Child Bike Seat, Bike Trailer, or Cargo Bike Part Three — Rider Profiles

In our early discussions planning this series, our curiosity was inspired. We live and breathe Cargo Biking, and we know why we make certain design choices and offer the bikes we do. Being so close to our own thinking, we wondered why people choose the style and model of cargo bikes that they do. So to learn insights from other cargo cyclists, we took to the Twittersphere to ask what people looked for when selecting a cargo bike to carry kids, as well as some reflection about their experience. We got many great responses by email and have included some of them in this post.  We hope you find it as informative as we did!

From Cargo Bike Conversion Kit to a Complete Longtail

Eunice Martel had this to say about his entry to, and evolution of, cargo biking with children:

“Our journey to cargo bike ownership was a rather quick one! I wanted to spend more time outdoors and thought traveling by bike would be fun. I knew a few families who biked in town with one or two kids and so I knew it was possible. I went to a bike festival where I saw a box-bike, a longtail and several trail-a-bikes. I talked to a few owners and each offered their preference for their set-up.

“I wanted a bike that I could use once the kids were on their own bikes.  I ride a hybrid bike with a [cargo conversion kit]. For three months, my littlest kid rode in the YeppMini and then transfered to the back in the YeppMaxi. The bigger kid started in the YeppMaxi but I couldn’t keep his free spirit there and bought stoker handlebars for him very quickly.

“I’ve been riding for about 7 months and I enjoy having the kids higher up than in a trailer. I like how easy it is for my son to hop on and off.  I think that when the kids are cumulatively around the 70-80lb weight, I will want to invest in a one-piece longtail.

“The flex isn’t an issue yet. I noticed on the first couple of rides with both kids in the back, and again when I did a large grocery haul. I have since gotten so used to it that I don’t notice it. A friend who rides often and has heavier kids has mentioned that her set up needs to change. I can only assume I too will get there! Plus, now that I’m in the cargo bike market, I want to change it up ;)

“Second to limited budget (I haven’t started saving yet!), space is a big concern. I live in a condo building with limited bike storage. We’ve talked about selling our car and putting some container garden and bike parking there, but I’m sure the strata will have objections. A box bike [Bakfiets] won’t fit in the storage. So it will come down to test riding an Edgerunner, a Big Dummy and a Mundo. I know that my test rides will have to be longer than a loop around the block and will have to have some weight on it. I remember shopping for strollers years ago and what a difference distance and weight added made to the smoothness of the ride! Ideally, I would like to borrow each bike for an extended period of time. That way I can sleep on it, and go over the decision with a fine tooth comb! Also, my family’s needs will be changing, so I need to account for the unknown as well! That’s one thing I appreciate about the internet. I can quickly find different people’s take on family biking and take that into account. It’s a luxury I take for granted sometimes!

“I think that covers it! I look forward to reading the responses from other cargo bikers.”

The Two Cargo Bike Family: Longtail and Frontloader (Longjohn)

The @tinyhelmets crew on their Yuba Mundo

The @tinyhelmets crew on their Yuba Mundo

Elle Bustamante and her family love their cargo bikes and aren’t shy about telling people. They own both a Yuba Mundo and a Bullitt.  Check out their great blog: http://www.tinyhelmetsbigbikes.com/ and follow her on Twitter: @tinyhelmets

We’ve had our Mundo for over 1.5 years now and have close to 5000 miles on it. With hindsight, I can tell you that we absolutely made the perfect choice getting a Mundo for our first cargo bike.

The first thing that we considered was cost. ~$1500 was a HUGE amount for us to spend on a bike, especially because at the time we had a car that was draining $500/month. We realized that we could commit to riding around with the kids in a trailer and all the hassles that came with that so we decided that it would be an investment. Originally, we looked into Xtracycles to minimize cost.

