on a bicycle.


If you do not already own a bicycle you love, I would also advise doing a lot of research on bicycles online rather than going to your local bike shop right away.  While there are some great bike shops out there, many of them sell mainly racing bikes or not-so-great mountain bikes, or great mountain bikes with full suspension, but you don't really need that.  I'm inserting my own prejudice here, but I really love touring bikes for commuting, (not to mention for touring itself).  A good page, though not updated, for information is  That was my original porthole to finding bicycle information on the web after a disastrous experience with my LBS.  For most everyday use, it's also hard to beat an Xtracycle.  While I now own a fancy touring bike, my Xtracycle bears the brunt of the work around here.  I can haul both children on it; carry groceries, one hundred pounds of dog food, almost anything that needs to be carried.  And for tandem riding with children, Bike Friday offers some of the best tandems at a reasonable price.  Don't be discouraged by what you see on the floor of a bike shop, there's some great bikes out there for people who want to haul stuff and base their lives around bicycles instead of automobiles.  You just need to know where to look.  (Consequently, I might add, we've spent a lot of money on bikes and bike stuff over the last five years.  I'm not sure if our decision has saved us money at all, but we feel better about the money spent).


The only thing I would do differently, perhaps, is schedule in some car rentals each year.  It would be good to go canoe the San Juan River again, or go climb a fourteener in Colorado.  I miss doing those things, but my not doing them probably has as much to do with having young children as not owning a car.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

rain - strategy revisited

After my experience yesterday,  I made a few adaptations for the rain this morning.

Monday my hands were very cold - for some reason I opted out of wearing my bicycling gloves.  In my head I thought they'd just get wet and magnify the cold.  While that is true, they also provide a buffer between your metal handlebars which get really cold - so even when wet they can provide nominal protection, not to mention protection in the event of fall.

Also on Monday, my feet were totally soaked and my saddle got a little wet, even through the cover.   Plastic bags to the rescue!

I wrapped my saddle in a Target bag, man those things are awesome.  I then put the cover over the saddle and to my delight the saddle was dry as a bone when I got to work.

I also put cheapo Ralphs bags over my wool socks, tied them around my ankles and secured them with reflective ankle straps to keep my feet dry-er.  Those worked ok...  I noticed that the bottoms of my socks weren't wet, but the tops were.  The weak link must be around the ankle soemwhere.  I'll need to experiment with bigger bags.

Finally, I wore fleece mittens over my bike gloves.  Even though there was constant rain, they kept my hands relatively warm and dry.  I'll be doing this again, for sure.

If you are wondering what the combination of plastic bags on your feet, ankle reflectors, and wearing a hood underneath your helmet looks like - imagine some sort of bicyclist refugee in the Kevin Coster epic bomb, Water World.

Still wrestling with the glasses issue.  Not sure what is the best method there.

In other news - George is less than one month away from being born.  He'll be ready for a trailer just in time for summer.  Can't wait.

Monday, February 16, 2009


My primary outer-layer that I wear during rain was once described as water-resistant.  I think it is more functionally described as water-apathetic

I've been reluctant to actually get a rain jacket because of the "trapped in a rubber bag" sensation it produces - but these last couple weeks of rain have me thinking otherwise.   Of course, then it creates a monsoon of sweat on the inside of the jacket.  There really is no compromise, is there?

Unless of course you are willing to spend a small fortune. Nuts to that.

Monday, February 9, 2009

more advice on biking when pregnant

Marion Rice, writer at BikePortland chimes in on the discussion.  She's previously written on topics we're interested in here at kids.bikes.dads, namely how to bike with deal with kids who don't want to bike.  I'll put her on the list of people to contact for future ideas.

She writes a regular column titled family biking - should be a good resource.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

comfortable doesn't have to be ugly

There are various reasons people feel like bicycling isn't a practical form of transportation. One of them is finding a bike that is both comfortable and efficient. That is why many of us drive cars for our primary mode of transportation, because they are comfortable and it is familiar. While comparing bicycles with cars is kind of a fruitless task - it is helpful to know that there are things you can do to get the best of both worlds (comfort and efficiency/speed) out of bicycles.

On one hand, beach cruisers and mountain bikes can be very comfortable to ride - but their designs make them less appealing for more than short trips. Beach cruisers often lack gearing that allows you to travel at a nice speed, and mountain bikes have wide, knobby tires which greatly reduce efficiency on the road.

On the other hand, road bikes are built for speed and efficiency, but are sometimes less comfortable because they require a more aggressive riding position. By aggressive, I mean they require you to lean forward out toward your handlebars (as opposed to a beach cruiser which allows you to sit perfectly straight).

