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Riding with kids: Which bike set-ups work best? [Updated]

Posted by on April 15th, 2008 at 2:16 pm

[Note: This article was written by BikePortland.org’s Carfree Families columnist Marion Rice.]

The Folz family (Allan, Carie and Cody) used their tandem/child-seat/trailer combo to participate in a bike move last summer.
(All photos © J. Maus)

There are many different bike set-ups that will get you around town with kids. In fact, there are so many it can be downright confusing and overwhelming just to wade through all the choices.

It’s easy when your kids are young. But as they grow, they want more independence and it gets a bit trickier to find just the right family biking solution.

To help you find what works best for you and your little ones, I’ve pulled together some information and links on a few of the most popular options…

1) Your Own Bike and 1 or 2 Child Seats

The ladies of the Maus family test riding a Dutch “Opa” last summer. In this case, my daughter Eleni (age 4 1/2 at the time) sat on the back rack (not in a child seat).

Cost: $300-$450.00

Bikes at Earth Day

Child seats work well for little ones.

Description:
If you already own a sturdy bike and your children are 1-3 years old, attaching a child seat (or two) might be a great solution. Traditional child seats attach to the rear rack of the bike and can carry up to 70 lbs. There are also seats available that attach to the front of your bike (and put your child between the handlebars and your arms). These front seats can usually carry kids weighing up to 33 lbs.

Review:
Child seats are a solid option for carrying kids, but they’re not so great for taking stuff along at the same time. They also raise the center of gravity of your bike which can compromise handling and make it hard to dismount (unless you’ve got a “step-through” style frame).

If you don’t already own a bike, and want to find a good one for adding child seats, take a look at some of the Dutch bikes available at Clever Cycles — they’re strong, sturdy and have that “step through” design that makes dismounts and general handling of the bike much easier.

Suggested Child Seat Manufacturers:

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2) Xtracycle Conversion with a Child Seat on Your Existing Bike

Fully loaded with two kids and lots of stuff. This photo shows an old Specialized mountain bike with an Xtracycle conversion and a BoBike child seat (imported from Europe and purchased at Clever Cycles).

Cost: $600.00-$700.00
Description:
An Xtracycle is a kit that extends the wheelbase of a bike, adding an elongated back rack (a “snap deck”) and improving how the bike handles with heavier loads. It allows you to carry one or two children (ages 5 and up) on the long rear rack and, if carrying just one child on the rack, there’s enough room to install a child seat. In addition to your kid(s), you can also carry up to 4 bags of groceries or other stuff in the side bags it comes with.

Walk and Bike to School Day

Review:
This is the ultimate set-up for going places with your kids and for being able to transport a heck of a lot of stuff at the same time. I currently use this configuration and have found it to work great. If you want to use your existing bike, I suggest having a custom-built rear wheel that will allow you to carry more weight (the one your existing bike was probably not built for the amount of weight you can carry with the Xtracycle).

If you’re thinking of going this route, you may want to invest in some better than average brakes (maybe even “roller” or “disc” brakes). Also keep in mind that the Xtracycle kit works much better with mountain-bikes and cruiser/hybrids as opposed to “10-speed” style bikes. If you need a new bike, you may want to check out a bike that comes with the Xtracycle already installed. Clever Cycles has a few built up, and Xtracycle.com sells them ready-to-go and already installed with a few different types of bikes.

Suggested Resources:

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3) Add a Bike Trailer to Your Bike
Cost: $300.00-700.00

Family riding in the snow

Protection from the elements is one reason
to use a trailer.

Description:
A bike trailer attaches to your bike and is towed behind. You can take 1-2 kids in a trailer, as well as toys, books and other stuff.

Review:
This is the option many parents choose. Parents have told me they like trailers because their child is close to the ground, protected from the elements, they don’t throw stuff out of the trailer (usually), it is very easy to maneuver, and kids can sleep comfortably.

Some parents take babies in trailers by fitting their car seat inside the trailer. That’s a decision you should make after consideration of all the issues and determine what’s right for you and your family.

