Cargo bike pocket reviews

Bikes lining up at Seattle’s Cargo Bike Roll Call

We have tried riding a lot of family bikes over the last month, and for that matter, the last year. We didn’t try everything, although it sometimes felt like it. There are a lot of bikes left that could work for other people. I learned after reading Totcycle’s excellent review of midtails that it’s possible to review bikes you’ve never even ridden so: here goes!

Hard to categorize family bikes (that we have actually ridden)

There are some other configurations out there as well: Family Ride has a Bianchi Milano commuter bike fitted with both a front seat and a rear seat. However that kind of setup starts to get a little difficult once the combined ages of the kids get above about six years. Furthermore, a bike like that is going to need some aftermarket accessories: a decent center stand to keep it from falling over and some way to carry non-kid cargo (like diapers and snacks) are two big considerations.

Cycle trucks

A cycle truck doing a headstand at Seattle’s Cargo Bike Roll Call

Cycle trucks are bikes with a huge front-end loader that allows people to carry a ton of stuff there. Cycle trucks are similar to a normal bike with a frame-mounted front rack, but typically they have a smaller front wheel too. I don’t hear much about cycle trucks for family biking, as they’re mostly used as delivery bikes. However for one-child families, a cycle truck can be a neat way to haul a bunch of groceries and gear using the front rack/basket, with a younger kid in a front seat behind the handlebars, or an older kid in a rear seat. I could also  imagine putting two (younger) kids on a cycle truck, one in front and one in back, although you’d want to be careful about weight and balance.

Civia Halsted: The Halsted is recommended as a one-kid hauler by Joe Bike, who wrote an excellent summary of what it can do. I also recently learned there’s a family, bikeMAMAdelphia, riding with the Halsted and a cute little boy in a front Yepp seat. This bike looks like a lot of fun, and seems as though it would be good for city families given its relatively petite size. We didn’t take a test-ride because we didn’t make it over to Joe Bike but we knew we wouldn’t be getting one regardless because given our kids’ ages it would be a one-kid bike. The Halsted seems to run about $1,200.

There are some other cycle trucks out there, but this design hasn’t taken off as a kid-hauler in the way that other cargo bikes have.

Longtails

Family Ride carries my daugher and her youngest on her iconic pink Surly Big Dummy

Longtails are the bikes I see most often hauling kids and cargo here in these United States. They are competitively priced relative to most box bikes (e.g. “those bikes that look like wheelbarrows”) and most of them can handle hills, which feature prominently in the terrain of many West Coast cities, including mine. They look like normal bikes and ride like normal bikes except that someone streeeeeeetched the back out so they can be used to carry cargo and kids in the extra space between the rider and the rear wheel. Two kids can fit on the rear deck with enough space to limit fighting, and there’s also room for a front seat for little kids in the front. Reviews and links are in alphabetical order by manufacturer.

Kona Ute: The Kona Ute is the elder sibling of our first cargo bike, the Kona MinUte. Unlike the MinUte, the deck is long enough to hold two kids with breathing room. We could have managed a test ride of this bike through our local bike shop, but we ultimately didn’t because friends and acquaintances that had ridden it with kids all said that the rear deck is so high that the bike never really felt stable. Only people over six feet reported getting comfortable with it. As a cargo bike, with the load down low in the panniers, the Ute is apparently fantastic. However we didn’t find anyone who’d stuck with the Ute as a family bike long-term; they’d all switched to other bikes, most frequently the Big Dummy or the Mundo. There are great prices on this bike on secondhand, which may be worth investigating for tall parents. List price is $1,300.

Sun Atlas: The Sun Atlas is the cheapest of the longtails (cargo bikes are generally not cheap) at an astonishing price of less than $700. We didn’t take a test ride of this bike for two reasons: first, we didn’t make it to Joe Bike when we were in Portland and no one else had it in stock, and second, the components, as one might expect given the price, are not great. San Francisco is pretty hard on bikes and we have replaced many parts on the Kona MinUte already (brakes, wheels, pedals, tires, derailleur guide) due to local conditions. This has grown tiresome given that Matt needs to ride that bike almost every day, and the days he doesn’t need it, I usually do. We knew that we wanted a bike this time that wouldn’t constantly need to go to the shop. But for people who live in less difficult conditions or ride less frequently, this could be a good option. Carfree with Kids considered this bike, and there are discussions of it on the websites of Joe Bike and Clever Cycles. Note that there appears to be some disagreement as to whether it would work for shorter riders.

How to spend a Sunday afternoon: Meet friends from school, ride around on cargo bikes.

Surly Big Dummy: Our experience riding this bike is here. There are so many other reviews of this bike on the internet that I didn’t bother to sort through them.

