Monthly Archives: June 2012

More bicycles in Beijing

Matt is in China, and that can only mean it’s time for another update of bicycles in Beijing. Last time Matt went to the tourist bicycle center of Beijing and caught some righteous triple tandems. This trip’s theme is practical bicycles spotted on the road. These seem to involve two things: electric assists and passengers.

Bicycle, moving toward a scooter aesthetic

There is a wide range of electric bicycles, and while some of them are primarily for occasional assistance up the hills, in Beijing the bicycle part seems like the afterthought. This bike has pedals, but it’s moving more toward a scooter aesthetic. And those giant batteries have to be sealed lead acid, an environmental disaster.

Definitely more like a scooter than a bicycle

Going even further along the spectrum is this bike, which looks more like a moped than a bike, although those pedals do seem to turn, I presume for legal reasons. But credit where it’s due: this bike, like the other, can carry a passenger and has a dedicated front basket. These are not the overpowered machines lacking space for even a briefcase that litter San Francisco sidewalks. They’re meant to haul, not to look cute, and I’m guessing they’re a lot cheaper than the Vespas parked next door to us.

Carrying older kids on the bike is okay

And in Beijing, evidently, it’s normal to carry even older kids on the back of the bike. I sometimes regret that our kids will be on our bikes for so long, which reflects the traffic and hills of San Francisco, but I’m beginning to think that this is inevitable for people living in a city that doesn’t have extensive bicycle infrastructure (e.g. Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Tokyo). Sure, it would be better if our kids had more independence, but you have to work with what you’ve got.

Riding with a baby in traffic

These moms make me think that the fears of riding in traffic are relative. I’ve gotten more confident riding in city traffic here, but riding in Beijing would probably give me a heart attack. And parents from smaller cities would probably have heart attacks here. We get used to the circumstances around us. It’s not like kids have never died in cars.

Pedaling a paddleboat is a kind of pedaling.

Matt still has yet to ride a bicycle in Beijing. But at least this time he’s pedaling.

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Filed under electric assist, family biking, traffic, travel

SF Pride: another year, another disaster

Breezer and trailer-bike: seemed like a good idea, but it didn’t work out that way.

We have struggled with getting to the SF Pride Parade for years. One year we stupidly tried to drive there: it was a disaster. Last year we tried to take Muni instead: it was also a disaster. The trains are packed, and the route is a long way for kids to stand, and we couldn’t get a return train, so we ended up carrying the kids through the downtown crowds to find an alternate way home. This year I thought I had it figured out: we were going to ride the bike. We were meeting my in-laws downtown: they would watch my daughter while my son and I were in Japanese class, then we’d all walk over post-Dykes on Bikes to watch the parade (the noise of Dykes on Bikes freaks the kids out, and I’m not much of a fan of it either).

With a week’s worth of clothes and books to haul for my son, and his newfound desire to ride, the obvious choice for the trip was the Breezer with Bobike Maxi plus trailer-bike. I loaded up the front basket with my son’s stuff, piled on the kids, and within a block of home, realized that the tires needed a lot more air than they had to handle that kind of load. We turned around and went back. While I was getting the pump, the bike fell over. I’m not sure whether to blame the wheel stabilizer (which isn’t that stable even with the basket unloaded) or the kids for this one, but it turned out to be no ordinary fall.

By the time we hit the Panhandle, the Breezer was making a buzzing noise every time the wheels turned. When we investigated it appeared to be a bent fender. So I tried to whack it back into place with moderate success and we continued on. Everything seemed okay until we got to the Tenderloin, when the gears started grinding and the chain fell off. I don’t enjoy putting the kids on the sidewalk to watch drug deals while I futz with a bike, but I didn’t have a lot of options. Mother of the year! When I got the chain back on, I realized that the damage must have been much more severe than I’d realized—the gears kept grinding and it was hard to shift. But we had little choice at that point: the buses we passed had broken down, and we’d hit the street closures by that point anyway, so there was no other alternative.

Yet another electric bicycle spotted at Golden Gate Park: I wish I’d had one on Nob Hill.

