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.