Monday, October 11, 2010

journey to the edge of the bay area

We manage to live our lives almost entirely without direct use of a car. There are some exceptions to this that we can't avoid. Nicole's grandparents live quite far from us, a distance unbikeable in a day. They're getting up there in years and don't wander far from home much these days so we have to go see them. Trips to Gram's house have comprised much of the time we've spent in the car in the past 4 years so as we range further and further out on our bikes we started thinking about how to bike out there.

Our ride from BART to Gram's

BART gets you most of the way there on the Pittsburg line but it's still a good 20 mile ride and the google maps made it look simple, so we packed the kids up on our new 'short bikes', got on BART downtown and took it to the end of the line. The path was actually pretty simple but the terrain was a little intense. The canal trails out in Pittsburg, Antioch and Brentwood are rough riding, they follow a series of large pipes that snake through these cities. The asphalt is pretty thrashed and we rode through pile after pile of broken glass. The thorny weeds were out in full force as well, one of our tires came home with a souvenir , a 1/2" long thorn stuck sideways in the sidewall such that it was firmly in the tire but not actually puncturing the tire.

Our ride back to BART

We made it out to Gram's house, had a nice lunch with them while the kids played. On the way home we had to swing by Auntie's house in Pittsburg to drop Jula off for the weekend. It was going to be dusk soon and knowing that the canal trail was so rough we opted to take another route home that worked pretty well but was also a high-traffic, rough road adventure but turned out to be quite fun. The whole ride back was directly into the setting sun which I enjoyed quite a lot thanks to my helmet visor :)

After Auntie's house we grabbed some dinner in downtown Pittsburg and then made our way back to BART, then into downtown SF and then a short 3.5 mile ride home. Tenzin totally passed out on the ride home. :)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Short bikes!

For the most part, we haul our two kids around San Francisco with our pair of xtracycles. They're infinitely versatile and can carry just about anything. Unfortunately, they have one disadvantage, size! To get across the bay to Berkeley or beyond, taking a BART train is really our preferable choice but the Xtracycles+Kids is just a little too much to take on the train. For starters, they don't fit easily in the BART elevators that take you to the underground platforms and sneaking them on the escalators with kids just seems like a terrible idea. So thus far, we've just dealt with the limited mobility of not having bikes on the other end of a BART trip. But it sucks. We can ride far and don't like having to rent a car just to go see friends and family in the east bay.

Enter my 5 hours of man-cave time last night. We have quite a few bikes laying around that are used for various purposes, loaned out to friends, etc. With that is an ever-growing pile of bike parts. We have an east bay birthday party to go to on Saturday and with the threat of having to rent yet another car for the trip I holed up in the shop last night and emerged around 12:30 with these two bikes!

Sticker Bike! Frame, wheels, tires, saddle, seat post and kids seat all from various original sources. It's *almost* the right size for me but I was able to get it tweaked big enough to do the job. The kids seat was a street find and required some jury-rigging but after a test run with Tenzin this morning I declare it totally solid.

Nicole's Trek. Most of this bike was a street find, believe it or not. Someone cleared out their garage and left it and another less-nice bike out for free. It's been more of a loaner thus far because Nicole has a nice road bike that fills her non-cargo-bike riding time but it's a perfect short-bike for kid hauling. Last night it just needed a rack and the kids seat.

So this Saturday we'll get up and out of the house early to ride downtown and hop on BART over to Concord and after a little ride, meet up for our little friend's 3rd birthday party in the park.

I think this will go over quite well but there's lots of room for improvement. These two bikes have a definite lack of cargo space. The kids seats kind of rule out rear panniers so eventually I'd like to see us get front racks/panniers. A little further down the road both these bikes will hopefulkly be replaced with a proper touring setup for each of us, perhaps with the awesome BoBike Peapod seats that would let us have rear panniers as well. Maybe even a BOB trailer to maximize our capacity?