We finally got to Japanese class (late) and afterward, were all so exhausted that we skipped the parade and went out to lunch. I thought about trying to get home another way, but there were no cabs available around the parade route and transit was much too packed to allow us to board with a bike and a trailer-bike (maybe not even without them). I figured that if I’d made it there I could ride home.

My in-laws told me the parade was now over, so I assumed we could ride down Market Street on the way home, which is mostly flat, sparing my gears. This turned out to be totally not true; the parade just keeps going. So I headed up Nob Hill. About halfway to the top the chain fell off. And fell off. And fell off. I ended up walking up the rest of the hill and back down, figuring that I could manage the downhill Polk Street bike lane. But by the time I got there, the rear wheel had completely seized up. I was in the middle of the Tenderloin with a broken bike and a preschooler who desperately wanted a nap. I needed a cab.

This was a bike-friendly cab: it had the new “don’t door the bicycles” window sticker.

Hailing a cab in the Tenderloin is a challenge under the best of circumstances. Hailing a cab in the Tenderloin during the Pride Parade was harder: every cab that passed was already carrying a fare. I also wanted an SUV cab big enough to haul the Breezer and trailer-bike if possible, because leaving them in the Tenderloin would mean that I’d probably never see them again. Two very nice older gentlemen who’d been hanging out on a stoop helped me, but it still took almost a half hour. I have never been happier to see a car than when an empty SUV cab finally stopped for us. The driver helped us load the bikes and agreed to ignore the fact that my daughter was going to have to ride without a car seat. I have never given anyone a bigger tip. “You’re a long way from home,” he said. “It’s not that far with a working bike,” I said, “But right now, it definitely is.”

I still have no idea what happened to the Breezer (I have an appointment at the bike shop tomorrow). My guess is that whatever it is will be expensive. I am trying not to think about that right now. Sunday made my brush with road rage last week feel like meandering through Golden Gate Park during a street closure. I have never been more miserable or exhausted on a bike ride. And I can’t help feeling disappointed by the Breezer. I worry that our needs for a bike (the ability to haul up to two kids plus cargo) are beyond its capabilities. It’s really a commuter bike and not a family bike.

This man was handing out leftover Pride parade balloons to all the kids. Very exciting!

I almost couldn’t bring myself leave home after all of that, but we’d agreed to meet our Big Dummy-riding friends from school for Sunday Skate in the late afternoon.  Once we got there, we had a great time. My daughter loves their youngest daughter, and we ended up riding to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The only downside of the whole evening was that everyone else was out on bikes as well, so the nearest parking was a half-block away. Oh, the humanity.

I sometimes think that the number of bikes I have now is a bit excessive but I’m reconsidering.  If I didn’t have another bike, I wouldn’t have even left the house that afternoon, let alone by bike, and I was glad that I did.

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Filed under Breezer, cargo, family biking, San Francisco, traffic, trailer-bike

Riding to the Bicycle Music Festival

The Bicycle Music Festival at Log Cabin Meadow

On Saturday, Matt headed off to China for work again. Saturday was also the last day I spent with my son before his departure for grandma (and grandpa) camp in Berkeley. After three weeks at wheelkids, what he wanted to do with the day was show off his new bike riding skills. Okay by me! So after the morning rush of seeing Matt off, and my daughter’s afternoon nap, we rode down to Golden Gate Park for the Bicycle Music Festival.

Pedal!

The Bicycle Music Festival has amplified music, but it’s all bicycle-powered. I had hoped that kids would have the opportunity to ride the generator-bikes, but they all seemed custom, and sized only for adults. And incidentally, I have never seen so many electric assist bicycles in one place in my life. If they’re electric-assist bicycles, is the festival really human-powered? Certainly I can’t imagine any other way to manage the musical parade across town, but it’s an interesting philosophical question.

Is it a picnic or a bicycle festival? Even hundreds of bicycles are unobtrusive.

Pretty much everyone came to the Bicycle Music Festival by bicycle, and brought them onto the Log Cabin Meadow with them. And yet, although the numbers of bicycles were visually impressive, it looked nothing like its closest automobile equivalent, which to me would be tailgating. A group of people with an equal number of bicycles looks like a big picnic. A group of people with an equal number of cars looks like a parking lot full of cars.

