Category Archives: riders comments

Pipe Dreams: Bike Vacations with Kids

It’s a Truism: kids love bicycles. They love riding them. They love spinning the pedals backwards and watching the chain move. They love climbing up on a Soft Spot and hitting the saddle shouting “Go! Go! Go!” Like big people, they love the feeling of wind on their faces and the freedom of adventure.

The thing is, “grownups” love adventure too, and want to share the spirit of exploring with their families and friends. Unfortunately, many bike tour routes are geared toward groups of adult travelers. These routes are not appropriate for families traveling with children in trailers, on come-along bikes, or with kids who ride a few miles independently, and then climb onto Mommy’s cargo bike for the rest of the trip.

At Yuba, we love going on bicycle adventures with our little friends. We’ve compiled a list of kid-friendly bike touring routes, so that you, your family and friends can feel empowered to pack the tent and the diaper bag and hit the road. In general, these routes start and stop at a destination that does not require a car to get to. If you have suggestions for other routes, please add a comment to this post, so that other people can try your route.

Angel Island (CA)
Angel Island is a California State Historic Park located in the heart of the San Francisco Bay. Because it is relatively easy to access and offers amazing views of the San Francisco Bay Area, camping fills up fast (9 months in advance!), so book early.

Angel Island has a car-free, paved loop trail that enables visitors to explore West Coast history, from the Native American civil rights protests of the 1960’s to Civil War garrisons in the 1860’s. It also offers sweeping views of the entire San Francisco Bay. Please be aware that the trail, while paved, and car-free is by no means flat.

For more information, please check the Angel Island website.

Beal’s Point at Folsom Lake (CA)
A mere 32 miles from Old Sacramento, CA along the car-free American River Trail, this campground has many amenities to offer families: a lake for swimming, boat rentals, a snack bar and more.

For more information, please go to the Folsom Lake website.

Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (DC, MD, WV)
The C&O Canal was built as a way to access Western wealth, and began operation in the early 19th century. Operating for nearly 100 years the canal was a lifeline for communities along the Potomac River as coal, lumber and agricultural products floated down the waterway to market. The 184 mile canal path was converted to recreation land in the 1970’s, and functions as a bike path connecting Washington DC with Cumberland, MD.

The park features 30 free hiker-bike campgrounds every 6-8 miles along the canal route, so camping is easy; stay in these campgrounds is limited to one night per trip. It is possible to continue onto the Great Allegheny Passage to travel all the way to Pittsburgh by bike.

For more information, please visit the C&O Canal website.

George S. Mickelson Trail (SD)
The George S. Mickelson Trail allows access to South Dakota’s famed Black Hills, and National Forests. The trail is 109 miles long, with over 100 converted railroad bridges and 4 rock-hewn tunnels. The trail surface is graveled with limestone. Although the grade never exceeds 4%, some parts of the trail could be considered strenuous for younger/out of shape riders.

For more information, please see the George S. Mickelson Trail website.

Great Allegheny Passage (PA, MD)
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail-trail offers 141 miles of hiking and biking between Cumberland, MD, and Homestead, PA, near Pittsburgh. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the C&O Canal Towpath, creating a continuous trail experience, 325 miles long, to Washington, DC.

There are several campgrounds near the GAP, please see the the GAP website for more information.

Natchez Trace (MS, TN, AL)
The Natchez Trace is a 444 mile parkway and bike path that follows an ancient bison migratory path from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. There are historical sites covering 10,000 years of history, B&B’s, trees, bike camping and cutesy towns all along the route.

Because the parkway is extremely safe, and cars only drive  50 mph for its entire length, it is considered to be a great route for families seeking to do a bike tour with kids. The route is also relatively flat and smooth, so riders encumbered with passengers, camping gear and other cargo won’t have to kill themselves to have a good time.

For more information, please see the Natchez Trace website.

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes (ID, WY)
Spanning 171 miles between Mullen, WY and Plummer, ID, in the northern Idaho panhandle, the Coeur d’Alenes trails offer paved and gravel trails for cyclists of all abilities, following old railroad lines.

For more information, please see the Friends of the Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes website.

