Friday, January 22, 2010


Mostly, we ride bikes to get from here to there. And mostly, I thought I wanted this baby-on-a-bike setup to get us where we needed to go faster, and without the hassles of transit or driving. Even in our first week, the still nameless Yuba has been put to those tasks: getting us to and from mommy group and out and about with friends with ease.

Back from Mommy Group 3

And all that errand-running is more fun on a bike, less stressful, more satisfying. But focusing on that can make me forget what it was that made me fall in love with bikes nearly a decade ago: the unadulterated joy of riding just because you can. I love the way my body feels on a bike. I love the speed and the momentum-- and boy, does this bike have momentum! I love the wind. And I love the lack of hurry: knowing that my pace is just for me, going fast without rushing, and slowing down for hills or fatigue without worrying. With the focus on bikes as tools in my day-to-day life, I spend more time on the bike than your typical weekend rider, but much of that time is spent focusing on something other than the ride.

Yesterday, the skies cleared. The sun came out. The weather, contrary to all prediction, settled in the high fifties with just a few, gorgeous clouds. It was too nice to stay in. So we went out.

I wanted to ride the Springwater Trail so that Jasper and I could cruise without frequent stops and without worrying about traffic. Unfortunately, some massive construction between here and there made it unexpectedly difficult to reach the trailhead. We spent some time on sidewalks in the industrial district trying to make our way while avoiding the bigger roads. And when we reached the trailhead, Jasper had started to fuss, necessitating an open-air diaper change. He didn't seem to mind.

"Changing Table" 1 "Changing Table" 2

After the change he needed a nurse, and after the nurse a burp, so we ended up hanging out on those benches for a good long time. Biking with baby certainly looks different than biking alone. But hanging out there meant we got to chat with quite a few people passing who stopped to check out the parked bike. It was fun being so conspicuous, and delightfully, we didn't get a single negative comment. He was sleeping again by the time we were ready to roll.

A Lovely Afternoon on the Willamette

We were able to pass through the bollards at the entrance to the Springwater Trail, though just barely, and rolled gently through wildlife refuge for several miles before I got tired and headed back. We got passed a lot, of course: anything on that trail with two wheels was faster than we were. But every single person was good-natured and polite about it, and a few even slowed to comment on the rig or to let me know what he was up to. There was some baby fussing: his hat fell into his eyes once, and once he was too warm and needed help throwing off his quilt. But the rest of the ride out he spent wide-eyed and looking around, and at some point on the way back he fell asleep again.

End of the Ride 2

The worst part of the ride was the part from the trail back to the house. It was rush hour at that point, and a lot of people in cars seemed to be cutting through the industrial district to get around the construction, just like I was. The result was a lot of cars on little roads where a lot of cars aren't really supposed to be, and long waits at the intersections with arterials as rush hour traffic rushed by. At the first of these long waits, amidst the exhaust and noise and annoyed by our not-moving, Jaz woke up and started to cry. And he kept crying for the mile left to get home, only calming down when we reached our peaceful neighborhood. Then, the rolling motion and road noise calmed him, and he was pretty chill when we got to the garage.

I know how he feels. Being stuck in traffic, intimately close to cars that could kill us with a bad swerve, staring into the faces of rush-hour drivers anxious to get home faster and seemingly-oblivious to other folks on the road, makes me tense too. But that part in between-- the momentum, the sunshine, the birds, the comradery of the other riders on the trail-- that part was pure joy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Faces of Baby on a Bike

Jasper got his first bike ride on Sunday night. We headed to a restaurant about a mile and a half away, an easy little test ride in case anything went wrong.

Here's me on the bike:

There are three red flashies on the rear there, but obviously they aren't enough to properly illuminate this monster. More running lights on the boxes, in particular, are required, along with some well-applied reflective tape.

The headlight behind me is Dave's parked Brompton. The rack at the restaurant looked a bit odd, with our biggest bike snuggled up next to our smallest.

Jasper didn't like getting strapped into the harness, but was quiet within a few blocks. By the time we got to dinner, he was sound asleep.

The bike had a different effect coming home, though. He seems to have had a great time, because when we opened the rain cover in the garage, he was wide awake and grinning!

So, here are the faces of the baby on the bike, immediately post-ride:
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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Yuba boxes technical

The boxes for the Yuba aren't complicated in construction, but there are a few things that might interest other enterprising V2 owners.

First, I made a few modifications to the rack to simplify the project. The V2 is unique in the way its rack bolts to the main frame where the front two of the four vertical stays bolt both to the top rack and the frame. On the V1 the stays are all welded to the top rack and bolt to the frame, and on the V3 everything is welded together. The bolt-on stays on the V2 stick out past the plane formed by the edge of the top rack and the welded rear stays, so if you strap a flat thing to the vertical rack (like a sheet of plywood, for instance) the front stays will mar and gouge the surface. I did a little more work with files to get them back to a position safe for cargo. I neglected to take before photos, but the notes on the Flickr pages should be clear enough to anyone who's spent time with a V2. I painted the filed surfaces with clear nail polish as a quick-and-dirty rust preventative.


This let me make simple boxes without any weird contortions to make up for the funny shape of the bike.

The boxes themselves are made from almost a whole 4'x8' sheet of 12mm marine plywood using glue-and-screw assembly with 3/4" quarter-round oak trim on the inside edges. The width of the vertical rack is 10" at it's base and 7" at the top rack. Each box is 13" wide at the base and 16" wide at the top, with the same 1.5" bottom-to-top slope on each side to match the rack on the inside and look nice and symmetric on the outside. The slopes on the front and back were chosen to be reminiscent of a Bakfiets and maintain heel clearance for the pilot. The finish is a water-based stain under a UV-absorbing spar varnish, both low-VOC.

The baby seat is a second-hand infant car seat with the carry handle cut off. It's strapped in with a high-strength NRS cargo strap with a layer of closed-cell foam (pipe insulation) between the seat and the box for suspension. The rain cover shown is the same UPPAbaby Bubble that Totcycle used for his Madsen infant seat. I'm less than impressed with the cover, as it doesn't actually act as a rain cover because the ventilation mesh on the sides isn't covered by the rain shield. Also, the rain cover is also the sun cover and therefore opaque. This bike needs to be all-conditions for Portland weather, which means great rain protection while letting Jasper look out and us look in. It'll do for now, but Katie and I are scheming a sweet ventilated rain cover for the whole box.

Also in the works is a matching top deck and dyno-powered lighting system.

Baby on a Bike!

It's coming...

Yuba with Boxes 1

It's coming...

Yuba with Boxes 2

It's here!

Yuba with Boxes 3

After seven weeks of genuinely delightful transportational walking, and less-fun bus riding, we are a bike-mobile family once again: the Yuba Mundo baby-on-a-bike project is (provisionally) complete!

I'll leave the technical details to Dave, who is mechanic and carpenter for this rig. And I can't write much, as I hear Jasper waking from his afternoon nap even now. But I couldn't wait to share.

The bike is beautiful and boat-like, and we feel it needs a proper name stenciled on the back. We have a few we've been tossing around, but nothing has stuck yet. What should we write on this bike's substantial rear-end?

Does this bike make my butt look big?

And before I go... here's the boy in his new chariot!

Baby in a Box

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nearly There...

Dave started back at work this week, and Jasper and I have been doing a lot of walking to get from here to there. But the baby Yuba setup is so close to done: I think this weekend will do it. Stay tuned.

Until then, please enjoy these shots of Jasper in a bike onesie.

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