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Options for the perfect family bike

Posted by on July 25th, 2007 at 2:43 pm

My wife Juli is currently looking to outfit herself with a family bike and the options are staggering.

She’s been obsessed with looking at all the different bikes, child seats, trailers, trail-a-bikes, and other equipment. When you’ve got to run around town with two growing kids (one almost 2, the other 4 1/2) and whatever other stuff you’re hauling or picking up, there’s a lot to think about.

Finally, we’ve settled on a preferred alternative: an Xtracycle with a child seat mounted to Juli’s old mountain bike. You can see a photo of it at the bottom of this post.

If you’re looking for a new family bike, or just want to see what other folks are doing, check out these shots I dug up from my archives…

The classic “train” assembly (not me in the photo). The drawback to this is the cumbersome length.
(File photo)

This wild machine is a ZEM. It’s a four-wheeled, human powered sportscar (but I’ve heard it’s not so sporty).
(File photo)

Bike Friday makes foldable tandems and triples.
(File photo)

The Folz Family are legendary for their bikey-ness. They’ve taken this set-up (sans trailer) on a journey through Laos and Cambodia. Here they’re enjoying a bike move.
(File photo)

I really loved this option, but the cost was too much to handle and Juli felt small on it.
(File photo)

The ultimate solution? Perhaps. But we weren’t ready to invest in one just yet.
(File photo)

This is our current favorite option: an Xtracyle with a baby seat. It’s relatively cheap (especially if we use an existing bike), lightweight, and Juli likes how it rides.
(File photo)

Does your family have a “family bike”? If so, what’s your set-up?

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • tonyt July 25, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    Hey Jonanthan,

    The photo shows the Stokemonkey. Are you going with that option?

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  • Ayala July 25, 2007 at 3:05 pm

    Saw an interesting setup in Aloha a few weeks ago…recumbent tandem pulling a trailer. I had to do a double-take when I saw that!

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  • jeff July 25, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    So far, my family consists of myself, my fiance, and our furry four legged friend.

    I\’m considering some modifications to my BOB Yak that would hold the pup. Anyone every try anything like this? He\’s about 50 pounds, so not too big.

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  • pushkin July 25, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    These configurations are like smoking in a car full of kids with the windows up.

    A child seat is the most dangerous way of transporting a child with a bike, followed closely by the bakfiets. As for the latter, where are the kid\’s helmets? They won\’t be smiling long when all they can do is drool.

    In a child seat when you crash the kid crashes too and has further to fall due to their small size.

    A toddler on the handlebars and a small child on the back barely holding onto Mom\’s waist – are you kidding me? The Xtracycle configuration is just as brilliant.

    Stick with a Burley trailer; when you inevitably crash, as we all do, the trailer has a better chance of staying upright due to the coupling system.

    Get over these ridiculous Euro-bike fetishes and let your guide be child safety above all else.

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  • tonyt July 25, 2007 at 3:47 pm

    Hey Jeff,

    I tried the BOB Yak with my 50 lb dog and it didn\’t work so well. (I built a cage for it and everything)

    As a bit of background, I toured extensively with the BOB and am VERY comfortable with it, but found that it does not work so well with \”cargo\” that shifts and moves around. He\’d shift, and I\’d have to shift to compensate for it. I had to constantly be \”on\” and it wasn\’t a very enjoyable ride, I think for either of us.

    I would go with a Burley or a similar 2 wheeled trailer.

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  • jeff July 25, 2007 at 3:57 pm

    Thanks TonyT, that was my fear. I feel pretty comfortable tugging a lot of weight, but it makes sense that if the weight was shifting around I\’d have an issue.

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  • West Cougar July 25, 2007 at 4:03 pm


    Don\’t forget the adult trike pulling a team of Piccolo\’s. Unfortunately, I don\’t have a photo on-hand. I\’ll try to track one down… if anyone else knows of what I speak, please feel free to share a picture.

    Finally, I think it speaks to Portland\’s immense credit that there is such diversity of \”family\” bikes out there. Shows the community consists of more than 20-something hipsters and urban commuters.

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  • pushkin July 25, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    West Cougar –

    Not only do the above bikes demonstrate diversity in family bikes, they also show the diversity of intelligence in this town.

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  • janis July 25, 2007 at 4:32 pm

    So pushpin, what do you use when the kids get too big for the trailer but aren\’t strong enough to ride their own bikes for errands?

    The xtracycle is a great way to haul kids. Also, the Bike Friday tandems and triples work well because they can be used by adults and kids.


