Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Who Needs A Car? Carrying Bulky Items on a Cargo Bike

The past few weeks have been crazy busy with organizing the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival, plus building stilts & teaching a class. These two things have offered me some new challenges in carrying awkward things by bike. I'll admit it, this is basically a hobby of mine: figuring out how to carry weird or heavy or bulky things home on my Yuba Mundo under my own steam, rather than booking a Modo carshare vehicle.

First I needed to pick up some lumber & hardware to build the stilts. I've carried long loads before on the Yuba, so I knew how I was going to attach it: strapped & bungied to the basket at the front & the running boards at the back. This is only possible because the Yuba Mundo basket is frame mounted, so it doesn't turn when I move the handlebars.

When I was loading up the Yuba outside Home Depot, I realized that the lumber was angled in a bit at the back, as the rear rack is narrower than the basket, so I didn't have as much room for my legs as I would have liked. It wasn't ideal for stability at stop lights on the way home, as I had to keep my legs inside the space afforded by the lumber, with a narrower stance than I'd prefer. But I didn't tip over--I didn't actually have to stop many times along the quiet side streets that I took to get home.

To build the stilts, I decided to join the Vancouver Tool Library so that I could borrow some sawhorses, clamps, & a compound mitre saw. I had the kids with me too, so it was a bit awkward to load up the bike. Because the saw was probably 50 pounds or so, the bike tipped over on the sidewalk. Though tipped over is probably not quite the right word. With the saw & the running boards on the side, the bike tipped about 45 degrees before we caught it. Bronte & Linnaeus were a little surprised but never touched the ground.

When I returned the tools to the VTL, I thought I'd try using our MEC single child trailer with my old commuter. While the load was more balanced, I still had the problem of the bike tipping over, since the kick stand isn't that strong & the load pulled on the side trailer hitch. The ride also reminded me of why I love my cargo bike: no yoyoing. Riding a few kilometres with the trailer loaded up to 70-80 pounds was annoying. Over every tiny bump or hill the trailer pulled back at my bike. Downward it pushed. I wasn't concerned about my brakes or steering, but it's quite frustrating to really feel the load pulling you back like that. On the Yuba Mundo, even with a hundred pound load, it rides like a regular bike & feels smooth.

On the way to my stilt class, I took the obligatory before photo: seven pairs of stilts, plus a large (though light) bag of props. This load was probably the tallest I've ridden with & there was some movement of the stilts when I went over bumps, but I just rode slowly & it was fine.

On the way home from the stilt class, I only had the props & my own stilts to bring with me, which felt so light!

I've done many Costco runs with our Yuba, so this one wasn't terribly different, except for the quantity of drinks I bought. I carried over 18L of juice boxes & cans of pop, on top of granola bars, magazines, chips & other groceries. Plus two children, as usual.

Probably the funniest thing I carried in the past few weeks was two sheets of corrugated plastic. I decided to make two 'walls' where people could post tips & why they love family biking at the festival. Corrugated plastic seemed like the best way to do this, but how to get it home? I strapped a box onto the side of my Bread Basket to give more space for my handlebars, then attached the 4' by 8' pieces of plastic there & to the rear child seat. We looked a bit like a parade float riding down the street--the plastic covered everything but my head. There was a little wind, so I held one side while riding at walking speed from the hardware store.

Hauling all this stuff on a bike might seem crazy to some people & I'm sure that a lot of people I pass ask themselves, "Why doesn't she just use a car?". But being able to carry loads that are really heavy or long or awkward, sometimes even things that wouldn't fit in a regular vehicle easily, makes me feel strong. I feel a sense of accomplishment on my driveway as I'm unloading a carload of stuff... from my bike.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Join the next Vancouver Family Biking Ride

Ride down to Science World August 1st to meet us & hang out & then come sightsee along Vancouver's busy port. We'll stop to see seaplanes take off & land, seabuses chugging across Burrard Inlet, helicopters taking off from the Helijet pad, & the gantry cranes shifting containers in the port. Along the way we'll ride through some of Vancouver's seawall & even a 'secret' tunnel under the new convention centre. The ride finishes up at CRAB park, which is a great place for a picnic, with washrooms, a playground, a small beach, & lots of room to roam.

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review: Playtex Playtime Sippy Cup

I feel like I spend at least some time every day wishing I had a better sippy cup. With Linnaeus, it wasn't too hard to find some that we liked. Straw cups were great & eventually we switched to some basic tip & drink style that work as regular cups too. With Bronte, it's been more challenging. She tries to take them apart & throws them regularly. She dumps them upside down to shake the drink out & she smears them with food. So a sippy cup has to be durable, leak-proof, easy to clean, with a tightly fitting lid.

