Two boxes of groceries, four tacos, a gym bag, and a bottle of red wine.
Two boxes of groceries, four tacos, a gym bag, and a bottle of red wine.
OK, first a couple things. The title of this post is a bit incorrect…it should read how I ride a bike, but I didn’t want it to sound too self-centric (but isn’t that what everyone’s blogs are about…themselves). And the photo above is not recent; it is one I took last spring when I had to move my bikes from my living room for spring cleaning (yes I keep my bikes off to the side in the main living space of my house…don’t you). But they are still the same bikes I ride; from back-to-front…the Yuba Mundo (a cargo bike and still my favorite everyday bike), my winter bike (an old Trek which I bought at a flea market and fixed up and outfitted with fenders and racks), and a Dahon folder (which I use for quick zips around town and bring on day trips to Toronto).
I guess that the main reason for this post is the current topic of gas prices. In my neck of the woods it has hit about $4/gal and is expected to go higher and there are many areas of the country where it is already higher. And yes, to my European friends reading this, I am aware that it is twice that already (so why do we Americans whine about it…because we are spoiled). Anyhow, why you may ask, am I writing about the price of gas on a simple-living/pro-bicycle blog…well the answer is obvious isn’t it. One of the solutions, I really believe, is to hop on a bike (just one of the solutions). I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I don’t mind the price of gas going up, but also that it didn’t effect me (a little). For the first time ever this past week I filled up the tank in my truck (or nearly filled it up). I’ve owned this particular vehicle for nearly 4 years and have never filled it from empty to full…well you can imaging how surprised I was when I stopped filling at $65 (US) and there was still room for more. The reason I put gas in it was that I am planning a couple-hundred-mile trip next week…otherwise a tank full of gas like this would last me at least a month, likely longer.
Anyhow, I’m assuming that if you are a regular visitor to this blog you already support green/human-powered propulsion…but if not, this post is for you. Here’s how to ride a bike (or at least how I do it)…a few suggestions.
Firstly–and this may sound obvious but it’s not necessarily the case–get a bike that fits you well and is comfortable to ride in ordinary clothing…get a bike that is fun to ride and one you enjoy riding. When I see people riding hunched over or with seats that are way too low it makes me cringe, and racing bikes that require spandex clothing are fine for the weekend warrior but to ride every day and in all conditions a bike where you sit up straight–and with fenders and racks to carry your stuff–is not only more comfortable but also way more fun (just my humble opinion).
Next–and this may be the most difficult part–change your mindset. Don’t think of riding a bike as just a weekend adventure–or even worse, a chore–think of it as a viable means of transportation, especially if you live in a city or town. This is actually what inspired me to start this blog more than four years ago…to ride a bike (rather than use a car) anywhere within a two mile radius of my house (click here for my original post). Do I keep this commitment religiously? Mostly, but not always. I use my truck about once a week, less in the summer months.
Living in a condensed area really is key to riding a bike as everyday transportation, I think (this would be much more difficult in a rural or suburban setting). I am fortunate to live in a closely populated neighborhood that has a score of 98 (out of 100) from Walkscore.com…meaning there are plenty basic–and not-so-basic–needs and necessities within walking/biking distance.
I of course could go on and on here, but I won’t (ok, maybe I’ll go on a bit longer)…the previous was the lecturing part, now here is where I get preachy.
Riding a bike to save gas money is just one of the many reasons an adult should ride a bike…for me it’s more of a bi-product. The real reason I ride, and I’ve posted this too many times to count (click here to read one), is that I enjoy it on so many levels. It makes me feel free. When I pedal and coast through traffic and see people trapped in their metal boxes (which they work so hard to make payments on) I sometimes feel sorry for them…that I wish they knew the joy of what it feels like to be on a bike (again) and out in the elements (and by that I mean all elements).
Today, for example, it was really something to be on a bike. It was not that cold (32F/0C) but it was very windy…crazy windy, wind gusts up to 70mph/112kph. I’d be lying again if I said it wasn’t difficult…but it certainly was exhilarating. At one point, when the wind was to my back, I was coasting and must have been doing more than 20mph/32kph. I was on a side street and weaved back and forth while I looked up to the sky and watched the tree tops sway in the wind.
Keep in mind that I am not a 20-something fixie kid…I turned 50 this past fall and still love to use a bike as my main transport. This may not be that uncommon to the Europeans reading this, but stateside it is a rarity…I know of only a few people my age in this city that choose to ride a bike when they can drive a car. This is not meant to be a braggart’s statement, I’m simply stating a fact.
