Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bike Security: Locking Up a Cargo Bike

Thousands of bikes are stolen every year in the city of Vancouver alone. As cargo bikes become more popular, thieves are learning that they are a valuable target. A question I see a lot in the Vancouver Family Biking Facebook Group is, "How do I lock up my cargo bike?" Once we've invested all that money in the bike, we really want to make sure it doesn't get stolen. Over the years, I've collected a number of tips from my own experience & various other sources, so I though I'd share them all together in one place here with you. While I talk about cargo bikes specifically, most of these tips are applicable to any bike that you want to keep out of the hands of thieves!

  1. Do not use a cable lock. Please! Cable locks, particularly the ones thinner than your finger, are ridiculously easy to snip through with bolt cutters. Bike thieves often carry foldable bolt cutters around in a backpack. They can whip them out, unfold, snip your cable lock, & ride off in literally less than a minute. If you want to use a cable lock as a secondary lock, along with a sturdy U-lock or heavy chain, that's reasonable, but do not use a single cable lock as the only thing keeping your bike safe.
  2. Use more than one lock. I've heard a good guideline is to spend 10-20% of the value of your bike on locks. Note the plural. All locks are fallible, but if you only use one & a bike thief has the right tool to get through it, they can be riding off with your bike in under a minute. Depending on where I'm locking up & for how long, I use up to four locks of different types. I'm a big fan of frame locks for cargo bikes as a secondary lock, plus a chain to reach those awkward racks that are not very big bike friendly, & a U-lock for solid security. A noisy angle grinder can get through pretty much anything, but the quieter tools like bolt cutters, pneumatic jacks, & other prying devices tend to work on one type of lock, so if you have a few, it may make your bike just unattractive enough that the thief will walk on by. More on the locks in this bike lock roundup post here.
  3. Secure your wheels & your frame. Make sure with whatever combination of locks you use, one goes through each wheel & the frame of the cargo bike. Besides preventing the wheels from being stolen, this immobilizes the wheels, so the thief can't just defeat the lock that attaches to the rack & wheel the bike away, they'll have to carry it, which is not exactly easy with a heavy cargo bike.
  4. Lock your bike to something immobile & check it first. Bike racks are usually a good choice, but make sure the rack is properly bolted to the ground & there are no breaks or cuts in the loop that you attach to. This is a trick I've seen--some thieves cut through the triangle part of the rack so that the lock can be slipped through the gap & the unsuspecting bike owner's ride can be stolen later. If there's no bike rack, parking meters or poles may not be a good choice, as bikes can potentially be slipped up the pole & over--cargo bikes are heavy, but if there are two bike thieves, it's theoretically doable. Sign posts are sometimes just bolted into a base at the ground, & can be easily unbolted & slid out of the lock as well. 
  5. Lock up where the bike is visible. If you're stopping at a cafe, or somewhere with windows to the outside, try to park your bike where you can keep an eye on it if possible. A place with a lot of other people around is generally good too, if you have a choice between a rack in an out of the way place & one near, say a cafe entrance or busy bus stop.
  6. Store your bike out of sight. Sound like I'm contradicting my last tip? What I mean is the places you're keeping your bike for longer periods of time, like all day at work, or overnight at home, particularly places that you keep it on a regular basis. Theoretically, this is where the more organized bike thieves are going to attack--they'll figure out that your valuable cargo bike is usually locked up for eight hours outside this office building weekdays, or generally sits in that back yard every night, then come back when they've got the tools to steal it. If your bike is in a shed or garage or even just in a less visible area of your yard, it's less likely to be spotted & targeted. 
  7. Don't leave any accessories on the bike. I thought a cheap cargo strap wasn't a theft target, so I left one velcroed to the front rack of my cargo bike a month or so ago. Nope. It was gone the second day I had it on there. Not a huge loss, but it was a reminder that thieves will literally take anything that isn't bolted down. If you have a valuable saddle or child seat, consider adding an extra lock to secure it when you leave your bike behind.
  8. Register your bike with Project 529 (or whatever registry is well known in your area). In the event your bike is stolen, you have a much higher likelihood of recovering it if you've registered it. The Vancouver Police Department use Project 529 & if they come across your bike, they will be able to connect it to you with the sticker number or serial number immediately. 