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  • pushkin July 25, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Janis –

    Child SAFETY is the issue here. If they get too big for the trailer and are not strong enough to ride their own bike then get a sitter or use a car or walk or whatever it takes to put their safety first.

    If you can\’t fit all the passengers in a car do you let the rest hang out the windows or stand on the bumper like they are in some third world country?

    \”The xtracycle is a great way to haul kids.\” Give me one compelling reason as to how that could be true, in the above picture where the kid is dangling off the back, at say 12mph.

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  • jj July 25, 2007 at 4:44 pm

    My dream setup would be a bike with the Bobike seat on the back pulling a trail-a-bike, but it\’s not doable as far as I can figure. I suppose I could get a front-mounted seat and then pull the trail-a-bike, but I\’d rather use the seat I\’ve already got. Has anyone gotten this configuration to work?

    So we\’re sticking with the Burley for now. I really wanted a bakfiets, but I can\’t justify the cost when the trailer and existing bike really do the job for us still. Plus as much as I love the bakfiets, I found it really really heavy and even not very steep hills were tough going.

    I also thought about the xtracycle + bobike seat setup, but when I put my 4 year old on the back of the test bike at Clever Cycles, he just looked too small and I didn\’t feel comfortable with him just holding on to the seat. He still falls asleep in the trailer and the seat from time to time, and I\’d hate to have him fall asleep on the snapdeck!

    Maybe in another year we\’ll switch over to the xtracycle, but for now, Burley it is.

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  • pjm July 25, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    My family recently purchased a Bakfiets with the extra front seat. My two year old son loves riding in it. My daughter is only 6 months, so we are going to wait to ride with her until she is at least one year. There is plenty of room for extra cargo. My son and I did a Home Depot run the other day and returned with 80 lbs of charcoal.

    Hey pushkin, get a life!

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  • misc. July 25, 2007 at 5:09 pm

    Child safety is fine, but don\’t make a cult religion out of it.

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  • tonyt July 25, 2007 at 5:10 pm


    Back off man. There are PLENTY of people riding around with kids on xtracycles and I haven\’t heard of ONE falling off.

    Give me one compelling real world example where something bad happened with an xtracycle that was due to the nature of the xtracycle.

    It\’s no different from a tandem, except the kid doesn\’t have to pedal.

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  • Andy July 25, 2007 at 5:15 pm

    I dunno about you, but I can\’t pedal an xtracycle up to 12mph with a couple of kids and some cargo in tow. 😉

    Don\’t get me wrong, I\’m all about being the safety zealot (you can ask my wife how many blinkies and reflective tape is on our stroller) and I\’ll be the first in line about the kids w/o helmets in the bakfiets.

    But having had more than my fair share of bike-related spills as a child, and having a little brother who fell out of a moving car (ah, the days before mandatory child restraints) there\’s only so much you can do to put your kids into a giant foam-lined ball.

    Not every family excursion involves braving down Lombard during rush hour. I think with the right circumstances, and with educating your children about bike safety, there\’s no reason why you can\’t enjoy a quite ride in something that doesn\’t involve airbags, ABS, and a roll cage. There are plenty of other things our kids can get hurt with, we have to teach them how to deal with them safely.

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  • Matthew July 25, 2007 at 5:28 pm

    pushikin, you are absolutely right, we need to do everything to keep children safe. We should lock them indoors in climate controlled rooms so that they don\’t get too hot or cold, with the curtains closed so that they don\’t get sunburned, and when they get bored, they can watch TV.

    And then when they turn 18, weigh 300 lbs, have diabetes, and no social skills, we should kick them out of the house, cause they aren\’t children anymore.

    (Or maybe skinning a knee now and then builds character.)

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  • Schnapper July 25, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    Hey Jonathan,

    Thanks for the post and sharing the photos. I was just thinking about contacting you to see what your family solution was and also explore other people\’s ideas. It is good to get dialogue going and see what other solutions people implement.

    We were at CleverCycles testing their bikes while you and your family were doing the same. We were there sans our 8 and 5 year old, however I am exploring options. Looks like you recently decided and good luck with that. Currently I make them pedal their own bikes, however I am nervous about winter. This was first winter I trained myself to handle the elements.

    I figured if I sold the car it would force me to decide:)


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  • patrick July 25, 2007 at 5:33 pm


    Better make sure those kids have their body armour on when they go to the play ground. Wouldn\’t want them falling off a swing or the monkey bars.

    I leaning toward believing your post was just to rile us all up, you can\’t be serious.

