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.