A good way to get both comfort and efficiency is by slightly modifying a road bike. I've taken my 1989 330 Trek and converted it from an entry-level road bike - to a much more comfortable city bike.

My Trek as I bought it - made it more ideal for "racing" or recreational riding where speed was of the essence. It featured "drop" handlebars which allow riders to get in aerodynamic positions. It also had a sport saddle which are typically lighter in weight, thus making it easier to ride at faster speeds. The shifters are also located on the downtube. While this is not the common practice now, this was the prominent design for most racing bicycles from the late 70's to the early 90's.

I've made several changes to my bike that make it really, really fun to ride in the city. First, I changed the handlebars from drops to mustache. For me, this provides a much more comfortable braking position than typical drop handlebars, and their design also allows me to sit more upright.

I also replaced the stem that had a downward degree slope with an upward one. This places my handlebars at a much higher level, making them essentially even with my saddle. Again, this puts me in a very comfortable riding position.

I've also switched the downtube shifters to bar-end shifters. These are are a real dream come true. I was used to downtube shifters, and had become somewhat proficient at shifting, but I did not enjoy the position it put me in when I had to shift, because you have to reach down and take your hand(s) off the handlebar. Bar-end shifters allow you to just slightly move your hand to shift - easily going about your business.

Finally - I sacrificed the weight of the saddle and got a Brooks leather saddle. What I sacrificed in weight, I more than made up in aesthetics and comfort. Brooks saddles are a financial investment, but properly maintained they will last a lifetime. They have a ravenous following with little design modifications in the past century they have been making them. Something must be right.

Finally, I added fenders. Mine are nothing fancy, and I've already put them to good use as it's rained a lot this past week. Fenders help protect your bike from road grime during the rain, and they also spare you from the dreaded rooster-tail.

With a few modifications - you can transform a road bike into a great commuter-errand bike. I still would like to put a front/rear rack on it - but I haven't found the bargains I'm looking for.

What changes/improvements to your bike have you made that has made it more enjoyable to ride? Anything I neglected?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

iPhone app review: The Bike Computer

For quite some time I've wanted a bike computer. Not because I'm into watts, ohms, joules, or whatever it is those fancy things measure. More out of curiosity/convenience. I keep track of all the miles I ride and put it into a spreadsheet. For everyday computing and tallying, I use Gmaps Pedometer. It works great. They recently upgraded the interface so the path automatically stays within the streets. Very cool.

But sometimes you don't feel like going back and rethinking every twist and turn you took, just to find out the mileage you rode, right?

iPhone to the rescue! It's quickly becoming apparent that every day applications are being created for the iPhone that make life unbelievably convenient - and this is one of them. I've found another use for my precious!

There are several bike related applications for the iPhone, but this one was free and the interface seemed to look pretty nice, so I signed up. To use this application, you need to create an account at EveryTrail. This allows the bike computer to record your statistics/ride, and export it to your computer. When you login, you can then review your ride, keeping track of elevation, average speed, and all other types of things. It's quite a nifty feature.

For all its convenience, bells + whistles... the application isn't perfect. So, for those looking for atomic-clock accuracy, you're better off with an actual bike-computer. The application relies on the GPS function of your phone and updates the computer with your position, relative to time elapsed.

When I reviewed some of my routes, it shows quite a bit of meandering when I'm supposedly stopped at a light. To make up for this, sometimes it shows my maximum speed at well over 50 miles per hour. While I'm certainly an experienced cyclist - I know I'm not riding that fast.

Utilizing this feature also requires that you mount your iPhone on to your bicycle so that you can view it. There are several affordable mounts on the market, but I can't speak for their security or durability. I have serious qualms about mounting a $300 electronic device on my bike. I'm not sure about the rattling, as well because I ride at night - I'm afraid it might be a neon sign inviting a mugging.

So when I've used it - I just slipped it in my phone pouch mounted on the front strap of my messenger bag.

So to review - the pros
  • It's free
  • It's easy to use
  • Great web interface
  • Fancy features provided by EveryTrail, including watching the progress of your ride in sped up time
  • Very nice display on the screen
the cons
  • Poor accuracy
  • Risks inherent in mounting your iPhone to your bike
  • Sucks up battery
All in all, I think this is a fun application and great for a nascent bike-statistics nerd. I think the optimal use for this app is if you are going on a social ride and are interested in keeping track of the wild goose chase that is often your route.

bicycling with your baby, before they are born

This is my wife Ashley. I love this picture - it captures one of my favorite things about my wife - her sense of adventure. She wasn't wild about wearing my old helmet, but she was definitely up for a bicycle adventure last memorial day... but I digress.

As I discussed in the previous post, I first wanted to address the variant of bicycling with kids I'm most experienced with, bicycling with them before they are born.

