Friday, May 27, 2011

Bike Trains

Bike trains are one tool for bikey families to get their kids biking with other kids and families, to school in a safe and fun environment.

Check out this awesome bike train in Portland.

For more information on bike trains - visit the national safe routes site.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Importance of Rough-housing

Nothing could bring more happiness to my dad-soul!

The Importance of Rough-housing

Thursday, March 3, 2011

montana-izing my road bike

Daily bicycle commuting in Montana has some serious perks, and also its challenges. Gone are the days of my 24 round trip, traffic filled trek. Replaced with a much more scenic jaunt (with only two traffic lights).

While the length of the commute has changed, so have my needs for my road bike. It seems as winter begins to wane up here, there are periods where the roads are bone dry for more than several weeks at a time. During this time, I can give my winter rig a much needed break, but more importantly not ride the studded tires on dry road. Considering they were the most expensive tires I've ever purchased (though worth it), I want to get my money's worth out of them.

So that means I get to ride my road bike. I made some slight changes to it and wanted to show it off a little.

I got rid of the 700x25 continental gator skins, and upgraded to the 700x30 schwalbe cyclocross tires. The schwalbe's offer me a little more cushion, and also flexibility for biking home in an unexpected snow storm and or in the great sand dunes bike lanes on my commute home.  I got rid of my beloved honjo fenders, and opted for some very charming "fluted" fenders from Velo Orange on sale. 

My winter bike is utilizing my rear rack and panniers, (it's nice to have extra storage space in the winter for gear substitutions), so I still needed a little something to tote my lunch and belongings to / from work.  After a little searching on the internets and via recommendation from Russ Roca - I settled on the Little Dear by Swift Industries.  It is a very handsome bag, holds all my belongings splendidly, and is slightly larger than all the other saddle bags I found in its class.  Definitely recommend.

I had a basket on nitto m-12 rack earlier... but it failed so now I'm reticent to try that again.  I think I'd like to use it as a front bag support and ultimately... one day... the support for a dual-dynamo front light arrangement. That would be so awesome.

I'd love to hear about any winter/spring adjustments you've made to your bikes... or problems that you are currently wrestling with on how to make your bike fit your commuting transportation needs.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

live work balance

Give this a gander and let me know your thoughts, parents, workers, people.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

flying with kids - pt. 2

Last week I posted about flying with kids.  Thanks for the tips.  I'm proud to report that George passed with flying colors.  I was a little nervous, not so much about George, but my ability to keep him entertained and happy.  There were a few times he asked for "Mama?" in kind of a sad wimper, but overall he was very content and we had a lot of fun.  It was a good bonding experience for me and my son, to spend nearly a full day together going on quite an adventure.  Here are some thoughts about the experience, boiled down into digestible bullets.
  • TSA security is absurd. George had just fallen asleep and they wouldn't let me push him through the metal detector.  I had to get him out, remove his tiny shoes, and in the process wake him up. Infuriating.
  • After getting off the first plane (we had a layover), I had one of George's shoes in the diaper bag and one remained on.  I believe I had up to six people tell me that I was missing a shoe before I made it 100 ft off the plane.  Is there something about a dad with a child that says clueless? Was it the spacey look in my eye? Would people have stopped me if I was a woman? I don't know - but I did think it was interesting.
  • Old ladies are great to sit next to.  Grandmas or grandma wannabes.  They love little boys.  George was so fond of the lady sitting next to us, he began stroking her jacket arm from her shoulder down to her wrist.  It was really sweet.
  • Supplies.  Very important to bring a sippy cup.  I poured George's apple juice into it and let him put the ice cubes in there as well.  He was in hog heaven.  It would've been a disaster to have him try to drink out of their cups.  The can would've been a slight step up in spill security.
  • To the people at United who put me in a middle seat with a child - shame on you!
  • To the 5'2" lady who tried to recline her seat into me - shame on you!  I'm sure it was frustrating that your seat didn't recline (my knees were there).  I'm also sure that you enjoyed George kicking the back of your chair.  I didn't feel the need to stop him.  
  • Had lots of snacks - all the good stuff and felt totally prepared.  Was never hungry.
  • During the layover I let him completely roam wherever he wanted.  I could not have cared less that people had to walk around him.  I think this was good so that he didn't have a surplus of energy getting onto our second flight.
All in all I think the experience was great and I'd do it again for sure.  It was mostly that my wife is doing a great job as the primary raiser of our child, but I'll take a little credit for trying to meet his needs all the while.

Thoughts about flying, people reclining their seat into you, the TSA, dad-inept-stereotypes? Come one come all!

Friday, February 4, 2011

flying with kids

Experts - I come to you in an hour of need and a perfect discussion item over the weekend.  What are your sure-fire ways to fly with children.  Age specific advice is great.  So far we've been pretty lucky with George.  None of those, "oh that poor parent" or "I hate those people" moments.  While George has been restless and busy, he hasn't been a pill. And ultimately, that's all you can ask for right?  I haven't flown with George in over a year, and early next week I'll get my own dose - going solo.  Ashley and I are on separate flights back from LA - and it's definitely my turn to take him.

