Friday, September 7, 2012


It’s been a while since I last posted – okay, a long while – so let me tell you what we’ve been up to:
1. I had an idea for a bike helmet sun hat where a sun hat brim would fit over the bike helmet. Genius! I’ve never seen one and it seemed like the perfect way to keep the sun away on longer rides. I did a whole tutorial on this project with pictures and everything. It took at least 4 weeks to complete. The result was so cute – a wide brim that clipped onto the helmet with tiny magnets for easy removal. (I had a great picture that unfortunately fell victim to premature erasure.) Then we went for a ride. Not so Genius. I forgot to account for the wind factor. Even on a very still day there is enough of a breeze to flip the brim up onto the helmet rendering it useless. Peanut looked like the Flying Nun. Not one to give up super easily, I then remade the hat with a stiffer brim to the same effect. Then I gave up. Now I know why they don’t exist. There might be a way to tie the brim down with ribbons attached on the outside but I think that might look a bit 1800’s even for me. In short, my Bike Helmet Sun Hat works perfectly if you happen to be standing around in the sun wearing a bike helmet.
2. We hosted an exchange student. Ivan (his “American” name) came for two weeks in July/August. He was wonderful and the kids thoroughly enjoyed having him around. He wasn’t very fluent in English (although he spoke more English than I do Chinese) and probably understood about 40 - 50% of what went on around him while he was here. Fluency issues aside, it seemed he was easily and simply absorbed into our family during his stay. One of the things we did not get to do with him was bike. He had listed it in the things he would like to do while he was in the U.S., however, I was VERY hesitant to take him out on the streets of Sacramento since I felt I couldn’t get across basic information like: stop, follow me in a single line, ride on the right, ect… I was feeling a bit guilty about this until we got the bikes out one Sunday morning. He was definitely excited to ride and after strapping on a helmet (backwards) took off on my pink bicycle. He zipped up and down our street with a mix of great joy and total oblivion. Guilt trip over.
Ivan with my boys
3.I am still getting used to my new set-up. I traded in the front child seat for a baby seat in the rear and a bread basket. This means that all three younger kids are riding behind me, which means that the rear rack is a bit crowded, which means there is more touching, leaning, and kicking. In short, the rides have gotten noisier and bit less comfortable for everyone except me. This change really robbed me of most of my “stuff” capacity since I can no longer use the bags with the back seat. I have a very nice Basil bag that holds all of my must haves – bike kit, people kit, tire pump, ect… with a bit of room left over for small things. Everything else I want to take has to fit in the bread basket. The only thing I haven’t been able to carry thus far has been a take and bake pizza. I guess I could have folded it but then all my vegetable toppings would have contaminated my husband’s meat toppings and that, of course, is completely unacceptable.
Loving the new seat! So much room to stretch...
4. In other news:
-Charlie has upgraded from a 20” wheel seven speed to a 24” wheel 21 speed bike. He’s now quite happy and very speedy. His latest wish list includes a rear bike rack, front and rear lights, a new helmet, a bell, and fenders. Dear me, I think I’ve created a bike commuter!
--I have discovered a love of knitting which, along with my delusions of being an inventor (see Bike Sun Hat above), has completely distracted me from my work as bike blogger. I’ve made at least five baby hats, two pair of mittens, and numerous headbands thus far. I can only hope that those on my Christmas list are fond of knit.
a sampling of my latest addiction
--We’ve acquired a new car – a Toyota Sequoia – that I am fondly referring to as the Anti-bike (You have to say it in a funny voice to get the full effect). It is a huge car and requires quite a bit more gas than our old mini-van, and thus has me longing for an e-assist. I don’t NEED and e-assist but it would definitely make the longer trips to soccer practice and games feasible – they aren’t right now. It also would make any trip we made faster and quite a bit shorter which would help with the fighting - because the shorter the trip the tighter the grip. :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Food for thought...

