We’ve spent much of this spring and summer gearing up for a season of biking. With two girls able to ride on their own now, we’re enjoying the new freedom to get out and ride. We’ve gotten bigger bikes for our two oldest girls, replaced my old rusty mountain bike, and enrolled the girls in a summer bike camp. We also bought and built a cargo bike so I can go riding with the younger two girls by myself.
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What is a Cargo Bike?
I’ve had great fun, over the past few months, telling my friends about my new cargo bike. It usually involves me pulling out my phone to look up some pictures for them. A cargo bike is basically a bike with more space behind the seat, over the back wheel, to enable you to carry more on your bike. For us, that means more kids on the bike.
We have friends in Saskatchewan who’ve had a cargo bike for several years. They’ve raved about how they can get out on bikes with their three girls (roughly the same ages as our oldest three). While I’ve always enjoyed biking, it’s been hard to get out on a bike when our children are babies and toddlers. I loved the idea that a cargo bike could restore that freedom to me.
Building a Cargo Bike
While you can buy cargo bikes at various bike shops, we ended up building ours. My husband found a good deal on a cargo bike extension kit, which would allow us to convert my mountain bike into a cargo bike. The extension kit ended up sitting around our storage room for a year, as life interfered and then we realized my bike was too rusty to invest more money in.
Finally, my husband found a secondhand hybrid bike for me. This bike has ended up being better for the cargo bike than my mountain would have been, as it has disc brakes (more effective for stopping) and a step-through frame (easier for getting on). We don’t have space for him to do major bike work in our condo, so we took the bike and the kit to a local bike shop to have the conversion done.
When we got the cargo bike back, we had to buy a Yepp Maxi Easyfit seat for it so Pearl could ride too. We removed one of the seat pads to install the Yepp seat at the back of the bike. When Pearl outgrows her baby seat, we’ll be able to take it off and put the pad back on to take two kids for a ride.
Finally, the cargo bike was ready for Jade, Pearl and I to head out for a ride!
Why We Love Our Cargo Bike
The first time I went out for a ride by myself, with two girls on the back of my bike and two girls on their own bikes, I fell in love. I felt like yelling, “FREEEEEEDOM!” For the first time since Lily’s birth, I could just decide to go for a bike ride and do it. I didn’t have to wait for my husband to be available to either watch the girls so I could go for a ride by myself, or come along to pull/carry one of the younger girls on his bike while I took the other on my bike.
Jade and Pearl also love the cargo bike. If we mention “biking” to Pearl, she immediately heads for the door to get her shoes and helmet out. If I’m in the laundry room (also our storage room), she’ll point at the bike and grunt a hopeful question at me. When we get the bikes out, she can’t wait to be lifted into her seat for the ride. Jade also loves riding along with her; they chatter at each other while we’re cycling.
One afternoon, my husband did some quick maintenance on the bike. Since it was out (and Pearl had been asking to go for a ride), I decided to take it to pick up Sunshine from her dance class. I hadn’t yet put the older girls on the bike, but our friends often did. Pearl and I cycled quickly over to the dance studio. When Sunshine caught sight of us waiting, her face lit up. She was excited to try the cargo bike for herself! I definitely had a bit more work cycling home with a 9-year-old and a baby on the back, but it was fun to chat with her while we rode.
We often ride to the park or to the library. We’ve also swung past the grocery store (for a few groceries) and I’m planning a bike ride to a nearby beach this summer. When we’re out, we get frequent comments and stares. People are often surprised to see TWO kids on the back of my bike. I’ve had other parents take pictures of my bike to consider getting one for themselves. It’s a great conversation starter!
Bike Riding as a Family
We now have several options for riding as a family. I can take the girls out for a ride with the cargo bike. We can all go for a ride, with my husband and I taking turns on the cargo bike with the girls behind us. More often, when we all go for a ride, we still use the trail-a-bike behind my husband’s bike and the baby bike seat behind my mountain bike. That way, each of us has a child with us while the older two girls ride their own bikes.
Cons of the Cargo Bike
First, having a child (or two) on the back of the bike definitely makes it heavier! I’ve been grateful that my hybrid bike is a 24-speed bike, because with the extra weight, I use all my gears going up hills. I have to be a bit more careful stopping, starting and turning because of the girls on the back. Walking the bike (whether at cross-walks or up hills) is harder than riding it, as I find myself fighting with the weight on the back while pushing the bike anywhere.
Second, the hoop ties (rails around the seat on the back) make the cargo bike quite wide. I have seen other options for children to hold onto while riding the bike, but right now, the hoop ties seem like the safest option. Jade and Pearl both hold on while we’re riding (even though Pearl is buckled into her seat). The width means I have to be careful getting it in and out of the house, and it takes up a lot of room in our storage.
Finally, the size of the cargo bike currently means we can’t get it on a vehicle. We’re limited to rides we can do from home. We’ve looked at several bike rack options for the van, but none of them can accommodate either the extra length or width of the cargo bike. The only option seems to be a roof rack, but I can’t imagine lifting the cargo bike onto the roof of our van (or getting it down again). So we use the cargo bike for local trips, and head out in our other bikes to explore other parts of the city.
Final Thoughts on Our Cargo Bike
Overall, we’re enjoying the cargo bike. I wish we had gotten one years ago! We’ve tried so many different ways of getting our kids onto bikes over the years. A cargo bike is a great option that will grow with them, while also allowing us more flexibility to get out as a family. And when they’re all riding on their own, I can use the cargo bike for groceries or beach toys or other cargo!
For more about our biking adventures, follow #tkmbikes on Instagram.