I've got the Cars dvd ready.
I've packed the fruit snacks and toys.

Have any horror stories out there?

post script:
How many of you think of Lost when you fly on a plane?  What a show...

customer (un)appreciation day

Just a quick note about online mercantilism.  These days, with our economy hopefully rebounding - to me it makes more sense than ever to reward good business not only with repeat business, but by telling people about them.

I had a great experience with Mike over at Rene Herse.  It's  a very nice, old-timey, bicycle-touring themed shop that sells all sorts of lovely items.  I bought a Nitto M-12 front rack from them that for some odd reason snapped.  I told Mike about it, and he offered to take a look at it and either a. see if they could repair it or b. see if it was covered by the manufacturer's warranty.  He could've easily told me to take a hike but he didn't, and kept up great communication with me.  Turns out they've never seen a rack break like this so mine is covered and I get a brand new one.  Thanks Mike!  I highly recommend these guys if you are in the market for something special.  They sell all sorts of NOS, bicycle luggage, and of course beautiful bikes.

Contrast that to the jokers at  I ordered some tires from them, via amazon several weeks ago.  Amazon gives you an estimate for when your product should be delivered.  My original estimate was over a week ago.  When I got an email from Amazon saying that my order hadn't been shipped, I sent bikesomewhere an email asking about my order.  I called three times and left messages.  No response. I waited a couple of days (by now it was Jan 31) and no email response, but I finally get them on the phone.  They told me that the tires were on backorder. Usually that type of information is available right off the bat on Amazon, but not with these clowns. Had I known they'd have to back order them, I would've purchased them from someone else.   The tires finally came, but again hit another delay with some type of weather issue down in Florida.  Overall the communication was canned, inadequate and did not address my concerns.  Don't buy anything from them ever.  They don't care about their customers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Yuba and a few peanut shells

Look at this beaut.  Jealous.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011


This is a hotly debated topic in our house, amongst friends, family and among parents.  Ashley and I talk about the fun and mischief we got up to when we went on sleepovers.  We both tell stories of being at parties where we watched movies we probably shouldn't have (i.e., Nightmare on Elm Street 3:  Dream Warriors, as a third grader).  While that was horrifying, I got through it.  Of course there is the worry that you don't know what goes on at other people's houses, older siblings, etc.
The jury is still out for us, and we have a long time (I think) before George is going to be doing sleepovers.   When I think back to my childhood though, I have to think, would I have liked to grow up in a house that didn't allow sleepovers?  The answer is an obvious "no."  Does that mean - that George is entitled to the same freedoms I was?  I don't know... there is a lot to consider.  A lot of people say that we live in a different world than when we grew up.  But other people say that in many ways we live in a much safer world.  It's a lot to take in.

What are your thoughts parents?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

winter biking with kids

Despite being a self proclaimed expert in the realm of "biking with little ones," the one chink in my armor is that I've managed to log almost all of my miles in the sunny streets of Southern California. When we moved to Montana we were graced with two months of absolutely dreamy weather. Where I'm lacking real expertise is staying active and busy as a bikey-family in the winter.

It's honestly hasn't been that hard, being a full time commuter in Montana. I've biked in negative teens (Fahrenheit), blizzards, heavy snow and ice. Those conditions don't intimidate me anymore.

But - I'm still not quite sure the best path for getting the little man out. We do have a Burley Bee -which I suppose I could insulate the heck out of and load him up with a hot drink in a sippy cup.  Maybe I'm over thinking it.  I don't want the winter to beat us completely.  I'll get serious about getting out as family in the winter - but I wanted to throw it out there to you guys.  Have you seen any clever ways to get the little ones out on a bike in the winter?

Friday morning I saw a parent with her little one (probably 5-6) on a trail-a-bike, on their way to school.  The little gal looked pretty content, and was just in normal winter garb.  My guess though is that if kids aren't helping with the pedaling, they are more prone to getting chilly.

How do you deal with winter time if you are interested in getting your family out on a bike?  Have you seen any creative solutions?  In the meantime, I'll have to focus on solutions that don't involve me adding another bike to the fleet... for now.  Check out the Shuttle Bug from Joe Bike below.  Awesome.

Friday, January 28, 2011

ice cream wars

Whether you knew about it or not, there is a war being waged in the aisles of your local grocery store. The war for ice cream supremacy. If you are passionate about ice cream, then I'm sure you have your allegiances. Perhaps you are a Breyer's fan? Or maybe you're a big personality and you like Ben & Jerry's. I'd posit that these are some of the "nicer" ice creams out there, when it comes to quality and taste. But over the course of the past few years we have solidly been a Private Selection family. Private Selection is the house brand for the Kroger family Groceries (Smiths, Ralphs, King Soopers).  It may just be a Western US thing. I'm not sure.

