Europe says the Yuba Mundo is #1!

After a thorough five day test, experts at the Danish Cycling Federation voted the Yuba Mundo as the “Best in the Test” based on functionality, price, and design (on behalf of CycleLogistics and the European Cyclists Federation). Check it out!

http://cyclelogistics.eu/docs/115/CYCL-consumer_report_CARGO.pdf

Price: 8200dkr
Weight: 22kg
Capacity: 200kg
Bike dimensions: 70x210cm
Bed dimensions: 18x80cm

General
Yuba Mundo is a long bike. On this bike the cargo is fastened to an extra long bed located behind the saddle.

The model we tested has 24 gears, hand brakes and no back-pedal brakes. Child seats can be purchased and there is room for two of them.

The bed is a very long and very strong luggage rack, which is built into the frame. Large bags can be purchased and extras can be fitted to the steel tube on the side of the bike.

Loading is fine. A good kickstand keeps the bike in place during packing and unpacking. However, the bike does not have a closedboxso everything must be placed in bags or attached in other ways. Yuba Mundo is great for long objects like a surfboard strapped to the side.

Starting and driving position is no different than on a regular bike.

Riding the Yuba Mundo feels just like a normal bike and because of this it is the clear cut winner of the all the bikes we tested. The bike is light and is well suited for longer distances and is also a good entry level models for green cargo bikers.

Conclusion
Yuba Mundo is the test’s lightest and strongest cargo bike. Even with very heavy loads the bike is nice to rideand it is the obvious choice for those riding longer distances.

CYCL-consumer_report_CARGO

 

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Replace a pickup truck with a cargo bike? Not a problem for Kirk Dillon — even in the Sierra Nevada mountains:

Kirk Dillion Mundo Tahoe

My Yuba Adventure

I live in Lake Tahoe California. I had a 1998 Chevy S10 pickup truck and a 2000 Ford Ranger pickup, (His and Hers). We drove mostly locally with occasionally trips over the mountains 25 miles away to the big-box stores and to get cheaper gasoline. I was filling up four gas cans of five gallons each every two weeks or so.

Maintenance, insurance, gas, DMV fees, etc. got to be too expensive so I sold my truck (the Chevy) and purchased one of your Yuba Mundo frames. The intention was to use the other truck when weather was bad and use the bike when weather was good. I built up the frame using as many spare parts as I had available and bought the rest. I started using the bike as a fun ride and to get exercise while I added bags and boards to it for hauling more and more things.

I started out saying to myself, “I don’t really need to take the bike, but I’m going to see if I can fit those things on there just for fun.” Then grocery trips became more regular and one day I decided that I wanted to see if I could take “all” the laundry at once to the local laundromat. It was heavy, but it worked just fine. After several of these “let’s see” trips, I realized that I hadn’t even used any of the still full gas cans in over a month.

If I had kept my truck I would still be riding the bike for exercise and I would still have all the expenses associated with it. I am saving money and resources while getting needed exercise and having fun in the process. I am “very” happy with the bike and only see it becoming more integrated into my lifestyle. Thanks for building a super strong, well thought out bike for all of us to use and enjoy.

Kirk Dillon
Lake Tahoe, CA.

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:

In Part One of this series, we explored a general overview of traveling with children by bike, some general considerations that will help you select a suitable bike for the job, and the benefits and challenges of choosing the bike over the car. In this post (Part Two) of this series, we will examine some of the different types of bikes available to carry kids, such as a child bike seat, bike trailer, and cargo bikes.  We conclude this series in Part Three with some rider profiles and other resources to help you decide how to travel with children by bike.

(Note: While we are endeavoring to give a comprehensive overview, we can not possibly discuss all available options here. We hope to give you a good amount of information to make an informed decision, or a good starting point should you decide to do more research. Please send us feedback to info at yubabikes dot com.)

What are the options for traveling by bicycle with children? 