Trek Transport/Transport+: Trek recently released the Transport and Transport+ cargo bikes; the Transport+ is sold with an electric assist. It has a very interesting rear bag design that looks as though it can carry quite a lot of stuff, but with those side loader bars this bike appears to be even wider than the Yuba Mundo. Trek specifically states that the Transport is not designed to carry passengers, not even on a child seat. We didn’t look for one to try because we wanted a bike to carry our kids.

Put a FreeRadical on it, Portland.

Xtracycle FreeRadical/Radish: The Xtracycle FreeRadical isn’t really a bike per se but a longtail attachment that can be added to an ordinary bike. It is the ancestor of the American longtail. The Xtracycle Radish is a FreeRadical attached to a donor bike for people who don’t have one of their own. We didn’t seriously consider a FreeRadical because they are reported to be unstable above about 70 pounds of weight and our kids together weigh more than that. They also have a reputation for flex on hills, and there are a lot of those where we live. But for people in flatter locales (which is, okay, basically everyone) or with younger kids, or a single kid, this is a very cost-effective way to start family biking. Plus it gives you access to the many wonderful Xtracycle accessories. The Xtracycle catalog is so extensive and complicated that I have trouble figuring out how much stuff costs though. Davey Oil keeps promising to write more about his beloved Wheelio, a Japanese mixte bike that he Xtracycled. Car Free Days has written for years about their Xtracycles, which did in fact make them car-free.

Xtracycle EdgeRunner: The Xtracycle Edgerunner (link goes to the Momentum review) is the first bike that seems to have been developed specifically for families who are riding in very hilly terrain. Thank you, Xtracycle! Our first experience test-riding this bike is here. Later I wrote an updated review of the 2014 EdgeRunner. The verdict: the EdgeRunner is a category-killer, the best longtail we have ever ridden.

Yuba elMundo: Our experience riding this bike is here.

Yuba Mundo: Our experience riding this bike is here.

Midtails

Our MinUte chats up some other school bikes at one of the courtyard racks

As of 2012, three companies had developed a new kind of cargo bike: the midtail. (Okay, update in December 2012: the first midtail was really the venerable Workcycles Fr8. At first I’d classified it as a longtail, but it is short enough–although much too heavy in its kid-hauling incarnation–to fit on a bus bike rack, so I’m now calling it a midtail.) The first American midtail was the Kona MinUte, and it was enough of a hit that two more companies have now developed similar designs: Yuba, a company in Sausalito developing heavy-duty family bikes, and Kinn, a new startup in Portland making only a midtail. As the name implies, midtails are like a longtail, but shorter. The big advantage of the shorter length is that (most of) these bikes are transit friendly: they can fit on a bus bike rack or Amtrak (given some maneuvering). The best place to learn about these bikes is Totcycle’s outstanding summary.

If your kids are widely-spaced, say more than three years apart, you could fit an infant seat on the front of a midtail and put the older one on the deck behind. Then when the little one outgrows the front seat, the older is likely to either be riding solo or riding a trailer bike. Or you might be able to swing a couple more years with one on the front using a Leco top tube seat (which–fair warning!–is not suitable for all bikes). The midtail, which has much more cargo-carrying capacity than a normal bike, also appeals to non-parents looking for a normal-looking bike to haul groceries and other loads that would otherwise require attaching a trailer.

Our first bike was a midtail, the Kona MinUte. Like all midtails it can carry one kid on the rear deck (two kids can fit there too, but only if they’re in a good mood). The rear deck can also be fitted with a child seat for younger kids. We’ve never found a seat necessary once our kids reached three years, but your mileage may vary, and there are seats for older kids if so (the Bobike Junior or Yepp Junior). Adding a seat cushion is a nice touch.

Kona MinUte: Our experience riding this bike is here. Kona can’t decide whether it’s going to keep making this bike or not. As of 2014, they are not producing it, but recently promised to resurrect it. I’ve posted a few times about our MinUte; it is an underrated bike, in large part I think because of Kona’s indecision about whether or not they really want to be in the cargo/family biking market.

I'm embarrassed that this is as far as we got on the Fr8. At three my daughter would be able to ride that front seat for a while.

I’m embarrassed that this is as far as we got on the Fr8. At three my daughter would be able to ride that front seat for a while.

