Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Cargo Bikes: The Long and the Short(er) of It

Towards the end of last year I said goodbye to my Surly Big Dummy:


The Big Dummy was my first experience with a real schlepping bike and I quickly grew to love it.  I even remember the first thing I ever carried on it, which was this cheap-ass folding chair:


Which I brought to Prospect Park and then sat on while looking at the bike:


Ah, life sure was simple then.

But I would soon learn that the Big Dummy had far greater potential, for around the time it arrived in my life so too did my first human child, and thus began my first forays into child-schlepping:


When you first take delivery of a human baby the parameters of your life quickly shrink, like that trash compactor room in "Star Wars."  New, off-the-shelf human babies are weak and flimsy.  They need to be either carried or tightly contained.  They can't go like nine seconds without sustenance.  Leaving the house with one might as well be an assault on Everest owing to all the crap you've got to take with you in order to keep them alive.  Babies shouldn't even be called babies for the first few months of life, they should be called patients.

Soon, however, the walls of your life stop closing in.  The baby gets bigger and stronger.  Their stomachs can contain a few hours' worth of nourishment.  They can support their big giant goofy heads.  And if you're a cyclist, one of your most significant moments of parental liberation will be when they're finally ready to travel by bike with you.  That's when the walls fall down entirely and the horizon stretches out tantalizingly before you.

Yes, while the other suckers are muscling their strollers up onto curbs and strapping their offspring into SUVs, you're whipping around town with a blissed-out baby burbling behind you.

So how do you know when a baby's bikeable?  Well, there's a whole section on riding with kids in my book I have coming out, but in the meantime here's some free advice:

The first time you get pissed off at your baby, that baby's ready for the bike.

See, you don't get angry at patient-baby.  They're too passive.  And if they're too passive to piss you off, they're probably too passive to be solid passengers.  You don't want a floppy thing back there that can't hold their own bottle.  But once your baby's leaving scuzzy banana handprints on the TV and chasing the cat with a saucepan, that kid's ready for some high-speed two-wheeled hijinx.  So as soon as you find yourself muttering "fuckin' baby" to yourself it's time to attach some kind of kiddie seat.

Anyway, the Big Dummy opened up a whole new world of cycling to me.  It also helped me open up the world of cycling to my human child, since it was easy to bring his bike along to the park or playground:


So why did I get rid of it?  (The Big Dummy I mean, I'm totally hanging on to my human child.)

Well, the main advantage of the Big Dummy is that it rides like a regular "sporty" bike.  In other words, when it's not loaded down you can zip around town and jam up hills while out of the saddle and all the rest of it.  You just have to remember your rear wheel is like a foot or two behind where it normally would be, because if you forget you might take a corner too tightly and clip the curb.  Plus, since it works on the Xtracycle platform, there are like a zillion accessories for it.  (And of course you could always skip the Big Dummy and just do an Xtracycle conversion on an old 26-inch mountain bike, which you should be able to get real cheap because everybody knows you're not allowed to use 26-inch mountain bikes for actual mountain bikes anymore.)

As for the disadvantages of the Big Dummy, while few, there are two main ones for my particular circumstances.  The first is that the length can complicate parking and storage.  The second is that those exposed cables and derailleurs mean it's not all that happy living outside.  I mean, sure, I kept it outside anyway, but every week or two I'd lose use of another gear.

So as an apartment-dwelling middle-aged urbanite with like a zillion other bikes, I realized having a stout schlepping bike that could live outside year-round (or better fit in the bike room when a blizzard is imminent) was more important than having one I could ride quickly.  I wanted a bike that would sit patiently outside and be ready for the grocery run or the school pick-up.  I wanted all the working parts buried under fenders and chainguards so I didn't have to roll up my pants.  I wanted lights I didn't have to remove or charge.  I wanted a bike that would break the back of any thief who attempted to lift it.  I wanted to be someone I would have ridiculed just a few short years ago.

Clearly it was time suck it up, accept the smugness, and go Full Dutch with the WorkCycles:


It's been great so far, and with the seat in the back I can carry both my human children, no problem.

