Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Best Ride Ever

Last fall Bug decided that going on a bike ride meant "me on me bike, daddy on daddy bike." The trailer was no longer a first class citizen. Family bike rides became a little more difficult. Bug insisted on using her coaster bike. We still brought the trailer along in case she got tired, but getting her in it was a struggle.
I started looking at trailer bikes for those longer family rides. After a bunch of research, I decided that the Burley trailer bikes were the best. They were a little more expensive, but the hook up seemed a lot more secure. I liked the way it hooked up the bike like a fifth wheel. The seat hitches seemed flimsy in comparison.
All of this was purely theoretical. When I tried to buy one, the sales guys (they were all guys) told me that Bug wasn't tall enough. Trailer bikes are 20" bikes. There are not alot of good solutions for kids between four and five. They out grow the trailer, but don't quite grow into a trailer bike. They also don't have the stamina to do long rides on their own.
A few weekends back we met a family that had one of the Burley trailer bikes and loved it. Their boy was the same height as Bug, so we figured she had to be tall enough for it. Still it was a big money commitment, so we didn't rush out to buy it. It could wait until later in the summer when the opportunities for long bike rides was greater. Waiting also gave Bug more time to get used to riding her two wheel peddle bike. She has the balance part down and the peddle part down, but she hasn't quite put it all together yet.
The following week, I was sitting around and H said I should go to the bike store.... I bought the Piccolo which has gears. I know that at this stage the gears are superfluous, but over time they may prove to be useful. Bug and I were thrilled.
The bike shop put the required rack on my bike and showed me how to hook it to the rack. The attachment is like a 5th wheel on a pick-up truck. It vertically mounts to a heavy-duty rack and has a single pivot joint. The attachment has a level of redundancy. First is a quick release latch that provides a basic connection between the trailer and the rack. To fully attach the trailer, you screw the trailer into the rack. It is a sturdy connection.
I got it home and adjusted it to fit Bug. There are two adjustment points: the seat goes up and down and the handle bars slide up and down the tube. The seat adjustment has a quick release and the handle bars are hex bolts. It was pretty easy to do. It took a few minutes to get it adjusted and for us to get on the road.
Before heading out we had the safety talk. Bug must keep her hands on the handle bars, her bum on the seat, and her feet on the peddles. If she wants to stop, she needs to tell me and wait until I tell her it is OK to put her feet down. We are a team. Daddy is the pilot; Bug is the co-pilot.
We started out slow by doing a few short rides up and down our street. Then we branched out to a trip around the block. Bug did a great job and was utterly thrilled. She squealed with glee almost the entire time.
For a true test, the family went down to the Minuteman Trail for a Sunday afternoon ice cream run. From the parking lot we use to Lexington Center is about three miles. It was a good distance for a road test. Pulling the trailer bike is different than pulling the Chariot trailer. The trailer bike is more active. I can feel when Bug moves around and when she peddles. If she leans, it can be a little destabilizing. When she peddles it is a nice boost. The boost is particularly nice on hills.
Since getting the trailer, Bug and I have expanded our horizons. We have taken two trips from our house to the library. It is about five miles each way and involves some back roads. Taking the trailer bike on the road is a little nerve wracking because you never know what the cars are going to do, but I feel more comfortable with the trailer bike than I would have with the Chariot trailer. Bug is positioned where a car would expect a bike rider and she can see around better. Still I would not take it on a anything other than a quiet back road.
Bug loves the rides. She sings and laughs most of the way there and back. I love the rides too. I get a little bit of exercise and get to spend time with my daughter. I also get a chance to teach her some road safety first hand without worrying about her doing something too impulsive.
It is an expensive toy. The Burley version is about $100 more expensive than other models. I think it is worth it. The interface is substantially more solid. The addition of the gears also helps adjust the amount of assistance the child provides and gives them a chance to learn about shifting. Longer term, the Burley also has a conversion kit that turns the trailer into a regular bike.
Regardless of the money, it has been worth it for the sheer joy it has brought Bug. It gives us a fun, healthy way to spend time together outdoors. You cannot put a price on hearing your child happily singing "I love biking with Daddy. Playing with Daddy is great."

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Thatcher's Island

Could I have asked for a better day for my once a month paddle? The weather was perfect: sunny, warm, and a lite breeze. It was so nice that H and Bug tagged along to spend the day at the beach.
We launched from the scuba beach and headed north for a bit. Then we paddled out to the sea wall. It was so calm, we decided to head out to the dry salvages to look around. As we approached the salvages, TG spotted seals flopping into the water. We stopped approaching to give the seals some space. We were surrounded by a large pod of seals. They were fairly bold and quite large.
From the salvages we made a beeline to Thatcher's. The island is populated by a number of aggressive and large gulls. The caretakers suggested that we take big sticks with us as we walked around. There was one big gull guarding the loo. It was a squacker, but it stayed just on its rock. While we were eating a monster gull kept swooping down near the picnic benches. The best thing was watching the swallows dance in the air. There was one playing with a feather that was impressive. It dropped the feather and swooped around to catch it before it hit the ground.
Before heading back to the beach we paddled around Thatcher's. It was rocky and had some nice action. It was a nice spot to have some safe excitement. TG, channelling Bubbles, did manage to get pushed up into some rocks. He got caught by a big swell that pushed him into a rock. He managed to roll up and get himself out of trouble without assistance.
Paddling back by Bearneck I spotted a curly haired Bug waving. I paddled over and said "hi". It was great to see the family enjoying the day. It was a perfect way to end a perfect paddle.