Workcycles Fr8: The Fr8 is a European midtail that has the capacity, unlike most of these bikes, to carry an child in front that is over the length/weight limit of a normal front child seat. The front seat mounted to the top tube is a saddle, and really best for kids old enough to balance. A big advantage of the Fr8 is the ability to keep two kids separated and still carry a bunch of stuff (the Fr8 accepts standard panniers and has a huge front rack), or to carry three kids after adding two rear seats. However this is a Dutch bike designed for the flat flatlands of the Flatherlands and it weighs 75 pounds, reportedly can’t go up more than a mild hill, and isn’t recommended for an electric assist. (There is evidently a lighter version coming recently or soon called the Gr8.) We live in San Francisco: there is no way. I still feel like I should have ridden this bike when we were in the shop, and I regret that I didn’t. It was 100 degrees that day and we were just so tired because we’d already ridden a half dozen other bikes that morning. If I lived someplace flat I would not have skipped trying this bike, even though the base model costs $2,200. It looked indestructible and is supposed to have a very smooth ride, and there are a lot of nice features like lights, a full chain guard, and fenders included in the price. Mamafiets wrote a nice review of the Fr8.

Yuba Boda Boda: Our experience riding this bike is here.

Kinn Cascade Flyer: We didn’t try this bike in 2012 because it wasn’t released yet. The Kinn is a gorgeous midtail based on a mixte frame, which means that the top tube slopes down toward the seat so it’s easier to step on and off. There are some very clever features on this bike: part of the deck rotates out 180 degrees to hold wide loads or make a better seat; it has a lockbox integrated into the rear deck, the passenger footpegs are adjustable, and it appears to have bars below the deck that will hold standard panniers. The Kinn is the only midtail that allows the attachment of a Follow-Me Tandem. Regrettably, it was made by tall people and has huge wheels, like the MinUte, so may not be the best choice for shorter riders. We still have yet to ride it, because it is a hard bike to find. It went into a tiny production run in Fall 2012 (30 bikes) and sold them for about $2,000; a second small production run followed in 2013. The extra cost gives you those clever design features, nicer parts, and a bike built in the USA.

Box bikes

Our son is almost four feet tall and he still fits on the Brompton with me.

Most parents love front box bikes, aka long johns, aka “those bikes that look like wheelbarrows” because the kids are in front where you can see them and talk to them. When we first started thinking about biking with our kids this didn’t seem like an important consideration. The more we rode with them the more we started to care. I ride the Brompton, which has a front child seat, in places that I probably shouldn’t (it’s not a great hill climber) just because I love having my kids in the front. I can see them and they lean back and look at me. They get a great view and are much more engaged in what’s going on. And my son will sometimes throw his arms around mine to hug me while we’re riding the Brompton and shout, “I LOVE YOU, MOMMY!” I have no words. I will keep him on that seat until he’s taller than I am.

See what I mean? You can put all kinds of stuff in a box bike.

So: front box bikes are cool. They’re also really good haulers, because they have a cargo box. You can carry stuff in a box bike that would never fit in a car, like bookshelves. Front box bikes are also expensive relative to longtails, and most of them have virtually no hill climbing capability. So that’s a bummer.

Babboe: The Babboe is similar to the Bakfiets in looks, listing at around $2,500 instead of $3,500. This is evidently a very popular bike in the Netherlands, and they are planning a roll-out to the US in September 2014 (online at least). Here’s a 2012 review from a family in Ottawa, and a 2013 updated review from bikeMAMAdelphia. These reviewers suggest that the price difference may reflect to some extent what comes standard on the bike (e.g. the Bakfiets comes with a rear rack, the Babboe does not) and the quality of parts (e.g. saddles and tires), but many families are happy making those kinds of compromises for a more affordable price–the same kinds of decisions come up in shopping for longtails as well.

Bakfiets: This is the bike people think of when they think about family box bikes. Our experience riding it is here. There are many other reviews of this bike out there, but one of the best I found was written by a father on the one-year anniversary of getting the bike.

Bullitt: Our experience riding this bike is here. It is one of the rare front-loading box bikes that can climb hills. (This is the bike we bought.)

Four kids pile into the Largo. It was hard to get them to take turns.

CETMA Margo/Largo: I really wish I’d tried this bike too. There weren’t any in stock at the shops we visited (and for that matter, at the shops we didn’t visit). I did see one at the Seattle Cargo Bike Roll Call, and the kids loved it. They were piling four at a time into the box and riding around. The pros of the CETMA, from what I’ve read, are that it offers a very stable ride, can climb at least moderate hills, and that it’s relatively easy to add an electric assist, at which point it can climb steep hills. What’s more, the frame splits into two parts, making the resulting package small enough to transport easily. The CETMA costs $2,850 for a complete bike, although this price does not include the box, which sells for $300. When you add in all the extras you’d get on a Bakfiets, like lights, chain guard, fenders, seatbelts, and so forth, it’s probably comparable. However much of the bike can be customized, because all CETMA bikes are made by one guy who formerly lived in Eugene but recently moved to California. As a result, he stopped producing bikes in June 2012 and began filling them again in October 2012. This meant that we would have had to fall for this bike very hard, because getting one would involve a long wait indeed. Without a test ride that wasn’t going to happen. That said, one of the reasons we got the Bullitt was that its narrow profile made it easier to ride on the busy streets of San Francisco, and the CETMA bikes are definitely not that narrow. I found a video review from one happy customer (but: six months to get the bike!) and a written review from a less-happy customer.