Yellowstone National Park (Fall and Spring Biking Seasons) (ID, MT, WY)
In the seasons between when the snow begins to fall, or before it has completely melted and the summer tourist season, there are a few weeks a year when the roads in Yellowstone are open to self-propelled travelers only. Every spring and fall, cyclists enjoy this special time of year to give them private access to the mysteries of Yellowstone.

Weather can be inclement, so please plan carefully. There is camping available at Mammoth Hot Springs.

For more information, please go to the Yellowstone National Park Website.

Rok Straps Urban Tactical Bike

You know that we take disaster preparedness pretty seriously here at Yuba Bicycles, because we believe that our bike contribute to making the world better – when the sun is shining or when a hurricane just decimated your neighborhood.

Ever since the tongue-in-cheek article from the CDC came out about using a zombie apocalypse as a way to envision disaster preparedness, we’ve been waiting for someone to build up a Mundo as the ultimate zombie defense bike.

Rok Straps, a strap manufacturer and major supplier to the US military and many emergency relief agencies, has built the Rok Straps Urban Tactical Bike, as a proof-of-concept for what a bike can be in a emergency or military situation.

Wonder if they’ll bring it out to the 2013 Disaster Relief Trials?


Holidays by Bike Photo Contest

Everybody knows how awesome it is to do the holidays by bike – everything is just easier. From bringing home the tree by bike to going to view light displays, the holidays are so much better on a bike.

To enhance your enjoyment of this holiday season, we’ve partnered with Timbuk2 for an exclusive holiday contest to WIN the NEW Timbuk2 Basket Case bag (valued at $129, and not available until 2013) and a Yuba Bread Basket ($129 value)!

To enter, simply submit a photo of you OR your bike getting festive…by bike. This could be anything:
  • wassailing,
  • picking up a tree,
  • holiday shopping,
  • wrapping up a bike as a present,
  • holiday-themed bike decorations,
  • Santa group ride,
  • taking food to the food bank,
  • stocking up on eggnog
  • and whatnot….

To Enter post your photo to the Yuba Bicycles Facebook Page, send it to us on Twitter (tag: #holidaysbybike) or send it directly to (subject line: Holidays By Bike). Entries will be collected an published here in the blog. Contest runs until December 31, 2012, noon PST. Entries limited to residents of the United States and Canada.

P.S. If you’re feeling extra festive, roll on over to the Timbuk2 fan page and check out their Good Gifts Sweepstake with $1000 in prizes to be won (only until December 10, 2012)
Update: The entries are already coming in. Here they are!
@tacomabikeranch_3 @tacomabikeranch2 fb_emmanuel_cervantes @tinepgh@missgeorgieo elle_b6 elle_b5 fb_simon_searlefb_sam_moody
1/2/2013 Update: And the winner is…
Kate B. with the lovely picture above of her  four boys on her bike. She will be receiving a Timbuk2 Basket Case Bag, and a Bread Basket. Congratulations Kate!
Thank you to everyone for participating. We loved seeing all the photos of your holiday cheer, and wish you a happy new year.

Hum of the City: We tried it: Yuba Boda Boda

Here’s a exerpt from a review from Hum of the City, a fantastic blog about being car-free with children in a hilly city (San Francisco).

“…This is an extremely easy bike to ride, both with and without kids aboard. The Boda Boda looks and feels like a beach cruiser, with wide handlebars and a relaxed and upright ride, but has massively increased carrying capacity. We had some friends who were only occasional riders try it, and even when it was loaded they took off without a wobble. This is common to some extent with all midtails, but our loaner Boda Boda had an advantage over the MinUte: a step-through frame. Even shorter riders could get on and off with contorting over the top tube or round-housing a kid sitting on the back deck.
The Boda Boda is a slender bike that can move easily through traffic. It has the same kind of rear supports as the Mundo, which are handy because they can hold up the bags or be used as footrests for older riders, but they are much narrower than the ones on the Mundo (as are the bags themselves). A Mundo with the Go Getter bags packed is three feet across, wider than many bike trailers, and it can be nerve-wracking to ride one in San Francisco’s narrow bike lanes and heavy traffic—as a result, I sometimes see Mundos riding on the sidewalk, even though this is illegal in San Francisco. The Boda Boda’s Baguettes, even fully packed, still lie pretty flat and make it possible to weave the bike through pinch points without a second thought (Baguettes can apparently be used on a Mundo as well, by the way)…”

