Family bike trip: Portland to Breitenbush and back again

For our vacation, we the Fahrner family rode from our door in Portland up into the Cascade mountains along the Clackamas river, camped one night along the way, then spent four nights at Breitenbush Hot Springs. We rode home in one day. 193 total bike miles, 12,000′ of climbing, with a camping load and our 6-year old son in a child seat. This was an unforgettably wonderful experience for all of us: 4 days of total relaxation at the springs book-ended by 3 days and a night of bike camping.
loaded

breitenbushWe first visited Breitenbush last autumn, taking a Zipcar. The stay was far too short; we resolved to return. Breitenbush Hot Springs is an amazing place, a worker-owned cooperative on a beautiful site in ancient forest. The soaking pools are clothing-optional (mostly none). The food is organic vegetarian, no alcohol or caffeine. It’s off the grid: they generate their own electricity from the river and operate year-round on geothermal heat. They even run their own code-compliant sewage system for 190 people. There is no phone service apart from the office, no cell coverage: forget internet, radio or TV. Beside soaking, eating, and lounging about (I napped a lot), the hiking really can’t be beat, and there are usually new-agey kinds of workshops taking place for those so inclined. That’s not us, but I did indulge my inner hippie by slathering naked self head-to-toe in sulfurous volcanic mud, letting it bake on in the sun, and washing off in the c-c-c-cold swift river. Perfect!

We approached the idea of riding there tentatively, because though we ride every day, it has been some years since we’ve camped or even put more than 35 miles in a day on bikes as a family, much less nearly 200 heavily laden with lots of climbing mostly in mountain wilderness, beyond all services including cell phone signals. How would our son handle days straight sitting in his seat? But between the waste of parking a shared car at Breitenbush all week, our wanting to get some long-form biking in, and the need for blog fodder, well, we had to try it. Plus, we’ve needed to put in some extended test miles on new production elements of Stokemonkey, our elusive electric assist system specific to longtails, and this sounded like a good challenge.

It had never been entirely clear to me at what range Stokemonkey would become more burden than help. For utility hops of a few dozen miles or less in steep places like San Francisco or Seattle, it’s a no-brainer, but could we make the charge last this many miles in these mountains, with these loads, and still have Stokemonkey, with its weight and displacement costs, be a net advantage? I’m happy to report that we could. And that son is a champ in the seat for long hours, even offering back rubs. We’ll travel this way again.

We rode out about 18 miles along the Springwater Trail to join this route near Gresham, shared by Matt Picio at Bikely, complete with excellent cue sheet:

Clackamas Camping out to Breitenbush (route courtesy Matt Picio)

elevation

cycleanalystI figured out the total miles, then divided by the number of watt-hours we’d be packing in the batteries on each bike to come up with a per-mile power allowance of about 8 watt hours. It takes a lot of discipline not to open the throttle every time you get a little tired, but keeping under the allowance would assure that we’d have enough juice left to help with the tough climbing on the second day as shown in the elevation profile above. In practice, this meant using the assist only uphill and for the odd acceleration from a start, at least on the more climb-intensive outward leg. Coming home we could be more liberal with the assist.

Though each bike weighed nearly 150 pounds with cargo, 2 large NiMH battery packs each, passenger and all, we maintained an average speed of 11.7 MPH over the 193 miles, working no harder uphill than on the flats. Downhill, that extra weight is all gravy, which allowed us to ride home in a single easy 96-mile day. The bikes handled beautifully with all the weight; they are designed to.

climbing breakOf course, riding lighter bikes with lesser loads and no motor assistance is entirely feasible, and preferable from a simplicity point of view. It would also be slower and rather grueling on the steeper, longer inclines. For that matter, we could have hiked there and home if we had so much leisure. For us, for this trip, motor assistance made the difference between practical and appealing, and not.

In all, we used 1642 watt hours of assist each, so 3284 total over 193 miles, or 17 watt hours per mile for the 3 of us together. (Our capacity was half that; we recharged from Breitenbush’s small hydroelectric service.) Now, a single gallon of gasoline packs about 37,500 watt hours. So, if you come up with a car that gets 2,206 MPG with 3 occupants and camping gear in the mountains, you’ll have matched the energy efficiency of our quiet, cool-running, simple little human-electric hybrid system, now patented.

