Friday, December 18, 2009

Going Places

Jasper is three weeks old today. We are sleep-deprived and in love. While most of life revolves around our warm little house, we have had to venture out a few times. Here's what we did, and how we did it:

First, a trip to the lactation consultant, the first in what will turn out to be many trips to try to resolve some painful and ongoing nursing issues. This was .4 miles away, and we got there by slinging the baby to Dave and walking. Bonus extra trip: across the street for lunch out with my mom! A mile is about the limit of what I was capable of walking at 5 days postpartum, and the hardness of the seats at the cafe was an unpleasant surprise, but it was beautiful weather and nice to get out of the house.

That trip ended with a referral to an ENT specialist in NW Portland, about 4 miles away, the next day. We got there via the Trimet bus system with Jasper in a sling on his dad, and it took two buses and about 40 minutes each way. The way out was ok, but by the trip home the baby and I were both pretty fussy, and the buses were packed with rush-hour and Civil War game traffic (Go Ducks!). While we were able to find seats, the crowds made the bus feel grimy and germy and like a terrible place to take a newborn. In site of this, we made it home and no one contracted any terrible diseases. Maybe the sling wrapped around the baby kept flu-y water droplets off?

Then we were exhausted, and spent the next week hiding out inside, gratefully accepting food and visits from friends and neighbors while moving as little as possible.

The following weekend, two weeks postpartum, Dave's folks were in town, and we ventured out for lunch with the baby on me in a sling, on foot. It was .3 miles. The baby and I both had a nice long nap afterward.

Two days later, our neighborhood association had its annual Christmas Party, and we decided to be sociable and go. I wore the baby and we walked up, met a few folks, went on a horse-drawn caroling ride, drank hot cider, and generally Made Merry. .4 miles each way.

The following day Jasper had his two week appointment at the Birth Center. Unfortunately, the infant bucket for the Yuba remains conceptual-- so how to move the baby 1.25 miles each way with no pedicab? We took a simple, though I'm afraid questionably-legal, approach: I wore Jasper, and we rode on the back of the Yuba just like we did while I was pregnant. Traveling only at low speeds and on traffic-calmed bike boulevards this felt perfectly safe; I would certainly NOT want to ride this way without infrastructure, or indeed even on one of the busier bike lanes (say, Hawthorne or Vancouver).

The midwives referred us to a pediatric chiropractor a few blocks over to try to resolve the continuing nursing trouble. We've made that trip twice now, also with me and baby on the back of the Yuba. It's a mile and a half over there, and so far this approach is working fine. I button my coat over the top of the sling when it's raining, and Jasper falls right asleep once we get moving.

I have less feedback from the baby than I'd like when he's in the sling and we're moving, because the vibration from the bike makes it hard for me to check in with him without opening up the coat and the top of the sling, which gets him wet and (understandably) irritates him. But I think this will be true of any baby carrier we put on the Yuba as the baby will eventually be behind the rider, and so still difficult to check on. And eventually, I'll learn that I don't need to check on him every minute and a half to see if he's ok (hello, new mama paranoia!) so that will matter less.

I'm thrilled that we're three weeks into this parenting adventure and haven't yet had occasion to use the car seat. I'm not sure when we will. Maybe if we go visit my cousins in Vancouver (hi Lyn!) or my great aunt in Lake Oswego. Maybe if we need to get somewhere in a particular hurry, or in the middle of the night. But so far, I feel we're getting where we need to be, safely, and under our own power. And I feel great about that.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


I went into labor around 5 pm on Wednesday, November 25th.
We went to Alma Birth Center (by RadioCab) at 8 am on Thursday, November 26th-- Happy Thanksgiving!
Jasper Louis Proctor was born at 3:51 am on Friday, November 27th. He weighed 8 lbs, 13 oz, and is beautiful.
Around 4 pm on Saturday, November 28th, we hopped in our pedicab and rode home. Thanks, Ryan!

More soon. Now? Nursing, sleep, and dreams of fast bicycles.

At Alma (3)

Hard to Look Away

Ryan (1)

At the South Rose Garden, in Ladd's (2)

At the South Rose Garden, in Ladd's (5)

The Man Himself: Jasper Louis

More photos on Flickr!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Logo!

Our friend Dan surprised us the other night with a new logo for the site. Cool, no? We feel so lucky to have talented friends!

Check out Dan's beautiful web design work over at Numerosign.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

39 Weeks: Date Night

Is the baby here yet?

No, but signs and auguries indicate that it may be coming imminently. What to do? Date night!

Last night, Dave and I went out as soon as he got home from work for a nice little date. We rode across the neighborhood (a quick half-mile) for amazing lamb-pesto pizza at Vincente's, then for a nice walk, and then went to see Where the Wild Things Are at Cinemagic, our awesome neighborhood movie theater.

The only downside was the ride home, where I realized that we have moved from knee-socks-and-skirts weather to full on tights-and-boots weather: my knees about fell off as we zipped home through the 37 degree night!

I feel so blessed to live in such a wonderful city, with genuinely livable neighborhoods and lots of transport options. I feel lucky to live close to interesting people and thriving local businesses. I am surprised and delighted that riding the bike places still feels like an option, and I am pretty sure that this wouldn't be true if our roads felt less safe, or if I had had less support in making my bike stable and sturdy for pregnant riding, or if I were seeking my prenatal care from practitioners who emphasized the risks of pregnancy over its normalcy, or even if I had a husband who worried over my fragility rather than respecting my knowledge of my body and its limits. And I'm grateful for all of these things.