There are various types of bicycles and accessories that are suited to carrying your kids and gear by bike. The best solution for you will be a decision based on your individual riding needs, personal preference, and available budget (as discussed in Part One of this series). This post (Part Two) will give an overview of the various types of bikes available, some of the pros and cons of each style, and then explore some of the brands and products in each type.

The New Family Van

The New Family Van

Functions to Consider when deciding between a Child Bike Seat, Bike Trailer, or Cargo Bike.

Adaptability.  Will your bike grow and evolve as your family does?  Your child may be in a child seat now, but take it from us parents that have gone before you, that will change sooner than you think! Choosing a bike that will grow and adapt with your family will mean less dealing with Craigslist to sell your toddler carrier for a young child hauler in the near future.  This way, one can easily sell the accessories (e.g. the child bike seat) and keep the bike.

Ride-ability.  Whether you are an experienced rider or not, some of the solutions below are far from the typical bicycle experience. For example, while some riders appreciate a Bakfiets for the low center of gravity and ability to see kids in front of them, others feel that any hill can feel like pedaling a boat uphill, and that the profile is too wide for busy streets.

Park-ability.  Also, consider parking. If you do not have a garage or other accessible bike storage (no carrying these up three flights of stairs), most of the options below may create a challenge. Also, parking at your destination is also something to consider as the width and length of the different designs will be a factor in your ability to find parking and secure your bike.

Cost.  Generally speaking, this post is laid out from lowest to highest cost.  It is up tp you to decide what budget you have (though by some estimates, moving to a bike for most of your local errands can save you money over the course of the year, in some cases paying for your new bike!)

Types and Examples of Kid Haulers

Child Seat

child bike seat bike trailer

Front Mount Child Seat (with one-wheel tandem behind.)

If you have a standard bicycle and are looking for a way to carry a child on it, this is an affordable option. Smaller children (to approx 38 lbs) can fit in a front mounted bike seat, while bigger children can remain in a rear seat for a bit longer (until aprox. 48 lbs.)

Pros: Fits standard bicycle.  Gets younger children on bikes earlier. Can be combined with other types of bikes, such as cargo bikes.

 

 

Rack mounted Child Seat on rear.

Cons: Child may outgrow before they are ready to ride their own bike in traffic conditions. Also, other gear carrying capacity is limited (as a backpack on the rider may encroach on the passenger’s space.) When used on a standard bicycle, the bike can become “back heavy” (with a rear seat) and throw off the balance and steering. Finally, standard kickstands can be difficult (and potentially dangerous) to load and unload a child, while bicycles designed to carry children often have sturdy center-stands. 

Bicycle Extensions

This section is actually a collection of options, not a single class in itself. A Bike trailer, Tandem-attachment, and Cargo-conversion kit are all designed to use an existing bike, increasing its capacity to carry cargo and/or kids. If you need to use an existing bike, this may be another affordable option. However, as they are designed to adapt existing bicycles, there can be some performance trade offs compared with bikes designed specifically for this purpose.

Bike Trailer

A Bike Trailer is towed by the bike with a hitch. Two children can fit in most bike trailers. Proponents like the fact that, should the bike fall, the bike trailer is a separate piece (though a roll-over is still possible).

child bike seat, bike trailer

Bike Trailer with Two Kids

Others feel the fact that since the bike trailer is lower and behind the bike, it presents safety hazards for the riders. Also, being well behind and lower to the ground than the operator, many experience a feeling of separation from the passengers for conversation, observation, etc. Either way, the view for the passengers in the bike trailer is less than ideal, as they are low to the ground and often behind plastic windows (which can become scratched, degrade from UV exposure, and trap heat on summer days.) Combining a bike trailer with helmets can also be an issue of comfort, as the additional bulk behind the head may contact the back of the bike trailer, pushing the child’s head forward to an uncomfortable or unsafe position.

Pros: Affords some weather protection for the passengers.  Children do not need to balance.  Fits to standard bicycle.

Cons: They are longer, heavier, and harder to maneuver, and the additional resistance of two extra wheels makes pedaling experience sluggish.  No additional cargo space.   Helmets can be uncomfortable depending on design.  Questionable safety on roads.

