31 December 2009

Take It Off!

Last night I finally found some time to put on the 2.0" Schwalbe Big Apple on the rear of the Madsen.  I had trouble seating the tire, so I swapped the rubber rim strip for some cloth rim tape, which seemed to help.  Many spokes were very loose, so I tightened them.  Attention Madsen owners: I know the bike is awesome, but it should still be serviced periodically.

When I visited Madsen Cycles in SLC, Jared assured me that this tire would fit with the stock fender, but he added that one must clip out the crimped section of the rear fender with tin snips to accomodate all that rubber. Most plastic fenders are missing this section anyway.  I was able to hack it without removing the bucket.

However when I took the kids to the library today, I found that the chain now rubbed a bit on the hacked fender when I used the large cog.  And the taller tire caused the kickstand to float just a bit too high off the ground, which allowed  the bike to roll when parked - not cool.  The bucket needed to come off so I could finish what I had started doing half-assed.  Typical.

Removing the bucket is easier than I had thought it would be.  You must only remove three screws.  There are two small nutted screws at the bottom of the bucket that hold the bucket to a cross bracket.  Then under the rear seat, there is a screw-type hose clamp that holds the bucket to the round top-tube of the support rack.  That's it.  I pumped the tire to max pressure (70 psi), adjusted the kickstand down (the kickstand is held in place by what is essentially an upside-down seat post clamp), then reduced the tire pressure a bit to soften the ride.  I trimmed my fender hack job, then adjusted the v-brake pads while it was convenient.  Note the blue sticker that indicates that this is one of the discounted "scratched" models.

While I had the bucket off, I also took a few measurements.  Using the highly accurate "bathroom scale" method, I found that a 2-seat bucket weighs 24 lbs, and the bucketless kg271 (with aftermarket VO saddle and fat Schwalbe tires) weighs 46 lbs.  I rode the bucketless bike around the block and found it to be as zippy as my 50 lb Xtracycle.  Yes, zippy is relative in this case, but you'd be amazed how well these longtails can lurch out of the gate.

I would also say that the Avid BB5 front brake I put on the Madsen (upgrade from the stock Promax brake caliper) works about as well as the Avid BB7 on my Xtracycle when the bikes are unloaded (160 mm rotors on both.)  However, the BB7 allows far better control and stops the loaded Xtracycle much better.  Madsen owners, if you are contemplating an upgrade to the brakes, go with the BB7.

It's taken me 8 months, but I finally have the bike dialed in the way I wanted it.  I was really pleased with it on Day 1, but a few simple upgrades and comfort modifications have made it one of my favorite bikes to ride.  And for the second time this month, I talked to someone outside the library who already knew about Madsen Cycles, but stopped to chat because he was completely shocked to see one in Tacoma.  Most of the folks who ask me about the bucket bike think it's a home-made hack and are surprised to find that I bought it fully assembled (without ever seeing one in person!) and ready-to-ride straight out of the box.  Hopefully these recent encounters with other bike enthusiasts indicate that the cargo bike wave is finally headed for T-town.  Any of you shop owners want to hop on the Madsen dealer train?  C'mon!

22 December 2009

Bikes To-go

Here's a little folding-bike-on-cargo-bike action for your Tuesday...

Photo by Atom @ House of Tattoo

17 December 2009

Would you, could you, with a bike?

I've read stories about bike moves in Portland and Minneapolis, where armadas of cargonistas move a family of four and their worldly possessions across town in a day.  And Sam in Bozeman proved that even solo bike moves were possible.  So when Evan asked to borrow our Madsen and maybe a trailer so that he could move all of his stuff to a new condo, I jumped at the opportunity to help with, what I think may be, Tacoma's first bike move.

He moved everything himself using a 2005 Burley d'Lite trailer (for smaller stuff like boxes and dresser drawers full of clothes) and a Madsen kg271 "Bucket Bike" (for the chest of drawers and a queen-size bed set.)

The most awkward piece was the mattress.  I went along to help with loading and traffic flagging, but mostly to rubber-neck.  Here we are using the recently-striped S. 12th Street bike lane.

The slow trip was just under three miles.  One passing driver honked and gave us the thumbs up.  A man on the sidewalk nodded approvingly and said, "Now that's how you do it."  I think the entire move was done in sub-freezing temps and it was around 25°F on this particular morning.  Unfortunately my mittened hands are not very adept with a camera while riding, so I only have this one photo of us en route.

When I asked Evan what he thought of the Madsen: "It's awesome."

14 December 2009

Joy Ride

This should be fun.  Find a sitter.

Hat tip to SPEW for the heads-up.