Second, it was all about stability. I was so nervous putting my kids ON the bike instead of in a trailer so I wanted something I was comfortable on. I tried the Xtracycle model at our bike shop and was immediately put off by the flex and wobbliness. I couldn’t imagine putting my kids on it. When I got on the Mundo, it was so comfortable and stable that I could see myself carrying the kids, carrying the groceries, getting around town, going on long trips, etc. It felt like I was riding a tank. I also felt really comfortable as a regular bike so if I didn’t have the kids, I wouldn’t feel like I was wasting my energy or suffering.

Third, the Mundo has already been through many arrangements. We started with one kid in the PS and one in a Yepp Mini. When the Little grew out of the Yepp, he moved to the PS and the Big took over a set of stoker bars. In a few years, they’ll probably be inside a set of Monkey Bars. I love the flexibility of the design and the longevity of it’s usefulness. I’ve carried adults or my husband has taken us to the train, me out on dates, etc. I can take the bike touring and never feel like I’m running out of room to carry things.

Quality, which I can speak of as an after-the-fact experience, has been phenomenal! We have only had to change the Mundo’s brake pads, tighten the cables, and swap out a couple of grips. Our bike has been through a lot and held up perfectly. Yuba’s commitment to family cycling is the best. I never have to try to invent something myself because Yuba has already got the situation covered in a safe and sturdy manner. Many cargo bikes have to be altered or “rigged” to carry children safely and at differing ages.

I love that just about anyone can hop on a longtail and feel totally at ease. I like going long distances and I like going fast so a cargo trike has never been a consideration. Bakfietsen are fantastic if you need to carry lots of children or like the low center of gravity (again, too slow for me). We also have a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt which has a smaller box but is fast and able to go longer distances. We chose that as our second cargo bike over another Mundo because it fills a couple of voids the Mundo has–carrying our dog and a complete weather protector (which I know I’ve seen on some people’s longtails who are much handier than I am). The long john cargo bike takes longer to get used to riding and is wider than the Mundo. If I’m traveling on roads that I’m unfamiliar with, I’ll usually take the Mundo because of it’s narrower profile and more familiar bike-feel. I’ll also choose the Mundo over the long john if I have a lot of hills because although the LvH has a great gear ratio, I can’t stand up on it like I can with the Mundo. The Mundo has fit just about every cargo carrying situation we’ve needed.

Our next step is to install a [pedal assist, electric] BionX kit to a Boda Boda so that we can travel easier on public transport with a cargo bike and use our electric bike more efficiently and with children.

Thanks for being amazing, Yuba Team!

Dual Purpose: Kids and Utility:  Long Tail vs Long Bucket

We poked around the intertubes ourselves, looking for conversations on why people chose their bikes.  We found a rider called Hubcap, who shared his process in choosing a Long-tail over a Long Bucket on BikeForums.

I considered both the Yuba and the Madsen before deciding on the Mundo. Although I haul my kids around a lot (not as much in the winter), I use the Mundo for utility trips, sans kids, just about as much. The Mundo seemed better suited to me to pop from hardware store to grocery store to ??? while keeping the purchases in the go getters out of sight when I am in other stores. The go getters keep the contents nice and dry, even in downpours. Nothing is 100% safe in them, but buckled up and parked in a high vis/traffic area in front of a store, I don’t see too much risk of someone trying to get into them. And I really don’t see someone trying to remove the go getter bags themselves. The way the top buckles squeeze between the deck, or in my case the soft spot seat, and the rack makes them just enough of a hassle that someone would have to analyze it for a bit to get them off. I have left them on the bike (empty) the whole day at the train station a lot of times.

I also have hauled other bikes with the Mundo many times. I’m not sure how easily you could do that with the Madsen. My son is now 6 yrs old and my daughter is 3. The son rides behind me on the soft spot seat holding on to the tandem bars and my daughter is comfortably behind him in a peanut shell seat.

I could probably make the Madsen work for 95% of the uses I have for the Mundo, but the Yuba just seemed the way to go for me. Oh, and I have done some pretty long rides on the Mundo and it rides just fine for longer trips, but it will wear you out if you start loading it up with kids and gear though.

[Editor’s Note: any bike with a heavy load will “wear you out” on longer trips.  This is the beauty of Electric Assist Cargo Bikes!]