Trail-a-bike Tandem attachment

Tandem attachments. Until a child is ready to travel with their own bike detached from the parent, this is the closest thing to that experience. Many proponents of these additions are critical of the “dead weight” solutions of cargo bikes, and the thinking is that these will allow the child to pedal, and hence help out. However, this is up to the child and is not guaranteed. Younger riders that get tired at the end of the day and need a nap will have to fight the urge until they get home.

Follow-me tandem attaches your child’s bike to yours.

Pros: Gets children involved in the riding experience.

Cons: Depending on the age of the child, effective range (distance covered) can be limited.  And, if they get tired while away, getting to the destination can be a challenge.

 

 

 

Cargo-bike conversion kits are designed to convert a “doner” bike into a Long-tail cargo bike.

Free Radical attached to “Doner”

This is another decent choice if you are on a budget and already have a suitable bike for the conversion. However, when used as a passenger carrier, many people report that the “two-piece frame” (the original bike and the extension) can be a bit wobbly in its handling under heavy load.  For those carrying children that like this option, an integrated, one piece frame Longtail (see below) may be more desirable.

Pros: Use an existing bike and extend its capacity to haul kids and gear.

Cons: Two piece frame can feel unstable under load.  The parts on the doner bike may be incompatible with the attachment, making for higher project cost than anticipated.

 

Cargo / Utility Bicycles

Unlike recreational bikes adapted with accessories, Cargo bicycles were designed as utility vehicles and are well suited for carrying children.  While just now beginning to gain recognition in North America, cargo bikes have long been popular in Europe (most notably, the Netherlands for their beloved Bakfiets, see below,) Africa, and Asia.  Where Cargo Bikes excel beyond the child seat / trailer / tandem equipped configurations above is in their ability to haul your gear in addition to your children.  They have even been dubbed “The New Station Wagon” and “The New Mini-Van” by The Wall Street Journal and Outside Magazine, respectively.

“I use my cargo bikes as a primary mode of transport—I ride them everywhere. Cargo bikes give me the ability to go about daily business on my bike while providing the flexibility to stop at the store when I’m out and about and pickup (a lot of) groceries or a kid or just about anything as needed. Yet I’m still riding a pretty normal bike that’s easy to maneuver and lock up anywhere.” original

The Long-Tail

4 up Mundo

Yuba Mundo Cargo Bicycle carrying three children

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Longtail is possibly the most versatile bike in the cargo bike category, both in its daily use and adaptability over time. These bikes are built to carry cargo on an integrated, single piece frame with most of the load (including passengers) placed behind the rider.  Some–such as the Yuba Mundo–are made of steel for strength, while others–such as the Boda Boda–are made of aluminium for a lighter weight bicycle.  The integrated, one piece frame is longer than a standard bike, but it still essentially rides like one, so once the kiddos are dropped off, it can cruise around town with ease.  As one rider we interviewed put it:  “The Mundo 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.”

A Child Bike Seat Alternative: Monkey Bars for the Yuba Mundo make it safe and fun to carry kids by bike!

Child Bike Seat Alternative: Yuba Mundo with Monkey Bars make it safe and fun to carry kids by bike!

And, as the children get older (and maybe get a sibling or two) child seats can be exchanged for Monkey Bars so that up to three passengers can sit on the rear of the bike.  Additionally, the frame mounted Bread Basket provides additional cargo space to get the groceries and other stuff home.

MADSEN

Long-bucket:  a sub-type of longtail that some are calling the “longbox” or “longbucket”.  These bikes differ from a typical Long-tail cargo bike in that the passengers do not straddle the frame like a standard bike, but instead sit in the “bucket” or “box”.  Reactions to this type of bike are mixed, however.  If you are interested in this type of bike, this article is a very informative, objective overview.