This was really no contest.  Private Selection (PS) flavor rivaled even the poshest of brands, but it's real secret weapon was its price.  As a member of the exclusive, highly selective "My Rewards" class of shopper, two half gallons of PS could be purchased for $5.00.  This became particularly attractive in light of Breyer's being nearly that much for one half gallon, and Ben & Jerry's being close to $5 for like a thimble full of ice cream.  No thanks.

Due to their unsurpassed quality and price, it really was no contest.  They were killing it in the ice cream wars.  They were kind of like the hot girl that didn't know she was hot.  A highly unscientific, irregular, informal survey on my part noted at least 75% of ice cream being purchased at these family of grocers was PS.  They were killing it.

But then PS found out how awesome it was, and really upped the ante.  They've gone and fancied themselves up, undergoing a complete rebrand offering an ice cream that is more "refined, refreshed, and reimagined."

In addition to changing their packaging, they are giving you flavors like sea salt, ganache, and a host of other things that sound like you could find them on the floor of the meditteranian.

The other thing they've gone and done (and simultaneously broke our hearts), is jacked their price up to $3.99 a gallon!  PS, how could you?

What happened to those years of faithful patronage?  We became so accustomed to your humble $2.50 a piece price - I honestly can't bare the thought to spend that much on ice cream.  It seems like other ice creams out there are following suit, and most ice cream companies are jacking up their prices.  We can't even get the poor man's Breyer's for $2.50 any more...

With strict ideas on what a half gallon of ice cream should cost, we have been cast into the ice cream goulags of cheap, cheap ice cream.  Meadow Gold, and other unmentionable brands.

I turn to you - internet community.  What's a frugal ice cream fan to do in such trying times?  Bite the bullet and follow PS into the upper class where it rightfully belongs?  Switch brands?  What's your preference when it comes to ice cream?  Maybe I should just start buying that frozen-swill they sell by the gallon - that'll teach them.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

the power of fear

Just this past week we've been introduced to a new emotion to George.  Fear. Multiple times, we've seen him run away from dark parts of our house shouting "monkeys, monkeys!" Of course it's cute and we kind of laugh, but it's also kind of sad to think that his imagination has developed to the point where he can be afraid of something that his brain created. The only other time I've really seen George scared was when I was making different "funny" faces at him, and I made one where I pull my eyes down, nose up, and the corners of my mouth out.  I remember learning this face from my friend Jeff in 2nd grade.  It's been a stunner ever since.

George was not a fan. He showed visible signs of distress and started to cry.  Not sure It was the face, I did it again and BINGO - we have a scary face.  Other than that - I really haven't seen George that scared of things.  Not that he won't be, I just don't think the fear instinct has really matured in his little brain yet.

This experience also is in the line with a snippet I caught on Neatorama today. The article describes a practice of Japanese parents using a traditional monster to startle their children into obedience. It sounds totally horrifying - but of course as a parent I can relate to the sentiment of being willing to do almost anything to get your kid to listen to you.  We (Americans) don't really have a traditional folk monster like the Namahage - so maybe I'd have to dress up like Jason or Freddy.  I can't imagine doing that when I put it in that context.

All this talk of fear reminds me a lot of the book I've been reading (thanks Dawn!), Free Range Kids, which goes into great depths to discuss the culture of fear we're living in, and that is pushed on us so we'll consume, or feel guilt for not/doing a, b, or c.  I haven't finished it yet, but I plan on talking about it at length later.

Which brings me to you - reader.  What are your experiences with your child's fear?  When did you first notice that they were becoming afraid of things?  What were they?  Do you think there are positive aspects of fear that you can teach your children with out causing them to be too timid?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

winter warrior

A couple of weeks ago I went to a winter bicycling clinic, put on by the Bozeman Bike Kitchen.  Volunteers discussed the many issues facing bicyclists in the winter, including gear, clothing, and bicycle choice.  Most of the information was fairly common sense, but the biggest endorsement of the night came on behalf of studded tires.

Previously, I have just been using normal mountain bike knobby tires, which seemed to be working relatively fine until I got on ice or hard packed snow.  After a few "close calls" I decided to use my company's annual bike-reimbursement and splurge on some studded snow tires.  After much research I ended up with the Schwalbe Winter Marathons.

When you are looking for a specific item, I highly recommend the shopping link on google. It searches for all of the places where your desired product is listed, and then tells you price and what not.  Because these tires typically retail between $75-77 a piece, I was definitely on the hunt for a bargain.

With the help of google, I found a retailer called Bike Tires Direct that were selling them for a smashing deal of $61.99 a tire.  Awesome savings.

So far, they have performed outstandingly. They are a little bit narrower (1.75") than I'd like - wider tires would provide more float and better traction when running lower PSI.  Other than the narrow width, they really grip the road and the studs aren't too bad on rolling resistance.  As one commenter noted, on dry pavement they sound like "cooking bacon" which is definitely accurate.

Having these on my bike for the winter has greatly increased my confidence in riding in snow.  Stay tuned for next time when I'll discuss some simple steps you can take to making your bike more visible in winter/dark conditions.

Ride Safe