Packing was a bit stressful. I come from the minimalist school of camping, where you remove the staples from the teabags after discarding the 4 layers of extraneous packaging, and then decide that loose tea would be better yet, and conclude finally that you can do without tea for a few days. I shaved my head to sidestep that whole shampoo and comb quagmire. My wife, on the other hand, thinks nothing of packing a few books, four changes of clothing for five days, giant towels, etc. We compromised, sort of: if it fit on the bikes after the batteries, tools, charger, first-aid, water stowage, and other basics, I was fine with it. We’ll pack less next time. I packed some trash bags so in the worst case we could stash useless items in the woods at a marked spot for retrieval at a later date, including batteries if it came to that.

The ride up was pleasant after Estacada, if uneventful, and just plain uneventful before that. Having son narrating in his tireless way kept us entertained even passing through the town of Boring, Oregon.
lower clackamas
We camped at Riverside Campground, at mile 60-something the first night. This is the site of the last readily potable water along the route. We slept in two Hennessy hammocks, which I’d long been curious about as compact comfortable alternatives to a tent. Need to fine-tune the bottom insulation strategy for the cold dawn hours or colder seasons, but we’re sold. The sound of the rushing river lulled us quickly to deep sleep.

hammocks

The second day’s climbing was more intense, or we were sore, or both, but the weather was great and the scenery fantastic. It culminated at mile 18 in a wall of a climb to the pass that we dreaded to imagine hitting without Stokemonkey. The pass came sooner than expected, with a breathtaking view of Mt. Jefferson clad in glacier, and we then bombed down to Breitenbush with some euphoric whoops. I ran out my charge to a splutter along the loose gravel road just a mile or so from our destination.

parkingWe parked our bikes at the door of our cabin, which led to quite a lot of curious loitering by other visitors to the springs. But we learned quickly to stop telling people that we had biked there with child from Portland because it stopped conversations cold, as either a greener-than-thou affront or just too freaky. “Who drove the support vehicle?” A Dutch family we met there on the last day found out as we were leaving. They were incredulous. I admit that made me proud: Dutch people think we’re hardcore. At the same time, I wish more people understood that biking needn’t be some kind of enviro-martyr stunt, sport, fundraising strategy either personal or institutional, etc.

carl crosses

Homeward was mostly downhill, after the initial very sharp climb back up to the pass. The first couple hours after the pass were the nicest riding I’ve enjoyed in many years, with perfect light and warmth and a bike heavy enough to hold its momentum up nearly all the little rises after letting loose up to around 35 MPH on the longer descents. We whistled and sang in gratitude.

Our mood took a big hit at Austin Hot Springs, which is right alongside the road. We thought we’d lunch there and maybe take a dip where the hot vents mingle with the cold river water. We rolled up to the river’s edge, between trucks, and beheld a sickening spectacle: trash, trash everywhere. Brawndo cans and Doritos bags, used tampons and condoms, excrement-smeared toilet paper, giant bean cans, inflatable water toys, cassette tape fluttering, cigarette butts and beer bottles, some broken. Green trees sawed down and dragged halfway into fire rings. And there in the clear water, some yahoos had submerged a large roll of carpet and weighted it with rocks so bathers could avoid coming in contact with the riverbed. It was a crying Indian moment. Anger and shame drove us back to the road.

The Breitenbush community states that its primary purpose is to protect the springs and the land around them. Instantly, in view of the fate of Austin, we felt a wave of gratitude for that mission accomplished. I thought of some of the remarks I’d come across about Breitenbush being expensive or exclusive, or a bit precious, and I murmured “well thank god!”

Clouds rolled in low and it began to rain lightly. For the first hour or so it came down at a rate about equal to evaporation in our wool and peached nylon pants, but after a few more hours we were quite wet, though warm from exertion. My body proved an astonishingly effective rain shield for our son, even in his denim jeans. Beyond cell range, without radio we couldn’t guess whether these showers were going to blow past or compel us to set up a hasty camp. We had no raingear save those trash bags. We changed into dry wool and pressed on, just as the showers luckily subsided for a few more hours, catching us again only 15 miles from home on the Springwater.

flatBoth bikes acquitted themselves flawlessly, with zero trouble save a flat due to a heavy staple; we patched in place. We rode my 2003 Xtravois longtail, and a 2007 prototype of the Surly Big Dummy longtail. The Surly’s running a Shimano Nexus 8 gearhub with roller brake, the same robust setup as on all the Dutch bikes we sell. Xtravois has a Rohloff gearhub. Schwalbe Big Apple tires on both, 24″ on the Surly. Both bikes have been “dutchified” to produce effective seat tube angles below 70 degrees, with short stems, swept bars, and sprung broad Brooks B67 saddles. I don’t think I’ll ever ride long distance any other way willingly, assisted or not. The only bicycle-specific items of clothing we brought were helmets.