A simple pre-school run became anything but simple.
All I wanted to do was take Schroeder to preschool on the bike. I wanted my inaugural post-surgical bike trek to be easy as I am still not sure of my limitations. I won’t be completely healed for another four weeks but the doctor said to “gradually ease back into activity” whatever that means.
The first sign of possible complication in my simple plan was that Linus wanted to ride his own bike. Having him trailing behind me always ups my anxiety because he is such a new rider. But I because I want him to be comfortable on a bike I said yes. Off we went. The next complication occurred a few blocks from the house when we picked up a stray dog. Rather a stray dog picked us up. He was a friendly sort – no growling or barking or chasing. He just ran beside (and occasionally between) the bikes as we rode along - still very distracting especially with the between the bikes bit. I should have stopped then I guess but I kept riding hoping that the dog would get bored or distracted and drop off. He didn’t. As we pulled up to the only major intersection on this ride I was completely flustered and distracted. The dog was still with us and thus far the animal had shown little regard for his personal safety, running in and out of the street willy-nilly. I did NOT want him to get creamed by a car in front of my kids as he followed us across the street. So I sent Charlie (the oldest) over to the corner with instructions to walk across the street with the light in the hopes that the dog would follow him. Linus and I stayed in the lane and prepared to cross like cars. Well, I looked up and the light was green so I started to go. Unfortunately the light was not green but a very definite shade of red as I got about ¼ of the way across the intersection – so yes, I unintentionally ran a red. Fortunately traffic was light and Linus had more sense than I and headed back to the corner with his brother where they and the dog crossed safely on the next light cycle. So nobody got squished although I did get honked at. We arrived at preschool in one piece and the dog was saved. It also appears that even that "easy" journey was too much for right now. :(
Back to my running the red....
Although I entered on the green and didn't legally (as I understand it) run a light, I do not like to be caught mid-intersection on a red. I really try to ride safely. I don’t aim to put my kids or myself at risk but occasionally I mess up – I am, after all, human. Please, no snide remarks from the peanut gallery. :) It doesn’t happen all the time but it happens often enough so I thought I’d put the question out to some of my fellow cargo bikers. I did get some good advice (watch the opposite lights and/or the crosswalk count- down) which I will definitely incorporate into my riding when I can. However, where I ride in suburbia, the lights are all on sensors which do not account for slower moving vehicles i.e.: bikes and there is not often a crosswalk signal unless someone (usually me) pushes the button. So, the real problem is that my bike is not a car. Everyone expects me to behave like I am driving a car when I am in fact not driving a car. I am not heavy like a car and I cannot accelerate like car. I repeat: I AM NOT A CAR. In fact, the only people who do not expect me to act like a car are the pedestrians who pop out in front of me. To them I appear to be a telepathic magician who can stop instantaneously without injuring anyone or losing control of my bike.
I think that most of my fellow bikers/cyclists understand my conundrum. In fact I think people who bike regularly are the only ones who understand, so here’s what I propose…
I (and I am only half joking) would like to write a proposition** that in order for a person in California to get or renew a driver’s license that they be required to take a bike safety course which would include at least one two hour trek via bike on a major thoroughfare. I think it’s a pretty damn good idea for everyone – biker or not. People who choose to bike would learn how to do so more safely. Those folks who choose only to drive would have a new awareness of the complexity of biking in an environment designed almost exclusively for cars. At least then we'd all (hypothetically) be on the same page.
Would you give me your signature?
That's it for now. I'll leave you with a picture of Yuba on his extended vacation.
**for those readers not in California… A proposition is an idea for a law that with a lot of money and signatures can be added to a ballot and passed my majority vote into California law. I think it is the most ridiculous system ever and is probably why California is such a mess right now. We hire lawmakers to make laws because the general public can’t, but when in Rome…. :)

Monday, June 4, 2012


I’m not able to ride at all right now and I have to say I miss it a lot. So in lieu of an actual bike adventure I’ve decided to let you all know why I choose my Yuba. I know you’re all interested so don’t pretend that you’re not. :)
I am not a bike connoisseur – I don’t have a wealth of knowledge about different components: handlebars, down-tubes, tires ect… I also haven’t purchased many bikes over my life, I think that I’m at five right now including the Yuba. That said, I’ve only gotten one mediocre bike –a desperation purchase but at least it was on sale.
I did, however, know what I wanted this bike to do. I wanted a bike that could haul ALL my kids and their stuff. I wanted a bike that could bring the family together.
Which brings me to Yuba…
There are quite a few kid-hauling cargo bike options out there. I eliminated the bakfiet – a bike with a front box and the sort of similar family trike because they were both out of my price range. I like the idea of having my kids on the same bike as I am which is why I didn’t pursue the ever popular bike trailer option. I had a trailer and never used it because I feel that the trailer is less visible, less comfortable, and, let’s face it, any two of my kids aren’t going to sit amicably in a trailer for very long. I’ve also learned the hard way that the rider must know where the trailer is when maneuvering. A bike trailer was not going to solve my problems or get me biking again. After I decided on a long-tail cargo bike I narrowed the possibilities down to two: the Xtracycle Radish and the Yuba.
I actually did research on these bikes - lots of research. The Xtracycle seemed to be the bike of choice and had many stellar reviews. My searching led to another company making a similar bike - Yuba. Intrigued I started typing “I hate my Yuba” into my web browser to bring up any bad reviews. Yuba may not have been around as long as some, but it doesn’t take long for bad reviews to appear in cyberspace. I couldn’t find any. The reviews I read – all by writers I would qualify as “bike-y” people - said that the Yuba was a solid product. Next, I researched the difference between ChroMoly and Hi-ten steel. Hi-ten steel appears to have a less than desirable reputation in the bike world. I read many comments on bike forums stating that bikes built out of hi-ten were not worthwhile but didn’t really provide any specific reasons other than Hi-Ten steel was heavy and less expensive thus the metal of choice for big box store/low end bikes. I finally found a few – very detailed, less biased (?) – articles that provided a list of the differences between the two. Basically it boiled down to this:
ChroMoly: more expensive, more flexible, lighter, and more difficult to repair
Hi-Ten: cheaper, more rigid, heavier material, easily repaired
Both are solid, strong metals.
So aside from the material what was the difference? I started test driving bikes. I rode both the Yuba and the Xtracycle by myself and while I could tell the Xtra was lighter it didn’t really make a huge difference in handling. Both rode like any ordinary bike – I couldn’t even tell that they were longer or heavier than an average bike. I tried riding with kids. The first time out I had my older kids on the deck alone and both bikes rode beautifully. The next step was adding the child seat. This is where I noticed the first, but crucial difference. I put my son in the child carrier on the back of the Xtracycle and rolled out of the store. We didn’t get very far because I fell three times before I hit the end of the block. Before anyone goes calling CPS, I was able to catch the bike each time and we never hit the ground. The whole episode was quite embarrassing though. I just couldn’t get balanced much less pedal – I could feel the flex from the weight of the child-seat. In retrospect, I’m sure it’s because we the child seat on the very back of the deck. On the Yuba – the child seat was also on the back of the deck but I had no trouble riding. The bike definitely felt more solid.
The other obvious difference between the two bikes is weight. At 50 some pounds there is no way I'm going to throw my Yuba over my shoulder and huff up four flights of stairs; but then again I don't need to. The Xtra is indeed lighter but I was still unable to pick it up and carry it for any distance - I’m not known for my upper body strength - so it was impossible for the extra weight of the Yuba to make much difference. On the whole, I found the bikes to be very comparable, practical, and desirable. In the end, I (obviously) chose the Yuba. I like the fact that I can load anything, almost anywhere on the cargo rack and ride.
Three months out I am so very happy with my Yuba. It’s easily the best purchase I’ve ever made. We ride almost every day – except just now of course. I love that the Yuba is so uncomplicated – it makes going car-less a natural choice. The cargo bags are huge and hold just about anything but can be removed with ease. The soft spots are comfortable so it’s not too hard to convince my kids to get aboard. The bike shifts well and the gear range makes it possible to get up all but the steepest hills. With the child seats, leg pegs, bags, spoke guards, bread basket , ect… the bike can be reconfigured so many different ways and meet just about anyone’s needs. But best of all, Yuba is just a pleasure to ride.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Change is in the air

