Hauling: Errand Day

By | June 8, 2010

"Look Ma, no helmet!"

"Look Ma, no helmet!"

Part two of the LGRAB Summer Games has started!

June 7-June 27: Learning Experiences

  • Perform a maintenance task — big or small!
  • Decorate your bike
  • Read a book about cycling
  • Carry a load on your bike — groceries, etc.
  • Test ride a different type of bike than you normally ride

So, since today I needed to pick up a parcel from the post office, and get some milk, I’m knocking #4 off the list.


Miss K showing off makeshift saddlebags.


Could you spot Mr. T in the first picture? No, well there he is. He was hidden behind the potentillas.

First, we hit the post office, then the toy store (it was Miss S’ birthday yesterday) and then groceries, then the garden centre, which is having a clearance sale, and I can’t resist a clearance sale.

In one load, I carried (from left to right in pic below):

(in backpack) Box of 50 wooden stacking blocks for the wee one

2 x potentillas

2 x euonymous

2 x pincushion flowers (my fave)

crispy rice snacks

bag o’ baby carrots

cookies (admittedly not a full box, we each had one for the road)

4L milk

2 x boxes of cereal

large package from post office containing painting and other miscellany.


OH, and don’t forget the kids. Three of ‘em.

Now, I say “take that” to all those who doubted me, and tried to offer words of sympathy when I sold my car. I don’t need no stinkin’ sympathy, what I need is two more bungee cords. :)


One Less Car

By | May 31, 2010


Just a quickie today. Got my membership package from the Toronto Cyclists Union a while ago – but just got around to putting on my bumper sticker this morning. Looks good eh?

Went out for a ride this morning, and had to stop at a construction site for a few minutes. I must have been there at coffee break, because everyone was just standing around. Usually the comments range from “cute” to “what a contraption!”, but these guys had a little more imagination: “looks like one of those ice cream bikes!” “Dickee Dee!”

I should totally carry a cooler full of ice cream with me.

More Summer Games Fun

By | May 27, 2010

Wednesday was Mr T’s kindergarten open house – and a perfect opportunity for a family ride.

First: a peek at the Galaxie. Rusted out parts removed, cleaned, polished and new tires! These tires bring a smile to my face every time I see them. I also painted out my basket to match – it used to be black.


The Galaxie was feeling awfully neglected sitting in the garage, so I arranged for Grandma to watch the girls while Paul and I and Mr T went to the school. The little guy was super excited to get to ride his bike, and so was I. Paul, on the other hand, just got home from work and barely had time to change into shorts before we headed out again.


I usually tell the little guy that only bikes with two wheels are allowed on the road, but this is a quiet street, only one car passed us while we were riding. And besides that – the sidewalk is unbelievably bumpy here due to the trees. He tried to ride on the sidewalk, but after he had to get off and push his bike over one of the heaved pavers I decided road made more sense. We told him to “stay in your bike lane”, which of course means stick to the side.


Although it was a nice change of pace to ride slowly – it’s also difficult. Mr T tried to keep up a good pace, but it was pushing 30 degrees and he got pretty tired on the ride home. I was especially grateful for deciding to wear a dress (and doubly grateful for the Galaxie’s step-through frame). And just so everyone is clear – that’s not my bum, it’s the wind blowing my dress.


It was only a short ride – but so nice for the three of us to get out and just enjoy the ride. When I go out with the girls and the long john it’s usually about the destination. Get out, run errands, get home before the baby needs to be fed or napped or whatever. For a little while I just got to enjoy a ride with my dear husband, and my soon to be school-age son. (sniff sniff).

Unrelated to the summer games: We have been debating how we are going to commute to school in the fall. Will Mr T ride his own bike, or will he continue to ride on the back of the long john for another year? The first thing we noticed when we arrived at the school was the serious lack of bike racks. We couldn’t find anywhere to lock up. We did a lap of the school, and ended up looping my big ol’ cable lock around a column by the front door. The little kids will be entering through the back door however, so I’ll need to find a place out back for his bike if we decide that he can ride on his own. But seriously – where are the bike racks? I must have missed them, because a school without bike racks is… wrong. There should be LOADS of bike racks. I’ll be going back next week to do a serious investigation.

Back on the topic of the summer games for a moment – no bike racks equals no parked bikes. No opportunity to leave my ‘notes’. Passed one cyclist on the way home – but he was carrying his bike on his shoulder. Turns out there was a load of glass in the bike lanes on Royal York, and he blew his tires. Sad sad sight.

