Older picture from the summer, but you get the idea.
School is out and we have got back into the habit of being 4 people on the Yuba Mundo. (Me and the 3 kids) The kids (3, 6 and 8 years old) have grown a bit and we are running out of space on the flatbed, although it is still totally doable and we still get the smiles.
For Christmas morning I took Mrs Yuba for a ride to the local Patisserie to get the traditional French "log" Christmas cake. We thought we were pretty chic on our carbon free transport, although we did stick out a bit amongst the 4x4's and Mercs. We had 18°C Christmas eve ( thats 64 degrees Fahrenheit for the americans out there) and the sun has been omnipresent, which is nice but strange. Normally it should be cooler and certainly not 18°C in the evening. Friends in the Northern climes have been sending me photos of frost and snow... here the battle is to keep the kids from going out in T shirts...
During my travels today on the Yuba Mundo I had my 1000 th visiter. When I started this blog I never imagined that there would be that much intrest, and I hope that I have helped to prove and promote the Yuba Mundo concept, or even bike based transport in any form. Anyway I got some milage in, a trip on my Trek hack to the local police station to report some stolen license plates missing from my wife's car, a trip to the recycling bins to empty the weeks cardboard, glass and plastics from the orange shopping caddy, then a trip to fill the shopping caddy and bag at the local supermarket. Had an old man stop in the street and gape open mouthed at me on the way back. I was quite loaded I suppose.
And as it was fantastically warm, sunny and I had my day, I hit the hills on my MTB. A great day. I often read in the cycling press about various states of beatitude reached during and post ride, and I often say to myself "over doing it a bit there.." but swooping along singletrack this afternoon got me up there and living the dream. (Well nearly.)
Felt unwell and unfit all week. Pootling around on the Yuba Mundo is great but there is nothing like a lung busting, leg grinding ride into the mountains. My morning was free the sun was out, the wind was not too cold or strong, so off I shot to them there hills. Great freedom,and I took a bike pump with me this time.
Grabbed a sandwhich in the last village before the hills and climbed into the sunshine. The farmers were out pruning the vinyards and I came across a few walkers who were as lucky as me to be enjoying the countryside.
I live in an old European town. The road layout of my neighbourhood probably follows the layout of cart tracks winding their way around fields set down thousands of years ago. Today this is all built up and covered in an urban landscape. Blind curves, endless junctions, blind spots, narrow points, one way roads etc etc and of course littered with cars parked on double yellow lines. One result of all this is that it is not car friendly. Drivers used to driving in a straight line at speed on the phone, listening to music whilst picking their noses and talking to their passenger (not necessarily in that order) often run into trouble. My house is on a crossroads on a bend where one of the roads has only space for one car but two lanes and a pedestrian crossing added just to spice things up. There is a crash here about twice a month where people find out that there really isn't room to fit two cars, or that speeding round a blind corner on the approach to crossroads is a bad idea. I spent most of yesterday evening listening to the shouting match that usually follows the now familiar squeel of tires and sound of crunching metal. I had a look at both parties who I thought might end up rolling in the gutter throwing punches by the sound of things ( the cops showed up and stopped that). They looked respectable members of society and were over fifty. Yet they behaved like three year olds, shouting in the street at perfect strangers, jumping around, swearing, threatening, telling lies. Out of context it would be funny. But if you acted like that on foot they would come take you away for a drugs test... why is it acceptable to behave like that if you are a motorist ? Often through my kitchen window I hear near misses then honking and really nasty swearing. And we have all done it... I think this behaviour comes from our belief in god given rights as motorists to huge freedom and superhuman speed that places us above pedestrians and cyclists and the resulting superhuman frustration that slowly builds up with obstacles, laws and other people "getting in our way". Add money (the cost of running,buying and repair) and watch us all turn bad. This post sprouts from two things. Firstly I read a few days ago on citysimplicity (a really fantastic blog on all levels)
a post on how motorists treat cyclists. And secondly today I was on the way back from the Post Office on my hack bike (no cargo so no need for the Yuba Mundo) at a junction waiting to turn left facing oncoming traffic, just as I would in a car, when a woman in a huge 4x4 screamed through her windshield "get out my F*%!ing way" and raced round me missing me by inches giving me a look of disgust. She wouldn't have done that if I was in a car (Or we were both on foot). I am so used to this sort of thing, and people's attempts to clip me with wing mirrors or drive really close to show that I am a dangerous annoyance, that I don't even react outwardly any more. It was when I pulled away from the junction towards home that a few words in citysimplicity's blog came back to me, and started this train of thought ;
"As previously implied, I think everyone has their right to own and drive a vehicle..."