 

Liev Schreiber and family on a WorkCycles Fr8

Mid-Tails are designed to be a shorter than a longtail, and are good choices for urban riders.  When one or both are toddlers, two children can be carried, though once the toddler gets too big for the front mount seat, there is little that can be done to accommodate that passenger to the rear (if there is another rider there already).  This makes the midtail a good bike for specific needs, but not so versatile for growing as the family does.

 

 

 

Yuba's Boda Boda: perfect for rider, passenger and groceries.

Yuba’s Boda Boda: perfect for rider, passenger and groceries.

Pros: Lightweight and smaller than their larger siblings the Long-tail. Can fit on a standard bike rack. Increased passenger and cargo capacity over standard bicycle while not much larger than one.  

Cons: Carrying two children may not be feasible after a certain age.

Front Loader Cargo Bicycles

Bakfiets style Frontloader

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Front Loaders–as their name implies–place the load in the front of the bike, behind the front wheel and in front of the rider.  How, you might ask, is this possible!?  It has everything to do with the design, which is not like a standard bicycle.

There are two styles of Front Loaders, commonly called “Long Johns” and Bakfietsen (“Box Bikes”) respectively, but they are the same concept. Developed in the Netherlands–where 25% of families with 2 or more children own a cargo bike!

The two biggest issues we discovered in interviewing FrontLoader riders is width and hill climbing difficulty (neither of which would be huge issues in the relatively flat Netherlands with good bicycle infrastructure). From one rider that owns both a Frontloader and a Longtail:

Bullitt

“The long john cargo bike takes longer to get used to riding and is wider than the longtail. 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 [Bullitt] 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.”

Pros: Kids ride in front of the rider.  Low center of gravity.

Cons: Difficult to climb hills.  Wider profile and slower acceleration makes riding in traffic challenging.

 

 

Electric Assist Kits

Outside Minivan

Cargo Bikes and Electric Assist are a match made in heaven.

One of the challenges of shifting to a more bike-friendly lifestyle is overcoming the psychological and physical challenges of getting there.  Our perception and experience of the time and effort (read, sweat) required to get there and back can make or break the decision to travel with our children by bike.  Electric assist kits “shorten the miles and flatten the hills”.  Adding an electric assist to your bike for carrying children is most likely the final component to make the decision to leave the car at home an easy one.

Bionx is a Canadian Manufacturer of well designed Electric Assist kits.  They come pre-assembled as an e-cargo bike with such models as the elMundo and elBodaBoda, and can also be fit onto an existing bike. DIY conversions are possible, but for the non-technically oriented, finding a local bike shop that specializes in Electric Assist bikes is recommended.

Pros: Ease of travel. Adds an additional rider’s effort equivalent.  Decreased time and effort compared to pedal-only travel. Makes decision to take bike an easy one.  Fun Fun Fun.  The looks on people’s faces as you pass them going uphill on a bike with two passengers is  p r i c e l e s s .

Cons: … we can’t come up with one.  :)

See these articles for more on electric assist bikes.

Carrying Children with an El Mundo in Outside Online.

Comparing Commutes Times and Costs in Chicago.

NEXT

See Part Three of this series (coming soon) for rider profiles and other resources.

There are many options for traveling by bicycle with your children.  Should you choose a child bike seat, bike trailer, or a cargo bike?  Making the best choice for your needs can be a bit confusing.  We have created this primer series to help you choose the best set-up for your needs when traveling with children by bicycle.  

(This part is intended as an overview of some general considerations that will help you to select a suitable bike for the job, and examines some of the benefits and challenges of choosing the bike over the car.  Part Two examines the various choices available for meeting your needs, including different bike styles and accessory options such as a child bike seat, bike trailer, cargo bikes, and gear carriers.  Your best choice will be influenced by your needs, which you will better understand by reading (this) Part One.)

A Child Bike Seat Alternative: Monkey Bars for the Yuba Mundo make it safe and fun to carry kids by bike!

Child Bike Seat Alternative: Yuba Mundo with Monkey Bars make it safe and fun to carry kids by bike!