58 thoughts on “Family bike trip: Portland to Breitenbush and back again”

  • Mike

    Todd and Family -

    You are an inspiration!

    We dream of family bike trips... and as our little one gets a bit older we hope to be camping in the mountains and touring under our own power.

    (now to save pennies for a Stokemonkey...)

    The Hammock is they way to go. I'm a convert - and as soon as I can get the wife in one I'm sure she'll enjoy it. I assume the little one shared space with one of the adults? How did that go?

    Please please please continue sharing your family / life / cycling adventures - even just heading out around town. It serves as a great reference that a) we are not crazy b) cycling need not be a 'sport'

    -Mike
    (formerly of littlecirclesbikes, now just a full time cycling dad... for the moment)

    Reply
  • Neil

    Wow, very impressive. 200 miles certainly seems big to me.

    "I assume the little one shared space with one of the adults?" - I was also wondering about that? Two in a hammock - don't you get squashed together. Also, don't you have to sleep on your back in a hammock. I always sleep completely on my side, That can't be possible in a hammock.

    Also, helmets - I thought you didn't normally wear helmets. Why for this trip?

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  • katie

    What a trip! Looks great. I am new to bikes- as a mom who is sick of pushing my kids around in the stroller. (we've been car-free for the last 4 months) I am raising funds to make my own mama-cycle setup, and seeing your family ride together is awesome!!

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    Yes, one adult and child in one hammock. Works fine. You lie pretty flat in these hammocks, on the diagonal -- side sleeping is no problem. Helmets... answered.

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  • Val

    Welcome back, Todd (& crew)! After a fabulous trip like that, you should be all recharged and rarin' to go. I'm sure you had a line outside the shop when you opened taday. Have fun!

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  • Jenn

    This is so cool! Did you guys go over a weekend or mid-week? How was the car traffic?

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  • Todd (admin)

    Jenn, we left on Sunday and returned Friday. We had no worrisome interactions with motorcages, though sharing narrow winding shoulderless roads with Extra-Bigass Monster Trucks in the suburbs was un-fun. Highway 224 was pretty cheerless too. In the mountains, the worst were the motorcyclists riding at suicidal speed, the same guys running to and fro over and over again. One second you hear what sounds like a mosquito and the next there's a deafening shockwave as they pass and then you brace for the sonic boom.

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  • patrick

    Todd, this looks super fun and I am glad both that you guys chose the bike option and that it was a successful and enjoyable venture.

    I agree that bicycling as travel needn't be an enviro-martyr stunt/fundraising strategy, but as you mentioned, you also needed some blog-fodder, and I daresay if you'd rented a Zipcar to go to Breitenbush we wouldn't be reading about that here. So let the fundraising stunts begin!

    Holly and I have done some bike camping, and plan to do so with our child, assuming one ever arrives. Pulling this kind of distance and these grades over two days would be a challenge without assist, and as you mention, it's a much better option than a car. However, for us, the use of an electric assist would be limited to trips like this, which are, unfortunately, very rare. So keeping an entire extra bike and Stokemonkey around would not be a good use of our money or bike barn space.

    What I am getting around to saying is, will Stokemonkey-assisted longtails be available for rent anytime in the future? The interest is there, I'd wager. I'd certainly rather pedal, assisted or otherwise, to Breitenbush than drive.

    Welcome back, I'll come by soon for a milkshake-down. Give my best to the rest of the grease monkeys.

    patrick

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  • DrMekon

    Wonderful tale. We're just planning some S240s to go on with our two bakfietsen, using one for gear, and the other for our boy. Seeing something more adventurous achieved with a happy child is very inspiring. Our boy is only two, but loves camping. Any tips on making the cycling as much fun as possible would be lovely. Currently he starts to get restless at the 90 minute mark.

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  • cara

    Wow. Very cool. I am very impressed with your ability, desire, and what a great time you had.

    Reply
  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson August 11, 2008 at 6:49 am

    "Oh, I can't cycle because I have to go too far, or I have to transport kids. Cycling is all very well for your singletons who are childfree, but just wait until you have a family!"

    To this, I point to the above and say, "HA!"

