Monday, April 8, 2019

Given the proper time any bicycle or trailer can be stolen.  The vast majority of thefts, however, are crimes of opportunity.  Bikes have multiple ways to protect and secure pieces and parts, but what about trailers?  With a little bit of creativity, you can increase the security of your trailer and decrease its appeal as a target.

Trailers don’t usually feature easily accessible solid areas like the main or rear triangle of a bicycle to securely fasten a u-lock.  On the Burley D’lite, your best option is the loop atop the rear storage compartment.  Carefully slip the U-lock shackle in between the fabric of the cover and the bar itself.  This will put some strain on the fabric, but it creates the most secure area I have found.  You can leave the U-lock attached when not in use to insure you always have a quick access to a lock, further encouraging you to keep your trailer safe!

There is a threshold of protection on U-locks, at minimum, you want your lock to be able to withstand an attack from a bolt cutter.  A U-lock’s shackle should be a diameter of 13-15mm to resist all but the biggest bolt cutters and 16-18mm will require something more serious in the way of an angle grinder to remove.  Bear in mind that $20 spent now prevents an $800 trailer from being stolen!   The brands I rely on are Kryptonite, Abus and OnGuard.  These brands, as well as others, offer some insurance, and I will cover lock insurance in another post.

Now we U-lock our trailer every time
Speaking with one of the awesome folks at Burley after a theft of our Burley Nomad, it was suggested that I pursue a couple of padlocks in sensitive areas.  The Masterlock 140DLH(MSRP 10.49) is a similar size to the Retaining Pin and as such can be used on both ends of the tow-bar to keep your trailer securely fastened to your vehicle.  Keep in mind that using the padlock in this way will require you to modify the Safety Strap to remain safe in the event of an equipment failure, this will, however, make disconnecting your trailer from your bike impossible without tools and time, a big step up from just popping a pin  out of place.

Last year, we had our sons Burley Nomad Stolen from in front of our local Albertsons.  We made the mistake of securing it only with a cable on a shopping trip.  The bigger mistake, however, was that we secured it in an area that had no video surveillance, not even dummy cameras.  I know it may seem odd that the designated bike parking had no cameras, but it is something that we should have realized.   As mentioned earlier, opportunity is the number one reason for theft.

If your trailer is so equipped, the best way I have found is to simply take the trailer with you inside.  Though not always possible, with a little practice, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the number of places you can take it, and the sense of security it can provide when you don't have to take your eyes off of your kid hauling transportation.  As a bonus, it can provide a comfortable napping spot for your wee ones.

Nothing makes a trailer impervious to theft, even  bikes can’t be invincible.   The goal is to make your trailer not worth the effort.  The standard has always been a cable through the wheels, and that is still true today, but with these extra levels of security, you can help to make sure your trailer will be more difficult and less appealing for thieves. 

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Shopping Cardag Style-Trailer Edition

As a large family that runs on calories as fuel, we make a lot of trips to the grocery store.  Our Store of choice is an Albertsons about 2 miles from our house.  Short trips for staples can be handled with panniers or our cargo bike, but a few times a month we require a full food reset, and for that we need our trailer.  This is a huge part of how we have survived by bike for so long and been successful.
               It’s a team effort from the start.  Rachel and I start working on a grocery list to make sure what we get is what we need.  While we prep the list, the older boys prepare the trailer.  Addy and Charlie take a moment to clean any debris left from their younger siblings, check air pressure and do the equivalent of the bicycle ABC Quick check on our D’lite trailer.
               Once the tasks and gear are set, we decide on the vehicle.  If I have passengers, I take the cargo bike(a Surly Big Dummy with Yuba Monkey Bars) if I have passengers or my beloved Surly Cross-Check if I am rolling solo.  From experience with trailers, I know the Burley D’lite will behave the same regardless of bicycle, so it allows us to pick which set-up works best.  Lower end trailers (e.g. Schwinn or Instep) behave differently depending on the vehicle/weight/road conditions.  That makes it hard when you leave with trailer weight and return with that plus 100lbs of food.
               We live on the second story of an apartment building, but making two trips isn’t always possible.  To get around this I used my experience driving truck and trailer to connect the bike and trailer and maneuver it by the elevator, hitting the button as I pass and positioning my bike so that as soon as the door opens I can smoothly back the trailer into the lift.  This is a normal sized elevator so, once the trailer is guided in, I raise the bike up to allow clearance for the door to close.  There is even still room for 2-3 passengers to comfortably join us(though if anyone is already on the elevator I usually wait)!  Getting the trailer back out usually requires a bit more maneuvering but ,with enough practice, it has become much more smooth.
               Now, I’m getting ready to load this trailer up so the trip there is about testing and correcting any issues with the trailer.  Do the shocks feel good?  Are the wheels secure?  Any odd noises coming from anywhere?  The answer is almost always know, but even with the at-home check, things can happen.  I am very happy with Burleys choice to abandon Quick Release levers on their wheels, their current system makes for a much faster and more accurate check.
               As I am monitoring the trailer itself I also make one more very important observation, road conditions.  Glass and debris can be annoying at any time, but fixing a flat with a loaded down trailer, possibly with the addition of young kids at the roadside, can make the experience difficult enough to abandon altogether!  It’s also a good time to spot any other potential problems or obstacles for your return trip, keeping in mind that soon you will be slower and much less nimble.
               Arriving at the store I like to park out front where there is a lot of traffic, a good U-lock and little opportunity is a good way to feel safe while shopping(Look for a more in-depth look at security soon).  I used to lock both bike and trailer out front, but it was always a guessing game to figure out what would or would not fit back into the trailer.  Our D’lite has the one wheel stroller attachment, so rather than lock it up, I just pop the wheel down and roll through the front door of our local Albertsons.
               The actual shopping is the shortest part of the whole routine, but there are tricks to make sure your Burley is used as efficiently as possible.  Starting in the freezer section is always a good bet, as is creates a nice cool area for some of the more perishable foods.  I typically hit dairy second, as a few gallons of milk add quite a bit of weight and things like yogurt and cheese benefit greatly from being packed with cold items from the freezer aisle.  It’s usually best to hit raw meat next as most things you have so far are packaged and cold and you still have quite a bit of room for allotting special space to avoid cross contamination.  I usually prefer using the rear storage area of our D’lite for this task, flipping up the rear flap so I don’t forget it when its time to check out.  If your trailer is equipped with a rotating stroller bar, you can take this time to create a small table surface using the front and rear part of the cover, which comes in very handy later on.  Canned food comes next, its hard, heavy and adds up fast, its very easy to overload a trailer with these items so its important to be constantly assessing the additional weight, a few times I have had to stop a shopping trip because the can weight crept up on me.  Boxed food, grains and baking supplies can be bought mostly in whatever order, they all have awkward shapes but weigh a bit less.  With a variety of shapes and sizes, nearly all of which are fragile, produce comes last.  This is where the extra internal room in our D’lite comes in handy, it is always surprising how much can be fit inside still set so as not to fall out while shopping.  Now I know I just said produce comes last but there are two exceptions.  The first exception is eggs, feel free to use the small surface you created using the front and rear flaps to hold a nice big flat of eggs.  The other is special requests, I like to bring a little Sushi home for Rachel whenever I can.  To meet this task I keep my helmet clipped to the handlebars, this can hold drinks, food, whatever you want to keep separated at the end of your trip.
               So now you have all of the food all packed up and organized, you’ve marked off your list and you are ready toooooo…unpack all of it as quickly as possible and then load it again!  But this time faster and with people staring at you!   Honestly it’s not nearly that bad, and there are tricks to help feel less exposed in this situation.
               When I started shopping by trailer, I would have one of my boys go grab a cart from up front, allowing the bagger to load normally, then wheeling it up front to re-pack the trailer.  This is not always possible for a few reasons, kids get tired and patience runs low, the store doesn’t have space to perform the task, etc.   Using bags can be a blessing or a curse, plastic bags can end up damaging a lot of goods, but paper bags hold their form well enough to allow bags to fit neatly into the trailer.
               If you luck out, you end up with some really awesome checkers and baggers who make you feel totally comfortable with your “unusual” approach to shopping.  Kyle and Teagan were those people for me, and always worked together to pack my Burley as efficiently as possible!  When they eventually moved to different departments, I had to re-learn how to do it myself again, both of them were and still are absolute Rockstar’s!

