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On being (forced) car-free/car-less

On being (forced) car-free/car-less

Complete disclosure: I own/drive a mini van. Yes. I’m a mini van mom!

Most spring/summer/fall during not crap weather we’ll walk or bike where we can, and if I’m going downtown? Regardless of weather? I bus. Its easier, takes roughly 10 minutes more than a stress filled curse-laden drive. So…I bus. (When we bought our house we were a 1 child public transit family, it’s proximity -less than a 10 minute walk- to a semi-major transit station & incredibly near-ness to a downtown express route were HUGE selling points). Damien’s elementary school is exactly 1 km from our house so our plan was to walk/bike it as much as possible and then put him on the school bus (stop is on our corner) when the winter hits (I strongly strongly dislike winter driving).

Cue the weekend before Critical Lass: recovering from a cold I decide I need more vitamin C and make plans to meet with a friend, grab quick dinner, get errands done and get home all in time to put monster Lili to bed. After loading said Lili into her carseat, I get in, open the garage annnnd…the van won’t start. At all. It just makes a scary mechanical clicking noise, repeatedly. In tears I get out and walk to get fast food dinner, forget everything else and come home. Night does get better, but boo, seriously.

So…with nary a vehicle, we’ve now had 2 mornings where I’ve gotten rained on, quite heavily. Last week was worse. I chose to walk the kilometer to school thinking I’d keep more overall dry by not having my legs as exposed, avoiding puddles and splashes from cars, etc. WRONG! After the walk there and back I was SOAKED. Literally to the bone (if skin were that porous….)

Biked on the way to pick Damien, less soaked, less cold and kids happier. Since then unless I want to walk (ie it’s a nice warm morning) we’ve been biking. I can feel the difference now in my legs, and on days when my timing is a bit sooner than I’d like? Oh yes….I do indeed bike further, even in the rain 🙂


Today was officially 10 days of walking or biking to school. I’ve gotten some crazy looks from parents and Damien’s teacher asked why I chose to bike, until I pointed out it’s faster and easier with 2 kids in tow.

Noticeable pros: classmates are totally interested in what the kids do while in the trailer. I was asked whether my legs were tired, how long it took, if it was hard to do, what colour Damien’s helmet was, etc etc etc.

I sadly haven’t noticed many other (read: any) bikes or even bike parking at the school, I plan to investigate further, but if we have no bike racks I might suddenly start harping to get them…I’d love for Damien to bike himself come warmer weather….supposed that can “wait” though.

(More disclosure: van should hopefully be getting repaired soon….at which point I plan on changing NOTHING. I like these rides, I don’t have to find parking, and the speed difference over walking totally justifies it for me. We’ll see how long the weather allows this (I’m not worried about the kids, they can have blankets and snow suits and layers) but my cold-resistance isn’t very good….I hold little hope for months more of biking, but another month would be nice!)

3 bikes! One day…. (LGRAB Summer Games post 1)

3 bikes! One day…. (LGRAB Summer Games post 1)

Today I’m blogging about trying out a style of bicycle that I have not ridden before, as part of the Learning Experiences section of the LGRAB Summer Games.

Today was a weird day, slept in (thanks dearest!) cuddly times and then it was “get outside and get stuff done!”

Aside from the regular weekend cleaning and doing an eco station run (I love living in a city that actually promotes and encourages dealing with old appliances/dangerous goods instead of letting them go directly into a landfill) it was “pump up tires, check stuff, figure out who makes the trip to EBC tomorrow” day!

First up was Daisy, miss bike of mystery, lovely, lovely bike o’ mystery. Last time I had her out (a few days ago) I noticed her tires were getting a low, so I pumped those up, they seem to have a slow leak or are just old as they don’t ever get flat, just…soft. Age perhaps? Also, I’ve been having a problem with her rear fender stay rubbing, today I bent the stay inwards (towards the tire) and the rubbing, while not stopped forever, seems to have stopped. I’m still taking her in tomorrow for a check up and to see if I’m missing anything major (hope not, she’s my Critical Lass steed of choice (or, steed of only option!) and needs some exposure!

