Bikes, Trikes, and Quadcycles Seen at the Tour de Fat

While the decorated bicycles in this year’s Tour de Fat parade were my favorites, I was amazed at the wide variety of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles that rolled past us. There were thousands of road and mountain bikes, but there were plenty of other kinds of vehicles as well.

Two-wheeled bikes came in every size. There were tall and small ones, and even old-fashioned big-wheeled pennyfarthings.

I don’t know how this guy stayed upright. The parade slowed to a stop many times which must have been a challenge for many of those riding unusual bikes.
Winner of the most extreme rider-to-bike ratio.
There were quite a few pennyfarthings, but my favorites had riders in period costume.

Some of the bikes had more than two wheels. There were three-wheeled recumbents and a four-wheeled stretch limo version of a bike as well.

Three-wheeled recumbent bikes. (Can you call it a bike if it has three wheels?)
This extra-long stretch bike has four wheels.

There was also one bike that looked like a modified Big Wheel from childhood which made me laugh.

Super Scooby on the Green Machine. 

And there were the rebels who showed up with wheels, but not on a bike at all.

It’s man-powered and has wheels, so I guess it counts.

Decorated Bikes from the 2015 Fort Collins’ Tour de Fat

After living in Fort Collins for eight years, I finally attended the Tour de Fat* parade for the first time this year. For those who’ve never heard of it, the Tour de Fat is family friendly charity event put on by New Belgium Brewery to promote cycling. It’s held in cities all over the country, but as home to New Belgium and the first Tour de Fat ever, the Fort Collins version of this 15-year-old event is special.

Part of the day-long festivities is a parade of people in costumes on bikes. We watched thousands of people ride past us in everything from a hat and boa to a full body gorilla costume. Some people rode unusual bicycles, others dressed their bikes up as well as themselves.

I came home with hundreds of photos from this event and I want desperately to share them with you. I found the creativity, dedication, and humor shown in the costumes inspiring, but I have too many pictures for a single post. For today, we’ll look at people who made decorating their bikes part of their outfit.

Biking Vikings! I think those are tandem bikes turned into longships.

Many people turned their bikes into other modes of transportation. There were horses, unicorns, covered wagons, canoes, and, my favorite, viking long ships.

Since lots of families participate in the parade, anyone pulling a trailer behind them had an opportunity to make it part of their costume. My two favorites were Velma in the Mystery Machine and the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine.

Velma and the Mystery Machine. I think the cyclist was dressed as Fred, but since I didn’t get a photo, I can’t be sure.
Two band members plus a yellow submarine.
A better look at the Yellow Submarine (isn’t it awesome?).

In a few cases, the bicyclist went big. One of these was a plywood pterosaur that passed well over the heads of the crowd, wings flapping, while the bicyclist pedaled below.

Plynosaur, complete with moving parts.

But the show stopper for me was a giant AT-AT from Star Wars, as seen in the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. A single dedicated woman pumped away on her bike to move this monstrosity down the street. Between the extreme construction and the effort it took her just to get the thing down the road, she deserved a prize.

My favorite: A cyclist powered Star Wars AT-AT. You had to see it to believe it.

Which is your favorite?

*”Tour de Fat” is a combination of the name of a famous bicycle race (Tour de France) and one of New Belgium’s beers (Fat Tire, named for a kind of bicycle). It is not the bike race for fat people. In case you were wondering.

Photography by a 4-Year-Old: Is It Art?

My Canon PowerShot is pretty dinged up, so when my 4-year-old nephew asked if he could take a picture with it, I said sure, although I suppose I wouldn’t have been happy if he’d broken it. I didn’t have to worry at all. He was careful and wound up taking quite a few pictures. I think he liked the fake click noise the camera makes when you push the button.

When I looked at the pictures he’d taken, I was pleasantly surprised by the results. A few were odd shots of people, but most were of the environment around him. Some of them made me laugh. And some of them made me go, “Hmmmm. That looks like art!”

I’ve decided to let the public decide. Here is a selection of my nephew’s photos. I’ve left out the ones that were way out of focus or people’s faces. The only processing I’ve done is to downsize them for easy computer viewing. Otherwise they are untouched — no cropping, no lighting fixes, no color tweaks — just the world as my camera sees it while in my nephew’s hands. I think you’ll agree that it’s an intimate view.

Foot with leg.
Leg with foot.
Water dish.
Sun and shadow on boards.
Sun and shadows.
Sneaker on deck.
Sneaker on deck.
Self-portrait #1.
Portrait of an aunt.
Portrait of an aunt.
Armpit with a view.
Self-portrait #2.
Clay and wood.
Mug on table.

Purists will argue that my nephew isn’t creating art because he doesn’t have any control over what he’s doing. I’m going to argue for “art is in the eye of the beholder.” When I look at these, I see art. They show me a familiar world in a new way, and they get me thinking new thoughts. And isn’t that what art’s all about?

What do you think? Can 4-year-olds make art?

