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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).

Child Seats

Bike Trailers

Trail-a-Bike/ Tag-Along

Convertible bikes

  • 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.

Longtail Bikes

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, herehere, 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.

Tandems/Triples

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.

And now for some photos of my favorite family bike set-ups where folks cobble together what works best for their crew like this, this, and this!

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hi, Sara, fellow twin mama, thanks for the mention! The pony bike has changed our lives in a profound and beautiful way. We are thankful to have this way of sharing cycling–and its benefits–with our children.

    C&D like the pony bike very much still, even in our triple-digit temps of late. They want to install star-shaped conchos where the rear handles are, and they also want stirrups for their feet. I can easily oblige with the stars; I’ll have to think about the stirrups. ;)

    August 10, 2011
  2. Hi Sara-
    Thanks so much for mentioning us! We always love to read your adventures. We were just in your neck of the woods. You’ve got to get the cargo on the train for Summer Streets!
    I’d check out the Bike Friday family tandems as well if you plan to camp or take on lots of hills. We’re so flat here in Chicago but found many more hills back east.
    There are a couple of other cargo bikes out there these days. A friend here just got a Babboe which they like very much. It’s built a little better than it used to be. Cetma also makes just a neat cargo frame (and separate box) they pack flat and ship. Your local bike shop then helps you build it out with the rest of the parts. It’s about the same cost of other cargos but American made and you do save a bit on the shipping. Fun for bike wonks.

    I agree that there is some intense sticker shock at first with these bikes but for us too they are the best big purchase we’ve ever made. Our best advice is to test ride whatever youcan get your feet on and don’t look back once you buy one becuae you’ll be having too much fun! Ride on! J.

    August 10, 2011
  3. p.s. the free momentum magazine this month has a family camping piece with bike friday’s! j.

    August 10, 2011
  4. Sorry Zigo was not represented at your ride. We’d love to get a few bikes out in your area.

    August 10, 2011
  5. kidhaven #

    Great to hear from all of you!

    So lucky for me to have Sara here on kidHaven this week! She’s been a tremendous resource as my own family has been figuring out how to move into what I like to call Beyond Burley family biking. With huge thanks to Sara’s insight, I will have my very own Xtracycle next week! (I have been waiting for it for what seems like forever!) Our Burley has been good to us (including doubling as our beach buggy!), but my dd’s knees are up to her chin when she sits in it now! Can’t wait to get my two kiddos on the Xtra NEXT WEEK! Hooray!

    So, so glad to have Sara here to share her pearls with many more families. It’s folks like Sara that make a community a community. Like really, really.

    @Michael. I’ve left a note for The Devil’s Gear about your comment. Let me know if you have other ideas about getting some Zigos out here! Happy to help if I can.

    Happy biking!
    kim

    August 11, 2011
  6. @ Joyce & Jenn– It’s great that you both found this post. Thanks for being wonderful examples of family bicyclists. I was SO excited when ‘found’ your bikes. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures. The Pony Bike is such a cool Xtra adaptation. Jenn– The fact that you figured out how to get your bike from Chicago to Noho to NYC impresses me completely. Do you have a post on your blog about this?

    @Michael– I am CERTAIN you would have some interested folks here in New Haven if we could show them a Zigo live and in person…

    @Kim– I would almost say that I am MORE excited about your Xtra than you could possibly be, but I suspect that you may argue that point. But I AM excited. Thanks so much for getting these posts about family bicycling out there.

    Ride, families, ride.

    August 11, 2011
  7. Great article — thanks for mentioning us!

    We have had a lot of interest from New Haven — no doubt, in part, due to your efforts in spreading the cargo bike love!

    Ride (and write) on…

    Will (http://boxcycles.com)

    August 16, 2011

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