11 December 2009

Idle Hands are the Devil's Playground

When winter rolls around, I usually find myself out in the garage on cold nights playing bikes. Once the over-due maintenance is done, I start to tinker. Here are some of the project that I've been working on.

I never seem to have my camera around when I want it, especially when I'm biking, so I'm making a camera mount for my handlebars. That way I can also take decent low-res videos of my epic rides.  Instructions are here and the bits cost about $2 from the hardware store. (Note: The Ace Hardware at S. 12th and Sprague carries all of the bike-sized metric bolts that you could ever need.)

I've wanted to upgrade the rear tire on our Madsen, but no local shop stocks a 20" Marathon. Well last Saturday the Mrs. and I found ourselves in Seattle, volunteering at the Winter Beer Festival. We had parked at a B&B called Inn of Twin Gables*, where we would be staying the night, then walked over the Ballard bridge to Hale's for the event.

About half-way over the bridge, we spotted the Dutch Bicycle Company of Seattle.  What luck!  We checked out their awesome selection of Dutch bikes and they happened to have just one 20" Big Apple burried up in the rafters.  I strapped it to my bag and we continued to the festival where we poured tastes from Schooner EXACT Brewing.  They took home the second place people's choice prize for their Hoppy the Woodman barrel-aged winter ale.  The beer was great and we had an awesome time.

*I highly recommend the Inn of Twin Gables.  Katie, the innkeeper, was an excellent host (a story of her grandmother provided the title of this post.)  And she made us a very tasty and healthy breakfast.  Possibly the best night I've ever had away from home, and at a very reasonable price.

Rain Cover
The kid's don't mind getting a little cold and wet, but the downpours in November and the sub-freezing temps of December are extremes that I'm not always comfortable biking in with children.

I'd seen pictures of Madsen's prototype rain cover, but have heard it's been shelved for a different design.  Being cheap and not wanting to wait for a produciton model, I'm making my own.  The frame is made of 1/2" EMT electrical conduit.  It's super light and easy to form, plus the frame disassembles into two pieces for summer storage.   The cover itself will be made from outdoor canvas and clear plastic.  A drawcord at the bottom will go under the lip of the bucket and hold the frame down.  This is where I am so far.  You'll have to imagine the rest.

This should work fine for low-speed, winter kid hauling.  I'll post more photos and a how-to when it's done.

02 December 2009

Winter Kid Commuting

This morning I asked the two pre-schoolers if they thought it was too cold to take the Madsen bucket bike to school. It was 33°F, very dry, and beautifully sunny. After explaining that this temperature was nearly cold enough to make water turn to ice, one kid said Yes! and the other said No!

Well, Mom was out with the van and it was now time to go, so everyone bundle up! Beanies under helmets, mittens and scarves, and glasses for the short-straw who had to sit facing the wind. They shared the fleece blanket that we always leave in the bucket now that it's chilly. An umbrella was deployed to break some of the wind. We're off!

Tula dropped her mitten in the middle of the intersection. The nice driver behind us honked to point this out, so we stopped. We played I Spy. Then another stop to put the umbrella away because it was hampering the visibility for the game. Then it was Jingle Bells (a one-horse open sleigh - ha!) and Santa Claus is Coming to Town. At the stop light, I see that all of the bank tellers are pointing and smiling. Not a single word from anyone about being cold or inconvenienced. Just fun, and lots of it.

On the way home later, we road in the freshly painted bike lane on North 21st Street. The best was when the mom and two kids in the Prius slowed down to check out the bucket action.

There's sunny skies and similar temps in the forecast for the whole week. Tomorrow we're taking some jingle bells with us for musical accompaniment to the caroling.

How much better can this get? What temperature is too cold for a 1.2 mile ride to school?

29 November 2009

Gwen Loves Tea Parties

Today Gwen and I went to a tea party at Mad Hat Tea Company that was organized by Tacoma Bike. We rallied at the bike shop at noon for a short ride around the Thea Foss Waterway. It was a family-friendly event and there four or five kids along for the ride, maybe 17 of us total. At the end of the ride, we enjoyed hot tea, fresh scones, red velvet mini-muffins, and plenty of other tasty treats at Mad Hat. We had fun meeting and chatting with other folks who like riding bikes.

Gwen was in charge of the camera, though the photo of us was taken by one of her new friends. On the way home she managed to snag a photo of the only sharrow in Tacoma (St. Helen's between 9th and Market). I love this street, but wish it were more than a few hundred feet long!

Thanks to Gillian, Tony, and Mike at Tacoma Bike and Maureen and Tobin at Mad Hat for putting on a great event. Let's do it again soon!

25 November 2009

Parting Skies and Pumpkin Pies

Sun! Pies! Fun! And that was just the ride to pre-school...