[updated] Christiania 2-wheeler: This is a dark horse box bike that I had never even heard of until I read the comments on the original post. One mom riding a Christiania wrote an extremely detailed review of the bike, as well as how it works for their family, with some great thoughts on similar bikes in its class as well.

Gazelle Cabby: Clever Cycles used to stock the Gazelle Cabby, but they didn’t have one when we visited and no one else did either. The Cabby is distinctive in part because it has a fabric rather than a wooden box. The box actually folds up from the top, and with the top edges together it can be locked with stuff inside, which is pretty neat. In addition, the folding box means that the bike can be made very narrow, which makes parking it much easier. However I wonder about the durability of the fabric of the box, and like most box bikes it’s slow and supposedly hard to get up hills. It is a Dutch bike so it comes with lights, a chain guard, fenders, and a rear wheel lock. When it’s in stock Clever Cycles sells it for $2,800. Family Ride has ridden the Cabby twice (1, 2), and a couple of other families have written up their impressions as well. And in 2013, bikeMAMAdelphia weighs in again with a test ride.

Metrofiets: Our experience riding this bike is here. It can handle hills.

Shuttlebug (and Joe Bike Boxbike): These made-in-Portland bikes are no longer in production.

Urban Arrow: The Urban Arrow is a fascinating take on a front box bike. In 2014, we finally had the chance to ride it for a review. It has a lot of interchangeable parts, so the bike can switch from being a family bike with seats for kids to a cargo hauler with a locked box. It’s also possible to swap out the entire front end and turn it into a cycle truck. Unusually, it comes standard with an integrated mid-drive electric assist, so it is capable of handling hills. However when we were looking it wasn’t available in the US, and given the long lead time (it had been “coming soon!” for three years) I assumed it would never be. As of March 2013, the Urban Arrow is now available in the US: read about bikeMAMAdelphia’s test ride! Here’s a 2013 update on life with the Urban Arrow, again from bikeMAMAdelphia. This bike has become easier to find in the US as of 2014, but it’s still pretty elusive. Note that there have been reliability issues with the first-generation Daum motors, and a couple of shops have reported that Bosch’s support for the second-generation motors has been somewhat spotty. Buying from a trustworthy shop is critical for all assisted bikes. 

Winther Wallaroo: Our experience riding this bike is here.

Tandems

This is a tandem for grownups, but you could put kid-cranks on it.

Tandems are fun! Okay, we’ve never ridden one, but they sure look fun. One friend rides a triple tandem with his daughters to school. Car Free Days just rode two tandems down the West Coast as a summer vacation. My kids are very excited about the idea of tandems, because riding a tandem would allow them to pedal, which they think is cool. Tandems are also interesting because as a couple of people have now pointed out to me, they have solved the cargo bike braking issue. Modern tandem bikes typically have two sets of brakes: hub brakes to slow the bike and wheel brakes to stop them. Both are controlled by the captain (the rider steering, who usually sits in front, although not always). With two sets of brakes, it’s possible to slow and stop a heavily loaded bike without the brakes overheating, and with a backup system you’re less likely to launch off the edge of a hill if one set of brakes doesn’t have enough stopping power by itself. When I learned that I was even more excited by the idea of a tandem bike. However a weakness of these bikes is that they’re not great for carrying cargo (they usually hold a set of standard panniers at most, plus whatever riders want to carry on their bodies). In addition, for situations where one person gets off one place and another gets off somewhere else, like our commute, it would be weird (and heavy) to haul around an empty bike. On the up side, with everyone on board and pedaling, they’re supposed to go really fast.

This is Shrek 2.

Bike Friday triple tandem: The PTA president at our son’s school and his partner bought a Bike Friday triple tandem on eBay to take their daughters to school. It is big and green, so they call it Shrek 2. My kids go nuts for this bike. ALL kids go nuts for this bike (except for their girls, who are used to it). They offered us the chance to ride it for a couple of weeks this summer while they were away and I was so excited. However our daughter, at age three, is still too small to fit on the bike and so we decided to wait until she was taller (otherwise there would be meltdowns when her brother could ride and she couldn’t). We had hoped to try riding this bike in 2013, but unfortunately I was hit by a car, and while I was incapacitated they swapped it for an Xtracycled tandem. The advantages of a triple tandem bike are pretty obvious: a parent can take two kids somewhere and get help going up hills, plus the kids are excited to help pedal and don’t get cold because they’re doing some work. Plus the coolness factor is off the charts; practically everyone riding in San Francisco recognizes this bike. A downside is that the bike is really long. I have no idea what a triple tandem would cost new; it was custom before they scored it on eBay.