I hope these tips help you keep your cargo bike safe. Do you have any questions or tips to add? Leave them in the comments below!

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

Insider Tips for the Vancouver Christmas Market

Browsing the realistic looking fruit soaps at the market
This year is the 20th Anniversary of Vancouver's Christmas Market: can you believe it? The market is has returned to Jack Poole Plaza, bigger & better than ever with more than 80 huts of European sweets, treats, & treasures.

We're pretty much veterans of the Market now, & have been going since the very first year, so I thought I'd share some of our "insider" tips to make your visit more fun!

When to go

Open daily from 11:30am to 9:30pm, (11:30am to 6pm an December 24), the Market really shines from dusk onward. Tuesdays adult admission is just $10 for the 10th Anniversary. If you want to save even more, it's only $8 if you head to the market by 2pm weekdays. Despite being outdoors, it's actually not bad to go in the rain because there are awnings at the huts, umbrellas over the tables in the food area, plus the Alpine Lounge & Wunderbar are also covered & heated.

Bronte loves a good carousel ride
Special Events

Kids Day December 1: Youth 12 & under get in by donation to Children’s Wish Foundation all day, Carousel rides are by donation, snap a photo with Holly & Jolly our gingerbread mascots or your favourite princesses from Enchanted Events Vancouver, & meet Santa Claus

What to do

Obviously, shopping! The Vancouver Christmas Market is a great place to browse for high quality & unique gifts, traditional German holiday decor, & a wide variety of handmade items. However, it's not just about the shopping. There are dozens of options for sweet treats, hot & cold drinks, alcoholic & non, plus some great lunch, dinner, & snack choices. Check out some of my favourites in Eating My Way Through The Vancouver Christmas Market.

Kids can get creative in the free Kinder Kraft Igloo, explore the market and win a prize by completing the Treasure Hunt, & of course there's always the classic carousel to ride on!

Family selfie time!

What to bring

A fully charged phone or camera to be ready for All The Selfies. The market is decorated with Christmas trees everywhere, surrounds the iconic 2010 Olympic torch, & features a massive walk-in Christmas tree with over 36,000 lights.

Reusable shopping bags for the gorgeous tree decorations or other gift items you'll end up buying.

A plastic bag: if you want to keep your souvenir market mugs after you have some Glühwein, you'll want a way to get them home without dripping hot drink remnants into your other bag. Some soft packing material isn't a bad idea to get the ceramic mugs home safely if you're travelling by bike or bus, particularly.

Linny enjoyed the hot apple cider
Warm clothes for wandering outside after dark. A hot mug of Glühwein or a snack in the heated Alpine Lounge tent will help, but you'll want to bundle up nonetheless.

How to get there

Biking is a great way to get to the Market! It's located just off the Seaside Greenway & within a block of the Hornby/Burrard protected bike lane. There are some well lit bike racks & a Mobi station at the Shaw Tower right across the street from the Market entrance. The Market is also a short walk from the #19 bus on Pender street or Burrard Skytrain Station. There is cheap parking next door at the convention centre, $10 for the evening after 6pm.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Review: Hiplok Z Lok Security Tie

First off: the Hiplok Z is NOT a lock that you should use to secure your bike when you leave it for any length of time out of your sight. They don't even really call it a lock, but a "security tie". It's designed as a secondary lock, or one you use when you only need the bare minimum of security to dissuade those opportunistic thieves who don't necessarily have bike lock cracking tools on them.