24 November 2009

Thankfully Healthy

After struggling with the H1N1 flu for twenty days, I finally felt well enough to shuttle the kids to pre-school in the Madsen bucket bike today. To me, this is a health milestone that says, "You're better!" There was a chilly Northwest drizzle falling, but with their legs covered by a light fleece blanket and an umbrella at their backs, the kids stayed completely dry. I was left with damp thighs from my rain jacket run-off, which made me reconsider the value of rain chaps. And while the umbrella is fine for light precipitation, my youngest isn't big enough to hold one up on her own (she stayed home for this test). I need another solution.

The folks at Madsen made a prototype cover, which I heard was scrapped for a different design. I've worked out a basic design of my own for a passenger rain cover which I hope to build and test in the next few weeks. Unfortunately, it won't be done in time for Tacoma Bike's Family Tea Party on Sunday.

I'm not in a huge hurry to build it because the kids don't seem to mind the rain that much. After weeks of drenching downpours, they were more than ready to brave a few showers to get in some laps on the sidewalk the other day - without fenders!

Wishing you all good health this season - Happy Thanksgiving!

15 November 2009


While I've been getting over the flu (likely the swiney variety), I've been using my car more. By 'more' I mean that I'm using the car for trips that I otherwise would have biked: grocery store, doctor office, pharmacy. I simply do not have the energy to ride more than the four blocks to the mail box. I've done the pre-school run on the Madsen only once in the last two weeks and it was struggle.

I've been glad that we are car-lite and that I have a car to fall back on during this time. No one wants the swine flu guy to sit next to them on the bus. But wouldn't it be better if we were electric car-lite?

Thanks to Sara at Full Hands for the tip on a new They Might Be Giants album for kids, Here Comes Science, which is available with full video. Here's my favorite track. My daughters and I love the whole album though.

09 November 2009

Catch Up

So...when I left off, my family and I were about to embark on a two week road trip to Oklahoma for my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary. We chose to drive because it was cheaper, but it also allowed us to see friends and family and countryside along the way, do something new as a family, and keep the trip cost down. For those who care, the carbon footprint for the trip was roughly 60% of a trip by airplane.

The trip was great. Many questioned our sanity for taking a toddler and a pre-schooler on a 4,000+ mile adventure, but we really did have a blast. We visited eight states, two zoos, an aquarium, a solar-powered yurt, and a Mennonite-run Dairy Queen. For those parents considering a similar family outing, I offer two secrets to our success: a portable dvd player and a 2-lb bag of Dum Dum lollipops.

I did go on two bike rides in the Brighton, Colorado area, where a nearby water tower verified with a painted ring that I was indeed riding at the one-mile elevation mark. Pretty cool for someone who lives at 350 feet a.s.l.

The week after we returned home was spent finding our routine. I biked the kids to pre-school in the MADSEN and we prepared for Halloween. By Halloween night, all of the kids were sick. By Tuesday, the pre-school had reported two confirmed cases of H1N1 and my wife and I were starting to feel ill. Yep, TBR has the Swine Flu. On the up side, the whole family had it at the same time, the kids were over the rougher fever part very quickly, and it's been pouring buckets of rain the entire time so we've missed out on very little riding time. ;) On the down side, it's been physically brutal on these two 20-something parents. After seven days of fevers, coughing, and congestion, I'm exhausted.

Don't hesitate to keep your kids home from school if they are symptomatic and do your best to avoid crowded public places. Wash you hands often. We're already planning to do most of our holiday shopping online, which will help keep the fine folks at UPS busy. They've already started doing deliveries by bicycle in my neighborhood, like they did last year.

08 October 2009

General Notices

I'll be unplugged for a few weeks. This'll have to tide you over.

Item 1. It Might Get Loud is playing at The Grand Cinema starting Friday. I love rock'n'roll films, and this looks like a keeper.

Item 2. Tuesday Night Rides with the Harmon Bike Club continue! The train leaves The Hub at 5:30pm on Tuesdays. However, it's now DARK when we get back to the Hub afterwards, so please bring front and rear lights. Reflective anything never hurts, either. For all of you commuters, the fog makes you invisible, unless you have very bright lights or are wearing something day-glo. On foggy mornings, the kid that rides in the back seat of our bucket bike has to wear a yellow reflective vest, too. No buts!

Item 3. The MADSEN Cycles bucket bike is here to stay. I ride it almost every day and the kids still think it's cool and fun. I even got cat-called by a road construction worker yesterday: "Oouuw! That's a nice bike, [Baby]!" Plus, the guys at Bike Gallery in Portland rode one in last weeks cyclocross race, which completely validates the versatility of the bike in my mind. Read all about it here. It was a two-man team, with the passenger hopping in and out to assist with the run-ups. In the relative grand spectrum of bicycle fanatics, I think this shows I'm still just somewhere in the middle.

photo by David Anderson on Flickr

Enjoy the fantastic fall weather and ride safely.