Read the full review here…

Guest Post: The Joys of 19th Century Camping

This is the first in a series of guest blog posts by Yuba riders and friends. This first ink slinger is Dr. R. Carter McRee, PhD. He is currently traveling through the South Eastern part of the US with a Mundo and a Boda Boda, and is sharing his reflections with us.

Camping gets tough when going from your car to your campsite requires more effort than an easy stroll. Carrying all your gear down a path to your final destination requires lots of energy and with each step you begin to think the RV crowd has it made. At that moment I recall Edward Abbey’s words,” The longest journey begins with a single step, not with the turn of an ignition key.” Today’s modern RV camper brings suburbia into the woods and the allure of wilderness is diluted by their 21st century technology. The bicycle, a 19th century invention, can bring that allure back without all the drudgery of a long hike.

Ft. Yargo State Park

I recently rode my Boda Boda into rustic tent sites at state parks in Georgia and South Carolina and was able to experience wilderness thrills in the midst of RVs. The campgrounds had plenty of empty tent sites and my bike let me take all the comforts of home along for the ride. Driving past a wide variety of RVs to the designated parking areas I marveled at their size, most of them with bikes parked nearby. My Toyota Yaris uses less than a tenth of the gas these behemoths burn and I slept very comfortably every night. A cushy pad, warm sleeping bag and spacious tent reliably let me get a good night’s sleep.

My first campsite was at Ft. Yargo State Park in scenic Winder, GA. It was strategically located midway between Athens and Atlanta and a day’s drive down I-85 from my starting point in South Hill, VA. I had no idea how beautiful the lakeside site would be when I found it on Google. Arriving around 4 PM I knew that I needed to quickly get the tent up before darkness fell. Bungee the tent, sleeping bag and pad on the bike’s rack and in less than 5 minutes I had ridden to my destination. Granted, the trail wasn’t very long but it would have taken several trips on foot to get my home for the night to the campsite.

By the time it got dark everything was set up and I was off to get provisions. Not being familiar with the area I headed back the way I came to a grocery store and somewhere I could get a six-pack of beer. Securing my heavy cooler to the back and with a mess kit in the panniers I rode back down the trail to my new home. In a few minutes the Coleman stove was cooking a hot meal, I was sipping cold beer while I stared up at the heavens, and all the miles I drove to get there slowly melted away. In the morning the mists were still rising off the lake when I first awoke so I rolled over to get in one more sleep cycle before I started my day. The wilderness was beginning to creep into my bones.

That day was spent in Athens, the next one in Atlanta, a weekend in Savannah, up the coast to Charleston and my final campsite was at Huntington Beach State Park just south of Myrtle Beach, SC. I only spent one night indoors and it was the worst night of my road trip. Between the overwhelming stench of air freshener and thin walls that did nothing to squelch my neighbor’s TV set I longed for my tent. When I got to my final destination I knew it was going to be special because the guy manning the gate couldn’t stop raving about the park. He had recently moved down from NY just so he could work there and enjoy all the wildlife.

They have a half dozen rustic tent sites arranged along a short trail and I chose the one furthest from the road because I knew my Boda Boda wouldn’t let me down. By now I was getting pretty good at securing all my stuff to the bike and I managed to get by with just three trips down the trail. I saw animal scat on the trails surrounding the site so I knew the guy at the gate was serious about all the wildlife. As dark fell I heard rustling in the bushes and saw my too friendly neighbors, the raccoons. They came to dinner every night and were obviously accustomed to getting fed. I cooked Italian sausages with peppers and onions and I was eating one when a raccoon popped his head around my Coleman stove to see if he could sneak a bite. Chasing them off was fruitless and they moved on once I finished eating dinner.

Raccoons live here and they expect an invitation to dinner.