This is almost universally accepted even amongst cyclists. Shaken and angry, I looked up a few numbers. Cars don't just pollute our streets, but injure 50 million people and kill 1.2 million people worldwide a year, thats 2.2 percent of all deaths... motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children worldwide.
You can bet that tomorrow if you invented an activity that killed and injured as many people as cars, polluted as much and restricted everyone's freedoms in so many ways, that it would soon be banned and that you would be jailed pretty quick...
This is about rights alright. Those who are free to do as they will, and those who have to adjust their lives to fit around the automobile and give up their freedom. We have two cars in our household... I am so sick of all this that I will be looking at ways to go without.
Lucie learned to ride her bike in about ten minutes flat. I was amazed, and I wonder if it has something to do with all the hours spent on the back of the Yuba Mundo. Anyway as school was out and so was the sun we grabbed the bikes and headed for the BMX track two blocks away down by the river. I noticed as I held the back of her saddle so she wouldn't fall off as we made our way, that she had her balance, but that she didn't realise it. The next step was to put my hands under her armpits to catch her if she fell as she went along. We could both see that she was ready to go solo. 15 minutes later she was zipping round the BMX pump track !
I was soon being chased around on my Yuba by the kids and it was fun to ride on the slopes and banks.
We were all exhausted by the end of the afternoon and I attached her littlepinkbike to tag along on the back of theYuba Mundo, Mrs Yuba (first time) climbed on the back with Lucie and our 3 year old son with his push along motorbike. Lots of laughing, quite a band wagon, but within the load limit. It made people smile as we went by.
Lost my photos of Saturday's market trip so Sunday's spin will have to do. Mrs Yuba mentioned that there was a medieval festival on the other side of town in an old abandoned stone fort. I had heard that a cycle path wound its way up the hill to it's gates, so off we set to discover this new path. We cut through town on a Sunday morning that was surprisingly busy and found the start of the path well hidden behind some recycling bins at the entrance of a commercial strip. We were soon riding along a small canal with huge oaks giving us some shade and came across this aquaduct.
The fort was on the top of the hill with a great view across town. I found the Yuba Mundo quite easy to pedal up dispite the slope.
It was overcast but warm (stung by mosquitos in the night, and it is november... !) We were of course the only cyclists and we watched hundreds of people trying to find a parking space as we pedalled by. We locked up infront of the gates, the kids who had put on costumes to fit in with the medieval theme (Gipsy dancer, fairy & pumpkin ?!? - their tastes !) jumping around with excitement. Note the medieval looking types at the gate...
After a chat with a guy about the Yuba Mundo as I locked up. -He found it a great idea and was surprised that I had managed to pedal up there, but he decided it was too big to store practically - unlike his SUV of course snigger... We walked in. The fort was full of stalls with medievalish activities, sword making, woodworking, birds of prey ;
, cooking in dubious hygienic conditions, taverns, grill, clothes etc etc. Everyone acting very very medieval. Fun for the kids and intresting to see that there are still some people who can do things with their hands, but the scene was not really my cup of tea. I don't find that epoch very inspiring and grown ups getting dressed up, being too extravert for comfort, and trying to sell me overpriced tat was a bit too much for me on a Sunday morning... but it was fun to see a medieval princess on her mobile phone for 20 minutes.
There was also a cage with two bored wolves and an excited woman who couldn't stop cuddling them to show how nice the animals were.
Things picked up when the wolves smelled the ham and smoked sausage grease on the fingers of the kids (we had just had lunch) and it was at this point we decided to leave...
On the way out we noticed that the herd of sheep that usually inhabit the hill were keeping a low profile well out of site of the wolves in a corner.
Nice day out, something for everyone, I went along for the ride.
Sun was back so we headed out, all 5 of us fo a 35 km trip, rather than the usual solo trip to the supermarket etc. Cool, very little wind, leaves turning reds and oranges out in the fields... Little snack hut by the cyclepath... Great day out.
Had to break off our biscuit break though as a chopper turned up and started spraying a field close by and I didn't fancy agent orange on my cookies.
On the way back we stumbled on a new organic fruit veg shop and I watched the kids check the Yuba Mundo over while Mrs Yuba shopped. The locktight I had put on the cranks has stopped them dropping off and the Yuba is issue free.
Got some smiles from the ladies at the supermarket today. I am not sure if it is because I was one of the very few men doing shopping, the big green strange Yuba Mundo or my orange-glow-in-the-dark shopping caddy. Perhaps all of the above.