Sure, it handles like a Citi Bike compared to the Big Dummy, but the convenience factor is through the roof.  (Plus, as a dedicated Cat 6 I love the way Citi Bikes handle, so there.)

By the way, astute readers may notice I'm using the Hiplok I "reviewed" recently:


(I pronounce Hiplok with a guttural K, like "hiplach.")

While the fact is I have no use for a lock that you wear around your waist, it is good for quickly wrapping around the seatpost of the WorkCycles.  (Plus, the cool-two-years-ago camo matches my pedals.)

In fact, between a WorkCycles for neighborhood errands and a Brompton for trips into "town" (all while wearing a Brooks Criterion jacket) I now represent the very apotheosis of urban smugacity:


What have I become?*

*That's a rhetorical question, I've become an aging fop.

Speaking of taking bikes on trains, here's an ad I saw at a train station recently:


As far as I can tell, the only difference between Peloton and Zwift is that people who use the latter still bother buying actual bicycles and getting dressed up in cycling clothes for some reason, though with any luck they'll drop that affectation and Fredness will be permanently relegated to the indoors where it belongs.

Meanwhile, Strava art has been making headlines recently:


Yeah, no it won't.  I think there's far more dignity in designer spin classes than there is in riding around Canada drawing invisible pictures of Darth Vader:


Or Lisa Bonet circa "High Fidelity:"


“What excites me most about GPS doodling is that it takes the intimidation out of creative expression. If you can move, you can doodle," Lund said in his TEDxVictoria talk. "In fact, when I coined the term GPS doodles, I did so because ‘GPS art’ felt a little too lofty and exclusive. Everybody doodles. And anyone can GPS doodle.” 

That's funny, because what excites me most about GPS doodling is nothing.

Lastly, it's well-known that Portlanders have long been vexed by streetcar tracks, as this video I saw on All Hail the Black Market shows:

Streetcar Track Science from 21st Avenue Bicycles on Vimeo.

As it also shows, fat tires go a long way towards mitigating their effects.

Nevertheless, Portland's cyclists seem to have a surprisingly critical attitude towards public transportation, as the comments on this recent BikePortland article show:


Saying that “not everybody can cycle,” Commissioner Amanda Fritz Tuesday urged the city to switch the order of its “green transportation hierarchy” to prioritize public transit above biking.

“Everybody can use the bus,” Fritz, who a city staffer mentioned was supported by written testimony from advocacy group Elders in Action, said at a council work session on the city’s new comprehensive plan. “And our transit system is not good.”

I'm sure this Fritz character has her problems, and she sounds as though she likes cars too much, but I don't think this is an unreasonable position.  Public transit is hugely important.  As efficient as bicycles are, they're still vehicles, and any truly enlightened city should be navigable without having to own one.  It would be interesting to know how many Portland cyclists actually have family who live in the city, because I suspect if they did they'd realize it's unreasonable to expect their elderly parents to put on the latest from Showers Pass and ride 10 miles for a visit when it's 40 degrees and raining.  (Not to mention going to the doctor.)

Or maybe they do have family in the area and the reason they don't like public transportation is precisely so they can't come over for a visit.

In that case, at least they're being consistent.

77 comments:

Ted K. said...

119. The system does not and cannot exist to satisfy human needs. Instead, it is human behavior that has to be modified to fit the needs of the system. This has nothing to do with the political or social ideology that may pretend to guide the technological system. It is the fault of technology, because the system is guided not by ideology but by technical necessity. [18] Of course the system does satisfy many human needs, but generally speaking it does this only to the extend that it is to the advantage of the system to do it. It is the needs of the system that are paramount, not those of the human being. For example, the system provides people with food because the system couldn’t function if everyone starved; it attends to people’s psychological needs whenever it can CONVENIENTLY do so, because it couldn’t function if too many people became depressed or rebellious. But the system, for good, solid, practical reasons, must exert constant pressure on people to mold their behavior to the needs of the system. To much waste accumulating? The government, the media, the educational system, environmentalists, everyone inundates us with a mass of propaganda about recycling. Need more technical personnel? A chorus of voices exhorts kids to study science. No one stops to ask whether it is inhumane to force adolescents to spend the bulk of their time studying subjects most of them hate. When skilled workers are put out of a job by technical advances and have to undergo “retraining,” no one asks whether it is humiliating for them to be pushed around in this way. It is simply taken for granted that everyone must bow to technical necessity. and for good reason: If human needs were put before technical necessity there would be economic problems, unemployment, shortages or worse. The concept of “mental health” in our society is defined largely by the extent to which an individual behaves in accord with the needs of the system and does so without showing signs of stress.