One downside to trailers is that it’s hard to talk to or hear your child if they are crying or need something. A good idea is to invest in an easy to use walkie-talkie with a headset.

Suggested Resources:

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4) The Dutch Solution: A Bakfiets

Available with a rain-cover, the bakfiets will keep your kiddies dry (and they’re lots of fun to ride!).

Cost: $3000.00

Sauvie Island Strawberry Ride

Communication with your kids
is easy with a bakfiets.

Description:
(Pronounced bahk-feets. Plural is “bakfietsen”)
A bakfiets, Dutch for “box bike”, can carry up to four children. Kids and cargo can be thrown in the generous front box. In its original configuration, it seats two kids – both with a two-point seat belt. An additional bench can be added to the box for a third child and the back rack can accommodate an additional child seat.

Review:
This is such a cool human-powered vehicle. The cargo and kid capacity just can’t be beat. Riders need to get used to the front wheel being several feet ahead which makes steering and turning a bit challenging in the beginning but fine once you get used to it. A great rain cover (available as an option) keeps kids and gear dry in wet weather.

Suggested Resources:

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5) Add on a Tag-Along Bike

Overlook neighborhood resident Olivia Rebanal and her daughter Ophelia enjoyed a ride on their tag-along during a camping trip to Fort Stevens last summer.

Cost: $100.00-$300.00
Description:
A tag-along (a.k.a. trailer cycle or trail-a-bike) is a third wheel with handlebars that attaches to your bike, usually on the bike seat stem or to the back rack.

Review:
This option really only works for an older child (ages 4 and up) who is strong enough to hold onto the handles, pedal, and not fall asleep while riding. Tag-alongs are great because kids feel like they’re riding a real bike but you have the security of knowing they aren’t going to veer off where they could get hurt.

You can also easily take it on-and-off your bike when you don’t need it. A tag-along bike can easily be added to many other bike set-ups described, but it just makes your bike really long (we like to call them family taxis or family trains!).

Suggested Resources:

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6) Family Tandems

This family, seen on the 2006 Pedalpalooza Kickoff Parade, added a child seat to their Bike Friday tandem.

Cost: $1350-$7000.00

Description:
There are a tandems built for two, three and four riders. With some tandems the adult rides in back and with others, the adult rides in front.

Review:
This option is great for families with mostly older kids (4+) or only one child under 4 and families that generally travel to the same vicinity when commuting.

Suggested Tandem Resources:

__________

7) New on the Scene: The Madsen

On test- The Madsen Urban Utility Bicycle-4

The Madsen provides a comfy, sturdy ride. (Photo © J. Maus)

Cost: $1300.00

Description:
This is a cargo utility bike with a bucket on the back that can hold up to 600lbs. The bucket comes with a bench seat and two seat belts. Load the kids and a bunch of groceries in the bucket and you are on your way too and from school or around town. A rain cover is not available yet but in the works.

Review:
The Madsen is a wonderful option for families with up to four kids, ages 2 and up. Depending on how you load it, you could even figure out a way to take the dog along. The Madsen is a surprisingly stable ride fully loaded and the gear spread is sufficient to get around Portland even on tough hills. For the price, this is a very versatile option.

Suggested Madsen Resources:

__________

8) Another New Cool Thing on the Scene: The FollowMe

On test- Follow-me Tandem-1

Cost: $399.00

Description:
The FollowMe is a new product designed to help parents bridge the transition period between when a child needs to be toted around on someone else’s bike and when they’re able to ride independently anywhere and everywhere. It’s a device that attaches to the back of an adult’s bike and can be folded out to hitch onto a kid’s bike’s front wheel — and both adult and child can ride off together, with or without the kid pedaling along.

Review:
The FollowMe offers a perfect solution to transitional challenges for young riders. My son can ride his own bike alongside his dad on quiet streets, and then ride attached to dad for trickier stretches. The FollowMe with my son’s bike on board feels very stable and securely connected. It is about the same weight as a tag along. Without the kid’s bike, and with the arm and strut folded up onto the rack, my bike felt just like it always does. We reviewed this set-up here.

