Burley Bee kids bike trailer review

With the coronavirus we haven't been taking buses or taxis, which had mostly limited us to walking distance with our kids. [1] Expanding to bicycling distance would help a lot, so we decided to get a bicycle trailer.

I did a bunch of reading on various forums, and it looked like the Burley Bee was the best fit for us. It holds two children, with a combined weight of 100 lb, while being relatively light and sturdy. It has a rain cover, in case we get caught out in bad weather, and it doesn't convert into a stroller. No suspension, aside from the tires and the give in the fabric, but the kids haven't complained. There's a good amount of storage space in the back of the trailer. The safety flag is included.

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Food Spending During Covid

Our house has shared groceries, and in my most recent reconcile I saw that our spending is up quite a bit relative to this time last year. In 2019, April through July, our monthly spending per person was $172, while in 2020 it was $303. In the big picture this is due to the pandemic, but I'm not sure which factors are responsible for most of the change. Some ideas:
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Jam is obsolete

Jam is a very natural way to preserve fruit. The fruit is ripe only a small fraction of the year, you'd like to be able to eat it all year long, so you cook it with enough sugar that it won't go bad for a long time. But now that we have freezers, jam is obsolete.

When you make jam, you change the taste and texture of the fruit in several ways:

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Photos Before Drywall

Houses are strange: customarily, there's no documentation. Want to know where the plumbing is? Where the wires are? Where the structure is sturdy enough to support something heavy? Sorry, the walls are in the way. You can't see it, and no one wrote down where to find it.

Sure, we have workarounds. Stud finders can tell you what the structure looks like, unless your walls are thick (most of mine are two layers of drywall over lath and plaster...). Non-contact voltage probes can detect live wires, unless they're shielded, or not near the surface of the wall. You can make decent guesses about where it would've made sense to run things, but past people who have worked on the house have likely made all sorts of strange decisions for reasons that are now lost. All of which is to say, when you cut or screw into a wall, you're always taking a bit of a risk.

With that in mind, any time you have the finished surface of your house opened up, please take lots of pictures! Take pictures of the walls, the ceiling, the floors, anything. Later on, if you think you might need to open one of those places up for something, you will be glad you did!

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Restocking

The pandemic has illustrated the resiliency benefits of keeping extras on hand. During the grocery panic, when everyone was trying to stock up on weeks' worth of groceries at the same time, people who had extra set aside didn't need to go out to a potentially dangerous environment. Similarly, by avoiding shopping at this time when there was sudden massive demand, these people were able to help blunt the shock.

It's far from over, but at least around here the supply chain seems to mostly have recovered. You still can't get N95 masks, but there's no trouble getting flour, rice, beans, toilet paper, etc. If you've let your supply run down over the last few months, or didn't have extra set aside to begin with, now would be a good time to think about fixing that. Not only could the pandemic get worse in a way that starts to threaten the supply chain again, but many more conventional disasters, like earthquakes or hurricanes, could be much worse with the pandemic as a background.

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Pulse and Glide Cycling

About 10 years ago I stopped bicycling very much, because my knees hurt. Since then I've mostly gotten around by walking, running, and public transport. With COVID, however, I've started bicycling more, and initially my knees were hurting again a bit. A couple weeks ago I bicycled about half an hour to get somewhere, and by the end my knees were hurting a lot. On the way back, I decided to try a technique from hypermiling: pulse and glide.

I put the bike in mid gear, stood up, leaned over the handlebars, and pushed hard through about three rotations of the pedals. Then I sat down and coasted for about 30s. I repeated this all the way home, except for one hill that was too steep for any coasting, which I walked up. When I got home, my knees felt decent.

I tried this again on Thursday (40min round trip), and then again yesterday (1hr round trip). My knees feel totally fine!

I initially expected that this would be significantly slower, but, for me, I think it's actually faster! Normally I bike slowly, trying to keep things easy on my knees, so this is a bit of a low bar. Looking at my most recent trip, I biked 5.0mi in 29min, and Google Maps predicts 31min. I'm usually more like 30% slower than Maps predicts.

Two guesses about why this might feel better:

  • In regular bicycling, I'm making a lot of rotations. I usually use a low gear, move my feet quickly, and don't use a lot of force. This is a lot more movement in my knees than I get in the rest of my life, while when pulsing it's probably closer to normal.

  • My bicycle has a traditional upright riding position, and when I pulse I'm out of the saddle. I think it's likely that my pedaling position when pulsing is a lot more ergonomic. At the very least it's much easier to put out a lot of power.


pulsing: standing up, accelerating quickly


gliding: sitting down, resting, decelerating slowly

One thing I like about pulsing is that it works really well with traffic lights. I can choose when to pulse and went to coast, and generally get to lights when they're green. I am willing to go through red lights on a bike after looking around carefully to make sure that I have sufficient visibility and there's no one coming, but it's still much faster when green since you can stay at full speed.

I had an idea last night for how one could make a bicycle that was even better suited for this kind of intermittent pedaling. When you pulse, you're turning your body's energy into increased speed on the bike, and then in coasting you lose that speed to rolling and air resistance. Since the bicycle isn't all that aerodynamic, and air resistance goes up (linearly) with speed, it would be nicer to store that energy mechanically instead of kinetically.

What if you added a spiral ribbon torsion spring, like the mainspring in a clock or a wind-up toy, to the drivetrain? It could go inside the rear hub, functionally between the axle and the shell. When you pulse, you accelerate but you're also winding the spring. When you coast the spring unwinds, helping turn the rear wheel. You need a ratchet to keep the spring from driving the pedals in reverse while coasting.

You also need a way to keep it from driving the wheel when you're trying to slow down. I'd put a coaster brake on it, and have backpedaling disengage the spring. For bonus points, use the momentum of the wheel to wind the spring, as regenerative braking.

You could combine it with planetary gearing, with a bunch of fiddly engineering, but it would work out of the box with a standard derailleur system. I expect if I spent a while looking through historical patents I would find something like this, since all of the technology involved existed during the heyday of bicycle inventions. Which also makes me think there's something important I'm missing that keeps it from working, unless it was just that the materials weren't up to it, and perhaps are now?

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