Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One thing I'm glad I got wrong when bike shopping

Way back when we were trying to figure out what family bike to get, we thought that we were looking for a good way to bike with kids. We eventually found it, and love our current set up with an Xtracycle and custom two-kid seat. It works great for carrying one kid, and soon baby R will be big enough for us to use it for two. But it turns out that what we actually needed, even more than we needed to bike with kid(s), was a way to haul cargo.

Getting the Xtracycle itself was actually a bit of an afterthought. At first I thought I was just searching for the right kid seat. But then, after some looking, and riding some standard bikes with kid seats and checking weight limits, I thought that actually an Xtracycle would give us a better ride and more longevity, but I really wasn't thinking much about hauling capacity. I just wanted to bike easily with my kid.

As it turns out, our bike sees much more use hauling stuff (mostly groceries) than it does hauling kids. We don't actually need to bike with our kid(s) that much. We do, at least with the bigger one, and whenever we do, it's a blast, but in terms of day to day life, we really do need the bike to carry stuff.

This certainly wouldn't carry over to every other family, and may change for us once baby R is big enough we feel comfortable with him on our bike. We're set up with daycare and most activities walking distance from home (and yes, that's even 3 y.o. walking distance). However, it does bring up a point for families striving to reduce car trips, but who may not feel comfortable biking with their kids. If you can swing it, it might be worthwhile to work out a cargo set up. It wouldn't have to be fancy. A simple used trailer would do. Any kind of real cargo capacity, the kind that lets you haul a week's worth of groceries, or big bags of kitty litter, can turn errands for which a car used to be essential into bike errands.


dr2chase said...

I've used trailers, and I've used an xtracycle, and now a big dummy, and though it's true that some cargo capacity is better than none, a longbike kicks the crap out of a trailer. "Ordinary people" are likely to make the worse choice because that's what the LBS will sell them, and that's what they see other people using.

Anyone else reading this, and wondering if you might do it, get an xtracycle, it's huge bang-for-the-buck.

Dorea said...

@dr2chase=-- We've also used both a trailer and our longbike & I totally agree tha longbike is far superior. It's flexible, an easier ride, and since we can easily use it to commute, it's perfect for errands on the way home from work. That's hard to do with a trailer.

But there's also a benefit to accessible gear like trailers. We're big on emphasizing that you don't have to dish out tons of cash on gear to make steps towards a less car-dependent life. I think folks get distracted or intimidated by the money that they think they "need" to sink into gear, and that can prevent taking positive steps. If shelling out 500+ bucks for a bike conversion is out of reach, by all means spend 50 for a used trailer from Craigslist. They're everywhere and your neighbor may even have one sitting unused in the basement. Common gear, even if it's not ideal, can be a great way to take initial steps, especially because it is so easy to get cheap and used.

But I'm with you dr2chase, if you're at all leaning towards a long bike or similar cargo set up, do it. You'll wonder how you ever lived without one.

Kathleen McDade said...

I realized recently that within the next year or two, I probably won't need to haul kids to school and day care any more. But will I still need my Xtracycle? You bet!

Slim said...

My wife and I have been thinking about getting an Xtracycle, too. However when we sat down and listed things we would use it for that we can't do with our bike & trailer combo now, it made more sense to stick with what we have.

Glad to see another car-free cycling family out there!


len said...

I'm relatively new to urban biking and reducing car use. I've been thinking about cargo hauling on bicycle a lot, especially since my cheapo shopping cart that I was pushing on foot for the 1 mile trip to the grocery store busted a sorry plastic wheel over a curb. Most people in my neighbourhood seem to use trailers. I've never seen an Xtracycle (I'm in Vancouver, Canada). Luckily, I'm able to make smaller, more frequent trips to the neighbourhood shopping area so an old milk crate bungied onto the rear rack works great for getting the daily bread!