We recently tried out the Playtex Playtime sippy cup & Bronte definitely put it through its paces. This cup has been thrown, smashed on a number of different surfaces (including her brother, I'm sorry to say), covered with all kinds of sticky food, & held quite a few different drinks.

The Good
It's narrow enough that she can easily hold it with one hand, insulated so her drinks stay cool. The lid & spout are durable & easy to put on & tighten quickly. The silicone valve is easy to remove & clean. There are several types of cup available--straw cup, spout, spoutless

The Bad
I'm not so into the trademarked characters printed on the cup that we were given, but there are several other designs that are circus scenes, cars, animals, etc. I also don't like that they changed the lid so that the other Playtex sippy cups we own are not interchangeable. The narrowness means you can't really get your hand in their to clean it, but no big deal in a dishwasher.

The Verdict
Overall I like the Playtex Playtime cup. It works well & I'm considering getting another one for little B.

Disclaimer: I was given one free Playtex Playtime sippy cup to facilitate this review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival Recap

After months of preparation, blood (okay bruises), sweat, & tears... July 19 arrived, sunny & hot. The Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival went off without any major hitches. I think people actually enjoyed themselves & the event served the purpose of giving families a chance to network about biking & gear.

Many parents test rode bikes--the bakfietsen seemed especially popular. One lucky family won the Evo Toddler Deluxe seat (donated by Tandem Bike Cafe) & will now have the gear to start riding with both their kids.

I was buzzing around dealing with photo releases, finding lost stuff, answering questions, & handing out drinks from the cooler, so the festival flew by in a flash for me. I think there were over a hundred people over the course of the event.

Our official photographer, Tom Wiebe, managed to get some great photos despite the high noon glare. Here are a few that give a sense of the event:

Chatting about the Babboe City bakfiets, one of over 20 family bikes on display
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Our face painter, Lesia decorated many a cheek
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
The bike decorating station was hopping
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
The spoke decorations disappeared quick & the streamers were tied to everything
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Chatting about the Surly Big Dummy & a Yepp Maxi on a 'regular' bike  
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Bike Doctor pinwheel on a Wike bakfiets
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
There was a lot of traffic in the little bike circuit
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
So many tips  & reasons for loving family biking posted
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Tandem Cafe co owner & prize donor Clint, talking about his Cetma bakfiets
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Our youngest volunteer (left) explaining the draw prizes
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
Rearranging the cones on the bike circuit was extremely popular
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe

Chatting about my Yuba with another bike-curious parent
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe
We did it! Tonya & I near the end of the event
Photo Credit: Tom Wiebe

This festival was 'my baby' for many months, but I couldn't have done it without the generous help of many people. I'd like to extend a huge thank you to:

  • Tonya for helping to hatch the plot & so many other things along the way.
  • Lisa M, Dan, Joe, Melissa B, Chris, Brigitte, Lola, Gabe, Nicole, Melissa R, Clint, Neil, Matthew, Jens, Gwen, Anthony & a few others I know I'm forgetting for being in the Show & Shine
  • Rob, Tonya, Gwen, Anthony, Nicole, Lisa M, Dan for helping set up
  • The Floyd family in particular for sticking around the entire day & helping with pretty much everything at the event from transporting heavy stuff, to set up, to station staffing, to tear down
  • Jens, Chris, Melissa B, for bringing the tables & chairs in your bakfietsen back to the family centre
  • Our photographer Tom & face painter Lesia for providing their creative skills
  • The Vancouver Foundation for providing us with a Greenest City Neighbourhood Small Grant & all the staff & grant coordinators who helped us along the way
  • The Parks Board staff & Councillor Deal for helping us sort our our permit for an event that didn't really fit in any of the tick boxes on the forms
  • Our bike shop sponsors Mighty Riders, The Bike Doctor, & Tandem Bike Cafe for loaning tents, providing funding & prizes
  • The Mount Pleasant Family Centre for loaning us tables & chairs
  • Last but definitely not least, my husband & children for putting up with the stress of me going into full festival-planning mode for quite a while before the event.

One last thing:

If you attended the event, I'd love to know what you thought of it. I want this to be an annual event & your feedback will help make it better next year! Please visit the Mount Pleasant Family Biking Festival Feedback survey--it will only take you five minutes. Thank you!

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