Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Fall in Love With Vancouver Again... By Bike

Going over the basics with Josh before our Cycle City Tour.
Playing "tourist in your own town" isn't a new thing. The portmanteau "staycation" has been around a while now. But have you actually ever done it? Taken a tour of Vancouver, like a guided tour, with factoids about local history & points of interest? I got the opportunity to do that on Monday with Cycle City Tours, who put together a sampler tour for journalists & bloggers to see first hand what they do.

I admit when we set out, I wasn't expecting to learn too much--I've lived in Vancouver for over 25 years now & I'm a bit of a local history buff. I was in it for the beer tasting at the end. During the tour, however, I really enjoyed myself & learned a thing or two about our city.

We rode from Cycle City at 1344 Burrard Street, down to the waterfront path at the foot of Hornby Street to get a great view of Granville Island across False Creek. Our knowledgeable guide Josh, refreshed our memories about Granville Island's origins & industrial history. He also mentioned a project he was involved in implementing right in the waters of False Creek, wrapping the creosote-soaked pilings in a plastic layer to provide a better egg-laying habitat for herring. This project actually started in Squamish about a decade ago & may be the reason that large marine mammals like dolphins, porpoises, whales are returning to the waters of Howe Sound & around Vancouver.

Palm trees, 1960s architecture, & public art.
Our next stop was at First Beach on English Bay. I ride through here several times a year, but rarely stop at the beach. Standing there facing the palm trees & the vintage high rises, I was reminded of some of the reasons I love this city. Josh told us a little about the hidden political meaning to the public art piece across the street from us, & spoke about public art in general here. Public art is a natural fit with biking, as so many of Vancouver's pieces are along the seawall & bike paths of the city. Cycle City Tours is planning to lead regular public art tours in conjunction with Vancouver Biennale this year--contact them for further details.

Onward we rode in the hot sun toward Stanley Park. But instead of riding around the seawall, we turned into the trails that criss-cross the centre of the park. In the shade of the towering trees, the temperature dropped to a manageable warm summer afternoon & we soon stopped at the base of a gigantic old-growth Douglas fir.

An old timer fir that escaped the saw in the 1900s.
Josh painted a picture of Vancouver in the last decades of the 19th century, pointing out the cuts in the tree where the loggers likely installed a springboard in an attempt to cut this behemoth down. For unknown reasons, they didn't fell the massive fir, so it remains more than a hundred years later, scarred now with animal burrows & laced with spiderwebs between its gnarled skin.

Riding through the trails of Stanley Park, I realized that this might have been my first time there on a bike. I walked them in the past, but have never ridden through. I resolved to bring the kids there soon to escape the sounds & heat of the summer city.

Next stop involved two firsts for me: 1. I'd never actually been to CRAB Park, which we accessed via the Coal Harbour section of the seawall. 2. We took a 'secret' tunnel that runs under the new convention centre. We emerged back into the sunshine between the helijet port & the train tracks--another sight I think the kids would like to see. Our guide told us of the local activists who fought for access to the waterfront on the East Side, resulting in the official city park that nestles in between Seabus berths & the giant gantries of the port.

Postmark beer bat, awaiting my taste buds.
We biked another few blocks into Railtown to Postmark Brewing, our final stop. After a brief tour of the facility & a primer on brewing in between the mash tuns, fermentation tanks & bright tanks, we returned to the tasting room for a flight of Postmark beers & a snack of some truly beautiful pizza from Belgard Kitchen. I will definitely be returning to Postmark to get a growler of their dry Irish stout & their India session ale soon.

If you want to play tourist in your home town, or maybe you have family & friends visiting, you should definitely try a Cycle City Tour. Bike tours are an eco-friendly way to get around, but also allow you to really experience the city through your senses all along the way. Even on a stinking hot day like Monday, we made our own breeze as we rode along.

Cycle City offers in depth tours of Stanley Park, Vancouver's Craft Beer scene, or the whole city, ranging from three to five hours, $39-90, depending on the tour, & if you have your own bike or wish to rent one of theirs. More information on Cycle City Tours here. By the way, Cycle City rents youth size bikes, child seats, trailers, & trailabikes as well.

Disclaimer: I received the above mentioned tour & beer tasting to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

It's so nice to have a lake that's a 10-minute bike ride away

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Saturday, June 20, 2015

Yuba Flip Flop Fits Bronte!

A few days ago I headed over to what I think of as Bicycle Row (all the bike shops around Manitoba & Broadway) for a little shopping. We went into the Bike Doctor first to look at Abus locks. I picked up one of their massive U-locks for my regular bike & as a secondary lock for the Yuba, plus a Knog lock for Linnaeus' bike.