First off, last week marked the end of classes. Finally. The end-of-the-year has always been crazy busy but it’s even crazier now with three kids in school. In addition to everything we always do; we had three end-of-year performances, five class parties with the requisite goodies (all peanut free which is harder than you’d think), end-of-year meetings, and teachers’ gifts to wrap.
It’s been a time of change aboard the bike as well. My kids are starting to put up some resistance whenever I bring out the bike – it turns out they would “prefer to drive thank you”. I, however, have come to thoroughly enjoy my biking experience and since I am in charge I usually get my way. The fit throwing has put a bit of a kinker in the process and generally makes us later which, ironically, is why my older sons don’t want to take the bike. Schroeder is three and doesn’t want to do anything so I’m just ignoring him. It’s very much a catch-22. At first, I thought our lateness was due to the fact that I wasn’t giving myself enough time to ride – maybe I was going much slower than anticipated. I realized last week, after looking at the clock before heading out the door and looking at my phone as we actually left, that I wasn’t allotting enough time to prepare…
Our biking excursions start like this: I get everyone out to the garage, we find helmets/load backpacks/check tires and then I realize Peanut and Schroeder are over in the neighbor’s yard without shoes. I chase Peanut and Schroeder down - put on their helmets and shoes. Then while loading Peanut into his seat I realize he needs a diaper change, which he did NOT need before, so it’s back in to change his diaper. Heading back to garage, I put Peanut into his seat and now discover I’ve forgotten my phone/purse/house keys. Finally, I shut the garage door (no going back now), replace Peanut’s helmet, fix the rearview mirror he managed to unscrew, coax Schroeder onto the bike with promises of food, and leave. Phew. Thanks to last week’s random time check, I’ve finally grasped that all this rigmarole generally takes longer than the ride itself as such I’ve taken to pre-preparing as best I can. Hopefully this and the beginning of summer/end of strict schedules will help.
Much to my dismay, I am realizing it’s time to start reconfiguring the bike. The current set-up works incredibly well but Peanut insists on growing and he is now too tall for his front seat. His helmeted head comes to my chin and makes it hard to see directly in front of the bike. Also, the helmet has become a weapon when he gets angry and throws his head back as hard as he can. I think it would probably be very difficult to ride unconscious. I REALLY don’t want to do this. I love having him up front and any seat change means I will also likely need new bags which can be quite expensive. On the up-side, I should be able to fit a bread basket and cup holder on the front handlebars - a very slight silver lining indeed. I have about another month to decide because...
In other news, I’ll be off the bike for at least 4 but most likely 6 weeks starting in June. It’s really going to suck especially since the weather is still so great. I am having a minor, but very necessary surgery. If everything works out I’ll have a much better quality of life in July, so keep your fingers crossed, pray, and/or send positive thoughts my way.
Holy Bikes! It seems we have started a trend at church. :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Hello. My name is Kate..