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  • Linda July 25, 2007 at 6:46 pm

    We use an Xtracycle with and without the child seat for our two children (7 and 3 years old). We never come close to having them fall and they never fall asleep on the back unless the 3 year old is in the child seat. I have friends who have completely rolled their Burley and the kids were pretty scraped up. I agree with the helmet argument though. Has Pushkin looked into the child mortality rates for children in cars…check it out. I\’m currently seven months pregnant so we are looking into the Bakfiet. For now we expect to do the Xtracycle with a trailer behind. I\’ve seen people use trailers with carseats in them for infants…anyone done this? We are planning on selling the car prior to number three\’s birth.

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  • Todd Boulanger July 25, 2007 at 6:57 pm

    Jonathan…do you want to borrow the bakfiets for a week? Before buying something else?

    Yes it is more money…but it will keep the kids drier in the winter than the Xtracycle. And easier to monitor their doings while rider vs. looking back into a trailer, etc.

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  • mommy July 25, 2007 at 7:33 pm

    \”If they get too big for the trailer and are not strong enough to ride their own bike then get a sitter or use a car or walk or whatever it takes to put their safety first. \”

    Here\’s another extremist view to counteract yours: Their safety won\’t be worth a whole lot when the whole world is swallowed up after the nuclear war that results from using up all the fossil fuel and not having found alternative fuel sources.

    I don\’t really believe that, but I think there needs to be a balance. Don\’t we want to teach kids that we can get by just fine without cars? Maybe some bike safety seats similar to car safety seats should be the next big thing in bicycling. But telling people to drive their car when the kids are at that in-between stage because of big huge what-ifs that are unlikely is pretty extremist in my opinion.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 25, 2007 at 8:26 pm


    We\’re actually borrowing a bakfiets from the Folz Family for the next week.

    I agree it is a great option, but it would cost 4-5x as much as the Xtracycle and some replacement parts.

    I\’m sure we\’ll own a bakfiets… someday. but for now, it\’s just not possible.

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  • SKiDmark July 25, 2007 at 8:43 pm

    As long as an Xtracycle has footboards, it is legal (and safe!) to carry a passenger. Some sort of handhold would be cool too, but bicycles don\’t accelerate the way a motorcycle does. I think a Bakfiet would be the safest, as the kids are on a seat with a seatbelt and fairly protected in that wooden tub, and they are in you line of sight.

    I don\’t think we can bash on 3rd world countries too hard as many of them have universal health care, and we don\’t.

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  • anonymously_k July 25, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    Not having kids, I don\’t have much at stake opinion-wise, but I like my xtracycle alot, so far. Before that I owned a bob trailer and would pull my menagerie around (cats in pet crates and and separatly a dog in a lidless rubbermaid tote secured to the bob.) She (dog) was a well behaved 40 pounder and loved going places like that. I never had the problems mentioned above such as weight shifts. The cats hated it, but if I had a car to drive them around in they probably would have hated that, too. So good luck to all y\’all hauling kids and other live cargo.

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  • rixtir July 25, 2007 at 9:20 pm

    Pushkin is absolutely right about safety, and there\’s nothing wrong with making those points, just like there\’s nothing wrong with telling somebody that a cable lock isn\’t as secure as a u-lock, or that a helmet may prevent head injury during a fall, or that a light will help drivers see you at night.

    In the end, if somebody chooses not to listen, that\’s there choice, and they pay the price if they make the wrong choice. If I were choosing a system for hauling kids around, I would choose to make child safety the prime factor, just like pushkin. My choice, because I don\’t like the alternative, just like I don\’t like the alternative of using cable locks, or falling without a helmet between my head and the pavement. Others may choose differently.

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  • SKiDmark July 25, 2007 at 11:50 pm

    Except that pushkin is forgetting that a car might wait for a bike to cross, and then being impatient and not expecting it to have a trailer, would run right over it. The Bakfiet is such an odd configuration that it demands attention, like a tallbike does, and an Xtracycle is barely longer than a regular bicycle. I bring up a tallbike because even though they are inherently dangerous, I have yet to have someone \”not see\” me.

    Riding a bike can be dangerous, period. Little kids get hit on their own bikes all the time. I bet parents with kids have been hit while pushing strollers or plain old being pedestrians, both of which to not require helmets. The common factor in all these scenarios is the car hitting the bike…hmm.

    I also think Jonathan would be a responsible enough parent to put helmets on his children if he purchased a bakfiet, and he wasn\’t riding six feet for a photo op.

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  • JV July 26, 2007 at 12:48 am

    Jonathan, our family has/is faced/facing the same issue. I think that choosing a family bike is so hard because those goobers insist on growing–incessantly. The ideal setup changes several times over the course of their first 10 years.