They had a Yuba Flip Flop in, so I had to take a look at it--I've never seen one in person & they look like a great balance bike. The amazing thing we discovered was that the seat can go low enough for Bronte to have her feet comfortably flat on the ground. Pretty amazing given that she's not even 32" tall. We have looked at quite a few different runner bikes & only one or two were short enough for her to ride comfortably.

The Yuba Flip Flop has a longer wheelbase than most balance bikes that size & of course, since it's made by a cargo bike company, features a little (but sturdy) cargo rack on the rear. They retail for about $180, which is a bit beyond impulse purchase territory, but I was sorely tempted.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival

Car Free Day is this weekend! I'll be at Car Free Day on Main Street Sunday -- look for my Yuba Mundo & come say hi. I'll be there -- probably near Granville Island Toys -- to talk family biking with people & promote something I've been working on for a while now...

the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival! 

July 19, 10am-2pm come down to Robson Park. We'll have a variety of family biking setups on hand, from craigslisted kid seats to e-assist cargo bikes with all the bells & whistles along with their owners to talk about riding with kids & babies. It's a great chance for parents who are thinking about riding with their kids, or changing their current seats/trailer/etc to talk to other parents about real life experience. No sales pressure like in a bike shop. We'll also have face painting, prizes & a little kids bike safety circuit, as well as snacks & drinks.

If you have a bike with a child seat, a kid trailer, a cargo bike, a trailerbike or any other sort of kid-carrying setup on two (or three) wheels & you'd like to participate in our "show & shine" to talk to other parents about biking with kids, please drop me a line: lisa AT spokesmama DOT com. We'd love to have you! & we're all about practical, functional gear, not just the shiny, expensive stuff -- if you bought it dinged up & used, so much the better!

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

Bronte disovered the joys of "suspension bridge" jumping at Ceperley Meadows playground Saturday.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: MEC Speed Cycling Toddler Helmet

About a year ago, we bought Bronte's first bike helmet at MEC. We picked MEC brand  Speed Cycling helmet that seemed to fit well & had a fairly flat back, which is a great feature for a kid who's got their head against a bike seat back most of the time. It was also really affordable: $17.

Within a short time, the inside band came out of the helmet, as it was only attached with stick-on velcro pieces. I added more velcro, hoping I could keep it together, since it was otherwise a great fit with a dialing adjuster at the back. As Bronte got older, she started pulling the band down over her face while we were riding, leaving the scratchy part of the velcro against her forehead. The band is completely independent of the straps, so the helmet was still on her head, but looser.

I probably should have returned it last summer, but for some reason, thought she'd get out of the habit of pulling it apart. Nope. She also started taking out all the foam pieces inside & we lost the one across the back. She also peeled the fabric layer off one side of the foam inside the top. This week was the final straw: she figured out how to yank then helmet forward & completely off her head while I was riding yesterday.

Judging by the seven bad reviews & 2.5 stars out of 5 on mec.ca for the Speed helmet, we didn't get a defective model--it's just not a great product. Several other people have written of the same issue with the fit band falling out. MEC responded to one review saying it shouldn't be a safety issue, but if the helmet can be pulled off that easily by a 21-month-old once the band is removed, I don't trust it. I'd really like to see MEC pull these off the shelves & redesign this helmet to make it stay together.

So off I went to Bicycle Row (that stretch of Broadway with All The Bike Shops near MEC) to check out toddler helmets at Bike Doctor & MEC. I only found two in her size at Bike Doctor, one of which was a Nutcase & very heavy. Not great for a little kid who still falls asleep on the bike often. The Giro toddler helmets they had featured very similar straps & inside band to what I was returning to MEC, so I passed on that one.

At MEC I beelined for the MET Buddy helmets, which I'd considered a year ago. They're a little bigger than the MEC Speed, & more pointed at the back, so they wouldn't have been great for her when she was only seven months old. Since she's getting close to two years now, they're a better fit--quite low on the forehead, however. The straps inside have a slightly tighter fit at the back & the adjustable inside band is attached permanently to the helmet, so the only thing she should be able to disassemble is the foam pads.

We returned the MEC Speed & picked up the fluorescent yellow MET Buddy helmet for $32--there are a few other designs available too. Though she was resisting with all she had in the store when I attempted to try it on her, she was happy to put on "my new hemmet" as soon as we were at the bike. Toddlers!

I'll post a review of the MET Buddy once Bronte's had a good go at it so we can really tell if it's an improvement on the MEC Speed.

Disclaimer: I bought both of these helmets & was not compensated in any way for this review.

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