And another tangent: two months ago, I very happily sold my old crappy mountain bike, and used the money to purchase the Galaxie. At the time, I couldn’t see any reason to keep an off-road bike. Now, I’m packing to head up north for the weekend. My husband loaded up his new (used) quad into the trailer, and I found myself longing for my mountain bike back. Sigh. There are so many kilometers of open trail up there – just waiting to be explored. Sigh, again. Last year I took a spill off the dirt bike, and after almost six months of recovery from my injuries I am reluctant to get back on again. Perhaps I will luck out at a garage sale this spring and I’ll buy myself a cottage bike. That would be awesome.


Summer Games – task 2

By | May 25, 2010

LGRAB-Summerlong-e1273852817214So I’ve knocked one of the events off the list: recruit a non-rider. Now I’m working on my second entry for the games: leave a friendly note for another cyclist.

I gave this one a LOT of thought. I wanted to say “thanks for riding instead of driving” but not in a condescending way. Here’s what I came up with.


Hello fellow cyclist! Would you like to do something else that’s fun, rewarding, and good for the environment today? How about planting these sunflower seeds? Just find a bit of dirt, dig a hole using the popsicle stick, and drop in the seeds. Then ride past often to see your flowers grow.

Happy Cycling!


Pretty clever, I thought. :) Combining guerrilla gardening with cycling? So I made up these little packets, dropped in a few Velvet Queen Sunflower seeds that I saved from last year, put in a popsicle stick (doubles as a plant marker). Then I headed out to leave them on bikes. Which has proved to be the hardest part.IMG_6209I’ve only managed to leave one out of the 12 I made up so far. I just didn’t see any bikes out when I went looking. Well, I saw two, but one had no place to wedge a packet. :( I guess just a bad time of day. I’m off again this morning to find some more.

I hope I see a whole lot of random sunflowers this summer.

One more bike commuter

By | May 20, 2010

Well, I did it. Or at least I’m going to try to take some credit: my dear husband has started cycling to work.

(insert polite applause here)

This is a big deal to me – my V8 pick-up driving, early rising construction worker hubby is riding his bike to work. In steel toed boots. I’m very proud.

I will admit to you that he is not doing very much pedalingmp_main. Most of the work is done by his Magic Pie. But I would like to point out that a Magic Pie does not run on an eight cylinder gasoline engine.

Now, DH usually gets up just after five, and is on the road at 5:30. The roads are deserted at that time of day – yesterday he didn’t encounter a single soul on a 2k stretch of the Queensway at the foot of High Park. He comes home before three – before the start of the afternoon rush. He also has to carry his tools – not every day, but often enough. He’s got his lunch to carry, and boots. They weigh considerably more than regular footwear. For these reasons, and more, he decided to go electric.

After much research – he settled on the Magic Pie. Rear hub motor, powerful battery, great reviews, awful name. Makes me hungry every time I say it.

Over the weekend he overhauled his old bike: new rear rim, new tires, kludged the battery on to the rear rack, tuned the brakes and shifters, new front rack, new panniers. Monday he didn’t ride, I wouldn’t let him: no helmet. So Monday afternoon, off to MEC, purchase helmet. Tuesday was the inaugural ride. His commute time only increased by 7 minutes. From thirteen minutes to twenty minutes. Can you believe that? I can’t.

So what are the benefits? Plenty. We are going to save SO MUCH MONEY. About twenty dollars a day. That’s one hundred dollars a week. Four hundred dollars a month. That deserves caps: FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS A MONTH.  That’s just gas and parking to downtown five days a week. Then there’s the parking location: he used to have to park a long way from his site and hoof it two, three, ten blocks back and forth. Now, he gets to park outside the front door. Or the back, or inside, or where ever he likes.

Anyway – I think it’s awesome.

I will update with some pictures of his bike and his setup a little later. I’ve also got to update y’all on the progress on my Galaxie, my new tires are on, and I’m almost finished with the rear rack.

Happy Cycling!

A sunny day ride

By | May 4, 2010

IMG_1150How I love spring. My sister came by and suggested a ride, so we loaded up the kids and set out. I thought it would be fair if she took at least one of the kids – so I hooked her up with the trailer, and Mr T and Miss K both jumped in. We didn’t stay out long because the poor baby was lonely in the front of the long john all by herself.


IMG_1152 A panda shot would have been easier if I had brought a panda. The only reason I even attempted it was because my sister’s point and shoot is one-hand operable, where my camera is not. I am very tempted to try and rig up a camera stand for my handlebars -would certainly make taking pictures while riding a heck of a lot safer.


