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Haul-a-Day Assembly, Part 2!

It came!  Once again, the box was smallish, and the bike was pretty much built for us.  You don’t need too much expertise to put together this bike, the toughest part is threading the chain (and that’s pretty easy.)  I did have my fork on backwards, and a little trouble lining up my cables, but I rode off to the bike shop for a second opinion on a few things just 90 minutes after we opened the box.  (And again, 20 minutes of that was carefully removing bubble wrap!)

Unboxing time!

Unboxing time!

Dual disc breaks this time, and sleek black wheels.

Dual disc breaks this time, and sleek black wheels.

Even the bags were set up for us!

Even the bags were set up for us!

I sent the kids to the park with dad, promising to meet him in under two hours.  I made good on my promise.  They’re just dying to help, but I needed my parts to not run away.

The paperclip trick is AMAZING.  All chained up in no time.

The paperclip trick is AMAZING. All chained up in no time.

I’m contacting Bike Friday about one issue that made it a bit tough- the main bolts that hold the frame together were an odd size this time, and I had trouble getting them tight with my (awful, stubby, multitool) wrench.  The guy at the bike shop commented on it too, but was able to get more traction than I was.

Again I used my paperclip trick to get the chain on, it helps a lot.  I hook one end near the crank set while I pull down the rear derailleur and then pull them together to put in the link pin.  Done!  The brakes were perfectly adjusted this time, but I’m still messing with the front gears a bit.  I got totally spoiled with the other bike, after the spa day it’s riding perfectly.

Off to the park! The kids insisted I get the hoop and seats on immediately so they could sit on the new bike.  Actually, my girl wants to ride it in a bad way, and I’ll definitely let her try sometime soon.  I commented a few weeks ago that I squeezed onto my first HaD at the Women Bike Chicago Event, and though it handled my weight just fine, my thighs barely fit under the hoop.  This time there’s more clearance and length, I fit on comfortably even with my four year old in front of me.

The new hoop and deck are roomier.  I climbed on with no problem.

The new hoop and deck are roomier. I climbed on with no problem.

So here’s the really exciting part:  my husband still loves his Bianchi fixed-gear bike.  He warned me not to pressure him into riding the new one when it came, and explained that he rarely gets free time to ride and wants to have time with his beloved Bianchi.  I think I talked him into trying out the Yuba only once or twice, and he didn’t care for it at all, saying it felt “dangerous.”  He rode my Haul-a-Day briefly one time, saying it was better, but that he just didn’t like the cargo bikes.  Well- this new one is much more to his taste.  I was surprised that he volunteered to take it for a second and third ride over the weekend, and the kids were over the moon.  I think the main factor is the different bars- mine are the Bike Friday ‘cargo bars’ with an H shape, and I love them.  In fact, I called BF right away after riding the new bike on Saturday asking if I could trade in the straight bars (standard on HaD) for cargos, and they quickly created the order.  By Monday morning, I was calling back canceling because I realized the straight bars were his preference.

Dad said okay!  He'd try the bike!

Dad said okay! He’d try the bike!

Our forecasts have been way off all week, and they were calling for thunderstorms, so we packed in quite a bit of riding.  We’re still tweaking the front gears, though I plan to swap out the bars on the bikes anyways, so it’ll wait.  Here are the things that I think are much improved, and I’ll follow up with more info as I think about it, for those of you researching Haul-a-Days…

-the kickstand has been improved on the new model, with bumpers that prevent the “SLAM” sound when you fold it up and keep it silent over bumps.  It’s also a bit easier to find with my foot, it’s like a luxury kickstand now.

-the front part of the frame has braze-ons for a mounted basket, something I haven’t purchased yet but suspect will be a purchase in the near future and add even more cargo room.

-the whoopie bar is longer and wider, with higher clearance.  I actually haven’t had both kids on the back of the new bike yet, but I think they’re going to appreciate the extra room!  This was a big one for us.  The previous bike was big enough, but just a bit cramped for longer rides.  The bike doesn’t seem bigger overall with the larger hoop, so win/win.

– the frame seems subtly different, but both bikes are feeling solid.  Any flex I felt in the first one has been gone since I found my sweet spot as far as fit goes.  I’ll comment on this more as I get used to it.

– Bike Friday included some cork tape for the rear bars this time, which I hadn’t even thought of, but will definitely add to my kids’ comfort!  I picked up some red sport tape at my LBS to put on the other bike.

