Sunday, August 9, 2009

Bridge Pedal 2009

I'd heard the horror stories before, the names like "Bridge Walk" and "Bridge Push-Your-Bike," and I'd vowed to never take part. Something about having a kid, though, pushes you outside previously set boundaries and into doing things you never would have before. Like learning the names of all the Thomas the Tank Engine characters or signing up for Bridge Pedal.

Riding with me were my almost-two-year-old son Everett in the cargo area, my wife on her bike, and two of our friends on their bikes. It was the first Bridge Pedal for all of us.

We got to the beginning of the ride right at our 9am start time, ready for whatever was to come. And when I say ready, I meant it. The bike was loaded with diaper changes, extra clothes, cameras, water bottles, GPS (no, I wasn't worried about getting lost -- I just wanted stats on the ride), snacks, books, and toys. We might have overpacked, but that's one of the fun things about a Bakfiets: an extra 10 pounds is only 10% of the weight you're pushing anyway!

Everett insisted on holding onto his helmet for most of the ride. I think he was worried about the wind blowing it off (because I was so speedy, of course). He's had that trouble with hats before, and is now extra cautious with them.

I won't write up the entire ride. Instead you can watch the time lapse video I made:

Technical details: 3806 photos, one every two seconds with the built-in intervalometer. The camera is a Nikon D200 with an 18-55 zoom lens. The photos were taken at 18mm, except on one downhill bomb where it vibrated itself out to about 24mm. Exposure times were around 1/10 to 1/20 or so of a second, to induce enough motion blur to keep it from looking too stuttery.

Another Bakfiets makes an appearance around 02:17 and can be seen a few times after that. The rider told me he was renting the bike for the ride. What an introduction to the bike!

My impressions of the Bakfiets on this ride:
  • All that weight = speed and momentum on the descents.
  • Even uphill, I was still faster than a lot of people. They must not know how to use their gears, because I'm not in that good of shape.
  • I'm proud that I didn't need to push the bike at all. There were two hills where I pulled over and took a 30-second break to stretch my legs, but that's it.
Here's Everett in the bike, with water bottles and Cheerios close at hand. You can see my camera mount to his right. He didn't notice or try to play with the camera until almost an hour and a half into the ride.

Obligatory scenic shot, looking north from the Marquam bridge.

There were a few aggravations, mostly due to rider etiquette, but we all had such a great time I don't want to be too negative and detail them out. We'll definitely be back next year.

p.s. don't tell my wife that I managed to get the Bakfiets up to almost 30mph. :)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

June Highlights

The nice weather has us out on the bike together at least once a week, if not more.

Last weekend Everett and I took a ride to Fort Vancouver to see some reenactments of life in the 1800s. There were sprinkles throughout our visit, but now I've learned to keep a shower cap tucked under the seat in order to keep it covered when I'm not riding. No more soggy saddles! We, of course, were completely unprepared ourselves and got a bit of a soaking.

This Sunday morning we joined with some of our neighbors for a small group ride down to Esther Short Park for the Recycled Arts Festival and the Farmers Market. It was great riding with friends -- I'd forgotten about the social aspect of cycling. Everett is great company, but his conversations leave a bit to be desired.
Bike parking was available at the park, and was much appreciated. I hope that at some point this weekend it was more full than in this photo.
At the cycling booth, I grabbed a few of the Vancouver cycling maps, since all of my copies tend to disappear when friends see them. At least one is going to stick around this time.

One recent, unfortunate development is that Everett has gotten very anxious about being pinched by his helmet straps, and twists and turns his head or buries his chin into his chest as I try to fasten it on. Of course, this makes it even more likely he will get pinched. He hasn't been pinched recently, so I'm not sure where the fear came from all of a sudden. Does anyone have tips on how to deal with this? He's 22 months old now, if that affects the approach I should take.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Seatbelt Improvement

All-in-all, I've found the Bakfiets to be well thought out and constructed. One area has always seemed lacking to me, though: the seatbelts for the bench in front.

There's a strap for each shoulder, coming together into a single buckle in the front that passes through the child's legs. The issue we've run into is that when the straps are adjusted short enough to fit my son's shoulders (he's 21 months), there's not enough room in the "loop" for his helmet to fit through.

This has meant that he has to go into the cargo box and be buckled before his helmet goes on, and the helmet has to be removed before he can get out. We like to cruise around the neighborhood on weekend mornings, and this has made it difficult to hop out for a few minutes to wander through a yard sale or pet a friendly dog. What a hassle! And every time that helmet goes on, it's another chance for a bad pinch by its buckle on his chubby little neck if I'm not careful enough. I don't need that kind of stress.

Enough was enough, it was time for a new strap. Browsing through, I found what I was looking for. A split release buckle would let me separate the shoulder straps. The factory belts themselves had always seemed a little stiff, so I opted for 1" seatbelt webbing for my version. And a strap adjuster would serve just as its name implied.

Now, if you were crafty enough, it would be a piece of cake to order the pieces and sew them yourself, but sewing isn't my craft of choice. So I spoke to David in the custom department at Strapworks. After faxing in a waiver that I wouldn't hold them responsible if anything bad happened, he gave me a great quote for the entire finished set. Each shoulder strap would be stitched to a strap adjuster, and the leg strap would be sewn to the bottom of the split buckle.

Three days after my order (they're not too far away in Eugene, Oregon), the straps arrived. I had ordered them extra-long so that I could cut them to size, but if you order your own and want to match the dimensions of the existing system, the shoulder straps need 30" of webbing and the leg strap needs just 8" (total length after sewing - add maybe an inch-and-a-half to loop back and sew). You could even order just the split-release buckle and its strap, and re-use the existing shoulder straps but threaded through the new buckles.

I removed the old straps and used them as a guide to cut the new ones to length, melted the ends on an iron to keep them from fraying, then melted a hole through the webbing with a soldering iron for the bolt hole. The new straps went right on without a problem. If I hadn't been taking pictures, it would have been around 5 minutes to do the swap.

Here's a comparison of the new leg strap (on top), and the old one:
And here are the new shoulder straps on top, compared to the old ones on the bottom:
Finally, here's the new belt installed:The boy is napping right now, so we haven't even had a test fit, but I'm sure it will work great. They buckle and unbuckle easily, and the belts are so much softer. I might even add some slip-on shoulder pads from his old car seat. What luxury!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

On the Road Again

Nice weather, more daylight, and reasonable working hours have finally come together here and allowed us to get the Bakfiets out of storage and back on the road. I can admit it -- I'm a fair weather cyclist.

I've kept the bike outside, but underneath a motorcycle cover (see it here). The leather saddle and seatpost stayed indoors, and the seat tube was plugged to keep any water out of the frame. So what does 6 months of storage do to a Bakfiets? Not much. There was the tiniest hint of some mildew on the exposed end grain of the box walls, but that's about it. A little bit of bleach/water solution and some sunlight took care of that. The tire pressure, while a little bit lower than I left it, was still completely rideable.

While I was doing the "tuneup," I made my first addition/customization. It's not much, just a placard from a Piper Cub instrument panel instructing the operator that solo flights must be made with the pilot in the rear seat -- an instruction that I think applies well to the Bakfiets, too. You can see it in the picture below.

Everett is now 6 months older than his last ride, but he seemed to remember and was eager to climb in and take to the streets. He might look a little worried in the picture, but he was having a great time. I just happened to catch him when he was looking back to make sure mom made it safely across the street. He's talking now, which he wasn't before. Whenever we stopped, he would insist we "go! go! go!" And so we did, and so we will.