Saturday, June 16, 2018

Get Ready for Summer Biking Season!


If you like biking with your family & you'd like to do even more of it this year, consider joining a HUB Cycling Family Streetwise course this summer! 

This fun, interactive course is for families with children ages 8 & up. You'll learn road safety skills & build confidence to ride on the road together as a family. This course is taught by HUB Cycling's certified cycling instructors (like me!), & includes theory, on-bike skills practice plus a neighbourhood road ride. Courses are aimed at children & family members that already know how to ride a bike (balance, pedal, steer), & are looking to take their skills to the next level & ride confidently on the road.

The Fine Print: All children must be accompanied by a participating adult, with a maximum of 3 children per adult. All participating family members must be registered in the course. All participants must bring their own working bike & helmet.

If that isn't enough to convince you, I should also mention that Translink is subsidizing these courses, so the cost is only $10 per participant! 

Vancouver Family Streetwise courses: 
If you live in another municipality, we also have upcoming programs in New Westminster, North Vancouver, Coquitlam, Maple Ridge, & Surrey. Check the HUB Cycling Family Streetwise page for more information & to register.

Disclaimer: I work for HUB Cycling as an instructor of some of these programs, but I was not compensated for writing this post & don't receive any commission if you register. I just want to see more families on bikes!

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Friday, June 8, 2018

Review: CozyPhones Kids Character Headband Headphones

Recently we had the chance to try out one of the cutest sets of headphones out there: CozyPhones.

These kid-specific headphones are a soft, fleece headband that has a pocket inside which holds flat speakers over the ears. CozyPhones Kids Character Headband Headphones come in all sorts of different animal styles, including unicorn, bunny, fox, panda, frog, monster, & cat. There's also a set of Paw Patrol characters if you have any small fans of that show in your home.

I actually came across CozyPhones about a year ago when I was looking for something I could wear to bed to help me sleep without having anything inserted in my ears. This is basically the origin story of the CozyPhones company: Paul, a veteran, had trouble sleeping & getting back to sleep at night, so he was looking for something to wear in bed to listen to podcasts or music. After finding a lot of expensive & fragile options out there, he decided to design his own & CozyPhones was born. Along the way, he added a children's line, with characters designed by his daughter. CozyPhones have also become a useful alternative to earbuds & headphones for children with cochlear implants, or for kids with sensory sensitivities.

The Kids Character Headband Headphones work the same way as the adult ones, with speakers inside a band that lays flat around the ears, so they're comfortable to sleep in, even for side sleepers.

I like the fact that they're mostly soft for durability. B is very hard on electronics & has broken other styles of kids headphones in various places. The flexible fabric band of CozyPhones is something she can't break, thankfully!

The headband comes in one size, which fits my biggish-noggined kids (age 4.5 & 7.5). The braided cord is about 90cm long, coming out the back of the band & the stereo plug is the usual 3.5mm.

If your child sleeps with headphones, or you travel a lot, these headphones are pretty fantastic. The main downside is that they could potentially be too warm for kids who 'run hot' or warmer climates. The headphone part inside the headband is also not fixed--you can easily adjust the position of them, but you can also pull them right out of the band at the opening in the back.

CozyPhones Kids Character Headband Headphones currently retail for $18-22 (US) online.

For more information on the kids headphones, or the adult version, visit the CozyPhones website, & check them out on Instagram.



Disclaimer: I received a set of unicorn CozyPhones Kids Character Headband Headphones to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. Opinions are my own!


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Sunday, May 27, 2018

5 Ways to Participate in Bike to Work & School Week!!

It's that time again, when everyone has dusted off their trusty steeds--or just got them tuned up since they've been riding them all year anyway--& gets on the bike path. The seawall is elbow-to-elbow riders & all the bikeways are boppin!

Bike to Work & School Week starts tomorrow, May 28th & runs til Sunday, June 3rd.