Buddy Bike: The Buddy Bike is another Joe Bike production. It allows special needs kids to ride in the front of a tandem bike holding onto the handlebars. But because the handlebars are quite long the parent in back is really controlling the steering. This is such a lovely idea, although it’s a specialized market. We didn’t try it because our kids don’t fit the profile and because we didn’t make it to Joe Bike (which I am really kicking myself about as I write this).

Circe Helios family tandem:  I heard about the Circe Helios from a blog reader. It’s a longtail! It’s a tandem! It fits on public transit! It’s not available in the United States! [update: Yes it is! College Park Bicycles in Maryland is now importing the Circe Helios. They say it is in stock but have no details or prices on their website, which is bike123.com.] The Circe Helios has 20” wheels, in part to keep the length down to public transit compatibility (I’m not sure whether it would really fit on a bus rack, or just British trains). The back end can be switched from a long tail that holds to two child seats and cargo to a tandem seat with room for a rear child seat (and cargo bags). The stoker seat in the rear can be adjusted to carry any size rider from about a three-year-old to an adult. A couple could buy this bike and keep it through two kids learning to ride, then switch back to riding it solo as a longtail or as a couple in its tandem form when the kids grew up. It’s a lifelong bike.

Outside of Counterbalance Cycles, where we did not try riding a tandem.

Co-Motion PeriScope: When we were in Seattle we had the chance to try a Co-Motion PeriScope at the very friendly Counterbalance Bicycles, a shop located right on the Burke Gilman trail. Co-Motion makes tandems noted for their hill climbing chops. I spent a lot of time convincing my son, who was in a very grouchy mood after falling off a BMX bike he’d been riding, that he wanted to try this bike. It was very disappointing when we discovered he was still about an inch too short to reach the pedals. The Co-Motion is a sport tandem not set up for commuting in any way; it didn’t even have fenders. But it looked like it would go really fast. I like that. We will return to Seattle again; my mom lives up there. When my son is taller, we will ride this bike. The model we almost tried cost about $3,000.

KidzTandem: The KidzTandem is a kid-in-front tandem bike that Clever Cycles sells. Having the kids in front on a tandem has the same advantages as having the kids in front in a box bike. We were very excited to try this bike, even though no one seemed optimistic about its ability to climb hills, and the review I found agreed. Unfortunately Clever Cycles had just sold the only one they had had in stock (“This has never happened before!”) It costs $2,000 and eventually they’ll get another one in stock. I think you can rent it when that happens, and Clever Cycles has very reasonable rental rates.

My husband: “That Onderwater is the goofiest bike I’ve ever seen. It looks like something out of a Dr. Seuss book.”

Onderwater triple tandem: In one of those weird twists of fate, Clever Cycles did actually have a family tandem in the store, the Onderwater triple. It had been custom-ordered for another family and was already sold, so it wasn’t a bike we could test ride. It’s not a bike they usually stock. The Onderwater triple, like the KidzTandem, puts the kid in the front. Chicargobike has an Onderwater that they’ve written about. Like most of the Dutch bikes there are lots of creative ways to carry kids on this bike; in addition to the front stoker seats (up to two), there is an optional jump seat that can be attached in front of the parent, and it’s also possible to put a rear child seat on the back. So you could have up to five people on one bike, and three of them could pedal (no, Dutch families don’t wear helmets, thanks to all that protected infrastructure). Like all the Dutch bikes, it comes with all the goodies: lights, fenders, chain guard (on a tandem, no less). Like all the Dutch bikes, it weighs a ton and you couldn’t get it up a serious hill even if you were being chased by a horde of ravenous zombies. The triple tandem is a custom bike so pricing is unclear. [Update: There is now an Onderwater tandem roaming the streets of San Francisco--a dad riding his kids to school. He said that they make it up moderate hills.]

Tricycles

Matt is looking for a route that doesn’t have anything approximating a hill because we’re riding trikes.

We rode a couple of trikes, the Christiania and the Nihola. There are other trikes on the market (Bakfiets makes one, plus there’s the well-reviewed Winther Kangaroo, Family Ride rode the Triple Lindy, etc.), but I’ve never given them much thought because trikes are totally impossible on hills and we live in San Francisco. I think that they could be fun in flat cities.