04 October 2009

Tacoma Craft Beer Festival 2009

The first annual Tacoma Craft Beer Festival was awesome! There was live music, raffle prizes, a fun vibe, and plenty of tasty beer.

There was quite a buzz about cans. Can coating technology has improved recently and many craft breweries are embracing the can as a better way to deliver their beer to the masses. 21st Amendment Brewing was pouring their IPA straight from the can and had paperboard 6-pack packaging that seemed far superior to those plastic rings that kill dolphins. 7 Seas Brewing of Gig Harbor is/will be canning as well, and they have can-shaped glassware for their taproom that opens October 15.

Beers I really enjoyed (and remembered the next day!):
Hoppy Holidays and 3 Grid IPA from Schooner EXACT
Hoptober from New Belgium
British Pale Ale from 7 Seas

I liked the tasting mug with the handle - I saw no one drop their cup. The 4 oz. taste seemed like too much beer for a person like me that can only handle a few pints. There seemed to be a good number of food vendors (with vegetarian options) and no/short lines for toilets. I don't recall seeing a water fountain. Event shirts sold-out quickly (in my size). Next year will simply have to be bigger. I can't wait for next year.

If you went, what did you like? How can the festival be even better next year?

02 October 2009


photo by The Red Hot

The fine folks at The Red Hot are spearheading the first (hopefully annual) TACOMA CRAFT BEER FESTIVAL. It's happening today, Saturday, October 3rd, and runs from noon until 9pm. It's an indoor event with live music, food vendors, and plenty of unique, quality beers to taste. Bonus points if you bike there. Don't forget your pretzel necklace and your ID (you must be 21 to attend.)

The News Tribune did an article on Wednesday that highlighted a few of the brewers that will be there. Do yourself a favor and visit the Schooner EXACT booth. Good stuff.


25 September 2009

Campus Cycle Culture

We went over to the UPS campus to kick around the soccer ball last night. The girls asked to stop so they could catch part of the co-ed game. Many of the players cycled to the match, which reminded me of this scene from our Cambridge, UK, vacation last October.

While we were running around on our own pitch, a cyclist pulled up to the Madsen and dropped a leaflet in the bucket.

My first thought was: who paid to print this? They make it sound like a fun time, though the part about freedom from speeding cars seems far-fetched. One of these days I'm going to participate in a Critical Mass ride, just like I rode the STP once.

I'm more of a "ride everywhere and as often as you can, ride like you drive when it comes to rules of the road" type of rider, and I think that generally helps advocate the "share the road" principal better than a blob of bikes clogging the streets. I'm using the new bike lane on N 21st St, even though it still hasn't been striped. We've put over 60 miles on just our MADSEN bike so far this month, and that's all in a 2-mile radius from my house. I figure that kind of frequency will help drivers in my college campus neighborhood become more aware of bikes on the road, helping to increase safety for everyone.

If you're heading out on that ride tonight, don't forget your helmet!

21 September 2009

Bicycle Advocacy Opportunities in Tacoma

The City of Tacoma is holding several community workshops for Tacoma’s Mobility Master Plan:

Come to discuss and identify existing conditions and opportunities to improve Tacoma’s bicycling and walking environments, as well as connections to transit. Where are Tacoma’s vital corridors? Where are the connectivity gaps? Is Tacoma headed in the right direction?

Wednesday, Sept. 23, 5:30-7:30pm
South Park Community Center
4851 S Tacoma Way Tacoma, WA 98409

Thursday, Sept. 24, 5:30-7:30pm
Norpoint Centre
4818 Nassau Ave NE Tacoma, WA 98422

Monday, Sept. 28, 5:30-7:30pm
Rasmussen Rotunda in Wheelock Student Center
University of Puget Sound
1500 N. Warner, Tacoma, WA 98416

The Mobility Master Plan Public Meetings are being held in collaboration with the New Tacoma Neighborhood Council, West End Neighborhood Council, Community Council and the University of Puget Sound Transportation Task Force. For more information, contact: Diane Wiatr at 253-591-5380 or dwiatr@cityoftacoma.org

You could also attend the Tacoma Mayoral/City Council Transportation and Land-Use Forum on Thursday, Oct 1st, 6:30-8:30pm in the Carwein Auditorium at UWT. Go Q&A with future city leaders about their plans and visions for how and why we will get around town. More info at the Transportation Choices Coalition blog.

Here's one more - a class on how to be a bicycle advocate!