Here are five ways you can participate:


  1. Ride your bike to work & school! Talk to your coworkers, classmates, neighbours, friends & plan to ride together one or more of the days. 
  2. Register with HUB's Bike to Work Week website & track your commutes (anywhere you bike--running errands or social calls count too!) on their site. The data they gather on biking in this city is useful for those of us who advocate to make biking better. Entering commutes each day also adds your name to draws for a free bike every day of BTWW! 
  3. Stop by a few of the BTWW Celebration Stations on your morning or afternoon commute. There are more than 80 of them around Metro Vancouver this year! Every station is a bit different, but most offer coffee, snacks, free minor bike repair, as well as contests to win prizes. Find them on the BTWW map by day here.
  4. Become a member of HUB Cycling! Your membership dollars support HUB's efforts to make biking better for people of all ages & abilities around Metro Vancouver; help HUB run education programs for children & adults in schools & the community; & keep HUB organizing awesome special events like BTWW, Bike to Shop Days, Bike the Night, & more. Also: members get discounts at all kinds of places! You can join on the website here, or in person & get a thank you gift (while supplies last) during BTWW!
  5. Join all your fellow bike commuters for a free hot dog barbeque at Creekside Park on Friday, June 1st. There will also be snacks, drinks, & prizes from many local (& some not so local) businesses.
Hope to see you on the bikeways! Or at least on social media--don't forget to post a few bike selfies during the week & hashtag 'em #Bike2Work!





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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blind Beginnings Buddy-Up Tandem Cycling Club--Volunteers needed!

Photo Credit: Wikrap Flickr via Compfight cc
I recently heard about a great program that's just starting up to get even more people biking: the Blind Beginnings Buddy-Up Tandem Cycling Club. The club will provide an opportunity for people who are blind or partially sighted in the Lower Mainland to participate in tandem cycling. The goal is to encourage people to get outdoors & active, while also providing opportunities for social connections within the community.

The Buddy-Up Tandem Cycling Club is the brainchild of three young people--Seerat, Randi, & Nika--who are part of the Blind Beginnings Youth Leadership Program. They attended the MEC Outdoor Nation “Think Outside” Summit in October 2017. The objective of the weekend was to encourage more young people to be active outside, with a focus on people who face barriers to participation in outdoor activities.

For two days the three engaged in workshops, networking events, & outdoor activities, all the while breaking down stereotypes & educating their peers on the capabilities of blind youth. The event culminated in  Seerat, Randi, & Nika, plus 36 other groups pitching their project ideas to a panel of judges. Their passionate & eloquent pitch reached a room of 80+ people & subsequently, the judges chose the Buddy-Up Tandem Cycling Club as one of the winning ideas. The three were awarded $5,000 to turn their dream into a reality!

So here's where you come in, my dear readers! Volunteers are needed to pedal, brake, & steer at the front of a tandem with visually impaired riders pedalling on the back, as stokers. The Blind Beginnings Buddy-Up Tandem Cycling Club is aiming to have their first ride on Sunday, May 6th. They will be hosting a pilot training session on May 5th from 10am-12pm in North Burnaby, as well as a mandatory volunteer orientation with Blind Beginnings on Saturday April 28th from 1-4pm at their office location (227 6th Street, New Westminster). They are looking for a commitment to ride regularly from May through the summer months.

Anyone interested in learning more & becoming a volunteer with Blind Beginnings Buddy Up Tandem Program should email or call Program Coordinator Lisa Odland: 
Phone: 604-434-7243 
Toll free: 1-866-736-8620 
Email: lisa@blindbeginnings.ca

For more information about their other programs, visit www.blindbeginnings.ca, or check them out on Facebook & Twitter.



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Sunday, April 15, 2018

Review: The People's Poncho

Vancouver is a rainy city, with about 150 to 200 days of rain per year. Since biking is how we get around the vast majority of the time, we need to have decent rain gear. I've gone through many many iterations of cycling rain gear over nearly two decades of biking for transportation. My current setup for most short rides--like the commute to school, or getting groceries--is a rain poncho & rain boots.

I'd been using the poncho I bought from The Bike Doctor several years ago, which did the job, but a few things about it annoyed me. I'd been looking online at Cleverhood as well as The People's Poncho & thinking of getting myself one for my birthday later this year. After a few conversations about the two brands, I'd settled on a People's Poncho, not the least because of the price.

The People's Poncho has a big, adjustable hood
I was surprised to get a FB message from Johnny, the guy behind The People's Poncho, offering me a free one. Wow! I headed over to pick it up at Sidesaddle Bikes, which is currently the only place you can get them in Vancouver. I can't say I usually look forward to rain, but I was eager to try this thing out! Then the temperatures dropped five or ten degrees below seasonal average, it snowed a crap tonne (for Vancouver), & I was more concerned about warmth & staying upright while riding.