When we found out that Ashley was pregnant - one of the first things Ashley wanted to know was what types of exercise she could still participate in. Ashley was/is a regular runner - but felt nervous about keeping up that type of regimen with an ever expanding belly. We checked with our real life Dr. - but not before we consulted with our favorite Doctor, Dr. Doogie Howser WebMd. Because much of the pregnancy advice out there is anecdotal, we wanted to be sure that we wouldn't risk the health of Junior.

Most doctors say that low impact exercise is the best, and specifically mention bicycling. Bicycling is good on the knees and back, and doesn't bounce your belly around.

Another thing to consider is the heart rate of you or your spouse/partner. Very intense aerobic exercise causes your heart rate to increase - and at certain levels a high heart rate runs the risk of limiting the blood supply to your baby. When bicycling, avoid sprints or long climbing. Bicycling while pregnant should lean toward the recreational side.

That being said, we did embark on a 155 mile trek from Los Angeles to San Diego when Ashley was three months pregnant. The first trimester of pregnancy is widely known as "the exhaustion" phase, and Ashley handled it like a champ. She was a pretty regular rider, so that helped. When we later told our Danish doctor about our bike trip he quipped, "I think its great, so many Americans are afraid to exercise when they get pregnant. That's why there are so many fat people in this country."

Generalizations from Europeans aside - this was a pretty safe thing to do. Bike touring is different from road racing. Touring is relaxed pace riding, stopping frequently for rest, bathroom breaks, eating, exploring, etc. We brought tons of snacks and water. If you are early in your pregnancy - definitely don't take a bicycle tour off the table.

Most doctors and web-experts say that pregnant women should be cautious on bicycles later on in their pregnancy. When the belly gets big, balance becomes an issue. Obviously, balance is the essence of riding a bike. This is a case by case issue of course. We have made a few small trips around the neighborhood, and Ashley is knocking on eight months.

So to recap:
Bicycling when pregnant = YES!
Things to watch out for... heart rate + balance.

Exercise helps with stress, not to mention the fresh air (yes even in LA) can do wonders if you are starting to get cabin fever. I'm hoping Ashley will comment and set me straight if I have misrepresented her in anyway.

Do any of you have experiences with bicycling + pregnancy? If so - please share!

Monday, January 26, 2009

welcome to kids. bikes. dads.

Hi. My name is David Pulsipher. Welcome to my blog. I've had a few blogs in the past but this one is of particular focus, so I felt like it deserved it's own, unique url as opposed to being forced to merge into a larger conglomerate blog.

Why are you writing this blog?

Good question fictitious roleplayer! I'm writing this blog to chronicle my personal experiences as they intersect with child-rearing and bicycles. I'd also like this to be a modest clearinghouse for other parents to share their experiences with getting their kids into bicycling at every stage, from newborn until teenager.

Who are you and what qualifies you to speak on this subject?

Jeez, you sure are pushy for a non-existing entity - but nonetheless another top-notch question. Well if there's anything that wikipedia has taught us, you don't actually have to have any expertise on a subject to write about it. But... I have some familiarity with the matter so here's my curriculum vitae as it pertains to kids, bikes & dads.

I have a masters in Urban Planning from UCLA. While there, I studied bicycle & pedestrian design. I now work for one of the top firms in the country in that discipline, Alta Planning + Design. Every day, I try to help communities make it easier for people to walk, bike, and take public transit. I really feel that the more time people spend out of their car, the happier they'll be.

I'm a Steering Committee member for a non-profit group called, C.I.C.L.E. (Cyclists Inciting Change through Live Exchange.) We focus on educating people on how to make the bicycle a bigger part (or sole means) of their transportation. We provide educational resources, training and a community of like minded individuals to those who are looking to live a car-lite or car-free life.

Recently, I became a League Certified Instructor through the League of American Bicyclists. This is the only nationally recognized educational program for teaching people how to ride bicycles safely.

I'm a full time bicycle commuter, and am thoroughly a bike nerd.

I'm very happily married and my wife and I are expecting our first child in less than two months.

So as you can deduct I'm maybe a little lopsided when it comes to experience. I know bicycles pretty well, but I'm a little skimpy when it comes to the dad part. I'm hoping that this blog will speak to those who are in similar positions, as well as be a place for people to share what they've learned in retrospect.

I plan on reviewing every child-bicycle related object known to man, as well as keep track of the adventures me and the little guy go on.

Ultimately, I hope this place can serve as a place to inspire people to use bicycles to transport and enjoy time with their children.

My first series of posts will discuss bicycling with your children... before they are born. If you have any questions, thoughts or ideas please email me (see profile). Until then... ride safe.