Also? I'd like to have this baby now, please. Because although I feel blessed and loved and simply drenched in luck, this is getting damned uncomfortable, and I'd like to meet our kiddo. I've got this amazing world here, and I can't wait to show it off.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Yuba rear hub: final technical detritus

The Yuba rear hub is done and this post has been a long time coming. It is brought to you by a good beer and a spare Friday night between baby-related carpentry projects. So here's the rear hub setup in all its glory, a Halo SpinDoctor Pro DH hub with 14mm axle adapters. By the numbers:

48 spokes
4 sealed cartridge bearings
10mm hollow chromoly axle
30-point engagement, 3-pawl chromoly freehub
9-speed cassette

Yuba Rear Hub Final 2.JPG

Yuba Rear Hub Final 3.JPG

A few words are in order about fitting this part. First: BTI (the distributor for Halo parts stateside) finally has the part numbers for the axle adapters straightened out, thanks to my badgering. You should be able to walk into your local bike shop and order this hub and the adapter and gets the right parts. I received two sets of 14mm adapters for a front hub before I got the correct part. It didn't help that I ordered from a mail-order place in an attempt to save some cash so I had to do all that crap by phone.

Part of me hates to do this because I worked in bike shops for most of a decade and I know what they go through, but I need to call this place out. you need to work on your resolution skills. These guys run a real brick-and-mortar shop specializing in hardcore dirt jumping, DH racing, and BMX. I'm sure that if you walk in with a busted part, you'll leave with exactly the overkill solution you were hoping for. However, here's a few tips for your mail-order business:

Call back when you say you'll call back.
Only say you have a part in hand when you actually do.
Don't send the same wrong part out twice, it suggests you don't know what you sell.
Don't take phone orders if you have no system to track phone orders.
Pick up your phone during your posted business hours.

Anyway, about the hub.

It's loud. Not quite Chris King angry-bee-sound loud, but loud enough that it reminds you that you could be pedaling instead of coasting. I like this. I try to make every other part of my bikes silent, so the freewheel and the tire noise are the bike's voice. This is a big bike, and it's okay for it to have loud voice.

The engagement is fast. 30 engagement points is more than standard and it's nice to be able to put the pedals where you want them to start up a hill from a stoplight with a 100lb load.

The axle is hollow. I know, right? It's supposed to be a DH hub and they make a design decision that can only be justified for its weight savings. WTF?

It's strong anyway. Maybe a solid axle wouldn't help? I'm a chemist, not a mechanical engineer, but I might buy some hand-waving argument that it doesn't really matter that much beacause of the relative cross-sectional area and the surface tensile-str... blah blah blah. I've put 350lbs+ on it (me and Katie plus some cargo) for decent stretches and it's fine. I also tried to bring home a 14" band saw with it, but 250lbs on one side and nothing on the other just made the bike unrideable. I got every thing strapped on and laid the bike down a couple times trying to get started, but the whole bike is fine.

It's wider than the Yuba rear spacing. The Yuba is 130mm, the hub is 135mm. You'll need to stretch the frame to get it to fit. Luckily the Yuba has big-ass H-racks such that you can lean the bike over, stand on one H-rack, and pull up on the other (lift with your legs, not with your back) to get enough spread to fit in the hub.

It is much more nicely made than the Yuba frame. As anyone who's put together a Yuba from box will know, that's not saying too much. These frames are built like tanks and ride like Cadillacs, but examples of precision manufacturing they ain't. The assembly instructions include hammering the H-racks into place! I had to take a file to the rear dropouts to get the 14mm axles to fit into the frame. Most of what I took off was paint, but a little steel was removed as well. I enjoy free-hand metalwork, but others might care more. Incidentally, more filing around the rear dérailleur was needed to allow proper clearance for the spring tension adjustment screw. This can be seen in the second photo above. Most of what I took off there was steel. The chunk of sheet steel that is the right rear dropout isn't cut to close enough tolerances to allow for a standard Shimano LX dérailleur without some filing.

I really like this hub. It does its job, it's simple, it's familiar technology, and it's compatible with whatever industry-standard parts you want to use it with. Also, it has 14mm dropout adapters, even if I'm the only person in the world who cares. Seriously, what frame with 135mm rear spacing also has 14mm dropouts? Luckily for me (and anyone else who wants to run a standard 9-speed drivetrain on a Yuba) they made it anyway.

Recently A Long Walk to Green posted a long-term review of his NuVinci CVT hub. I think if I'd read that before I built the bike I would've gone that route even though it involves modifying the frame for use with a 10mm axle by brazing spacers into the dropouts. I considered it at the time, and even tried to get an answer from the manufacturer on the hub's load rating. I didn't get an answer back for weeks and by that time I'd already built the bike, but they said they'd never tested it for load. Seems to work for him, though.

I'm happy to have the Halo hub, it's a good part. It's a viable option for custom Yuba-builders who want to run a modern geared drivetrain, and fits the dropouts without frame modification.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nudity! Bikes! Music!

A few months back, the Flaming Lips put out a call for naked bicyclists in Portland for a video shoot. I hemmed and hawed about it-- it was meeting on Mt Tabor, and that's only a few miles from our place, but a lot of climbing for a pregnant lady. And there would probably be big crowds, which I don't love. But I do quite like the Flaming Lips. And it was such a delightfully silly proposition. And then, the clincher: what if, when it came down to it, nobody came? Was I willing to let my adopted city fail in its ability to turn out dozens, nay, hundreds, of naked cyclists on demand? No! I had to go. It was a moral imperative.

So, with the power of Facebook I found a friend who was willing to bike up with me, and we slowly trekked up the mountain. That first day, there was some trouble with the police about exactly how much nudity was permitted, and some delightful sneaking around following that, but overall it became clear that although Mt. Tabor was gorgeous, Wayne Coyne (the Flaming Lips' frontman and mastermind of this video) wasn't going to be able to get the shots he wanted. So, he declared that they would get a bus, we'd all meet back there the next day, and schlep out to Sauvie Island to shoot either on private property or on the nude beaches there.

With me being largely at loose ends, and my friend being currently unemployed, it was easy to decide to go back again. The next morning, our bikes went under the bus, we went inside of it, and a long, LONG day of shooting followed. We ended up on director Gus Van Sant's beautiful property on the island, running around naked, riding bikes excruciatingly slowly for the sake of the camera crew, and getting 'birthed' out of a giant furry space-bubble vagina. It was strange, and fun, and relaxed, and beautiful, and never creepy, which was surprising and awesome.

