June Miles

BMT (Bakfiets Miles Traveled): 232
Utility Miles (non Bakfiets): 33
Other Miles: 351
Total June: 616

Slow(ness) / Deceleration

Adjusting to my new role as primary care provider for our little one has been an emotional adventure. When we first hatched the plan for me to cut back my hours so I could take on care I thought about all the wonderful things I could share with our daughter – and I glossed over any issues I thought I might have about work, my value to the household, and my ‘career’ (if you could call the path I’m on a ‘career’).

Adjusting away from work has been the biggest challenge. In order to juggle the bills I still need to bring in a bit of cash each month – this means design consulting for a few clients doing anywhere from 10-20 hours of work a week, depending on who’s paying and what I’m doing. Squeaking out those 10-20 hours has been challenging – and its been hard not to say ‘NO!’ when I see the work piling up and I have ready clients willing to pay for it to get done. Occasionally I’ll cram in a busy busy week – but the price is little time for solo rides and runs – and more time in front of the computer feeling guilty that I’m neglecting our little one as she plays in the office (we’ve wondered if baby gear can be an itemized business expense?).

It has taken a good few months – but I’m finally finding ways to let go of the go-go world I used to live in. Homes are still being built, good people are doing good design, and the world goes on – without me. I’ve jumped from the plane/train/car riding laptop toting cellphone ringing design/sales consultant to a much different world – and the deceleration has caused me some whiplash.

Letting go of the $$ was the first challenge. Realizing how much child care is worth (through interviewing nanny agencies and shopping for day care) put me a bit more at ease not being an ‘equal’ financial partner in our household. The math works out that even if I was bringing in my old salary – I’d be giving most of it up just for someone to care for our little one. Investing time, not cash, is what I’ve come to love about being a new parent. Little ones require such simple things – but the things that we bring to our little one’s lives mirror our values. Giving up on ‘making a living’ to taking care of a living has been a shift. Value is relative.

Letting go of working with and designing / solving problems for people is something I have had the hardest time working through. The connections to good people doing good work is what drove most of my projects – and without that creative outlet there are days that I feel a bit empty. I’ve been working through this by applying my energies to projects around the house or on acquiring skills so I can produce bike related gear – all the while including our little one as much as possible in my everyday world. Dishes, cooking, bike repair, laundry, errands – the everyday. Transitioning from a lead designer and team player on complex projects to ‘daddy day care’ is a work in progress. Most days are wonderful – but there are days, especially just prior to sending off a batch of work, that are mental challenges.

To help reorient my compass and ease my deceleration I’ve tried to embrace the slow, the everyday, the wonder of the moment. It seems I was much better at this when it was an option for me – as a short lived student of Zen I found delight in trying to blend the everyday into my hectic life. Now that I have the time to embrace ‘now’ – I have found it can be stifling and hard to wrap one’s head around.

This week has been different. It seems that the parachute may have finally opened and my body recovering from the sudden deceleration before touching ground. While drifting a bit in the wind I’m eager to get my feet on the ground and explore. Pacing myself to the rhythm of our little one has opened a new perspective on the world.

Beach sand never felt, nor looked so interesting. Grass – its texture on the skin is a joy under the blue blue sky and early summer sun. Loons can swim under water a surprising length of time. Cottonwood blossoms make it snow in June. Park swings are relaxing and exhilarating. Tree houses still inspire this boy’s sense of adventure.

Pedaling slowly also has its advantages (aside from not breaking a sweat) – dew on the leaves glisten, frogs croak at sunset, waves ripple in pattern, clouds become dragons and mountains and birds, rain falls softly on the forest above – and the little one sleeps and dreams of a perfect world, a perfect day, of discovery and of life to come.

Climbing with the Bakfiets

With the warm weather we have the top down and are getting used to our trips into town. The Bak gets plenty of attention on the road and at many of our stops in town. “How does it do on the hills?” is a question I’m often asked.

The answers usually turn into a long conversation (typically one sided) and often ends with the questioning party leaving with glazed over eyes. I try to keep it short and non-cyclist friendly – but some days I can’t help myself as I spread the good word of getting about by bike, discussing the pros of having a bike ready to go for all weather, and digressing into gear ratios and how many ‘speeds’ you truly need to ride about for ‘everyday’ cycling.

