In the summer of 2011, we took the kids to Copenhagen. We rented bikes to get around. Everyone was doing it.
In less than an hour our kids decided they never wanted to travel any other way.
We came back to San Francisco and bought bikes.
[Updated in September 2012, finally.]
Hi there! My name is Dorie Apollonio, and this is where I write about family biking. Some posts I’ve written that might be helpful to families negotiating this brave new world:
- Cargo bike pocket reviews
- A series of electric assists
- Transportation resources for car-free families
- Don’t you worry that it’s not safe to ride a bike with your kids?
Why is this blog called Hum of the city? Glad you asked.
I’ve lived in San Francisco longer than any place else in my adult life. Before we mostly settled down, my husband and I, separately and together, lived in: Boston, Seattle, Berkeley, Paris, Munich, Oslo, Minneapolis, Chicago, rural Louisiana, Little Rock, Washington DC, Cambridge (England), and uh, I start to lose track. What can I say? We were itinerant people.
I work as a professor of health policy, but nothing I write here has anything to do with that directly (my university has a very laissez faire social media policy). I teach research design and study non-communicable disease, primarily tobacco-related disease. This is exciting, yes? My husband Matt works for a large multinational corporation on their newly formed green energy team. In that capacity he travels the world encouraging power companies to switch to renewable energy. That is significantly more exciting, I will admit.
We have two children. Our son was born in Berkeley in November 2005. He attends one of San Francisco’s amazing and underrated public schools, Rosa Parks Elementary. Our daughter is a San Francisco native, born in February 2009. She lives for adventure. They are the best thing that ever happened to us. But riding our bikes is the second best thing.
Want to reach me without having to leave a comment? Shoot me an email! Humofthecity at gmail.
54 responses to “About”
I really enjoy the blog. I work for Yuba Bikes and I was wondering if you would be interested in trying out one of our bikes for a week and writing about it? We are always interested in honest feedback from existing utility cyclists.
Please contact me at my email address. Thanks!
I am really happy to have found this blog.
I will have the pleasure of living in San Francisco for 6 months from August and want to bike as much as possible while I am there.
Welcome to San Francisco!
Great blog – I just found it and have killed a solid hour reading through it!
I’m a fellow San Francisco parent, and am about to take the plunge and purchase a family-hauling, car-replacing, me-powered, two-wheeled vehicle. I think I’m set on a Yuba Mundo, but I’d welcome any advice you have as you clearly have a lot more experience with this than I do. I have none.
As background, we have two kids, almost 3 and almost 5. I want to be able to take both of them to school or wherever else, neither is old enough to ride any appreciable distance by themselves, and I don’t think our oldest is yet ready to sit unsupported for long distances on a rack seat or trail-a-bike. Both are too big for a front seat. San Francisco’s hills seem to rule out a trike, and I don’t like the idea of a trailer on our sometimes narrow bike lanes and alongside our often absent-minded drivers. Unless I’m missing something, that means a cargo bike with two child seats, and like I said I’m leaning toward the Mundo with two peanut shells mounted.
As for me, I used to mountain bike a little and have also done some solo urban biking, but it’s been a while since I’ve even owned a bike. I’m also a long-time (now former) motorcyclist and have commuted a lot of miles on two wheels, but obviously a bike is a much different experience than a bike. Er, motorbike.
Any advice on which bike to choose, disc brakes vs. v-brakes, which child seats to choose, etc.?
Thanks in advance!
Hi James, thanks for writing. I’m so glad to hear that you’re joining the family biking ranks! It is so much fun. Your thinking about riding in the city is very familiar. With the terrain of SF there are a lot of options I ruled out right off the bat: no solo-riding for kids in traffic at that age, no Bakfiets or trike due to the hills, trailer unsuitable for many bike lanes, etc.