Next up was the bike trailer, the tires were always low, probably lower than I ought to have ridden with, but I was feeling lazy (or trying to do it alone with 2 kids and tire pumping was always behind the “oh look 2 year old running towards cars!) in the past. Today though, no no, tires pumped to perfection!

I loaded Lili up and we did a few spins until she seemed to get bored without her brother around (he was spending the day w/ his grandparents for a sleep over). Pros to having fuller trailer tires though: less drag, I *barely* noticed the trailer, even when it was empty. Pulling a lopsided 30-ish pound trailer wasn’t bad at all, so I think the rest of the school year will be bike trailer transportation, perhaps giving me and Lili time to explore new bike paths and parks that Damien might otherwise be bored with. (Honestly, a 2 hour break 3 times a week from being a stay at home mom to 2 is wonderful, next year with kindergarten I’ll probably not know what to do with myself…extra thrifting trips!?)

After my recreational bike times I decided to look at Winnie (yes Nicki’s bike lives in my garage, we have a 2 car extra wide garage and only put our van in it, plus I like looking at a nice pile of bikes!) to see what she needs that I could do in an afternoon. A good cleaning is essential, but not necessarily something I needed to do right then and there, so instead I decided to see how her tires were. Winnie looked rough, but her tires while completely flat looked and felt fine, not like Galaxie’s where they’re dried and cracked and embarrassing to look at, so we pumped them up checked to make sure everything moved the way it ought and I rode her quickly.

Here’s what I can tell is wrong with Winnie (after only a 2 minute spin). Her seat is shot. It LOOKS fantastic on the outside (always important) but either she’s just old and worn or a spring (or more?) is not so good on the underside. I’m not sure if getting a new seat is the solution or if springs would fix what appearance wise is a perfect seat. Either way, no biggie, solutions are available for such issues everywhere! The big problem that I noticed is in the braking. I grew up on bikes, I got into the mountain type bikes with speeds and gears and such early, I honestly don’t remember using a coaster brake. I know it happened, my mom can confirm I had one, the memory just isn’t there. Anyway, as I was riding back to the house I tried to stop, annnnd did nothing. Perhaps I did it wrong? Maybe I had to press harder? Or is the brake mechanism faulty? BROKEN!? If I can fit both Daisy and Winnie in my van (which I *should* be able to do), then they’ll both come to EBC to see if we can squeeze them in, if not, at least I’m asking here.

Lastly I’ve had this “free loading” bike in my garage for longer than I can remember, I’m going to guess a larger number of months but less than a year. Originally she was for me but on the VERY day that I was to go get her I stumbled upon Daisy. Daisy is gorgeous, Daisy is loopy, Daisy has places for a frame pump (I need to source a pretty white one!), essentially Daisy was the bike I WANTED and “free loading” bike was the bike I was being given – for free.

“FL” bike is actually now for a friend, who wants someone more like Daisy and not so sporty and tough and not girly. I figured though, since I was on a bike care kick, why not see what’s up with her too. FL needs very little, the tires are a little dry, but in surprisingly great condition otherwise, they still have the new tire whiskers!! The seat is RIDICULOULSY comfortable in comparison to Daisy’s unholy hard BMX style hell that my butt rests on. And she goes FAST. Really. Really. REALLY. Fast. If my friend who’d prefer a cruiser style (or really just not MTB stylings) finds something prettier I think FL will become my “by myself riding” or “strap on the trailer and go fast with the kids” bike. I actually really enjoyed riding on her. She needs the front brakes either adjusted, realigned or replaced. All of which I’m not scared off by.

If FL stays she might even become the winter bike. I just said that. I kind of am liking the idea of strapping on some heavy duty storage, throwing on millions of layers and plowing to the grocery store for milk or what have you instead of driving the same distance in the same amount of time because I’d be forced to go the longer way and not cut through the trails that go all but unused all winter. Bwa ha ha!! Biking addiction much??

