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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!