Bullitt Bike Test Ride

Well the number of days remaining until there’s a new addition to our family is quickly dwindling. We haven’t really started getting ready yet, so we decided it was about time we started making some formal arrangements for Kung Pao.  You know, buying necessary supplies and stuff.

Obviously, our first stop was at Calhoun Cycle, where we took the LarryVsHarry Bullitt bike out on a test ride.

Bullitt Bike Reuben
Bullitt Bike Reuben
Bullitt Bike Mel
Bullitt Bike Mel

Honestly, not to get all daddy-blogger on you or anything, but can’t you just imagine a little Kung Pao swaddled into a car carrier and strapped into a custom-built box on the front of the Bullitt?

Yea. I can too.

The bike itself felt really solid. It has higher end components than any bike I’m currently riding, so that’s a plus.  It took a little getting used to the longer wheelbase on this bike.  We almost crashed a few times, but I’m sure you’d get used to it pretty quickly. We tried riding it in a loaded situation (by one of us sitting on the platform while the other was riding), and it still performed pretty well. We’re still going to test ride a bakfiets.nl one of these weekends to see how it handles. Mostly, we’re still just trying to figure out if we can justify the $3k price tag.

[UPDATE: since writing this post, we’ve purchased Joe Box Box Bike. A full review of my experience with this bike is here.]

First Family Bike Ride 2011

Not even being 7 months pregnant can keep Mel away from a family bike ride along the Midtown Greenway, up the Mississippi River, and into downtown MPLS!

First Bike Ride 2011
First Family Bike Ride of 2011
Stone Arch Bridge
We make this town look good.

I’m hoping that the more I can get Mel on a bike while she’s pregnant, the better chance that Kung Pao will be born already knowing how to ride. Mel says she doesn’t think it works like that. I think we ought to collect some data and find out.

What Bike Should I Buy?

Huzzah! A couple of new questions from the mailbag! They’re both similar, so I’m gonna mash them together into a single post.

The first one was submitted anonymously:

Hello, good sir! You seem to be a man that knows his bikes. You seem to know more about bikes than most people I know, so I thought I’d ask you:

What kind of bike feels nimble but can also give you speed? My mountain bike feels pretty nimble, but it’s not very fast. My tri bike is really fast but isn’t so good for dodging pedestrians, turning corners, et cetera. I’d mostly be riding in the cities so mostly pavement, but there might be a few gravel roads on occasion. I’m thinking 80% pavement 20% dirt. I’m hoping it would be comfortable for longer distances (20-80 miles). Price range: $500-1,500. Mostly I’m looking for a bike that “feels” right – one that feels like it’s an extension of my body. Any suggestions?

An extension of your body, huh? Sounds like you should get a fixie. Those hipsters are always getting metaphysical about their bikes. HA. Just kidding. I have to admit that you’ve caught me in my ruse. I talk a lot about bikes, but don’t actually know much about them. At least not the kind that you don’t find abandoned in a dumpster. Those are the kind of bikes I know a lot about.

But, I dunno… have you considered cyclocross bikes? Cyclocross bikes are great for general pavement use, and can reasonably pass for road bikes. But they also provide plenty of clearance for tires that are maybe a little wider or knobbier if you want to take it off-road a little bit. Cyclocross bikes are also designed to be pretty nimble and able to make quick corners and stuff. It sounds like that might be what you’re looking for.

If I were going to buy a cyclocross bike, my first test ride would probably be the Surly Cross-Check, which tends to come in around the $1,000 – $1,200 range.

Surly Cross-Check
Surly Cross-Check

The second question comes from my friend Katie from Creole Wisdom. She said:

Can you write a post about purchasing bikes? Bikes for people who have no bike education? And maybe offer a few economical options, too? I’ve been wanting to purchase a bike, for leisure, but have zero clue what I should be looking for…

Great question!  Well, from what I know about your sense of style, I think you’d look GREAT on a fashionable MIXTE (confession: I think pretty much everyone would look great on a fashionable mixte…).  They’re perfect for be-bopping around town on errands or for leisurely weekend trail rides. I wrote a post about a year ago about the Best Mixte Bikes on the market at the time, and I think it’s still pretty much current. Each of those bikes were in the $500-$900 range, which I think is a good target price range.  There are still acceptable bikes out there in the $300-$500 range at sporting goods stores, but you won’t have many options in that price range. You’ll either like what they’re selling at that price, or you’re out of luck. Once you pass the $500 mark, a whole world of options begin to open up.

