On a Bike!

by Ben N on August 9, 2016


Recently, we’ve had some nice weather AND I’ve had a little time available.

This Saturday, my wife said she was going to have brunch with friends, and wanted to confirm that I could watch our 5-year-old girl that morning. I double-checked the calendar and said that I could.

Well, I’ve also been doing some reading lately, including the excellent blog, Mr. Money Mustache. It’s a financial independence blog, but also features great advice about punching yourself in the face for being lazy and flabby! Why take an expensive car when you can have the fun and free exercise of a bike?! The point isn’t just to save money, but also to MAXIMIZE LIFE through experience and good works.

And I have to agree. While I LOVE electric cars, the weather was nice and there was certainly NO reason to take a car. My plan was to take the Little Girl to our local Farmer’s Market and to the park. That’s only about 2 miles away.

So, I pulled out my bike, a beat-up old Murray 6-Speed that I’ve barely ridden this summer, and started pumping air into the tires…. by hand. (My air compressor is at my brother-in-laws, still sitting there from working on the Star Trek Doors…) I did find however that the tiny hand pump I have actually works pretty well. That and it doesn’t need any electricity, it’s extremely portable, and MUCH quieter than the air compressor. (On the other hand, it won’t run air-powered tools. Well, the right tool for the right job!)

The next challenge to overcome was the fact that I do NOT have a two person bicycle, nor a bike trailer, nor a bolt-on child’s seat. A while back, we had a bike cargo trailer I modified, but that has since been dismantled and the parts used for other things.

One thing I LOVE about my bicycle is the wire rear panniers. The pair of wire cargo baskets spans the back of the bike, so that there’s also sort of a “cargo fender” on which to strap things down. I had a hunter’s bean-bag seat and set that right on top of the rear fender. Everything looked about right for the Little Girl to sit comfortably on the bean bag and have her feet sit right down in the baskets.

We gave it a try. With the bike up on its center kick-stand, I lifted her onto the back of the bike and confirmed that she fit, felt safe, and comfortable. She confirmed that she did.

With that, I kicked up the stand, hopped on the bike, and we were off. The Little Girl hugged me from behind, just like the passenger on a motorcycle would.

Riding to the Farmer’s Market made me feel out of shape. I do tend to go for walks for exercise, but a bike uses different muscles, and runs at a different pace. Oh well, riding the bike is good exercise, and the only way to GET IN SHAPE is simply to do it!

IMG_0620Once we were at the Farmer’s Market, we parked the bike, and started looking around to see what was in season and what we could get a good price on. (Typically those two things are the same!)

We ended up getting a giant cauliflower, a big bunch of beats, and a pile of eggplant, spreading our wealth around by buying from three different stands. There was plenty of room in my cargo baskets for the goods, and the doubled-up center stand holds the bike straight up and down. A regular kick stand would let a bike tip right over with this much produce loaded in it.

IMG_0291We loaded ourselves onto the bike and headed off the the local park, which has some AMAZING playground equipment – not just slides, but all sorts of monkey-bars, climbing gear, and much more. Enough to keep any kid busy for hours. I monkeyed around on the bars a bit too while the Little Girl ran around and had fun.

Once she was finally ready to go, we headed back home. To do so, we had taken a slightly different route, which also made me realize there was one more thing we could do on the bike we could never do in the car – RIDE THROUGH THE TUNNEL! There’s a small pedestrian tunnel that runs UNDER a set of railroad tracks we would otherwise have to cross. It’s only open to pedestrians (and bikes) and it’s easy to forget that the tunnel is even there. In a car, you drive right past without even noticing it! I had a good line of sight, and saw no oncoming pedestrians, so we shot right through the tunnel at high speed!

Back home, we unloaded, put away the groceries, and stashed the bike in the garage. For dinner that night, I made Eggplant Parmesan from scratch for dinner. It was a lot of work, but turned out really good.

IMG_0644The Next Day, Sunday, the Little Girl and I went out canoeing with my Dad. We went for just a short trip in a local river, but we took the cedar strip canoe that my Dad built from scratch. Not a single other boater went past without shouting “Nice Boat!”, “BEAUTIFUL CANOE!!!”, or something of the same sentiment.

My Dad jus smiled a little and said. “Thank you.”