And I’m a bike-a-holic.
There are two images that come to mind when I hear the word “biker”. The first is usually a man with copious amounts of facial hair clad almost entirely in fringed leather. The second (also known as a “cyclist”) is someone flying down the street at 40 miles per hour wearing $200 dollars of matching team spandex bent over the aero-bars of a $4000 + bike. Neither of these images fit, although I am starting to wonder about the facial hair thing. Just kidding - sort of. :)
Before “the bike” I took the car everywhere because there wasn’t another option. I didn’t even think about it – we went out to the garage, got buckled in, and left. Now I find myself thinking first about using Yuba wherever I want to go. I sometimes have to talk myself out of taking the bike because I don’t have enough time, or I have to be in two (sometimes three) places around 9:00 am. That’s difficult in a car but damn near impossible on a bike. Still, biking is never far from my thoughts. If I’m not riding (which I do 4 or 5 days/week) – I’m either thinking about riding, how I could make riding work next week, plotting good routes, or shopping on-line for bike stuff. I currently have an Amazon wish list 15 items long of stuff I “have to have”. I also spend an inordinate amount of time at the bike shop where I rarely leave without buying something – I think it’s the only reason they still tolerate me. :) I’ve even learned how some basic bike maintenance which means I now have a plan B that doesn’t involve calling my husband to pick me up.
I guess all this makes me a biker/cyclist. I’ll have to add a new image to my mental repertoire…
A middle aged, slightly overweight (but getting less so) mother wearing absolutely no spandex or leather, hauling three kids, going upwards of 8 miles an hour and loving every minute.
These photos were taken by the May is Bike Month Folks at their 2012 Kick-off event.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

To ride or not to ride?

I have been meaning to write about this for some time but needed a nudge in the right direction. That nudge came from Mr. Brown of Ione, CA in the form of a letter to the editor at the Sacramento Bee. For those of you who don’t know, I was photographed riding around downtown Sacramento with three of my four boys on the bike. To Mr. Brown’s credit the original picture was published in black and white and I have had a number of people confess that it looked like I just threw kids all over the bike. I, unfortunately, only have access to the color picture which looks much better.
The paper published the picture again this morning with the letter in a special box in the editorial section. I think they were trying to pick a fight and I think it’s going to work. There are already 20+ comments in the on-line article. :)
Here’s his letter and my reply:
His letter:
I found the picture of Kate Burns and her three sons on her bicycle quite disturbing. I did not see an excellent advertisement for "May is Bike Month." Instead, we saw a woman who was violating Ca. Vehicle Code 21204 and endangering her small children. I hope she discontinues this practice immediately.
-- Timothy D. Brown, Ione
My letter:
I would like to respond to Mr. Brown’s letter regarding the picture of me and my three sons posted in the Bee on May 2nd. The black and white picture posted in the Bee did not do this bicycle justice and I understand the confusion and concern. To clarify, I would like to address this letter specifically and generally.
California vehicle code 21204 states:
a) A person operating a bicycle upon a highway shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached thereto, unless the bicycle was designed by the manufacturer to be ridden without a seat.
(b) An operator shall not allow a person riding as a passenger, and a person shall not ride as a passenger, on a bicycle upon a highway other than upon or astride a separate seat attached there to. If the passenger is four years of age or younger, or weighs 40 pounds or less, the seat shall have adequate provision for retaining the passenger in place and for protecting the passenger from the moving parts of the bicycle.
Glossing over the fact that I was not on a highway but riding in downtown where there are lights every block; the bike is made to operate as I am using it. All the passengers under 4 are restrained in place - the child on the front has a belted bike seat and the first child on the rear has stoker bars, foot pegs, and a healthy dose of common sense. The back seats - and they are seats - are firmly attached and protected from the wheels and gears twice - once with bags and once with wheel skirts.
Generally –
Many people assume that biking is dangerous – you will die. “Is it safe?” is a question I hear frequently and most don’t seem to believe my answer. Webster’s defines the word safe as being secure from harm, injury, or danger. Safe does not exist in the real world - everything we do involves risk. I am reminded of this every time I fall down the stairs, slip on my tile floor, buckle my kids in their car-seats, or book an airline ticket. Indeed, even sitting on our backsides doing nothing carries risk – the risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and too-tight pants.
Of course biking carries risk but is it dangerous? In 2009, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 630 pedal-cyclists died and 51,000 were injured in traffic accidents. Those numbers account for 2% of all traffic related fatalities and injuries in 2009. These numbers imply that the other approximately 86% (pedestrians accounted for 12% of traffic fatalities and 3% of injuries) of people injured or killed in traffic accidents in 2009 were driving or riding in cars. Obviously, being in a car does not ensure safety. In fact, based on these statistics, one could argue that riding a bicycle is safer and less dangerous than driving and definitely less risky than walking. Additionally, there are ways to minimize the risks of bike riding – riding with traffic, obeying traffic signs, wearing helmets, signaling, using bike lanes/ trails when available, and wearing lights and reflective gear at night. Although I take care to minimize the risks as much as possible, I realize that I am also depending on motorists to be considerate, law abiding, and in control of their vehicles. When I ride with my kids I am teaching them how to bike safely - they are learning traffic laws and experiencing how important it is to “share the road”. Lessons I hope will make them not only better (future) drivers but better people.
I weighed the risks and the benefits and decided to ride with my kids. I have found that riding my bicycle is invigorating, relaxing, economical, and enjoyable - even with the kids on back. I can’t very often say that about my car trips. I think we will continue this practice indefinitely.
I feel very strongly about the general safety part of my letter. I cherish my kids and would never put them in a situation where I thought they would absolutely get hurt. I spend a lot of my time on this bike off of main streets riding mainly on bike paths or through residential neighborhoods. I’m not saying that everyone should ride that way, it’s just how I prefer to ride. Anyway, this hasn’t changed my mind a bit - I don’t feel judged or threatened. I feel like I need to ride more so people get used to seeing bikes and bikes with kids.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Make New Friends