This supermarket is cool because although it is a cheaper regular type place in a working class neigbourhood, it has a place to lock up your ride (that is bolted to the floor). Unfortunately the old ladies who shop here also use it to tie up their dogs when they go in to shop... so yes those are dog turds...
Also intrestingly this place has a line of organic homebrand food. Local, cheap and good quality. So you can shop cheaply without consuming pesticides or contributing to poisoning the countryside and damaging farmer's health. Suits me.
They can spot me miles away now. It is even brighter in real life.
Is it me or are punctures more common than I remember ?
Also when I was a boy 25 years ago, I did alot of cycling, and I can't remember having to pump my tires up so often, or fix punctures. Perhaps we just forget.
I have very little to complain about with the Yuba Mundo's tyres which have kevlar in them and despite 5 or 6 hundred miles loaded up and running over urban detritus have not punctured yet. Fantastic. I still have to top up the pressure every week or so, but that is the same with all my bikes. As the temprature dropped this week, and heading for the foothills only 20 minutes away from home seems less of a heatstroke risk, I got on my mountain bike and headed for the hills for some fun. Something I have managed not to do since April.
I rode out from down there...
Had a great time, despite riding out there on the road. The climb out of the last village into the hills on dirt track underlined the drop in my level of fitness since April. Will have to do this more often...
On the way back I had a headwind, but it wasn't that bad because it was down hill. But I still found it hard going. I figured out why when I got back from the school run and noticed that I had two flat tyres. It was tough getting back in because my tyres were slowly deflating because of tiny thorns, but not flat. Soft tyres are tough to push along...
Great two punctures to fix... Are tyre compounds too soft. Are inner tubes now wafer thin ?
At least my bike had the decency to get me home. I realised when I got home that I had my puncture repair kit but not my pump. I was a long way from home. Won't do that again.
Another trip out to the bigmetalbox shops in the suburbs to buy DIY supplies... nothing provided to chain up the Yuba Mundo of course. But I suppose I was the only cyclist for miles.
I was on the way back from buying pots of paint for the house, minding my own business, trying not to get killed on the road by white vans and blind OAPs behind the wheel, when a Police motorcycle pulled up alongside me. The cop looked at me with his Robocop helmet and I wondered what I had done. But he didn't point for me to pull over, he just looked at me as we sped along at 17 km/h... I thought, this is strange but maby he likes bikes too and he's checking out the Yuba. So I gave him a smile as I reckoned that I probably wouldn't be able to out run his BMW motorbike. He smiled back, sort of.. then I noticed all the people behind us.
It was a class of 25 kids out in school time on a bike ride round the block. Wow. I stopped to watch them go by, lose the cop, and take some photos. It was quite the convoy. 2 elderly lady teachers infront in a little blue lead car (hazard lights on), 25 chatting kiddies on bikes, 1 cycling male teacher shouting constantly trying to keep control, and a motorcycle cop escort to stop people driving through the group of 25 kiddies (Despite the best efforts of a Audi A3 driver). Is cycling on the road such a dangerous activity that it needs a cop and car escort... ?!? It is not as if it was a busy stretch of road or anything. I think though that this is a demonstration of people's fear of letting kids out of the ever incroaching cocoon, the fear of cycling, and the general bending over to automobile absolute rule of the road. A friend of mine told me this weekend how he was hooted off the road on a Sunday morning family ride by an old woman who shouted from her car window that he had no place to be out on the road. This in a backwater village... What I saw today was a private school activity I believe, and I am sure alot of kids these days never learn to ride a bike on the road, and what was my first taste of freedom 25 years ago as a 12 year old is now considered impossible by most parents. What struck me too, and what saddens me every time I pick my kids up from school too, was the number of seriously overweight kids huffing along on their bikes. I look back to photos of me at that age, when I had to cycle 15 miles a day for school, and even my kids who cycle too, and the difference is shocking.
I know its 9/11, and my heart goes out to all those who died and who have since died, but I couldn't help thinking about oil and our dependance on it today. Its a sensitive subject... but I feel linked to many many problems.
I spent an hour this morning lost, cycling round a huge industrial estate on the outskirts of town, I was surprised by its size compared with our backwater town, but I guess it has more to do with the motorway and the frontier 20 kms away than our town. I needed a taylor made bolt for our aging Fiat and had found a small engineering firm to make it. I looked on the map and saw a cycle path run right past it. Great I thought, and 15 minutes later I was heading into heavy industry country.
