What’s Out There: Family Biking Options
4/8/13 With Rock to Rock just around the corner, I pulled this from the archives to inspire you to get your ride on! ~kim
Written by Sara from Kidical Mass New Haven
Sure, I had seen baby seats on the back of bikes and even the occasional Trail-a-Bike. But beyond bike trailers, I was stumped by any biking options available to me as a momma of twins. Feeling uncomfortable riding on city streets with the boys sitting low and far behind me, I didn’t think there was any way we could get around by bike. Thankfully, I was proved wrong and since our discovery of cargo bikes nearly three years ago, it is clear that the family biking options out there have grown.
Here are various family bike set-ups that accommodate a number of different aged children (click the links to see examples).
- Back: for toddlers and even for bigger kids up to 75 lbs
- Front: like this iBert, the BoBike Mini, and the Yepp Mini
- Gotta love the mamafiets (mama-bikes) that have both front and back seats like this one and this one even equipped with a windshield. The Japanese versions or “mamacharis” are incredible.
- Burleys are a brand many know but there are lots of options available out there, including ones that convert to strollers.
- These go by various names but they look like this and this and kids get to pedal along.
- Here’s a different take on this, where you can purchase a bracket to attach your child’s regular bike to your own and tow him/her around this way.
- There are now products out there like the Zigo and the TrioBike that convert from a regular bike to a bike with front child carrier to a stroller. I was especially excited to see a Taga bike at the Wooster Square Cherry Blossom Festival this year. This local family had double seats (if only I had my camera with me).
Box Bikes/ Bucket Bikes/ Cargo Trikes
This is the cargo bike that started it all for us. Think of it as the minivan of bikes: space for multiple kids and all the stuff we schlep around with them.
- Bakfiets: The Dutch wheelbarrow-type-bucket-in-front bike like this, this, and this. Here’s a couple of USA-made versions like the Joe’s Bike’s and Metrofiets (hers even has an electric assist!) and Copenhagen’s Bullitt. Small tidbit: pronounced “bak-feet;” plural is “bakfietsen.”
- Madsen: US company with the Tupperware-like bucket in the back. There are a few local families riding Madsens and New Haven’s Devil’s Gear Bike Shop is a Madsen dealer.
- Boxcycle/Christiana Trikes: Some folks are more comfortable on three wheels instead of two. Originally harder to find on the East Coast, these trikes are really popping up all around! I was excited to see a few parked along the sidewalks last time I visited New York City.
These cargo bikes have an extended tail that allows a rider to carry passengers and/or a whole lot of freight (like large furniture!).
- Xtracycle kits allow people to convert their existing bikes into longtail cargo bikes. Also, Xtracycle has ‘full’ bikes like the Radish and Big Dummy. Xtracycle owners can customize their bikes to fit their passengers, like here, here, here, and here. There are a number of Xtracycles in the area and more arriving each week it seems. The Devil’s Gear bike shop here in New Haven is an Xtracycle dealer.
- Yuba Mundo: This cargo bike is heavier than an Xtracycle and has a longer tail with built-in ‘running boards.’ See here and here. Like Xtras, Yuba owners can customize their bikes to fit their families’ needs: some add toddler seats, others stoker bars (handlebars for a back passenger). Mundos can also be equipped with electric assists to help ride up hills or with extra heavy cargo.
- Kona Ute: An example here.
- Sun Atlas Cargo: This is a relative newcomer in the longtail cargo bike family. It is especially intriguing because it seems to be one of the more affordable options out there.
Some families ride with their kids using bicycles-built-for-two or tandems so the children can help with the pedaling. One can lower seats and/or raise pedals to fit younger riders. The triples are most impressive. Here’s a version you see less in the States with the stokers (riders not controlling the bike) up front and another example here, too.
I would be remiss not to recognize, that yes, the initial sticker shock on some of these cargo bikes can seem extremely prohibitive. People continuously ask what we paid for our family bicycles. Since we use our cargo bikes as an alternative to buying a second car, we figure with the cost of a car, insurance, gas, upkeep, and parking downtown, we’ve invested well. However, if you are put off by the costs of these bikes, do not despair. We’ve met a number of folks who have found their Xtracycles or Madsens on Craig’s List for a reduced cost. Also, as the demand for family cargo bikes grow, the market gets more competitive. I suspect we shall see lower-cost options, like the Sun Atlas Cargo, out there more and more.