Ah, Stories.

Stories about stuff that happened.

Happy Friday!!

He's having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

Well hello, everybody.  We’ve been busy- enjoying pleasant weather and lots of fun rides.  As you can see, my husband is totally digging this “his and hers” cargo bike thing we have going on, and so are the kids.  And so am I.  We’ve covered a lot of miles in the past week.  The pictures might be a bit out of order, but I’ll share what we have here.  We bought a Fuji waterproof camera awhile ago at Costco, and the kids have been my designated photographers, which is cool.

Early in the morning, on our way to the ride.  5:30 early.  Whew!

Early in the morning, on our way to the ride. 5:30 early. Whew!

He's having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

He’s having fun, making friends, and enjoying unlimited Clif bars.

You can see in the picture above that we improvised another seat to go on the deck, and I think it’s sort of genius.  Our Bubblebum booster works GREAT.  I took an old tube and tied it around the deck, then feed it through the side hooks like a seatbelt.  Voila!  And we’re street legal if we need to use a car for some reason.  Yay!

 

Hey, look at us!  Over four lanes, all for bikes!

Hey, look at us! Over four lanes, all for bikes!

All the above pictures are from Bike the Drive, which was on Sunday- EARLY.  We aren’t an early rising bunch, but it was worth it.  There was bad weather in the forecast until almost the last minute, and my pre-coffee brain totally forgot to throw our raingear in the backpack, so we only did the North segment of the ride this year.  The kids had hoodies, but it was raining and windy for awhile, and they said they were cold, so… We can easily use the Lake Front Path to head South, but the northern section is usually so crowded I thought we should definitely take advantage of the ride to head that way.  If you aren’t from Chicago or familiar with the event, it’s a fundraiser held every year for the Active Transportation Alliance where they close Lakeshore Drive to cars for about five hours in the morning for registered cyclists.  We did about 20 miles, but the whole route is over thirty and you see bikes of all kinds.  A friend of mine is training for a triathlon and said she had a blast.  My friends who carry kids also had fun, and it looked like a lot of people opted for Divvy’s or rentals just to try it out.  Good times for all!  One thing I was grateful for was our fenders, as I saw lots of people ‘striped’ on the ride.

Inflating tires at On the Route the day before Bike the Drive.  And buying another tube!

Inflating tires at On the Route the day before Bike the Drive. And buying another tube!

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Changing the tube on the new bike, because I was too lazy to pump the tube up to the suggested pressure before… live and learn.

We’ve ridden both bikes a lot already.  I saw the rear tire was low on the new bike, but only pumped it up a bit with a hand pump and paid the price- a pinch flat.  Keeping your tires in the suggested range of pressure is important, people.  Luckily, it was super easy to fix the flat, even without levers.  I’ve had some bad experiences in the past. (which ended in bruised and raw thumbs, lots of cursing, and ultimately a shameful visit to the bike shop…) I don’t know if it was the 20″ wheel or the fact that it’s really new and not too grippy to the wheel, but it was a breeze to replace the tube, and I was pretty dang proud of myself.

The little guy fell asleep in the middle of Critical Mass.  We stopped in Pilsen and traded riders, because the old Haul-a-Day has lower clearance and seems safer for sleeping.

The little guy fell asleep in the middle of Critical Mass. We stopped in Pilsen and traded riders, because the old Haul-a-Day has lower clearance and seems safer for sleeping.

Haven't removed the sticker from bike the drive yet.  (because it's sticky.)

Haven’t removed the sticker from bike the drive yet. (because it’s sticky.)

There it is!  A great example of the "Chicago Hold-Up" during tonight's mass.  You can see quite a few bikes lifted down in front- I wasn't about to kick my kid off to try it, but I think I could...

There it is! A great example of the “Chicago Hold-Up” during tonight’s mass. You can see quite a few bikes lifted down in front- I wasn’t about to kick my kid off to try it, but I think I could…

At Daley Plaza, getting ready for Critical Mass

At Daley Plaza, getting ready for Critical Mass

It's like a date night, but with kids.  And tons of other people. :)

It’s like a date night, but with kids. And tons of other people. :)

Okay, one more change I made- my husband loves the straight bars, I love the cargo bars.  So I switched them out.  It takes hardly any mechanical inclination to do this, I promise.  I just took photos of how my shifters looked before with my phone so I could check my work.  The toughest part, I swear, was getting the darned grips off without scratching or gouging anything- but a measuring spoon and a bit of water did the trick.  I’ve learned to like the new shifting/gearing on the new bike, and I especially appreciate that it’s quieter.  Without the foot plates and with a new kickstand that doesn’t bang, I’m feeling kinda ninja when we ride.  I really don’t prefer one bike to another, but the larger bar in the back of the most recent model means more room for kids, and since I’m most likely to carry two, we switched things up.

wpid-20150519_205430.jpgI have big plans.  One involves using a product called “sugru” to dampen some of the noisier parts of the old bike- funny I never even noticed this until I started riding the new one- and another is a themed Kidical Mass ride we have coming up in early June.