Last week I finally met Elle Bustamante and her boys. Elle is another Yuba mom here in Sacramento whose blog, facebook posts, and incredible biking adventures (she rode to Modesto – and back - with two kids!) have intrigued me for months. She also plans short weekly rides on Friday mornings. Unfortunately, I hadn’t been able to make it out until last Friday when we met at Doughbot for a mid-morning treat. We were calling it Sacramento's First Ever Kidical Mass but that was before we found out that there is a group somewhere doing one already. For now, we'll just call it Midtown's First Ever (unofficial) Kidical Mass. I am hoping Elle and I will be able to put together more - heck, we're a mass just the two of us. It was a lovely way to start our day - awesome ride, yummy doughnut, great company, and our very first Yubuddy. :)
Also, I’ve been trying to get footage for a cargo biking movie. Yes, a biking movie. I know - who on earth would be interested in a cargo bike movie? That’s exactly what I thought when I heard the description. Then I watched the trailer at:
I would totally watch that movie. Not only would I watch it, I’d love to be in it! Fortunately, it’s a crowd-sourced documentary which means I can! Unfortunately, the whole endeavor is turning out to be much harder than I had anticipated. First, I had to borrow an HD camera because only HD footage will make it into the movie. Then my planned interview subjects (ie. my kids) are being most uncooperative. They don’t want to be filmed: they put their legs/feet/hands in front of the lens, they pick their noses, they yell at the dog/brother mid-sentence, and they whisper. So far, bribery has been unsuccessful. Also, getting riding footage has been a huge issue. Nothing screams “TOOL!” like riding around with a handheld camcorder (NOT the one we borrowed) mounted on a gorilla pod taped to your helmet but I tried it anyway. At first I got some great footage of my back. After changing the location and direction of the camera I managed to get some footage of the kids – mainly Schroeder's helmet – but at least the kids were visible. The quest continues….
Stay tuned for:
Adventures at the Farmer’s Market – stories so exciting you’ll wet your pants!
Not really (at least I hope) but it will definitely be more interesting than whatever you are supposed to be reading at work. 
Doughnuts and Yubuddies....

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Double Take

Plan A: Load the dog into the go-getter bags and take him and perhaps a few of the kids down to the dog park for a bit. I apprised my husband of the plan and he immediately gave me his “you are bat shit crazy” look. I see it often. Then he told me – very politely – that my plan was never going to work and provided a number of logical reasons used as the basis of his conclusion. Although my husband is usually right - about everything- I determined not to be dissuaded by this nay-sayer. I promptly went to the garage and loaded the dog into the bag. It was indeed not going to work. Worse, it was not going to work for all the reasons he had listed. Crap. On to plan B…
Plan B: I will drive the dog and some of the kids to the dog park. I could walk but walking takes FOREVER and by the time I got there the dog would be worn out which would make the trek to the dog park pointless. Snoopy needs him some doggy love. As I was loading the car with the dog and the kids I noticed my husband getting the other two ready.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“I thought I’d take Schroeder and Peanut on a bike ride” he replied.
Ummmm, what?
“You’re taking the Yuba?”
“But I was going to ride the bike” I whined.
At least that’s what I wanted to say. I didn’t because I realized that he had just voluntarily – without any encouragement (read: nagging) from me - gotten on a piece of exercise equipment; an event that has happened probably less than 20 times in the course of our 12 year marriage. I am not saying in any way that my husband is lazy - he works very hard but he just doesn’t like most exercise. He says he doesn’t get much out of it – no runner’s high, no relaxation, no real enjoyment. I've always been the active one and he's very supportive but I've often wished we would do more together. It's so hard to do things with the kids as they require so much attention and/or equipment. Biking could be different: it's very do-able, especially with Yuba, so I let it go and he took the bike for a ride.
I got a brief glimpse of our family biking future and loved it. :)

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Car Free Days

I managed to go entirely car-free on Tuesday. No, I did not just stay home. That would have been cheating. I actually got up early, packed the bike, and aired the tires and rode the boys to school. This time I made the trip bike-abuse free and took the long way around. It was quite a pleasant trip. I was planning to leave at 8:30 - 30 minutes earlier than usual - but we were late anyway. The actual trip might have taken longer than anticipated but the loading of the bike certainly put us behind schedule. I had kids wandering all over the place – one had shoes and no helmet, one had a helmet, one shoe, and a dirty diaper, and one had a helmet and shoes but couldn’t find his books. That is one of the down-sides to a bike – I can’t strap my kids in and leave them while I run back into the house to get whatever we are missing. Next time I’ll have to push for an 8:20 departure.

