Thursday, April 22, 2010

Bike in a Bike

The weather's nice, the days are long, and our wheels are rolling again!

And when I say "our" wheels, I mean it. Our little guy has taken quite a shine to his balance bike, and insists on riding it everywhere. This weekend we were able to convince him to get out of the saddle long enough to hitch a ride with us down to the waterfront, where we grown-ups parked our bikes and walked alongside while he rode his on the multi-use trail. What a perfect day.

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.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where You Been?

A month without posts?!  


Between work and weather, there hasn't been much Bakfiets-ing around here recently. I could post daily updates on how great the bike looks sitting in the garage, but that would hardly be worth anyone's time, would it?  We did have one notable experience, though...
We took a ride to the bowling alley one Sunday morning to meet with some friends.  The weather was clear when we left, and Sara was thrilled that we were using the bikes to do something — to go somewhere — and not just to ride around.

Halfway through our game, we realized that the rumble of the balls and pins wasn't the only thunder we were hearing, and it was now pouring outside. We played an extra game hoping that the storm would pass.  It did, but my Brooks saddle was now soaked!  I hear that's not good for it, and I could feel the wet saddle stretching beneath me as I rode home. I tried to stay off the saddle, but the Bakfiets does not lend itself to standing pedaling.

When we got home I pulled the seatpost and saddle and brought them inside, formed the saddle back into something resembling its original shape, and left it to dry for a week or two. It seems OK now.

The weather is supposed to be good this holiday weekend, so I'm hoping we'll get out for some more adventures.  Drier adventures, hopefully.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bakfiets/Smart Comparison Part 2: Features

Welcome to Part Two of the Smart/Bakfiets Comparison. We already looked at the raw measurements, now let's put some of the features of each side-by-side.

A 5-speed automated manual transmission keeps the Smart moving briskly down the road. Not to be outdone, the Bakfiets features 8 speeds. Notably missing from the Bakfiets is a reverse gear. Both vehicles are rear-wheel drive, and both feature a fully-enclosed drivetrain.

The Smart rolls along on four 15-inch alloy wheels. The Bakfiets has a 20-inch wheel in the front and a 26 inch wheel in the rear, each with 36 12-gauge stainless steel spokes.

Passenger Carrying
The Smart has one passenger seat, while the Bakfiets comes standard with a bench for two.
A standard lap-shoulder belt keeps the Smart passenger secure; 3-point harnesses do the same in the Bakfiets.
The Bakfiets has the option for an additional bench in the cargo box, providing the ability to carry 4 children (or more if you put some on the rear rack). You could probably fit 4 kids into the Smart, but the State may frown upon it.

Cargo Capacity
The cargo box on the Bakfiets is rated at 180 pounds, and the rear rack (not pictured) at 70 pounds. The Smart has neither a cargo box nor a rear rack, but it does have some space behind the seats that could probably carry the same amount. However, the back of the Smart is not as amenable to hosing out when it gets dirty as the cargo box on the Bakfiets.

The Smart and the Bakfiets each have two pedals. On the Smart, one is for going and the other for stopping. On the Bakfiets, both pedals are dedicated to going.

The Smart powers its lighting with a standard automotive battery, while the Bakfiets uses a generator integrated into the front hub.

Steering and Cockpit
The Smart surpasses the Bakfiets in comforts and amenities like a stereo, heating, lumbar support, etc. However, the Bakfiets makes up for it with a high-volume ventilation system and better visibility.

Lock & Key
Both vehicles require a key for use — the Smart for ignition and the Bakfiets to unlock the rear wheel. Both are below the drivers seat/saddle, rather than being on the steering column.

All-Weather Comfort
What do you do in the Smart convertible when the rain starts? Put up the roof. In the Bakfiets? It's umbrella time.

Thanks again to Darrel for bringing his Smart over to play.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bakfiets/Smart Comparison Part I: Measurements

Huge bikes and tiny cars, what a great combination!

Welcome to part one in a series comparing the Bakfiets cargo bike to the Smart fortwo convertible. Interestingly, these two head-turning vehicles are about the same length and have similar cargo capacities. What other attributes do they share? What are some of the differences? I invited my friend Darrel to bring his Smart over for a photo shoot, and he was glad to oblige.

The Smart measures 106 inches. The Bakfiets is close at 101 inches. The wheelbase on the Smart is 73 inches, compared to 77 inches on the Bakfiets. I didn't get a good picture, but I think the Bakfiets has more ground clearance (as long as the pedals are in the right position).

The Smart's width is 61 inches. The Bakfiets is 27 inches from handlebar end to handlebar end.

Stay tuned for the next thrilling episode: feature comparisons.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Tune-Up Time

It's already been more than a month since I rode the Bakfiets home, so it was time to head in for a tune-up. The only real problem that's come up is that two weeks ago something happened in the rear hub, and 4th and 8th gear ended up completely out of sequence. 4th had the resistance of somewhere around 1st, and 8th was down around where 4th should be. Going from 3rd to 4th was like downshifting, and my legs would completely spin out.

Wanting to give Sara a few precious hours of time to herself, Everett and I bundled up for the trip in to Portland, hoping to arrive at Clever Cycles when they opened. I planned on a two hour ride, so we left just after 9am.

It was cool and foggy when we left, but the great thing about having a bike like this is you don't need to worry about where you'll put your extra layers when they come off!
My estimate was about right — the total ride time was two and a quarter hours, time-in-motion was an hour and a half*. The difference can be explained by a short Cheerio-and-leftover-pancake picnic and a stop to watch some birds on the river.
*I know this because I'm a geek and brought my handheld GPS. I'd never check it while riding, but it's fun to look at afterwards.

We arrived, handed over the bike, and met Sara, who had driven over after enjoying a leisurely, kid-free morning reading the Sunday paper.

Todd at Clever explained that they'd never seen that particular problem before with 4th and 8th gear. I feel so special and unique! It's all fixed now, but you'd have to ask him if you want any more detail.

The bike was ready around 5, but due to the increasingly early sunset here, I borrowed my neighbor's pickup to get the bike back home. What a nerve-wracking trip! I think I spent more time checking in the rear-view mirror that the bike was still there than I did looking ahead.