Transporting children (plural) by bicycle.
Are you bike riding parent? With one child? ..the decision to extend your family could have huge implications for your bicycle as your favoured mode of transport. That second child, might take a bicycle for local transport out of the picture because it’s very difficult to fit two kids on a bicycle. Small front stem mounted child seats like the GMG yepp or tipp minis, can give some breathing space but once the 2nd child is 22kgs or too chunky for the front seat…your cycling might have to take a back seat..no pun intended.
That can be a real shame, especially if the ride nursery/shops/work/childminder is just far enough away and suits the way you life with your first child. the bike can be ideal for transporting kids, the shopping and for local transport in general. The money saved on not having to have a 2nd (or 1st) car makes a big difference (£3000 to £6000? pa) and it’s not all about the money…
So …the sudden realisation that having more than one child will restrict your bicycle riding might be a shocker to you…help is at hand, you can carry two or more kids safely on a bicycle if you have the right bicycle.!
Options are limited but there ARE options…three things might still stand in your way…
Obstacles to ownership.
Have a think about these
Storage space for the larger bicycle,
Available Funds, you will need at least £1000+ to buy
Your surroundings, (hills/your fitness, availability of cycle paths and barriers/obstructions).
With those issues lodged in the back of your mind, read on…
You do need to bear in mind that a bike built to carry two kids is going to be a larger than normal. If it’s a Dutch bike it will also have mudguards, lights, hub gears (essential for everyday use) and a rack so it will be heavier than you might be used to….but two kids will be heavy on their own, so be ready to adjust your expectations regards weight. This might get you to think/worry about balance and the potential wobble induced crash or stopping and spilling your family onto the road. …this is where folk tend to think about trikes…trikes are good but are limited by their weight and width. Well designed 2wheelers are more manoeuvrable and easy to balance IMO. Good design keeps the balanced point low.
Bicycles made for three or four!
The most ‘conventional’ bike would be the Velonom, a conventional style bike but with a longer rear rack means that two seats can fit directly to the rack, its good too that when kids are older they can still ride directly on the rear rack, they might want a cushion….Velonoms are not too heavy either..(But it’s all relative.).
The Workcycles FR8 is a bike that you can squeeze two or three kids on, not newborns but a very versatile and secure bicycle from an American in Amsterdam. Two classic style dutch seat fit the rear and a small saddle can fit securely on the frame behind the handlebars. A very nice feature.
2wheels good, 3 wheels bad?
Well not really, but trikes are wide, generally heavy, great for flat areas and are obviously very stable when stopped. They have a box infront to place the kids. 2 wheeled bikes also have a box, wooden, wicker or plastic that can take 2, 3 sometimes 4 kids and normally in front of the rider. This ‘kids in front’ sensation is odd for the first 60 second solo ride, (just don’t look at the front wheel..try it) then the 2nd ride with a kid is more confident and the odd looking design starts to make sense. The kids in front is great, you can communicate, you can see them, they can move, they are involved….it’s a different experience and a great one…the UK designed 8freight has a box behind and is arguably more normal, definitely more sporty to ride.
So, 2 wheeled ‘box bikes.. What’s available now for a growing family
The bakfiets.NL, literally a wooden box on a bike…simple and solid the first mass marketed box bike, it’s the bicycle one moved the box from three wheels to two. Accessories rain tents, cushions all available..
The Gazelle cabby, designed as a modern child carrying bike for Gazelle by Van der veer designers, the same people who designed the Quinny buggys. It has brackets to fit maxi cosi’s seats for newborns, a collapsible rain tent and low wide step over height, The box folds flat to help with storage, good child straps and a cushioned seat. Its a very competent design.
The Danish Christiana company famous for its trikes now has a 2 wheeler, it’s a nice design, and has a factory electric option too, for when those hills are just too big pedal you and your family up. Bear this in mind when you buy. If there are big hills on your routes from home, think ahead.
If you have a lot of hills, the only proper electric box bike is the Urban arrow, with a motor at the cranks its super stylish and super nice…not cheap but offers something really fresh. Available this year…
The new UK designed 8freight is a innovative box behind bike that is light weight and might appeal to the sports rider…its designed by Mike burrows the man Chris Boardman’s record breaking lotus bike, not many child carrying bikes can boast that pedigree, that’s due out this year too.. the child compartment is wicker and fits where the red area is in the pic.
There are other 2 wheeled bikes that can carry loads up front that can be adapted to carry kids…bikes like the German long Harry, The Danish Bullitt, so what this little article is here to do is give you hope, show you that there are options now to help you to continue using a bike even though your demands of pedal powered transport have increased. It’s the most exciting area of bicycles, not often that parents get to be part of the cutting edge of bicycle design, the next big thing.
Choosing the bike for you
With all bicycles, but with family or cargo bikes in particular you must test ride the bike, this is important and preferably ridden with the kids on board. Discuss your needs with the dealer and other users and be realistic about your environment, hills etc and your own initial fitness. If you don’t feel comfortable, there may be adjustments you can do, or it might be that the bike is not right for you. If you’re not comfortable on any bike then you will probably not ride it, simple as that…so don’t ever be ‘sold’ a bike like this, make sure you have the time and space to make up your own mind. Look at some of the cheaper ‘ebay’ options if you like, but just be aware that you will rely on this bike for your daily transport for a good few years… you really do get what you pay for..For all bikes read the reviews and blogs (check date of writing) but keep an open mind for when you ride the bike for yourself. Although many high street shops can service these bikes its best to find a shop that is sympathetic, hub gears and brakes are not loved by all shops, and because they are very low maintenance not many shops have experience of them. If you are not near the shop you buy the bike from, the specialist dealer may have someone in your area that they can recommend for servicing and support..i does not hurt to ask.
To conclude then, there are good bicycles out there that might suit your situation available now and there are also things to help make ownership possible. If you lack space there are storage devices are available that might help, if funds are low then finance via the cyclescheme or ACT workriders can help if you ride the bike to work and you fit the criteria. If the hills are a little steep, all hub geared bikes can have the gears tweeked for about 30 pounds. In time your fitness will increase to help hills get flatter, so give it the time. retro fit electric assist is available on some bikes (christiania ) if all else fails…..but think ahead small babies weight less than big toddlers. If you have hills, don’t ignore them.
All good shops will help you test ride the bikes, all shops will have their favourite so pick their brains, go ride their bikes and make your own mind up. There are two or three good dealers in the country including me of course, talk to them about these bikes, have a test ride, be prepared to have your expectations changed…
Rob Bushill from Really Useful Bikes, Rodford nr Bristol. 01454 319960 http://www.reallyusefulbikes.co.uk