Monday, October 06, 2014

Errands via Bicycle

There is something awesome about biking as a means of transit.  It is such a pleasant way to get around.  I literally can't help but smile as I am taking Audrey to school.  That is the only route so far that I have completely stopped using the car.  It's funny, I rarely think about my mode of transportation in any terms, let alone one that makes me happy.  Aside from extremely bad weather in which I usually feel super grateful to be in a climate controlled bubble of my car, I rarely feel happy (or anything) to be driving.  But riding a bike just has a fun factor that I truly underestimated.  I love the fresh air, the sounds of the birds, the exercise - it is just awesome.

I am getting more comfortable riding again (I used to ride my bike in Japan as my primary mode of transit) and I think I am getting stronger too.  Last week, I took some dirty clothes to the dry cleaners after dropping Audrey off at school.  Today, I rode to a grocery store that is about 5 miles away on bike after dropping Audrey off.  I also learned that one pannier is not quite enough for grocery shopping.  It could hold all of my groceries just fine, but two gallons of milk plus the other stuff I was getting actually made the bike tip over - which is pretty hard to do with the double kick stand.  So I returned one gallon of milk and then rode back to the house.  The system still needs some tweaking.

Other system "tweaks" are more critical than double panniers.  My main concern for now is what to do with Meredith.  She is just barely within the weight limit for the ibert seat on the front handle bar stem - so that is what I use when I take her.  However, the ibert has its limitations, namely it is not compatible with the front basket, and most importantly, I can't comfortably stand on the ground with the ibert.  I lowered my seat considerably, so now the tips of my toes can touch the ground while I am seated and even though that does not give me the best angle for pedaling up hills, I have electric assist, so I am cool with that.  However, Meredith is just a pound shy of the weight limit and she is not old enough to hold onto the handle bars behind me on her own.  I am looking into other options, but I think a trailer may solve that and winter weather problems in the short term - craig's list here I come.
Big Blue sans front basket with the ibert attached and the big pannier

Visibility is my other main concern.  As the days get shorter and if weather suddenly changes, we still need to be visible.  I rode to Audrey's Back to School night last week and realized as I was getting the bike out of the garage, that I had no front light.  I put a spelunking light on top of my helmet and I tied an LED hand-cranked emergency light that is also a radio into the cup holder on my handle bars and turned the cup holder so that the light would shine on the ground ahead of me.  That worked surprisingly well.  But as the light bounced out of the cup holder when I crossed the first road and I had to hold it with one hand the rest of the way, I realized, it was not going to be a good permanent solution.  I would love to install dynamo lights - they never need batteries because they use the power of the bike's movement, but I have been told (by my local bike shop) that I cannot have both the electric assist motor hub and a dynamo motor hub on the same front wheel.  That makes sense.

In the meantime, to improve our overall visibility, I  ordered bright neon yellow reflector jackets for me and the girls and we wear them every time we ride now over our regular clothes.  There are not a lot of bikers in my area yet, so cars do not look for bikes.  I want to make sure that car drivers see us.

Long-term I think the Yuba elMundo, Big Blue, has true staying power.  This surprises me a bit.  I thought this would be a good proof of concept bike to see if biking was something we could do in our area for our local adventures.  I thought I would see how things went and then eventually replace this bike with a bucket bike that could protect the girls and any cargo from the elements.  However, I am becoming more convinced that this bike is capable of comfortably taking me and the girls to our local spots for a long time to come.  Bad weather may change my mind - time will tell.

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