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  • Martina

    Correction: The wife packed one book and the 3 sets of clothes and sleeping bags did double duty as pillows/blankets. If I would have packed according to Todd, we would have used leaves as towels -don't think that the Breitenbushians would have liked that!

    Reply
  • David Cox

    Okay. I'm going to have to give this a try as well. I've considered a longtail with some sort of electric assist and now I'm going to have to do it--this is too cool. Todd, are the longtails better suited for long distance hauling than the Bakfiets? Would the Bakfiets with StokeMonkey work just as well?

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  • Todd (admin)

    david, longtails are lighter and the uniformly large and weighted contact patches of their larger wheels work better over the broad range of speeds and surfaces you'll experience in the mountains. fully-loaded bakfietsen, at least the ones i know, don't feel as safe at the speeds you reach coming down the severe grades you want/need a motor to get up, especially with precious passengers. safe braking distance becomes too long. riding the brakes conservatively all the way down can make it relatively sane, but that's an inefficient way to cover a lot of ground and no fun. for this reason we will never support stokemonkey for use with currently known bakfiets designs.

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  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson August 12, 2008 at 12:32 am

    After all, the BK was designed for the Netherlands, which is one of the flattest countries on the planet.

    Could one take a BK on a relatively flat railtrial, like MO's KATY (which goes from SL to KS)?

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  • Mike

    hmm. there didn't seem to be any disclaimer about using the bak in vermont.

    would i take it camping? sure. it would take awhile longer to get there.
    will i get a big dummy or something similar when our daughter gets a bit older? most likely as i think a more conventional framed bike would be more suitable to climbing mountains and carrying gear for camping trips. would i want to descend 10% for 6 miles on a bak? only if i knew the road well.

    here's a post about climbing with the bak:
    http://littlecircles.blogspot.com/2008/06/climbing-with-bakfiets.html

    our longest day is 30 or so miles, mainly about town.
    it would be a slog to head out to the mountains, for sure. with an electric assist it would be a bit more of a pleasure cruise.

    you can ride a bak nearly anywhere you want.
    people have done seattle to portland on skateboards, PBP on kick bikes, crossed the country on those oddball segways...

    often the machine isn't the limiting factor - usually it is the engine, and the ingenuety of the brain behind the motor.

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  • Mike

    that said, it is true that the bak isn't designed for screaming descents fully loaded. taking a bak to the mountains for a family trip would be like renting the largest uhaul you can find to throw your tent and gear in... then wobbling up and down twisty roads, being sure to remain in control so you can stop. you'd spend a whole lot of energy just getting the thing moving, and a whole lot of nerves keeping it on the pave coming down the twities (at least for the grades here in vt).

    the right tool, for the job, would make more sense... whatever that may mean in terms of bike camping with the family.

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  • Dean in Austin

    Todd & Martina, what an inspiration to the bike community to see one family unit make this kind of trip. I think 2 or 3 right-sized passenger children is doable with good-natured & well tested/practiced riders-cyclists involved.

    Thanks for posting your patent link too on Stoke Monkey.

    Can you provide more details on any differences or comparisons with the set-up or performance of this new 'in-house' manufactured product vs. the original Stk.Monk. Is it ready for prime-time? What is improved or changed since Stoke Monkey was last available for sale?

    Martina, that was a very funny-wise comment about your practical packing common sense. I guess boys will be boys... Lol.

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  • matt

    Hey if you're looking for good insulation solutions for the hammock, check out jacksrbetter.com. I got a quilt from them earlier this year and it's been great, but they also have sets specifically for the Hennesys.

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  • jeff

    Todd,

    That looks like a BoBike Maxi your son rides in. Is Clever Cycles a dealer? It looks like Kool-Stop is or was handling them in the US but the dealer list on their website way out of date and they didn't answer their phone this morning.

    We already had a Burley before I built up my Xtracycle and I've just been pulling my daughter around in that but my new work situation makes it impractical to continue that way.

    And the trip looks like a blast. Thank you for the enviro-martyr stunt, sport, fundraising (NOT!) comment. I'm so with you on that.

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  • MitchK

    Wonderful adventure and writeup!

    And ditto Jeff's question: Are you a Bobike dealer? I'm very interested in the Maxi+.