Yearbooks and the Problem with Nice

I just had a visit from Josie, who has been my friend since I was a teenager. Totally by chance, we got on the subject of high school yearbooks, and the things people write in them. Josie was not happy about what her friends had written in her senior yearbook. “They all said the same thing,” she told me. “‘You’re so nice and sweet!'” She sounded bitter instead of sweet, and at first I thought I understood why.

My reaction to my yearbook is similar. Last year, I read through the messages my classmates wrote me and it seemed like they all boiled down to a single sentiment: “Stay crazy!” When I realized this, I felt unknown and a little insulted. They didn’t have anything else to say about me and our years together? And yet, I wrote the same sort of things in everyone else’s books. Except for my closest friend, who got pages of references to inside jokes and shared memories, I didn’t really know what to write. Trite and tired observations like “you’re nice and sweet” are probably the default for most people.

butterflyEventually, I realized there was more to Josie’s irritation over the labels of “nice and sweet” than just the triteness of it. Nice has negative connotations today. When most people say “nice” they really mean “polite”, and polite has a dark side. If you are being polite, there is an assumption that, at least some of the time, you are suppressing your true feelings in order to be pleasant. You say the appropriate thing instead of the true thing.

In Josie’s case, her nice is genuine. She means the things she says. She complimented me in various ways over the course of her visit, telling me how she saw me today or how she remembered me as a teen. Her comments were flattering — so flattering that it was easy for me to dismiss them completely.

And that’s where the problem with nice is. It isn’t in the person who is being nice, it’s in the person they’re being nice to. Because I didn’t believe what Josie says is true, I assumed she didn’t either, that she was “just being nice”. But she is deadly earnest in her comments. She’s an intelligent, observant human being. She’s sharing her insights after taking the time to reflect and consider. She couldn’t be more honest in her intent.

The next time I’m faced with nice, I will set aside my assumptions and try to hear what’s being said, see with the other’s eyes, and accept that just maybe all that nice is real. Otherwise, I devalue the kindness and compassion I receive by assuming that the other person doesn’t mean it.

Today, members of 1000 Voices of Compassion are blogging about acceptance. To see a list of other posts on acceptance and compassion, click here

Back-to-School Knits for Your T-Rex

September is here, and little tyrannosaurs are heading back to school. Despite the mixed results she got when she knit Tiny a sweater, Aunt Rexie launched right into another big project. Her needles have been knitting faster than a velociraptor.

The first day of school! Tiny poses in her new outfit for Mom (who always has her camera handy).
The first day of school! Tiny poses in her new outfit for Mom (who is always ready with her camera).

Determined to send Tiny back to school in style, Aunt Rexie knit her leg warmers, a ruffled skirt, and a hair bow, all in pink, to match Tiny’s new lunchbox.

Tiny loves Hello Kitty.
Tiny loves Hello Kitty.

Aunt Rexie made great choices. Tiny loves pink. And bows. And ruffles. (Just because you look tough doesn’t mean you have to dress that way.)



Aunt Rexie isn’t done. She’s been talking to Tiny about Halloween to see if she can help provide her with a costume this year. I’ll be sure to post pictures once I have them.

Technical notes: Once again, these knits are all my crazy idea. Knit on size 0 needles with fingering weight yarn, I developed the patterns through trial and error. The skirt in particular gave me trouble. For some reason, I kept casting on too many stitches and the waistband didn’t fit. Leg warmers that slide on over those big clawed feet were also tricky. The only easy thing was the bow. I made the lunchbox from cardboard, paper, and ribbon. Once I had her dressed I couldn’t send her to school without one.

My Simple Pattern for Knitting a Flat Circle or Polygon

You can adapt this pattern for any project. With regularly spaced increases, you will get a polygon with the same number of sides as increases. If you space the increases more randomly, your results will look like a circle, no matter how many increases are needed.

Here’s the pattern that results from using geometry to figure out how to knit a flat circle. I’ve included instructions for circles and polygons, so you can try it both ways.


k = knit
Kfb = knit in front and again in back of stitch (which increases by one stitch)

Knit a gauge swatch* using the yarn and needles you want to use for your circle.
Measure the height (h) and width (w) of your stitch.
N (Number of stitches) = (2*π*h)/w (round to the nearest whole number)

Using your calculated number for N:


  1. Cast N stitches onto double-pointed needles and join in the round.
  2. Row 1: Kfb N times (place a marker between every two stitches to mark sections)
  3. All remaining rows: For each marked section, Kfb in any one stitch and k all other stitches [the increases need to be randomly placed to get the circle; as it gets larger, it gets easier to put the new increases a good distance from the previous ones.]
  4. Cast off when desired size of circle is reached

Example of a few rows with “random” increases for the circle:

  • row 1: Kfb N times (i.e., in every stitch)
  • row 2: (Kfb k2 Kfb) until you run out of stitches (which could be in the middle if N is odd) [this alternates which of the 2 stitches in each section is getting an increase]
  • row 3: (Kfb k3 Kfb) until you run out of stitches [increase first stitch in the first section, second stitch in the second section and third stitch in the third section]
  • Once you have more than three stitches to choose from, you can be more random in choosing where you increase. Just make sure you never put an increase in an increase from the previous row, or you’ll start to get a ridge in your work and will be heading towards polygon land.



