Napping on the bike

As parents, we love and hate naps. Love them, because the baby is sleeping and shouldn’t need tending. Hate them, because the whole day revolves around making sure the baby falls asleep at the right time, not the wrong time, so as to sleep the right amount.

When the baby is small, it’s easy. They can nap on the go, and if a nap is cut short for scheduling reasons, you figure he’ll make it up eventually. But then they are toddlers, and you spend your whole day every day avoiding the dreaded 10-minute nap, lest the toddler make the whole family cranky in the evening.

And where is the dreaded 10-minute nap most likely to happen? In the car! So you schedule your day around not driving when the baby will fall asleep, which means you are stuck at home from about noon until the nap is done. I’ve been known to leave a sleeping baby in the car in the garage with a baby monitor, but the summer is too hot for that. But also sometimes we just run out of mornings for running errands, and I have late nappers so there’s no time afterwards. What to do?

How about a bike nap? Occasionally I’ve had the babies nap in the bike trailer while we went to the library. This also solves the problem of babies wreaking havoc in the library. I’m already out with a trailer when I’m out with all four, so it’s a matter of putting both of them in it and the big kids on the deck of the bike (no complaints from them).

We have a stroller wheel for our trailer. The usual installation interferes with the running boards on the bike, so we had another hole drilled farther up the tow bar. The bike trailer is large and cumbersome as a stroller, but when I arrive at the library with sleeping babies, I can disconnect the trailer and bring them inside. Of course the last time we were at the library, there was a kid making very loud, happy toddler noises and woke up one of my toddlers. Then when I took him out of the trailer, the other one woke up. So it doesn’t always work.

Better is when we come home. I have one who is more likely to fall asleep while biking, so I put him in the trailer. When we get home, I disconnect the trailer and park him in the shade. It doesn’t get hot the way the car does.

What if they fall asleep on the way out? That doesn’t happen to us very much anymore (or I plan for it and put them in the trailer). I’ve heard of people just wheeling the bike into the store with sleeping toddler aboard. Can’t do that with a car! One day last summer I arrived at the grocery store with two sleeping babies, and managed to transfer one to the shopping cart and one to my back. #winning


But you don’t tow a trailer because you have not quite so many kids? Strap a carrier around him and the seat to support the head. Waistband up works best. The other way is cuter but doesn’t work so well. Then when you get home, park him in the shade until he wakes up, and in the meantime you can knit, read, garden, blog, surf facebook, or read with your big kids (my first order of business at naptime).


The carrier method works with the Yepp mini also (don’t worry, he moved his head so he could breathe).

Our EdgeRunner

In case you missed it on twitter, a few weeks ago our EdgeRunner turned a year old. We hit 1000 miles shortly before.

So now seems as good a time as any to blog the bike. First, it’s not a totally custom bike as most think around here (cargo bikes are pretty unusual yet). You can go out and buy an Xtracycle EdgeRunner, too! And it will be awesome. Mine is heavily customized to suit my usual load (four kids, associated gear, and groceries/library books/whatever else we’re bringing home that day) and terrain. We live on top of the hill at about elevation 480 feet. Downtown Kirkland and downtown Redmond are both at about 30 feet, so I have a big climb to get home.

Enter the Stokemonkey (that round red thing under the seat). I’ve met a few hills I can’t get back up, but some of my cargo is mobile, so we make it work. The annoyance is that the motor needs to be adjusted to tighten the chain every few months. I have found a local Stokemonkey mechanic, otherwise I’m not sure what I’d do. I bike so that I don’t have to deal with the hassle of maintaining a car!

We also have a custom frame-mounted front rack that holds a huge basket. Great for carrying strawberries, or tossing in baby mittens en route. At our destination it usually ends up full of helmets. Installing the rack meant painting the bike, which means I got to choose the color: Lazer Burgundy, a deep sparkly purple.

The lights are powered by the front dynamo hub. The rear light is switchable between the bike and the trailer (but we need a new connector for the trailer light, so it’s currently using a battery-powered blinky light). I like that I never have to think about the lights, but they aren’t super bright – Mark has a battery-powered light that’s brighter. The front light is mounted on the fork, below the basket. At first it was mounted on the handlebars, but the light reflected off of the basket which was totally blinding, and cast a huge shadow. The fork also casts a shadow, but a reasonable one. (This is the problem with buying a bike right at the summer solstice – neither you nor the shop notice these things for months!)

We have chain guards on both sides. The right side is a stock EdgeRunner part. The left side is custom. At the end of the Stokemonkey adjustment cycle the motor rubs on the chain guard. So I have to keep tabs on that.

We have Yepp Mini child seat on the front and a Yepp Maxi on the back, both blue. The bike paint was chosen to coordinate with the blue seats, but when we bought the bike, blue Yepp Maxis were backordered everywhere. We finally found a floor model at a shop in California, which they sold to us at a discount. I’m glad they didn’t realize that the true market value of that seat was much higher!

