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.