Here’s an example of my day. I had a meeting at my church in the early after noon (2 miles each way), then after a quick lunch went to the health club for a steam-and-swim (1.5 miles). Then I rode and did some errands, shopping, stopped at a coffee shop, and for a couple beers (maybe 6 miles total). All the while I burned some calories, cleared my head, pedaled into and coasted with the wind, got the best parking spaces, and snickered as I passed petrol stations.
I really believe that if more adults would get on bikes they would remember how much fun they are to ride. Simple as that. Saving gas money is just a minor part in the bigger picture (for me).
I’ll get off my little soapbox now.
I’ve posted the below video a few other times but I never tire of it. I came across it randomly a couple years ago. And in the event you’ve yet to see it I encourage you to take the 60 seconds to watch it. It could be me narrating it, but it’s not.
This post is related to my prevous post regarding my latest experiment in self-propelled mobility…a trailer attached to the Mundo. A few people have asked me how I attached the hitch to the bike seeing the Mundo–with its long wheel base–is not suited for an attachment to the traditional axle attachment. How I attached this (to the frame instead of the axle) would work–I think–for other trailers and other bikes. Anyhow, here it is.
Firstly, above shows how the trailer attaches to the hitch; the top is detached and the one just below it shows it attached. What’s unique about this trailer is that it has a quick release using a version of a high pressure hose connector. That said, these trailers are not intended to carry incredible weight like some others. Nonetheless, it has suited me well, and I have in fact owned it long before I owned a longtail cargo bike. These trailers are great for doing your daily errands and hauling a week’s worth of groceries while keeping everything dry.
Pictured below is how I attached it to the frame using an existing bolt. On the Mundo there are two bolts on each side of the frame holding the rear drop-down bars in place (pictured in the first of the photos below). I’ve eyed these bolts for months while holding the hitch up to them in various positions trying to figure out how it would work. BicycleR Evolution trailers offer two hitch options; I have c-hitches on two other bikes, but on the Mundo I used the standard hitch. Anyhow, the hitch is meant to attach to the axle but also has two smaller holes, one of which fit perfectly in place of one of the bolts on the frame of the Mundo. After tightening it, it felt snug but I didn’t feel comfortable with it being held with just the single bolt (which is much smaller than the intended axle rod attachment) so I also used a hose clamp for added security.
Anyhow, there you have it. I likely won’t use it often on this bike, nor will I carry super heavy loads in it (as the Mundo was built for that); though I have carried a full case of wine in it on another bike. My plan is to use it for extra large grocery trips, gardening trips, or for when I want to keep things dry. As mentioned in the previous post, the Mundo rode great while pulling it. but today it’s snowing out so I’ll use another bike. Stay tuned for pictures and updates of the Mundo-trailer in use…
If you’ve been to this blog before you know that I ride a bike as often as I can, not great distances or in races but for my everyday transportation around town…and I also like to carry stuff on my bikes, whatever stuff a person would normally carry in their car. Besides my cargo bike (Yuba Mundo) I also have a few other bikes, most of which are equipped with a hitch for a BicycleR Evolution Trailer. The Mundo’s frame isn’t built to accommodate a trailer and I’ve been trying to figure out how to attach it for a while. Sometimes, I suppose, a 7ft bike is simply not big enough (most cargo bikers will agree, I’m sure) and that one can always carry more things with their own human power. Anyhow, I finally figured out to attach a spare hitch (and it was actually pretty simple). I took it for a test ride tonight while empty…and as usual the Mundo handled exceptionally well; I really could not even tell I was pulling a trailer. I likely won’t use it often but it is nice to know it’s available when I need it. And when I do…I’ll post pictures. I’d enjoy hearing from other cargo bikers regarding their experiences pulling a trailer.
That’s my Mundo pictured above; it’s parked in one of my usual spots at the health club (I commented on this parking spot previously at this post). I came out of the club this evening at just about 6pm and saw the incredible blue hue you see in all of these photos; none are adulterated. It was as if everything was glowing. I’ve said it before, but dusk and dawn are truly magical (I think) for many reasons, one of them is the the light. The picture directly below is what I see when I look straight out over where the bike is parked, looking out over Buffalo’s East Side. The two trees below are just to the left…I really think barren trees in the winter are beautiful, and this light only accentuates this. Anyhow, the other thing I wanted to comment on was the parked bike…it’s just as I found it when I came out of the health club. Do you notice anything unusual (look before reading on)?