In back we have the Xtracycle Hooptie and U-Tubes. We keep the Hooptie on its widest setting, which fits around the Yepp seat. There’s a middle setting for kids on the deck and no seat, and a narrow setting for milk crates, but I’ve never used those. The wide setting is wide enough for the kids to fit their helmets underneath and climb on board without my help. The U-Tubes work as footrests for bigger kids, but also a stable place to strap a heavy load, and a place to slip a front wheel in while towing another bike. We used stirrups for the younger child for a few months, but they seemed to be more trouble than they were worth, because sometimes he’s in front, and sometimes in back, and they aren’t easy to move around. We use the X1 bags, which are a sling style. Mark hates them because things fall out (I lost a water bottle and a bag of toys a month ago. I knew about the water bottle when it fell, but found the bag of toys on the way back after I didn’t have them at restaurant.) but I like them because they hold a lot of bags.

We have the unfortunately-named Rolling Jackass centerstand. It’s super super stable. The kids can climb on by themselves while I walk away from the bike.

We have the NuVinci continuously geared hub. I can find the exact right gear, and change gears while stopped. We have hydraulic disc brakes. I don’t have to pull hard to stop, even on our big hills. I did get talked into a larger disc in the back by one of the local shops that actually seemed to be afraid of such a big, crazy bike. I’m not sure it was necessary, but the brake pads are lasting longer now (8 months and still going strong. The first set lasted only 4 months) so maybe it will pay for itself.

Our bike was also blogged by people who know more than we do (scroll down halfway or so).

Sometimes we use a trailer – a secondhand Burley D’Lite. There’s a custom trailer hitch on the back end of the back, which was easy enough to do when we were having the front rack installed. The trailer works when it needs to, but if we can go out without it, we do because otherwise it’s a long load.

We go to parks, playdates, the library, occasionally a grocery store. Appointments, meetings, classes. Church. Parties. The famer’s market. Rain or shine. We even sold a car! While we wish the infrastructure were more encouraging of family transportation cycling, we are very happy that we are doing it anyway.

Minimalist Shoes

I’ve been walking and running (and I guess cycling) in minimalist shoes for a few years now, so I thought it would be worthwhile to share my experiences.  The timing seems right, too, as I’ve just hit 1500 miles in my first pair that worked for me.  I’ll cover why I changed, what worked and didn’t, and how I look at shoes now.

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(Stroller!) Race Report – Corvallis Half Marathon

Several years ago, when I was just getting back into shape, I ran a local 5k.  It was uphill, downhill, and then flat to the finish.  While I was on the flat portion, a man with a stroller flew by me and was out of sight by the finish, which I thought was pretty awesome.  A few years later, I ran a 5k with our first child, and it went well but didn’t seem quite the same.  I’ve run a decent bit with strollers since but not raced.  The thought faded…

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Michelle’s errandonnee wrap-up

My errandonnee is a snapshot of how we use our bike for our daily life. I’d hoped to do something epic, but it turned out there was nothing epic that needed to be done this week – aside from the usual carting-four-kids-on-a-bike epic. I didn’t plan anything special just for the errandonnee, because we had enough to do already.

Here are the posts:





And here are the categories:

Personal care: #1 horse, #12 horse

Personal business: #4 passport failure, #10 passport success

You carried what?: #13 bike and kid, #8 three kids

Arts and entertainment: #6 park, #11 construction site

Non-store: none

Social call: #2 park, #3 twin club meeting

Work: #7 babywearing meeting, #9 taking a kid to class

Store: #5 bike shop

Wild card: none

Total mileage: I lost track, but it was something over 50 miles. At first I was a little worried, because most of our distances are pretty short, so 3 miles to Redmond and 3 miles home with three errands is behind the pace needed. Or the 2 mile round trip to church. But I ended up with several rides to single errands, and all that added up to a lot of miles. I was tired this week. That’s more miles than we typically do.

Interesting things about this week: there was very little shopping! That’s how I like it. The groceries were all bought on foot, and there was nothing much else that needed to be bought (just a bike). Also, most weeks we have a library stop, but Mark took care of that.

The car hardly moved this week. I used it on Tuesday to return the tandem rack we used to bring our big bike home from the shop, and it took our daughter to church for choir practice on Sunday in the pouring rain. She was sad not to get to ride her new bike.

The bikes:

The little bike: a trek mountain bike, circa 1996. This was my sister’s first (and only) grown-up bike that I claimed when I graduated from college and moved back to our hometown, and she left for college. I outfitted it for city riding a few years ago (fenders, slicker tires, kickstand), and used it to tow the child trailer. Now it mostly stays on top of our hill – if I’m going down the hill, I take the electric cargo bike to get back up it.

The big bike: an Xtracycle Edgerunner with Stokemonkey electric assist. It also has a custom frame-mounted front rack, and a custom, integrated trailer hitch. The headlight and taillights on both bike and trailer are powered by a dynamo hub, and it has chain guards on both chains. Yepp seats on front and back. Custom painted a deep sparkly purple. AKA the awesomest bike in town.

Next week we will continue to do what we do. Thanks, Mary, for the excuse to document it!

Insuring an electric cargo bike

Insuring bicycles is already complicated.  Bicycles with electric assists (or “e-bikes”) add another layer to this, which we recently navigated.  Homeowners and renters insurance policies seem to cover some losses but not all.  They often have different kinds of coverage limits, which could mean the need for a separate rider for full coverage.  Here is what we found.