  1. Cast N stitches onto double-pointed needles and join in the round.
  2. Every row: (Kfb k(row number – 1)) N times
  3. Cast off when desired size of circle is reached

For those who hated math, here are the first few rows for the polygon expanded:

  • row 1: Kfb N times (i.e., in every stitch)
  • row 2: (Kfb k1) N times
  • row 3: (Kfb k2) N times
  • row 4: (Kfb k3) N times

The number of increases per row is fixed (N), but the number of total stitches increases every row. The number of knit stitches between increases is one less than the row number, but you don’t have to count rows. You can see the Kfb stitches in the previous row and just Kfb into them, knitting everything else.

*Yes, you have to. Without knowing your gauge, none of this works.

Trying To Knit A Flat Circle? Geometry to the Rescue!

I learned a lot making my contribution for the All We Are Saying peace blanket. As soon as I started, I should have known geometry would rear its ugly head. All I wanted to do was make a circle in a square using yarn.

MISTAKE NUMBER ONE: Deciding to make a circle.

Crochet rocks flat circles, as the wonderful mandalas designed by Marinke prove. However, I have a lot more experience with knitting, and since I need a square to go around my circle, I decided to knit instead of crocheting.

MISTAKE NUMBER TWO: Thinking “I should knit this!”

Mandala designed by Marinke... and so round!
Crocheted mandala designed by Marinke… and so round!

I know that knitting a flat circular shape is possible. In fact, I was certain it would be easy. The sides of the East Meets West Satchel I made a few years ago were originally knit as one big flat circle. (Actually, it’s a decagon — a polygon with ten sides. But it approximates a circle and generates a circular pattern, which is what I wanted.) The only trick was figuring out how many stitches to increase by as the circle got bigger.

See? A knitted flat circle. Easy-peasey.
See? A knitted, flat circle. Easy-peasey. (OK. It’s not actually a circle… the regularly spaced increases make wedges.)

My first “circle” was a complete experiment. I just added stitches when it felt right. Not surprisingly, when the piece was big enough to transfer from double-pointed needles to a circular needle, I discovered that my circle was actually a circle and a half and not even remotely flat.


Since I had a deadline to meet, I stopped re-inventing the wheel. I got online and found a pattern for knitting flat circles. The pattern was simple and what I expected. Unfortunately, it didn’t work. After 10 rows, my flat circle looked like a mouse hat. I figured I was doing something wrong, unraveled it, and tried again. I got a cup, when I wanted a coaster.

By now, I was annoyed. The pattern promised a flat circle but didn’t actually make a flat circle. The pattern didn’t say anything about gauge (the size of the stitches). The instructions were extrapolated from another pattern, and the knitter must have used yarn and needles similar to those called for in the original pattern, because the circle in the picture is flat. I tried to fix the non-flat circle pattern with my own adjustments. Things improved, but the circle wasn’t flat no matter what I did.

MISTAKE NUMBER FOUR: Trying to fix something that was clearly broken.

I stepped back and thought about what I was doing, and that’s when the light bulb went off. If the size of the stitches mattered, then I needed to apply geometry.

THE THING I DID RIGHT: Stopping a minute to think about what I was trying to do.

THE OTHER THING I DID RIGHT: Realizing geometry was the answer.

Math often comes up when knitting, so I wasn’t completely daunted. However I got a C in geometry in high school, something my husband loves to tease me about since I also worked as a computer programmer for years. Although I am good at math in general, I’m not quite as confident when I have to use my ancient C-level geometry skills.

The key was to think about the circles my knitting was making. I looked up the equation for calculating the circumference of a circle (2πr) to make sure I had it right. Then I got out my gauge swatch (which I already had for this particular yarn and needle size) to measure both the height and width of my knit stitch.

My calculations, complete with mistakes.
My calculations, complete with mistakes.

I calculated number of stitches for the outside edge of each successive row of my circle and noticed a pattern was forming. The difference between the outer circumference of adjacent rows of knitting was a fixed number and that number told me exactly how many stitches I needed to increase in every row to get a flat circle. When I did the algebra (which is probably where I should have started), I found the single equation used in my simple pattern.

I sat down to knit, finally certain I would have my circle. However, increasing by five stitches in the same places every round gave me a pentagon, not a circle.

MISTAKE NUMBER FIVE: Spacing my increases at regular intervals.

Flat but not exactly a circle… My regular increases are making a pentagon!

I started again, this time knowing what I needed to do: increase by the same number of stitches in every row, at irregular intervals. Finally, I got something circular in design.


That I had to chase my tail a bit before realizing the elegant and simple solution to my knitting problem could be construed as proof that my C in geometry was well-deserved. However, I’d like to think my teacher would be proud to learn that more than 30 years later, I am finding ways to use geometry in my everyday life.

Of course, my ordeal was not yet over. I had to solve the problem of adding corners to my circle to make a square, plus my first block came out too large and I had to do it all over AGAIN. In the end, I think all the effort was worth it. My finished work is on display, starting today, along with the other textile contributions about world peace at the All We Are Saying show in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.