Here are some questions you should think about before heading to your favorite local bike shop to inquire about specific brands or models:

  • Internal hub gearing or traditional derailleur system? – internal gearing is quickly becoming the new standard for city bikes. They cost a little more, but I think they’re worth it.
  • How many gears will you need? – This can range anywhere from 1 to 30.  For you, I’d recommend you shoot for about 3-8 gears (bikes that use a single front chainring..). Any more than that, I think you’ll find are entirely unnecessary for leisurely riding.
  • Fenders and chainguards? – if you want to wear regular city clothes and feel confident that you’re not getting a mud-stripe up your back, I strongly recommend fenders, and a chainguard to keep your pant legs out of the chain.
  • Are you willing to pay extra for aesthetic upgrades? – like having the fenders and chainguard color-matched to the rest of the frame?
  • Integral lighting? – you need lights on the bike – both a red blinky in back and headlamp up front.  Some bikes will have integral lighting systems where the motion of the bike powers the lights, so you always have the lights on the bike, and you never have to change batteries.  However, you’ll pay extra for this feature.  Your other option is to buy a bike without lights, and use standard clip-on battery lights.  Integral lighting is a great feature if you’re wiling to pay for it.

My last bit of advice is to send you off to an entire blog dedicated to answering your exact question. Bikes For The Rest Of Us is dedicated to helping regular folks find great bikes that look great and are fully functional. Their archives are full of reviews and recommendations about utilitarian and recreational bikes. They’ve got a good eye for quality, and I like their fashionable style as well.

Any other questions?

Ask Me Anything!!!

Will there be a CycleFest 2011?

Huzzah!  New question in the inbox!  This one is from Katie, who you will have to interact with on Twitter (@KatieL8ley) because she’s given up Facebook for Lent. Here’s her question:

Having missed the vast majority of Collins CycleFest 2010, I’m curious if you’re planning another for 2011. (I know it’s a bit early, I’ve got a touch of spring fever.) 

Great Question!  The short answer is YES!

The long answer is that we really hope to, but with Kung Pao showing up in May, that might influence our plans a little bit.  Here’s a couple questions I don’t know the answer to yet:

  • Will we have a box bike to take Kung Pao along with us?
  • How old does Kung Pao need to be before we can take her on a bike?
  • How long will we need to wait after birth before Mel feels like getting back on a bike?
  • Would Collins Family Cyclefest be worth having if Mel didn’t come at all?
  • Is it still Collins Family Cyclefest if Kung Pao doesn’t come?
  • How do we set a preliminary date if we don’t know the answers to the rest of these questions?

Anyway, so that’s what we’re struggling with right now. At the very least, we can assume it is more likely to happen in the late summer or fall than anytime soon.  We’ve also established that a 10-15 mile route we tried in 2010 was much more popular than the 50 mile route we tried in 2009.

But more importantly, what would the route be?  Last year we did ice cream and tacos.  How about this year?  Hot dogs? Pizza? Organic Smoothies?  Let me know what you’d like to see on CycleFest 2011?

Got a Question?
Ask Me Anything!!!

Flat Tire, Stranded Again

Excuse me a minute while I blow off some steam.  I’m stuck at work right now waiting for my wife to come pick me up because I got a flat tire today.  Talk about annoying.  I never carry spare tubes or anything with me, so a flat tire just means I’m stuck. Transit isn’t really a viable option out here in Golden Valley where I work. It’s totally frustrating.

So why don’t I carry tools with me?  Well, I have recently started carrying a multi-tool with me (after Jimmy got on my case last time I was stuck), but not a tube.  Part of the problem is that I rotate between 2 or 3 bikes, each of which uses a different size wheel,  So I either have to carry 3 tubes around with me all the time, or else each day swap the tube out for the right one. Oh, and then I’d have to start carrying a pump with me, too.

I guess it just seems like too much of a burden to carry all that stuff around with me every day.  It’s easier to just get stuck once in a while.

I’m curious how other full-time cycling commuters out there handle this.  What sort of tools or spare parts do you usually carry with you while you ride?

Buying a Cargo Bike?

So now that Mel and I are officially pregnant (that’s what this somewhat cryptic post was about, in case it wasn’t clear), we’ve been trying to figure out how in the world we’re going to keep riding bikes with an infant.

Mel really set the standard high when she suggested that we buy a cargo bike:

Speedy Supermum and her cute cargo
(Photo by Pays-Bas Cycle Chic, via flickr)

I grin from ear to ear when I think about my little Fetus Daughter snugly nestled in a cargo bike.  We like this system because it allows us to use a standard car seat, and it places the precious cargo directly in front of the rider where Mum or Pop can keep a constant watch.  But the $3,000+ price tag is a little hefty, especially since the design of the bike doesn’t lend itself well to being transported any way other than riding it (so, for example, if we wanted to drive the bikes to a trail head before riding, this is of no use to us).  Plus, this thing will require some serious real-estate in the garage.  There are a couple cheaper options than the original Dutch Bakfiets, but none of them are cheap.  We’re totally bummed that we’re having a hard time justifying this purchase.

Mel summed it up best:

I sort of hate it when we talk ourselves out of being badass to be practical.

So the cheaper option is the standard bike trailer.  If it’s big enough, you can just strap the car seat right into the trailer.  Once they’re a little older, there are kid seats designed for infants, like the following:

(photo via Bruise Cronicles)

Or maybe having a kid will just suck my life away and I’ll never do anything fun again.  Yea, I guess that’s an option… we’ll see.

