Towing a Bike on a Bullitt

When I picked our oldest up from summer camp one day last week, I knew we were in trouble. He walked out, tears in his eyes, and told me he was feeling sick. Swim lessons were out, and he wasn’t up for the (gradual, but long) hill back home.

I’ve gotten pretty good at towing kid (and adult) bikes on longtails, and have even pulled it off reasonably well on the Madsen. A front-loading bike like the Bullitt provides some new challenges, though. For small kid bikes (balance bikes and our 12″ pedal bike), I can tuck one wheel in my folding Wald baskets on the back and secure the bike with a couple of bungee cords. 20″ and bigger wheels are not as easy to tuck away, though. I also realized that I didn’t have any bungee cords of my own with me, which left me with the two on the rear rack of the kid bike and one cable lock to secure our bikes together. I ended up with this:

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It wasn’t elegant, but it was secure and got us home. I couldn’t have pulled it off with the baby riding with me, though, so when I got home I started looking into alternatives. Here are some of the suggestions I got:

  • If you want to be able to tow kid bikes frequently, the FollowMe Tandem might be the best bet. It’s a little too pricy for the occasional towing that I want to do, though, and it only works for wheels up to 20″, which means that we’re going to outgrow it soon.
  • The Burley Travoy trailer is supposed to be able to cart an adult bike, which means that loading a kid bike on it should be straight-forward. It’s also supposed to be wonderful with the Brompton, so it’s on my maybe-someday wish list already. The downside to the trailer option is that I’d have to plan ahead to have it with me, so it might not work for surprise-towing options like the one I just dealt with.
  • An oft-forgotten option is to just lock up the bike that’s not ridable (whether that’s due to a broken bike or a broken rider) and come back for it later. We could have left the kid bike at camp, then ridden it home the next day. Or I could have come back with a trailer later to get it. My sick kiddo was distraught by the idea of leaving his bike behind, but it probably would have been the most sane of the options we had that day.
  • A couple of folks (myself included) would like to see a Bullitt with an Xtracycle Free Radical attached. I don’t actually think I’d want to ride something that long every day, but it would combine the best of long johns with the towing ability of a longtail. If anyone has actually done this, I’d love to see a picture.
  • A few people have gotten more creative with DIY solutions. I’m a visual learner, so some of these solutions are harder for me to follow, but they include: a fork mount bolted (via a door hinge) to the back of a rear rack, a quick release hub zip-tied to the back of a rack.
  • At some point, I’d like to check out a surfboard bike rack to see if it could also hold the front wheel of a towed bike. Has anyone ever done that?
  • Most specific to this task, John Lucas of Cycle Trucks has a custom rear rack for towing other bikes in the works. It’s designed to tow one bike on either side, and looks extremely burly. It sounds like a first batch of them will be available soon — get in touch with him if you’d like to grab one!

Ice Cream Bike

I’ve been getting the emails for a couple of weeks, but now that I’m settled in on the Mudd campus, I got to check it out for myself. Check out the awesome ice cream bike! It makes its rounds a couple of times per week, courtesy of the interns in the Dean of Students office. IMG_6122

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Haul-a-Day Preview

After the moving truck took all of our things, the last accessory I was waiting for for my Bullitt (the mounting post for the Yepp mini) arrived at G&O. Martin and I hopped on a bus up to the shop while Shawn and James tackled some cleaning.

I rode the HaD myself a few days earlier, and liked it well enough. It felt, in some ways, more like a folding bike than even my Brompton. I don’t think I would want it for my primary ride, but it was an interesting experience.

Martin (almost 8) lit up at the sight of it, though. The Haul-a-Day has a unique telescoping top tube that lets it change sizes. For adults, the crucial advantage of that is that it can shrink down small enough to fit on a bus rack, hanging train rack, etc. while still having a long tail platform for carrying kids or other cargo. For a kid, it turns out that it means the bike can be adjusted down to the perfect size! He tried sitting on it, and immediately started begging for a test ride.