Once again, my Boda Boda was indispensable when it came to disposing of my food waste. I knew the ‘coons would get into it if it was anywhere nearby so I rode over to the visitor’s center and threw it away in their trashcan. My nosy neighbors came back when I returned to build a fire but without any food around they quickly left. I guess they expected s’mores for dessert. The next day a ranger told me they have been known to steal food from stoves and grills while it is still cooking! Staring into the fire in the woods that night while wild animals coveted my food I felt the allure of wilderness. My Boda Boda gave me that allure without all the tedium of slogging along a trail.

Yuba Bicycles Halloween Contest

Do you plan to decorate your bike for Halloween? If you do, vialis 40mg snap a picture it and get it to us by November 5th (5pm PST), pharm and you could win a Yuba Bicycles Bag of your choice.

To enter, get the photo to us one of these ways:
Twitter: @YubaBicycles
Or just reply to this post with a link!

Update: The entries have been coming in, and they are pretty amazing. One family even sent us this video of their maiden voyage of their “Boata Boata”:

New Go-Getter Bag Review

This is an excerpt from the full review on Ding Ding Let’s Ride, an awesome website about urban bike commuting and city bikes. This review is of the new Go-Getter Bags, which we just released this month.


Reviewing the 2012 Yuba Go-Getter Bags
by on October 11, 2012

2010 Go-Getter bag on the left and the 2012 edition on the right side of our own Yuba Mundo cargo bike.

Yuba upgraded their already awesome Go-Getter cargo bags this year, and we’ve been waiting to get our hands on one to check out. We love these bags – they’re big, sturdy, easy to use,  and easy to clean, but there are a few things about them we thought could be improved.  I think Yuba Mundo read our minds.  They did a run-down of the new features on their own blog  earlier this year, and in their photos the bags appeared to be a grayish-white in color. Ours ours arrived fully orange, with reflective stripes – all fine by us.

The biggest difference between the 2012 Go-Getter bags and the 2010 edition are the hooks that affix the panniers to the bike.  This is the biggest improvement too.  On the 2010 version,  each bag had 4 very very short straps with plastic buckles that you had to thread through the bike rack and click together.

The buckles on the 2010 Go-Getter bags


The 2012 version of the bags solves the hassle of this set up by replacing the buckles with 4 hooks that easily and quickly clip on to the frame of the bike.  Each hook also has it’s own ‘pulley’ which is helpful for loading or adjusting when the bag is full of gear.

2 of the 4 hooks on a 2012 version of the Go-Getter bag .


A close-up of the hooks on the 2012 Go-Getter bags.

It’s amazing how much faster you can get the bags on and off the bike with these new hooks.  Andrew is completely sold on the new set-up.

Some of the other upgrades are less dramatic but equally appreciated.  They added rings for the shoulder straps to hook onto so that the straps are attached to each end of the bag. Obviously you can’t carry the bag over your shoulder when it’s packed full of groceries, but you can carry it into the store or with lighter loads.  They’ve made the sides of the bags stiffer, to stand up better, added an strap inside the bag to help hold down or divide cargo, and the cargo divider is sewn in now as opposed to simply being a velcro pocket.  Also, the inside of the bag is now an even more-rubberized (aka ‘waterproof’) bright, gloss white.  This makes it much easier to find things as opposed to the black lining of the old bags.  Oh yes, there’s also now a drain-hole in the bottom of the bag too.

The black inside lining of the old version of the Go-Getter bag.


The bright white lining on the new 2012 Go-Getter bags.

We love our Yuba Mundo, loved our old Go-Getter bags, and love the new version even more!   It really seems obvious that Yuba spent time talking to people who were actively using these bags and asked them what would make them even better.   Thumbs up for practical improvements!


More of Samantha’s writing can be found at Ding Ding Let’s Ride. Their website is a gold mine of information about the details of urban riding.

One Family’s Path to Car-Freedom

We met Elle B. of the Tiny Helmets Big Bikes blog a few months back, when she purchased a Yuba Mundo from our dealer in Sacramento. Since that time, she and her family have made some major changes to their lives – they sold their car and ride or take transit almost everywhere they go, inspired by her experience, Elle now works at Practical Cycle to help others transition to a more bike-centric lifestyle.