With respect to seats, I think that your (almost) 5 year old would not need a child seat, and realistically a Peanut Shell wouldn’t have much longevity for a kid that age. My son just barely squeezed into a Bobike Maxi (same specs) at 5.5 years. However he’s going strong on with a stoker bar and footpegs on the back of the MinUte at almost seven. So I’d suggest saving the cost of a 2nd seat and just getting one for the (almost) 3 year old. On a longtail you’ll want to put the older one on the front of the deck with stoker bars and the younger in back as this offers a better weight distribution–the greatest amount of weight should be closest to you for the best handling.
I think the Mundo is a great family bike; I wrote about it earlier, and there are also some more comments on The New Wheel post. My main concern would be the hills; the Mundo is very heavy and so without the assist your range with two kids in SF will be more limited. I got an unassisted Mundo over Alamo Square with two kids on board but definitely would avoid doing that again if possible. My husband and I talked to two families living in the Richmond, one with an elMundo and one with a Mundo, and the Mundo family was a little frustrated by their more limited range and wishing they’d gotten the elMundo. (I assume that you’re not living/working on any major hills if you’re considering an unassisted cargo bike.)
If you like longtails you might also look at the Big Dummy, although the kids’ weight is bit higher up, and in my experience that made it a bit easier to tip at slow speeds and while walking the bike. However it rides more like a regular bike once it’s moving, and that familiarity is very nice. It’s more expensive, though, and despite that the stock kickstand is terrible for loading kids (you can add an awesome kickstand, the appallingly-named Rolling Jackass, but it adds a heart-stopping $350 to the price of the bike). The price point on the elMundo is nearly unbeatable. What you get for the extra cost of the Dummy is better components and lighter weight, so it’s a better climber unassisted and offers a smoother and faster ride. If you had a bike you liked now you’d also have the Xtracycle FreeRadical option, but it sounds like that’s not the case. Finally, a bike that hasn’t been released yet that seems to have been custom designed for hilly cities is Xtracycle’s new Edgerunner. I don’t know much about it other than that it will be released soon and it’s an assisted bike that uses the Xtracycle platform.
In San Francisco, riding with two kids on board, I would definitely upgrade to disc brakes. Do you know San Francyclo on Arguello (near Velo Rouge)? Jason, who owns the shop, sells a lot of Yubas and he is a super-nice guy. He can offer you test rides of both the Mundo and elMundo, as he stocks both, as well as the accessories like the seats. Based on our recent experience I’d suggest test-riding with the kids only after you’ve test-ridden bikes alone and gotten used to them. That way you’re less likely to dump them when you’re unfamiliar with the bike and freak them out. (We’re learning from our mistakes!)
I could write more but this is already pretty long. Feel free to email me if you’d like: I have a gmail account, humofthecity is the username. I’m delighted to hear that you like the blog. Good luck!
Thanks so much for all of the additional information. I read your posts about the Mundo and The New Wheel, and among other things you’ve convinced me that disc brakes are definitely the way to go.
The Edgerunner looks amazing. I hadn’t heard of it until you mentioned it, but I found a review here: http://momentummag.com/articles/cargo-bike-review-xtracycle-edgerunner-electric
Unfortunately it’s a bit pricey, which is also why I’m ruling out the elMundo and Big Dummy. Assist would be great, but for now I will make do with my legs. I’d love to have the Edgerunner’s lower CG for the kids and would wait for it if they were planning a lower-price, non-assisted version, but it doesn’t look like they are.
Most of the places I’m expecting to ride with the kids are relatively flat rides from us including their school anyway, so I should be fine without assist at least for a while. Plus if I do end up going with the Mundo I can always upgrade later if I need it at almost no additional cost to buying it all upfront.
I also really appreciate the recommendation for San Francyclo. It’s been so long since I had a bike I was headed elsewhere for no good reason, but I’ll swing by there to test ride a Mundo.
Thanks again – you really have been super helpful!
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I just saw this video trailer about cargo electric bikes and, uh, ‘saving the world.’ Sounded real cool. Looking for others to participate in the documentary. Sounded like it was ‘up your alley,’ as well as being in your area. Info at: http://www.lizcanning.com/Liz_Canning_Creative/Cargo_Bike_Documentary.html
Cargo Bike Documentary
I have been talking to Liz, and filmed a little for her at the Seattle Cargo Bike Roll Call. She is great! Thanks for the recommendation.