Somebody stick a fork in me: I think I’m done for a while. Did I miss anything? Please let me know in the comments!

30 Comments

Filed under family biking, reviews

30 responses to “Cargo bike pocket reviews

  1. Shannon

    My head is spinning! This is a phenomenonal rundown….thank you so much. What fun that you had a chance to ride so many bikes. In case you want to ride even more – though you’ve bought your Bullitt now – a couple of SF shops do stock bikes you missed riding. Huckleberry Cycles is a Civia dealer and carries the Halsted, and My Dutch Bikes has Workcycles including the FR8. Both are on Market Street. I know the Pacific Northwest has us beat on family riding, but we’re not quite as far behind as you make us out to be! Hope to meet you in person at Kidical Mass a week from today….Shannon

    • I didn’t realize Huckleberry Bikes carried the Halsted–that is worth a trip in combination with My Dutch Bike. I know I know I know I should get to My Dutch Bike. I’ve been meaning to go there for something like six months now. They also have an Onderwater tandem!

      We’re still planning to go to Kidical Mass–thanks so much for organizing it.

  2. zappa

    Amazing! This is a great resource and only feeds my bike hunger. :) I also loved the part about your son hugging you while riding – I love when my son leans back into me while he’s in the Bobike Mini. I could ride him in that all day.

    I wanted to add a box bike you missed – the Christiania two-wheeler, whose only U.S. dealer (as far as I know) is A Street Bike Named Desire in Palo Alto. I’ve had one for a few months now and recently wrote an extensive review here: christiania2wheeler.wordpress.com. I hope it’s useful to some folks!

    • Thank you so much! That is a super review of the Christiania, and the notes on the Babboe are also very useful. I really appreciate your write-up. Would you mind if I linked it in an updated post?

      • zappa

        Go for it! FYI, the Babboe dealer I went to recently closed, so maybe there are no more Babboes in the U.S. I will edit my review to reflect this, too…

  3. Ash L

    Guess what? The Circe Helios now has an American distributor. Shop owner Larry Black is importing them for College Park Bikes in Maryland – http://bike123.com/

    Supposedly they came in at the end of July but I haven’t made it over to MD to check one out yet.

  4. Extraordinarily comprehensive and interesting reviews.

  5. Awesome! This is a really great portal to EVERYTHING!

    If you really wanted to add more, you could put in a section on trailer bikes since you mention the FollowMe (Clever Cycles doing preorders now and will order soon!) and can show off your awesome Roland Add+Bike. The new Burley Piccolo that turns into a bike looks really neat, and Burley also makes something called the Kazoo. And though it’s seat-post mounted, the double Adams Trail-a-bike (I think just available in Canada b/c it’s too awesome to be available here) sounds very interesting. And then the wobbly batch of seat post trailer bikes and Trail Gator, of which recumbent Weehoo iGo seems not so wobbly b/c it’s so low (and holds snacks!)

    • Oh, geez. It’s a great idea, but I’m going to have to sit on it for a while before I have the energy. I know that the difference between the Burley is that the Piccolo has gears and the Kazoo is single speed (and of course there’s that cool new option where a Piccolo can be turned into a kid bike later).

      I talked to a friend with the Weehoo last weekend; she says it’s very stable but so heavy that she stopped riding her bike rather than haul it around San Francisco. Now she’s looking for a cargo bike, probably a midtail as they’re a one-kid family. I think it would be a nice trailer someplace flatter. (I feel like I say that about a lot of bikes/accessories.)

      • annlaura

        I would love more details about how you use your add+bike, and especially how you mounted the Bobike over it. I discovered it is possible to order one through J.C. Lind in Chicago, but it is nearly impossible to find any information about using it except what you have already written. So thanks for the info you’ve already provided! I’ve enjoyed and appreciated all your reviews.

      • Okay, fair enough. I will try to put together a trailer-bike post sometime in the next couple of weeks. However I can answer your question about the Bobike now. The Bobike seats don’t mount to a rack. Instead there are three attachment points: the seat tube (there is a tongue-in-groove attachment from the bottom of the seat to a brace on the tube), and the seat stays (which have screw-in mounts that hold the footrests). So all the Bobike rear seats are mounted on a tripod on the bike’s frame; that’s why the Bobike Junior can hold so much weight. You can put a rack underneath the seat to carry panniers (I wrote about this in Panniers and the Bobike Junior, and there are photos) or no rack, or the Roland rack. The only trick with the Roland is to make sure that the hole for the drop pin that fastens the trailer-bike itself is clear of the seat. The easiest way to do that is to attach the trailer bike first, then put the child seat on afterward. Very cool to hear that JC Lind is stocking add+bikes! I know there is some demand for them in the US.