– I went with the rear rails/ running boards without the foot plates this time, because I’m still trying to figure out how to tow my daughter’s bike occasionally.  It’s a lot quieter without the metal foot plates (or maybe it goes back to that kickstand issue…)

There's still bubble wrap on the bike, it's that new. :)

There’s still bubble wrap on the bike, it’s that new. :)

We rode just a few blocks to a nearby playground and were approached by several people in the first ten minutes- and I passed along my referral cards and Spinlister promo codes.  I have to update our Spinlister account now, but I’m happy to report it’s now possible to rent one or TWO of these amazing bikes.  I’m also working on getting a Yepp seat to mount to one for those with smaller kiddos.  Definitely contact me if you’re thinking of a trip to the Windy City, and I’ll help you out. 😉

Here we are!  Can't wait to do some more exploring this summer!

Here we are! Can’t wait to do some more exploring this summer!

Spa Day for my “Old Bike”


Today we received our new and improved bike!  I’ve been excited for it’s arrival, but to be honest, I’ve been really, really happy with the Haul-a-Day we got in November.  It has such a great fit, it would be tough to top it.  I noticed the chain looked pretty bad after it was parked in the rain the other night and knew I’d been slacking on basic maintenance, and I love this bike so I was a lot alarmed about how rough the chain looked.  Plus, taking on a project seemed like a good idea since I knew its friend was on a FedEx truck and I was anxiously waiting.

Our condo has very strict rules about bikes, and they’re not usually allowed in elevators at all.  Luckily our parking is very secure, and right now there’s a crazy garage project so we’ve been allowed to take bikes up to our balconies to store.  Perfect- since I’d feel a little weird performing this maintenance outside!

I’ve heard from smart people the two easy things you need to do as a bike owner are:

1) keep your tires within the recommended PSI.

2) keep your chain clean and lubricated (or not lubricated, or use dry lube only, the debate continues…)

You should pay attention to how your bike rides- any skips, sounds, or odd feelings you can’t diagnose yourself warrant a trip to your local bike store for a look.  I get paranoid about my bikes… it never hurts to talk to a mechanic you trust about concerns.  (PSA done.)


A great place for bike maintenance, if you don’t have vertigo.




Being able to tip the bike on end makes cleaning it up pretty easy. Oy, my poor chain!

So the first thing I do is clean off the frame.  There are a lot of bike specific products, but a weak dishsoap water solution on a cloth works fine.  Over the winter I tried to wipe off the salt and grime, but definitely didn’t do a thorough job. I got a toothbrush and used it to get at the little nooks and crannies,  and checked all my connection points to see if they were tight and debris free.


I don’t know why I’d held on to these bed risers, but they were in a closet and came in handy for getting the rear wheel off the ground.  Unfortunately my chain scrubber doesn’t work vertically.  These fit under the side loaders and kind of let me work- they kept tipping. :/  On the Yuba, the kickstand held one wheel higher than the other, so all I had to do was apply weight to the front end of the bike and the rear could spin easily.


Auuughhh! You see that chain?!  It was looking dirty before, but I was out this week and the bike got caught in the rain for awhile, and when it dried it was this lovely orange color.  Rust isn’t a huge deal on a chain, provided it’s clean and lubed, and I figured I’d break out the old chain scrubber.



Here’s my Park Tool scrubber.  I bought it as part of a kit on Amazon- it comes with a brush and some solvent.  The solvent is a citrusy degreaser, and I think any product like that would probably work.  The tricky part today was that I left the bike in first gear and there was a lot of play in the chain, then the back slipped so I had to “back pedal” the chain.  When you use this, you should really scrub, bringing the tool back and forth while feeding the chain through.  I went over the chain 2-3 times this way, using a paper towel to wipe off all the gross degreaser.

wpid-20150516_095119.jpgWhen you’re done scrubbing, you unclamp the top from the bottom, and look at all the gross stuff you got off your chain.  Good for you. 😉  You’ve now done some bike mechanic-y stuff and gotten your hands dirty.  Don’t you feel proud?