EdmundWilson said...

Primo!!

Anonymous said...

Podium for da first time ever?

Yaahoo!

wle said...

podium hilpster fritz blah blah brooks ok i scanned it
comment number 2 == podia!
wle

A human being said...

I am not a robot, I am a human being.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

Bin-go

Two Claws said...

Two claws up!

cdinvb said...

I have tried to bicycle ride in a buffalo herd. Should I change my tire pressure, maybe?

ricochet said...

my ding ding dong

Anonymous said...

je suis dans le premier dix

P. Bateman said...

top 11! the number eleven looks like two arms and fists. i'm changing my favorite number from 69 to 11.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...My kid is going on 10 and she loves nothing more than me schlepping her to and fro. Even in wet weather, she'll ask me to ride instead of take the bus or train. When other parents comment about how 'miserable' the weather is (like today), she just has a big smile on her face... under the tarp that she wears for rainy days.

Red Ross said...

I blame the rain

BIKE BIKE said...

Camo was cool?

Anonymous said...

Toppus XV

grog said...

on yer left.

N/A said...

Stupid human babies!

Victor Kaminski said...

vsk said ...

It's raining!
My subway commute was EPIC !!

vsk

Was a Parent Before You Were Born said...

"...they're finally ready to travel bike bike with you."

Baby want go bike-bike? Bike-Bike for baby?

Bongo McPhee said...

She's also one of the commissioners who kicked mountain bikes out of River View in Portland.

http://www.bikemag.com/news/river-view-mtb-ban/

P. Bateman said...

hey form, on your left, its function.

function for the fugly win.

hope its at least cold enough up there that you can wear a full face covering when riding those things.

Bryan said...

Missed the podio but got to enjoy the ride in. I was behind the Peloton girl the whole way in. View was nice.

Misanthrope said...

So disappointed street car science guys did not get hit/run over by a street car.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

...Snob, does your skirt stay grime-free when cycling in wet weather? I have a friend who wants a skirt guard (it's not for me) and I want to know if yours works as it should.

dancesonpedals said...

podium hipster sitzbath heaven

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

"with like a zillion other bikes"

Man that's a lot of bikes. Even as a semi-professional bike blogger how do find the time to ride even a small fraction of them?

janinedm said...

2 things:

1) I don't have kids, but I have an idea for a vest for cycling parents where you could attach activities stuff to the back like rattles and random plastic rings or whatever amuses small humans. Also would be longish, because in a world of sad cycling sights to see, one of the saddest after fat guys on Madones is poor babies with a face full of their loving parents' cracks.

2) As one WorkCycle owner to another, I have stopped using the double kickstand when I park outside after this one time when some adult dodo sat on my parked bike (wherefore, I do not know). All I know is that I went out to get tacos and I came back to find that the kickstand legs were splayed out as if forced downward and outward by a heavy weight and scraped the ground every time I (moderately, this is a WorkCycle we're talking about) banked a turn. I don't know if this event was an outlier and I don't need to worry about my kickstand when I park in the future but heavy double kickstands don't grow on trees in North America and it sucked.

Dorothy Rabinowitz said...

Yo! I come with that ol' loco, style from my vocal,
Couldn't peep it with a pair of bi-focals

mike said...

ITchair for the Brompton,mate,and you,re sorted.
Oh!First SHITHEAD!

janinedm said...