When you get a free moment, can you send me an email? beijngbetsy(at)yahoo.com = living in Tokyo with 4 kids and biking the city.
I just got sent a link to an Awesome Video (!) about cargo bikes in Copenhagen, at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v0SEpVo33AM&feature=em-subs_digest-newavtr-vrecs
P.S. I enjoy your site. Nice pics.
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I’m interested in the topics you blog about. But I’m not finding a link on your site to subscribe to your posts… ? Do you have that disabled?
I’m interested in the topics you blog about, but I’m not finding a link to subscribe to new posts… ? Do you have that disabled?
Oops. never mind! I found it. 🙂
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Hi, I have been researching cargo bikes for the purpose of 2 kids / errand / grocery getting and also live in San Francisco. I had been convinced that a longtail was for me, and was heavily leaning towards a Big Dummy. Recently I heard about the new Xtracycle and decided it might be a good idea to renew all options and open the research again.
Then I saw the Bullitt, and was smitten. But I do have a couple of concerns about it. Cost (that is my own issue to sort out), and the box size. From the pictures on your site, it really looks pretty cramped with 2 kids in there, no? My own kids are 6 mos and 2.5 years, so it would not be an immediate issue, but at the high cost for these bikes, I really need to make certain that it is a long-term solution!
Finally – hills. I was assuming that a longtail would be better in our hilly city, but it seems that the Bullitt is billed as being a great bike for hilly terrain. On the other hand, people who do not live *in* SF often throw the term “hilly” around pretty casually.
Do you find that a Bionix powered Bullitt would not pose you a problem for most of the hills in our fair city?
Great blog by the way – keep it up!
Hi Peter, thanks for reading. No question, the Bullitt is pricey–it was approachable for us because we got a big windfall from selling our (paid-off) minivan.
When we first rode the Bullitt I was sure that two kids, at least the ages ours were (seven and almost four), would never fit in there. I underestimated the bike; they are perfectly happy in there, either side by side or facing each other. There’s not a ton of leg room but they don’t seem to care. We’ve also put groceries on top of them too. I have a post lined up about exactly this issue for later this week. Matt has actually carried four kids in the Bullitt box for a short distance (ages 7,5,4,4). My guess is that it would depend somewhat on how well the kids get along though.
We found that the assisted Bullitt was a better climber than the assisted Big Dummy when we were riding both as rentals in Portland. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the lighter weight. That said, I suspect an assisted Edgerunner would be better still because of the smaller rear wheel, and I have heard that an Xtracycle with a carefully chosen donor bike can work well too. I agree that people use the word “hilly” pretty casually outside of SF. My general rule is that if it’s not taller than I am, it’s not a hill. To be more specific, however, we got the Bullitt with the most powerful BionX system on the market, and upgraded to the 48v battery, and with this setup we have no trouble getting the bike with both kids on board up Parnassus Avenue/Judah to UCSF (both directions), up Fulton to Alamo Square (both ways), and up Presidio Avenue from the Marina. But we have to work hard to get up Cortland Avenue to Bernal Heights, and have struggled mightily going up 9th Avenue to JP Murphy Park. It starts to get painful when the grades get above 18%, and if we try to use the throttle and skip pedaling the motor overheats–on our Bullitt those kinds of hills have to be taken assist-only, and we are working for it. On the other hand, that’s with 100 lbs of kids on board, which would otherwise be simply impossible.
I suspect that certain parts of town, like the steeper approaches to Nob Hill, would overheat the motor. If you want to take those kinds of hills regularly, I think that the only real option is a mid-drive motor like the Stokemonkey (which is supposedly coming back on the market in 2013) or the EcoSpeed (available now, but expensive and noisy).
Another caveat is that it is still really, really hard to start the bike from a stop on an uphill at a red light. At intersections that don’t flatten out somewhat, we’ve taken to heading to the sidewalk corner, just to get that little bit of downhill from the cut-out, which gives us enough momentum to get going again. Anyway, that’s our experience to date!
