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....