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  • Todd (admin)

    We now have Bobike Maxi, Mini, and Junior models in stock. We do not promote their availability for purchase online because we have have had difficulty keeping up with local in-store demand, and determining bike compatibility can be hard remotely. We carry many more items in our store than are for sale online. If you're far away but determined to have one of these seats and fairly confident they will fit your bike, call during business hours and ask to speak with anybody but me, Todd, because I'm crazy phone shy/autistic.

    Reply
  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson August 12, 2008 at 6:43 am

    Here's the information about the Katy: http://www.traillink.com/ViewTrail.aspx?AcctID=6031637

    And here's the Great Alleghany Passage:

    http://www.atatrail.org/, which connects up to the C&O Towpath taking you all the way to DC.

    Would either of those be "bak"-able?

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    bruce, you *can* go round the world on roller skates. they're not the best tool for the job. a bakfiets is an excellent tool for replacing the majority of car trips with your kid(s), which are typically under 10 miles, on good pavement, particularly if the route is flat or nearly so. the further you get from that application, the more likely there is a better tool.

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  • Sarah

    speaking of bakfiets- any word on when they arrive?

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  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson August 13, 2008 at 1:18 am

    The Katy, as it goes across the middle of Missouri, is pretty flat, and the GAP/C&O never has more than a 2% grade.

    I realize that the bak is mostly for toodling around town with kids and/or groceries (or similar loads), but that doesn't get much attention. I think that if someone were to do the Katy or the GAP/C&O on a bak and did a film about it, or at least get it written up in a newspaper or magazine, it would put the bak on people's radar as an option.

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  • Mike

    "I think that if someone were to do the Katy or the GAP/C&O on a bak and did a film about it, or at least get it written up in a newspaper or magazine, it would put the bak on people’s radar as an option."

    An option for what?
    It is an excellent option for what it was designed for and excels at.
    A bak is not the end all and be all of bikes.

    It is a cargo / kid hauler / short trip car killer. It can be used all day. It can be ridden on short trips. It excels as a kid dropper offer, library book getter, grocery store shopper, park and picnic runner, and kite, kid, dog, and wife carrier. (although maybe not all at once)

    Guess I'll have to man up and do that Vermont century on ours. I'll carry a cooler and picnic lunch. Maybe take the dog. The flattest area I have for a century still has rollers that hit 9% or so. And its mostly dirt.


    Per your comment on my blog about gearing - didn't we have a lengthy discussion about gear ratios awhile back? I don't think you can get a Rolhoff on the bak. You'd have to modify the frame and you'd have to add brakes or a disc brake mount. And the Rolhoff would cost 50% of the cost of the bike...

    I've never used a Schlumpf. It might work... if the Nexus can take the torque of really low gears.

    But if you gear the bike appropriately for your terrain and your cargo and your average trip, the Nexus works fine, including here in VT where we routinely climb from the lake to the hospital. Mostly @ 4-5% and up.

    Would you drive a UHaul when out for a sightseeing country drive?
    Would you take a convertible Mini to IKEA to pick up a new set of kitchen cabinets?


    If you want a bak like bike designed for you're terrain, have a custom Bilenky made. Put the components on it that make you happy and secure about riding in WV.

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  • Mike

    That all said, Todd, really nice trip report.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Were you able to re-charge @ the hot springs? Or did you trend downhill on the way home and ride without the Stokemonkey?

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  • Todd (admin)

    sarah, bakfietsen are due toward the end of this month. bruce, toodling around town with kids and groceries does indeed get lots of attention and is exactly what people want bakfietsen for; it would only confuse things to present it as a touring machine. mike, as noted in the post we did re-charge at breitenbush. we hesitated about this because they discourage/disallow use of "electric devices" due to their limited generation capability, but all the cited offenders were heating-element energy hogs like hair dryers, curling irons, etc (>1000W). the charger we used draws 120W peak, like an incandescent lightbulb. charging an electric car from their grid would take the whole place down!

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  • Alexander

    The Surly’s running a Shimano Nexus 8 gearhub with roller brake

    The roller brakes worked fine on the descents, I assume? Discs may be sexy, but give me hub brakes!

    I'm never going back to rim brakes now that I have a Sturmey-Archer drum brake on my city bike.

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    roller brake was fine for this application. a disc was on the front because the fork wasn't designed to take a roller brake's torque arm.

    discs are lighter than roller/drum brakes and offer more precise modulation and ultimate stopping power, as long as you keep them adjusted right. so i'd say they are better for competitive and/or highly technical offroad riding. roller/drum brakes are harder to lock up and super low-maintenance and durable. i'd say this makes them better for utility use, especially on the rear of longtails where there's otherwise a tendency to lock up the rear wheel too easily.