And then we were back on the bus, and it was late, and they dropped us off on Mount Tabor and I had a beautiful ride home in the dark, and it was done. And I somehow never thought beyond this as a chance to do something utterly unique, something strange and delightful that I wouldn't get to do again. I laughed about the notion of having my pregnant belly forever immortalized, but I didn't do a whole lot of thinking about what it would be like to actually be in the video.

And now, the video is here! And I am in it-- quite a lot, actually! The best shot of me on the bike, however, comes at about 4:20, on the right side of the frame. It should go without saying that, because of sound and vast quantities of nudity, this is NSFW.

Embedding isn't working, so find the video here!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Bikey Baby Shower

Four of us set off together: me, 36.4 weeks pregnant, on my retrofitted Bianchi Volpe; Dave, loyal husband, on the shiny green Yuba Mundo; Kori, dear friend, adventuring teacher, puma wrangler, borrowing Dave's new black Brompton; and Caitlin, long-absent Ithaca friend, down from Seattle by bike and train, on her own zippy aluminum Trek.

We set off at a pregnant snail's pace: about 6 mph up hills, and about 10 on flats, rolling through the streets of Portland. Halfway, we stopped for sustenance at the Waffle Window. This is the most useful advice I can give to the pregnant cyclist: take pit-stops. If you're out alone, it's easiest to stop whenever something peaks your curiosity: a shop, a restaurant, a flower. When with others, it may be better to pick something fun along the route and schedule the stop in, so you don't feel like your inability to ride more than two miles at a stretch is interrupting everyone else's ride. Also, don't go out with anyone who will find your need to interrupt their ride annoying.

We got a little lost; we were a little late; we didn't have the house number and had to rely on other party-goers to get us to the right doorstep.

And coming home, it got a little dark; the Yuba tipped over during loading because it was so laden with gifts; our hosts worried over our chosen mode of transport. And today, as I've come to expect, I am sore and exhausted from the 9-mile round trip. But happy. Oh, so happy. And independent, and proud.

And that's how we rode to our baby shower.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Trade Offs

I'm really feeling the end of this pregnancy: sore back, sore hips, trouble sleeping, heartburn, and fatigue like nothing I've ever known. I'm grateful not to be working a 'real' job at the moment, because I can't imagine how I'd manage.

The fatigue is daily, and takes a lot of willpower to beat: going four blocks to the grocery store, or across the neighborhood for some sewing supplies, can feel like a major expedition. And yet, just staying home every day is too psychologically deadening, too hard on the soul. And so, once or twice a week, I still get out on the bike to DO something-- go on errands with Dave, or pick up quilting stuff, or just tool around.

Yesterday, a friend and former student from Cornell came into town on business and came over to hang out. She hadn't seen much of the city yet, and I figured the best way to show her Portland (at least, Portland as I know it) was to get her on the bike. We dropped the seat on the Yuba an inch or so, I hopped on the Bianchi, and we were off. We didn't go terribly far: over the river on the Hawthorne Bridge, up the Waterfront Park to the Chinese Garden, down to pick up snacks at Voodoo Donuts, back to the riverfront to eat them, and then across the Hawthorne again, now in a lively bike rush hour, to Clever Cycles' Wool Night and then home. It was a great outing, and only about six miles altogether, but by the time we got home I knew I had over-done it.

I put on a support belt before Dave and I walked across the neighborhood for dinner, but it was no use: my hips were toast, my back was shot. Sitting was painful, lying down even worse, walking worst of all. And perversely, instead of leaving my body exhausted and ready to sleep, I was completely keyed up-- restless sleep until 2 am, and then no sleep after that until morning.

And it leaves me wondering: is this physical toll worth getting out and about? Is this what it means to be too pregnant to ride (though walking is harder than riding, even now)? Or is riding one day at the expense of one or two days of exhaustion afterward worth the sense of freedom and joy that the riding gives?

For now, my answer is yes. We'll see how I'm feeling next week.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Bike Camping, Stub Stewart State Park

Where have we been? Deep in the land of baby-prep, new-job-stress, and pregnancy fatigue, mostly. Dave is still riding the bike part of his multi-modal commute, and I'm still on the bike for errands and little bits of exercise, but with six-ish weeks until the baby comes, we've been a bit preoccupied.

But as the weather turns beautifully gray and wet and blustery, I'd like to take a moment and finally post on our bike camping trip back in August.

I don't think either of us had thought seriously about bike camping until our move to Portland, when stories like this one and adventures like this one began to get under our skin. Moreover, camping was an important part of both of our family lives as children, and the thought that not owning a car would mean less or no camping for our kids was... well, kind of a bummer. So we figured we'd try it out.

The first problem we had to figure out was not bike-related, but rather pregnancy-related. Earlier in the summer we had gone on a (car-based) camping trip with a group of friends, and made the unpleasant discovery that my pregnant body could not sleep on the thermarest + sleeping bag set up that we were used to-- we ended up spending that weekend sleeping in our Zipcar, for want of better options. Did this mean the end of camping until next summer?

We stewed on the problem, contemplating air mattresses (heavy, won't fit in the tent), hammocks (light, but no sure-fire place to put it) and so on. But the answer, it turned out, was simpler than all that: cabins. Unlike the state parks of my youth, the parks surrounding Portland all have cabins to rent. And while the price is steeper than a tent site, and the reservations require more prior planning than I'd like, cabins with beds seemed to be the perfect answer.

With help from Cyclewild's guide to bike camping in the area, we hunted down the next available cabin rental within our comfortable cycling distance, and ended up with a reservation at Stub Stewart State Park.

We planned on taking the Cyclewild route from the Hillsboro MAX end-of-line to the park, about 22.5 miles. We made a few missteps, though, that made our ride out... more eventful than we would have liked.

