23 April 2009

Madsen kg271: Day 2 and 3

Yesterday started out cold, wet and dreary, so I took the kids out to the garage and transformed the Madsen bike box into a playhouse. It's not my best cardboard palace, but it is grand.

Once the skies brightened a bit, we took the kids out for another ride around the neighborhood, this time to see how well our 15-month old daughter could handle herself in the bucket. She couldn't find her helmet fast enough when we asked her if she'd like to go for a bike ride.

Once on the road, she squealed and giggled with delight, just like the big kids. The kids wave at everyone and everyone waves back. We even stopped once to talk it up with a neighbor who happened to be heading out by bicycle as well.

Today I took the kids for a 5-mile ride around the neighborhood so that I could test my 100 pound payload on a few hills. I used all of the gears and would have used one or two more if they were there. I'll have to do the math, but I think a 44T or 42T ring may be a better option for Tacoma than the stock 48T (remember, 20" wheel in the back). Another thing I noticed is that I need to bend the chain guard a bit towards the back as the large sprocket causes the chain to rub on the guard.

After riding along with Sarah on her commute with our two kids later in the evening, I was starting to feel the effects of the narrow saddle that came stock with the bike. I'm likely going to replace it with a VO Model 7, which is very similar to the VO Model 8 that I use on my Xtracycle. The handlebar will also likely be swapped for something like a VO Tourist, which is what I use on my Cross Check city bike. This bike begs to be ridden with an upright position when loaded for low-speed hill climbs and better visibility of the road.

22 April 2009

Critical Mass in Tacoma...really?

So I'm hearing through the wires that there will be a Critical Mass ride in Tacoma on April 24th from 6-8pm starting at Jefferson Park (North 9th and Madison).

View Larger Map

Not sure if we'll make it, but I've never attended a Critical Mass ride and haven't heard of one in Tacoma before. Might be worth checking out...

Madsen kg271: Day 1

Our Madsen kg271 arrived direct from Madsen Cycles yesterday. The bike came completely assembled and ready to ride. I had it out and on the road in less than five minutes for the initial ride around the block. Everything seemed good to go!

The kids had been anticipating the arrival of the "bucket bike" as much (or more) than the parents. We put them in the bucket, buckled the seatbelts, and took them for a spin around the block. The toddlers both exclaimed how cool it was numerous times on our short ride. Sarah took her first ride with the kids and had no problems.

We're taking it out today with our youngest to see if she is big enough to hold her own in the bucket. More photos and reviews to follow!

17 April 2009

Another Cargo Bike Option: Madsen Cycles

My wife and I were talking yesterday about how to get three small children (ages 1 to 3.5) to the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium by bicycle from our house about five miles away. Our Xtracycle will soon handle two kids, but the third one would end up in a trailer, which is not my favorite option for crossing Tacoma. Trailers are great on trails (ya think?) and back roads, but not so much on narrow city arterials. And what if I wanted to take the threesome some where by myself?

Enter Madsen Cycles out of Salt Lake City, Utah. Madsen has pioneered the bucket bike, a take-off on the tried and true Dutch bakfiet, or box bike. Madsen mounts the box behind the pilot instead of in front, and the box is actually a 40-gallon bucket made from the same material as a kayak. I feel like the Madsen likely offers a similar handling quality to my Xtracycle (which I like) and several reviewers have said so as well. The bike is rated up to 600 pounds and can accomodate four small children in the bucket.

Madsen has some scratch & dents on sale, and will ship the bike to your door, fully assembled, for free through the end of May. My wife and I felt like these discounts easily made the bike worth a try, so we ordered a blue one this morning. More to follow.

13 April 2009

Grocery Run

Sarah and I planned a short rec ride for this morning, 10-15 mies on the Scott Pierson Trail, followed by a grocery run on the way home. We were soaked with some of the coldest rain imaginable by the time we reached the trail entrance behind TOP Foods, so we decided that this was far enough in these conditions. We purchased about 60 pounds of groceries and a 40 pound bag of dog food.

When we came out of the grocery store, the sun was coming out. The rain had stopped and our load made it home completely dry.