The bike business is also underway.  I’ll tease with the logo, but will fill you in with another post- soon!

Not committing to one or the other quite yet- but there will soon be a "working Haul-a-Day" in Chicago!

Not committing to one or the other quite yet- but there will soon be a “working Haul-a-Day” in Chicago!

Have a great weekend, everybody!

 

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!

The Haul-a-Day Rides the CTA!

We got this!
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We have vertical bike racks in our building- it was almost IMPOSSIBLE with the Yuba, but I can lift this one and turn the front tire without too much trouble. Here’s big kid in front, little in back- easier on me, but they felt I’d disrupted the natural order of things…

We tried something a lot different the other day.  We planned to meet some friends at the Peggy Notebaert  Nature Museum- which by the way, is running an insanely good deal on membership through Groupon- and with a high of 35 predicted, it seemed like the bike was the best way to go. It’s a little over six miles on the Lakefront Trail, and public trans estimated time was 45 minutes, so we loaded up, put on our Cuddl Duds, and were on our way.

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DANG IT. Could they maybe have put some signage up earlier??

Wind definitely adds on to our biking time in the winter.  We have to take care in a few places thanks to ice and snow, but for the most part the trails are clear- especially of people- and the only change from non-winter biking is allowing extra time and wearing extra layers.  I was a little shocked though at how TIRED I was as this trip went on- it was a pain to get west over to the next North/South bike lane (Dearborn) and the kids were whining a lot.  Me too.  The closed path was a big setback, and I kicked myself for assuming it had reopened.  (It was closed after this storm back in November.)  This is why I ought to be reading the Chainlink, though it sometimes drives me nuts.

So the ride, in total, was a bit over 7 miles.  We were only about 15 minutes late, but I was pushing against a pretty decent headwind.  We had a nice visit at the museum, said hello to the butterflies, and ate some lunch.  Then we rode over to see our friends at Alt-Cycle to check out the Xtracycle accessories Shane mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago- the flight deck and hooptie.  I think it’s a significant investment to change out our setup, but the kids might be a little happier with more room, so stay tuned.

After Alt-Cycle, we were tired.  It was pretty windy and cold, and it seemed like an ideal time to try out our mixed-mode transportation option!  We walked the bike down Fullerton to the Red Line Station and felt a lot nervous… I’ve never taken a bike on the train before, so a cargo bike seemed like kind of a big deal.  Plus, you know- two tired kids!

At the Fullerton station, wondering if we can pull this off!

At the Fullerton station, wondering if we can pull this off!

I double checked with an attendant in the front, she reassured me bikes are fine until 4:00.  CTA restricts bikes during rush hours- from 7-9 and 4-6.  The guidelines are here. We swung into the elevator with no problems, got up to a pretty crowded platform (DePaul students heading out) and waited for what I hoped was a very vacant train.

We got this!

We got this!

The train came, and there were a few empty seats- we spotted the handicapped symbol near a door and scooted ahead- I’d learned this trick from my stroller days.  On the newer CTA trains there are no dividers by the doors at these entrances, which makes it a lot easier to park something big like a stroller or bike.  I flipped the front tire around and pushed it in at an angle by the front seat- the kids each sat next to a new ‘friend’ while I held the bike and a pole.

Waiting patiently.  NBD.

Waiting patiently. NBD.

While we were riding, I’m seeing my little guy’s eyes getting heavy, and I momentarily have a moment of panic.  What am I going to do if he falls asleep and we reach our stop?  The kickstand isn’t sufficient to leave the bike freestanding with the stops and starts, you definitely need to hang on to it.  So at a stop in the loop, I motioned him over and had him sit on the deck.  It wasn’t too tough to hold onto, plus it simplified the exit when it was time.

We made it!  Hello, Chinatown!

We made it! Hello, Chinatown!

I probably should have mentioned this earlier- but you should definitely check that your destination has an elevator!  We usually get off at Roosevelt, but I know those are broken down frequently and pretty small (thank you stroller) so Cermak is a better option- newer station.  I felt relieved as we completed our commute…

All of us fit in the elevator- no problem!

All of us fit in the elevator- no problem!

And just in time- since this guy was DONE.

So the first one is the hardest, right?  I’m feeling like I could easily do this again.  It’s nice for one way trips, or to get out a little further than we’ve been going regularly.  Also, I’m really excited to do some Metra trips once the weather is nicer.

I’m still hesitant to do a bus trip, especially after reading this horror story this week on the Chainlink!!  (and this, and this, and this!)

Being able to mix up our transportation was the #1 reason we got this bike, I am dreaming about all the possibilities!  This little guy was dreaming, too.

Sure sign of a great day.

Sure sign of a great day.