Next up, Shopping Cardag Style-Cargo Bike!

Friday, March 22, 2019

A legacy of empowerment

In 1913, the State of California began requiring a driver's license for the first time.  Though a few states had already adopted the practice, very few required a knowledge or skill test to become licensed.  Also in 1913, a family in Ackerman, Bessarabia, now the Ukraine, gave birth to a baby girl named Anna.

How are these related?  How do they relate to our family and our story?  Though living through the implementation of the car as a staple of modern society, the model T was in production until she was 14, Anna never owned a license nor drove a car.  When she and her three year old girl, Margaret, came to the United States in 1956, 2 years after Ellis Island closed, they made their new lives in America without adopting its growing obsession with automobiles.

Anna grew up in the Ukraine and studied Art(paint in Oils) in Munich, Germany and was promised a job painting in the United States when she arrived in Gettysburg, Ohio.  But, she found that her fine brushes would not be needed to paint houses.  Years later, she moved to a small flat in Columbus, Ohio, where she would continue to live and work as her daughter went through school.

It was during her time in Columbus that she purchased her three wheel bike.  One long time resident recalled seeing her riding along the freeway one day.  Anna had rented a small community garden plot and, according to her daughter, it simply made more sense to take the faster route.

Her daughter grew up, graduated from Ohio State and moved out west, Anna stayed in Columbus and continued her simple life.  When the garden became too far away, she cultivated life in and around her own home, caring for the things that grew, and living as a steward of our Earth.

As time wore on, she moved out to Boise, Idaho, to be near her daughter and grandson, and her bicycle and greenthumb came with her.  Anna rented out a small home and with the help of her family, created a small, flourishing garden.  Her grandson vividly recalls being left alone to wander the garden, eating strawberries, picking raspberries, or finding the biggest tomato to cart into the kitchen as his prize produce.

Time continued forward and the bicycle became more difficult to ride, many of the adaptive bicycles were still early in development, so walking became her primary means of transportation.  At 86 she was struck in a crosswalk when a private delivery truck made a right turn and didn't see her.  A life of living without relying on cars, nearly ended by one.  She survived, but with greatly reduced mobility.  She moved once again, in 2008, this time to Eugene, Oregon, so that her daughter and grandson could be present with her and help her keep her independence.  Though unable to bike and not as spry as before, Anna continued to live on her own in a small manufactured home.

The lack of a car had kept her life in perspective, had kept her daily tasks small and allowed for enjoyment of all the small details we miss everyday.  The faster we go, the more we try to pack into the day, and eventually we forget how beautiful hummingbirds are(they would visit her garden in Boise regularly).

She died March 5th, 2019 at the age of 105, having given her love to the youngest generation of her family, her four great-grandchildren, and their father and mother.   Earlier I asked how this relates to our family and our story.  For that I leave you this, CARDAG and Omama, Anna Mitschu Nikolajewitch.