First, we left late. Dave had some last-minute wrenching on the Mundo that took longer than anticipated (doesn't it always), and I had been unable to sleep the night before and so ended up needed a nap before I could get on the road (one of the unexpected pitfalls of cycling pregnant!). By the time we got to the Goose Hollow MAX station with our loaded bikes, it was (oops!) rush hour. We waited about 45 minutes for a train with enough space for us to squeeze onboard, and so were even later.

03 Bikes Waiting at the Goose Hollow Max.JPG

Once we got to the end of the line, we set off for some beautiful riding from the edges of Hillsboro, though fields and a massive nursery to the little town of Banks. We stopped just outside of Banks for a snack.

09 Bikes & Barn.JPG

As we finished our snack it became obvious that we were battling nightfall, but between Dave's heavy load and my general slow-ness, there wasn't much to be done. We pushed on.

It was about half-way through the 3-mile stretch on Hwy 26, as dusk settled in around us as cars sped by a few feet away, that I began to suspect that we had made an incredibly stupid choice: a voice in my head began pointing out that if I read a news story about a five-month pregnant woman getting hurt or killed while riding on the shoulder of a busy highway in the dark, I might not be all that sympathetic. But we were well past the half-way point by then, and as we were counting on the cabin, we had no tent that would let us stop short of our goal. So-- onward!

Turning off of Hwy 26, as the last light of evening began to fail, I had another sinking realization. The cabins at the state park lock have combination locks. In our rush to get out the door, I had failed to write ours down. And, arriving so late, there would be no rangers to help us out. I mention this to Dave, who agrees that this is most unfortunate. But what is there to do? We keep riding.

It is clear from the cue sheet-- but had somehow escaped my proper notice-- that in the 4.5 miles from that turn off of 26 to the camp visitor center, you climb about 750 feet. We met this climb in the dark, in need of food (but unwilling to stop for it), and already tired from pushing ourselves to go faster to avoid the darkness. It was steep, and the shoulder was narrow, and it was some of the hardest riding I'd ever done.

Once we turned into the gates of the park, there was more climbing up to the visitor center. We were both struggling to ride in a straight line, but fortunately, we were done with cars by then-- all the other campers had the good sense to arrive in daylight, I suppose.

14 Bianchi at Visitor's Center.JPG

At the visitor's center, finding not even a single night ranger to help us with the cabin problem, we made a distress call to my brother in California, who obligingly logged into my email and found the code for us. We had a snack, used the restroom, and then set out for the last climb up to our cabin.

The cabin was awesome! The combination worked! Dave stared in on boiling water for dinner, while I set up the cabin with sheets, sleeping bags, and so on. Very homey:
17 Cabin Interior 3.JPG
15 Cabin Interior 1.JPG
16 Cabin Interior 2.JPG

(Yes, I brought a body pillow. Yes, it was worth it. See above, on pitfalls of riding pregnant.)

The next morning, we made breakfast, chatted with a wandering ranger, and watched the kids from the next cabin over race around the parking lot on their bikes. We went for a short hike to stretch our legs, packed up our gear, and cruised down to the (now open) visitor center to ask about a sign we'd seen the night before regarding the Banks-Veronia trail.

30 Banks Veronia Sign.JPG

We learned that it is Oregon's first rails-to-trails project, called on some of its signage a "Linear State Park," which we found charming. Furthermore, it runs from Veronia (just north of Stub Stewart) to Banks (which we had passed through the previous evening). And, looking at the map, it became clear that taking the Banks-Veronia trail would bypass the part of the route on Hwy 26 entirely. Why hadn't we known this before?!

The trail had a lovely shallow grade, unlike the road we'd climbed up to get to the park. It was lined with blackberries, which made for excellent mid-ride snacking. And it had beautiful features like this converted bridge:
32 Beautiful Banks Veronia Bridge.JPG
If you're going to make this ride, I strongly recommend that you get onto the Banks-Veronia trail just after you pass through Banks, and stay on it all the way up to the park. MUCH more pleasant than the corresponding roads, though a bit longer.

In Banks, we stopped for ice cream sundaes at the Banks Trail Cafe, and then enjoyed a mellow ride back to Hillsboro.

35 Ice Cream in Banks!.JPG

Thanks to our morning hike and leisurely ride, we reached the Hillsboro MAX... just in time for the early rush hour. Fortunately, as we were getting on at the end of the line, everyone else had to squeeze around us this time. Still, rushes on the train are important to keep in mind, especially if you are trying to move around a loaded Yuba Mundo on a weekday.

In spite of our long list of mistakes and mis-calculations, though, I think this trip was a huge success. We finished it feeling exhausted but satisfied, and looking back on it now, I'm very grateful that we pushed through our second thoughts and got out that door-- especially since now, at 8.5 months pregnant, my limit for a day's riding is about 10 miles, and I wouldn't be able to make the trip.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Meandering Rant on Car-Free Childbirth

There is still a post on bike camping waiting to be written, and another on finally finishing the rear axle assembly on the Mundo. Both are pending my locating the cable to get the pictures off of the camera, which got cleverly stashed somewhere in our move, and hasn't gotten un-stashed yet.

But we HAVE moved, and while there are still piles of boxes here and there, we feel wonderfully at home. Great house, great neighbors, and close enough to things that I'm actually biking less for everyday things, because they are in walking distance.

Today was my 28-week midwife visit, and my regular midwife was out, so I was meeting with the rest of my birth team, who I don't yet know as well. And there was a tense discussion at that meeting that left me bothered, that I wanted to think through here.

One of the many reasons we love our new place is because it is about a mile from the birth center, which means that it is an easy bike ride, and even a short walk, to get to appointments. We were talking about the recently-learned fact that the fine print of our insurance covers birth-center births but not home births, and so the decision of where-to-have-the-baby, which we had not yet resolved, had been sort of made for us. And the midwife said that we could still go home as soon as we wanted to afterward, and I agreed, saying that at this distance, I could practically walk it.