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Loving your blog! We are new to cargo biking and being car free, I am so grateful to you and a handful of others who share what you know… tonight I’m googling “bobike junior” and finding answers, once again. We have a Yuba Mundo with a Yepp Maxi and stoker bars for my 5 year old and almost 3 year old, and they are big kids. My biggest complaint is that the bike is very heavy and hard to walk, and we’ve tipped twice while getting set to go because my son is up high and at the end of the bike, which makes it hard to control from the front end. I’m looking for something like another set of stoker bars and a backrest, maybe someone, somewhere has a solution or suggestion. 🙂 Our Yuba lives in our Chicago high-rise living room, and sadly the monkey bars don’t look like they’ll pass the elevator test. I saw that you wrote the Junior sits high up, and that kind of sent me on a different path. The search continues…
Try moving the seat forward on the deck. When we rode with the Big Dummy for a week the Yepp was about halfway down the deck rather than on the end, with our son squeezed in front. It helped with balance a lot. That’s a Splendid Cycles trick, by the way.
Thank you! I think we will give it a try.
You have inspired me in many ways, and I really appreciate your blog. At the same time, I’m just about pulling out my hair trying to decide which Cargo Bike I should get for me and my 4 year old and 17month old. The main purpose of this bike would be to get my 4 year old to preschool and back, 7 miles each way, 3 days a week. I am used to riding a racing bike and used to be a very avid cyclist but ever since I’ve had 2 kids, it’s been really hard to get out there. I am hoping that this cargo bike will awaken the dormant cyclist in me. Anyhow, I was set on getting a Surly Big Dummy, until I read your cons section, and now I am very hesitant. I also am very interested in the Kona MinUte, but I can only find the 18” size, and I am quite tall with long legs (5’11” with 34 inch inseam, if not longer) and I am afraid it will be a bit too small. However I am OK with the MinUte being a smaller cargo frame because my kids are still small, and as long as it can work for the next 2-3 years, I am content. Finally, I just saw the Xtracycle edgerunner, which seems like a fair deal- it’s about as much as the Big Dummy but it comes with all of the required family components. Please let me know if you have any ideas regarding which direction I should take. Based on the depth and thoroughness of your blog, I would really welcome and trust your advice. Thank you so much!! -Melissa
If you have two kids you’ll probably ride with both at least part of the time, so I’d be leaning toward the Edgerunner myself. It’s a great bike–takes all the Xtracycle accessories, but with the low center of gravity it’s very stable. And kids won’t fight on a long deck the way that they would on the MinUte’s deck. When my kids are happy on the MinUte it’s great, but once they start bashing helmets it’s a disaster. Finally, it’s a lot easier to attach a child seat to an Edgerunner/Big Dummy deck if you do end up carrying the younger one regularly.
For carrying kids I would always choose the Edgerunner over the Big Dummy because it was designed with a lower center of gravity better suited to that.
Those are my thoughts offhand, but you’re welcome to shoot me an email as well: email@example.com. I’m not always quick to respond but I’ll get around to it eventually…
Thank you so much HUM!
You have been so helpful in this very complicated process of getting a family bike. I have gone ahead and ordered the Edgerunner, and I cannot wait for it to arrive. Just a couple more weeks! In the meantime, I have forwarded your recent Rosa Parks Elementary school post to a friend who just moved back to the city with her daughter, who will be kindergarten age next year. There are many moments I wished I lived in the city of my youth. If I were to return there today with my family, I would definitely be checking out Rosa Parks. Thank you so much again for writing this wonderful blog.
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I recently got a Breezer Uptown and have made one grocery trip on it so far. I am wondering if you replaced the kickstand on yours because it didn’t want to stay upright with all the food on it.
Yes, I replaced it with a double kickstand for just that reason.
Hello Dorie, I love your blog! This is where I learned about the IT chair/Pere chair which tipped the scales for the Brompton in my mind. I was wondering if you know where I could get one? I live in Oakland so not far from you. Thanks!
Blue Heron Bikes in Berkeley will order a Pere for you! They’re great.
