Encouraging creative thought and solutions

Car-Lite in DC Part 3!

In part three Emily Bergmann answers the all important question of how she likes being a part time bike commuter. Would she do it again? Was it worth it? Read on and find out!

I am really, really happy with my Xtracycle and biking as much as possible by myself and with the kids.  I think it’s smart, it’s sexy and it just makes a lot of sense.

When you’re on the bike, you are free, getting exercise, having conversations with your kids who are observing the world around them, and just having a ton of fun.

Plus you always get VIP parking!

Yes, it’s hard work, the bike is heavy, the kids are heavy, the filled to the brim cargo bags are heavy, the wind can be difficult, the weather might not cooperate on a certain day. However, it’s all worth it.  It also shows our values to the world and to our kids.  When I see other kids on their parents bikes or on their own bikes as their parents ride along next to them, I think  ”there’s a kid that’s growing up right.”

Some of the things that we are NOT doing on the bike are:  texting, reading our email, furiously changing the radio stations, picking our noses….all the things that people in cars are doing.
I know it’s an argument, but I feel that biking makes me MORE aware of my surroundings than the people who are in cars on the road.  The number of times in a day that a car passes me who has a driver that is looking down at his or her phone, answering a text or searching for some email is at least twice on the way to work and twice on the way back.  Mind you, these are people driving by me at 20 or so miles an hour and within a few feet of me.  They would really hurt me if they hit me.  They would seriously hurt me if they hit the bike when I had one or both kids on it.  Sometimes I feel like yelling “HEY, pay attention.  I’m somebody’s MOTHER!!” when I see this blatant disregard of common sense. But this is the risk that you take everyday if this is what you believe is right for you and your family.
There’s no going back now.  On the days that the weather doesn’t cooperate or that one of the kids is sick, and we cannot bike.  I am restless.  I am deprived.  I am itching to get out there on my bike.  I cannot sit still.  I love my bike.  I respect my bike.  And most importantly, I NEED my bike.  I need it like I need water and air.  It has become a piece of my fabric, a part of my brain, a part of my daily life.  Like my husband or my children, I cannot imagine my life without it.baby on pic
I want to close this with a HUGE Thank you Em! I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about her car-free adventure as much as I have.
Also, if you want to see more lots more pics and details, why dont you pop over and check out Emily’s blog! OR say hi to her on twitter @Xtracycledc

Car-Lite in DC Part 2!

In Part 2 of Emily Bergmann’s guest blog, she goes into more detail describing the child safety seats she installed on her new Urban cruiser!

old bags Xcycle

Removing the old bags!

Setting up the bike to match my needs was not too difficult because once I had a bike that was part Xtracycle.  It meant that I would either need to be creative and build seats for my bike (who am I kidding, I’m no wood worker) or that I would go the Peapod II route since that is what works with the Xtracycle and the flight deck.

I of course, being highly creative, but not good with building durable, safe things that my kids can ride around in comfortably, went with the Xtracycle flight deck and Yepp seats. final product front door It was an investment of approx $500 plus shipping.

 The Yepp seats are pretty awesome.  We can switch one of them back and forth from my bike to my husbands bike, meaning I don’t have to take ALL the cargo AND both kids every time we leave the house.
Secondly, they are aerodynamic, lightweight, UV50, allow for air to flow through them on hot days, do not absorb rain, and are curved perfectly on the sides in case you do tip over, so that your little one will not have a scratch on him.  It’s basically like having a Britax car seat for your bike.iphone_2874
Trust me, I have and everyone I know who has a cargo bike, has tipped over with the kids on the bike.  It’s like putting a baby on the bed and thinking it will never roll off.  We all know…they roll off, so don’t beat yourself up when it happens.  Just be thankful that everyone is OK.
I was initially concerned if the cargo bags would be accessible enough once I put the Yepp seats on.  It’s not AS accessible as if there were not Yepp seats there, but they still function at about 80% capacity, so it’s fine.  The other 20% is usually in my messenger bag anyways.  Items I initially purchased for my bike were:
1.  Front and back flashing lights (required by law) $70
2.  Red Xtracycle Cargo Bags $190
3.  Flight Deck and Peapod III with adaptors $380
4.  Peapod III with adaptors $245
5.  New Bike Seat $40Xcycle loaded!
6.  Bern Helmet $60
7.  Used Xtracycle $800
8.  Kickback (double kickstand) $150
9.  Shipping $85
10. Tune Up $65
Total upfront investment:  $2085
for more details and pictures of Emily’s Urban bike adventures, be sure and visit her at her blog! and go say hi at Twitter @Xtracycledc

Car-Lite in DC! Part One

This week I want to welcome guest blogger and fellow Urban biker, Emily Bergmann!

My friend and fellow Urban biker Emily Bergmann!

My friend and fellow Urban biker Emily Bergmann!

Emily is my new poster child for going Car-lite! (And thanks for that great expression Em Im stealing it!)

In this three part blog, Emily is going to show us how she went from pushing a monster stroller her kids hated all over DC to cruising the parks on her new Urban bike!

So welcome and take it away Emily!

 

The Problem

 

In August 2009 my daughter was born and then in January 2011 my son was born.  My kids are 16 months a part.

Anyone who has survived with two kids under two for 8 months of their lives can tell you that patience does wear out.  As much as infants and toddlers are wonderful and beautiful, they are also a handful and a lot of work.  They are also incredible inefficient.  They would rather take 45 minutes to walk three blocks and touch every fire hydrant, rock and flower than just get to the park and play. I had already spent one dreadfully hot summer pushing a double stroller with two kids under two who had adopted this inefficient mantra.