    Currently, ours are going-on-6 and 3.5. For short, relatively \”safe\” trips, our big girl rides her own bike. For longer stuff, my wife has the \”big rig\”: a beater hybrid with a kid seat on the back and a custom (genius) Ira Ryan rack modification that allows her to also tow a trail-a-bike. It works reasonably well, but there\’s way too much weight out back, so ballast in her front basket helps handling.

    I, too, am tempted by a bakfiets, but fear that the kids will outgrow it in a year or two.

    In any case, it\’s a fun problem to ponder; and fun to hear about others\’ solutions.

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  • mondofresh July 26, 2007 at 8:31 am

    Jonathan and Juli,

    You might consider a tag-a-long and a sidecar. Chariot makes a nice sidecar that attaches to the BB of your bike. I did daily bike commutes for 18 months with my son and we had a blast. We often towed our cargo trailer as well.

    The overall width and length of your rig is quite manageable. Also the handling is very predictable.

    I\’ve got my used one for sale on craigslist (shameless plug) if you are interested.

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  • tonyt July 26, 2007 at 9:54 am

    rixter you are right. there is nothing wrong with making safety points known. But there is something uncivil and unconstructive about immediately going for the insult. pushkin\’s unucalled for crack about intelligence was a direct insult to the many families, including Jonathan and Juli who are somehow able to safely navigate the bikey world with non-pushkin approved methods. Obviously they make it just fine.

    If safety is your primary concern, I suggest that once/if you have kids, you only ever drive a car.

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  • laney July 26, 2007 at 10:13 am

    HI Jeff,
    we haul our 60lb dog in a torker trailer. it didn\’t cost that much and she got used to it really quickly. it\’s a kid trailer so it is setup for movement and seals them in. we put a board in the bottom to make her sitting area flat. it also dubbles as great storage.

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  • Dan July 26, 2007 at 10:16 am

    is taking your kids in the car really all that much safer than taking them on a bike? In a car, speeds range from
    0-70+ just withing the city. With the added weight of a kid, how fast is the bike going? Do your kids wear helmets in the car?

    Motor vehicle crashes are the number 1 cause of death for children aged 2-14, according to a 2003 DOT study. If you\’re really concerned about child safety, you might want to get them out of the car and onto a bike.

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  • chelsea July 26, 2007 at 10:49 am

    tonyt, and everyone…i don\’t want to be rude, but thousands of people are killed a year in this country when inside of cars. they are not as safe and people feel or act in them.

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  • tonyt July 26, 2007 at 11:07 am

    Chelsea, you\’re not being rude. But the fact is that someone riding a bike in this country is 12 times more likely to be killed per passenger mile than someone driving a car. It is better in some cities than others and I\’d imagine Portland, where drivers are accustomed to seeing bikes, it is safer. Obviously \”passenger mile\” is a statistic with its own limitations, but it does give you some sense of what\’s going on.

    I just read that statistic, I believe in was in \”Deep Economy.\” I\’ll try to find out and confirm it.

    No one said cars are safe, but if your primary concern is safety, then cars would be the safer way to go.

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  • tonyt July 26, 2007 at 11:13 am

    Go to here

    and scroll to \”5.3 Bicycle Safety (Accidents)\”

    The DOT statistic puts the 2005 fatality rate at 10 times more likely. Not the same as what I mentioned above, but that\’s pretty close.

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  • rixtir July 26, 2007 at 5:06 pm

    If safety is your primary concern, I suggest that once/if you have kids, you only ever drive a car.

    What I meant, and it should be obvious in the context of this thread, is that when choosing a system for hauling kids around by bicycle, my primary concern would be safety, rather than style.

    That would mean choosing the means that keeps the children (and we\’re really talking about toddlers and young children here) safest, from among a range of choices.

    And I think in the context of his thread– a thread about choosing a means to haul children around by bicycle, on a bicycle website– it\’s important to talk about all of the issues involved, including which methods are safest, and which methods are least safe.

