Mark’s #errundonnee Day 5

(no running on day 4)

Today was a short run home from work – barely above the shortest possible trip at 4 miles.  My legs were still pretty tired from Saturday (or more likely the entire week), or perhaps more so from an overall feeling of blah after sitting in some training all day.

I did stop at the NE 40th St. and WA 520 bike path intersection again.  I had stopped here on my bike on day 1.  Some combination of Washington, Redmond, and Microsoft is paying for some kind of improvement here – a topic for another time – but the temporary path is pretty poor.  We’re not convinced the Edgerunner and trailer will be able to navigate it.  Even better is that if you give up and go a block down the street, there is no crosswalk for the direct crossing so instead you’d have to do 3 crossings if you wanted printed crosswalks.  And even if crossing the direct way is legal (I don’t recall if there is a sign forbidding it or if it is an WA state implied crosswalk), the street is already unsafe enough in the designated areas.  Anyways, I tried tweeting WA and Redmond, and WA pointed at Redmond, which I then figured out doesn’t monitor its account.  I left a phone message and never heard back, but today the temporary crossing had been rerouted through the dirt:

It might be wider; I’m not sure.  It certainly still looks iffy, and the dirt ramp back up to the street no longer supports the entire temporary path.  Unfortunately, the base of the pictured pole sticks out into the temporary path.  If you look carefully you’ll see that the width there is pretty close to one running belt, which I’m sure was the unit of measure used to create it!  The trailer is less than one running belt wide, but probably only by 6-8 inches, so it will be tricky.

For what it’s worth, road cyclists are having all kinds of trouble with the path too.

After I finished my run, my Garmin crashed.  Again.  That’s also another post, but non-Garmin GPS watch recommendations are welcome.  I don’t care about advanced GPS features like the Garmin virtual racer.  I do care about the watch working, the band not falling apart, GPS accuracy, and ANT+ (or perhaps Bluetooth) because an optical heart rate sensor is probably in my future (I’ve never gotten any band to consistently work).

Yepp Mini vs. Yepp Maxi (and a hack to make the Maxi fit a baby)

So you have a baby or a toddler and you’d like to get a bike seat for your child. I’m sure you’ve found reviews of the Yepp Mini and the Yepp Maxi, but you’re still not sure if you want a seat in the front or a seat in the back. Of course you need to try riding with a front seat and a rear seat on  your bike, but the other thing you need is a parent of twins, who has used both seats at the same time for the same children to tell you what is what.


Yepp Maxi (yes, he wears a helmet, if we are doing more than a photo shoot)


Yepp Mini (and yes, I know the helmet has slipped)


That would be me, and here is the answer.

If I go out with only one baby, I put him in the Mini.

I prefer to have my baby where I can see him, and I ride with my seat low enough that the baby seat does not interfere with my knees. Especially when they were smaller, I found that the Yepp Mini fit better, and the location in front on the stem was less bouncy than on the back of the deck. I slow down a lot for bumps that I see, but there were plenty of instances where the baby in front was fine, but the baby in back would start crying after a bump. My main worry with biking with a little baby was the bumps, especially since we are required to wear helmets here. I also think that steering the EdgeRunner is easier with a baby in the front. When I ride without a baby up there, the steering feels a little squirrelly.

Now that they are toddlers, they point and exclaim when they see things (particularly diggers and trucks), which is too fun. Our limit with the Yepp Mini will likely be when I can no longer see over them, and I will be so sad when that day comes!

The biggest issue we found with the Yepp Maxi and a little baby (they were small but strong 10-month-olds when we started biking) was that the straps were too long to hold him securely.

straps are way too long!

straps are way too long!

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for that. We loop the straps together behind the seat. Bonus: when the straps are not looped, they are the right length for our four-year-old.


straps the normal way


straps looped together, to fit the baby

Cargo Bike as Cargo

We won’t have much in the way of bike adventures this week, because the big bike is in the shop getting a custom chain guard for the Stokemonkey. I’ve wanted one from the beginning, but we got the bike in the early summer (after the nicest spring I can remember) and didn’t want to wait any longer. So I figured we could take it in during the dead of winter. Of course it’s been the warmest and driest winter I can remember, so it’s been plenty nice enough for biking.

One drawback of being in the suburbs is that the bike stuff is all in Seattle. So if the bike needs work that our local recreationally-focused shops can’t provide (for example, custom metalwork!), it’s either a very long ride or car transport. The last time the bike went somewhere, we borrowed a pickup. This time, I really wanted to make a rack on our car work.

We own a regular hitch-mounted rack. I’ve heard of people putting longtail cargo bikes on those, but I’ve also heard not to do it. We figured we might as well try it. Is it really longer than the car is wide? First we compared the bike to the garage door. Our family-hauler truck is nearly as wide as the door. We have to fold the mirrors in to clear it. And you thought power-folding mirrors were a silly feature! (we did too…)


So we tried the bike on the rack, and indeed, it sticks out past the car. Worse, it’s so back-heavy with the motor that it wouldn’t balance on the rack. So that won’t work.