Hi there! Stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on the Bobike Junior and was immediately hooked. So much useful information here. Thanks!
Hi I love your blog, I have a bobike tour & wanted to get the best luggage rack for my bike, what luggage rack do you have, do you love it. What would you buy if you had to buy a new one
We used the rear rack that came with the bike, and chose narrow bags. However for more flexibility, there is an extended rear rack that allows a range of bags or folding metal baskets. The specs are in the Family Ride blog archives.
Hi Dorie, We are looking for pictures of moms at Sunday Streets to use in a promotional ad for the May 10 event, as it falls on Mother’s Day. I was wondering if you have any that you would be open to letting us use for an ad for the Potrero View and Ingleside Light papers. If so, please email me at Beth@livablecity.org. Thanks so much for considering this request!
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can discuss, thanks. Just got back from a 2-week trip.
Hi Dorie. Thanks for all the insight! We just moved to Leeds with a Burley trailer and well the basement and the weather has us searching for other options. Cargos seem like the way to go!
it is really a nice blog…congratulations…Your reviews helped me a lot already…I do live with two kids in Germany without car…I just moved appartments basically using two cargo bikes and it was good fun…yes, it took much longer…but a lot of fun…
I just bought the MK E1 and as I do live outside the city it is great (no issue with the width)…I also do have the Bosch engine, which is a little loud but very powerful (both statements related to your review of the bike)…basically I agree with your comments that for the city it is a little difficult (as all 3 wheeled cargo bikes) on the other hand the stability of the MK E1 is still much better compared to a 2 wheeled cargo bike (my opinion)…
I just used it at rain going up a 18 degree hill for 20 minutes with the speed of 12 MPH (18 kmh) without getting tired…to get to 20 kmh it was very hard, I admit…
I do have a Johnny Loco Cargo bike as well (previously used), which I am now trying to convert into an e-Bike. Do you have any experience with this? The bike is more for fun and short rides as it has a horrible driving position (no tilting; like on a surf board when you want to go fast corners)…the eBike engine does not need to be powerful, it is more to get going without to much power…
I also use a 2 seater trailor/stroller (Thule Chinook) and I am very happy with the combination, as in particular for longer journeys it is a lot more comfortable for the kids…No Cargo Bike has shocks, which is very difficult for longer journey…as the MK1 E has the tilting functionality it is much softer compared to the Johnny Loco, but still super hard compared to the trailor (which has a good shock system)
it is amazing how much quality time you get back and how much less frustrated you are compared to a car
I hope to come to San Francisco one day and rent a bike from Vee…do you know about other bike rental options around the world? Knowing I can explore the city with my kids in my favorite bike sound awesome…
Wish you happy Holidays and all the best from Heidelberg, Germany…
Thank you for your great blog post! Your cargo bike reviews are great and thanks to them I just tried the Bullit (and loved it!).
I was wondering whether you had experience with cargo bikes being a bit bumpy. In a fit of exuberance, I rode the bike a bit fast with my four-year old; we went over a speed bump and she hurt her back a little bit (nothing serious). Just wondering whether you had a similar experience. I think a cushion an a little bit more cautious dad will help avoid such situations.
Also, from a health policy researcher to a health policy researcher: greetings from OHSU! My 2 cents on bikes being dangerous: no one talks about cars being dangerous for our health: not enough exercise, fumes collect in the car, etc. There is solid research demonstrating the positive benefits of bike riding (I included some of that for a policy class I taught). I think the problem is that the risk associated with bike riding seems directly connected to it whereas the risk associated with car riding is less directly attributable (and we ignore the 30,000+ car-related fatalities even though it is a staggering number). Therefore, people see cars as safe even though they are not.
Hi Stephan, nice to hear from a colleague! I love OHSU. And I agree completely about the perceptions of risk with cars v. bikes.
To answer your question: yes, I often find cargo bikes bumpy. The ones with one or more small wheels are even more so; it’s the price you pay for stability. I also notice it on bikes with aluminum frames; they’re lighter, which is less weight to haul, but they also transfer more motion. These kinds of issues are part of the reason I think there is no perfect bike and so people have to choose among different trade-offs.
