Thursday, December 16, 2010


A good friend of mine is living in Tokyo, and took a picture of this fancy "mama chari"

Mama chari translates into "mom bike." I don't know if adding the prefix "mom" to it makes it somehow... less cool (like mom jeans or something), but this is a rad bike. My friend says that this is on the higher end of bikes - just the fact that there is a market for these and that they can bee seen so casually is awesome. Look at the awesome front and back seats for kids.

I mean I know that there are people here in the US that have all sorts of fancy kid toting bikes but to see them casually on the street is a rarity. I lived in the second biggest city in the US for four years and saw a bakfiets once... and that was when I went to a convention for bike nerds. Cool things like this just don't float around.

Which brings me to another point, it's quite awesome that Japan, a dense, hyper-modernized country has embraced the bicycle. We often think that bicycles are for the quaint europeans with the quasi-feudal lifestyles. Even though that's not the case, we all know of Japan's propensity to adopt/generate technology and despite this, bicycles are abundant. Not just crude monstrosities for single dudes, but high end bikes for middle class folk. I would love for the bike industry to get to that point in the US. We are getting there. Every year more bike companies are offering more townie/commuter versions, and that is great.

Another awesome thing I was told... is that this bike wasn't even locked up. Japan has a very trusting nature and not locking bikes is a very common occurrence. I don't know if I'd ever get to the point where I'd feel good about leaving my bike unlocked, but it is encouraging to know that there are places where people can be trusted not to steal something.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

winter essentials #1: balaclava

Balaclava, not to be confused with baklava, which is a Greet delicacy and absolutely delicious. I'm talking about the winter headwear that can function as a cap, full on face protection or something in-between. I picked up a nice fleece-number, made by turtle fur at the sportsman wearhouse for $9.99. What's nice about this, is that it easily fits underneath my helmet and can vary in its level of protection, on the fly.

Below is an artistic creation of what I may look like with a balaclava on:

So far, it's been a very nice piece of equipment.   Other things to discuss in upcoming posts:  helmet choice, goggles, bikes.  Stay tuned, and ride safe.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

winter commuting

Winter commuting is finally here. So far, it really hasn't been that different from my California days.  Sure, I've made a few gear/clothing alterations - but the excitement and adventure is why many of us bike commute.  For those of you who are new to or are considering winter commuting, here are some of my tips thus far.

Ear/hand protection are key.   So far I've ridden in low 20's weather in nothing more than a long sleeved shirt and a light windbreaker and have been more than comfortable.  You really don't need a lot of torso protection, you generate a lot of heat while biking.   I use some snowboarding gloves that go high up on the wrist, that way I don't lose any heat.

Deflate your tires about 5-10 psi.  I got this trick from Urban Velo - if you are like me and ride your tires at about max psi, the thinking is by slightly decreasing the air pressure in your tires, you allow more of the tire to be in contact with the road.

Light it up.  Just like winter driving, any time you have to use your windshield wipers, you should have your lights on. I have four front lights on my winter bike, and three rear lights.  It probably wouldn't hurt to upgrade to a reflective vest as well.  People are going to need as much time as possible to see you, so give them that opportunity.

Low Ride.  Take it easy.  I got this tip from my co-worker, who's been commuting in Montana for four years.  He recommends lowering your seat post a little so you can put your feet solidly on the ground at a moment's notice.  Any slipping starts and your feet go down.

That's it for now, I'm still experimenting with snow pants, thermal underwear, wool socks, boots, goggles (which seem like a necessity because the snow STINGS when it hits your eyes), and other things.  Stay tuned for more tips and tricks in the winter months.  We also have to figure out to get our little man out on the bike, and I'm thinking it will come with some serious winterization of our burley bee.

Stay tune for more. Until then, ride safe and often.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hiatus - over

Hey guys,

I wanted to quickly apologize for the delinquent nature of this blog.  Those days are over.  A few things to report and then on to teasers for upcoming posts.