She recently made a blog post reflecting on her family’s journey to being car-free. In the beginning of 2012, she hadn’t considered that it would be possible for a family with young children to give up their car, and is surprised, looking forward to 2013 how easy the transition was.

Here’s her article from her blog:

Jose and I have always loved biking. We bonded over bike rides, long and short. He used his bike as transportation and I used mine for most of my transportation when we lived in Northern California. We liked to challenge ourselves and each other to see what we could accomplish by bike. We would go on a few overnight rides every once in a while. Our car was an old third- or fourth-hand Toyota Tercel, almost as old as we were. We made conscious choices to ride our bikes instead of drive. It kept us sane and happy. We always say that our couples therapy is done by bike.

Biking dates.
By the time I got pregnant, we had a different car, my parents’ passed-down Toyota Camry. We were living in Sacramento, chosen because of its proximity to my parents and its comfortable biking system. We dreamed about raising our kid to ride bikes and forgo driving but we hung onto the car because we still had to get around with a baby.

As the little guy got bigger, I was dying to get back onto my bike regularly. I hated driving, the stress and guilt it brought me. I took to the internet and researched for days. My conclusion was that a trailer was the best option. The main concerns for riding with a baby on a bike, besides the inherent danger of biking (and living), was the amount of vibration a baby would experience and the ability to wear a helmet. At six months, the little guy was holding his head up and sitting perfectly. We talked with our pediatrician who gave us the go ahead to give riding a chance, starting out slowly and riding to his comfort level.

I chose a Chariot trailer because of the great reviews and suspension, which minimized the vibrations. We found a teeny weeny helmet and started out taking slow, short trips around the neighborhood and American River Parkway. He loved it! Biking became an option again and we’d use the bike-trailer setup to do some errands and fun trips. We even managed to do a 600-mile bike tour around Oregon when our little one was 11 months old. We felt pretty good about our transportation even though we were still using the car for most of our trips. Many of our destinations didn’t feel bikeable, especially with a baby, and the trailer setup took time and effort to use.


Our initial set up.
Then we had another little guy. Biking became even more difficult because I was home with two kids and we didn’t have an option to take the wee one for the first six months. At the same time, our Camry conked out and we made the decision to lease a Toyota Prius for three years. In three years, we decided, we’d have more options to get around and wouldn’t need a car. The car payments and insurance became a huge chunk of our monthly bills, over $450. It was rough but we thought that was what we “needed.” Again, I felt horrible about driving but justified it by saying “I have kids, what else can I do?”

When Little Brother turned six months old, we found a double Chariot on Craigslist and began riding again. It got easier and easier the more we rode. Our car began to go longer and longer without being moved. We were slowly replacing more and more trips by bike, even with the babies. The idea of going car-free started to look more doable. Jose and I often discussed what it would be like to live without a car and how fantastic we would feel without that burden parked out front.


Happy brothers.
I started doing more research and began looking at cargo bikes. The one that really caught my eye was the Xtracycle. It seemed reasonably priced, easy enough to put together on a regular bike, and could haul two kids. Jose and I had seen them a lot up in Northern California. One day we were all out riding along the parkway when an Xtracycle breezed by us. Once again, we started drooling. Jose (who was pulling the trailer) said “go catch him and ask where he got it.” Off I went, pedaling and pedaling, not able to catch up. I was confused (and very competitive) so I kept going. This guy was barely working and I was dying! Finally, I was within a few feet, still not able to catch up, but yelled out “where’d you get your bike?” Kindly, this guy turned off his pedal assist(!) and said he’d built it himself, he owns a bike shop in Old Town and we should come by to check it out, Practical Cycle. That was Tim.

A few hours later, we did. He showed us the parts needed to build an Xtracycle, discussed our options with the bikes we already used; it was a lot more complicated than I had thought. I tested out his amazing rig, complete with BionX. To my surprise, I didn’t really like it. There was a lot of flex and give, I couldn’t imagine feeling comfortable putting my babies on it. Tim then sent me out on the Mundo. I was hooked! It felt like riding a regular bike, smooth, comfortable, stable, tank-like. That was it, I had made my decision.