Our hope is to eventually have a setup that will fit on BART and Amtrak and afford us an even further car-free range.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bike camping!

We finally went bike camping! Nicole and I had been dreaming of going bike camping for a long time. The beauty of leaving our home under our own power to go camp somewhere is incomparable.

Having the cargo space to carry just about anything enabled us to really live it up and we had great food and a full compliment of extra gear. I bet we were both pushing 70lbs of gear on each bike:

The first morning I looked out of a tent and saw not a car but our pair of Xtracycles and it felt *great*.

Our route from SF to China Camp SP

The ride there was surprisingly smooth with a fair amount of the ride on bikeways or in plain old bike lanes. There were only a few places that were a little sketchy but they were brief.

We spent two nights at China Camp and spent the entire second day just riding around on the multi-use trails there. Nicole impressed me once again by riding her Radish like it was just another mountain bike and had a rocking good time.

Our route home was thru Tiburon via the Tiburon/SF ferry. Mostly to avoid the climb from Sausilito to the Golden Gate Bridge.

A flickr photo set from our trip

All in all, totally my new favorite way to vacation. No car, no gas, no traffic. Hell yes.

Monday, July 5, 2010



After spending a week biking around Yosemite we were way behind on laundry, like 8 loads behind!

Instead of slogging through it one load at a time we decided to load it all up on the bikes and haul it to the laundromat.

My bike with a few loads...

...and Nicole's bike with a few more

Of course the kids went with us too :)

After it was all done I picked it up by myself with Nicole's bike and the trailer. That's a lot of clothes!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Car-free furniture

On my lunch break today Nicole and I took a ride to the Haight to drop off Jula's friend Sophia. On the way we found a cornucopia of free stuff sitting on a corner including this huge bookshelf unit that was easily biked home after the arduous task of attaching it to my xtracycle.

Among the other things we found were, a pile of clothes hangers, a bike rack for a car trunk, a hat rack, a hanging shoe rack and magnetic knife holder, all things we've needed lately.

Here's a video of the stuff on Nicole's bike :)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Diabetes Charity Ride

For the past few years craigslist has generously sponsored me and many of my coworkers and even more friends to ride in the American Diabetes Association charity ride in Napa. Last year, I rode the 50 mile course solo. Now that we have two kids who are old enough to ride along with us, this year we rode the super cushy 10 mile course. In the end we all agreed that we could have easily done the 25 mile course but were glad to have a really relaxed time together.

The xtracycles barely fit into the truck we got from Zipcar. Just barely.

A coworker's xtracycle (that I sold to him) and his dual-kid-cargo trailing behind him and our X's in the background.

Our first biking family portrait!

More pre-prep before the ride.

And a little video of our leisurely ride ;)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day at the beach

It was a pretty sunny morning so we packed a lunch and headed for the beach

Tenzin is getting well used to his helmet now.

Mmmm sandy crackers!

Jula loves the beach!

We even brought some construction trucks for sand moving

Nicole pulled the trailer just in case Tenzin got too sleepy in his seat. It was all for not though, he loved every minute!


We were out riding enjoying the sun and ran across a vacuum at a yard sale. Hooray for cargo space!

Friday, April 9, 2010

A note on our windshield, er handlebars!

Nicole and I had the rare privilege of indulging in the luxury of grocery shopping with no kids this morning. Thank you Grandma!

We were out of just about everything so this was a pretty big grocery run for us. Nicole and I had a nice time shopping and figuring out what we'd be eating for the next week or two.