1.  I was briefly quoted in Momentum magazine in their Growing Up Velo article as well as KBD getting mentioned.   Pretty awesome.
2.  We've moved to Montana.  Our family biking adventures are about to get a little more... interesting.
3.  Due to the new climate challenge we're faced with, I'll be exploring the world of winter bicycling, and how and if that's possible.

In the meantime, I've been getting really inspired by the past few books I've read, am reading, and have yet to read:

You Can't Ride a Bike to Alaska, It's an Island
Don't let the fact that the title sounds like Sarah Palin said it... this is a fun adventure about a guy (who with no prior training, conditioning) decides to ride his bike from Missoula, MT to Alaska.  I was a little impatient with the beginning of the book as he endures a knee injury and hitch hikes a lot of the way (he was riding with a group).  But to his credit the author gutted it out and made a fun little adventure of it.  Takeaway from this book - I probably don't want to do one of those paid group rides.

I'm halfway through this book and I must say I'm enjoying it.  Full disclosure, it's written by the CEO of my company so I guess that does skew my view a little bit.  The tone is very casual and conversational, making it approachable.  What's nice about it (thus far) is that it provides some much needed perspective as to how Portland became so bicycle friendly.  In my profession, most of us tire about how great Portland, Davis, Boulder is... because it just seems so unrealistic that ______ (name the city you live in) will ever be that way.  Joyride paints a very interesting picture of Portland, making it seem like every other city out there.  This gives me a lot of hope for the cities I love that have yet to embrace bicycling for every day transportation.  Recommended for bike planning nerds, community development scholars, and sustainable community advocates.

Mud, Sweat and Gears
Momentum is Your Friend
Both of these books were written by Joe Kurmaskie and detail his adventures of bike touring with his family.  While I have yet to read them, just knowing that a regular dad out there trekked his kids across America and Canada, on bike seems so awesome.  While I don't know if I'd ever be able to commit the time to pulling off such a grand expedition - it does make me think doing a pretty big (like, 2 week?) bike trip with my family is very possible.  When I finish these I'll have more to report.  Right now, family bike touring is my big obsession in concept.

Lots more to come in the weeks ahead.   The weather is still beautiful in Bozeman so hopefully I won't have to dust off my newly acquired mountain bike for the winter commuting ahead.  Rest assured, there will be lots to talk about.  Hope all of you are enjoying the waning days of summer and are ready for a wonderful fall full of riding with your family.

Ride safe,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

group rides

Last weekend, one of the projects I was working on hosted a family-friendly bike ride through out the city to advertise the dawning of its first bike and pedestrian master plan. Super exciting!

Group rides that cater to families with smaller children are popping up all over the place - and its easy to see why. What's really fun about it is that bikey folk get to meet each other. Lets face it, we're birds of a different feather, and group rides like this are the rare opportunity to flock together. Fortunately local groups like C.I.C.L.E. are hosting regular rides for people like us. I have no doubt that as family rides become more prevalent, more families will come out of the woodworks.

What I particularly enjoy about family-oriented group rides is that they are typically orderly, and are generally met with exceptional levels of patience and kindness from neighborhood traffic. There aren't a lot of people out there who can muster a lot of anger at kids on bikes, or who are callous enough to show it in front of a bunch of parents.

The Culver City ride focused on introducing participants to some of the streets that have been designated for improvement through the Culver City Bicycle & Pedestrian Master Plan. It was a great way to familiarize many with the routes, some of the potential improvements and publicize the public meeting.

George had great time, and was completely content for the entire 2 hour ride. So content he was moved to jam on the harmonica I packed for him. Big props to Dorothy Le from LACBC for getting this all together. The highlights are captured below.

George surveyed the scene, looking for ladies to impress and maybe invite in his trailer

I love this family!!! Mom Dad Son Daughter. Do it! Live the dream!