General Considerations for Traveling By Bike with Children: Child Bike Seat, Bike Trailer or Cargo Bike.

Distance, Available Routes, and Terrain.  Do you live in a flat, small town?  A city with lots of hills?  Miles from your daily destinations?  Having an idea of how far you will ride on a typical day, on what routes, and over what terrain will all help decide on the right bike set-up.

Rider Sizes.  A bike set up to carry kids is a family vehicle and may be used by multiple (adult) riders.  Choosing a bike that can accommodate multiple operators (often of different sizes) is a huge consideration for harnessing the full potential of a kid carrying cycle.

Number and Age of Children.  How many children you plan to carry will obviously influence your decision.  For example, one child can fit on a standard bicycle with a child’s bike seat (though there are other considerations with this) while two children would require a different solution such as a bike trailer or cargo bike.  Also, as your children age and the family grows, this leads to considerations of adaptability (see next).

Experience.  Are you an experienced cyclist or just beginning?  In addition to comfort while navigating your bike, your level of experience could also influence the day to day decision of whether to ride the bike or not.

Budget.  Each option examined has a price range, and determining your available budget may be one of the biggest factors in making your decision.  However, it also helps to consider the ways a bike can save–and in some cases even make–money for your family.

Reasons for Riding.  There are many great reasons for traveling by bike with kids.  What your personal reasons are may be different from others, however.  Considering why you want to travel by bike with kids will help when making your decision.  (The next section covers some of the benefits (and challenges) of traveling by bike with children, some of which may be your reasons for choosing the bike over other ways to get there.)

Safety.  This series covers the options for bikes, but it does not cover safety equipment–such as helmets–or appropriate riding ages.  Please consult the intertubes for great articles such as this when deciding when to travel with children and what gear to outfit them with.

Benefits and Challenges of Carrying Kids by Bike

Before you select the best bike for you to travel with your children, there are some general benefits and challenges to consider.  Understanding your needs, riding styles, terrain, etc. in context with these general considerations will help you to select the right bike for your situation.

Benefits of traveling by bike with kids

Exercise as you go!  Many of us find it a challenge to find the time to enjoy the exercise we once did before the responsibilities of parenting filled our lives.  By including cycling in our daily lifestyle, we build activity into our day and get exercise as an added benefit of going to the places we normally go, while also instilling the fun of living a fit and active lifestyle in our little ones at a young age.

Memories for Life.  In addition to the exercise, we get quality time with our kids that is qualitatively different than when we travel by car.  Flowers, animals, other people, and other sights from around our community are all a part of the cycling experience, rather than the isolation we feel being inside an automobile, behind windows, steel, and plastic.  The trip becomes part of the adventure, rarely peppered with the repetitive chant of “Are we there yet?!”

Child Bike Seat or Bike Trailer Alternative: Yuba Boda Boda is a safe and fun way to carry kids by bike!

Child Bike Seat or Bike Trailer Alternative: Yuba Boda Boda is a safe and fun way to carry kids by bike!

 

“Going to school by bike means the opportunity to slow down, pull over, and watch cute and clumsy newborn lambs at our neighbor’s farm… Our version of “stop and smell the roses!”

 

 

Experience.  Very soon after the training wheels come off, your family will be traveling by multiple bikes, with the little ones (now not so little anymore) on their own bikes.  Starting with them at a young age instills a love for riding, and it also allows them to observe how to navigate on a bike trail and elsewhere.  Where to look, how to signal, where to be extra cautious, even the friendly “Hello” exchanged with a passing rider all gets observed and–someday–used by your young riders.

“I am quite over the moon about our Mundo. I have a child with higher needs who has been brought so much joy and freedom now that we have our cargo bike.”