Tacoma Bike-In, October 17: Save the date!

What can you do to improve bicycling in Tacoma and throughout Washington? Join Cascade Bicycle Club and the Tacoma Wheelmen on Sat., Oct. 17 for a workshop on bike advocacy. We'll discuss how we can use our clout to demand better facilities and just laws for bicyclists. Also, the outcome of the bicycle and pedestrian count, and how the data we collect on bicycling is crucial to our safety as bicyclists. Together, we'll strategize on making a difference in Tacoma and working together for better state laws and federal funding of trails and other facilities. Schedule:
10am - 1pm: Workshop at the Tacoma Downtown Library, 1102 Tacoma Avenue South
1pm - 3pm: Bike tour of Tacoma with bicycle planners and special guests (stay tuned for details!)
3pm - eve.: Meet at the Harmon HUB for drinks
Click here to RSVP!

19 September 2009

UW Colors...

photo from Speedgoat.com

I really dig raffles. So I feel I should point out that Speedgoat.com puts together a "Pink Bike" each year and raffles it to raise money for the Breast Cancer Fund. The bikes are always over the top, and this year they've outdone themselves by going purple. Husky fans, you can get your names in the hat for this beauty for just $10.

17 September 2009

Just Biking Around

Well, we've been biking to pre-school in the MADSEN for two weeks now and it still hasn't rained on us. The kids are anxiously awaiting a chance to get the umbrella out. There was some wishful thinking this morning with the raincoats. The rides are pretty uneventful, though they do enjoy it when other cyclists ride by, like yesterday when a UPS student rode behind us for a few blocks. The new bike lane on 21st St still hasn't been painted, but that hasn't kept me from using it on the way home. I'm hopeful that the city will complete the job before all of the temporary lane tags come loose.

On Tuesday I led the Tuesday Night Ride for the Harmon Bike Club (join us, 5:30pm at The Hub.) While we were queuing up, a gentleman came out and reminded us that the Ride4US is taking place at Point Defiance Park on Saturday. This "all-volunteer charity raises funds to purchase ultrasound machines for pregnancy centers who provide entirely free services for as long as care is needed." I'm going to take the girls in the trailer for the 5-mile ride, free pancake breakfast, and bouncy toys. We were told that the longest route (62 miles) is the toughest metric century in the South Sound. There's also a walk and a motorcycle rally - talk about covering all of the bases!

I made it home from the ride with just enough daylight left for Gwen's maiden voyage on the trail-a-bike. We traded someone two panniers for it (Chris, I think we both got a good deal!) and it works great. I can't tell you how excited she was to be pedaling with me. She was very chatty as we did a short loop around the neighborhood.

The next night we started a little earlier and went for a 3 mile ride in our matching reflective vests. She takes being "a real bike rider" very seriously, we even had to stop so she could stretch. However, for someone who used to yell at me for going more than about 10 mph on our Xtracycle, she now loves going fast on the down-hills.

The positive experience with the trail-a-bike gives me hope that we may one day go on an epic family bike tour, like this family that was featured in today's News Tribune. They took their 9-year old son on a 4000+ mile ride from Shelton, WA, to Washington, D.C.

Until then, we'll keep pushing the pedals around town.

16 September 2009

Grit City Rides 2

This is part of my series on practical bikes I've seen around Tacoma that are helping people get around without cars.

photo by Bianchi

What: Bianchi Milano
Where: 5-Mile Drive, Stadium District, UPS campus
Why: The bike has a Nexus 8-speed hub, chain guard, fenders, and some comfy tires. You get a similar gear range to a mountain bike, which means you can tackle most of the tough climbs in town, but while wearing regular clothes, in the rain, and still be comfortable. When asked, a Milano commuter at the top of the St. Helens hill said that she did the climb up from downtown every day, and felt that the gearing was fine.

I'm a sucker for step-through frames, but there's also a regular diamond frame, and both are available in black or polished aluminum. I think the step-through model would be an excellent candidate for and Xtracycle conversion.

The ones I've seen around town are a few years old and are the traditional Bianchi Celeste color. Twice I've seen the same guy racing through Point Defiance on one of these, with clipless pedals and some little grips added near the stem for a more aero position. It's an impressive sight, and one that proves the versatility of this bike.

13 September 2009

Red Hot Summer Nights

Sarah and I went to our first bike-in movie last night at The Red Hot. It was a blast! About 30 people showed for a screening of "Breaking Away", and at least 20 of them biked-in on bikes of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. New Belgium Brewing was on-hand with tasty beer (mmm..1554...) and plenty of swag to go around. At the end of the movie, a bike was raffled off as part of The Red Hot's reCYCLE the Bike project. (They fix up bikes from the community and give them away!) The winner, who happened to be in need of a bike, was so excited that she did a few victory laps around the audience. It doesn't get much better than that!