Finally, a weeeeeek laterrrr, Raincouver was back to normal & I got to try out my new rain duds. First off, the poncho is a lot nicer to put on. Like my old poncho, the neck hole is still too small to pull on over a helmet. The People's Poncho is closed with snaps & has a waterproof gusset--no scratchy velcro like my old one that usually scraped my nose as I pulled it on--which sits nicely over a warm jacket & doesn't feel too snug at the neck.

The People's Poncho has a few biking specific features: loops under the front side to hold on your handlebars, an elastic waist belt to keep it from flying around in the wind, plus a large, adjustable hood that does fit over a helmet. I like the placement of the handlebar loops--they were easy to find "blind" under the poncho were just wide enough for my Bakfiets handlebars. They also sit well on the M-bars of my Brompton. One downside to the loops is that water does seep through the poncho onto my hands where the loops are stitched on. Of course, my hands are still a lot warmer & drier than when I use my rain coat, so I'm happy enough with a drip or two.

Poncho + cane = warm, dry hands
When I drape the poncho over my handlebars, I find it protects my legs down to about the knees. My rain boots are nearly that high, so I don't need rain pants for shorter rides or in lighter rain. This is a huge bonus for me--I hate taking off my rain pants when I get where I'm going. Soooo awkward! If it's windy the rain can blow in from the side from about mid thigh down, but I haven't really gotten damp enough to need to change my pants at my destination.

The belt on The People's Poncho is a little low for me, but I've got a hilariously short back & high waist--this poncho is a unisex fit & since the belt is elastic, I can usually keep it down over my hips well enough.

Unlike my old poncho, which was only for cycling (super awkward to walk around it because it was very long in front, while short at the back & didn't cover my arms) The People's Poncho works well for walking too. There are three snaps along the hem on each side to make it into "sleeves", plus the adjustable hood has a stiffened brim to help keep rain out of your face. Both pedestrians & cyclists can benefit from the reflective piping on the shoulders & hem of the poncho.

MOAR POCKETS
I could see myself using this poncho on a bike with the snaps done up in the summer, when the weather is warm enough not to care about getting my hands wet. I also used it while walking around the Woodland Park Zoo when we were visiting Seattle during Spring Break. My hip was sore that day so I was using my cane & found the poncho to be great for this--my hand stayed dry & a bit warmer, unlike with my trench coat.

My old poncho always stuck to my legs in the front, dripping water all over my shins. I like the length of The People's Poncho & the way it hangs kept me dry when I was walking to & from my bike or wandering around at the zoo. The shoulders are quite wide & rounded & the fabric is somewhat stiff, so it's not necessarily a very flattering fit. I also found that I still got damp shoulders, just as I had with my other poncho, but this is basically condensation from being slightly overdressed, not leaks. I am one of those people who always overdresses--I'd rather be sweaty than too cold! The People's Poncho is made of triple layer breathable membrane, with a waterproof rating of 12,000mm that consists of Japanese polyester, TPU coating, & tricot knit on the inside. Of course, no waterproof gear is really ever that breathable, so I'm not too concerned.

Rain insurance: the People's Poncho + gumboots
The People's Poncho has a pocket on the front of the chest with a waterproof zipper. It's not large enough to fit too much stuff, but do you really want a big lump of your possessions flapping around in front of your chest? For the minimalists among us, who hate bringing a bag or purse if at all possible (raises hand) this is handy for the bare essentials. Most of the times it's kept my phone nice & dry in there, but it did seem to leak once--not sure if the water got in through the zipper or possibly before.

The last thing to mention about this poncho is how compact it folds up. The People's Poncho comes with a small pouch that has a waist belt on it, so you can carry it over your shoulder, strap it to your bike, or wear it as a fanny pack. It's quite convenient to toss into a bag in case of rain.

The People's Poncho is $120 at Sidesaddle Bikes, & with shipping & the exchange rate will cost you about the same online. (hint, hint: support your local bike shop!) The poncho comes in five colours: yellow, red, navy, black, & camouflage.