First, there seems to be as much confusion in the insurance industry as there is in bicycle owners.  Details are going to vary by provider, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some providers even have differently underwritten policies.  So, treat this post as an introduction and a beginning list for what to ask about, and make sure you talk to your agent (or agents if you are shopping for coverage).  This post is not specific legal, financial, or insurance advice.  Even further, ask enough questions that they need to go check with the underwriters because they might get it wrong at first, and trying to make a claim when the policy differs from what the agent thought is not a good place to be.

It’s a good idea to check what your homeowners or renters policy already covers.  Start with the big things – theft, you crash (both your loss and also your liability), and someone crashes into you but won’t/can’t pay.  Ask about limits.  If you’re in a no-fault locale for vehicle collisions, then you probably have additional concerns.  Our agent (after checking with the underwriters) found that we had zero coverage due to the motor.  If you do have coverage, then you will still want to probe the conditions and limitations for it.  There is a handy chart on with different occurrences.  A lot of these are aimed at racing cyclists so may not be relevant.

We learned that the electric motor caused our bicycle to be classified as a motorcycle, which seemed ridiculous at first until we realized that it was really being compared to a moped.  While e-bikes and mopeds have differences under WA state law (and most places), they are close.  An assisted family bicycle is going to be ridden a lot more like a non-racing bicycle than a racing one or moped, but that’s not how they classified it.

The other option is a bicycle-specific provider such as velosurance.  This may be your only option for (currently) more exotic things like the Organic Transit ELF (side note: do your own research rather than trusting their information about insurance or local classification).  We found that insurance costs substantially differed between our provider and velosurance, and furthermore the cost breakdown was fundamentally different.  Velosurance is using bicycle theft data (which is not pretty), so theft coverage is very expensive – basically driving most of the cost of the insurance.  Other costs such as liability are not negligible, so they would still need to be analyzed.  On the other hand, our provider’s quote looked like a typical car insurance quote with comprehensive, collision, liability, and under- and un-insured motorist coverage being the main components.  Theft is part of comprehensive (basically, losses of the bicycle not involving collisions).  Motorcycle theft rates are much lower.  We’re not aware of theft data on electronically assisted longtails.  They are basically as heavy as the smallest mopeds and require a key (to run the motor), but they could be ridden away without the assist.  We think there will be a lot of flux in coverage as the providers figure this out.

With our provider, the bulk of the quote instead went towards under- and un-insured motorist coverage, and the bulk of that towards medical costs.  This is the case where someone else is at fault but doesn’t have sufficient coverage; it includes hit-and-runs.  The strange thing for us is that we don’t have this coverage when riding an unassisted bicycle or running/walking, and riding an assisted bicycle hardly seems more dangerous.  The bulk of this coverage is redundant with normal health insurance, but among the additional things it covers are (1) the bicycle itself, (2) medical deductibles, and (3) extra perks like “lost wages”.  We were interested in (1), and it turned out that our provider would not write a policy where under- and un-insured motorist coverage only covered the vehicle, but we were able to set very low amounts for the medical costs.  This ended up covering (2), which we would have declined to do otherwise – it didn’t really make sense to pay for a lower (or non-existent) medical deductible for just one activity.  For (3), there is some risk, but the coverage itself is also limited.  It might be redundant with normal long-term disability coverage.  It doesn’t pay for work that doesn’t include wages (like raising children or volunteering).  And in the case where you might need it, your coverage might be exhausted by medical costs, leaving little or nothing for the lost wages anyway.

We chose the motorcycle coverage with minimal under- and un-insured motorist coverage.  To give an idea of costs, the velosurance coverages were at least as expensive than our car insurance (one car, low miles).  The original motorcycle quote was about half of our car insurance, and our final coverage was about half that.  We hesitate to make a recommendation, but we’ve heard that some agents have been unable to navigate this area.  [Edit: We started our policy with Jim Howard at State Farm, but he has retired.  Our coverage is now with Christy Niemann, also at State Farm.  We haven’t gone through the process of starting a policy with her, but she has reviewed ours and says that she can do them for anyone in Washington State.  This mention is not sponsored.]

Mark’s #errundonnee submission

It’s been a fun 12 days.  The “run” version of the Errandonnee was challenging for me for three reasons: (1) Sweat.  Many trips require one to be presentable on the other end.  We have showers at work, so commuting is ok.  (I know that some make it work with some combination of a sink and wet wipes, and I’m impressed.)  Things like the canonical “meet for a coffee or beer” require a little more planning of the venue (and friend).  This also adds a barrier to a quick errand isolated from others (another shower).  (2) Cargo.  Running is far rougher on cargo than cycling.  I have turned many lunches into casseroles on my way to work.  It’s also more difficult to handle the extra weight.  (3) Miles.  While 30 miles over 12 days was not a barrier for me, I devote a number of my weekly miles to training (speedwork being the biggest conflict) and keep one off day per week.  I didn’t utilize any multiple-run days.  From a running perspective, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to do so in the 30-45 mile/week range.

All of that said, it was still a reasonable task.

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