Haven’t we seen you somewhere before?

These days we are starting to recognize some of our neighborhood bikes and we’re in that odd place where we nod to acquaintances when we recognize their bikes, although we don’t really know them. It’s like that weird relationship you end up having with other dog owners at the dog park or other parents at the children’s playground.

Riding in the JFK bike lane (the portion open to cars)

It turned out that the actual music at the Bicycle Music Festival was not that attractive to kids, or at least it wasn’t at the time we came. My son could not have less interest in spoken word/rap, even if it was ostensibly about bicycles. Instead he rode around for a while through the field, winding around other bicycles in a self-guided obstacle course. I had no idea he’d picked up off-road riding at camp.

The kids did like this Mundo converted to sound stage. I wouldn’t ride it without an electric assist either.

He quickly grew tired of the festival and asked to ride around the park more. Now that it’s summer, most of JFK Drive is closed off to cars on both Saturday and Sunday, so no problem. We rode to the waterfall and back, and then headed home.

I was initially nervous about taking our son on actual streets to and from Golden Gate Park, but three weeks at wheelkids seems to have worked something close to a miracle. He now rides a straight line, stops at stop signs before the line without falling over, uses hand signals, and watches oncoming traffic. He’s not perfect (he’s six!) but I was impressed.  On hills he stands to get leverage, and although he couldn’t make it home without walking—it’s a single-speed bicycle—he rode a good portion of it. And he got back on the bike for the last stretch near home. He’s not ready for the traffic and hills on the route to school, but he’s closer than I would have hoped. I give full props to wheelkids for this, because we came nowhere near teaching him this stuff on our own. And he loved it.

Check it out! Stopped at a stop sign all by himself!

When we got home, we headed out for sushi and noodles at our neighborhood joint. And who showed up but Adrienne from Change Your Life, Ride A Bike! It was great to meet her; reading her stories about riding with her youngest in San Francisco is part of what gave us the confidence to try riding with our kids in the city. Big city, small world.

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Filed under destinations, electric assist, family biking, rides, San Francisco, Yuba Mundo

Amsterdamized bike lanes

Bike lane markers: they interest me, and probably only me. I still have no idea why sharrow bicycles have no riders (free bicycles!) and bike lane bicycles have riders (oppressed bicycles!) The whole business gives new meaning to the term “vehicular cycling.”

Found it! This no-helmet bike lane marker is in Golden Gate Park.

When I last went out photographing bike lane markers I could only find the ones with helmets, despite the fact that the whole endeavor was cued by Family Ride‘s mention of Seattle’s only without-helmets bike lane marker, which she refers to as Amsterdamize. I had a recollection there were some in San Francisco but couldn’t remember where. But success! I recently found some on the Music Concourse at Golden Gate Park. Then I saw more of them in the Presidio. Bike lane markers without helmets are apparently confined to parks in San Francisco. I guess the city only feels the need to encourage helmet use on gritty streets. Is this the reason some people carry helmets rather than wearing them?

I still think that the bike lane markers showing riders wearing “helmets” should actually look like riders wearing helmets rather than riders who happened to find frisbees stuck on top of their heads. But maybe that’s just me.

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Filed under commuting, San Francisco, traffic

Road rage redux (now with less road rage)

After my Thursday morning commute I had pretty mixed feelings about heading out again to pick up my son from bike camp. It is a little grueling no matter what because for that pickup I have to head straight uphill for several blocks to get over to the Presidio. But I figured it couldn’t be too bad, because half the route is in a separated bike lane along the Marina. And I was right: things got better.

Funny, you don’t look 75 years old.

I like riding along the Marina, which has a wide, flat multi-use path to the side of the main road along the water. There are always lots of tourists heading to and from the Golden Gate Bridge, and I love seeing their goofy smiles as they stare over to the bridge and to Alcatraz Island and watch the ferries pass by. They look like I feel. And en route to Fort Mason I can see the city unwinding down the hills like a long white skirt. People sometimes say San Francisco looks like a young girl. You can almost see it smiling.