The price was difficult to swallow but I saw the Mundo as an investment for our future and our ability to go car-free. I made the commitment to use the bike over the car every chance I could. My thinking went from “I’ll ride if I can” to “if I can ride, I will.” It was a subtle change but exactly what I needed. We were back within the week to claim our bike.

I still worried about putting my kids ON the bike as opposed to in a trailer, especially after having been very anti-bike seat, pro-trailer. However, I realized I hadn’t dropped my bike more than twice in all my years of riding (and even those were because of pretty stupid reasons), so what was the true likelihood of my doing it now. I was back online doing more and more research and reading about amazing families who had gone car-free with the help of these (and other) incredible cargo bikes.


They know they’re cool.
Little Brother was about 10 months old by then. We decided that a front seat was the best option for him and chose the iBert because of the price. Big Brother got a Peanut Shell in the back. We added the Stand-Alone Kickstand, Deflopilator, deck, and disc brakes. For fun and added comfort, I bought an Acouztic light/mp3 player. The only thing I would have changed from that would have been the disc brakes. They took an incredibly long time to break-in, squealed like a banshee, and didn’t really feel like they were worth the cost.

Other than that, I was very impressed with the components of the Mundo. The gear ratio is perfect for long distances, heavy loads, and hills. The standard pedals were exactly what I would have chosen anyway. I swapped out the stock seat for my favorite Nashbar seat, not because it wasn’t comfortable but because I liked my orange one. I used my standard panniers and sometimes added a milk crate for larger loads.

We did change the iBert pretty quickly. I didn’t like the attachment skewer, it was difficult to remove the seat, and interfered with my cables. The Mini Yepp ended up being a 1000 times better, especially after I added the windshield for protection since Little Brother was ending up wind-blown and exhausted from our rides.

It was so much easier to choose riding the Mundo over the bike-trailer combo. The weight distribution on the Mundo allowed me to ride faster, about 12-14 mph, whereas the trailer slowed me down by about 2-4 mph. The trailer’s weight hurt my back when I rode, which was not a problem with the Mundo. I could carry more on the Mundo. It was so much easier to just have one bike to worry about getting out of the shed and locking up.

As we increased our riding and since summer was coming up, sun (and, to a less extent in Sacramento, rain) protection was needed for both. I put together a great system using Kelty Sun Hoods, a few zip-ties, and holes. Keeping the little ones comfortable meant that we could keep riding happily and regularly.


Frivolous trips without the guilt of driving.
After six months of bike riding almost exclusively, and over 2000 miles put on the Mundo, it was still our vehicle of choice. The boys would run to the backdoor without a second thought, asking to ride the bike instead of the car. We gained confidence in roads and destinations that I hadn’t thought were “bikeable.” We were still caught up in our lease with another year to pay and it was torture. We really didn’t need a car at this point. It was easy to get lazy and drive while having the car sitting out front.

During that time, while we were paying for the car, the insurance, the maintenance, gas, registration, bumper repair, etc (easily $3000), the Mundo had (and still has) only needed a new inner tube and liner, the initial 30-day tune up, the brake cables tightened, and the chain lubed. *UPDATE: We’ve also gone through the factory grips (they got sticky and I hate sticky grips), moved to blinker light grips which broke when the bike tipped over, so we’ll probably be going on our third set in the near future.


Big Brother graduating to the big boy seat.
The only real changes we’ve made to the bike have been the seating arrangements. I felt like we were wasting the space behind the Peanut Shell, missing out on the Mundo’s ability to carry a larger human (like myself on the rare occasions that I get to be cargo!). At about 3.5 years old, Big Brother took to the Soft Spot and Stoker Bars quicker than we had thought. He felt right at ease holding on, especially once I swapped out the standard handlebars for longer ones. Little Brother now likes to sit in the Peanut Shell and bug his brother but we still have the option to rotate around and buckle in the big guy if he gets tired.