Serial Retrogrouch, I also have a bike with a skirt guard. The work, presuming you get something made of plastic or vinyl. The crocheted and lace ones and the mesh ones only keep things from getting caught in the wheels but offer no protection from wetness or muck.

Anonymous said...

You will be amazed how quickly your human children will go from being "patients" to requiring all the "patience" you can muster. For my girl children, the period lasted from about 14 to 18 or 20, depending on the child.

FR8 said...

As an aging urban fop myself in possession of FR8 and Brompton, I ask when will you follow me to the land of Rivendell?

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Turdy Tree! Went to lunch and missed the sprint!

Some guy from upstate said...

Your kid didn't piss you off until reaching bikeable size? You are lucky or very mellow. I recall "No-mommy's-not-here-yet-and-I-don't-have-boobs-and-will-you-just-stop-fucking-screaming-at-me!" I'm still damaged goods and that was 20 years ago. She's a lot easier to get along with now. Once fairly self-supporting (like maybe 10 months or so), she did like the bike, though. Except singletrack. Cars and trucks, no problem. Trees whizzing by, freakout!

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

“Everybody can use the bus,” of course!

It's totally in synch with "If it rains, take the bus."

DB said...

Read an article about the Go anus anal in the NYT today. Looks good.

leroy said...

I don't mean to brag, but I once drafted that Big Dummy in Prospect Park.

My dog, however, informs me that he always drafts a Big Dummy in the park. I don't recall seeing that, but my dog assures me that's because he's drafting.

I'm not quite sure what he means.

I also don't get why he thinks it would be a hoot to respond to Commissioner Fritz's observation that "not everyone can cycle" with an inquiry as to whether she knows the difference between the Cha Cha and pea green paint.

He says the difference is anyone can Cha Cha.

Then he starts giggling.

It must be a dog thing.

Anonymous said...

And was there a Craigslist posting for the Surly Big Dummy owned by a semi-professional bike blogger or was it quietly disposed of through an intermediary?

leroy said...

Was it just me or did the quote in yesterday's blog post from the anonymous source about women cyclists in Gaza and their role of obeying their husbands and cooking food in the home remind anyone of Andy Kaufman's classic impression of Archie Bunker -- one of the awkward impressions he used to set up his dead-on Elvis impression?

Maybe it was just been me.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 2:08pm,

It was lovingly re-homed, selling bicycles is vulgar.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Fred Clydesdale said...

how long did they spend measuring those tracks? her collarbone was totally healed by the time they brought the tires out!

Anonymous said...

"It was lovingly re-homed.."

Translation....sold to the scrap yard for 5 cents a pound. Proceeds brought one beer from the bar across the street from the scrap yard.

P. Bateman said...

there is a pretty intense discussion over on Pigeon Talk about re-homing pigeons

http://www.pigeons.biz/forums/f14/rehoming-pigeons-55460.html

NSFW - lots of fowl language.


Milli Vanilli said...

Blame it on the rain

Calvin Harris said...

Blame it on the night.

N/A said...

Aw, man, I sell bikes all the time, it's how I fund my crippling Sugino and Nitto habit. I guess I'm fucking vulgar, then.

Grump said...

Mass Transit #1..???? Surely they jest.
Everyone knows that the order of importance is as follows.

1) Uber plus
2) Large SUV
3) 5 Series BMW
4) Taxi
5) Large Sedan
6) Compact car
7) Snobby's car
8) Mass transit
9) Pogo Stick
10)Bicycle

nahmean said...

I just checked the xtracycles page and that leap family kit is $1200. holy crap, you can get a whole bike for that. I don't understand.

I gotta get something to put the baby on soon -- my only bike currently is a single speed, and the geometry means that my daughter would indeed get a face full of asscrack.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

One time I forget to put in my name and Snob replies to me, wow!

I just keep buying bikes, never sell them. Now at least I can tell my wife that selling bikes is vulgar!