For the gram-counting roadie types out there, this is a great option, as it's very light, coming in at 20g. (yes, you read that correctly--less than an ounce) The Hiplok is also fairly short, so you may not be able to use it through your front wheel & frame--it doesn't fit around that space on our Yuba Mundo, but it does on my commuter. However, because they're so small, these locks are extremely easy to pop in a pocket or a bag when you're on the go.

Think beyond cycling for a minute--yes, I do occasionally think of things other than bikes, it's surprising, I know--to some other ways you could use a little security for your stuff.

We used one when we were camping on Newcastle Island last year to keep the infamously persistent raccoons out of our food cache box, since the little buggers have figured out how to knock sticks out of the hasp.

Hiplok can provide just a little more security to attach almost anything to a rack or railing--think snowboards, strollers, kayaks at the dock, kids scooters, or skateboards when they're not using them at the playground.

Back to biking, I use it to attach my helmet to my bike & to immobilize my rear wheel. Hiplok can help attach bikes onto car racks, as well as keeping other kids off your kid's bike at the playground.

You can pick these up at your local bike shop, like Velo Star Cafe. $29 for a two-pack

Disclaimer: I received two Hiplok security ties from VeloStar Cafe to review. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. The words & opinions are my own, as always! 

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Three Money Saving Tips with Modo

All buckled in & ready to go
Last weekend we got invited to a special event at a movie theatre in Surrey. It was almost 40km from home & nowhere near the Skytrain. I checked out how long it would take to get there by transit or cycling & neither of those options sounded that great, so I decided to book a Modo car. Here are three tips I use to save a little money when driving with Modo:

Photo Credit: wuestenigel Flickr via Compfight cc

Trip Stacking

Rather than doing just one thing with our Modo, I always try to see if there's an errand we can add in along the way to make our trip a little more efficient. This time, we hit up Ikea on our way home, since we needed to pick up something for our kitchen. The detour to Ikea added less than a kilometre to the trip, & only a couple extra hours of booking time, so it cost quite a bit less than booking another separate trip to just go to Ikea.

Photo Credit: Phillip Pessar Flickr via Compfight cc

Think Short, Not Fast

Another trick I use to save money with Modo is taking the most efficient route in terms of distance. I 
Google Mapped the route & looked at each of the three suggested routes, picking the one that is the fewest kilometres. For some of our regular trips, to see family in Coquitlam, for example, taking the highway might be two or three minutes faster, but it costs $3-4 more in kilometre charges for the round trip. So we pick the shorter route, not the faster one. Over a year, those little savings add up.

A Kia Rondo can carry the four of us plus a small Ikea haul

Small is Beautiful

The other thing we do to save a few dollars here & there is to pick the smallest, most efficient vehicle size for trip. The vast majority of the time, all we need is something that will seat the four of us--we don't need much cargo capacity to carry, say a couple of birthday presents to a family party in the suburbs. Even Ikea trips are very doable with the Daily Drives category of cars--we drove a Kia Rondo & bought a kitchen cabinet, as well as a handful of other things at Ikea & there was more than enough cargo space in the back hatch for our flat packs.

The other great thing about these three habits is they are more environmentally friendly too--driving fewer kilometres, making fewer trips, in smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles minimizes your carbon emissions.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Bike the Night 2019 with two kids & our Tern GSD S10

This was our fourth year at HUB Cycling's annual open streets event, Bike the Night. If you haven't heard of it, the nonprofit cycling organization plans a 10km route which is closed to motor vehicle traffic. There's a two hour event in the park ahead of the ride with music, lots of free samples, food trucks, free basic bike maintenance, & other goodies.

Bronte wanted to ride her own bike & Linny chose to come as a passenger on the back of our Tern GSD S10. We met up with some Vancouver Family Biking friends & rode together most of the route. Mostly with another family at our school, with six kids between us: three on our two cargo bikes, three kids on their own bikes. The other mom or I would have to stop occasionally for a kid's stuck derailleur, or to check on someone else along the route, or for one kid to stop to scratch under their helmet, then the other mom would zip off to try to keep up with the kids who were pedalling ahead.