Ok, internet, Now’s your chance to talk me into buying a cargo bike. Ready? Go.

How Can I Hang 6 Bikes in a Small Area?

Huzzah!  New question in the inbox!  Here’s the question, interrupted by my occasional editorial comment:

You don’t have to answer this on your blog, but I was wondering if you might have some bike storage advice (if so, email or blog post would be great). [Ed- Ok, I’ll try, but I know a lot more about riding bikes than storing them.]
My boyfriend and I live in a house with no garage and very little yard. There are currently six bikes inside the house. [Ed- no problem with that.] A couple are in the basement, and the rest are leaned against walls here and there (kept on the main floor for easy access to outside).
What do you suggest for storing up to 6 bikes so as to minimize clutter? [Ed- Please don’t refer to bikes as “clutter.”] Eventually they will be stored in a mud room currently in use as a bedroom. Until then, I’m interested in hanging them. There is some extra space in the entry (behind the front door, out of the way) that might work, but I don’t know if it’s a good idea to hang 6 bikes in a small area, or how to go about it?

Good Question! There are hundreds of bike hangers out there, and there’s not always a lot to make one any better than the others.  It all comes down to personal preference, I think.  One thing that might make this tricky for you is that you’re looking for a temporary fix, so anything that’s particularly costly may be out of the budget.

If space is tight, you’re definitely going to get the most bang for your buck by hanging the bikes vertically rather than horizontally.  This means they’ll be sticking out of the wall about 3 feet, but the overall footprint will be reduced.  I recommend you skip any bike hangers that involve some sort of rope & pulley system.

I recommend the following style [not necessarily this brand] of wall-mounted bike rack:

The nice thing about this style is that it allows you to hang the racks as close together as you want to fit them on your available wall space.  You can also stagger the height to keep handlebars from banging into each other.  The downside to this type of rack is that if your wheels are dirty, you’ll inevitably scuff the walls.  If you hang a slush-covered bike on one of these things, all the slush is going to run right down the wall.  So look out for that.  Maybe you can figure out how to use a tarp or something to save the walls.

If there’s only two of you and 6 bikes, I’m guessing that at least a couple of your bikes don’t get used too frequently.  I’m also kind of a fan of racks that allow you to mount the bike to the wall like it was a painting or something.  Take this, for example:

Maybe you can hang your least frequently used bikes on the wall over the fireplace or couch or something.  That would at least let you reclaim the floor space underneath.  Plus, it’s totally badass to have a bike mounted on your wall. I’ve seen some racks like this that also have a built-in bookshelf.

Anyway, good luck.  Let me know what you come up with.

Got any more questions???  Ask Me Anything!!!

Bikes Having Sex

A few months ago, Mel and I hung this fantastic illustration of some bikes in our kitchen. In case it’s not clear, the bike on the left features a traditionally female frame geometry, the bike on the right with a traditionally male geometry is mounting the bike on the left. The caption “Bike Love” solidifies that this is, in fact, an illustration of bikes having sex.

Apparently, there has been some confusion about whose idea it was to hang such a sexually explicit picture in our kitchen. This was brought to my attention during a conversation with a friend.

“My husband and I tried to imagine the conversation you must have had with Mel to get her to agree to hang that up in your kitchen,” she said.

“Oh really? What makes you think it was my idea?” I asked.

“Well, you know, you’re the one that’s into bikes, and it doesn’t seem like the kind of poster Mel would want to hang up,” she said.

I explained to her that that she had it all wrong. It was, in fact, entirely Mel’s idea to purchase and display this explicit poster in our home.

“Hey Mel,” I said later. “They think it was my idea to hang that poster up in the kitchen. Maybe you should set them straight.”

“Well.. I didn’t realize when I bought it… you know… what it meant,” she said. “I just thought it meant, you know, that we love bikes. I didn’t realize it was naughty until after we hung it up.”

“Naughty?” I said, raising an eyebrow. “It’s not naughty, it’s Celestial. What could be more divine than the eternal increase of bikes?”*

*In case it’s not clear, this is an incredibly witty and hilarious joke. Perhaps only Mormons will be able to fully appreciate the reference to the speculative ideas within Mormon thought that true heavenly glory is only achieved through the endless perpetuation of family and childbearing in heaven. These ideas, while firmly rooted in Mormonism’s history, have fallen out of favor with younger generations, and are rarely repeated in official church settings. Not surprisingly, jokes about “endless sex in heaven,” while not necessarily an accurate representation of church doctrines, are still somewhat common, although most are not as witty or funny as my own, and are usually accompanied by a joke from a woman who doesn’t find the idea of being “eternally pregnant” at all heavenly. In this particular instance, no such follow-up joke attempt was made, probably because it is absurd to suggest that bicycles become pregnant.