Fun Bicycle Finds on Etsy

Fun Bicycle Finds on Etsy

One of these days, I’m going to get to put together an Etsy treasury of beautiful handmade and vintage bicycle things. Whenever I check, there are no openings – but still. Someday. In the meantime, may I share some links to the Etsy shops and listings I’d feature?

Let’s start with baskets and bags:

1. The wonderful liners for wire baskets that Angel and I have both mentioned previously by LuckyFindDesigns in California – who also, to my delight, does custom ones for wierd trapezoidal vintage baskets like mine – look what’s in the mail for Mary Poppins! There are other shops making basket liners too: BettyBasketLiners and CoutureCruiser.

UPDATE: here’s the liner installed on Mary Poppins! Yay!

2. Ottawa’s ShootFromCanada makes custom versions of the ubiquitous Brooks leather handlebar bag like the one in the photo below. Matching saddlebags please!

3. San Fran’s HamboneDesigns‘ VeloPockets would be perfect on a sweet mixte.

In the other bike accessories category:

1. Fun bicycle reflectors with peace symbols and other great designs in aluminum riveted onto them, from New Orleans’ Yabettasupadont (who also makes cute cocktail rings from reflectors)

2.  Maybe a top tube pad and U-lock cozy – although personally I’m itching to sew or crochet matching ones myself.

3. Yes, boys, you could get a leather U-lock holster and other custom leather bike accessories from Portland’s WalnutStudiolo instead, but this girly wish list wasn’t designed with you in mind. Or was it?

4. Union Jack or handmade bunting flags for special-occasion decorating – a search on ‘mini bunting’ will reveal dozens of options.

5. A tool roll from BikeCozy for in my saddlebag. Yes, please.

6. Montreal’s DringDring make fabulous handpainted bells. I’d love to see their Tropical bell with LuckyFindDesign’s Fiesta Skull basket liner on a black loop-frame.

In the vintage-and-antique category:

1. Are you jonesing for an American-made tank bicycle? Right now there’s an extremely gorgeous antique Murray bicycle for sale by emilyoutrageous, who’s trying to pay for art school. Buying it would make her day *and* yours.

2. & 3. There always seem to be a couple of battered Wald-style wire baskets and old cyclingthemed photos & postcards among the vintage listings.

4. Swiss Army panniers made of cotton twill canvas and saddle leather, yum yum.

5. How fun is a fuzzy seat cover?

In the clothes-I-covet category:

1-7. For an indie-artsy-I-ride-in-San-Fran look, ruched leggings from AlohaTRON or cotton-hemp blend dancers’ pants (I have these – so comfy) under a cute short skirt or dress (I love the Variations tunic from Montreal’s elysiumdesign, or   Clementiny’s fern dress) and maybe a belt-bag like all the fusion bellydancers wear to their afterparties (like the leather ones from ElvenForestCreations or Squamish’s JungleTribe or the ruffled bustle from Malaysia’s Kinies).

8. For a more classic look, Ottawa’s econica makes gorgeous organic-jersey wrap dresses (I’ll have it in every colour, please) along with many other beautiful clothes.

9. For tweedy fun, cycling knickers made from vintage mens’ slacks with a matching vest

10-13. To warm up in winter, a chunky cowl scarf to crochet yourself, and extra-long leg warmers or spats – and for under a helmet, a cycling cap from AutomaticCowboyJoy.

14. A beautiful cape or cloak for cool evenings.

15. For a finishing touch, ShizenDesigns’s bicycle pendant necklace made from recycled fine silver.

Let’s finish with some original art. (The ‘Keep Calm & Ride On’ poster is cute, but ripping off the UK’s Keep Calm Gallery is hardly original. Booo.)

1. Fine art bike-pron photography by Brooklyn’s DripStick. I’m wiping drool off my keyboard – follow the link to see why.

2. This gorgeous reclaimed-wood wall rack from Vancouver’s cantileverandpress would be perfect for displaying an antique men’s three-speed in your loft apartment (exposed brick, mix of industrial and midcentury modern finds, giant factory windows letting in tons of light… excuse me while I fantasize).