I have two heavy locks on the bike–a U-lock and a chain/padlock–but…neither of them are locked. I must have been thinking of something else as I pulled up and unloaded the bike. I parked it in it’s usual spot but didn’t lock it. And I was in the club longer than usual tonight…nearly two hours it sat there unattended. Anyone could have simply got on it and pedaled away. Luck? Maybe. Good Karma? Hopefully. But one thing is for sure is that I am truly thankful it was still there when I came out. And to top it off…I had the added gift of this wonderful blue hue.
A jar of peanut butter and a jar of grape jelly…staples in my household. Good thing I was riding a bike that has the ability to carry 440lbs/200kg.
To read an article I wrote–some years ago–on the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, click here.
To see some of the other things I’ve carried on my bike(s), click here.
On the bike: A new 6 qt. KitchenAid stand mixer.
First Comment: As some of you may know, I had a mixer fail on me recently (click here) and have had a very dissatisfying experience attempting to have it repaired at Sears (click here). To make a long story short, I have the old mixer back, not repaired. It is, if you are interested, for sale…cheap (if you have the inclination to repair it yourself). And I am still too frustrated at this point to mention the reasons I am selling it, rather than having it repaired. I did end up purchasing a new one, mainly because I found one at nearly half-price simply because the color is being discontinued…which, interestingly, is the same color of my former mixer: silver. I must not be that trendy.
Second comment: When I ordered the mixer I had it delivered to my place of employment because I am there during business/delivery hours…I didn’t want to miss it. It arrived today, and before I left I rode my bike around the city block to the front of the building where it was delivered (the hired help–even the chef–enters the rear of the building, which is fine with me). Anyhow, upon seeing me with my bike the general manager and the office manager both offered to drive me home with the package. No thanks, I told them, this bike is built to carry stuff…and you know me by now, this is how I like to do it. Almost without listening, the manager said that she would call the maintenance man and have him drive me home…that he has a pickup truck. Really, I told them, and thank you very much, but this bike can handle it, and I reminded them that I too owned a pickup truck, but I choose to ride and carry things on my bike(s) when I can. Finally they let me go, but they still looked a little worried. As I was strapping the box down a guy walked past me on the sidewalk (pavements), smiled and said, Geez, that’s quite a bike you have there. Yes it is, I replied, and pedaled and coasted home nearly effortlessly on this beautiful and unseasonably warm spring-like evening.
$132.72 in groceries, sundries, and dog food (and four slices of pizza), in a cardboard box and soda crate from three separate stores.
Things on the bike…4lbs/1.8kgs of green and yellow split peas.
My minor confession…for the past three days, even though the streets have been snow-free, other than a few small jaunts I have relied mostly on my truck for transport. This is mostly–but not entirely–because of family gatherings outside the city. I also have not had much physical/aerobic exercise in the past few days (and have eaten a lot); I really cannot imagine living a lifestyle like this all the time…riding a bike and getting exercise, for me, is more than just about the physical aspect, it–or lack of it–effects my emotional state as well. I’ll be back on track tomorrow.
The brief story…as I was loading the split peas on the bike today it reminded me of an incident that occurred just about 20 years ago. I was riding a Raleigh at the time (click here to see it) and was carrying a loose bag of red lentils on the rear rack. At that time in my life, unlike today, I was addicted to speed; no I am not talking about the chemical drug, I am talking about going really fast on a bike. I was flying down Niagara Street on my way to work. I don’t know how fast I was going, but likely it was pretty fast. That bike is fast and I would also lean way over the handlebars to be more aerodynamic. Anyway, as I was speeding down Niagara Street a slow moving van decides to make a right turn directly in front of me, forcing me to slam on the brakes…thankfully I had just started wearing a helmet around this time. What happened next was like a slow motion action film, and though it happened 20 years ago I recall it vividly. The rear wheel came off the ground as I slammed on both the front and rear brake. Stupidly, I turned to grab the bag of red lentils (yes, my life was in danger but I was still concerned about spilling the lentils), and as I turned the front tire turned as well…bringing the bike–but not me–to an immediate stop, sort of vaulting me up and over the handlebars. I hit the pavement on my side, knocking the wind out of me (if you’ve ever had this happen you know how painful and uncomfortable that is). Now here’s the interesting part. This happened on a street corner, and I landed in front of a small group of people waiting for a metro bus. And as I lay there clutching my side and gasping for air guess who the first person to ask me if I was OK….it was a young girl, maybe 10 years old. Others did come to my rescue; maybe they were initially in shock of this guy falling directly in front of them. The van never stopped (likely didn’t even know what they did)…but I saved the lentils. And this is what I was thinking about as I loaded the split peas on the Mundo today (I pedal much slower and sit upright today).