The question is a good one – as the town center of Burlington, Church Street, is mid-way up a fairly steep (to most cyclists and non-cyclists alike) hill. There are a fair amount of commuters in Burlington – so hills are no stranger to the 2 wheeled crowd – but it seems the purely ‘recreational’ cyclists and the non-cyclists have the hardest time picturing getting everywhere in town by bike.

Marching up from the lake front on foot is work – pedaling a loaded Bak that comes in about 130 – 150 – 175 pounds (+ pilot!) depending on cargo is also work. Straight up College to the hospital (where we’ve ridden to pick up prescriptions) is a 287 foot climb over 1.63 miles. Fast walkers usually keep up with us – and the traffic signals are a blessing (rest!) and a curse (break in our momentum!). Our typical day into town is about a 6 mile cruise using either the lake front bike path or a combination of streets. Once in town we climb up from the lake to our destinations – typically the Church Street area, City Market, and the Library. We rarely head straight up College – instead choosing a round about way that adds 1/2 mile to the trip – but cuts down on the gradient as we create our own switchbacks, one city block at a time.

Last week we extended our range and traveled to the in-laws for dinner. We were out all day doing our errands and enjoying the sun, the grass, and the blue skies. Timing our arrival for dinner we climbed up to the Dorset St. area of South Burlington. When I’ve done the trip solo I can pick a route of about 10 miles door to door. We stretched that to 14 to stay away from crowded and congested roads during the evening Friday rush. We meandered our way along the lake front, then a short crossing of some heavily traveled commercial areas, back to a bike path that winds its way up, up, up, and finally onto some quiet(er) neighborhood roads high atop Dorset St.

We started down on the lake and ended a bit higher than where these last two pictures were snapped. According to an online mapping and topo website the real climbing starts at Swift St. and is 260 feet in 3.28 miles – about 79 feet per mile – to the top of Dorset. If we map from the lake it is 5.15 miles and the climbing registers at 320 feet.

It is work, for sure. The geometry and balance of the Bak do not reward you for struggling up a hill. Leaning forward puts you at odds with the geometry of the frame – and standing up is out of the question. The only way I’ve been able to climb on the Bak is to gear down and spin. (or grind, depending on how steep it gets…)

I have the gearing set up with a 38t front ring (standard) and a 22t rear cog. With the Nexus 8 speed rear hub this gives me a low gear of 23.4 inches – which is as low as I can get without changing the chain rings and the cranks. So far we haven’t found a road too steep – I’ve been able to sit back and spin up everything we’ve encountered in town. I can spin out on the flats and downhills with ease – the high gear is only 71.8 inches – but with the cargo bike I’d rather have the lows than the highs.

So, “How does it do on the hills?”

The bike does just fine – its the engine that could use some work…!

The reward for the 28+ mile day was a wonderful dinner with family – and a sunset view of the ADKs on our drop back to the lake.

Spring Rain

Wonderful trip into town today amidst a softly falling rain. The smell of spring is wonderful. The Carradice rain cape kept me dry, and Ava stayed snuggled in the Clarijs cover. We took a short detour to cross the Winooski bridge a have a peak at the Adirondacks.


BMT: 196
Utility Miles (non Bakfiets): 49
Other Miles: 236

Mamafiets got out on the bak this week – it was her first test ride with cargo. We toured the parking lot at local park, then ventured downtown to the Earth Clock and back home. We also had our first trip in a serious rain – my Carradice rain cape worked perfectly – and I found a bit of room to keep my newly rebuilt Schmidt dynohub wheel out of the weather.

I’ve been riding with a small group on Sunday mornings – we usually roll by 7am and explore lower traffic roads. We are a motley bunch – our bikes change depending on the ride and the weather – I’ve been out on the IF and on the Surly riding fixed – my ride partners have had a Kogswell (650b, fixed or with and 8sp hub), 2 different Raleigh conversions (1 with Albatross bars and 8sp hub, the other fixed), and an A Homer Hilson.