Suggested FollowMe Resources:

    http://www.followme-tandem.com/english/index.htm
    http://www.clevercycles.com
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As with many things, there are pros and cons to all of these choices. The best way to figure out what’s right for you is to visit some of the great local bike shops we have, do some research, and of course ask people you know or see riding. You can also find great deals on used gear online and at used shops or yard sales.

And remember, in the end, the most important thing is to just get out there and enjoy the ride!

If you have feedback or questions, please share them in the comments below.

You might also be interested in BikePortland.org’s Family Riding Photo Gallery and in the Family Riding story archives.

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. Thank you — Jonathan

72 Comments
  • catoregon April 16, 2008 at 9:43 am

    And Of course, there are the Oregon-made cargo/family bikes…

    http://www.catoregon.org/hpm/longhaul4kids.htm

    ======
    Thanks, I\’ve added that link! — Editor

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  • Mark C April 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

    For our daughter, we started with the seat on the rear rack, then the trailer, and now for the past couple of years, the tag-along (she just turned seven). We live in the Grant Park/Hollywood area, and when we\’re riding around here she rides her own bike, which she prefers. When we head farther away like downtown she\’s on the tag-along. We have the Burley Piccolo, which is great, and I\’m glad to see they\’re selling them again.

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  • Steve (not steve!!) April 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

    I just recently picked up an Adams tandem trail-a-bike and my 5 and 3 1/2 year old love it. The handling is not great, but not any worse than the single trail-a-bikes, and I have yet to attach the Chariot to it (for the dog). We\’ll have to see how long that \”crazy train\” (the name my kids call the set-up) is.

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  • tonyt April 16, 2008 at 10:10 am

    The mounting system for the Burley Piccolo (they are making them again, yea!), is much more solid than the Adams\’ etc. The rack mount system eliminates the \”tilt to the side\” issue that you often see with the seatpost mounted systems.

    Some friends just recently got out with theirs for the first time and thought it handled great.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) April 16, 2008 at 10:11 am

    I agree with others that the Burley Piccolo is a far superior product than any others I\’ve seen… and I think it\’s also more money, but you get what you pay for.

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  • MikeOnBike April 16, 2008 at 10:18 am

    The Surly \’Big Dummy\’ is also an option for the Xtracycle approach.

    http://www.surlybikes.com/bigdummy.html

    Most bike shops can build one up for you.

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  • mbsf April 16, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Hi Mike,
    unfortunately you can\’t install a kid seat without special rigging on the back of the Big Dummy — so it\’s only for the 5-year up crowd!

    Special rigging:
    – customization of Peapod/Bobike maxi clamp
    – attachment of Toepeak seat directly on the snap deck.

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  • Marion rice April 16, 2008 at 11:08 am

    Great comments everyone. Oh, also don\’t forget that you really need to have the \”footsies\” to have passengers on the snap deck of your Xtracycle… It\’s much safer for the passenger to be able to hold on and balance with their feet.
    http://www.xtracycle.com/accessories.php?subnav=sub#footsies

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  • Steve (not steve!!) April 16, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Definitely footsies for non-pedalers, I still have the scars from getting my left foot in the spokes of my mom\’s bike and the subsequent skin grafts !!

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  • Mmann April 16, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Great post and discussion. The latest issue of Momentum magazine (also available online) has an article on Longtails and discusses the XtraCycle and Big Dummy. One thing they point out that\’s good to keep in mind about many of these options – they can\’t fit on Max or a bus rack, and are hard to park. And don\’t even get me started about trying to get an XtraCycle down the basement stairs…

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  • Marion April 16, 2008 at 11:33 am

    Thanks Mmann,
    I have in a pinch taken my Xtracycle on the Max. It was the only way I could get home with my daughter and a flat tire. You really can\’t change a flat tire with a toddler in tow. I wouldn\’t make a habit of it, but in an emergency it definitely worked.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 16, 2008 at 11:46 am