This is what the baby does the ENTIRE time we are out on the bike. Struggles with her helmet. Sometimes she does it quietly, and I don’t know what she’s up to until she gets it wedged over her eyes and can’t see. Sometimes she shrieks like a seagull getting eaten alive by a mountain lion. Helmet laws suck.

My sister seemed to remember an entrance to the Humber path from the Park Lawn Cemetery – so we went to look for it. Found a footpath, but no way for us to get to it. On the positive side, the cemetery is actually a really pleasant place to bike.

Discovered something new about my bike – with an unbalanced load, the front end wobbles like mad over about 10kms/h. It was a slow ride. :)

Hills are my enemy.

By | April 30, 2010

mountainI don’t live in a particularly hilly neighborhood. At least, I didn’t think so before I bought the long john. Now, all I see is hills. I could probably tell you to the nearest degree all the different slopes in a 3 km radius.

My biggest problem with the hills (other than getting up them) is they force me off the bike. I can generally get myself about half way out of the ravine before I have to dismount and push. I hate pushing my bike. It feels wrong to push my bike.

The good news is I’m learning how to use the gears to my advantage. I know, I know…. “you didn’t know how to use your gears before?” No, I didn’t. I learned to ride on a fixed speed. I got a ten-speed road bike when I was twelve, and no one taught me how to properly shift gears.  I played with them a bit, but ultimately found that I liked riding better when I wasn’t fiddling with the gears. When I was 16, I got an eighteen-speed hybrid, and only ever used the front derailleur. Sad, yes. I never really had a firm grasp on the concepts of gears and torque and really didn’t care. I only rode the bike for fun, and I had plenty of fun in one gear.

Now, it’s a whole new world. A hilly world.

I’m learning the hard way about things like cadence and momentum. I have to think about what I’m doing whenever I start pedaling. I feel like I’m learning to ride all over again. I even have a memory aid (a chant) so that I remember to keep my fingers on the shifters, and USE THEM!

The other thing I’m learning is that I am much more comfortable on the road, behaving like a vehicle, than I am borrowing the sidewalks from pedestrians. Actually, I really don’t like using the sidewalks at all. I end up using them going up hills, and turning left at busy intersections. If I can gain enough strength in my legs to go up hill, then I’ll also have the strength for a good start-off in the left-turn lane.

And that would make me really happy.

Enjoy this beautiful Friday!

The Galaxie

By | April 22, 2010

IMG_5927 Last week, I finally found my bike. After scouring the classifieds for what seemed like an eternity, I found what I wanted, and only blew the budget by $25. I loaded up my backpack with snacks and we hopped on the TTC. It was very exciting for the kids – it’s not often we go to Kipling Station, and they got to sit in the front of the train.

My husband was pretty impressed when I told him that I brought a bike home on the TTC. I am too. You can only see two of the kids in this picture, because the baby was strapped to my back.

Bus, subway, bus, walk. Took a look at the bike…. rust, dirt, squeaks. I asked, does the shifter work? He didn’t know, the trigger was seized, and he didn’t have the mechanical know how to fix it. We bartered, I walked away the victor. Walk back to the bus – and here comes the fun part.

IMG_5929I’m really glad I prepared for this by watching the how to video. :)

Back again, on the subway. Off topic: thank goodness for the kindness of strangers in this great city of ours. I might not have made it OUT of Royal York subway station with all three kids intact had it not been for a little help getting them up the escalators.

One more bus, and home.

IMG_5930Here it is: my “new” 1972 CCM Galaxie Cruiser. I finally managed to scrape enough grunge off the hub to find the date code – 72. I believe that all the parts are original – even the tires. They’re hard as stone.

IMG_6002There was quite a bit of surface rust on the chrome, and a little bit of rust on the frame where the top tube meets the seat post. I’ve polished off most of it, but some pitting remains. The inside of the fenders is beyond SOS-ing.

The back brakes are non-functional, and both brake levers need to be replaced – the chrome plating is flaking off in huge chunks. I’m thinking about overhauling the whole brake system – still mulling over the options.

Untitled-1From top left: cracked seat vinyl, rusted out rat-trap, cool chainring, front hub, three-speed ‘trigger’, headlamp and generator, headbadge, rear hub, brakes.