The chain’s looking better.

wpid-20150516_095626.jpgFinally, after wiping off the degreaser as much as possible, I treat the chain with some wax-based lube.  This is controversial.  I’ve found there are strong opinions about chain maintenance, but this method has served me well so far.  The product I have here is marketed for motorized vehicles, but I think it does well on bikes.  I buy mine on Amazon, and the big can is a good deal at under $9.  You’re supposed to let it set for 30 minutes after applying it, which ended up being perfect- since my bike showed up about 15 minutes later!

More on that soon!!



April Recap!


My son, playing “plants vs. zombies” in the bike petting zoo…


I still have to tweak our signage to make it fit on our rear rack, but it looked pretty good!


April South Loop Kidical Mass at the new skate park! (there were other people there, I swear!)

The South Loop Kidical Crew

The South Loop Kidical Crew

Our first Kidical Mass ride was a success!  It was a decent day, but still a bit cool.  We stopped mid-way to watch some stunts at the skate park.  One dad had his board on his Fr8 and joined in.  
We ended at one of our favorite parks, Chicago Women’s Park and Gardens.  Everyone pulled up around the fountain (not yet turned on) and then quite a few of us pulled out sidewalk chalk so the kids could leave their marks. The next big April event on our agenda was the Women Bike Chicago Day of Dialogue and Demonstration.  I volunteered to help out with the Bike Petting Zoo, which is one of my favorite things ever… I got to hang out with some of the very smart and helpful moms-who-bike and take the kids for a ride in the bakfiets.  The Haul-a-Day was really popular with people!  For old times sake I took our friend’s Yuba for a spin, which was fun, but I’ve gotten really used to the light weight and low center of gravity on mine, I wouldn’t trade it.  I got to be a passenger on my own bike- it wasn’t easy with the bar on, but we managed. I also attempted to load the bike on a CTA bus rack on its second shortest OSATA setting… it didn’t fit!  I don’t consider that to be a real problem, since it’s easy enough to collapse the stem if needed, but wanted to test it out.  I still am not likely to take the bike on the bus.  Trains are a great option for us and feel much more secure.wpid-20150422_165804.jpg Just wanted to share this photo of my little monsters at Disneyland.  We found insanely cheap round trip airfare to Vegas and decided to roll a  Disney trip in with our multi-generational Vegas adventure.  I’m so glad we did!  I am nuts about bikes, of course, but ironically my son is all about “Cars.” So we had Radiator Springs on our list of places to travel. :)Showing

wpid-20150423_181023.jpgShowing off the ‘monster bikes’ outside Monsters University.  It was cute- sort of a monsterfied Hyde Park!
wpid-20150426_143706.jpgWe met up with my mom and dad in Las Vegas, then took a day trip out into the desert.  We toured Hoover Dam, then drove out to the Valley of Fire State Park.  This was probably the highlight of our vacation!  (Sorry, Mickey!)  We only spent about two hours checking it out, because the kids were tired and my parents were sick of driving around since they’d spent a week already cruising from Reno to Tahoe to New Mexico, etc.  But it was a hit with the kids!  They hoped to see a lizard, and we eventually spotted one. wpid-20150426_144114.jpg wpid-20150501_125544.jpg When we got back to Chicago, “Draft Town” was in full swing.  They’ve finally reopened Buckingham Fountain, a sign summer is on its way! As you can see, our coats are on in nearly all these April pictures.  We’ve had a few days of nice weather, but it’s still not feeling too Spring-ish most days.  On the nice days, we find ourselves in the park near our house, since we have made lots of friends in the neighborhood.  The kids are into making fairy houses, finding bugs, burying dead things, and making up games involving rocks and sticks.  We’ve attempted a few times to ride a bike with pedals, but this guy is still in love with his balance bike and has taken it around for thousands of laps in the past few weeks.wpid-20150503_133500.jpg wpid-20150507_123619.jpg

Here my kids show off their ‘bike rack gymnastics.”  It’s a thing.  Some bike racks are better than others, and this is one of their faves 😉wpid-20150507_125927.jpgThe open back of our bar makes it ideal to recline and enjoy a picnic in the park- something I hope to do much more often in the upcoming month!  We’ve been returning to the sandbox park more and more, and it’s funny that I’ve had several people test drive the bike on the big circular track at Cotton Tail Park.  Our setup certainly does get people’s attention- which is why it’s ideal to incorporate into a small business plan I’ve schemed up!!  One reason I’ve been taking a break from blogging is because I’m making big plans for this… so stay tuned!