17 June 2008

Things kids say... one more time...

Ok, so today was Alla's birthday and we went out for supper. The kids wanted to go for Chinese Buffet, so off we went. After the kids got their fill on fries and noodles while we tried a little of everything (well ok, more than a little), we started in on desert. Of the many things you could choose from, one of the things I got (notice the words "one of") was a Nanaimo Bar. Erik looks at it while eating his piece of tiramisu cake, then states "I used to like those." We look at him and ask what he means by "used to" because he normally never says no to anything sweet. He looks at us and says: "I used to like them but not anymore, the sweet smell of milk and cookies came to my nose."

I just about fell off my chair laughing.

11 June 2008

How to ride a bike

OK, lets get the ball rolling, or wheel as the case may be. As I try to rely my bike more than on our car, I was trying to find some more info on commuting by bike, and found a blog that has some great information. The main thrust of the blog is to change the perspective that bicycles are for recreation, and that we should start thinking of bicycles of transportation. There are a lot of issues that are discussed, and many others also send in articles sharing their experiences and their rides (OK, that's slang for the bike that you ride, just in case you didn't catch that).

You can find the blog at www.ecovelo.info if you are interested in reading for yourself. Another plus with this blog, is that the owner of the blog is a good photographer, and his pictures of his bicycles are downright beautiful.

There are a few things that are discussed there that I have considered myself. Some of them not wholly consciously, but after reading the article, it was one of those "oh, yeah, that's the idea my brain was trying to get a grasp of, now I understand!" One of the most recent posts compared how much he rides his bike now. He used to use his bike for exercise and recreation, and would go out for a ride quite often. He would ride fast and hard, to get a good workout. Now, he commutes by bike to work and uses his bike for errands. When training, he had kept detailed records of millage and time data to chart his performance. This past May, he logged his total millage. He thought that with training, he would log more miles, but found that with commuting and errands, he was logging 50% more miles!

Another post discussed your riding style. Having spent a lot of time riding for exercise, you get into the go go mindset pretty fast. But if you're commuting to work, showing up all sweaty and stinky isn't good. So he made a decision and gave something a try. Ride so that you don't break a sweat. Don't pedal too hard, arrive smelling reasonably good, take your time. That mindset has also moved over to his recreational rides, and he is finding he enjoys riding much more.

Imagine that, enjoying a bike ride. Strange notion I know.

It's all part of a new mindset. The bicycle is now not something to go fast on. It is something to move you around. It is not there to test your abilities or limits. It is there to be used to get you around. I think an early name for the bicycle captures the idea well. The velocipede. A machine that adds speed to your walking. When you think about it, a bicycle is a great machine. It very efficiently helps us get around. But when you look a the last 60 years of bicycle, almost all of the developments in bicycle design and construction are a direct result of advances in racing bicycles. But that makes most bicycles more and more like racing bikes. But does everyone race? Is the average person trying to go as fast a possible? What about building a practical bike to fulfill the needs of the average person?

There have been more companies starting to move into this direction. It's interesting to note that the designs that they have been coming up with are the same designs for utilitarian bikes from the 20's and 30's. Seems that they got it right a long time ago, then for some reason we tossed those good ideas out the window in favour of speed. There are a few places where good practical designs have been preserved: Holland, Asia, India. Usually places where getting around in a car is either prohibitive, too expensive, or where a bike is just easier. More on this later. There are much better ways to design a practical bike.

But anyhow, for a start, I am starting to think differently about my bike. More for transportation than for recreation. A viable and effective replacement for our car. The way that I ride is changing, on purpose.

Buy it, but don't use it!

Hey, it's been a while since I've posted something here. I have been busy, and I've been pondering, planning, and procuring things. There are a number of things in play, all seem to be pushing me in the same direction. As you now know, we are expecting kid number three. As we start getting ready for this, we have realized that we cannot fit three car seats into our car. As much as we don't want to, we need to get a minivan. They use way too much fuel... but we need to get one. But there is a way to balance this necessary evil.

We can buy it, but we can choose not to use it.

OK, I know that sounds insane, but let me explain: I have kept mental track of our use of the car, and how far we drive on average. Over a few months, well over 90% of our use of the vehicle has been for trips less than 5km from home. Most of what we do, we could do without the car if we simply walk or bike. With that realization, we've been talking about using bicycles for much more of our errands. The problem being, what to do about grocery shopping and other such trips? I am getting a rear rack for my bike and have a plan to add some hardware so I can quickly clip on three baskets (two on the sides, one on top) so that I can carry more stuff. Most of our trips for groceries end up with us buying three to five bags of groceries. That would be easy to carry with such a setup. Another option is to get a trailer designed to be towed behind a bike. Most of them can easily carry 150lbs of cargo. Some can handle up to 300lbs of cargo. That's a lot, by the way.

So we will buy the vehicle, but only use it for those few and far between longer trips, or when weather makes bicycle travel more than difficult. By that, I don't mean that winter is a problem. In fact, with properly studded tires, winter riding can be easier than in the summer. It's a matter of will power.

The next few posts will explore some more of my thoughts, and things I have found in researching some of the options. There is a lot of information out there, many good reasons for doing something like this. The ecological reasons. The health reasons (a recent report states that riding a bike to work rather than driving will reduce your risk of heart attack by a factor of 5). The fincancial reasons (just in case you havn't noticed recent prices for fuels). The mental reasons. The social reasons.

Anyhow, enough for now, there will be more to follow.