Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Little Wiser, Every Day

The last ten days have been a breathless whirlwind of activity.  The kids and I helped out with a few odds and ends for the Kidical Mass ride (it was really fun, by the way), I wrapped up a couple of loose ends at my new job, Austin finished his first term of grad school (while also working full time -- I am married to a superhero), and we headed up to the mountains for a long weekend in the snow.  There was a homemade Christmas gift all-nighter thrown in there for good measure, too.


It felt like I didn't have a spare moment to think about riding my bike.  I used it to get from point A to point B, but my rides lacked the mellow, contemplative ease that I had been enjoying earlier in the month.  Now that I finally have a few minutes to catch my breath, though, I'm realizing how much I learned in this long, end-of-term, pre-holiday week:

1. My bike is capable of standing upright on its own!

Bigger points out our new kickstand

Though I missed the weekend sale at Arriving By Bike (and their Friday bike social -- I was cleaning out our chicken coop at Grandma M's), I made it there on Monday to purchase a new kickstand for our crazy bike.  (We have a large milk crate on the back rack and a Follow Me tandem coupler that connects Bigger's bike to mine, so a single kickstand is insufficient.)  Every time I stop in for something, the folks working there are so helpful and friendly.  Thanks, Courtney, Alexander, and Paul!

Anyhow, if you are thinking of getting a Follow Me tandem for your child's bicycle, I would strongly suggest you get a sturdy double kickstand.  Our Follow Me was slightly off center (and missing a couple of bolts) after several recent tip-overs while loading and unloading groceries.  (I look forward to posting a thorough review of the Follow Me soon -- overall, we love it.)  Alexander helped us replace the missing bolts and gave the Follow Me some long overdue TLC.  (I later learned that he has a bike blog that includes some really lovely photos.)

Though the bike is still a little prone to tipping when I've got lots of cargo in the crate (I think that panniers would help), having a functional kickstand has made a world of difference.  Hooray!

2. Riding a bike during a busy time forces me to relax.

This one is such a no-brainer.  Though I still have my share of holiday-related hustle and bustle, I don't have to fight traffic or feel stuck in my car.  Fresh air (even when it's cold fresh air) feels so right to me now.

3. Bigger's mood can be improved by asking him to carry appealing cargo.  Especially chocolate.

This is kind of a goofy facial expression, but I think Bigger is trying to convey...salivation?  He is always proud to carry something for me on his bike, and this chocolate may have been his favorite cargo so far.

I think that Bigger will be moving up to a 16" bike soon, and I'm going to make sure that it has a nice rear rack for whatever cargo he may want to haul.  Just think of all the chocolate we could bring home if he had a nice set of panniers!

4. Double leg kickstands can help you convert bare sidewalk into a bike rack.

Monica and Paul Adkins taught me this on Saturday's Kidical Mass ride.  While I wandered around for a minute or two searching for bike parking outside Mezza Luna, the Adkins family had their two Xtracycles parked on the sidewalk just outside the restaurant's window sans rack, with only the wheels locked to the frame.  I never think to do this because Eugene is notorious for bike theft, but if you are sitting within view of your bike, it makes sense.  Their kickstands are sturdy enough that they were also able to chain their kids' bikes to the longtails.

Even with the new kickstand, my bike is a little top heavy to serve as bike rack for someone else, but I wonder if the new Workcycles Fr8 I'm expecting in the spring will be.  In any case, it was suggested that I try simply propping my bike up on its kickstand and locking it to itself, and that worked quite well for our brief dessert stop.

5. Being a beginner is kind of nice.

Before this year, there were plenty of trips I just wouldn't have known how to make on a bike.  I made (and continue to make) all kinds of mistakes that a more experienced cyclist could gracefully circumvent.  I bruise my shins.  I take wrong turns.  My groceries tumble out when I am loading them into the milk crate.  But one of the advantages of being new at something is that it puts you in the position of experiencing little moments of discovery, too.  Every trick learned, every quiet realization, every first time feels so good.

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