I wasn't entirely serious; frankly, I hadn't yet given much thought to how we'd get home from the birth. But she turned icy, and said "We're going to have to veto that one." I wasn't sure exactly what she was vetoing (my walking, or walking with the baby, or what) and so I asked, now a bit testy myself, "How exactly do you expect us to get home?" She remembered then that we were car-less, and immediately suggested borrowing a friend's car, or getting a rental, or having someone else drive us. And there was brainstorming, and peacemaking, and the tone in the room relaxed a bit.

But Dave kept pushing: what was wrong with walking? Well, they told us then, there was no way to know what condition I'd be in after the birth: how much blood loss, how much tearing, how long a labor, how much exhaustion. Which is fair enough, labor is taxing. And so they didn't allow their mamas to walk out. Which seems a bit arbitrary, given that the whole point is that we don't know, but fine. It's not like I've given birth before, and I believe them when they tell me that I'm not going to feel like walking a mile afterward.

Ok, Dave pressed, so what modes of transport would be acceptable? At this point, they allowed that anything that didn't require my propulsion would be ok-- he would be welcome to bring me home in a bakfiets with the baby in a sling, or to hire a pedicab for the three of us, or rent a bike surrey and have the whole family pedal me & baby home.

Dave's pushing made me uncomfortable in the meeting; I tend to try to keep interpersonal peace and don't like confrontations. But in retrospect, I really appreciate that he was willing to push the subject beyond the default get-a-car response. Because, frankly, it's pretty fucked up that we can choose run our whole lives without cars, in part because more cars on the road make the world less safe and less joyful for everyone, including this little babe we're working on, and yet these really wonderful, smart, good folks assume that the best, safest thing to do as soon as this little one comes into the world is to take him/her away from me, strap him/her into a car seat, and drive that metal cocoon a single mile down residential streets to our home.

We're not extremists. We use zipcars a few times a month, either to get out of town to see friends or go on trips, or for things like furniture at Ikea (which we could do on the Mundo, but it's far and I don't have the energy these days) or to do something or see someone out in the suburbs. And I was impressed with the way Dave redirected the conversation: yes, we could borrow a car or ask a friend for help, but the point was that we preferred not to use cars, that we tried to avoid them, that we would like to find another way if that was possible. Because surely the only way to move a tired mama and her new baby home wasn't in a car. Surely not.

Now, I don't know if we'll have a car-free birth. There are certainly higher priorities: a healthy birth, first of all, and also a joyful and loving one. I don't know how long into this pregnancy I'll be able to continue biking myself around, though I expect to be ok on the bike for at least another 6 weeks, and if the geometry stays on my side, maybe longer. Assuming there comes a point when cycling no longer works for me, I don't know how comfortable I'll be on the back of the Mundo. I don't know how we'll want to get to the birth center when the time comes, nor, honestly, whether my health and the baby's will cooperate to allow a birth center birth at all. Because it is childbirth, and it is unpredictable, and shit happens that we don't get to choose.

But I feel grateful, and very lucky, to have a partner who is willing to stand up and insist that there are options. So that if we can choose, if we don't have to compromise, then we won't.

If you're in Portland in late November, and you see a tired-looking woman in the bucket of a bakfiets in SE with a baby on her chest and a proud-looking pilot... I hope you'll wave.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Trip, Madsen

Dave and I just got back from our camping trip to Stub Stewart State Park, we'll post about it once we've recovered a bit and gotten the photos edited. In the meantime, did you know that Madsen is giving away a bike a week? We went with the Yuba over the Madsen in our first round of cargo bike selection, but I'd surely make use of one if they decided they wanted to give it to me! MADSEN Cargo Bikes

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New Seasons Bike Rack, 24 August 2009

When we rolled up to New Seasons for groceries yesterday, we found ourselves in excellent company. To the Mundo's right, a well-loved, well-battered xtracycle. And to its right, a tiny Skuut! The Skuut was not locked, just leaned, along with its rider's tiny helmet. Overwhelmingly cute. Observe, the close-up:

Tiny Grocery Getter

My question: how will this intrepid skuuter get home his or her groceries without better cargo capacity? Has the time come for the cargo push-bike?

Sunday, August 23, 2009


It was a beautiful evening, a long-lost college friend was having a housewarming party, and I even coaxed my wonderful husband home from work early to go out. We stayed late, and were whisking home through the slightly-chilly evening when... terrible things happened.

I smelled it first. Urine, certainly, but being a pregnant woman riding through urban spaces, that isn't unusual.

But then, coming down off the west side of the Broadway Bridge, there was something wet on the road. Which I didn't connect with the increasingly powerful urine smell until...

SPLASH! I don't know what this stuff was. Septic spill? Leaky portapotty? It was more urine than urine; thick, putrid stuff. And I didn't have my fenders on.

We hurried home, my sundress-and-sandals outfit suddenly seeming like the worst idea I'd possibly ever had. Clothes into the laundry, me into the shower, bikes onto the porch. Dave did the bike-cleaning duty (he was riding with both fenders and pants, so the trauma was less). Once showered and laundered, I called the city pollution line to let them know there was... stuff... on the road.

I love riding my bike because it makes me feel connected to my city. But tonight Portland, I discovered just how close is too close. That's a connection I just don't need.

If you need it: Portland Pollution Reporting Line, 24 Hours: 503-823-7180

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rear hub tech notes

Things have been busy around here, but I want to start getting some of the technical stuff from the Yuba build posted.  Answering a comment, the rear hub is a Halo Spin Doctor Pro DH.  Halo is a UK firm that designs relatively affordable freeride/dirt-jumping parts.  The SD Pro rear hub is a cartridge-bearing design with interchangeable freehubs and a few different axle configurations.  The DH version comes with the chromoly freehub and 10mm hollow chromoly bolt-on axle installed in a hubshell drilled for 48 spokes.  Parts are available to adapt the 10mm bolt-on axle to 14mm, which is the only reason I went with this hub.  I wanted a freehub so that I could run a modern 9-speed 11-34T cassette with a single ring up front to get the widest gear range with minimal parts.