Disclaimer: I received a free poncho from The People's Poncho to facilitate the review. I was not otherwise compensated for writing this piece. Opinions above are my own, technical specs come from the People's Poncho website.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Spring Break in Portland & Seattle

Heading out on our first day in PDX: Madi's Surly Big Dummy, Surly Straggler, & Brompton
Most (not all) of Madi's fleet. N+1...
During Spring break we headed down to Portland & Seattle to visit friends & ride All The Bikes. We chose to drive because we knew our kids might likely kill each other on the Bolt Bus & we weren't sure we could actually all get to the train station in time for a 6:30am departure. We very briefly considered bringing a bike or two, but because our friends Madi & Anny both have N+1 bike addictions collections like we do, we were well served by their fleets of kid-hauling machines.

Most of our conversations have been via social media, so it was awesome to spend time in real life with Madi & Anny. It was also fascinating to experience the cities by bike like a local. We only spent about four days in each city, but we did do quite a lot of riding & we got to see many different neighbourhoods.
The multi use path along the Willamette River in PDX



In both places, driving was incredibly stressful. The highways go right through the city (unlike here in Vancouver) so we had to navigate to an unfamiliar destination at 70 miles per hour, with highway exits on both sides (they're nearly always on the left here) & often involving multiple lanes. Other drivers were generally impatient & often speeding on both highways & arterial roads in the city, so it wasn't a great experience.

Drove to Tillamook & Cannon Beach for some fun in the sand & (chilly) sun
Biking & walking was another story entirely on the streets of Portland. The city has a reputation for being a cycling mecca, but I arrived with some healthy skepticism. I've heard criticisms that it is bike friendly, but mainly for more for assertive, confident riders. From our short trip there, I can say I didn't see much bike infrastructure that would qualify as AAA (appropriate for all ages & abilities, from children to seniors).

On the other hand, the drivers seemed to yield to people on bikes & walking a lot more often than we see here in Vancouver. We also saw a lot of people riding, particularly the closer we got to the core of the city. Perhaps it was because we were in a group with several (weird) bikes, but the drivers did seem generally fairly respectful towards more vulnerable road users.

We rode Madi's tandem to Trader Joe's--B loved being able to pedal
Got to meet Kath, another "virtual friend", in real life, in PDX
We took up most of the bike corall at Lantern Brewing
Seattle felt a lot more like home, with impatient drivers who seemed to feel that they "own" the roads demonstrating their attitude that we shouldn't be there on bikes. It's also a much hillier city than Vancouver, particularly the area where we were staying, so having electric assist seems a lot more common there among the family bikers we met. Which was quite a few--we ended up joining a group advocacy ride in favour of the protected bike lane on 35th Avenue with around 50 people. (More details about it here on the Safe 35th FB page)

Before you get the impression that I didn't like riding in Seattle, I should say that we really enjoyed it. In no small part because of how bike & kid-friendly the local craft breweries are. We visited four different places in Greenwood (Lantern, Flying Bike, Chuck's Hop Shop) & Ballard  (Populuxe Brewing), all of which had toys & books for small children, plus the expectation that you might bring in your own food (or buy it from the food truck or hot dog cart outside).

Ice cream for them, beer for us at Chuck's Hop Shop. Not a lot of space for kids, but they were welcome at this brewpub
Families were still arriving for the ride on 35th Ave
Having the opportunity to visit G & O Family Cyclery was another thing that made the trip awesome, but I think I'll have to save that for a whole other post, or this one will turn into a novel!

Gravel & shovels & random toys kept the kids busy at Populuxe Brewery
After we got home & I had a bit more time to think about the trip, I did think of a few things we'd do differently. It was a lot easier to leave on our own schedule with a rental car, but we didn't get there any faster than the train, since we had to stop for so many bathroom breaks & meals. We also waited for over an hour in the border line-up. The stress of navigating American freeways in a Canadian rental car with no miles per hour on the speedometer (we literally had to calculate how many kilometres per hour we were supposed to be driving every time it changed).

Overall it was a great vacation & I would love to go back again. I like both Seattle & Portland a lot & there are tons of museums, parks, shops, & rides I'd still like to experience in both cities the next time(s) we go. Our hosts were both so gracious, letting us take invade their homes & commandeer half their bike fleets, & doubling the numbers of rambunctious children. As a cycling advocate, it was also really valuable to experience first-hand how other cities do bike infrastructure. I wish more municipal government officials, engineers & planners would walk & bike in their cities, as well as other ones--I think we might be moving faster toward safer, healthier cities if that were the case.

If you want to see more of family biking in Portand, I recommend following Madi on social media--she's @familyride on Instagram & Twitter, plus you can check out her regular family biking column on BikePortland. This one on route planning is particularly good!



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