The recipe…this recipe is actually the outcome of two holiday dinners; Thanksgiving and Christmas. The day after Thanksgiving I made this broth utilizing the leftover carcass and then froze most of it. And two days ago, after having ham at our Christmas dinner, I diluted some of the broth with water and re-simmered it with the ham bone for flavor…delicious. Split pea soup recipes are pretty standard but what’s different about this one is how I seasoned it…with a bit of chilies, curry, cumin, fennel, and tandoori spice. The recipe I made today is below.
Simmer a ham bone, which still contains a bit of meat on, it in broth or water for an hour or so. Remove the bone and strain the broth; remove any meat from the bone; dice or shred the meat and discard the bone. Heat vegetable oil over medium-high heat in a heavy soup pot, then add a diced onion and carrot (and a stalk of celery if you have it). Cook the vegetables until they begin to brown, then add a couple cloves of minced garlic. Cook it another couple minutes and add whatever seasonings you like (I used chilies, curry, cumin, fennel, and tandoori spice), cook them in the oil for a minute then add split peas, stirring them in the oil and spices. Then add the broth (6-8 cups for every pound of split peas). Bring the liquid to a boil then lower it to a slow simmer. Season it with salt and pepper. Cook the soup slowly for about and hour, or until the peas are thoroughly soft and mashed. Stir the soup often to alleviate scorching. If the soup become too thick, add more broth or water. I like to make mine thick enough that–if I want–I can serve it over steamed rice for a more complete meal. This soup is even more delicious the second day, and leftovers–if there are any–freezes well. If you’d like to see a recipe for 3-bean soup using the same broth, click here.
A gym bag containing wet clothes, a quart of milk, a dozen eggs, a rug (measuring 60in/152cm by 84in/213cm), and a new laundry bid which also contains 1/2 gallon of bleach, 4 lbs of dog food, two rolls of tape, and a pair of reading glasses.
When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle. ~ Elizabeth West
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~ Ernest Hemingway
The journey of life is like a man riding a bicycle. We know he got on the bicycle and started to move. We know that at some point he will stop and get off. We know that if he stops moving and does not get off he will fall off. ~ William G. Golding
Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammelled womanhood. ~ Susan B. Anthony
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
OK…I know I said five quotes, but here’s a sixth…seven counting the graphic 🙂
I began to feel that myself plus the bicycle equaled myself plus the world, upon whose spinning wheel we must all learn to ride, or fall into the sluiceways of oblivion and despair. That which made me succeed with the bicycle was precisely what had gained me a measure of success in life — it was the hardihood of spirit that led me to begin, the persistence of will that held me to my task, and the patience that was willing to begin again when the last stroke had failed. And so I found high moral uses in the bicycle and can commend it as a teacher without pulpit or creed. She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life. ~ Frances E. Willard
Eight cardboard boxes (I feel like I should have done a Twelve Things That Can be Carried on a Bike Before Christmas series…maybe next year).
Since recently purchasing a small tripod, and using my bike as a platform, I have been able to take much fuller evening and night pictures with my inexpensive little point-and-shoot camera. I have always found the night to be very spiritual, and taking photos such as this is, to me, a form of contemplative photography. I usually carry a camera with me (and lately the mini tripod as well) and as I pedal and coast silently through the chilly city streets I’ll often stop and take a few photos. Sometimes I find it a soothing and reflective experience…I have to really look at the object or scene before me–study it a bit–before I take it’s photo.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a brief story. Tonight as I was leaving the health club I had my little camera and tripod set up on the back of my bike and was about to take a picture. A guy I’ve met before was walking from the parking lot to the building. As he passed he asked what I was doing; I told him taking pictures of a tree. Why, he wanted to know; because I thought it was beautiful, I told him. Okay (but pronouncing it (ohkaaay) he said as he rushed passed me. I was hoping he would look up to see it, but I don’t believe he did…the above image is the one I was taking. The light–or the lack of it–really changes things.