I think that the headlamp and rack are too far gone. I’ll hold on to them for a while, but I think the rust is going to win. I’ve covered the seat temporarily with a removable cotton cover, to stop the damage from getting any worse. When I find myself a supplier, I’ll be remaking the saddle in blue and cream leather. The hub – the most important part – works fine. The trigger was seized, but a generous dose of WD-40 fixed that in under five minutes. I’d like to take apart the trigger and give it a thorough cleaning, but that’s all it needs, I think.

Here’s my to-do list, not in any particular order:

  1. Paint job – a bike with a name like Galaxie needs to sparkle.
  2. Chrome – I’m looking into re-chroming the fenders. It’s probable that there’s too much rust to salvage them, but it needs to be investigated.
  3. Brakes – again, more research required. Which system will work best?
  4. Lights – I’d like a generator, to stay true to it’s origins, but I don’t want a cheap ugly Canadian Tire one. I’ve seen Sturmey Archer front hub generators, and that looks like the way to go, but: more research required.
  5. New headbadge – after a paint job, the sticker will be lost.
  6. Seat – have to find the leather, in just the right colour.
  7. Rear Rack – already purchased, needs a coat of paint, and possible a little reinforcement for stability. More later.
  8. Tires – I’m going for creme. It’s going to look suh-weeeet.

Other than that – there are a couple of screws and nuts that should be replaced before they seize up permanently. No biggie.

My goal is to have it in tip-top riding condition within a month or so – and I’ll leave the aesthetic projects for later. The paint job will probably get done over the winter, because I’m pretty sure that this bike isn’t going to be out and about in inclement weather anyway.

Anyway… duty calls.

Happy Earth Day!

Red Tail

By | April 21, 2010

Had to share – just lovely.

Handcrafted wood fenders for your bike. How sweet is that. From his site:

Red Tail bicycle fenders are handcrafted in Montreal from solid pieces of poplar and oak, steam bent to complement a variety of road bicycle wheel sizes (700cc, older 27″, etc). The fenders are primarily designed for fixed gear or coaster brake conversions with an available rear brake hole where a rim brake used to be, but the hardware can be adapted free of charge to fit most bicycles with brakes.


I’m a big fan of Etsy – if you’re not familiar with it, it’s a handmade marketplace. Spend a few minutes and browse – check out “Shop Local” on the main page to see what Toronto has to offer, or search for “bicycle” to find some of these beauties:


Between Esty and Kijiji, I’m going to bankrupt us. :)

Wobble, Wobble, Wobble, GO!

By | April 20, 2010

I sincerely hope I did not scare anyone out of cargo bike ownership with my previous post, and my comment on the wobbliness of start-ups. The fact is, it ain’t that bad.

The wobble is entirely a function of how much weight you’re hauling, and no matter where we go, the four of us add up to HEAVY. This was especially true yesterday as I hit the library and Costco in one trip. First, dropped of 15+ kgs of books, took out only 3 kgs. Then off to Costco, where I was rendered temporarily insane by the super-bright fluorescent lighting and bought a 4.5kg bag of grapefruit as well as the milk, cream, eggs and biscotti (soooo hungry from the ride, couldn’t help myself). Anyway, my point is, by the time I was headed home, I was fully loaded. Every little space where I could stow stuff was FULL. And I made it back just fine.

I’ve learned a few tricks that help me get started.

  • Start downhill. I know, obvious right? What if there are no hills? Make your own. If I’m anywhere near an intersection, a good place to start from is the curb. I walk the bike onto the sidewalk and use the nicely graded pedestrian ‘ramp’ to give me the forward momentum I need to get going.
  • Scoot it. With my right foot on the pedal at its lowest position, I lean into the handle bars and scoot. Two or three pushes gets me moving, at which point I have to quickly jump on and start pedaling to maintain the momentum.
  • Don’t start uphill. Okay, I know that doesn’t really count, but that is why I wobble. The place where I usually get on my bike after a grocery trip is on an ever-so-slight upwards grade. I haven’t found a good place to launch myself yet, as there’s so much traffic at that corner, so until I find another route, I’m fighting gravity. And gravity always wins.

With that said, a long john is really just a normal bike, stretched out. I have no trouble getting going when there’s no cargo. And I should also say that I’m getting better with the starts every time I use the bike. Really. It’s taking a bit of time, but really all it comes down to is practice.

And if I could say one thing to anyone looking for a cargo bike, or designing a cargo bike:


If I could, I’d cut out that top tube in an instant. If I could mount the bike without acrobatics, I probably wouldn’t have any problems with my start up. On the positive side, I’m a lot more flexible now. In a couple of months, I may even be able to do the splits. :)

Look ma! No wobble!

At Speed from Claire Fletcher on Vimeo.