I gave Linus the camera to document our day. He got some pretty good shots. Unfortunately he also got some schmutz on the camera lens which I didn’t notice until I was uploading. Sigh. Anyway, here’s our trip in pictures…

Starting out:

Levee views:


scene of the Bike Throwing:

Admiring crowd:

Happy Baby:


last stop: ice cream

Saturday, April 14, 2012

This little piggy went to market!

You know that game you played when you were little - the “Don’t Step on Hot Lava” game where you used the furniture or rocks to jump from one place to the next until you got to where you wanted to be? Well, that is how I ride a bike. I don’t like to ride on very busy streets. I will if I have to, but I’d prefer to avoid traffic. It ruins the ambiance of my ride. This is part of the reason why it took me a good month to ride to the grocery store that is, literally, just down the street. The other part is the fact that I just haven’t been grocery shopping in all that time. I don’t know exactly what we’ve been eating but it hasn’t been fresh and/or very healthy. Sigh.

I have to turn left into the store from both of the streets I use to get there via car. Not left at a light but left turns from the middle of the street which I dislike in a car and hate on a bike. I FINALLY realized that I could go around the store and approach from the back thus making a right turn into the parking lot. Genius! So that is what I did and it worked beautifully. I even remembered to take my environmentally friendly reusable bags - so super "green" grocery run. Yay me! I parked Yuba - it took up almost the entire (small)space alloted to bikes - and went inside.

Our stuff filled up the shopping cart and I was slightly worried about fitting it all into the bags. I know they are supposed to hold 6 grocery bags but I have the Trader Joe's bags which, for some reason, are like 2.5 regular bags. A little careful packing and everything fit without smashing. The whole trip took about an hour - about what it would have been in a car - and was actually quite easy.

Here are some pictures from our very first (but not last) grocery store run….

1. Groceries in Cart

2./3. Groceries in Go-Getters

4. My kids sitting over the Groceries

And no. My youngest doesn't ride on the back. He's got a seat up front but wanted to be just like big brother. :)

Until next time,


Friday, April 6, 2012


I have had my Yuba for an entire month now and I love it as much (if not more) than I thought I would. To celebrate I threw it down the side of a levee. Well, I didn’t actually “throw” it – I let go and gravity did the rest. Why would I engage in such blatant bike abuse when I love it so much? I’m glad you asked…

Up until now most of my riding has been fairly close to home and on a bike path that runs through Sacramento. I want to take my kids to and from school on the Yuba but have been hesitant because it requires some fairly extensive street riding on major, heavily travelled streets including one with freeway on/off ramps. Now Sacramento is fairly bike friendly but you still (in my opinion) have to be very careful with route planning especially when riding with kids. My nine year old usually does not ride on my Yuba but follows behind on his own bike which requires extra caution. As I’ve said the direct route to school follows some very busy streets but most of them have a bike lane until they don’t. Disappearing bike lanes are an epidemic here. You’ll be riding along happily out of traffic and the gutter when, BAM, the bike lane disappears. At this point several things usually happen: 1. the street narrows considerably, 2. traffic speeds up and cars start crazily changing lanes and/or 3. yard waste/parked cars appear where you were riding and you are suddenly forced into traffic. Not where I want to be with my fairly inexperienced, but very valuable kid behind me. However, there is a very nice off street bike path that runs parallel to the busy street on which I otherwise would be riding. This path runs along the top of a levee and goes UNDER the freeway which makes for a gorgeous, stress-free ride. It’s lovely except there are only four or five access points. It’s like an expressway to nowhere I want to be. I finally found an access that allows me to get on the path but not one where I want to get off. The next access is a mile or two out of my way. The street side of the levee, except the access points, is super steep and lined with barbed wire fencing. I thought, maybe, if I found a brake in the fence I could walk the bike down the hill and shave 10 – 15 minutes off my bike commute.

Which brings me to bike throwing…

Because it’s spring break - I chose to do a trial run on Tuesday. We got on the path easily and started cruising along the top when I found it. A break in the fence! We stopped and I unloaded the kids and sent them down the hill. I got my older son’s bike down and then turned my attention to the Yuba stranded at the top. At this point I should have had second thoughts but I didn’t. It was a lot harder to walk the bike downhill than it is to walk it up-hill. I got about halfway down when I realized it wasn’t going to work. I tried to get it back up-hill but that didn’t work either. I was stuck. Crap. The only choice was down and it was clear that if I held on the bike would take me too. I let go. The bike rolled twice and came to a rest at the bottom of the hill stopping just before the barbed wire. Phew. I followed it (not rolling), picked it up, and dusted it off. Yuba came up beautifully. The child seat on the front was a little twisted and my rear-view mirror got knocked loose but those were the only evidence of a fall. Everyone loaded back up and we continued our ride.

Good things came of this experience: 1. the Yuba can take a fall. I’m not going to get in the habit of tossing my bike down hills but it’s good to know that it is not easily damaged. 2. It’s hard to walk this bike down hills and impossible to walk down steep hills. 3. The “short cut” took a good 20 minutes so it’s actually faster to get off at the access and ride back. I did a little more scouting by car and found an even better street off the access point – bonus. 4. My kids’ school is actually quite close (less than 5 miles) and it is totally possible, with good planning, to ride them there most mornings. Yay! More bike = less car.

Enjoy your weekend!