On the other hand, I recently "lovingly re-homed" two perfectly good no suspension mountain bikes, one a kid's trek with 24 inch wheels and the other a small adult trek with 26 inch wheels. Both our grown boys used these bikes as kids. They grow so fast they don't have time to wear them out. Nahmean, you should definitely look for stuff that someone else bought new and barely used before they moved on to other things out there, it is everywhere in the US!

Anonymous said...

Sure wish McFly would say something hilarious about a certain model in a certain photo. He's like, my penis's spokesman. Gets it right, every time. Don't silence my penis's voice!

Old timer said...

PODIUM!

Feels good just to holler it out!

Fantasy Bike League said...

Can you display Peloton Babe with a maple leaf?

BamaPhred said...

Fop.

dancesonpedals said...

Anonymous 3:33

Don't silence my penis's voice!

It's funny you should say that. When I was in college, I'd make extra money with my ventriloquist routine. I couldn't afford a dummy, so I would pull out my penis and throw my voice, so it would seem to come from my urethra meatus.(only the 11 O'clock show. It wasn't something you could show the dinner crowd.)

urethra meatus said...

I'm tired of these assholes putting words in my mouth. Or meatus. Whatever.

Writers Cramp said...

Very slowly, and with great care, Jim placed the cucumber strategically behind the unsuspecting cat.

Spokey said...

and with the seat in the back I can carry both my human children, no problem.


that means snobbie's 16 other children are not human?

I don't sell me bieks either. Donate them to pedals for progress and take the tax deduction.

Anonymous said...

If you get a commission, please but my order for one WorkCycles Fr8 in for delivery April First.

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

I'd like to see someone Strava a GPS doodle of a Scranus. Just because

Anonymous said...

That workcycle is the gayest bike i have ever seen in my entire life.... EXCEPT for those whatever they are with the big wooden wheelbarrel bucket in front. One of the dumbass hipster moms at my school showed up with one of those and my decision to avoid talking to her was confirmed in spades.

McFly said...

That stationary Peloton imagery would be sweeter if she was reaching around and cupping those dumbbells.

P. Bateman said...

wait, gayest ever? gayer than this one?

http://ig-wp-colunistas.s3.amazonaws.com/volta-ao-mundo/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/bike-04-ok.jpg

or...

http://tosh.cc.com/blog/files/2011/06/biker-gang.jpg

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 10:11pm,

So what you're saying is your mommy picked you up from school in a bakfiets and you were so embarrassed you wouldn't talk to her the whole way home?

--Wildcat Etc.

Anonymous said...

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/09/24/married-kama-sutra

My penis said...

Not bad McFly, not bad...

NourskSiklist said...

Snob talks the talk, and also rides the ride. A fully equipped WorkCycle tops out at a svelte 49 kilograms, so that's a 5-Hr Peloton workout just schlepping the kids to school. The Dutch are of the opinion that butted tubes are for "woosies". Dutch for "wuss" is "wuss" BTW. I also think the bloke doing the dishes in the background of Peloton Bae, should rethink his priorities. I get that it was a staged commercial shot, but still.

Anonymous said...

I do the dishes a lot in my abode. I also get mad BJ's. I would not be so quick to judge.

Serial Retrogrouch said...

CJ, is that you?

Peloton Developments said...

In Canada Peloton Babe would also be advertising a beaver, they're everywhere up there. Moose too, but what purpose would a moose serve in a babe ad unless it was an ad for a petting zoo. Can you pet a moose? You can definitely pet a beaver.

Mr. Clean said...

A bike shop where they clean the counter, who knew?

Orville Redenbacher said...

If I empty the dishwasher I get a quickie BJ. BJ's in the kitchen aren't all their cracked up to be, you have to keep the popcorn pot moving at the same time.

dancesonpedals said...

Any woman who cycles in yoga pants is advertising a beaver.

dancesonpedals said...

Oh, Canada.

Anonymous said...

Peloton Babe looks all dreamy eyed, I wonder what fantasy is going through her mind..."I'm riding, riding, riding and Cipo won't let me dismount"

Lieutenant Oblivious said...

Moose in Canada? They also have Camels apparently.

P Bateman @ 10:53 yesterday - thanks, I can't unsee that!

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