I love the Mundo frame for it's strength, but its targeted selling price appears to have forced some design decisions I would've avoided.  The Yuba has one of the most ridiculous dropout configurations I've ever seen: 130mm x 14mm.  The 130mm spacing is the width of a modern road bike, but the 14mm axle diameter is only used in heavy-duty BMX parts.  The stock wheel that Mundos come with has a BMX hub with a longer 14mm axle installed.  They can do this beacause the hub has simple cup-and-cone bearings, and the axle is just a piece of threaded rod.  The rear cogs on the Mundo 6- and 18-speed builds is a freewheel cluster, the only way you can get multiple gears onto a BMX hub that was designed to carry a single-cog freewheel.

Freewheel clusters have two major design problems: first, the right-side hub bearing is located under the right-side spoke flange, which is the entire width of the cluster away from the right-side dropout.  The load of the bike is transferred to the axle at the dropout, and is transferred through the bearings to the hubshell.  The length of axle spanning the distance from the dropout to the bearing is a mechanical beam, and the longer that beam is the stronger it needs to be to not bend under load.  This is why the Mundo hub has a 14mm axle: the distance between the right-side bearing and dropout is large, and a 10mm axle would bend under the Mundo's rated load.   The freehub design, where the freewheeling ratchet mechanism is part of the hub rather than the gear cluster, puts a bearing much closer to the right-side dropout, so a smaller axle can be used because it doesn't have to support the load over such a large distance.

This brings us to the second problem with freewheel clusters: due to the basic design reality described above, every quality hub intended for multi-gear usage from the last two decades or more uses a freehub.  All the advances in shifting technology in that time frame and all decent parts currently in production were designed to work with a freehub cassette and quality freewheel clusters aren't made.  So, if you want the  shifting on your Mundo to work as well as on your "good" bike, a freehub is first on the list of replacement parts. 

A Long Walk to Green solved the problem by brazing 4mm spacers into the dropouts to run a normal 10mm-axled hub (he used a Nuvinci CVT).  The 130mm spacing isn't a barrier to fitting 135mm mountain bike hubs in a modified frame like that because the Mundo is made out of heavy steel, and you can just spread the stays apart a bit to fit the hub in there.  It makes changing a tube a bit more arduous, but it's not a big deal.  So, that's one way to go: modify the frame and a run a strong, standard hub.

I went another route and found the only freehub made that is intended for use with 14mm dropouts.  The only problem with that is that the USA distributor for Halo, BTI, has the SKUs messed up for the Halo axle adaptors, and it's been six weeks now and I still don't have the ones for my rear hub.  Instead I have two sets of adaptors for a front hub and a rear wheel that's held onto the bike by the skin of its teeth.  It's been fine for groceries so far, but I'm not going to put a passenger back there until I have the right parts.  If I knew it was going to be so arduous getting a part that the distributor lists as in-stock, I would've just planned on brazing in spacers and using a perhaps-stronger hub, like a Chris King, with their 22mm dropout-to-dropout axle that fits in a normal 10mm dropout.  On the other hand, it might be been weird using a hub that cost almost as much as the frame.

The ultimate solution would probably involve a thru-axle and asymmetric 150mm dropout spacing like a modern downhill bike.  That would give you more strength than the 14mm freewheel hub and lets you fit a modern 9-speed cassette and a disc brake while maintaining a large flange-to-flange distance and not having any dish in the wheel.  The problem for Yuba would be getting such a part made at a cost that makes sense in developing nations.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Everyday Riding with the Mundo

I've taken the Mundo out a couple of times now to run errands, in spite of her still missing some parts (RideThis, I'm looking at you).

As previously mentioned, I've pretty much ridden two adult bikes ever, one a short-lived vintage Schwinn cruiser and one my now-modified Bianchi Volpe. So I don't have a great depth of experience to draw on as I talk about riding the Mundo.

Riding the Mundo, I feel BIG. Being six months pregnant, of course, helps with this sensation. The Mundo, like my bulging belly, takes up SPACE. I'm aware of the width of the H-racks even during unloaded riding, and when on a busy bike lane-- say, eastbound on Hawthorne around 5:30 pm-- I was at first self-conscious about how much space I was taking, and how slowly I was moving in comparison to the zippy hipster fixies passing me. But with a bit of practice at it, the experience became more relaxed, and I became more comfortable with the pace the bike requires of me.

The frame is significantly stiffer than my Volpe, with the unyielding fat frame tubing sending more jolts and bumps my way than I'm accustomed to. It's not an unpleasant ride, but I was surprised at how much difference riding a less-compliant frame could make. However, this bumpiness is much less pronounced when the bike is loaded-- I think this bike is happiest when it is weighed down at the rear, which is as it should be.

The ride while the bike is loaded (I'd guess 70 or 80 lbs of groceries) is smooth and stable. I'm still getting the hang of starting and stopping while loaded, and have occasionally teetered before catching my balance after a sudden stop, but I think that is a matter of skill and familiarity, rather than a problem with the bike. Riding under load feels pretty much like riding any other bike-- except slower, and heavier. But very, very stable.

The biggest failure so far is the kickstand, a Hebie BiPod. Rock the Bike recommends this for "everyday loading" but not for "true cargo" loading, but I don't see the distinction: the BiPod can't hold the bike upright when I'm loading several sacks of groceries, and so isn't nearly up for my "everyday" needs-- I certainly wouldn't use it while loading a kid onboard. We'll be upgrading this part soon.