I work full time and my husband in 2011-2012 was on the road constantly for work.  I was at a point where my 2.5 year old did not want to go in a stroller either.  Yet,  I was lugging around a giant double stroller every place, packed with all of the stuff I would need for two kids for an entire day.  It was heavy and unpleasant and I felt like it trapped us.  We couldn’t do all the things we wanted to do because the stroller wouldn’t fit in the building or down that aisle.

It was suffocating our life.

When my kids wanted to go to the park, which is just 3 blocks away, sometimes it would take 45 minutes to get there.  Everyday.

Have you been in DC in July and August?

It’s blistering hot, boarding on unsafe.

Patience runs out, particularly in the dripping wet humidity in July and August.

I quickly realized I couldn’t be a “single mom” (because my husband was always on the road for work) to two kids again in the summer of 2012 and not have a way to get around the city efficiently.  I had to come to terms with the fact that my kids want to go, go, go and not be in a stroller (ever).

The idea for the bike happened by total accident, one day while changing my sons diaper I looked out my front window and this guy rode by with this amazing bike that had two orange Yepp seats on the back of it.

It was love at first sight,  But I had no idea what I was looking at!

So June of 2012 I began researching bikes that would allow me to carry two kids on it at once. I started my google searches immediately and found out that the bike I saw was an Xtracycle Radish and then more research led me to the Yuba Mundo, dutch bakfiets and the Bullet and others.

I was completely entranced and knew immediately that I had to have one and that this was going to change my life.

My previous biking experience however was pretty limited.  We did have the iBert seat that we carried our daughter around on for fun and she loved it.

I had biked to Canada one year when I was 14.

I always rode my bike around our neighborhood growing up.

old bike

This is the bike we had before.

There was also the Pacific Coast bike trip my husband and I did in the summer of 2007.  But I wasn’t a biker per se.

However, circumstances changed when I realized that there was a way to take two kids on one bike that did not involve a trailer.  I like having the kids on the bike with me so I can hear and see the things as they do.

Having a child in the front iBert seat is like a ten mile an hour hug.           You hear every “oooh” and “aaaahhh” and “doggie” that your baby says.

As I was furiously searching these kid carrying cargo bikes I was a bit dismayed at the prices, especially when you add electrical assist to them, the prices can go up to $4000 and beyond. Buying a bike like this is like investing in a car. You have to put all the money in upfront and then pray to God it works for you.

As you might expect, my husband was a bit skeptical of this new bike style I wanted to take on.  I think he thought it was expensive and that it was a phase I was going through.  He had no idea until recently how much time and energy I put into researching all of these bikes and what would work best for our family.  I would fairly say it was a part time job of mine for all of June 2012.

 

The search

 

In Washington, DC it’s hard to find a cargo bike carrier.  It seems that many of distributors are on the west coast. Of course you can order one, pay a huge amount to have it shipped here, and then pay someone here to put it together for you.  But I was hoping to not have to do that.  Trying not to panic, I spent hours upon hours of scouring Craigslist and others to find a used cargo bike that I could convert into our family bike.  Day after day of empty searches came up.

Finally in late June, there it was.  An ad on Craigslist for a used Xtracycle “Grocery Getter” and I was smitten.

I looked at the ad and I knew that was my bike.

This how the bike looked the first time we saw it!

This how the bike looked the first time we saw it!

My husband was less convinced.

He was still not sure exactly what I was up to with this biking idea  and the bike I found was “just” the Xtracycle attached to a regular bike, I would still have to outfit it with the cargo bags and the seats.

We went up to Chevy Chase to test drive the bike.  We both took it for a spin and then naturally I wanted to just ride it home but we left that day without a bike.  However, a week later, after more thought and discussion, we purchased the bike and brought it home.

I felt like I had a new baby I brought home from the hospital. I was so, so happy.  Almost crying.  It was a beautiful moment and from there I was able to focus on designing the rest of the bike – bike seats, cargo bags, water holder, front basket, etc.

The first day I took my daughter to school on this bike in late June 2012, she was thrilled.  One of the things the Xtracycle gave us with the front iBert is a lot more room for her legs.  In my previous bike, because of the handle bar set up, her little legs were really pressing against the front handle bars.  It was uncomfortable for her and it was also hard to get her in and out of the bike.  The first thing she said when she went on the Xtracycle in the iBert was “more room” and she smiled.  I knew right then that this was going to forever change our family.

So the Xtracycle was our saving grace.  It wasn’t cheap.  I tracked how much I spent on it and then I tracked how much it saved me in gas, parking, metro fare and it basically took 2.5 months to “pay off”.

In all it's glory!

In all it’s glory!

Today my kids prefer the bike to the car, but we still do have a car for the bitter winter days or for the really rainy days.  We are a car-lite family.  My plan is to be able to add some sort of electrical assist to the bike soon so we can open up the range that we use the bike for.  We live on Capitol Hill and once you put 70+ pounds of kid on a bike, you realize that it is indeed a hill!

In part two, Emily is going to break down the set-up AND cost of putting together her cool Urban cruiser so be sure and stay tuned!

Also, for more details and pictures of Emily’s Urban bike adventures, be sure and visit her at  her blog! and go say hi at Twitter @Xtracycledc

Just havin FUN!

Just havin FUN!


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