Lots of types, settled on The Frontloader / Bakfiets… for now.

Olena Russell and child, with her beloved Bakfiets.

Olena Russell and child, with her beloved Bakfiets.

Olena Russell has extensive experience and ownership of four different (longtail and frontloader) cargo bikes!  Her blog is at: http://kidicalmassyyj.blogspot.ca/  

She had this to say about her extensive cargo bike experience:

 

My criteria to carry kids by bike evolved as I had more children and as I got more involved in cycling and promotion of family biking… That said, cargo bikes are my choice. I am really petite (5’2″ and 110lbs), so fit is key. I need to feel comfortable and stable while riding and while stopped. I prefer to be upright (like on a dutch bike, or Pashley), and am much more comfortable when my feet can reach the ground when I am stopped.  I am not able to reach flat-footed, but I am stable when stopped.

I have owned a Madsen, a Townie Xtracycle, a Surly Big Dummy, and a Bakfiets, and I have ridden a Yuba Mundo. (I initially chose the Big Dummy over a Yuba, as there were no Yuba’s locally and I was uncertain of how it would fit, being a one size bike frame) [Editor’s note: The Mundo’s one size frame is designed to accommodate multiple rider sizes on one bike, for situations such as a family that has more than one rider of different heights. The Mundo will fit riders from 5’ up to 6’8”.]

The Bakfiets is my favorite for a few reasons. I need to be able to hop on my bike no matter what I am wearing and be able to bring all three kids and gear with me. We are a nearly car-free family of 5, so it needs to be my minivan. My bakfiets is a step thru frame, and has an enclosed chain guard and skirt guard. I can reach the ground while having proper extension and am comfortable and upright while pedaling. Because the weight is low, it feels really stable, even if the kids are wiggly or not quite balanced. The stability is a really important consideration for me, as I need to feel that the kids are safe and I am in control. I can also add a car seat for the baby, which allowed me to be back on the bike sooner.

Yes, it is really heavy and hard on hills, and we’re by the ocean so there are a few. I like the features of it enough – stability, step through, ability to have car seat, rain cover, upright position – that I change my behaviour accordingly.  I take long circuitous routes to avoid hills, and my trips are often not at all direct, and take much longer than they would if I rode another bike. I walk up some of the hills, pushing the bike, which, without kids is 100lbs (add to that 3 kids, a car seat, and gear…) It’s challenging. Sometimes when I am riding, joggers and old ladies with walkers pass me.  Let’s just say I’m slow. As it is, I sold the Big Dummy, partly because I didn’t use it, and partly to fund an electric pedal assist. I dream of a day that I can get someplace without having to worry about my terrain. It takes me some time to find appropriate routes to new places, and it is a really heavy bike.  It is certainly more suited to flat [terrain].

I just recently sold my Big Dummy. I found I was not riding it because I felt really unstable. Likely because I am small, as soon as I put two kids on the back, the front wheel feels really unstable and twitchy, and any movements they make really throw off my balance. I am missing the cargo space, as a fully loaded bakfiets does not allow for a ton of extra gear. I need to bring my panniers.

Price and components are also considerations. I will pay for quality, but there needs to be a balance, of course. I also have no issue changing the components on something I buy if I like the frame and general set-up. I prefer to build my own bike, so a separate frame being available is helpful. I am planning on re-assessing my need for a long-tail in the future, because it’s great even without kids, where an empty bakfiets is kinda silly. I will look at fit and position, stability, and price.

 [Editor’s note: For those of you that would prefer to build your own cargo bike, see this blog post on building a custom Mundo.]

Finally, it has to be aesthetically pleasing. My other bike is a Pashley. I like shiny, pretty bikes. If I can’t ride it in heels or a skirt, I don’t really want to ride it.  :)

Conclusion

It’s been a real pleasure interviewing and reading why people chose the cargo bikes they are on, what they love about them, and what some of the challenges are. If you missed the opportunity to chime in, we would still LOVE to hear from you. You can send your free form essay to info at yuba bikes d o t com, because as @bikemamadelphia put it:

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