Yes, you can carry a six-year-old on a Brompton (assuming you don’t mind looking goofy, but let’s face it, you already look goofy)

There was still a surprising amount of car hostility on the road, although nothing like the morning, but if no one is honking I find that pretty easy to ignore. And once my son is on board the Brompton most people are so overcome by disbelief that it is apparently hard to stay hostile. The wheelkids staff managed to get a photo of me with my son on the IT Chair; although he used to be too nervous to ride it, he has developed a new fearlessness about bicycles and wants to ride every bike he sees.

We rode through the flats for a while and then hitched a ride on Muni before the biggest hill. I’m not sure I could get up it with him as a passenger, and he was so exhausted after a long day’s ride that he nearly passed out anyway.

I’m glad I got back on the bike.

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Filed under Brompton, commuting, family biking, Muni, San Francisco

Road rage

Usually my commute to work is a quiet and unremarkable affair. Either something happened while I was in Atlanta or this is National Road Rage Day, because I have never had a commute like the one I had today before. At every stop sign I stopped only to be passed by a speeding car that barely slowed, driver honking frantically, as they spun directly in front of me to make a right or left turn. The fact that I caught up at the next stop sign/stop light without breaking a sweat or even trying hard only served to further enrage them. But the fact that bicycles are faster than cars in traffic is not news in San Francisco.

At one stop sign a scooter rider passed me on the right to jump in front of me in queue as I was making a left turn. When I caught up to her at the next stop light, she had moved (illegally) into the bike lane to jump the queue of cars at the light. I rode up to her and said, “It’s very rude to go around me on the right just to jump the line.” She looked shocked that I had pierced her bubble and ran the red light to get away from me. On the bright side, she stopped poaching the bike lane. Instead she swerved into oncoming traffic to get ahead of cars.

As my dissertation adviser used to say, “These people eventually fall of their own weight.”

On the last leg to work, which is on a quiet residential street, I was puttering away up the hill when I heard frantic honking behind me and a revving engine. So I stopped and looked. “What?” I asked. Directly behind me a woman in a giant SUV appeared to be screaming curses (soundproofing: it works both ways) and waving me toward the sidewalk. “I’M SUPPOSED TO TAKE THE LANE,” I said loudly and slowly. Continuing to honk, she swerved in a screech around me and drove off… to the stop sign 100 feet ahead (which she ignored, granted). San Francisco residents will not be surprised that two small children were sitting in the back seat of her SUV.

A pedestrian on the sidewalk stopped dead in disbelief. “You were right!” he yelled to me. “F#@% that lady!”

I’ve never seriously considered a helmet cam until today. If I had had one, I wouldn’t be kicking myself now that I didn’t get photos of all these people’s license plates. None of them should be behind the wheel of a car.

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Filed under commuting, San Francisco, traffic

Kids on bike racks: jump in the pool!

This has become a familiar sight.

I don’t remember when I noticed my kids liked climbing on bike racks. I assumed at first it was just my kids, until I started seeing photos of other peoples’ kids also climbing on bike racks. What is it with kids and bike racks?

The attraction is so strong that we have seriously considered installing a bike rack in our basement. It would make it easy to lock the bikes but the thought of drilling into concrete is pretty unappealing. And of course our basement floods, so it could end up looking a little gross.

When I commented on one of A Simple Six’s photos of her kids climbing on a bike rack, she suggested I create a Flickr pool, and I thought, yeah, right. What I know about Flickr could be written in crayon on the rim of a shot glass, to quote David Foster Wallace. But in the spirit of lifelong learning I recently went to Flickr and figured out how to create a “Kids on bike racks” group pool. Do you have a picture of kids treating a bike rack like a jungle gym? Or a ballet bar? Or a tunnel? If so, I’d love to see it.

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Filed under family biking

Destinations: Redwood Regional Park Girls’ Camp

At the entrance to Redwood Regional Park Girls’ Camp

A week ago we headed to Redwood Regional Park with a group of families from our son’s school on a camping trip. I had ambitions, initially, of trying to cargo bike into the campsite. Anyone who knows anything about the Oakland hills is now laughing.

The trip to Redwood goes up steep hills on roads with names like “Snake” which are meant to evoke the serpentine path they follow up a hill so steep that attempting to scale it even in a motorized vehicle involves a nauseating number of switchbacks. Redwood Regional Park’s gates are at the ridge, and from there the way in is basically straight downhill in the other direction. The paths down into the park, although portions can be ridden or driven, are not only extremely steep but deeply rutted and narrow. So yeah, we drove and walked in.