Having the Peanut Shell in the very back does prevent the Mundo from hauling bikes (something I LOVE about the bike) but I can remove the seat pretty quickly with a socket wrench, it just requires some planning now. With both of the boys on the back, I’m also more limited in my carrying capacity so a Bread Basket might be in my near future, especially since Little Brother has basically chosen to stay in the back and isn’t using the Yepp Mini much.


Public meltdowns do happen.
So finally, we ended up deciding that it was worth taking a hit and getting rid of the Prius early. We settled on selling the car to Carmax and paying the remaining $1000. We mainly ride our bikes but have the option of using my parents’ Prius, if necessary, since they also rarely drive. We’ve found other car-sharing options like Zipcar and private car share programs like Relay Rides. There are so many local resources out there and it’s fantastic to have a wonderful community of car-free and car-lite families to support us and lead the way.

At the beginning of this year, I would have never imagined going car-free so quickly and effortlessly. The community network we’ve found and the Mundo have made it all possible. I hope that we are able to show others that using cars less often is much easier than they think. We still have conflicts and challenges every so often, like today when the boys are having a difficult day and we had wanted to meet a biking blog friend, Hum Of The City, in Davis. It’s close enough to feel annoyed that it’s too far to get to conveniently without a car. Even with a car, I still would have had un-napped children, traffic, parking, and driving to deal with–just as frustrating, if not more so. It’s not always easier or safer with a car, we’re just trained to think it is.

It’s going to take a bit more planning to get around sometimes, we’ll be more exposed to the weather, and many people are going to think we’re nuts. However, the boys are happier and I like that they are being raised with values that are important to us. I don’t want them to think that everyone should have a car and that driving is something to be taken lightly. I want them to understand that they won’t melt or get sick in cold weather. I want them to see biking as a valid form of transportation and to know that physical activity should be an everyday part of life.

It is the right choice for our family to be car-free and I am thrilled to be here. And, with the money we’re saving, I finally get to have someone come in and clean my house once a month. Life is grand!

Understanding Weight and Power on a Cargo Bike

Occasionally, we pull an article from around the web-o-sphere because we feel that it is a particularly enlightening or interesting article for people interested in cargo bikes and expanding the conception of what is possible to do by bike. This article by punk astronomer Doug Reilly fits the bill. He uses science to help people understand why additional weight on a bike isn’t noticeable until encountering a steep uphill grade.

Doug’s project brings the wonders of the heavens to anyone who wants to see them at his regularly occurring “star parties” in Geneva, NY.

Understanding Weight and Power With Cargo Bicycles

by Doug Reilly

“Isn’t that thing heavy?” I’ve had a few people ask me that already. The Yuba Mundo specs out at 48 pounds, and that’s probably calculated with no cargo and few of the common accessories like running boards and a side-loader bag. Let alone that copper bell I added! Probably my daily running weight is about ~65 pounds. Certainly it’s far heavier than the 8-pound carbon fiber wonder Jim Hogan at GBC let me hold a while back. It was so light I almost threw the bloody thing through the roof of the store, just trying to pick it up. I expected it to have some weight. It appeared to almost need to be held down.

Does it matter how much your bike weighs? Certainly if you’re a professional athlete, or an uber-serious amateur, it can matter. That $11,ooo carbon fiber frame might shave a portion of a second off your time, and that might be enough. If you’re going to compete in a mega endurance race like the 3,000 mile Race Across America*, probably a big cargo bike isn’t your first choice as well. But for most people, should bicycle weight be a big concern? And should it shy people away from grocery shopping by bike?

I was a bit worried getting such a big, heavy bike as the Yuba Mundo. My specific worry was Washington Street. On the way to work, it’s all downhill, but on the way home, well, let’s just say I do wish it was reversed. It’s somehow not fair that I can get to my office in 3 minutes but it takes me 10 on the way home. I won’t show you a picture of Washington Street, because you would see how puny it is and therefore what a weakling I am. But it’s my hill, and I wondered before the Mundo arrived how it would do on that long gradual climb. Notice that I said how “it” would do. You know, because, it’s all about the bike. (Not my legs or cardiovascular strength.)