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  • Kyrstin Westwind July 26, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    We have 2 \”family bikes\” an Xtracycle w/stoker handlebars, and a bike/trail-a-bike combo
    For the most part, and for most situations, I prefer the Xtracycle. The long, rugged \’snap deck\’ (seat) it is far and away the safest version of cycling with young children that I can imagine (any child old enough to be riding a bike). Having my son seated right up behind me, rather than being towed a yard behind the bike, is more secure, and allows for more maneuverability and quick reactions. Adding stoker handlebars to my seat post gives my son something solid to hold onto, and doubles as a place to tie down loads on bike moves.
    The Xtracycle frame offers lots of places to mount lights, reflectors, and reflective tape, making us that much more visible, and the wider profile of the frame seems to add to the space motorists give us as they pass.
    The cargo capacity allows me to carry up to 6 bags of groceries, along with the kid. Even fully loaded, the bike feels quick and nimble (I suppose this might be somewhat variable, depending on the bike you use) and the elongated wheel base makes for a very sweet ride. I also like the fact that the Xtracycle will never be outgrown (I have carried adults on it) and it has a myriad of uses beyond carrying kids (like transporting bike powered smoothie gear!) I think your wife will really enjoy this option, our family gives it two thumbs up!

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  • Martha S. July 26, 2007 at 9:23 pm

    While I can understand your safety concerns pushkin, I think you\’re taking them too far. Every time I\’ve ever had a close call it has been while riding on a busier street with no cargo and no passengers. When I\’m carrying cargo I\’m far more careful than when I\’m not, and I care a lot more about a kid than my groceries. Is there the possibility of a crash even if you ride carefully and primarily on bike boulevards? Yes. Is it likely? No, honestly, I don\’t think it is. Besides, if the situation ever feels too dangerous for the kids you can always walk on the sidewalk. It might not always be convenient, but it\’s better than loosing a little one.

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  • Val July 27, 2007 at 9:51 am

    A very interesting link, there, tonyt. It seems, very reasonably, to indicate that bicycles will not actually save any energy or provide any reasonable solution to any transportation problems, and that they are, in fact, ten times more dangerous than cars. I\’m sure that all of us have a wealth of personal experience that will bear out all of those implied conclusions. For a more thorough look at various statistics about cycling safety, try: Many of the same figures are examined, but with a deeper context, and in comparison with some other interesting figures, which may help to give a bit of perspective.

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  • tonyt July 27, 2007 at 10:25 am

    Hey Val,

    I hope you\’re not suggesting that because I pointed out that ONE statistic that I\’m somehow guilty of endorsing that litany of supposed shortcomings.

    It would be unfortunate if we in the pro-bike camp could only refer to statistics that make us happy.

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  • Val July 27, 2007 at 11:45 am

    tonyt: Not intending to suggest anything about what you endorse, just not willing to blythely accept an implication that cyclists are ten times as likely to suffer fatalaties as drivers of cars. As further examination demonstrates, valuations such as this tend to be quite fluid and open to a wide variety of interpretations. If it were truly and categorically that grim, we would all have to be insane to even think of encouraging anyone to try it, much less teaching children how. I personally feel much safer on my bike than in a car, but that\’s just a personal impression, based on various crashes with both types of vehicles, and memories of freinds who have died.

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  • Heather July 27, 2007 at 2:49 pm

    Thanks for this great post! This is something I\’ve been struggling with for awhile — how one adult can bike with a 5 and 3 year old. I\’m curious about JV\’s custom kid-seat/tagalong set-up — maybe more info, JV? That sounds ideal to me. I live in SW, so the hills are a big challenge (as well as limited bike lanes). I think a visit to Clever Cycles is finally in order.

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  • true July 27, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Returning to the original question, we use the burley trailer for our three year old plus cargo, and I like it more than anything else I\’ve tried. I borrowed an extracycle set-up and didn\’t like it that much, and child seats mounted on the bike feel way too top heavy for my comfort. I also tried out a family tandem and it felt awkward, but I think that was just from our inexperience – their soooo expensive though. The bakfiets looks fun but way too heavy and cumbersome for me and the hilly commute.

    The burley feels safest to me, is most versatile, and the best thing is that it comes off, so it makes it easy to drop the kid off at daycare or a friend\’s house and leave the trailer there, reattaching it easily when picking up. Yay burley!

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  • bakfietslover July 27, 2007 at 5:42 pm

    Here are some thoughts- A few years ago we started with a chariot carrier single seat trailer and ended up using it more as a stroller than a trailer. It worked good as a trailer but couldn\’t cary much more than the single kid. Not too long ago we got a used xtracycle and added the bobike maxi kids seat. This works great and my wife and I can both ride it. If you stop the bike when fully loaded, it is a bit top heavy, but not while riding. About a 2 months ago we took a bakfiets for a 4 hour test ride and rode up the clinton bike route to approx 58th (a good hill for both of us to test it on). It is slower, and heavier than the xtra, but after much discussion we ended up buying one. Here are a few things to think about with the bakfiets vs. xtacycle
    1. we can see the load and talk with the passengers much easier than with the trailer or xtracycle.
    2. the rain cover keeps the kids/load dry
    3. simple design- hub generated lights, fully enclosed gears/chain, and built in rear wheel lock (not a perfect lock but a good deterant for short stops).
    When we ride as a family, one of us usually rides the bak and the other rides the xtra. We can trade bikes when we want even though I\’m nearly 6 ft and my wife is 5\’6\”.
    Just my .02

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  • Phil July 27, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    The Bakfiets is for me – for sure!