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Like many kids who’ve grown up being cargo, Martin has long dreamed of a cargo bike of his own. The Haul-a-Day strikes the perfect balance for him: small wheels and a low top tube meant that getting on was no problem for him, and the shortened top tube meant that he could reach the handlebars easily. I’d probably swap out the handlebars for something narrower for a little rider, but this is by far the most “real” bike that I’ve ever seen fit a barely-four-foot rider.

Compared to kid bikes, the Haul-a-Day is certainly pricy. It’s more of an investment than even the higher-end, not-junk kid bikes (e.g. Islabikes). The advantage, in my mind, is that it’s a bike that will grow with its rider. This bike is decidedly not a toy. It’s a full-fledged cargo bike that will serve kid and adult riders well.

Martin is already dreaming of giving his brother rides to kindergarten in another year or so, and the Haul-a-Day is the only item on his Christmas list. Two thumbs up for the Haul-a-Day!

Redhook Ride

For as long as I’ve been riding in Seattle, I’ve wanted to make the trip out to the Redhook brewery in Woodinville. From our house, it’s about 42 miles each way, which is longer than anyone in our family has ever biked.

Today, I crossed that item off my Seattle Bucket List. We were joined by one set of friends for the ride, and another group met us at the brewery.

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Overall, the ride was way easier than last year’s trip to Woodinville. Apparently having non-pregnant lung capacity actually makes a difference? The vegan eats were limited, but we were rewarded with pretzels the size of our heads. Martin did a great job as well — no complaining this year, and he made it home happy and eager to help make cookies and settle in for a much-deserved quiet movie night at home.

Farewell, Madsen

With all of the new bikes coming into our stable, it was time to let one go. The Bullitt was originally meant to replace the Madsen as my main ride, so with our move looming, we started getting serious about finding it a new home.

First was getting it ready to sell. The boys helped scrub and polish it. I swapped a bunch of parts back to stock, including removing the BionX and the dynamo lights. The lights will go on the Bullitt, and the BionX hub will have to go somewhere else since our battery’s not taking a charge anymore. IMG_5833

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We couldn’t have asked for a better next home for the Madsen. Some of our best buddies, J&B, along with their kids A, J, and R, decided to take it home with them to Portland. They made one last trip up to Seattle to hang out before our move. At the end of the weekend, B took their two big kids home on the train, and J and little R delivered the new bike in their minivan.

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We can’t wait to hear about their family biking adventures!

Graduation, Wheelha.us-Style

All signs point to me finishing school this summer, and I won’t be in Seattle this time next year, so I decided to participate in the department graduation ceremony. Naturally, the fancy Ph.D. regalia was just begging to be taken for a ride. This is how we do graduation, wheelha.us-style.

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Bullitt Transformations

Our upcoming move is taking us to flatter grounds. At least equally importantly, it’s taking us to a town with no BionX dealers. Since our experience with the BionX has been inconsistent at best, I decided those were two good reasons to take the assist off my bike before we moved.

That decision has led to a number of changes to the Bullitt. First, the BionX was powering my lights, so I swapped the dynamo hub over from my Madsen. I also needed a new rear hub, since I was getting rid of the motorized wheel. I settled on the Nuvinci N360, which is internally, continuously geared. I’ve tested it out on a couple of other bikes, and loved it.

Then I decided that I didn’t want to keep the gorgeous Badger Box on the front. It truly is beautiful, and parting with it was hard, but it wasn’t exactly what I wanted in the first place, and I won’t be needing the matching Blaq rain cover in Southern California. Once the assist was off, I was ready to shed the weight of the marine grade plywood.

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In its place, I now have the stock Bullitt deck. A recent visit from my dad resulted in a copper-tube frame, which works something like a hooptie does on a long tail. I used a scrap of Sunbrella that was leftover from our Madsen rain cover to make temporary soft sides, and ratchet-strapped a Yepp mini to the deck for Maggie.

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There are a couple of changes still to come. I’ve ordered a deck-mounted Yepp attachment post, and my amazing friend Elisabeth is making sling bags custom fit to the side of the Bullitt. For now, though, this is how we ride!