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  • jonathan

    Todd,

    I am intrigued by the "dutchification" of your bikes. I have read the other blog post before and tried an electra, but what you appear to have done seems to go a step further.

    What exactly is that seat post device on those bikes. How adjustable is it. How heavy, not that weight is really an issue on long bikes. How much further back does it let you get the saddle. What effect does it have an ride quality, comfort, efficiency, etc.

    Can you post some photos of how that setup works? Do clevercycles supply it? Would you ship to Australia?

    You realise that publicising this kind of adventure will only make stokemonkey demand overwhelming?

    Goodonyas

    Jonathan in Stanthorpe, Australia

    Reply
  • Parepidemos

    Todd and Martina, thanks for the inspiration! I live just south of downtown Los Angeles, so simply getting "out of town" via bicycle, from our doorstep, is... daunting. By car headed north it takes an hour and fifteen minutes sans traffic. By car headed east it can take two hours or more, even with light traffic. Heading south I find myself well into Mexico before I run out of civilization, but that's because I stick to the 5. Still tho...

    But with Metrolink Rail, or just the Metro Gold Line up to Pasadena, bike-camping from doorstep to campsite is still feasible for my family of five, I'm sure. When it happens, I'll let you know (and pingback this post as my inspiration when I blog about it).

    BTW, I totally agree about the Xtracycle being uniquely fitted for bike camping. My wife and I bike-camped Catalina Island for our 15th anniversary, me on the X and she on her BikeE (I shlepped most of the cargo, but she had almost all the water). Steep and slow on our way out of Avalon, tho. Make me yearn again for a Stokemonkey. I recommend Two Harbors instead, from which my brothers and I bike-camped our way to the airport and down into Avalon. Vastly easier-seeming for some reason.

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  • Todd (admin)

    jonathan, the seat post thing is shown here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cleverchimp/1429704016/ : it's the bit between the plain top post and the rail clamps. it is manufactured by brompton as an option for their (excellent) folding bikes, and should be available through any brompton dealer. shipping to australia would far exceed the cost of the part. there are other strategies for getting extra setback, including some specially designed seatposts. it doesn't go as far back as most electras, no, but enough to unweight the hands almost completely on bikes designed with sport-oriented steeper seat tube angles, whether deliberately or ignorantly.

    stokemonkey demand is already overwhelming. i apologize to the many whose inquiries go unanswered. but again: we will not estimate availability dates in advance. i apologize to the many disappointed with our slow progress. i did not properly appreciate how consuming a (busy!) bike retail environment is, and how ill-suited to manufacturing processes. i am glad i did not estimate availability in the past! it is not necessary or helpful to keep asking for "updates" on our internal process; it only feeds the hunger.

    dean in austin, technical changes are mostly disclosed here: http://clevercycles.com/blog/?p=188#comment-64526

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  • Scott

    We visited Portland and came by to see you guys, wondered where you were and now we know. Nice adventure Todd!

    Reply
  • Bruce A. Wilson
    Bruce A. Wilson August 14, 2008 at 4:32 am

    "“I think that if someone were to do the Katy or the GAP/C&O on a bak and did a film about it, or at least get it written up in a newspaper or magazine, it would put the bak on people’s radar as an option.”

    An option for what?
    It is an excellent option for what it was designed for and excels at.
    A bak is not the end all and be all of bikes."

    A lot of people don't even know that the bak EXISTS. They can't consider if it is the bike for them if they don't know that there is such a thing. Not everyone does extensive research on the Interwebs; many people still rely on print media or advice from their LBS.

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  • Vincent

    Hi Tod,

    Fun to read about your vacation. You must have LOVED the return trip. That is all good going down that long ass hill. Keep on following your dairy from San Francisco as I haul my three kids up hill after hill! Cheers and let me know when you plan to be in the Bay Area again.

    Vincent

    Reply
  • Henry

    An absolutely inspired and inspiring trip. I look forward to similar adventures with our little one when he's ready.

    Groeten,
    Henry

    Reply
  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson August 17, 2008 at 7:52 am

    I should mention that my Big Dummy is in the works. My LBS has the frame and the other components are coming in bit by bit. I have ordered it "Dutchified" with the exception that I am NOT doing a Brooks saddle; my opinions on that are well-known and I won't go into it except to say that I find them uncomfortable. I'm getting an Easy Seat instead.