    Take my word for it – I have had a lot of time to compair the two.

    I really prefer the handling of a Back compared to a trailer. The Back rides and responds like any other bike. Plus – you can see the cargo (kid or no kid) without having to tak your eyes off the road to see what is going on behind in the trailer.

    When I do use my trailer now – I really notice how it pushes or pulls my bike under a heavy load -something I never really seemed to notice before.

    I suggest heading over to Rick\’s Bakfietsen blog if you want the lowdown on what it is like to own a Back in Portland, Oregon.

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  • true July 28, 2007 at 11:15 am

    I love my trailer, but after hearing all of the bak-lovin I\’ll keep an open mind and try one when I can. We have another kid on the way and that might be a good way to take both kids.

    How early do folks put their kids on bikes? I ran some errands with my daughter when she was almost one, but didn\’t feel very comfortable on slightly longer rides until she was closer to two.

    Do people put car seats in their trailers or baks?

    Is it just smarter to wait until the baby is older and stronger before bike rides?

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  • West Cougar August 1, 2007 at 3:21 pm

    Here\’s a picture of the bike I was referring to in post #7.

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  • jj August 1, 2007 at 11:12 pm

    True, I put my 5 month old in the Burley last summer, rear-facing in his carseat, with the blessings of our pediatrician. I stuck to the side streets and tried to avoid obvious bumps. And this wasn\’t for long rides, just to/from preschool and the pool (4-ish miles roundtrip).

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  • morganelene August 2, 2007 at 12:56 am

    We have had several incarnations of family bikes. First we tried an Organic Engines S.U.V. trike (basically a recumbent pedicab), which can take over 500 lbs of cargo/passengers. I strapped my infant son\’s carseat to it, and there was plenty of room for both my other son and my partner. However, that setup was too wide to go on main streets, and too heavy to go far. Now (several years later) we use a tandem with a recumbent trailer bike attached, which is lighter and more maneuverable but suffers in cargo space. However, I just tried an Xtracycle (two 12 mile rides) and was really impressed. It was much easier to get up the hills than our tandem setup, and has more room for groceries, etc…It would also be nice to have an alternate way to get the boys places when they are too tired/just don\’t want to pedal. Especially with a stokemonkey, the Xtracycle could be our \”just get there\” vehicle. I\’ll have to start saving my pennies 🙂

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  • JayS. August 2, 2007 at 10:33 am

    Sorry I didn\’t post sooner I was out of town. I was doing the 14 foot long train (my bike,adams trail a bike, burly trailer) when my daughter started kindergarten four miles away that meant crossing I-84 at 21st or 28th, Sandy, gliesan, burnside…. I stick to side streets and Bike blvds as much as possible but some of the higher trafficed poorley marked bike lanes are just unavoidable. With that train l could do it but it was no fun. I also still can\’t envision the time when my oldest can ride to school on her own. It is important to me that my children learn about safe riding and get some of that excercise while we are out.

    I don\’t have the cash for a bike fiet and don\’t see it as a long term solution ( when the time comes I\’m not pushing an eight and five year old across town and up and down hills without there help). I don\’t see the extra cycle being a long term solution for the same reasons.

    A side car crossing bridges with disappearing bike lanes? No thanks!!

    I purchased a Bike Friday FAmily Tandem last fall and we love it. One of the main reasons I purchased it is the long term usability. The stoker seat is good for adults or children (36\” tall and up). My oldest (5 when we bought the bike) has learned hand signals and traffic safety by watching me and asking questions. She also makes a great stoker when I Iet her know we need an extra bit of power.

    At first I hooked the burley on back for my youngest (2 when we purchased) but once I was comfortable I went for it and dropped another three or four feet of length and added a child seat. It works nicely though it is top heavy … only an issue at stop start and low speed. If I was a smaller person I might not be comfortable with that situation. Brompton makes an accesory to have a child seat between your arms … that would be a great improvement for my bike. When my son is to big for the child seat I have a piccolo that we got off craigs list. (we sold the Adam\’s) When my oldest graduates to her own bike for commuting my youngest will move to the stoker position. When everyone is a safe commuter… my wife and I will be able to enjoy our bicycle built for two.