When we came back to our bikes there was business card crammed between the light mount and the bell on my handlebars with a note written on it. The card was from the Program Director of the SFBC and the note read "Awesome. Please send me photos of this parking job (I don't have my camera)...". It made us both smile :)

Anyway, here are the photos :)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Bikes and Burgers

Our Saturday was full of errands and playing with the kids. We were out on our bikes all day long. Tenzin full-on passed out in the trailer on the way to Burgermeister and slept all the way through our lunch. I guess it's pretty comfy back there :)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ikea chair haul

Jula helped hold this ikea chair on the back of the bike. Somehow my ratchet strap went missing from my xtracycle bag so this was a 100% bungee affair. Of course Jula hung on to the chair too. Found it on craigslist and hauled it 1.5mi home ;)

Monday, January 11, 2010

First full family grocery run

Finally we can all go to the store together. Since my son Tenzin was born 7 months ago Nicole and I have not been to the grocery store together, something that we enjoy doing together. Since Tenzin seems to be enjoying riding in the trailer so much we decided that we'd make the trek to Safeway to stock up on things that we can't get or are too expensive at our local markets.

We made several changes to the path that we would normally take getting to the store, mostly to avoid badly potholed roads so that Tenzin's ride wasn't too bumpy. These included a bit of very low-speed sidewalk riding and a bit of a wide walking path through the park. The walking path has a "no skating no bicycles" sign at the entry way but I justify riding there because a) we are moving very slowly so as to not jar Tenzin in the trailer and b) the city of San Francisco is clearly negligent in taking care of South Drive from Lincoln to Stow Lake, particularly from Lincoln to the Tea Garden. There are patches on patches on patches and still big scary potholes. It's a major conduit to the park for cars which is certainly the cause of the wear but it's a terrible experience for cyclists. Sadly from the Inner Sunset there aren't any other good entries into the park for cyclists. So in a way riding on the walking path is my act of civil disobedience in the matter and it's really all about Tenzin's safety.

Anyway, I digress! We had a lovely time shopping together and playing with the kids in the store. Hooray for more family togetherness!

Here's our full family rig as it stands now. Jula rode with Nicole and I pulled Tenzin in the trailer. He seems to really love riding along with us and it was oh-so-awesome for us all to go to the store together!

We had 7 bags of groceries, I hauled 4 and Nicole took the rest. The mile back home across Golden Gate Park was easy-peasy :)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tenzin's first ride

After much deliberation and gnashing of teeth over our restricted family mobility we decided to let Tenzin take a spin in the trailer. He's only 7 months old so probably a lot younger than most people would take their kids out. He's clearly not ready to be out in heavy city traffic but we realized that there are still lots of places that we could take him if we were just cautious enough about it. We put him in his infant car seat and then I used four straps to anchor it to each corner of the trailer's frame. He's got quite a bit of roll-over protection and there's a clear plastic window that comes down over the front to shield him from road debris. Honestly he gets more jostled in the stroller during the dirt-trail walks that Nicole goes on every day through the park.

He absolutly loved the ride. He cried a bit as we rolled out of the garage but then he caught sight of his sister and all was well again. The only other complaint he issued was at a red light on the panhandle path as it crosses Masonic. When the light turned green the crying was over before we even made it across the street. :)

Our destination? Breakfast at the Green Chile Kitchen down near the end of the panhandle. Seriously yummy New Mexican food.

Sadly, I didn't get any good pictures of this ride. But I did get this short video:

The path to Green Chile Kitchen goes past a school with these bike racks. I took this one specificly to be an iPhone background. :)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Nicole's new road bike!

Since she got her Xtracycle Radish earlier this year Nicole has been riding a lot more. She's actually quite a strong rider but the weight of the Radish (and it's single chainring) really holds her back so when it comes time to go riding with friends or on a cargo-less errand she was loathe to have to take it out. I had a grand plan of building up a road bike just for her and was ready to start hunting for a frame on craigslist but we didn't know what size she needed exactly. A few weeks ago had a bit of a date-night that started out by test-riding bikes at American Cyclery to get her on a road bike so she could try using dropbars on a bike that's the right size for her. She tried a few flashy road bikes that were ok and then stumbled on this 2009 Raleigh Clubman. She fell in love with it right away. It also happened to be on sale and we couldn't pass it up. It's a steel frame with some really nice modern components and it's a joy to see her ride it. :)