12 September 2009

Endless Summer

We had a few days of wet weather, but otherwise this has been a phenominally sunny summer. The MADSEN Cycles bucket bike has been getting used nearly every day for outings to the park, short errands, and the thrice-weekly pre-school run. I keep wondering if we'll continue to use the MADSEN once the dampness of fall and winter finally hits, so we've been testing out contingency plans. Turns out a 4-year old in the bucket can easily wrangle a bumbershoot in the back seat at cruising speed, while still covering most passengers and not poking me in the back. Sweet!

Plus my mom send these flashy German-made raincoats for the kids. I think we're set.

However, the sun just keeps on shining. So we continue to bike over to the UPS campus to kick the soccer ball around in the evenings. If you see us there, come say "Hi!" so Gwen can tell you all about her bucket bike. Here is our latest journey through the lens of Gwen's camera:

10 September 2009

Grit City Rides

After spotting a few super sweet bikes around town lately, I've decided to start a new segment called Grit City Rides. These will be bikes that I feel are out there pushing the envelope of urban mobility in Tacoma, those that are not your everyday mountain-bike-turned-commuter rig. I'm limited to what I see on my usual routes, but hopefully it will be a representative sample of a greater trend towards utility cycling in T-Town. Here are the two stand-outs from last week:

photo by Velorbis

What: Velorbis Scrap Deluxe
Where: Being ridden at N 15th and Junette
When: a Wednesday evening
Why: Fat Frank balloon tires for our pot-holed streets, dynamo lights for visibility, full chain case to keep the grit out, and enough bling power to make you leave a Lexus at home. The one I spotted was sporting some yellow Ortlieb panniers on the rack, which are perfect for all four of our damp seasons. Europeans have been riding bikes like this for a century and doing it with style, too.

photo by Ultra Motor

What: Ultra Motor A2B
Where: Being ridden at N 'K' Street and N 11th
When: a hot weekday afternoon
Why: This is a hybrid electric bicycle, which works great for Tacoma's hilly terrain. I watched this guy climb up one block, then turn and climb another while keeping an easy cadence and looking cool at the same time. Full suspension and 3" wide tires make for a comfy ride, too. This was about the third or fourth hybrid electric bicycle that I'd seen in town, but this one is my favorite. I learned about it at an eco fair in SLC, one of the bike-friendliest cities in the country.

04 September 2009

Bike Activities for the 21+ Crowd

My favorite local bar, the Red Hot, will be hosting a bike-in movie night on September 12th at dusk. I spotted this poster from across 6th Ave and had to run over for a closer look. There's a decent parking lot out back, where I'm sure they will be screening the film. I have no idea what will be showing, and it matters not. The Red Hot is that cool. I'm thinking that our MADSEN bucket bike will provide the best seating option.

If beer and hot dogs isn't your party cup of IPA, but you're looking for a good time on two wheels that same night, then you could head over to this event held by the Tacoma Wheelmen's Bicycle Club:

Tour Wine Countries of the World
Saturday, September 12, 2009
5:00—7:00 PM
Wildside Wine
"The Room Next Door"
610 S Oxford in Tacoma

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington and Wildside Wine invite you to a wine tasting in Tacoma! Sample wines from up to 9 wine regions around the world. Meet Bicycle Alliance representatives. Support bicycle advocacy and education. $35 admission includes wine tasting and appetizers. Proceeds from this event benefit the Bicycle Alliance of Washington. Wildside Wine will donate 15% of all wine purchases that evening to the Bicycle Alliance as well. Space is limited, so buy your ticket in advance! Contact Louise at the Bicycle Alliance, 206.224.9252 x303 or louisemc@bicyclealliance.org to secure your spot in advance.

Either way, be sure to drink and ride responsibly. Cheers!

26 August 2009

More MADSEN Madness

Those folks over at MADSEN Cycles have gone crazy. They are giving away a delicious MADSEN cargo bike every week! Click one of these MADSEN buttons to get more information.

Madsen Cycles Cargo Bikes

To see how we've been using our Madsen bucket bike around Tacoma, click here.

23 August 2009

Weekend Wrap-up

Over at Car Free Days they're talking about how well Xtracycle's Every Day Adventures blog title/concept really captures the essense of bicycle transportation. I couldn't agree more.

Friday, I took two little ones in the trailer across town to visit my dad. They both napped for part of the five miles. The visit was short, but good. Dad gave me a pair of rain boots, which I tucked in the back of the trailer. The awake kids we're now eager to run, so we stopped at a new-to-me park along the route home to let them blow off some steam. With just half a mile to go, my youngest was losing interest in the trailer, just like she loses interest in her carseat, so I pulled over and saved the day with one of these cookies. Always bring a snack and a water cup for the kids!

