New Year, New You

...even Brooke has used it!
…even Brooke has used it!

Last year, I started jogging regularly at the student center next door to my building on campus.  At the time, Meg was still at the preschool, so I could stop what I was doing at 3:00, go over and jog on the treadmill for 20-30 min, and then get home to do a few things and take a shower before getting the kids.

This year, that hasn’t worked out as well since Meg is in Kindergarten and gets out of school at 2:55 pm on most days.  I could always leave her in my office (not my first choice) or I could bring her with me (really not my first choice…), but the path of least resistance just led me to “not jogging anymore.”

On a whim in mid-December, I did a quick survey of Amazon to see what they had in the bicycle trainer realm.  A buddy from St. Louis had one that he used for his road bike in the winters, but until recently, I hadn’t really considered it.  Turns out they’re actually pretty reasonable!  We already have good bikes and have invested in a roof rack for the Forester, as well as a trailer for the kids to ride in, so it made sense to continue in that vein toward biking.  What’s more, it’s compact enough that it, and a bicycle, can fit in our basement without much fuss, though it’s also collapsible and easily removable from said bike if we need to move it.

This particular model from RAD Cycle is a touch on the noisy side, and reviewers pointed this out, but many of them were talking about using one in an apartment when someone lives below you.  In our case, it really doesn’t disturb anyone, as it’s resting on a concrete foundation.  You can hear it on our first floor when someone’s using it, but with the heater running as often as it is, it blends in pretty seamlessly.  The noise comes from the mountain bike tires rubbing up against a magnetic resistor.  If we were using a road bike or had hybrid tires, I bet it wouldn’t be quite as loud.

I’ve been using it the past few days for 20 minute stints in the afternoons after getting home.  Brooke has tried it a few times in the morning and hasn’t quite made it to 20 minutes yet, but she’ll work up to it.  We’re using her bike on the thing to make it a bit easier for her to hop on it.  Also, she’s less likely to use her bike outside as the weather (eventually…) gets warmer, so mine’s available to pull the kids around in the trailer if need be.

Hopefully we keep it up.  I need to put in more than 20 minutes to really do much good, but for now, that’s 20 minutes of sitting down doing nothing that I’m now using for exercise.  I guess that’s progress enough.

A Return to Biking

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I used to do a decent amount of biking, in another life.  Growing up, we’d make relatively frequent treks to the Katy Trail in Rocheport, MO.  I also had a paper route, and for the most part, made my deliveries on my bike.  Once I went to college, after I moved off-campus my Junior year, I picked up a Trek 800 Sport to get around easier, and occasionally went mountain biking at Thousand Hills State Park near Kirksville, MO.

Since college, though, my biking has been pretty infrequent.  Brooke and I went a few times after we got married, as we were close to a decent biking trail in Affton, MO.  We also told ourselves that we’d bike the entire length of the Katy Trail back in 2006 (240 miles…and no, it totally didn’t happen…).  But after moving to Soulard, we got out of the habit.  Brooke actually rode her bike up in Iowa a few times with Meg, as there was a decent lake-side trail in Cedar Rapids to visit, but we still didn’t go biking as much as we’d used to.

Well, now that I’ve got more time in the summers, I figured it was time to get back in the habit.  Meg got a bike for her birthday, so in an effort to get her a bit more interested so she’ll actually learn to ride said bicycle, I figured I should get mine back up to snuff.  My poor Trek had been left outside for its first few years with me, so it wasn’t as well maintained as it probably should have been.  I took it by a local bike shop and had them do some updating to it: new brakes, new brake lines, new road/trail tires, and a new grip shift system.  It rides better than it has in a long time!

We live hear Sedalia, where the Katy Trail passes through, so I wanted to be able to take the kids down with me.  As Meg can’t ride her bike with training wheels nearly fast enough, and Calvin is a toddler, I looked into trailers to attach to my bike.  These things usually retail for around $500+ if you want a quality two-seat trailer, so I took to Craigslist to see what I could fine.  After a few tries, I snagged one in south Kansas City for about $175, which I thought was pretty reasonable.  It fits in the back of the Subaru, though I have to fold it down each time.

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Once folded, it’s actually quite compact.  In the image all the way at the top of the post, you can see how wide the thing actually gets.  The seat belts are pretty secure and it has various windows and shades that can be optionally installed depending on what the weather looks like that day.  Lastly, it also contains a rear compartment for picnic lunches, diapers, etc.  It should hold about 100 lbs, so Meg and Calvin can both ride it this summer, and potentially next summer depending on how much they grow.  Once Meg is actually riding her bike properly, then I can still keep Calvin in it until he’s ready to get on a two-wheeler himself.

I should note that I took the kids out for a spin in it when I brought it home this week.  They made me go out in it again after dinner, so I think they’re pretty pleased with it.  I think Calvin would have slept in it that night if I’d let him…

Speaking of the Subaru, the last piece of this puzzle involved getting the bikes from our house in Marshall to Sedalia.  We’ve tried various bike racks over the years and have never been happy with them on our hatchbacks: they simply never feel secure enough when you’re driving 70 mph down the highway, and one of us always had to keep an eye out the back window to make sure we weren’t going to cause an accident.

Thus, we made sure that the Forester had a roof rack when we bought it so that we could put bike racks up top eventually.  Actually, we want to put in a trailer hitch and then get a rear hitch bike rack, but that’s a $1000 (total) upgrade, so we opted against it for this summer.  Instead, I picked up a few Rockymounts roof racks on sale at Amazon.  They were pretty easy to install and, thankfully, are relatively easy to get a bike attached to.  Brooke isn’t quite tall enough to get a bike onto the roof of the Forester, so it’s one of those things I’ll always have to do (at least, until we get a trailer system).

IMG_20150527_155752402I’ll still be teaching in June four days a week, so I’ll probably take Calvin down with me on Fridays.  If Brooke is available, perhaps I’ll take her bike along and steal her away from work for an hour or so to get some fresh air.  Either way, I’m looking forward to getting back into biking, and hopefully getting the kids outside and away from the TV for a few hours each week.  🙂