I wasn’t on a bike, but it was nice to think to myself that it was day two of “Don’t be lazy” DIY Human-Powered transportation.

Today, I was back to having a little time to myself. I still needed to get plenty done today, but much of it was errands, going to the bank and post-office, etc. So, I once again dusted off the bike and headed out.

IMG_0665I found that a plastic recycling bin happened to fit nicely INSIDE my wire pannier. It kept my hat, water bottle, library books, keys, and everything else from rattling around. Also, I could pull the whole bin out and carry everything into the house easily and at once.

I headed in to town, taking essentially the same route as for the Farmer’s Market a few days earlier. Right away, I noticed it was a little easier to pedal. Of course, this time I didn’t have the added body weight of another small human riding right behind me, but it sure felt like it was easier to pedal JUST BECAUSE OF MY RIDE A FEW DAYS BEFORE! Does it take only ONE RIDE to get in shape? Heck no! But it really did seem easier. It’s encouraging to know that even a little practice starts to make a difference fast!

The other thing that I noticed was how I was a more aggressive rider! (In a good way!) I think there’s several reasons for that. For one, I didn’t have the girl on back. Standing on the pedals to pump hard tends to swing the bike back and forth – not great with someone hanging on back – and this time, I didn’t have that to deal with.

Also, I think all the motorcycling that I’ve done in the last year or so has made me a better bicyclist. On a motorcycle, you go the same speeds as a car, and you tend to “Get Out There!” and really be right in with the traffic. Having done more of that, I think I was just a lot more confident on a bicycle than I used to be. And in 25 MPH zones in the city, there’s no reason why a bike can’t just be right in there with the car traffic. Of course, I want to be visible and signal turns, but that’s what bright colored shirts and hand signals are for.

I also noticed what good road visibility I had on the bicycle, as compared to a car. I flew past a parked classic sports car. The top of the door was level with my knee! The head position of the driver would have been at about the height of my hip! I literally have a head-and-shoulders view better than the average car driver.
In fact, now that I think about it, my view was never blocked by any car traffic, even once, and at a stop, I’m basically standing at 6 feet tall.

Besides the actual view, the bike also has advantages over the car of no distracting radio, air conditioning controls, or lack of auditory information from having the windows rolled up.

So, I’m planning on doing some more biking – kicking my own ass to stop being lazy and actually DO something. I know we are called Human Beings, but I don’t think we are here to BE. We are here to DO.

‘Til Next Time, Stay Charged-Up!

PS: Later, one of the Little Girl’s friends told her that they saw her on the bike. The Little Girl admitted to me that she was “embarrassed to be seen in a basket…”. I asked if she still had fun, felt safe on it, etc. and she did – she just didn’t like being SEEN in a BASKET!
My next transportation project may just be a European-style cargo bike or some sort of bicycle that can carry another passenger, just NOT in a basket!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jay August 9, 2016 at 7:11 pm

I recommend a “tag a long” type child bike. (Which is the back half of a childs bike that mounts to a regular bike seatpost. It even allows them to assist with the pedaling, but they can’t brake).

The specific model I’ve had experience with is a “trail-a-bike” and it has a very easy to use quick connect/disconnect adapter, so that when you don’t have a passanger you can remove it from the main bike in less than a minute.

2 Dick Anderson August 14, 2016 at 3:06 pm

Liked the story Ben and tell your Dad nice canoe! Just spent the past few weeks rebuilding my Enertech 1800. After 15 years it needed it. Check out my blog if you want the details. Also I am trying to sell my 2001 Dodge Caravan that I converted to an EV $1990 OBO listed on Craigslist Madison. Maybe you know someone or can put the word out. I replaced it with a 2012 Mit also.

3 Morris Thomas August 15, 2016 at 8:12 am

I love you blog (ck it every day), so please keep it going!

Bikes are great for short trips local & to work if you can use public transport too. I need to get my bike fixed so I can start riding again too. I know your girl is young, but maybe you could get her started on her own bike! Start them young and they will continue with it through their life to pass it down to their kids.

Anyway, stick with it and keep blogging!


4 BenN August 15, 2016 at 9:48 am

Tag-Along style bikes are great. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking. I’ve even seen designs where a person can take an inexpensive second-hand bike and modify it to be a tag-along. I’d like to try something like that.

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