Saturday I took the small ones to the local pocket park on the MADSEN. We took a slightly longer route home at their request so that we could go down a bigger hill. They love to put their arms up in the air and squeal delightfully on the downhills, something that they don't do in the van.

That night I took my girls on a dusk-light mission in the MADSEN to find the band that was playing Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss" to perfection somewhere in our neighborhood. We made it only five houses down the street before finding the amped trio. We paused to partake, waved our applause, then continued to the UPS campus to play tag. My 4 y.o. loves to go to "the campus" because of all the "teenagers" there, many of them riding bikes.

Today was home project day and it required no biking. However, I had a ten minute window after dinner to take a spin on my new-again road bike. I made it four blocks before getting sidetracked by a yard sale. I made a deal on some vintage school desks and told them "I'll be back with a bigger bike." As I rolled up moments later on the MADSEN, the seller said, "Woah, you weren't kidding!" I answered their questions about the bike, which went something more like "bikes are great."

(Those desks were meant to hauled in the bucket, btw. Easiest large cargo load ever and the kids love 'em!)

It's easy to make an adventure out of a bike ride every day, especially when you can share the ride with kids. They see things that I would otherwise miss; detours ensue and the line between journey and destination blurs.

22 August 2009

Race Ready

During the Courage Classic there was a raffle for a custom Courage Cycles frame. I put my name in the hat and have my greasy little fingers crossed that I'll be the lucky winner later this month.

The idea of having a "road" bike has been on my mind for a while. One friend had a Curtlo made for his very tall self while another friend received this awesome birthday present from his better half. I have road bike envy.

I dug through the parts bin for my clipless pedals, literally wiped the cobwebs from my SPD shoes, and put a fresh coat of shellac on my drop bar. Voila! Now I can at least pretend to ride with the pack, even though my largest gear is still 36x12. I've never done drop bars and down tube shifters, either, though I've mix'n'matched a bunch of other setups on this cross frame.

Speaking of which, cyclocross season is quickly approaching...maybe I should take off the kickstand and hit the course at Fort Steilacoom?

13 August 2009

Harvest Foods

I was inspired by Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this spring and have started to dabble more and more into preparing foods at home with seasonal produce. My wife was raised in a "from scratch" kitchen, but I've had to work at it. So here are a few of this season's works-in-progress.

Home-made Pizza
Our tomatoes have finally ripened in the last few weeks, along with my mother-in-laws zucchini crop. You have to take advantage of the bounty. We put both on our homemade pizza last week, along with some left-over broiled chicken, and made a pie for the gods. The crust is easy, just throw all of this into your bread maker (in order) and use the "dough" setting (mine takes 1hr 20min).

1.5 cups lukewarm water
1 T salt
1 T oil (olive is nice)
2 T honey
3.25 cups whole wheat flour
1 T dry yeast
1 t each of dried oregano, basil, thyme, and garlic powder

It makes two 14" crusts, so cut the dough in half and work each onto a lightly floured pizza stone. Convect at 400°F for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and reduce temp to 350°F. Top each pie with 2 T of your favorite sauce, cheese, fresh veg, nuts, leftovers, and whatever else you can find. Return to oven and convect for 7-15 minutes to desired level of tastiness. I like the cheese to bubble a bit. Allow to cool on the stone for 10 minutes before serving.

Zucchini Bread
We still had zucchini piling up on the counter, so this morning I made a mega batch of zucchini bread. I'll get around to modifying this recipe soon, but needed a baseline. It's from Betty Crocker: Bridal Edition, which I've used quite a bit.

3 cups shredded zucchini (2-3 medium)
1.67 cups sugar
0.67 cups veg oil
2 t vanilla
4 eggs

Mix all of that around, then add:
3 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour
2 t baking soda
1 t salt
1 t ground cinnamon
0.5 t ground cloves
0.5 t baking powder
0.5 cup each nuts and raisins (optional)

I baked one batch in a stone mini-loaf pan (4 mini loaves) for 55 minutes at 350°F. The other batch was split between two regular stone loaf pans. Those needed 5-10 more minutes, but came out a bit more moist. Allow to cool on a rack before slicing.

The stone pans are great. I try whole wheat flour next time and also sub flax seed meal and/or applesauce for the oil and maybe some of the eggs. Those are my standard tricks.

Next week: COOKIES.