This was easy for me with the Tern GSD, that thing is so much faster from a dead stop than me on the Bakfiets!

So not the most relaxing evening--is it ever really relaxing with six children between two parents?--but definitely enjoyable to have the streets just for us for an hour. Every year that we go, there are more children & more cargobikes on this ride. I like how the event has evolved over the years--my kids spent quite a bit of time at the Vancouver Aquarium booth, handling at their collection of  specimens, puppets, & getting an airbrush octopus tattoo. There were many snacks to be had, with Clif Bar people roaming the event & handing out free bars from a Metrofiets cargobike.

Bike the Night allows families & slower riders to start the ride a bit early, so we all headed up out of Sunset Beach Park lined up on We definitely had a lot of fun. If your kids can stay up that late, or sleep on your family biking setup, it's well worth going next year!

I made a little Instagram story, saved to my profile, about the whole experience, if you'd like to head over there to watch the video. :)

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Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bikey T-shirts & More at Dark Cycle Clothing

My Dark Cycle Grizzly tee
If you've ever read anything on this blog, I'm sure you know that I love cycling & kind of have a bike t-shirt problem. I think N+1 applies to bikey tees because I can go for more than a week without having to do laundry & I'll still have clean bike t-shirts to wear. Heh.

However, most of my cycling themed shirts are from HUB Cycling, sort of a suggested work uniform (I use the term very loosely here). It's great to have a job where I can wear comfy clothes & not have to worry about conforming to business casual, or worse, wearing--ack--pantyhose! But, some of my work tshirts are, well, a bit logo-ey, even slightly dorky. So I'm always on the lookout for cycling themed shirts that feature cool art, or something that's just a little weird.

I was introduced to Dark Cycle Clothing by my friend Anny, who started up a group of riders called Team Mama Bear, in Seattle. This shirt that you see me wearing in the image on the right is their unofficial uniform, & she gave me one when we visited her last year. I love the drawing & can relate to this bear so much. DO NOT MESS WITH A MAMA BEAR, amirite, ladies?!?

The kids' Dark Cycles tees: tabby & axolotl, front & back
When I went to take a look at Dark Cycle's website, I was blown away by the huge variety of animals on bikes that you can get on a t-shirt or sticker. & not just your run-of-the-mill ordinary common animals, like cats & dogs & bears. They've got OVER 75 different creatures on t-shirts, including such things as pangolins, pelicans, & platypus.

Not too long ago, I entered an Instagram contest & won a sticker from Dark Cycles, so when I went to their site to claim my prize, I also bought shirts for the kids. I chose a tabby on a bike for Bronte & an axolotl on a bike for Linnaeus.

The shirts arrived soon after, & they fit my skinny kids well. 5.5-year-old B is in a size 6, 8.5-year-old L is in a youth medium. The fabric is a cotton blend, super soft & the print is made with a lightweight ink, which means it's also nice & soft, not plasticky. Once the kids got them on, I noticed a little bonus: Dark Cycle prints their logo on the upper back of the t-shirt in reflective ink. Makes the kids just a wee bit more visible on warm summer nights. :)

Unicorn on a bike sticker!
Fast forward to this summer & I heard Dark Cycle was starting an affiliate program, so of course I signed up! So, if you're thinking about picking up a bikey t-shirt for back to school season or a gift or just for you, because you need to have a unicorn on a bike on your chest... if you use my affiliate link, I'll get a wee commission & you'll be helping to support my blog. Thanks!

If you don't need a t-shirt or a sticker, Dark Cycle also makes housewares like hats, mugs, pillows, & trivets. So you could geek out your entire home with weird animals on bikes on stuff!

If you really do need t-shirts, you could also consider their t-shirt subscription--the more months you sign up for with Shirt of the Month Club, the more you save.

Disclaimer: As an affiliate for Dark Cycle Clothing, I receive a small commission if you make a purchase via my affiliate links in the above post. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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