I needn’t have worried. The Yuba does its thing, amazingly. Those gear things really help! For the last seven years I’ve been riding a single speed, now I don’t know what to do with myself and my 21 shiny new gears. I actually get home faster than I did with my old single-speed hybrid, which weighs less than half what the Mundo does.

The other day I ran across these stats, posted on the blog of Portland, Oregon based Clever Cycles:

Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at 160 watts effort : 14.8 MPH
Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, level ground : 14.6 MPH
Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% uphill : 7.2 MPH
Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% uphill : 6.1 MPH
Speed of a 20-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% downhill : 23.9 MPH
Speed of a 60-lb bicycle at the same effort, 5% downhill : 25.5 MPH

These figures come from an online calculator, backed up with some fancy formulas, found here.

These figures also struck me as self-evidently true given how much easier and generally faster the cargo bike is to ride than the single speed. The Yuba weights 60 pounds. The single speed about 20. So if weight isn’t the biggest determinant of how much effort it takes to pedal a bike, then what is? I decided to ask a few experts, and I got an answer I didn’t really expect.

First, I went to the source, and emailed Todd at Clever Cycles and asked him why weight makes so little difference. Here’s his response:

Lighter *is* faster, but by a far, far smaller degree than widely supposed. Most of the work of pedaling a bike above speeds of about 12mph is overcoming wind resistance, not overcoming the inertia of the bike itself. Also, heavier bikes are notably slower to accelerate. It’s just that once they’re rolling, it’s not much more effort at all to keep them going.

It’s funny that I don’t perceive the Mundo as being slower, except when it’s loaded up with a lot of cargo and I’m heading up hill. Quite the opposite. I guess this is just perceptual, since my previous bike only had one gear, and apparently a pokey one at that.  The heavier Yuba Mundo is also slower to stop, and this jives with Newton’s laws of motion, too. I actually bought a louder bell (a nice brass Crane bell with a spring loaded clapper) on my bike last week because I was worried someone would walk out in front of me while the bike was loaded and I was zooming down a hill. It takes a good long while to stop, even with well adjusted disc brakes (which by the way, I would consider to be essential components of any cargo bike). Objects in motion like to stay in motion, indeed.

I asked the same question of my friend and once college roomate Phil, who is now one of the world’s top experts on the subject of athletic power. He confirmed and expanded upon Todd’s explanation, and reading his response it began to feel a bit as if we were talking more about airplanes than bikes:

1. Roughly 80% of the energy of pedaling a bike involves overcoming air resistance. Thus, under all conditions other than a strictly uphill climb, aerodynamic considerations vastly outweigh weight considerations.

2. The most important consideration with respect to how quick you will get up a hill is the power to weight ratio, i.e. how many watts can you generate versus how much mass you are moving up the hill. Very good riders (i.e. guys that contend for the Tour De France) generate maybe 5ish watts per kg body mass and can hold than for less than an hour. More pedestrian riders probably generate 2 watts per kg over a similar time frame. You make considerably more power than this in the metabolic sense, however, you are only about 20-25% efficient in terms of what actually gets delivered to the external environment. This is why you get hot when you exercise…the rest of the energy is liberated predominantly as heat.

3. The most important consideration with getting down a flat road is power versus frontal surface area. Hence the aerobars you see on time trial or triathlon bikes. You are trying to poke a smaller hole in the air.

The takeaway is that the extra mass matters, sure, but not as much as one would think. Which is another way of saying that carrying your groceries home on your bike instead of your SUV is not as crazy an idea as you might think.

Another conclusion I made form this inquiry is that I made a good decision in getting the Yuba Mundo. It’s extra length adds weight, sure, but doesn’t add anything (or not very much) to the aerodynamic cross section of the bike. Something like a bakfiets, with a wide honking cargo box on the front, is, to use Phil’s expression, punching a much bigger hole in the air.

It’s funny, but now that I’ve been riding the Yuba back and forth to work every day, getting groceries with it, and of course, lugging my telescope around on it, I can’t believe I sat in a car for long and let an engine, and way too much fossilized dinosaur poop, do the work for me. It’s not much work at all, and the cost per mile is stronger legs and lungs.

*The link is to an excellent RadioLab episode that features a story about the RAAM. RAAM’s official website is here.