12 August 2009

Signs, Signs, Everywhere a Sign

On the way back from errands in Proctor this morning, I stopped to admire these signs posted on North 15th Street. I can't imagine that the city would have put them up - maybe an enthusiastic neighbor? They are located along Route 16, so maybe it was Pierce Transit? I like the artwork, which was also used during bike to work month.

Another sign that I've been enjoying is the new(ish) Satellite Coffee that went in on 6th Ave next to Masa. My family is all in agreement that they craft a damn fine cup of coffee. I would even call it beautifully brewed.

Plus, orders from the saddle are encouraged!

05 August 2009

A Courageous Weekend

Phew! Sarah, Blaine (BFF from CO), and I safely completed the Courage Classic Bicycle Tour on Monday. We all rode on the Harmon Bike Club/Rotary Riders team, which was 61 riders strong and raised over $61,000 for the cause. And we had one of the hottest looking team jerseys!

The ride started in Snoqualmie, WA, where we checked-in, loaded our over-night gear on a UPS truck (what a great event sponsor!), then hit the road en route to lunch at Snoqualmie Pass.

The ride follows the main interstate highway for most of the climb and part of the descent, which can be a little nerve racking. Blaine had two flats on the way up, the second within a stones throw of the first, which cost us enough time that we didn't reach the summit until noon. It was 86°F and rising when we headed down the east side of the mountains.

When we reached the campsite at the Suncadia resort, the Xtracycle was a handy bike for hauling our gear from the UPS truck to our tent spot across the field.

In an attempt to beat the higher forcasted temperatures on Day 2, we left Suncadia at 0610 and skipped the big breakfast in town. The rolling pastures were visually stunning as the sun rose over the mountains.

The Tacoma North Rotary ran the food stop on the way up Blewett Pass. It was a great place to refuel and stretch before the final 8 mile climb to the top. This climb seems to be a favorite for many riders, as we saw at least three people turn around before the check-in at the summit and head back down for a second climb. We felt good just making it up the hill once!

The ride down the north side of Blewett was pretty fast, but by the time we reached the water stop at the bottom, the temperature was nearing 100°F. Despite sno-cones and spray bottles of cold water at the rest stop, the last 13 miles into Leavenworth were brutal in the heat. I heard reports that temps hit 109°F on the outskirts of town. Once we finally made it to camp and had the tent up, we biked down to the Icicle River for a much needed soak in the chilly water.

The heat of Day 2 was so overwhelming that everyone collectively voted to move the Day 3 breakfast from 0630 to 0530 so that we could all get an even earlier start. I have to commend the Leavenworth Lions Club for so graciously accommodating this request.

In fact, this would be a good time to point out that the Courage Classic is such a fun and unique ride because of the amazing volunteer support from the Pierce County Rotarians, mechanics from Old Town Bicycle, medics from Rural Metro, support car drivers, and many others. It takes an enormous collective effort to make an event like this run so smoothly, and I'd like to offer my thanks to everyone who volunteered for not only helping, but for doing it with a smile on their face day in and day out.

Nearly our entire team was present for our team photo at 0545 and ready to hit the road soon thereafter. We reached the first rest stop in Plain with the sun barely above the horizon.

We followed the old Chumstick Highway up to Highway 2, where we had a chance to relax with a root beer float before the real climbing began. Our trio was one of the slowest groups each day, but we had finally learned how to work as a team by Day 3. With me out front pacing, Sarah and Blaine fell in line and we picked up other riders the whole way up. By the time we reached the last critical water stop, our pace line was seven riders long and we were working together like a well oiled machine. It was critical for morale and helped push some of us to a new level of cycling. Blaine and Sarah had never ridden in a big group like that before, and neither had ever climbed a road that steep for that long a distance. The strength of such a team effort is truly inspiring.

The last four miles of the climb are pretty steep. I ended up getting a flat about half-way through it, then rode the last bit in the heat of the day in the lowest gear of the Xtracycle. It may have been the most grueling section of road riding I've ever done. The reward for pedaling this beastly machine up the mountains is that you get to ride it down. I slide off of the saddle and sit on the Snapdeck for the descents and Stevens is the fastest of them all. Even with a stiff headwind this year, I'm sure I hit 50mph. Fat tires and disc brakes are the way to go on a free-fall like that!

Sharing this experience with such close friends was unbelievably rewarding. I was so proud of Sarah and Blaine for stepping forward to help raise money, training as much as they could in a short time, then putting their heads down and gritting out the pedal strokes when the road was steep and the heat was on. We're already making plans for next years ride.

Thanks to everyone who offered their support and helped get us over the mountains. Many of you have chipped in financially to the fund-raising effort, but it's not too late to contribute if you didn't. Extra thanks go to my sister for watching the kids and to my dad for loaning his bike and his truck - we could not have done this without you guys!!