Sometimes I forget. Often actually. And it’s easy to do because I’m on it everyday. What I’m talking about is my bike, or at east one of them. Specifically I am talking about the Mundo and how long it is (or at least how different it is from most other bikes); that it is a longtail and is just over 7ft or 2.1m. Mostly I think I forget about it because it rides so smoothly…like a “normal bike.” I know that at least some of the readers of this blog ride longtails, box bikes, or other forms of cargo bikes, but in the city in which I live they are not very common. I get comments quite frequently and notice people looking as I ride by, but tonight the exclamation I received from two gents reminded me of this. I was on my way home and stopped at an intersection to snap a few photos. I hopped off the bike but left the head and tail lights on. I saw two guys coming down the sidewalk (pavements) looking at me and talking somewhat loudly and exaggerated. There’s a fair amount of bars/cafes on that particular street so I didn’t think much of it (thought they were just out having a good time). As they got closer I could see that they were definitely looking at me and talking about me. They were speaking Spanish, and I do not, so I couldn’t understand what they were saying (but I did make out the words bicicleta grande, which I know means “big bike”). I stood there taking photos and acting like I didn’t notice as they approached. Then, in English, one says, “What is that?” while looking at the bike. To make a long story short, they were very taken by the bike, inspected it thoroughly, and wanted a list of all the things I’ve carried on it (I told them to check this page). Anyhow, it made me remember how interesting and unique these bikes are, and it also made me proud to be riding one….and I just had to pass this little story on.
This post is for all the Mundo riders out there (and other velophiles who are interested in cargo bikes). First I have to ask a silly question…what’s a good word for us; people who ride Mundo cargo bikes? Bicyclists is not specific enough. Mundonians? Yubonians? Yubites? Mundoners? Any, all, or none, I suppose. Sometimes my mind goes off on tangents. Anyhow, next is what I really wanted to post about.
As many of you know the new v4 Mundo is out. I have to say that it is a bit exciting to me (to see the new model) but also a little saddening (because the one I own is no “longer top of the line”). I was in NYC this passed weekend and stopped into Hudson Urban Bicycles (click here and here) to check out their cargo and Dutch bikes. As I walked in one of the first bikes I see is a brand new v4 Mundo leaning against the wall. I have to say it looks pretty nice. It was a matte black color–like the one I own–so it was easy to see the differences that may look slight at first but really are significant.
It seems with each version they lighten up the frame a bit. You can see by the images above the slight differences (v1 on the top descending to v4). Click the image for a much larger view. I was not able to test ride it (it was pouring rain) but I did notice that it felt much lighter than mine when I lifted it. The mechanic who was working on a bike nearby didn’t know how much it weighed either but said it rode really nice (that’s didn’t surprise me–the nice ride–I told responded).
I originally owned a v1 (click here to see it). And while I loved the bike I also thought it drove like a big cushy tank. When I skipped a generation and purchased the v3–that I currently own–I was, and still am, amazed at how nice it rides…just like an ordinary bike. Anyhow, the new v4 has a new sleek look…the rear frame is rearranged a bit, a couple bars are removed, and the entire rear area seems a bit thinner, more refined.
I have no plans of selling my current one to purchase the new version but I’d be stretching the truth if I didn’t admit that I was ogling over it when I saw it in the shop (I am, though, in the very early stages of considering another “everyday bike,” possibly something Dutch, though I’m not sure…this is what drew me to a few bike shops in NYC).
Anyhow, it still makes me proud to be a Mundo owner. I’m glad to see the good people at Mundo progressing and refining the bike. I’d be interested in hearing from other Mundo riders or longtailers to see what you thought of the new version, and also what are some of the versions/bikes you ride. Is anyone considering this new one?
Though it may look like it, that is not my Mundo pictured above. These are pictures sent in from Dan, a reader of this blog and fellow Mundo rider (thanks Dan!).
During the course of posts, comments, and virtual conversation, a few of us were curious as to how the Mundo bread platform mounted to the bike, so Dan sent us some photos. Personally, I was curious because I am interested on mounting one on my winter bike, the Mule, making it a sort of shorter winter cargo bike.
Stefan, over at Mein Yuba Mundo, sent me this link of a German off-shoot of the Mundo with a very similar rack. He was also kind enough to translate the important parts for me, and it reads as thus: “This practical platform can be mounted on most other bikes.”
I’ve been thinking about ordering one for a while but have been put off by the price…$119 seems a little steep, but when I compared it to others on the market it looks comparable, and it certainly looks sturdy. I’ll without doubt get my use out of it no matter which bike I mount it on. Looks like I’m going to bite the bullet and order one. I’ll keep you posted.
Thanks for the pics and links guys. Click the below photos to see a closer view.