Avoid traffic.  The school pick-up and drop off seems to have become a long line of cars waiting their turn to get the kiddos.  After what is often a long wait in a line of other parents in cars and SUVs, it’s a quick pick-up and–out of the way!–for the next car.  When we travel by bike, not only can we avoid this annoying and time consuming traffic, but it also…

Fosters community. Since you’re not concerned with the people in the car behind you having their turn in the school pick-up line or in the grocery store parking lot, you may choose to linger a bit and interact with other parents, faculty, and other community members.  On a bicycle, we often see or hear curious sites and events that we may not have noticed as we sped past in a car.  Cycling is an experience that encourages interaction, especially–as you will read below–when you ride an unusual style bike designed for carrying kids and gear.

(In addition to the general community, cycling oriented groups such as Kidical Mass organize events to get involved with other local cyclists.)

“What’s one fun story from your trip to school? (for you and your child as well)

“There are so many.  Around the holidays, my two girls belt out Christmas Carols and everyone hears us as we roll down the road. The smiles and laughs you get from people is a great way to start your day. We also see a lot of people in the neighborhood and get to pull over and talk the way you never could if you were in a car, its much more social.” link

Reduced car mileage and emissions.  Whether your motivation is lowering fuel and maintenance costs or decreasing your carbon footprint, traveling by bike is an excellent alternative to getting there by using non-renewable fossil fuels.  Many cargo bike riders report selling their second (or first!) car after transitioning to their kid and grocery carrying cycle.  (See Part Three: Rider Profiles for more on this.)

 

Challenges to traveling by bike with kids

For a culture that focuses on the automobile as the central mode of personal transport, there are some challenges.  Some of these are genuine considerations, and with a shift in perspective, others can actually be seen as benefits.

Increased travel time.  Over shorter distances and considering traffic, this may not be the case, however there is certainly a different pace to consider when choosing the bike instead of the car.  This “extra” time can be seen as a positive as well, as our fast paced lives often miss the sweetness, trading speed for quality time.  What’s an extra 15 minutes when accompanied by your child’s giggles, a cool breeze, the smell of wildflowers, and the human pace of a passing smile of a fellow traveler?  Of course, an electric assist can cut down on travel time, particularly when there are hills or frequent stops along your route.  (See the Electric Assist section for more on getting some help with your pedaling.)

A Yuba Mundo with studded snow tires (and sled)!

A Yuba Mundo with studded snow tires (and sled)!

Weather.  While this can be an issue, the right gear can make it an adventure.  However, only the most dedicated cycling families would be expected to ride in the snow and rain.  Remember, the number one factor is enjoyment, and while some find it a hassle, others appreciate the challenge.  Whether you are seeking some fun alternatives to the car, significantly reduced car trips, or going “car-lite” or “car-free”, make the decision that is right for you and your kids!

Finding safe routes to your destinations.  Many cities are rapidly improving their bicycle infrastructure as bike riding continues to see record growth in urban areas.  Finding safe routes to your regular destinations will insure your continued enjoyment of travelling by bike.  We suggest you contact your local bicycle coalition or bike shop for assistance finding the best options in your area.  Parents that are inspired to be further involved might consider participating in a “Riding School Bus“.

Safe Routs to School Logo

“Put all these considerations together and it looks like the added increment of crash danger you put yourself in from biking, rather than driving, is small, if it exists at all….Biking’s health benefits massively outweigh its health risks.” http://grist.org/article/safe-streets/

Sweat.  Like all good exercise, cycling raises the heart rate and works the muscles.  Upon reaching your destination, sweat could be an issue.  (Not for the kids though, they get a free ride!)  There are many companies that make fashionable commuter wear that breathes well.  Changing clothes at your destination is also an option.  Some bicycle commuters have access to showers at their work or at a nearby gym.  Additionally, the Electric Assist Cargo Bike is a match made in heaven as it flattens the hills and shortens the miles.  (See the Electric Assist section for more.)

Part One Conclusion

All in all, we feel that the health, enjoyment, financial, environmental, and social benefits of traveling with kids by bike far outweigh the challenges.  Now that you know some of the things to consider when selecting a bike and gear for your needs, have a look at Part Two (coming soon!) which looks at the different styles of bikes and accessories–such as child bike seats, bike trailers, and cargo bikes–suitable for the ride.

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