Mark is holding the front end down


We borrowed a vertical tandem rack made by Draftmaster. This particular rack holds a tandem by the fork in the middle, and can also hold two regular bikes on the sides. The tandem that it regularly carries is 60-70 lb, so we figured the one electric cargo bike would be okay. You can lower the whole rack to mount the bike, and then raise it to be closer to the car. In the lower position, I (at 5’2″) can just reach the fork mount while standing on a stool.

And… it worked! We wheeled the bike right up to the rack before taking off the front wheel (ripping the wires out of the dynamo hub in the process, argh). We lifted the front end of the bike up and set it on its rear rack. Mark lifted the bike (a second person to lift would have helped tremendously) and I guided the fork in place and screwed the skewer down. It took a few tries because I’m terrible with screws (sorry, Mark!). We lifted the bike + rack into place and gazed at it.


are we nuts?

Would this really work? Can we really drive on the freeway this way? We took some measurements, and the highest point was just less than 10′. You see low clearance signs for 13′ and 14’… which implies that regular clearance must be higher than that. This doesn’t even really look much higher than a bike mounted to a roof rack.

The other option was to get the bike down, and for Mark to start riding. It was around 16 miles to Cyclefab, and involved riding through Bellevue, across the I-90 bridge (which does have a bike/pedestrian path), and through unfamiliar parts of Seattle. And I’d have to drive over to pick him up anyway.

So we took a break, walked to the hardware store for some ratchet straps, the grocery store for groceries, and then home for lunch. And the bike didn’t fall off, so we went back out to strap it down.


strap is bolted to the tray and looped around the downtube


Blue ratchet strap is wrapped around the attachments for regular bikes on both sides, and looped under another vertical part of the frame.


I took a slow cruise around the block, and headed off to Seattle.


crazy contraption got even crazier

It stuck out 4.5′ past the end of the car, so we strapped a reflective vest to the rearmost point.

I took surface streets to Bellevue, because I was still nervous. I’m sure cargo bikes don’t have guardian angels, but I was sure asking for help from mine! Through the rear window I could see the rack move with every bump in the road. The first potential obstacle was the overhead wires near Bridle Trails State Park, but the wires looked about twice as high as the SUVs around, so I would be fine. Then we went under SR-520, which looked about triple the height of the other SUVs. In Bellevue, I got on I-405. In the exit lane for I-90 a cement mixer truck pulled up behind me – clearly higher than my load. Okay, I got this!

Even so, I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to get off the freeway.

For an unassisted cargo bike without a big basket, this rack would be a totally reasonable way to go. I’m sure we’ll end up transporting our bike again this way, but probably not often.

next bike, part 1: learning to ride

We are shopping for new bikes for our 4- and 6-year-olds.

When our first child was a baby, I heard about balance bikes. They were supposed to be great because the child wouldn’t need to use training wheels (more on that later). She would learn to balance first, and then pedal, because balancing is the hard part about riding a bike. The pedaling is easy. So for her second birthday, we bought her a Strider balance bike. She walked it around that summer. At three she was coasting with it, and at four she begged for pedals.


I thought to myself, “I use a bike. I am going to buy my daughter a nice bike.” So we went down to a local bike shop and I bought her a 16″ Trek with training wheels. It’s purple, and decorated with flowers, streamers, and a white basket. I offered her the “boy” bike, but it was decorated in some angry manner and she wasn’t interested. Neither was I, really. The bike is nearly as heavy as mine. She rode around the store on the training wheels, and we took the bike home.

At home we took the training wheels off, took her to the neighborhood park where there’s a grassy hill, and she freaked out. It was too big and overwhelming. $15 later we had a 12″ Huffy from Craigslist. We tried taking the training wheels off of that one, too, but she was uninterested, and kept going back to the balance bike. I spent that summer encouraging her to ride the new bike, and she spent it balance biking.

Also that summer (2012) I discovered the world of family biking, and learned that there were other options for kids. Bikes that were designed with kids in mind, and were not just miniature adult bikes. I’ve regretted the purple bike ever since.

The next summer (2013) I was pregnant with twins, and there was very little biking.

Then spring rolled around, our twins were six months, we started shopping for a family bike, and got our kids back out on their own bikes. By then I’d come to realize that while some kids might be able to go straight from balance bike to two-wheeler, my daughter (who had been on the late side with all large motor skills to date) was not one of them. She needed some time with training wheels so she could learn to pedal, and I needed her on training wheels so she could learn to brake. So the training wheels went back on the purple bike, set low so she wouldn’t lean, and I signed her up for a week of Pedalheads at the end of July.


She is now riding on her own on the quiet streets of our neighborhood, and her brother has moved from balance bike to 12″ pedal bike with training wheels. So why are we shopping for new bikes? Well, I’d like her to be on a lighter bike with gears, to perhaps expand our range beyond the top of our hill. And he is having trouble figuring out the coaster brake, which is not a long term skill anyway. Plus, he’ll have a much easier time riding a bike with better geometry.