We picked up a Go Getter bag from JoeBike here in town and I think it is awesome for quick-and-easy loading of things like sacks of groceries (holds two full paper-size sacks comfortably) or for just tossing a thing or two onto the bike without worrying about proper loading technique. The only thing that I don't love about the Go Getter is that is it quite so portable: great when I need to get the groceries up the elevator, of course, but a pain to always have to take the bag with me when I lock up the bike. Mike Cobb, the Go Getter's designer, mentioned working on a secure, rigid, lock-able, waterproof "trunk" to fit onto the Mundo's rear rack. This sort of car-like security would be a real boon when carrying out car-like tasks, including multi-stop errand runs.

By far the biggest hassle of the Mundo comes from our current living situation. We're in a small downtown apartment, and the Mundo is too unwieldy for the stairwell and just barely fits in the elevator. Our neglectful landlords have allowed all of what passes for bike parking in the parking garage get filled up with decrepit, abandoned bikes, so without anywhere secure to leave the beast at ground level, we keep it along with the rest of the stable in our apartment. This means that when leaving the apartment, we need to get around several tight corners, put the front half of the bike into the elevator, tip it up onto its front wheel to tuck the H-racks in, and then repeat this maneuver (crashing into walls all the while) to get out again. This works ok if we're working together, but for taking trips solo (as I have been these past couple weeks) it's a substantial hassle. If the bike is loaded, it becomes even more precarious, and I usually end up tucking the prospective load into the elevator first, then squeezing myself and the bike in after it, and re-loading once I reach the lobby.

Fortunately, this hassle will only persist another month, as we are leaving our current apartment for a cute little Ladd's Addition bungalow (with bike garage!) at the end of August. In the meantime, though, the 15 feet between the bike and the ground certainly make me carefully consider whether any given trip really needs cargo capacity.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Eventful Weekend

First: The Mundo is built! It still needs some extras: chain guard, fenders, lights, top deck, and so on, but it is a fully functional, rideable bike. HUGE thanks to Ben Sarrazin at Yuba, to Tyler and Todd and Justin (?) at Clever Cycles for all sorts of help, special orders, and awesome attitudes, to the guys at Joe Bike for helping us out with a missing seatpost shim, to VeloShop for the excellent green grips and for reaming and facing the first frame, and The Recyclery for doing the same for the second, and to The Recyclery, City Bikes, and Jude at the downtown Bike Gallery for coming through with all sorts of small-but-crucial parts requests.

15 How Do I Look?.JPG

We took her out Saturday evening for a shake-down cruise in the parking lot behind our building and found everything to be in order. Which is good, because we had plans for the bike on Sunday.

Sunday we were volunteering at Portland's Sunday Parkways, defending a temporarily car-free intersection from cars and evildoers. To protect ourselves from the ravages of sun, hunger, heat, and boredom, we equipped the Mundo to serve as our asphalt desert oasis:

Lounging with the Mundo 2.JPG

Chalk Trees 2.JPG

The Mundo carried two deck chairs, a cooler of provisions, some beach balls, and a full-sized patio umbrella, along with a cheery palm tree balloon. In spite of our heavy load, however, what most people on the route seemed to notice about our beautiful bike was that it is GREEN. And boy is it.

We had a blast at Parkways, showing off the new bike and meeting all sorts of interesting people. We look forward to volunteering again next month, when Parkways comes to SE.

Following Parkways, we headed north to catch Atomic Arts' extraordinary Trek in the Park production of "Amok Time," an original series episode featuring Spock's problematic... ahem... biology... and Vulcan mating rituals. Awesome, and really quite well done.

09 On the Bridge 2.JPG

As much as we were impressed by the performance, we were equally blown away by the turnout-- a little event that we had heard of by word-of-facebook had what seemed like about 1000 people out in the sunshine, getting their Trek on. Huge kudos to the Atomic Arts team.

It was a long day, but really satisfying to be out in our new community, getting from place to place in the open air, on our bikes, just having fun.

Technical post(s) on the Mundo build will be forthcoming from Dave, stay tuned!

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Not-Quite-Car-Free Vacation

To celebrate our five-year wedding anniversary, Dave and I took a trip to the coast. We bounced around all sorts of bike-centric ideas, but by the time I was making reservations, Dave's neck was feeling stiff from his first week working and commuting, and he wanted a few days off the bike to recover.

Instead, we decided to explore one of the other perks of selling the car: the ability to choose the best car for the job out of the zipcar fleet. Saturday's forecast looked beautiful and we had no kids, almost no luggage, and no particular plans beyond a hotel to stay in. So we chose the car best suited for the job:
A Man And His Car-For-The-Weekend

See, while neither of us like the idea of living in a car (or raising kids in one), we both actually really enjoy driving cars. A guilty pleasure, sure, but there it is. And while we owned a car, we owned a very sensible one: a compact '01 Ford Focus with a surprisingly large carrying capacity and pretty good mileage. It was extraordinarily rare that we'd need any other car to get us around, and we certainly weren't the sorts to go renting a car when we didn't need it.

But now, owning no car, and being in need of a car-for-the-weekend, we got to pick up this beauty, named Multnomah by her zipcar keepers, from her home at NW 10th and Johnson, right off the streetcar line. We headed to the beach with the top down all the way, getting pleasantly baked in the sunshine and feeling very fancy as we cruised in to dinner. And on Sunday, when persistent rain spoiled our plans for a long hike, Multnomah was there to take us for a long, windy drive along the coast.

As we cruised back into town, taking advantage of the quick transport to go see a house for rent and to pick up some groceries, I realized that I really didn't miss owning a car. And then came one of the nicest parts of the weekend: pulling the car back into her reserved space, clearing out our things, and zapping her shut again: reservation over, no longer our responsibility. And that felt great.

Monday, July 6, 2009


parts_on_floor, originally uploaded by melanthius18.