    Reply
  • graham

    Looked like a nice trip, glad you had fun.
    How hard was it gauge the "fuel consumption" while climbing? Or was there plenty left at the mid point?

    One other thing, how heavy is the Stoked BD, with batteries, but before cargo? Reason I ask is, the weight limit here for "Power Bicycles".

    Reply
  • Todd (admin)

    graham, glancing occasionally at the watt-hours-per-mile figure calculated by a special version of the "Cycle Analyst" (henceforth to be bundled with Stokemonkey) made power consumption easy to regulate. we knew that the worst climbing was on the second day of the outbound leg, so we made sure to finish the first day with plenty left.

    i'm guessing that big dummy, as we built this one, with stokemonkey was a bit under 65lbs without battery. add the weight of whatever batteries you plan to use -- we used nearly 40lbs each (i think this means my gross weight guesstimates of 150lbs are low). i have never weighed a bike for my own use.

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  • Bill Manewal

    Great trip, Todd and family. Glad you could take a break and use it so, uh, cleverly.

    I'm VERY impressed with your using only 8Wh/mile on that terrain profile. Both you and Martina must be in pretty good shape, despite the rigors of running a business. The least I've ever used in my sojourns on the job in San Francisco is 11 Wh/mi, though I usually average around 15 - 18. But then, with plenty of battery capacity for my known range, I'm usually not focused on scrimping. I usually average about 15 mph. My gross vehicle weight (bike, battery, rider, and cargo) is somewhere around 300 lbs, of which I'm 180 lbs in my corpulence.

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  • Torrilin

    A lot of people don’t even know that the bak EXISTS. They can’t consider if it is the bike for them if they don’t know that there is such a thing.

    Most people don't know about Extracyles either. Or even that it's *possible* to be comfortable on a bike for more than 5 miles.

    If you want to promote using bikes for transportation, go out and bike. Use a nice sturdy and suitable bike for the job, and be willing to talk to people (if they ask). Encourage other people to do the same thing. I have had several people ask about my Breezer from just riding it around on normal errands, and I'm sure the local Extracycle riders get questions as well (there's a good 3-4, most of which popped up this summer).

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  • Bruce Alan Wilson
    Bruce Alan Wilson August 24, 2008 at 8:10 am

    I've had lots of questions/comments about my X, and I'm sure I'll have more about the BD when it comes in. AFAIK, there is only one other X-rider around here.

    Cycling is popular here, but it is dominated by sport cycling--both road and mountain. Not that there is anything wrong with that, mind you!

    But the LBSs don't even stock Electras, Breezers, or Biriras (sp.?), let along Azors or Baks. There is also nothing in the "mid range"--it is either the very high-end stuff in the two bike stores, or K-mart Specials (not so much bicicles, as bicycle-shaped pieces of scrap metal.) The two LBSs don't even stock used bicycles; if one wants a used bike, one must go to the classifieds, Craigslist, yard sales, or Goodwill/Salvation Army--and unless one is a "wrench" oneself, that can be hit-or-miss.

    The Spokes4Folks Ministry may be opening up a cooperative if we can find suitable space.

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  • Recess

    This sounds fantastic! Gives me ideas for team building exercises though I am sure my staff would suggest I ride and they drive that elusive support vehicle :)

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  • amanda

    This is very cool! Thanks for sharing your trip!

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  • luke

    You guys are amazing. This is the future of the family holiday.

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  • Josh

    Todd,

    That looks like you had a great ride.

    I'm really interested in your Xtravois. How does it compare with the Dig Dummy? I've built a few frames (years ago I worked for a well known East coast frame builder) and I find the clean, straight lines of your bike much more appealing than the Surly bike.

    Thanks,
    Josh

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  • amy

    This was a joy to read. If only there were a car-free bike trail all the way to Breitenbush. Our family lived abroad in the Netherlands for nearly 4 years. Last year we went on vacation by pedaling from our house in the middle of the NL. We spent the first night camped at an organic farm in Lelystad, and then cycled across a 30 km dike to Enkhuizen. In Enkhuizen, we visited an open air museum, where we ran into Dutch friends who were on a 3 week family bike camping vacation. Our two children rode on our bikes, our two year old daughter on the Bobike mini (front seat) and our 5 year old son on the Bobike rear seat. I usually carried both children on my bike. We have a Batavus Delivery Bike and an Altra. We didn't cycle home, however. We took the train with our bikes and then pedaled home once we reached the city of Utrecht. Our bike vacation was one of the most wonderful things we have done as a family. It was pure freedom to be able to travel so far by our own power. There was only one instance of terror for me, when a brommer (moped) passed me on a bike path at a suicide rate speed.