Friday, March 30, 2012

Stick a fork in me

I’m done.

Today’s ride was brutal. I am not really sure why but my legs just weren’t on board with the whole “let’s ride the bike” thing. We had to get off and walk up “hills” (we don’t have real hills in Sacramento- these were closer to really big bumps) and I’ve never had to do that before. Weak! It might be all the boot-camp, running, and swimming at the gym, the VERY full cargo bags, and/or the fairly stiff headwind we had during the ride out. It also could have been the exceptionally wiggly kids. Some snippets from today’s ride: “Get your hands out from under my butt!” Said after Schroeder had wedged his hands between my rear-end and the bike seat. “Get your hands out from under my shirt!” Again Schroeder, but this time his hands were up the back of my shirt because “they chilly”. “Quit jumping around Linus!” This came after Charlie (on his own bike) had gotten close enough to tickle/flick/throw something. Usually I am able to ride fast enough to ensure that he is far enough behind me as to be out of arm’s reach. On top of all this I got sunburned. So yes, today’s ride was difficult.

It’s another beautiful day here (minus the wind) so I thought I’d pick Schroeder up at preschool and then take the kids down to Old Sacramento. I needed to get the bike tuned up a bit – the shifting has been a bit rough – so we stopped at Practical Cycle. We left the bikes there for Tim and Cassidy to work their magic and went to 10/22 for lunch. We’ve never been before but I’ve heard it is kid friendly. That’s a good thing because I’ve got some kids. They provided some of those waxy strings and activity sheets as pre-food entertainment and it worked for everyone but Peanut. Actually, it worked for him too. He tasted one and then spent the rest of the time trying to eat the rest. The food was excellent – a bit pricey – but very good. Everyone cleaned their plates. Even Peanut, so I can only presume the food was preferrable to wax covered strings.

1. Outside school

2. All ready to go

3. Lunch

4. Wax string bicycle

After lunch I took the boys over to the train museum. I had promised I would. I thought, erroneously, that biking there would make the experience more bearable. The train museum is a personal hell. I HATE the train museum. It turns out that I hate it even more after a difficult ride. Who knew? The boys, however, had a great time. After suffering through most of the first floor I finally managed to bribe them out with promises of candy.

5. Train Museum

Sugar in hand we went back to Practical Cycle to pick up the bikes. Apparently the cargo bag is interfering with the derailleur which is why the shifting is off. Maybe the bag was indeed too full.  Tim thinks that the running boards – plastic shelves that go under the bags – will help. This is actually good news because I’ve kinda wanted to get those anyway. Right now I can’t ride without the bags. The bags not only give my kids a foot rest of sorts but they also keep small feet (and hands probably) out of the spokes. So yay! It’s always nice when you need what you want. :)

6. Peanut's done too :)

Long story shorter, we made it home. I think tomorrow I’m going to take a break from the kids and go watch a movie or shop or something. Or, maybe I’ll just go watch other people shop. It’s cheaper that way.

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Luck O' the Irish

It did indeed rain most of last week; thus my bike spent much time sitting forlornly in the garage with the rest of our fleet. The storm stopped long enough on Friday for preschool drop-off/pick-up runs. Then, fortuitously, on Saturday, the sun decided to come out and play!

Saturday, as everyone knows, was St. Patrick’s Day and I was signed up to ride in Sacramento’s parade with the Practical Cycle gang. I’ll be honest: I wasn’t going to ride if it was raining. I’m not exactly set up for rain riding (I lack any kind of water proof gear ) and I don't enjoy getting wet while wearing clothes - especially if it’s cold. I can’t imagine that trying to do an Irish jig on the back of a moving truck in the rain is much fun either; so the sun’s reappearance was good fortune for everyone involved.

I could only talk two of my kids into riding with me – Charlie and Schroeder. Linus preferred to stand on the side watching in hopes of grabbing any (and all) candy that was thrown his way.

We got dressed in our best St. Patty’s day finery – green shirts, Mardi Gras necklaces that happened to be green, and some argyle socks - and set off. We are definitely going to have to up our game if we participate next year as we were hopelessly under-dressed and out-greened.

1. Pre-parade (he looks like he feels lucky, no?)

We arrived at the parade start with time to spare. I was one of only two long-tail bikes there and I was very excited to show off my new Yuba. I felt like hot shit until we were COMPLETELY upstaged by an identical Yuba (it was even orange) with a MERMAID sitting on the back. A GREEN mermaid. Crap.

2. Mermaid on wheels

The parade started. The route was packed and we (everyone really) were going painfully slow. It turns out that not being the center of attention was the least of my concerns. I was really just trying to keep the bike up-right which isn’t easy at very low speed. In fact I was pushing the bike along with both feet much of the way. We haven’t fallen yet – I’m sure we will – but I was determined that it wouldn’t happen in the middle of a parade. Nothing will make you feel like a bad parent faster than dropping your kids. Trust me, I’ve done it - accidentally of course.