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So Long, Baby Gear!

Before the Madsen goes to its new home (more about that soon!) I got to use it for one last big load. One of James’s teachers is expecting a new baby any day now, so we got to bring her all of the baby gear that Maggie has outgrown.

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As a side note, how is it possible that Maggie has outgrown so much already? Time really does go faster with each kid.

A Visit From Portlandize’s Kath

We were super honored to have Kath of Portlandize make the trip up to Seattle for our going away party. Maggie and I met her at the Bolt Bus stop on our Brompton. Then we rode the bus up to G&O together to pick up a loaner Brompton for Kath. And then? Then the two of us went looking for hills to glide up on our amazingly light bikes.

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Like all of the other bikey folks at the party, I found the next day that I’d been tagged.

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Traveling With Brompton and Baby

The most urgent factor in my recent Brompton purchase was a rapidly-approaching trip down to California for a new faculty workshop. I figured that I either needed a bike, or I needed to drive everywhere while I was there. Driving with a baby meant lugging a massive carseat with me, which made the bike sound like way more fun.

So how did it go?

We packed everything up, rode downtown, and hopped on the light rail.

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At the airport, I pulled a stroller bag out of my Brompton bag, folded the bike up inside, and taped the whole thing down. Then I asked at the gate for a stroller tag. At least with a baby in my arms, no one questioned me.

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I had planned to take a series of buses from the airport to our hotel, but getting on and off the bus with baby + bags + bike + baby’s bike seat proved to be the most difficult part of the whole ordeal. After the first bus (which got us out of the industrial area by the airport), we decided to just ride the rest of the way. The SoCal roads were a little terrifying, and I found myself riding on the sidewalk more than normal. That was fine until the curb cuts disappeared, at which point we had about half a mile of really Not Fun. Soon enough, though, we were at our hotel, with our bike tucked safely in the corner.

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Our days in town were fantastic, and I’m so glad that I had the bike with me. It made it very easy to swing by the daycare center on my way to my workshops each morning, and to pick Maggie up on my way to dinner each evening. That part of the trip was, by far, everything I’d hoped and more.

I was still nervous about the trip back to the airport. Multiple buses, on a transit system that I don’t know, makes me nervous. What if I can’t find the stop? What if the bus is running early? What if it’s running late and I miss a connection? I’ve gotten used to the freedom that comes from riding. After talking to one of the librarians at the college about local bike infrastructure, we made the decision to just bike the whole way. Right at the edge of the (tiny) downtown area is the start of the Pacific Electric Trail, which runs east from Claremont.

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We followed the trail until we were due north of the airport, then took side streets down. Everything would have been perfect were it not for construction around the airport itself. The sidewalk was closed on the crazy-busy road that runs in front of the airport, and there was no way I was riding on the street there. I settled for riding through the (inactive) under-construction area, which felt like the best of several not-good options.

When we pulled up in front of the airport, we repeated our plane-prep packing: stroller bag out, bike in, tape up. It went faster this time, and we were hanging out at the gate a full 2 hours before our flight was scheduled to take off.

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On the way down the jetway, the employee who offered to carry my stroller bag for me asked what was in the bag. I was nervous that I was about to be called out for my not-stroller, though I had a whole defense ready (“It has wheels, my baby gets pushed on it, it’s a stroller!”) Instead, he told me about the cool folding bikes that some people had that were about the same size as my “stroller.” I immediately felt guilty for not being honest about the contents of my bag, but I wasn’t quite ready to admit it. Instead, I tried to use the opening to ask about an official policy on those bikes, but didn’t get much from him.

The rest of the trip was familiar and uneventful. We took the light rail into downtown Seattle, then biked home along Westlake, arriving just in time to meet Martin at school pickup.

I’m still a little nervous about some of the bad experiences others have reported regarding airlines and folding bikes, but the convenience of having a bike with me means that I will probably be trying it again. Once we’re moved, our regular airport will be the small SoCal one, so perhaps we will try to get something more official from them then.