Tents up: time to explore them

Girls’ Camp is about a half-mile from the Skyline Gate, straight downhill. If you reserve the campsite, you get a code to open the padlock to the Stream Trail entrance. Only two cars are allowed to park overnight at the site, but by shuttling back and forth all of the families we camped with were able to portage down, empty out their gear, and then head back up to park at Skyline Gate overnight (you also get overnight parking passes).

Parking was near the bathroom at the far end

The camp site itself can hold up to 75 people, and with 30 or so we were nowhere near this limit. Girls’ Camp has a bathroom and cold running water, as well as tables, benches, and grills. Next to the firepit at the far end there is a shelter that the kids used as a stage and a place to run around.  This site is in the middle of a well-traveled trail, but by evening anyone not camping is gone, and we had the park to ourselves. The site itself is beautiful, and Oakland parks are almost completely free of bugs other than yellow jackets (which stung two kids over the weekend, but I think this is atypical).

Some kind of game involving balls was played, but let’s not get hung up on the details

We hadn’t been camping with our two kids before and this was a great introduction. They spent the first few hours checking out all of the tents and spotting bunnies in the woods. The tombstone family had brought a badminton/volleyball net and for much of our stay the older boys played these two games simultaneously.

For some reason it was extremely important that we carry this stick around

One of our friends is the Martha Stewart of family camping and had stopped at the Civic Center farmers’ market, where she had picked up, among other things, four dozen free-range organic eggs for $12. I had always shunned the Civic Center market because of its historic live-chicken-slaughtering reputation, but apparently the city cracked down on that and now the Heart of the City market is the place to shop. At any rate we all ate well. The first night the kids spent hours making s’mores which in the case of our kids may well have been the peak experience of their lives to date.

We had planned to stay two nights, but learned on the first night that our daughter is still too young for overnight camping. For two hours straight after bedtime she was so amped up she was yelling randomly, “I have a bike! I saw a bee! Stop bothering me! I need to sleep! Did you see the bunny! I saw a bee! Stop bothering me!” Of course she was up at the crack of dawn. Our only consolation was that the other three year old held his two-hour screaming fest at midnight, making us only the second-most obnoxious family at Girls’ Camp.

Walking along the Stream Trail

So on the second day we hiked the Stream Trail out and back, which was beautiful. We returned to head further into the park to the Roberts swimming pool, and deciding to quit while we were ahead, packed up after dinner and headed home. Both kids slept like the dead in the house, thankfully, although our son turned up in our bed and did his level best to shove both of us out of it. We still had a great time.

It is, evidently possible to ride bikes in Redwood, although not to ride them the way we do. One family had brought mountain bikes and took a side trip; mom drove them uphill to the start of the trail and then drove downhill to wait for them at the end. There is so much gender politics wrapped up in that story I can’t hope to unpack it all. But it struck me as the mirror image of much of bike commuting in the United States. Mom is the sag wagon. If people couldn’t rely on that free ride, how different would bicycling be?

Lots of families looking for shade

Sometime, when our kids are older and our daughter might sleep through the night, we will try camping again. Although Redwood is beautiful, another possibility was the destination of another family in our group the next week: Angel Island. The only way onto Angel Island is by ferry, and only walkers and cyclists can ride the ferry.  That would be a different kind of trip, but we had such a good time, we’d like to try it again once sleep is a real possibility.

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Filed under family biking, San Francisco

Getting in the game

The Exploratorium offers a chance to make a robot ride a bike. Why not people?

Something I hear more often than I expected is other bike riders saying they’re not really advocates for cycling. They claim that their advocacy is just to be out riding. I totally support people riding bikes, but it surprises me that so many people don’t want to advocate for cycling. The reasons people for not advocating for something they love strike me as not much different that the reasons people give for driving instead of riding their bikes. It’s not that it’s particularly hard to do either, although of course it’s easier to do the same things that we’ve always done. Weekend leisure riders who drive a car to work every day are definitely making a contribution by making riding bicycles look normal, and everyday bike commuters who avoid advocacy are doing the same, but I’ve always felt that if it’s something I love–and I do love riding my bicycle–why would I stop there?