    I agree that the burley piccolo is the way to go over the Adams. I\’ve used it for two continental crossings and it is solid, no play in the connection and it allows for a much more stable ride especially when carrying lots of gear ( which what family doesn\’t carry a bunch of crap along even on commuting around town rides) The Burley really allows you to add a toddler trailerr such as the chariot cougar or others to the mix and carry that second or third child. I would also add that if you want to put an older child 8years or up, onto a tandem as I did on this past trek across Canada, you don\’t need a kickback second chainring adaptor – they have these pedal shorters – i\’ll try to upload a photo or just go to my image gallery on metalcowboy.com and see for yourself. It\’s basically this fast easy way to connect a triangle piece of metal with three threaded holes in it to the existing crankarms – then you put any pedals you want in there with three different heights for your child. It\’s great b/c they work with you as the child grows and they can come off in 30 seconds if you want to let an adult be the stoker.

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  • mondofresh April 16, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    One other option is the Side Carrier from Chariot. My son and I did a 5 mile bike to day care when he was 3 and 4 years old and the side carrier worked great. Best for smaller kids and MTB frame works best. The same high quality as the Chariot trailers. We ended up selling it to another PDX family.

    The only problem with the Side Carrier is that we got so much attention whenever we were out and about. But hey, we got to meet lots of people…

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  • toast April 16, 2008 at 12:48 pm

    We have a bakfiets for our two boys (age 5 and 2) and it\’s great. The older one prefers the tagalong as it\’s a bit more \’interactive\’, but he sits in the bakfiets without too much whining.

    The bakfiets is great for being able to just toss stuff into the box without having to worry about panniers or tying stuff down. It also can hold a dog in front of the kids for those entire family outings.

    The only downsides to the bakfiets are the steep price and the weight. An unladen bakfiets is something like 80lbs, and definitely lets you feel it going up hills.

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  • jon April 16, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    we just (5 days ago!) had our second daughter. am looking (kinda far) into the future and pondering carrying 2 kids (3 yrs apart in age). so great article.

    we have a trailer now, which is great for cargo + kid. might try to get a bigger one and see if we can get a car seat in there. maybe. (or just chill on getting the little one on a bike!)

    i have to admit, my pocketbook is what is keeping me from the $1000+ solutions. they all seem great as reviewed, but a $100 used burley versus 30+ times as much for family bikes? um. sorry, we need to eat too… we would have no money to buy the groceries we want to carry! ha

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  • todd April 16, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    tiny correction: the \”KidzTandem\” is $1850, not the $3K starting price indicated for kid-appropriate tandems. Clever Cycles has \’em.

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  • Sam HIll April 16, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    to me, box bikes and the other expensive options only start to make sense if you are a dedicated lifelong carfeeist AND you have a consistent need to move cargo around. because the kids will grow up and start riding their own bikes and if you don\’t have some new need to move cargo around you\’ll be riding around with an empty box on your bike and that doesn\’t make any sense.

    as jon said trailers work well enough and they are very affordable (used) and they don\’t require a new bike.

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  • JayS. April 16, 2008 at 3:05 pm

    Child Seats: are easy to find used. As a matter of fact in the last 24 hours I have seen three in free piles on my commute. Just make sure you have all the parts. In my experience most companies will send you anything that is missing.

    Xtra cycle/ tag-along: I don\’t know how you came up with your age recommendations but as I see it these options really only works for a child who is strong enough to hold onto the handles, keep their feet on the pedals or footsies, and not fall asleep while riding,regardless of age. One drawback of tag-alongs is that they are not compatible with rear fitting child seats.

    Trailers: are highly functional until your children outgrow it. Then it is highly functional for cargo.

    Baikfiets/Brown Cycles Kidz Tandem
    In our city your child or cargo will be well into the lane before you, the \”driver\”, can safely see into traffic. Especially if you ride low traffic streets and cross busy roads. Perhaps in Amsterdam where bike infrastructure is a long way beyond ours this is less of an issue.

    Tandems: Bike Friday Family Tandem only costs $1395. Less than half what you suggest. If you get the Kids package(smaller seat, pedal shortener, handlebar extensions)I think it adds $100. Brown lists the Kidz Tandem at $1850. The Bike Friday triple starts at $2899. For our family the cost of the Bike Friday Family Tandem is about what a year and a half of school commutes would have cost at fall 2006 gas prices. Many tandems can also be outfitted with child seats or tag-alongs.