      • annlaura

        Thanks again! The Bobike is as I imagined, but it helps knowing detail. I was excited to hear I could buy one from J C Lind as well. My older son loves the Piccolo, but my younger will outgrow the ibert soon. The add+bike is our favorite option, so it’s fantastic we can get one.

  6. Shannon

    Another cargo bike I wonder about is the Soma Tradesman http://www.somafab.com/archives/product/tradesman-cargo-frame-set – a cycle truck styled after old English baker bikes. It’s similar to a Civia Halsted in some respects, but with a built in 50lb-capacity rack on the front. Looks like it’s suited to a kid-on-the-rear, gear-on-the-front setup. Another potential car-replacer! But since it’s only available as a frameset, apparently you’d have to ask a pizza place to lend it out for a test ride. http://somafab.blogspot.com/2012/02/tradesman-pizza-bike.html

  7. Molly

    So are any of the family tandems (by which I mean ones where pedaling is optional) geared and braked to go up and down hills? Do they take electric assist should the co-pilots go on strike halfway up a hill? I am trying to figure out if they could be my next dream bicycle after I get sorted on my current choices which seem to be 1. buy neighbor’s Madsen which comes with a rain cover 2. Bullitt because you like it 3. Metrofiets because it seems like it they can just do whatever we need without stress

    • These are all good questions and I don’t know the answer to some of them. I was told by a bike mechanic that any tandem can be retrofitted to take kid-back cranks if you want pedaling to be optional for the stokers. So that part is probably not an issue. The CoMotion is reputed to be great on the hills. However I have no idea whether it would be a good idea to put an electric assist on a tandem, although it’s conceptually possible to put an assist on any bike.

      Tough calls on those bikes! However “because some blogger likes it” is maybe not the greatest decision criterion. How many kids and how serious are the hills? I’m guessing that the price on that Madsen is right, and it’s a good bike for adding a rear hub assist. I’d be tempted. However if you live somewhere where you can handle the length and width of the Metrofiets, it’s a really plush ride and such a head-turner. But for heavy city traffic the Bullitt is wonderful because it’s so narrow. Those are the issues that come to mind for me.

  8. Anna

    Wow! What a great review. I’ve been searching the Internet for biking options for several days. Our situation requires attention to detail and we find ourselves in an area where biking isn’t as common as your locale. I will link over to this post so my blog readers will have research behind my point and click topics. ( no ability to test drive here! ) not sure what I will end up with truthfully. If I had my preference it would be a cross between a buddy bike with a sort of carseat and foot rest instead of her being able to operate the pedals etc. I’m not sure if I could balance well though so keep coming back to the standard bicycle with an overgrown seat in the back or the wheelbarrow type bikes.

  9. Damara

    I can’t thank you enough for detailing all these different bikes! My own search for a kid-cargo bike to replace car/gas consumption is complicated by the fact that I live in Alaska and have no bike shop anywhere near me that stocks Bullitts, Big Dummys, or the like (that I can test-ride). Reviews are pretty much what I have . . . so when I say thank you, I mean it. You are an amazing and much-needed source in my decision-making!
    My situation: Two kids – 3 and 9 months. Rural Alaska – meaning only gravel roads, long climbs, little traffic, and cold weather riding. My current bike is a Cannondale MTB with two-seater Chariot attached. My budget, after selling my 79 Toyota truck, is about 2k.
    At the moment I’m wavering between a Big Dummy (or EdgeRunner – do you have a review of this one yet?), a Yuba Mundo, or a Madsen. I LOVE the idea of a front box-bike, but I just don’t realistically have the funds for one. The Madsen is appealing for the fun-factor – and because it’s currently on sale (and it could ship here) – but I’m a little worried about the hills. A long-tail would probably be a better long-term investment, but I dislike the idea of just putting the kids in car seats off the back of the bike for a couple reasons: It seems colder (although I can always just default to the Chariot when the weather is really crappy) and more detached. I’ve got a Bobike mini that I used when my older son was smaller and LOVED it . . . this kind of involved transportation is what I’m looking for. (The idea of a front-box bike that could evolve into a tandem is AWESOME!!) But, I know I can’t have it all. Especially for 2k.
    Have any great ideas?

    • Hi Damara,

      Sorry for the delay in responding. You’ve asked a tough question! Everyone’s situation is so different, but yours is unusually challenging. I think in your situation my biggest focus would be getting up the hills and protecting the kids from cold weather. The Madsen would be better for cold weather because it’s easier to rig a cover, but you’re right that it’s not much for the hills. The EdgeRunner is probably the best climber of all the bikes you mention, but it’s difficult to manage good weather protection for kids on a rear deck like that (at least until Xtracycle develops the cover they’ve been talking about). An assisted front box bike with a cover would be ideal for the conditions but it’s outside your price range.

