Tag Archives: wheelkids

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.


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.


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

Summer time and a new commute

The day-glo orange t-shirt is issued to every wheelkids camper.

Now that school is out, our son will be spending most of June at wheelkids bike camp, learning to start, stop and with any luck, to scale some of San Francisco’s notorious topography. He had a slight edge over some other kids his age going into camp, having never used training wheels, so there were no bad habits to break. However I think I have mentioned before that his braking strategy to date has been to point the bike at one of us and yell, “Grab my bike! I need to stop!”

That’s fine at the park, but let’s draw the curtain of charity over what it was like at stop signs. The hills around our place were also an issue. Anyway, from the perspective of improved braking technique, especially on hills, so far so good. He is having a great time, and on the ride home from camp yesterday, pointed out hills he’d ridden up and down by himself, some of which were pretty respectable. Yesterday was his first ride on the Brompton IT Chair. He’s really too tall for it, but is now confident enough to climb aboard. Anyway it is very fun to have a conversation with a tall kid in an IT Chair, sort of like sitting in the corner of a coffee shop. A moving coffee shop.

One of the Presidio hills we face: Note the no bicycles sign. Go up if you can, but it’s too steep to ride down.

The only downside of wheelkids, from our perspective, was that it is in Fort Mason Center, on the northern edge of the city, nowhere near our usual commute routes. Not to mention there is that huge unavoidable hill in the Presidio between here and there. In addition, there was the issue of how to get our son’s bike to camp on the first day. I had hoped to attach it to the Brompton with the Trail-Gator we scored on craigslist, ride over with him, and drop off both kid and bike. But ultimately we were unable to get the bracket on. The Trail-Gator also wouldn’t fit over the MinUte‘s long rear deck. The Breezer seat post was blocked by rear child seats and their attachments. How could this be impossible? Late Sunday night we gave up. We drove our son to bike camp on Monday morning. Oh, the irony. It is a hellish commute by car in the morning, with unbearable traffic, and it consumed over 45 minutes. By comparison the bike ride takes about 35-40 minutes and goes through two nationally renowned parks. Driving was The Suck.

Heading out to wheelkids and the Financial District on the Kona MinUte. Note Matt is wearing dress pants for this commute; he is so hardcore that he does this route perspiration-free.

Evidently it is standard practice to drive kids to bike camp, however. Our son was picked up by his sitter and they rode the bus home on Monday, so we didn’t realize until Tuesday morning that as is SOP, the camp had kept his helmet along with his bike. After trying on other family members’ helmets for him, none of which fit, Matt had to drive him to camp again. Maybe those anti-helmet advocates have a point.

So Wednesday was the first day that any of us rode to bike camp. Matt took him on the MinUte because the trip from there to his office is relatively flat, and the camp is vaguely en route, comparatively speaking. As usual, although it sometimes takes longer than we anticipated to get everything working, the bike commute ended up being better than I’d dared to hope.

It’s hard to get a good shot of the Kona MinUte on the move.

Matt’s update: “BTW, the ride this morning was great — though one look at the Arguello hill and I wimped out.  I took Clay up to Presidio, which is a much milder slope up over Presidio Heights.  The trip from Ft. Mason to the office was a breeze.  Whole thing was ~1 hour, not including the 10 min stop at wheelkids.  Scenery is pretty unbeatable the whole way — water and bridge views everywhere along the Marina and Embarcadero.”

Back in the game!

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Filed under commuting, family biking, San Francisco, traffic