    At half the cost of a bikefiet and much longer life as a functional family vehicle than the bikefiet or extracycle, I see my BFFT as the best choice for my family. We can still throw the trailer on for friends and groceries too.

    If we rarely commuted more than two miles from home I would probably be happy with the extracycle for a couple years but our world just doesn\’t work that way. If anyone wants to try or talk more about Bike Friday FAmily Tandem please be in touch with me.


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  • Richard Wilson August 3, 2007 at 11:01 am

    I started with a Chariot trailer like bakfietslover did, and while I agree that by design it may be slightly safer than a bakfiets, I would be reluctant to go back to a trailer having had a bakfiets for nearly a year now.

    There are lots of great options for hauling kids by bike these days, but I find the most important aspect of why the bakfiets works so well for me is what I would call the \”conviviality\” factor (with nod to Todd Fahrner for reviving and Ivan Illich for defining the term in this context).

    I think the bakfiets does 3 things astoundingly well:

    1) It builds and strengthens your relationship with your child

    You can easily carry on a conversation with your child as you roll along. You can point things out, he can point things out to you. You can sing songs and teach him the names of things and stop to look more closely at whatever you want. You don\’t drag your child passively (if safely) along – you constantly interact and share the world with them. A couple hours out on the bakfiets each day gives us more shared experiences and brings us much closer together and we talk about things we see together on the bike long afterwards.

    2) It allows your child(ren) to more intimately observe, interact and connect with your city and community

    In the bakfiets your child sits up high, has a good view of everything in front of him, and people passing by can see him as well – he\’s out in the neighborhood, not sitting down low behind you obscured by tinted windows and fabric. Children can spend a lot more time riding in this position than strapped down in a trailer, so your outings can last much longer. We watch trains go by and wave at the conductor, stop in the middle of the bridge to look down at passing boats, spot and discuss the geese, squirrels or pigeons passing in our wake. My son knows this city inside out, is daily exposed closehand to a wide variety of its sites and people. It\’s _his_ city.

    3) It lowers barriers and allows your community to interact with you and your child

    Though I\’m sure this is partly due to its recent appearance in the US market and the sheer novelty of its design, the bakfiets is an icebreaker. People roll down their windows and talk to you at stop lights, rough looking guys on Harleys smile and chat with your kid, folks come up to you at farmers markets and stop you at parks and coffee shops. People who don\’t normally ride or think about bikes want to know more… People out walking that normally wouldn\’t give you a second look smile and wave. Other kids want a ride. The bike creates it\’s own atmosphere of friendliness, good will and curiosity wherever you go and has deeply changed our relationship with our community – we are part of it like never before. Having my child have a chance to see his community open up like that for a several hours each week has immeasurable value.

    Safety is all well and good and I respect anyone who puts it at the forefront of their decision. For me, choosing quiet streets, avoiding bad intersections, riding more slowly, more defensively, more alertly, more patiently and not taking unecessary risks far outweighs the incremental risk reduction of picking the statistically safest family bike. There are many places outside my comfort zone where I just won\’t take kids on the bike. If you are reasonable cautious and take more of a flaneur\’s approach to family cycling there is still an amazing amount of wonderful things out there to share with your kids on a bike in Portland.

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  • car free with a child August 4, 2007 at 9:03 pm

    I live in chicago and we are a bike family. These photos are awesome and bring a tear to my eye.
    As for child trailers we have a Chariot and LOVE it.
    Is anyone else sporting a Chariot?
    Next time you are in the market for a new Burly please check out the Chariots. I have the single cougar and ride on city streets, downtown chicago anywhere I need to go.
    Oh yeah Pushpin for you to suggest putting the child in a car over a bike..shhh I pity the fool.

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  • Aaron Goss August 5, 2007 at 7:14 pm

    I have a Bakfiets (that is the singular form of the work, Bakfietsen is plural) with a Stoke Monkey. I must say that for Seattle\’s terrain it really makes in nice. In Portland, not as necessary…..unless you live in the West Hills, but then you drive an SUV, right? Just Kidding.

    Anyway, I am working with Todd on the safety and mounting challenges. It is not available as an option yet……

    I am going to put an Xtracycle Free Radical on my Backfiets and test that out.

    Check my website for news later in the fall.

    Until then save your pennies!