We had plenty of check points to wait for families with smaller children and to discuss routes and potential improvements.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Helmets with babies can be an issue. Most babies I know don't like crap on their head, let alone something with a chin strap. Add the factors of bulk, weight, and the ever changing temperment, getting your child in a helmet could be a struggle. Combine this with the routine of getting your child into a helmet every time you go for a bike ride, could really tarnish the appeal of a family bike ride. I'm not speaking in absolutes, just "playing the odds" in terms of what I've experienced with George, and from firsthand experience as I carefully watch other babies. Fact is, in California, if your child is under 18, they need to be wearing a helmet. That's the law.

I really want George to like riding bikes, and I don't want him to hate wearing a helmet. What I've tried to do is making helmets "fun." I also don't want him to get worked up (in a bad way) every time our family gets the momentum to go on a bike ride, just because he can't stand having the helmet on his head. I'm just hedging my bets here... a little caution never hurt anyone. I've had some decent success with this approach:

First, I put on my helmet and tell him how fun it is and let him play with my super cool dorky mirror.

Second, I let him pound his hands on my helmet and encourage him to get any existing angst he may have towards my helmet, out. I talk about how much I love my helmet and how it protects my head.

Third, I get out his helmet and show a lot of excitement as I present it to him. Sometimes I turn on the blinking lights it has on the straps. I let him give it a thorough inspection.

Fourth, I put it on his head and show/tell him that I'm very impressed by the way it looks, and that is "very cool."

Fifth, we ride!

This may seem like overkill and you might be able to slap your helmet on your kid and go. If that's the case, good for you. Basically, I just want George to like wearing his helmet, and not let it spoil our ride. They say that we teach best by example. Using that idea, I try to show George how much I love my helmet, hoping he'll learn to see it as a normal part of our bike rides.

Do you have any experiences, good/bad with kids helmets?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Come to the Los Angeles Street Summit!

This Saturday is the second iteration of LA's Bike summit, this year dubbed the Street Summit. I've been invited to speak on a panel discussing the safe routes to school movement in Southern California.

I'll be discussing the successes we've had in Santa Clarita, as well as some of my blogging efforts to promote the movement of family biking. Stop on by if you are in the area. The Street Summit will be held at LA Trade Tech College, in downtown Los Angeles.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

google maps provides "bike there" option

This is revolutionary.

Sort of. It provides a great online source of designated bike routes/lanes/paths in cities. From my experience, this news is an incredibly sharp double edged-sword.

Good news first:
One stop shopping for all your bike directions.

Bad news:
It relies on city-data that is...hopefully up to date. Many existing municipal routes or "class III" (in CA) were first installed in the 70's during the first bike boom. A good amount of these routes were slapped down willy nilly and now find themselves on major arterials. There's nothing "routey" about them.

Also, it could make people think that because their destinations aren't served by a complex network of bikeways, then it's impossible to access their destination by bike.

So it could give people a false sense of security, at least to the ill-informed. But it could also encourage a lot of people out there to start riding their bike. Hopefully, the latter.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

new bike

I purchased a new fork and frame from a nice guy in Philadelphia (off Craigslist - the used bike haven!).

I fitted it with a few of my old components, and a few new ones (thanks honey). All in all, I'm looking forward to this guy being my daily commuter, adventure taker, touring bike.

I've already used it with the trailer and it's a good fit there too. The only issue I can see is that if Ashley and I were going on an extended ride/tour with George - I'd probably want to get a triple.

I've noticed that when pulling the trailer - I comfortably move down to my second chainring. Which is fine when cruising about town, but I'm guessing that for a small tour with any size hills, I'd want a few more options and some lower gears to work with.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

on helments

California requires that all individuals under the age of 18 wear a helmet when on a bike, bike trailer, scooter, skateboard, etc.

While there is much debate about the efficacy of helmets (and more specifically, helmet laws) I think they are an incredibly valuable device. As one having previous experience with being hit by a car (and thrown off my bike), I'm sure my helmet spared me an unwelcomed bonk on the head and road rash.