    Sam, if you can keep your kid or kids in a trailer or tag-along and make it work for you more power to you. I will not be ready to let my children ride across town on there own bike just because they can ride to the closest park.

    Thanks so much for writing this article.

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  • Peter April 16, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    we got a front seat for our one-and-a-half year old last year, and he loved it. so did we. we had a rear child seat previously, but getting on and off the bike was awful, as we don\’t have a bike with a \”step-thru\” frame, as you suggest.

    only problem with the front seat is that my knees have to splay outwards to not hit it! any idea where i can get extra-wide pedals? i tried to make some, but it didn\’t work out well.

    even when Owen is in the seat, I liek to bring our trailer along. when it\’s empty i hardly feel it at all, and man o man do cars ever give you space when they see that trailer!

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  • Marion rice April 16, 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Thanks Todd and JayS,

    Thanks for the price check.. Also I heartily agree about the age thing. It really doesn\’t matter so much about the number age of the child. It really is about judging them to be safe and reliably safe on whatever they are riding. Any parent can judge for themselves when that time is for their child. My ages were really just a guide. My child was fine on a tag along at four years old. We are just now negotiating when he might ride along with us on his own bike. I hope to write a post about our journey to bike independence with him!

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  • todd April 16, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    JayS, concerning a bakfiets or kidztandem putting your kid(s) \”well into the lane\” before you can see… I have heard this one a number of times and it just isn\’t based in any reality I know. You can see a long way down crossing streets long before your own nose is even in the crosswalk as long as the street is typically wide, especially if there is any kind of sidewalk or parking lane, or if buildings aren\’t built up right on the corner. Think about it: cars have longer front ends yet and them getting their noses crashed into just by their drivers creeping into the lane to see isn\’t exactly a common occurrence. Road intersections are engineered with adequate sight lines as a rule (bike paths intersecting roads is another issue…)

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  • mike April 16, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    We\’re a fan of the Bakfiets… we\’ve mounted the car seat base in the cargo box and we\’ve been enjoying spring here in VT.

    More on our take, here:
    http://tinyurl.com/4hh4vn

    -Mike

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  • jj April 16, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    \”One drawback of tag-alongs is that they are not compatible with rear fitting child seats.\”

    I wish someone could import the Roland Add+Bike, which is compatible with the Bobike Maxi rear child seat. It looks like the perfect solution to me, and I\’m pining after one in a big way. I believe Clever Cycles looked into it, and apparently Roland would have to double (or more) their liability insurance to be able to sell them in the US. *sigh*

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  • JayS. April 16, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    todd, In my experience Portland is full of vans, minivans, delivery vehicles and cars that regularly block sidewalks, and ignore no parking signs. Not to mention giant trees and parkway plantings. These sometimes forces me to have my front wheel in the lane of traffic on any bike. Many nice low traffic routes (which I prefer) cross major roads without any control for cross traffic, these are the intersections I worry about most. If I had a bike that put my child or cargo further forward than my current front wheel I would probably alter my route to incorporate more bike lanes and busier roads because the major intersections are more controlled.

    When all our corners have on street bike parking, respected parking signs and bike lanes, visibility will be much better.

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  • Zaphod April 16, 2008 at 9:01 pm

    The Bakfiets looks crazy fun but I\’m priced out of that one until I land that dream job.

    I cannot complain however with my freshly built up extracycle I\’m loving life. The 5 year old can ride his little 16\” wheeled bike until he gets tired and then I strap his front wheel into one of the cargo bags and the rear wheel tracks nicely behind while he gets a free ride. He did 5 miles on the Esplanade which blew me away. He only is allowed to go solo on slow streets in the grid with me herding and coaching him safely along. We also have a three year old who rides in a trailer attached to the Extra.