      I’m wondering whether you might be better off putting an assist on your current bike and possibly upgrading the trailer to the often-recommended Wike. You lose the fun of having the kids in a front seat, but if they’re cold they won’t be having fun up there anyway. If your bike has the strength you could also consider moving one child to a Leco front seat in good weather (only available in the UK, but I’ve seen them twice in San Francisco and they look awesome) and the other to a rear seat like a Bobike/Yepp Maxi/Junior.

  10. Damara

    Thanks for the EdgeRunner review! If we lived in a warmer climate I think that’s the route I’d go. After reading your comments it dawned on me that I should invest, first, in some electric assist. I think I’m going to go the Madsen route with assist; I figure I can stuff a sleeping bag around them when it’s bad weather and find inspiration online for fashioning some sort of raincover. Would you have a recommendation for an under $500 assist for the Madsen?
    I didn’t know about the Leco – that looks great! – and I know a Bobike Junior is in our near-future for traveling with our foldable bike.
    Thanks again!

    • Well, there is an under $500 assist, although I’m not sure I’d recommend it, exactly. Totcycle had a Clean Republic Hilltopper on their Madsen for a while, but he was quite vehement that it will burn out in about a year (true of all assists at that price point). I’d email him about it.

      You can check the Wheelha.us blog for information about their assisted Madsen and the rain cover they made for it, which is pretty swank. There’s also a Facebook page for Laura’s Madsen, which is an SF-based mom with an assisted Madsen and a rain cover built around the same pattern as the Wheelha.us one. Both of them seem pretty happy with it.

  11. Eric

    I have a Fr8 for sale if anyone is interested in the Twin Cities region:

    http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ram/bik/3736163730.html

  12. I have a Fr8 for sale in the Twin Cities area in case anyone is interested:

    http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/ram/bik/3736163730.html

    • Hi
      I’m the person who went off-topic from your most recent post on riding the sidewalks in San Francisco to ask you about the Kona MinUte and buying a cargo bike. This seems like the right post for that topic. So,I just wanted to follow-up. Kona seems to have skipped 2014 but the MinUte is available for 2015. Now it has hydraulic disc brakes,charcoal grey color (very tasteful, if you care about that sort of thing; I do, but I like orange bikes too), They have a wood and plastic deck option. Alas, they still have 700x40c tires, But, still all the goodies from previous Ute and MinUte models (fenders, bags,steering stablizer, kickstand). Overall a little better specs especially the brake upgrade. I think Kona’s builds are top quality and the MinUte reflects that even if it falls a little short (no pun) in the family freight bike area. BTW, there is a shop in SE Portland, SellWood Cycle Repair, that may still offer accessories for the MinUte including, stoker bars, foot pegs, wheel skirts, and a deck seat pad. Of course. all this has made my decision more difficult. Midtail or Longtail. I came upon and thought the Kinn Cascade Flyer was picture perfect but they seemed to have disappeared. No response. Nada. I think the Yuba Mundo is too much for me. I thought about the Xtracycle Tern Cargo Joe (folding bike combined with the Xtracycle Free Radical cargo tail). But it has V bakes and I’m not sure the bike can handle my weight (200 lbs), cargo, and passengers (2 older kids, combined ~150 lbs). I thought about adding the Free Radical to theTern Joe P24 (better specs and disc brakes), But again, I’m concerned about stability for a long haul or commute. My drive cycle is 1/2 mile to drop kids off at walking school bus stop, then 8.5 miles downhill through traffic to work with serious uphills on the return. Also, weekend go-getter and short tours. In the winter, I need something weather proof. At my age, I’m a member of the slow bike club. So speed is not needed. Decisions, Decisions. My inner young Dad says get the MinUte, while my outer older Dad says Edge Runner with electric option.

      • Don’t discount the new Bike Friday Hauladay. That’s what I have now. It can fit a wide range of people. It is lighter in weight than other cargo bikes. It fits most Xtracycle accessories plus what they’re developing at Bike Friday. You can disassemble it for traveling. It has small wheels, which don’t give you a great deal of speed but are great for climbing. I bought it because I knew it could haul three kids but you can shrink it to fit on a city bus. I have been very happy. I can’t say I’m going to use it a lot in the winter (Minnesota winters are hard on the kids, and there’s no wind-shield). It also has the option of disc brakes – I have mechanical, but Bike Friday are really ready to built to suit whatever you need. FYI, I weigh about 210.

  13. vagueperson, thank you. I’ll give the BF Hauladay a looksee.

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