Somehow I found your site while I was looking on the web for the Yepp child seat manual. I’m really looking forward to reading some more of your past articles/posts, they’re collectively a fabulous resource. I’ve been riding an Edgerunner for the past year (transporting my preschool-age son on it). I’ve been pretty discouraged of late with three separate flats this month but your site reminds me of why it’s good to ride.
Hi Dorie! My name is Louise and I live just south of you in Menlo Park. I came across your fantastic blog and reviews while looking for a bakfiets style tricycle for taking my kids to and from school (1.5 miles each way, flat terrain). I borrowed a friend’s Babboe XL tricycle style. My kids (4 and 6) LOVE LOVE LOVE it. It’s exactly as you describe your kids taking to the bakfiets when you rode one in Portland. So…I’m new to this, but I found that the braking is REALLY hard. Is it just that there’s so much weight on the thing that stopping it ain’t easy? I am not sure if it’s supposed to feel this way. I feel like I could need to come to a stop bc of someone opening a car door, etc. and I would never make that happen in time. Could you share your thoughts on that? My friend has given me the option to buy her 4 year old Babboe XL that I’m borrowing, and I’m really on the fence. If it’s just the age of this one or the particular features of the Babboe XL that’s the problem, then I would just buy new – either Christiana (Danish) or the Bakfiets – and suck it up and buy new. But if this is a problem inherent to all “wheelbarrow” style bikes, then I just don’t know. I also wanted to ask you – now that your kids are older, did you buy one of the kid-transport bikes, and how long did you use it? (or are you still using it?) MANY THANKS!!
HI Dorie thanks so much for your detailed review of Riese Muller 60 packster. We are going to order one soon. We’ve test rided the packster 80. I want to test drive the 60 first before I make a decision. Since I don’t have a driving license this cargo bike is going to be my ‘car’. I’m still not sure if the 80 is still practical for me when my child is older. Greetings from the Netherlands.
Hello again from Yuba Bicycles! We’d sure love to borrow a photo you posted of the Spicy Curry in your review for a big upcoming Spicy Curry Sale. Please email us at email@example.com to let us know what you think about that. Thanks! -Kate from Yuba Bicycles
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I recently purchased a Bridgestone assista and I need a battery replacement. I read that you got one from mamacycle a few years back. How long did it last? How much did it cost recognizing that was back a few years ago?
It’s hard to say how long it would have lasted, as it was run over along with me partway through its expected lifespan. I think it cost less than $200?
Gotta love the internet – I have a question about your Surly Big Dummy. How did you guys attach another set of handlebars to the seatpost? I want my 5 yr old to sit on the back and hold on to something, but I can’t seem to find something that works. Thanks for the help!
You Always have the best reviews:
Useful, comparative, specific, honest;
You are a tremendous
Example of Belief and The Possible
Hi there, great blog! I live in Holland and we have a Babboe City E electric bakfiets. It’s great for hauling the kids around.
A change in our daily routine means we now need a second bakfiets for cycling the kids to and from creche/school.
I’m looking at the bullit (without assist) as the front runner but wanted to ask you a couple of questions if i may…
i) I see you have the larger canopy – is that from blaqpaks? Does it fit on the regular LvH seat/box?
ii) Does the canopy affect the handling of the bike? It’s pretty massive – does it slow you down/get blown around in the wind? I saw the regular LvH canopy in a bike store here but our oldest daughter’s head was nearly poking against the roof so need something bigger.
iii) Do you know if there there is a suitable seat for a baby/toddler in a Bullit that would leave room for older daughter to sit next to? She sits in a Babboe toddler chair at the moment and as she’s 14 months will need some kind of supportive chair with harnesses.
Babboe chair we use now: https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQqOsFQd6UY7h0KFOy-iCaxDzl_FdMQjOTJVw-YZ3fhPnOvZZFU
I’m really keen on the bullit as i think i will enjoy cycling it even when the kids have grown up and are biking around themselves, but it needs to be practical for what i need now…