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  • Reese November 11, 2007 at 3:26 pm

    Its nearing mid november out here on the east coast, and the icy pittsburgh winters tend to be pretty car-unfriendly, let alone suitable for bikes, or even foot traffic.Ever since I got the chariot I have been weary of people being oblivious to its presence. I am considering an xtracycle, and havent heard of a backfiets until now. I have never had problems with my chariot tipping over, and the shocks are wonderful for hauling a sleeping child. The drawback is that I still carry weight on my back because there is barely any room for cargo,and of course having him so far away.Also, I get laughed,gawked, and pointed at pretty regularly with the chariot attached, whereas when people could see my child, they oooed and aahed at the ingenuity of my unbalanced, shoddy backyard bike. I am concerned about weight, I am a small woman of about 5\’3 and 130 lbs and I wonder about the tipping point with the xtra? Also, I\’m tired of peddling this 75 lb load, but I can\’t dish out 1300 for a stoke monkey, are there other reliable motors that I can test out for a while? I saw some on ebay, but I have no idea of thier reliability. Can a motor be mounted to the bakfiets?

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  • Metal Cowboy November 11, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    reese = why do thy laugh at the chariot -I pulled one with kid in it across america and again across canada and every seemed to know there was a child in there – also – which cahriot – the cougar 2 has a ton of space – joe metal cowboy kurmaskie

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  • Crystal February 1, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    I\’m sure that poor pushpin is no longer reading responses, but even I couldn\’t help but respond. I am also looking for a way to carry my two kids (14 months and 4 1/2) on one bike. I don\’t feel that a trailer is as safe as having them on the bike with me. It is down too low and also, I want them to have fun as well. I also feel that since I have had children, I don\’t feel like a car is especially safe. I\’m trying to be nice, but felt like pushpin\’s comments on child safety are ridiculous. I recently read an article about the fact that there are fewer child \”accidents\” these days, but at the same time, much more childhood obesity and not as many kids playing outside. Give me some scrapes and bruises any day.

    We are looking at the extracycle. The Bakfiets is very interesting as well. We live at the top of a pretty good hill, so it looks too heavy for our use.

    Great website!!!

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  • Albert February 13, 2008 at 6:55 pm

    Wow, great discussion. This is exactly the kind of input I\’ve been looking for. I\’m planning on converting my old mtb to an xtracycle + ibert + bobike maxi to carry my 2 kids (1 & 4 years) and wife(?).

    But I must say I have the same concerns as pushpin. I\’ve seen crazy drivers around my area so it is definitely a concern. I\’ve been charting courses around using neighborhood roads, and trying to stay away from 45 mph roads and roads with heavy street parking.

    It\’s too bad this country isn\’t more bike friendly.

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  • […] we’d already got a trailer and a Wee-Ride, but I was reading this post aty Bike Portland on options for families that want to bike. Buried in the comments section was a comment by Richard Wilson, who writes the excellent Bakfiets […]

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  • Duncan May 19, 2008 at 6:13 pm

    This thread highlights the need for a bakfiets-style bike that is within the range of more folks. I wouldnt mind laying down some bread, but 3K? Thats a lot of dough, especially as no bike is going to let me get rid of my car all together.

    Also I have my own issues with bakfiets- To me all the bells and whistles (chain gaurds, internal gearing hub generators) arent my thing.. Id much rather have a bike bucket based on a commuter frame with open gears (and more than three of them). There is also my height and the \”one size fits nearly all\” of bakfiets.

    That was part of the reason that I was so interested in the local builders who were building their own US-style Bakfiets. Any news on that?

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  • Carrie March 19, 2009 at 12:07 am

    Just found this thread and wanted to add that I saw some other family cargo bike options at the Seattle Bike Expo last weekend. There is a Metrofiets (which I believe is made in Portland and ppl probably already know about?) but also the Madsen, which has the bucket on the back. I tried that one out and liked it a lot! And I think something called a Joe Bike? Things were closing down by the time we got to that area!

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  • Jeff March 19, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Ever heard of the Madsen Cargo bike? Check it out.

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  • Julian July 1, 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Great article and lively thread. For a recent rundown of family cycling options (and plenty more Euro-bike fetish gear), see:

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  • Julie September 22, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Anyone seen an adult tricycle with a child’s seat above rear basket?

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  • Gabrielle October 15, 2009 at 11:59 pm

    Julie: While doing some research, trying to figure out if I’m ready to hit the Portland streets (and hills) on a bike w/2 little kids on board, I found this while googling family bikes:

    It’s actually an *electric* tricycle that can hold a child or adult above the back wheels. And, it’s on a Taiwan wholesale website, but maybe someone here in Portland (or at least in the US) knows about similar types.

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