For infants/toddlers, your options are pretty limited. Unfortunately you have to throw aesthetics to the wind because the designs are borderline gaudy.

There is a pretty decent selection of kids helmets at REI online. BUT - you can't see how well the helmet fits unless you are trying it on in person. If you are committed to an online purchase, most helmets specify what head circumference the helmet can accomodate, and since most regular checkups to the doctor now provide this measurement - getting a good fitting helmet has never been easier.

We opted for the Giro Spree Bike helmet for Toddlers. The graphics are repugnant but the fit is pretty good and it has blinky lights on the back, which is a nice bonus safety feature for night riding.

As you can see - first impressions were good.

In the trailer, it did prove to be a little more prone to slipping over his eyes. This could probably be solved by tightening the chin strap. The golden rule for chin strap tightness is "two fingers." You should be able to fit two fingers (aligned vertically) between your chin and the helmet strap. So, for kids helmets - is that kid fingers or adult? Probably kid. : )

When it comes to helmets and with most things... I think getting kids started early and setting an example by wearing one yourself, will ensure a long healthy relationship with your kids, helmets, and bicycling.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

pain in the butt

On my last (how poetic) day of commuting in 2009, my beloved Trek passed away. It was a bitter sweet moment of course. With a broken frame, I quickly realized that I'd soon be riding on my more modest, more unattractive, and uncomfortable "backup" bike.

I should be grateful that I even have (had) two bikes... so I am. I was.

This year, as with the past two, I'm recording the amount of miles I ride my bike. It's fun, harmless, and a geeky thing to do. As the miles start to pile up on my backup bike - I was really feeling motivated to getting a new bike. My back up is just plain uncomfortable.

One reason is the saddle. It's the classic 80's road saddle. Plastic, with a quarter inch thick layer of foam spread over it. It also happens to be somewhat narrow, so when I'm sitting on it, I really feel it. Zoiks.

As much as it offended my sense of aesthetics, I moved my brooks saddle over to my back up and my back side immediately thanked me. It is not fun to ride a bike on an uncomfortable saddle, and I was certainly cursing that narrow saddle.

The pain was exacerbated by the fact that I had been off the bike nearly three weeks, so I reckon I had lost some of the... "callous" one develops when they spend a lot of time on their bike.

The other pain in the butt I've been forced to face head on is the process of finding another bike. For those of us who's preference in bikes cannot be satiated by hopping into the nearest big box retailer, or even a local LBS without special order, these can be trying times.

I decided that this time around, I'm going full-on commuter tour frame. Full braze ons for racks, fenders, front and back. My trek 330 was only a pretender, probably known as a sport-touring frame back in its inception (1989).

So where does a bicyclist with a penchant for lugged, steel, touring minded bikes turn to? The first two sources should be obvious by now, but nonetheless bears repeating.

1. Ebay
2. Craigslist

A couple of tips for finding bikes on both of these heavily visited sites:

To save time on Ebay, you can create "saved" searches. If you are looking for something specific like a "Trek 400" it gives you the option to save your search, and when anyone lists something matching that criteria - you get an email. Awesome!

Craigslist is a whole separate beast. Good advice is - if you are pretty determined to find something and are getting skunked in your area, try searching in neighboring areas, like Orange or Ventura County.

Also, here's a tip to using google that will allow you to search ALL craigslist listings for your term, in one stroke: "whatever you want to search"

Then google will pull up whatever you are looking for, from all the craigslists around the world. Buying on craigslist from someone who isn't in your town might be a little tricky - best advice I can give is look for a friend who lives in that city and ask them to scope it out for you.

Other sources include general online classifieds, forums (adventure cycling, bikeforums), and your friend network.

Speaking of network - hey readers, I'm looking for a mid 80's - 90's touring frame. 61cm or bigger.

Any advice you guys have to buying a bike online? What's worked for you?