It would take too much time, I don’t have the right bike, there are no showers at my office, there are hills, I drive a Prius instead.

It would take too much time, I don’t know what to say, I don’t know what I’m doing, it’s too hard, I ride my bike a lot instead.

Car-free Presidio: more like this, please.

Are they reasons or are they excuses? I’m not sure I’m one to judge, but I’m trying to do more. I figure that if I have the time to write a tweet I have the time to request a bike rack using the city’s online request form (my link is San Francisc0-specific, but Google pops up similar links for dozens of cities). If I have the time to write an email, let alone a blog post, I have the time to write a letter to the mayor and the head of Muni supporting the proposed separated Fell-Oak bike lanes. If I have the money to buy a new bike bell (or a new bike, cough cough), I have enough money to join the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and contribute to occasional fundraising drives. If I have the time to ask questions at the bike shop about my bike, I have the time to ask my credit union whether they could start making loans to get other people on bikes.

So I do all of these things, and occasionally things change for the better, and evidently this makes me an advocate. I am not in the league of A Simple Six, who is writing city bike plans and organizing community meetings and meeting with city officials one-on-one, or Family Ride and Tiny Helmets, who are starring in the local films and television news (and how cool is all of that?), but I once attended a hearing. Just like riding, I’m figuring it out as I go along. And although it’s not the same, I think that in its own way it’s just as rewarding as riding a bike.

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Filed under advocacy, commuting, family biking, San Francisco

Trailer-bike: Roland add+bike

Breezer Uptown 8 and Bobike Maxi and Roland add+bike: Three countries on one bike (four if you count the Japanese front rack)

There’s a new bicycle accessory in the house. In response to my son’s requests for an opportunity to pedal, we got a trailer-bike. Technically he’s old enough to ride by himself, but given the traffic and hills around San Francisco, none of us felt ready for that.

Although we saw the promise of trailer-bikes early-on, we had difficulty finding one we liked. The ones that mounted to the stem of the adult’s bike (Adams Trail-a-Bike, Weehoo) were unstable in both our personal experience and in other parents’ more harrowing experiences. And we couldn’t mount a rear child seat over one (ditto for the Trail-Gator). The Burley Piccolo mounts solidly to a custom rack, but the knob-mount is huge and meant that again we couldn’t mount a child seat over one—or for that matter, use the top of the rack. The FollowMe tandem looked more promising, but reviewers noted it was extremely heavy even without the bike attached, making it tough to go up hills—not that it mattered, as word from the only US distributor of the FollowMe tandem, Clever Cycles (Portland), was that they were out of stock and would be for the foreseeable future.

This is the Roland add+bike’s attachment to the rear rack

I don’t remember where I heard about the Roland add+bike, but when I did I noticed two things right away: first, it mounted to the rack, like the Piccolo, which made it more stable. Second, the mounting point was nearly flat and sat at the end of the rack, making it possible to mount a child seat for our daughter over it and to use the entire rack, like the FollowMe. It cost a little less, in US dollars, than a Piccolo. The downside, and this was a big downside, was that it was only sold in Germany.

But fortune smiled. Ever since high school I have had a good friend in Munich, Oli. We were, by coincidence, exchange students in each others’ high schools. One month after I learned about the Roland, Oli wrote to say he was visiting San Francisco to complete an audit, and would we like to meet while he was in town? I asked him if wanted to stay with us and if he’d heard of the Roland. He had. He said he’d love to stay with us, as his company was blanching at the cost of hotel rooms in San Francisco, and in return he’d be delighted to bring us a Roland add+bike from Munich as one of his checked bags. Win-win!

Our kids were thrilled to have someone so tall to carry them around.