I was greeted with a truck sitting square on facing the end of the cycle path. The irony of this image hit me hard, two worlds face to face. I then ventured into the industrial estate and was overtaken by tens of very large trucks, overwhelmed by disgusting smells, noise, factories with open doors where you could see more trucks, and heavy plant. I have an industrial background and it was intresting to see all this only a few miles from home. I cycled and cycled in very unpleasant, agressive traffic situations, couldn't find my way through because of a rail line that was fenced off, and the access to the other side was a motorway ramp... No thought obviously for cycles... I had to leave, cycle all round through the outskirts and enter from the other side. I eventually found the engineering firm and it was like an engineer's dream from the 50's. Old men in blue overalls at machines that looked as old as them turning parts for god knows what, everything was coated with a film of black grease. They had made my special bolt and off I went.
It was then that I started to think about all the jobs in the area, jobs that depended on trucks, cars and international transport. And the consequences of the investment of millions and millions of Euros people have put into this industrial estate. My old boys in blue overalls, the countless other obscure engineering, and parts supply businesses, import export businesses, cantines, even the guy selling burgers out of the back of a van to factory workers. They all depend on one thing for their jobs and the means to get from their suburbs to their jobs, and that's cheap oil. When you sweat and pedal around aimlessly, frustrated, surrounded by hundreds of trucks, people loading / unloading, fixing them, cleaning them etc etc... the power of oil and our weakness physically without it is underlined. If oil goes up again like last year and keeps going up as some experts are saying, they will all be out of a job, and fast. Thats alot of people. What will happen to the miles of metal buildings, who will carry on paying for the loans taken out for their construction, same for the machinery and all the huge trucks. Will it all just sit and rust on the outskirts of town ? Will it happen, or is it a case of when ? In 3, 5, 8 years ? What will all these people do for work, how will they pay for their houses and food... I pedaled home away from all the noise and activity, thinking about all this with my shiney new bolt in my pocket.
That was a big box. I had ordered a recycled/reconditioned (ie second hand) vacuum cleaner off ebay and the guy sent it in a rather large cardboard box. Of course I was out when the Postwoman came, so I went off on the Yuba Mundo to the post office this morning to collect it. I had a couple of people turn round in the street and stare at me on the way home. Quite funny..
As the days are drawing shorter I bought a dynamo lights kit for the Yuba Mundo, and because of the large size of the tyres I needed the extension bracket so that the dynamo wheel meets up with the tyre correctly. Without it it touched at an angle, the top ridge of the dynamo cap wheel only, which would have carved a groove in the tyre eventually. Like this it makes contact with 100% of the driving surface of the dynamo wheel. Up graded to this rear light which has a battery/capacitor inside that keeps the light onfor 3 minutes, which is good when you come to a junction at night for example. Still have to do the wires, as the wire that came with the kit is 6 foot long and isn't long enough !
Recently I was walking along the boardwalk by the beautiful river near my house (it runs through town about 100 yards from our road), teaching my kids how to ride their bikes. Up came 2 youths on a scooter ( about 8 and 14 years old. ) One got off the back carrying a disassembled and new looking scooter frame without motor, forks, tank, etc and then chucked it into the river next to a sunbathing woman who stared on in disbelief. When I opened my mouth to say something I was met with abuse, threats and we were followed around and given evil looks for 20 minutes. Perhaps they were waiting to see if I would call the cops or fish out the stolen scooter frame with it's chassis serial numbers. I don't know what depresses me more; the fact that dumping stuff into a beautiful river like it is their private garbage dump, in broad daylight before witnesses, is normal activity for these children - and what hope can we have for keeping nature in some sort of decent state - or that at a such a young age they are (and need to be) stealing and dismantling scooters. I shudder to think what their life must have been like so far and what the future holds for them... I live on a different planet to alot of people I often feel.
I ended up on my wife's bike again after she toppled over on it coming to a stop at a badly placed motorbike obstacle on the cycle path, with N°3 child in the childseat on the way to the beach. After this unfortunate but not too serious accident she asked for a swop to the Yuba and that was it. She finished the 20 Km of the ride with child and beach gear easily. She rides a hybrid with 700 c wheels which places the centre of gravity high up. That with thin tyres, a child perched up in a child seat over those tall thin wheels makes for a top heavy bike that whips along, but understeers, and is not as stable as a 26 inch bike. It really wants to fall over when loaded anytime you take your rear off the saddle. The frame might be a tad too big for her too, with these big wheels. The Yuba even with a larger child, beach bags, with its smaller wheels and lower centre of gravity makes for a safer ride and a bike that goes round corners... even if slightly slower ! We saw a lot of rabbits and partridges on the way back, but they were too quick to catch on the camera.
We will start looking for a replacement for the hybrid as she uses this bike every day and there are probably better solutions out there.