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  • dug

    Beautiful chronicle of a great adventure. Thank you.

    -dug
    (of patti, dug, molly, daisy)

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  • [...] founder, Grant Petersen, as well as the journaling about bicycle treks with children written by the owners of Clever Cycles and the family at A Long Walk to [...]

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  • jeff

    fascinating account --- thanx!

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  • Rick and Tanya

    Great to read about other families biking and your stories of adventure. It's especially cold here in Calgary this week and I am looking forward to warmer days when Tanya and me and our 3 kids (4, 6, and 7 years old) head out for our next biking adventure from Calgary, Alberta to Baja, Mexico on 2 Periscope tandems and a Burly trailerbike. We are looking for other families to join us along the way. Meet us in Calgary for a ride through the Canadian Rockies - leaving our front door July 15, 2009.

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  • [...] camping trip in the mtns with his family using two Stoke Monkey equipped longtail bikes. He has a write up here and photos here. He used the two electric assist systems to help get these big bikes up some very [...]

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  • jacob thompson

    COOOOOOOOOL trip ya´ll! heroic even.

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  • matt picio

    Thanks for the kind mention of my Bikely route, especially the cue sheet. Cue sheets have to be created manually when making the route, so they require some effort. Nice to know that effort was used and appreciated.

    I'm posting this late to comment to remark about Austin Hot Springs (also called Carey hot springs in some older references). Austin Hot Springs sits on a small parcel of private land in the middle of the Mount Hood National Forest. The land is currently owned by an employee retirement fund, who is an absentee landlord. They've spent almost no money in the upkeep of the property, which is why all the cautionary signs are damaged or destroyed, the gates are broken, and trash is strewn everywhere. There used to be a group of volunteers who went up and cleaned the area, but they seem to have fallen by the wayside. Either that group or another group is now raising money to purchase the land and manage it, similar to The Friends of Bagby. Their website is here: http://www.austinhotsprings.org/

    The carpet in the pools isn't to keep people off the riverbed, it's to keep them from being burned. Austin's temperature is 190F, well above scalding. Without the carpet, it's very easy to get burned, as happened to three people there last year. The site sees very heavy use since it is visible and accessible from the main road (it sits right on it).

    Hopefully, someone will buy and manage the property, and clean up all the trash. THe trash issue was manageable in the past, but there's now a much higher level of use, and those using it are much less respectful of the land.

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  • betty

    I thought bike-camping was over with young children, but I am truly inspired! Enough to invest in a longtail and maybe even a Stokemonkey. Thanks for sharing your story.

    What kind of bikes/child seats did everyone use? I found my woman's saddle so painful after a day of cycling...

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  • Sara

    Hi!

    I know this blog entry is years old at this point, but I still feel the need to add a comment. Your trip sounds fascinating! The last time we went to Breitenbush, we went by Zipcar, although we came all the way from Seattle. Whew. It was my 3rd trip there by car, and my husband and little daughter's first trip there at all. It is an amazing place, which we all hope to return to at some point.

    I currently ride an Azor Omafiets and have a Xtracycle Edgerunner 27 Deluxe on the way and am on the brink of ordering a Brompton and an ITchair. My husband rides a Workcycles Kruisframe and is also considering a Brompton. That collection of bicycles seems like it could get us all to most places, but probably not to Breitenbush from Seattle.

    That said, I'm not much of a camper. Breitenbush is perfect for me...comfy beds in cozy cabins with flush toilets and hot showers...along with delicious food in abundance is exactly how I like it. I wonder about other alternatives along the way, other than camping?

    I'm guessing that until Stokemonkey becomes available (and, no, I'm not asking for an update) we will be limited to trips within distances and grades which simple human-power will allow.

    I ride all over Seattle on my Omafiets, with our 4 1/2 year old daughter along for the ride in her Yepp Maxi Easyfit. I often transport a second child in a front-mounted seat, as well. I'm used to carrying quite a bit of weight and climbing some hills with my hefty bicycle, though thinking of a mountain pass on a bicycle seems pretty daunting. Some day, maybe?

    Thanks for posting this, even though it took me 5 years to find it.

    ~Sara, David and Ivy
    Seattle, WA

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