This past weekend I stitched together a route that was 70% dirt roads – ~84 miles with 3800 feet of climbing, most of the grades on the dirt between 7-9% with several topping out at 13%. Wonderful views of Camel’s Hump, Mount Mansfield, and the Adirondacks.

The route is part of my mapping for a few RUSA permanents I’m working on. At the suggestion of my ride mates I may turn this into a Populaire – and stitch parts of it into my 200k route.

April Mileage

Total Utility Miles for April: 247 of which 196 were BMT (bakfiets miles traveled – all but 8 with our little one along for the ride)
Other bike mileage: 261

The Burlington Book Mobile – our library book transporting, errand running, child toting, sport utility vehicle.

This is how we roll…

Our vehicle of choice is a ‘classic’ Bakfiets. I worked to get this to Vermont last summer, tweaked it a bit, and have been enjoying it ever since. The Bakfiets is set up for Amsterdam family transport – it is the equivalent of the stereotypical minivan for Dutch soccer moms. We’ve added a brighter LED headlight, some reflective striping, cork grips, a Brooks saddle, Ortlieb large panniers (from my touring rig), and a traditional kids tent. The bike offers a looong wheelbase for plenty of cargo hauling – this is the ‘long’ version – designed for 3 children up front (or up to 175 pounds of cargo, wife, dog, groceries, etc.). The integrated rear rack can hold another 75 pounds. A sturdy 26″ wheel in the back sports a skirt guard, roller brakes, and a wheel lock – the 20″ wheel in the front a bottle dyno (newer models have a hub dyno) roller brakes, and the connection to the steering linkage.

I removed the front bench (designed for 2 children, with straps) and mounted our extra car seat base in the front box using 2 stainless eye bolts and the base’s hold downs, with a bit of foam for shock absorption. The seat portion snaps in and out quickly, and the base comes out in a few minutes. The traditional kid tent allows us to travel in all weather – although we have not been out in the rain yet – but we have been out in wind chill below freezing. The kid tent is a great wind break – and with the solar gain it keeps my little one toasty warm. The front of the box carries child care goodies and an extra bike lock. I tote cargo about in the Ortliebs.


As the weather has warmed we’ve been accumulating the miles on the Bak – I mounted the car seat base in the box and we have a traditional kid tent to fend off the elements. Add some of Ava’s favorite animals and we are good to go – we’ve been averaging 12 – 15 miles per trip. Our first journey was an attempt to take the fixed wheel from my Surly to the Old Spokes Home and swap out cogs – but we met with 4″ of ice on the bike path at the hill into town – and a cold windy dead end out and back. Since then we’ve made treks to the library, hardware store, eye doctor, the park, and to meet some friends in town for lunch. We also discovered Viva Espresso in the Old North End for mid day snacks (for the little one and dad!) and we are a hit at City Market when we stop for groceries. I’ll have to take some more pics of our set-up – I’m using large Ortlieb panniers on the Bak’s rear rack for storage, the car seat in the box, a traditional kid tent, and room up front and around my passenger for extra cargo space.

We are well on our way to replacing VMT (vehicle miles traveled) with BMT (bakfiets miles traveled).

The New SUV

Our new SUV – an authentic Dutch cargo bike – ‘Bakfiets’. It handles a load much nicer than the IF with the trailer… and toting the young nephews is a treat – they sit up front and enjoy the ride as much as I do. (and toting our little one to be was also some motivation for this bike!)

I feel so strongly about utility bikes and getting out of cars whenever we can that I’ve decided to work with an importer and bring these from Amsterdam to Burlington in limited quantities. Drop me a line (or comment with your email) if anyone out there is interested. I outfitted ours with a Brooks saddle and cork grips, and updated the lighting system a bit (this was purchased used, as a demo bike and needed some TLC). The Bakfiets that make it to the states arrive with roller brakes, Nexus 8 speed hubs, fenders, lights, a rear rack, and a removable bench in the ‘bak’. Published loading is 75 pounds on the rear rack and 200 pounds up front. I’ve moved groceries, dog and cat food, and people around Burlington. I just took delivery of a traditional kid tent and hope to have it installed before the weather turns to protect our cargo from the elements.