Here we have most of the parts that will become our cargo bike. The fork is that designed for the Surly Big Dummy, one of the other cargo bikes we considered. We went with the Mundo because of the greater cost of the Surly and reports of instabilities with very heavy loads. "The wobbles" were also a problem with heavy loads on the Xtracycle- converted mountain bike we used to have and it sounds like it may just be a problem with the modular rack design. I even added custom bolt-on struts between the seatstays and vertical racks of that bike to combat the problem, but we were looking for something stiffer this time around. The Surly fork, however, looks great. It's big, strong, and has a disc brake mount and rack braze-ons. It's also almost an inch shorter in crown-to-axle distance than the Surly Instigator fork that the Stouts use, so it should raise the top tube a little less than on theirs.

Also visible here are a pimpin' white Halo Combat rim for the front, along with white spokes for that wheel (the white hub hasn't arrived yet). The other rim is a 48-hole Salsa Gordo, the only 26" 48-hole currently available with a brake track for rim brakes. I'll be using a 9-speed cassette hub making the wheel more dished than with the modified BMX freewheel hub that Yuba specs on their 6-speed model, or any single-speed or internally-geared hub that only has one cog. I wanted a 48-spoke rear wheel to ensure the greatest strength with such a large dish, and the Mundo doesn't have a rear disc mount, so I also needed a rim with a brake track. This one is it.

Also visible is a 185mm Avid BB7 disc brake for the front and SD7 rim brake for the rear, matching levers, a Shimano LX Hollowtech II crankset with only a steel 32-tooth chainring and a bash guard in place of the big ring, a Brooks Flyer, a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Plus puncture-resistant tires (I'm a big fan of the Specialized Armadillo lines, but wanted to try these because they seem to be building a reputation to rival the Armas), and various other small parts in the bags.

Just waiting on the replacement frame and my hubs to put this all together.

The Second Trimester Special

Having lived car-free before our move back east and our adventure in rural home ownership, Dave and I were looking forward to returning to a simpler and more earth-friendly carless lifestyle. Portland makes this sort of thing easier than most places, of course, with the excellent MAX lines, streetcar, reasonably functional buses, zipcar, and so on. We're making use of all of those things. But at the end of the day, we prefer bikes.

We moved with a stable of four: Dave's two "nice" bikes for mountain and road, his Surly Steamroller fixie, a valiant commuter, and my long-loved, much-abused Bianchi Volpe. The Volpe was a replacement for my first "grown-up" bike, a vintage pink Schwinn cruiser whose frame was bent beyond repair in an ugly right hook car-bike collision back in college. Fortunately, I was dating a mechanic at the time (Dave again) and we specced a new bike with the insurance money from the accident: something light enough to ride fast and far on the weekends, but still sturdy and stable enough for every-day commuting.

With only a few further modifications, this is the bike that I've used for pretty much everything ever since: I've commuted on her in Eugene, OR, Washington, D. C., and Chicago, IL. I couldn't imagine wanting to change the Volpe: she fit me perfectly.

But when we moved to Portland, I was 3 months pregnant. When we got the car sold and the bikes out of storage, that was more like 3.5 months, and growing. The aches and pains of getting back on the bike after years of car-based living were substantially compounded by the aches and pains of pregnancy. My Terry Damselfly saddle, chosen explicitly for comfort and well-broken-in, didn't agree with my re-positioning sitbones. Bending to my drop bars made my newly-ample boobs ache.* And, perhaps most irritatingly, my growing belly bumped my thighs with every rotation of the pedals. Not. Cool.

Enter Clever Cycles. We found Clever Cycles before we even moved, walked across town to visit them when we were here to scope things out before the move, and knew then that where practical cycling was concerned, they were our shop. We'd been in several times already shopping our new cargo bike (more on that soon) but this time we had a different agenda. I'd admired and petted the gorgeous Electra cruisers for sale at Clever and elsewhere in town, but I couldn't adjust to the idea of riding a different bike. The Volpe and I have a lot of history, and I wanted to keep riding her.

We started by looking at more upright handlebars, and the awesome sales guy helped us figure out which of them would take my bar-end shifters. He asked what my goal was in making the changes, and I explained about, you know, the belly thing. He said they got that all the time, which made me love the shop, and Portland, even more. Then owner Todd comes around from the back and comments: "We see this so often, I think we ought to call it the "Third Trimester Special."

Volpe Side, originally uploaded by melanthius18.

I ended up with North Road bars from Nitto, and a nicely sprung brown Brooks B67 to replace my trusty Damselfly. Add some platform pedals and new brake levers from the awesome City Bikes and an evening of wrenching in the living room from my favorite mechanic, and I had the new Volpe: still sleek, steel, and slightly battered, but now configured so that I can ride her for miles in comfort, belly, boobs, and all.

*Hi, I'm Katie, and apparently I'm a blogger who writes about boobs. I'm pregnant. Get over it.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Not-quite-another option

christiania_light, originally uploaded by melanthius18.

Yesterday at the PSU farmer's market I spotted a cool cargo bike that I hadn't seen before. It's a Christiania Lite set up for kid transportation, but as far as I can tell they aren't available Stateside except by importing one yourself. The box was a cozy little kid-nest, full of blankets and toys.

This caught my eye because we're also building our cargo bike with an eye towards child-hauling: our first should arrive in December.

Friday, July 3, 2009

First some preliminaries

We're a young couple figuring out how to live, work, and play in Portland, Oregon with a lighter touch and a smaller footprint than our last situation. Towards this goal we live well within the city, sold our car, and get around by foot, bicycle, mass transit, and car sharing. We plan on walking, bus/train riding, and car sharing like I imagine most people would. Bicycling, however, we plan to do with style and aplomb. This blog’s purpose is to keep a record of our progress for our own use and to make the details of our successes and failures, particularly bicycle-related ones, available to others who would use such power for good.

We’re currently assembling the parts for a custom spec’d Yuba Mundo, a longtail utility bike with a cargo capacity of over 400 lbs. This will be our car replacement for hauling tasks like getting groceries. I haven’t been able to find many reports of heavily modified Mundos and the parts I’m using are a far cry from the standard build, so I’ll try to go into as much detail as I can throughout the process to get more information out to people who might find the stock setup a little wanting.