Oli, as it happens, loves bikes as much as we do. He and his wife imported their own Bakfiets from the Netherlands to Munich for commuting with their three daughters. “We call it… the FERRARI!” Within a week, he’d found us a used Roland add+bike and its custom rack on German eBay for the unbelievable price of 77 Euros. It was a single speed model. (The Roland also comes in 3-speed and 7-speed models, both of which have internally geared hubs! On a trailer-bike!) But for that kind of savings we could live without gears. Oli said that used Rolands are cheap in Germany now because the fenders and chain guards are made of plastic, and everyone is concerned about potential BPA exposure. I was so thrilled that the trailer-bike came with fenders and a chain guard—totally non-standard in the US—that I was willing to tell our kids not to lick the parts. Also: unbeatable value!

Up, up, and away! Matt needed the car to catch up to us on this hill.

The Roland rack is the custom rear rack we fitted on the Breezer when upgrading a half-dozen other things. Our bike shop complained that this was, ultimately, not a particularly easy job. But it totally worked. When we picked up the Breezer, we brought the Roland with us and built a giant articulated bike right there on the sidewalk: Breezer+Bobike Maxi+Roland. After the bike shop adjusted the handlebars to our son’s height, we took it for a spin. It was quite a sight. Everyone ran out of the shop to watch.

This rod drops into a metal through-hole in the rear rack. The divot in the rod is for a smaller, sprung rod that is mounted horizontally below the rack itself, and which prevents the attachment rod from bouncing out on bumps.

The Roland is by far the nicest trailer-bike I have ever seen, and it boggles my mind that no one is importing it. The custom rack is very heavy-duty, and at the rear there is a metal through-hole welded to the rack itself. A rod points down from the latch-point of the trailer bike, and slips into the through-hole. It locks into place where a second rod springs into a divot on the side of the attachment rod to secure it. Although the weight of the trailer-bike alone would probably hold everything in position, the extra attachment-point makes it even more secure. (This is all very hard to explain in words; check out the pictures for details.) Once in place the trailer-bike can rotate through turns because the rod turns inside the through-hole.

Matt tried out riding the Breezer with the Roland add+bike–this is the end of the Wiggle (the unpleasant part).

As mentioned, the Roland is pretty plush by American standards. A chain guard and fender are standard. There are lots of accessories available, including a kid-sized rear rack for panniers, not to mention a cargo kickstand for the trailer-bike itself, as well as extra metal mounts—as this part is small and cheap to ship overseas, we are already thinking of ordering one and drilling a hole into the Kona MinUte’s deck for it. Why not? Our son loves this trailer-bike. He is thrilled to be pedaling without the stress of dealing with traffic, and with, let’s face it, with an adult power assist to get him up the hills.

Like any trailer-bike, the Roland adds extra weight, and this is not necessarily insignificant. Being able to carry two kids and two panniers plus whatever I can stuff in the new front basket means the Breezer can now really haul, and this is fantastically practical. However with the Bobike Maxi and my daughter on the back, in addition to my son on the Roland, getting up real hills is hard work even with a stoker, although it’s no problem where it’s flat. Even with the extra work, this is a welcome additional option for carrying two kids on one bike, especially if they’re squabbling, which can be a problem when they’re sharing the deck on the Kona MinUte. (That can be a problem on any longtail bike; it isn’t a MinUte-specific concern.)

So overall: we adore the Roland. I would suggest that anyone who is interested in a trailer-bike and who has access to a willing German get one. Apparently they’re cheap right now on German eBay. But I realize this isn’t the most helpful suggestion. It’s like suggesting that someone take their preschooler to school on an authentic Japanese mamachari. It is wildly unlikely that anyone who doesn’t have my recent phenomenal bicycle luck could find either one. At the same time, given the reaction I’ve gotten to both, it astonishes me that there are not already dozens of entrepreneurs rushing to import them.

Let’s ride!

Last but not least, the Roland has done something I didn’t think was possible. It has made my Breezer look cool. I have accepted that the Breezer is the least visibly impressive of all our bicycles; it has been compared to a vacuum cleaner, and this was not intended as a compliment. Yet I appreciate its practicality, and I ride it more than any of our other bicycles. For the first time ever, though, when I was riding the Breezer loaded up with a rear child seat and a trailer-bike in my own personal parade, people shouted “Cool bike!” as we rode by. And it was very sweet to have our most underrated bike finally get the appreciation it deserved.

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Filed under Bobike, Breezer, family biking, trailer-bike