We made it without falling (yay!) and had lots of fun. The kids waved at everyone, we got tons of compliments, met some new people (including a mermaid), and we can check “be in a parade” off the bucket list. I added a parade to my list just so I could check it off. :)

Ironically, the only kids who got any candy were the ones on my bike because, apparently, on the side lines there was more competition than free candy. He, He, He – that’ll teach Linus. :)

3./4. En Route

(we're behind the mermaid)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A week of riding

I'm a little late posting this time. I'm trying to post every Sunday but between day light savings time and the half-marathon (!) I ran on Sunday morning I was pretty exhausted last night.

It's supposed to rain all this week but last week Northern California experienced some phenomenal spring weather – bright, sunny, and in the 70’s. Not bad for March. I spent the entire week on the bike. In fact, I was inventing places to go just so I could ride. I did two runs to the gym. I dropped off and picked my son up from pre-school. On Friday afternoon, I loaded up all the kids and took a trip to Old Sacramento, my three youngest rode with me while my nine year old tagged along behind on his own bike.

We parked the bikes at Practical Cycle and picked up some accessories – a cute new helmet for me, a pillow for the front child seat, and a new bike lock. I DO NOT want this bike stolen. I have taken to triple locking it - one for the bike seat, one around the bike rack, and (just for good measure) one between the front wheel and the frame. I have no doubt that if someone REALLY wants it they’ll take it but at least I’m going to make them work for it. I take some comfort in the fact that it is too big to pick up and throw in your average vehicle.

We went got ice cream (two for Linus since he dropped his) and then moseyed along window shopping. It was way beyond nap time when we headed back. I am very fortunate that three year-old Schroeder decided to stay on the bike. He and Linus were fighting – yes, fighting ON THE BIKE – almost the entire way home. In fact all the kids behind me were fighting. Charlie and Linus were arguing between bikes while Schroeder was grabbing a Linus’ hands and seat. Lovely. Yet we stayed upright. Peanut fell asleep almost immediately and slept all the way home. Charlie was such a trooper! It was an almost nine mile ride round trip and he didn’t even complain about being “saddle sore” until we got home.

I was so busy loading the bags with everything I thought I'd need that I forgot the camera. Oh well, next time I promise there will be lots of pictures.

Look for us in the bike lane!


Sunday, March 4, 2012


I got my bike! I got my bike!

My husband dropped me off a Practical Cycle and I rode my very own YUBA home that day. Those of you who with a keen eye for details will notice that the bike is not blue, but a very vibrant orange. The blue bike was ready and waiting, but the orange bike called to me from the corner saying that it had everything I wanted - bags, padded seats, a handle bar and pegs for the front backseat rider, the hand hold for the back backseat rider, a double kickstand, ect... - being prone to suggestion, that's the bike I took. The orange does go better with the green baby seat AND my boys are thrilled. They were not at all pleased with my selection of the color blue as it was deemed a "girly color". I know, they're kinda crazy that way. Anyway here it is....




Notice the small children hovering around it like a satellites - they couldn't wait for a ride. I spent most of the day Saturday ferrying kids, in various configurations, around the neighborhood trying to get the feel of the bike. Today (Sunday) was a beautiful day and the whole family saddled up for a trip to the park and a picnic. Here's part of my crew...


We had a lovely day and throughly enjoyed the ride. I, however, am absolutely exhausted. It turns out the bike - especially when loaded with kids and food - is quite heavy. From today's ride I did learn a few things - 1. I need to pack diapers and wipes (do you really want to know?), and 2. a first aid kit would be a good addition to the bags as well (here I am just thinking ahead). We still had a very smooth, albeit slow, ride and I am already looking forward to our next outing.

Look for us in the bike lane (we'll be hard to miss)!


Monday, February 27, 2012

Living car-reduced

I have been yearning for, coveting, desiring, (enter any similarly salacious word here) this bike for almost a year.

**picture from**

The good folks at Practical Cycle in Old Sacramento were kind enough to let me take it out for a test drive. I easily loaded my 9 and 6 year-olds on the back and after a brief safety lesson - keep your hands and feet away from the spokes and no wiggling - we started off. The bike was not at all difficult to pedal and felt very stable with nary a wobble. Riding over the cobblestone street in Old Sacramento proved to be a bit uncomfortable and bouncy but not too problematic. Even making loose u-turns was not overly awkward especially considering the length of the bike - I didn't even need to put a foot down.

I am going to pick up one of my very own in a few short days and words cannot convey my excitement but I'll try anyway - I feel like a kid on Christmas morning. My bike is a lovely shade of blue and will carry at least three (I am hoping for all four!) of my kids and their stuff. I am planning on putting my almost 2 year old in a front bike seat that I already have and carrying my 3 and 6 (and possibly 9) year olds on the back. I am hoping to make preschool drop-offs, grocery store runs, gym trips, and boy scout meetings mostly car free ventures. Eventually, as my stamina and confidence increase, I want to make longer trips. I have visions of cruising along chatting to my children, pointing out interesting sights, and feeling the fresh air on our faces. As an added bonus - we'll be making our bodies and our earth healthier with every pedal stroke. I will definitely need to learn how to fix a flat tire though; as being stranded with three kids and a disabled bike is one of my worst nightmares.

I don't think that I will ever be able to go car-free but I absolutely can go car-less. Hmmmm. Perhaps car-reduced is less confusing. :)

Look for us in the bike lane!