I noticed quite a few car drivers doing double takes at the loaded Xtracycle on our way home. While waiting in a turn lane, one car driver hollered, "Very cool, man!"

So far, I've avoided doing big grocery runs with the kids by bicycle, but that's coming. Now that I know Tula can fit in the PeaPod, the logistics of getting the two girls to the grocery store on the Xtracycle are falling in to place. A sunny day would also be helpful!

Little Passengers

On Saturday I tuned up the brakes on my Xtracycle and Cross Check, now that the foul winter weather has taken its toll on the brake pads. I also added a new rear fender to the Xtracycle made from a coroplast campaign sign I found in a ditch post-election. I needed to test ride the setup, and decided to give Tula her first ride in the PeaPod seat.

It was biting cold in the damp 45°F air, but she didn't seem to mind at all. In fact...

I'm pretty sure she loves it! Now I need to finish my Snapdeck hack so that my 3 year-old can ride behind the PeaPod. More to follow!

03 April 2009

Good Times in My Neighborhood

Despite my child-minding duties, I made arrangements to attend the 1st Anniversary Party for The Hub, since I sort of named the joint. The timing of our evening was such that Sarah suggested I ride with her to work on my way to the party. I suggested that I take her to work on my Xtracycle instead.

Sarah has only ridden on the back of the Xtracycle once before, but she seemed comfortable. A VERY low rear tire made the bike wobble a bit more than I would have liked, but we had a super fun time.

The Hub was packed and Steve Stephanowitz was doing a great job of keeping the place hopping.

I found a seat in the bar and chatted with two ladies for about an hour. We snagged a few free water bottles and talked about bikes, Portland, Urban Iditarod, Tacoma, and teaching kindergarten.

When Steve's set was over, Pat raffled off the grand prize, a sweet Giant Simple Single, which was won by the kindergarten teacher-to-be that I had been chatting with all this time. She was very excited about her new bike.

I sprinted home on the Xtracycle, dynamo lights blazing, knowing that there was one more bike owner in Tacoma ready to hit the streets. It was a great night to be out on two wheels in Tacoma. Cheers to Pat and Carole at The Hub for creating such a great hang-out!

01 April 2009

Transportation Options

Sometimes, there are too many options. Last week, I had made a date to walk with a friend at the park 1.5 miles away. I was taking the three little ones, so I'd planned to take the van. However, the wife had to work over that morning and the van was not available to haul me and my precious cargo to the park for a walk. (I know, driving somewhere for a walk, it's not something we often do either.) What to do?

A) Reschedule. (But I hate being flaky like that.)
B) Infant in a front-pack and toddlers in the double stroller/trailer. (Lots of exercise for me!)
C) Hitch the trailer to the Xtracycle and clip on the Bobike seat. (Not yet attempted by me with three kids.)

D) Take the bus. (A stop for the 16 is five houses away.)

I chose D.

We keep a stash of bus tickets for these occasions and kids 5 and under ride free with an accompanying adult. My kids have ridden the bus before, but I learned later that this was Kyler's first trip on public transit. He sat with Gwen on one of the jump seats at the front of the bus and when we started moving, he looked at me and said, "Woah! This is coool!" The ride took less than 5 minutes, but the kids had a blast.

We were prepaired to bus it home from the park (and my transfer was still good), but Sarah was heading home from the hospital (next door to the park) at just the right time, so we hitched a lift. Easy as pie.

That afternoon, Sarah walked our youngest to the hospital for a checkup, so I hitched up the trailer and took the toddlers to the store for pizza toppings. (We had whole wheat pizza dough churning in the bread machine.) I followed the back roads to get there since it's more uphill. Kyler decided to wear his helmet through two stores, which I do, too, sometimes when I'm in a hurry. Despite the drive-time traffic, I stayed on the main arterial for the trip home since I can keep decent speed on the slight downhill and the road isn't pocked with potholes like so many of Tacoma's residential lanes. I made it home without incident and felt invigorated. It couldn't have been too scary, because both kids slept the whole way home.

Explore your transportation options, but don't feel like you need to use any of them exclusively. You may find yourself enjoying the variety as much as we do.