The kids nagged me all morning so that I would take them to a pizza restaurant a mile down the road for lunch, one of 70 in a national chain. Being weak and after three hours of mental assaults I gave in. We turned up on the Yuba and I parked up on the side of the restaurant near the terrace leaving the Yuba on its kickstand. A very rude server came up as I was doing this and told me not to throw my bike in the bushes. Good start, I nearly left there and then... cyclists are obviously freaks to this person, and one with three kids in tow obviously put her stress levels up. Access to this fake Tuscan style villa is on a busy main road, stuck between car sales emporiums, a parking lot and a supermarket. It was not nice to access it on a bike. We were the first to arrive, we ordered our pasta and pizzas with the scowling server and I tried to relax. Gradually people started to park up and get out of their cars, some had driven only a few hundred yards from their workplace down the road. Then every single person who came to the terrace started to smoke, repeatedly. The fact that it is now illegal here to smoke in a public place, and that there were 3 children present didn't seem to bother anybody. The food was bad, there was about double the food needed, especially for the kids, and I spent my time calculating how fast we could get out of there. Then came the moment when I understood why the kids wanted to come to this nasty place and why they had been unusually well behaved. ( Appart from an incident when N°2 child came back from the toilets mid meal and said, no shouted - Boy, I am really constipated ! - I tried not to laugh. At this point I would have been pleased if they had started throwing food.) At the end of the meal they get a toy wrapped in 3 layors of plastic. They came for the toy, not the food.... the joys of marketing. The toys were cheap swimming goggles, so I suggested that we go test them at the beach, and we were out of there...
We were soon out of town and alone on the cyclepath that takes us the 15 clicks to the beach, we managed a park stop on route and were soon in the water. I found out that you can fit a 1.5 litre water bottle in the frame in front of the rear wheel and it won't fall out. A great find for hot days.
Also I like taking my bikes onto the beach where I can see them, the Yuba even loaded up with beach towels, toys etc rolls along nicely on its fat tires on fine sand. And when you put it down on the sand the side bars hold the chain and hub high off the sand so it all stays clean.
We had a cool wind with lots of waves this afternoon. Had great fun rolling in the waves all afternoon and left the beach at about six in the evening. I found the ride back with the three kids (65 Kg) on the back harder than usual, but there had been a head wind on the way out and I am not in my usual physical condition after a lazy holiday period. Alot of people were in their cars going home too (looking hot and cramped), and this cycle path is not too far from the road so we had tens of people slow down on the road to look and point at us. It is not often you see 4 people on a bike after all. Its not often that you see a bike with 1 person on it either unfortunately... We must have been overtaken by about 3 bikes on the 15 km trip back, mostly kids who would probably been on motorbikes if they were old enough. Happily we got alot of smiles and thumbs up and looks of surprise from people who might think of doing the same thing as us. When I get stopped in town and chat to people I am often taken back by their surprise at the distances we travel on the Yuba. In most people's minds a bike is not a method of transport anymore. When we got back there was a piece on national TV about 2 six foot Blue sharks that had been sighted a mile from where we had been paddling all afternoon ! Unheard of here... Anyway I doubt they would have come into 8 inches of water where we were.
Our holidays were pretty much bike free unfortunatley. We thought touring Italy in a Fiat would be different. It was great, and the sights and food amazing, but the closest we got to a bike was taking photos of vintage Italian racers. I finally got to jump back on the yuba yesterday and resume bike based life with a trip to the beach with the three kids. Mrs Yuba joined us in the fun after work.
It was great to pootle along with the kids in a car free environment under the blazing sun. The Yuba was on top form, I had spent some time that morning fettling the gears, brakes and pumping up the tires. I fitted some panniers to carry the beach toys, and I think I will use them to go shopping. We were pretty loaded up and I can feel the 30 km in my legs this morning. Not suprising after nearly 3 weeks lazyness.
Last night I got back from the capital and we decided to go out to eat. It rained quite a bit, which is unheard of here in July, but atleast that brought the temperature down. The streets were dry when we came out at the end of the meal. My friend from London who came down with me walked back rather than climbing on the back. Very first refusal.... never mind.
This morning I popped down to the post office to pick up a parcel that had come while I was gone. Got some funny looks going through town. Its a roofrack for the car that came from ebay, and didn't move at all on the 1 mile trip.
This is the storage arrangement, the Yuba hardly takes up any space here in the corner.
This stops the beast falling over and crushing wife and kids etc when they open the outhouse door. Still very pleased with the Yuba, had a technical though today, the crank bolts work free now after about 10 miles, so I will have to put some "locktight" on the bolt threads to stop them unscrewing when I cycle.