Monday, 21 April 2014

Trail-Gator Product Review

Last year, the first outdoor bicycle ride I went on, I borrowed my neighbour's bike and attached trail-a-bike. JahJ and I pedaled for hours, enjoying the sun poking in and out of the clouds. It was the best day of his life. Recently, he has seen other kids on trail-a-bikes, and pictures of tandems, and insisted on adding pedals to my Xtracycle so that he too could pedal. I empathized with him, but that wasn't enough. Of course, being his mother, I wanted to make his wish come true. I wanted to fly to the Netherlands with him to pick up a Follow-Me Tandem - since I dream big! Jose and I canvassed our local bike shops by phone, but no one had heard of this tandem coupling. We looked into buying it in Seattle, and even wrote an email to the manufacturer, pleading them to send us one in exchange for an extensive product review and marketing.

But my sweet son wanted to ride tandem with his parent last year. So we opted for the Trail-Gator instead of the trail-a-bike or Burley's Piccolo. Towing his bike, allowing him to choose whether or not to ride attached, really appealed to us. Of course, I'm sure we will have our share of disagreements as to when is a good time to ride solo, but that's the user-fee we'll pay.

Don't ask me why, but I bought the Trail-Gator three days before Jose's bike was available to be attached. Those were the longest three days of my life. I seemed like every hour on the hour JahJ would ask me to hook up his bike to his father's. To understate, this was frustrating. Tuesday did arrive! We got the wrenches, looked over the instructions and began putting it all together. An hour later, we set out for our maiden voyage. JahJ was on cloud nine! He chatted interminably while smiling ear to ear. He was on his dad's team, providing "boosters on" up the hills, coasting on the way down, sometimes taking a break from pedaling on the flat. Jose notes that JahJ does in fact hold his own, and can even move the two of them forward for some distance.

The Trail-Gator is very sturdy. It lifts the kid's front wheel off the ground by 3 to 5 inches and holds it there. Science, I guess. Jose does need to take his turns more widely than when biking alone as the tow bar does swivel laterally. We managed to get a bike rack on the adult bike that doesn't interfere with the Trail-Gator. Jose's panniers are high, so the TG doesn't clear them. We are going to rig something up so he can carry his panniers at will.

Since the TG doesn't come off as quickly as I expected, it wouldn't be something I'd do more than once per ride. There are two quick-releases with some nut-turning which amounts to two minutes. There is an attachment to prevent the kid bike from turning the handles, which pops on and off when intentional pressure is applied. Jose chose not to have the TG fold to attach to his bike to lug around, as proposed by the manufacturer. We think that it would be as cumbersome as other reviewers have attested. As of yet, we haven't had the need to detach the TG from the kid bike to let him roam. We heard a creaking sound when Jose rode with the kid bike without a kid on it. We don't know what that's about.

I appreciate that JahJ can pedal and can keep up the pace we set when we bike with a destination in mind. We are looking for ways to make his world bigger, biking on his own definitely helps. He is learning to signal to indicate where he intends to turn, right and left are becoming less abstract and he recognizes the roads and paths we use. He enjoys being part of the pedaling power and doesn't complain about the angle of his seat. It's been a week and the novelty hasn't worn off. We hope he can pedal on bike camping trips this summer - maybe we can have him haul some gear!

Friday, 18 April 2014

30 Days of Biking 2014 - Week 2

My shortest ride this week was 0.6 kilometers at the end of the day. I went around our condo building and to our garden to infuse our plot with peat moss. I don't have any gardening tools and consequently I found it very difficult to evenly spread out the peat moss. I was also tired and grumpy, but appreciated the clear night and time to get this chore done. The plot is almost ready to receive the seeds we will plant. I want to top it off with the compost the worms made, and I will probably use the rest of my vermiculite to make it properly aerated.

Bike to Work Week 2014 had its launch at Market Square. We danced to live music, used sidewalk chalk to trace each other and crossed our fingers to win prizes. We've registered our team as Growing Up Bike, be sure to look for us on the podium! (NB: There is no literal podium...) I want to crush last year's goal of 200 km biked in a week, and have more than one person on my team. If you don't have a team, please apply to be on ours! We'd love to have you :)

Our public library has a seed library! I'm going to have to sign up, since I need a new kind of carrot to plant. It's more than seed exchange too: I can learn more about food security, I can share recipes, I can grow my own seeds to exchange, I can learn about gardening in a hands-on way... I am thrilled at the intersection of books and seeds that the library and LifeCycles have facilitated.

I was supposed to bike to the farm in Central Saanich on Saturday for my weekly produce, but it was such a beautiful day that I didn't want to spend 3+ hours commuting. Instead, the kids and I went to the Victoria Public Market for their Spring Fling. We arrived half an hour early, so we had a chance to walk through the market to see what it had to offer: fudge, beautiful maple cutting boards, sausages, hand-made pies, farm stands offering produce and seed starts, live music, delicious chocolate, to name a few. I ran into some friends that I hadn't seen in so long. Thanks to the bouncy castle, I was able to catch up with them, somewhat uninterrupted, while our kids hopped their hearts out. The magician was very friendly and engaging. Both the kids and I believe in magic now! He made one foam ball turn into two, and JahJ made the two turn into four!! I'm not going to Google this magic trick, since I know that a true Magician never tells his secrets. 

Biked this week: 63.9 km
Total this month: 124.2 km

Monday, 7 April 2014

30 Days Of Biking 2014 - Day 7

I love our garden plot! The kids and I spent the better half of the morning there, digging out the cutworms and turning the soil. The garden is very close to a playground structure that the kids could go take a break from working in. Another parent helped me out by pushing his kid and mine on the swings. I felt like he might be tired of playing with my kids, so I bribed them to come back to the garden. The arrangement makes me feel like I'm a rich person who owns lots of land: a little vegetable garden here, a berry patch there, four swings and some monkey bars over there... It's delightful!

After suppertime, we hopped on the bike to go to Cook St playground. This playground has recently been remodeled to include a zip line, a merry-go-round and several swings of different shapes. It is always busy there, so I try to go when I think there won't be more than three kids waiting for the zip line. It was busier than I thought it would be, given that this was a school night, but we enjoyed it till JahJ wanted to nap.

Today we rode for 11.6 km
Total this month: 60.3 km

Sunday, 6 April 2014

30 Days Of Biking 2014 - Day 6

A completely normal day. I biked, I bought things. I biked, I posed. I biked, the three hugged me when I got home. 

Today I biked 12.1 km
So far this month: 48.7 km