    We\’re looking to mod it to have a kid seat built in but in a stylish (and less expensive) wood to get both kids safely on board. There are images floating around the web of some very well executed designs. The velocity increase by losing the trailer is pretty significant. And with my extracycle built up on the 29er platform is just the most bomber setup off road (with the big kid). He loves it and is comfortable and safe holding on. It tracks like a train… soooo nice. I should note that my 29er configuration is not approved by our friends at Extracycle but it does work. The rear wheel has about 3mm to spare with a 42c tire so it\’s quite tight. Fenders will need to be creatively installed. A real 29er tire would decidedly NOT work. If I were better funded, the surly big dummy would be even better although I don\’t have a single complaint and my bigger wheels might be faster.

    Beyond kid carrying, this setup will be the ultimate kit for getting out and bike camping… that is, when the snow finally melts.

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  • Tallpaul April 17, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Great site and discussion, I\’ve been looking for some other people trying to add multiple children to the bike. I\’d like to confirm what others have noted. Although the can feel unstable to the rider, my daughters love the tag-along (I have a seat-post attaching one) although tall for her age, my daughter was on one at 3 1/2. My second daughter preferred being in the rear seat to the trailer from about age 2, she likes being able to see everything. I can support Joe\’s recommendation on the crank shorteners for a stoker, they sid lower than an extra crank, meaning their centre of gravity is lower and they can get on and off by themselves.
    I do have a question for those of you who add a tag-along and trailer. Do you have any problem when braking (particularly in hilly areas) where the trailer pushes the tag-along off the ground, or out of a corner on gravel bike paths?

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  • JayS. April 17, 2008 at 8:46 am

    Tallpaul,
    When we did the \”train\” I only had one situation where the trailer pushed the tag-along out of line. I put on my breaks and dropped my feet to make a fast stop at a low visibility intersection. The heavier your trailer is the more of an issue that becomes. I always had enough breaking power. but did find myself using more than I typically would with just one child or on my own. On my tandem I wish I had more breaking power.

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  • matt April 17, 2008 at 10:14 am

    I take the 7-year-old to school on the back of my Big Dummy en route to work, and she _loves_ it. She\’s my official turn signal now. She also hates car trips now, which is a nice side benefit.
    She had a pretty bad (by 7yo standards) wreck last year on her bike, so it\’s also been a nice way to get her comfortable again with the concept of riding her own.

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  • Shane R. April 17, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Great article and resource! Keep it up.
    We\’ll be sure and link to it on the Kidical Mass site!

    http://www.kidicalmass.org

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  • Liz April 17, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Can you correct the price of the tandems in the text so parents (and others) can do an accurate price comparison of the options? Thanks!

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  • Marion rice April 17, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    Sure.. We are working on that one!
    Marion

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  • Greg April 17, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    I checked out this article to see that my solution (family tandem) was represented and behold, that is me and my kids on the Bike Friday! I\’ll just point out the what makes a tandem a *family* tandem is that the tires are small and the top bar quite low. This means either children or adults can be stokers (or captains, even) and that child seats have a lower center of gravity.

    My children are bigger now, but we still ride the red bike train every day, albeit with a piccolo (and sometimes a trailer too) behind instead of the baby seat.

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  • metal cowboy April 17, 2008 at 5:38 pm

    JayS and Tallpaul – regarding trailers with tagalongs – that\’s where the burley piccolo comes in. It\’s better for attaching a trailer because it\’s ALOT more stable – this is b/c the tagalong attaches to the back rack with a really strong lock down device so it doesn\’t feel wobbly at all when you as the captain pedals and it doesn\’t have any play for the rider/kid who is on it. I\’ve tested both ( I had an adams to start with but switched to the burley before my long cross country rides with tagalong and trailer – There was a marked difference. One woblles one feels like a it\’s part of the front bike. I\’m not saying the adams is less safe it\’s just that I\’ve road tested the burley chariot version for 8,000 miles and never had a problem – and I had to brake on steep hills and with some speed involved – I was always cautious not to gain too much speed on hills but when I had the tagalong and trailer attached to a tandem – it\’s hard not to gain speed – For families riding tandems invest in a drum brake – it\’s like an emergency brake that you can feather like a parachute to slow the bike down on hills to a speed that you feel safe with – with the burley chariot combo I never ever felt like the weight behind me was losing control.
    Cheers,
    Joe

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  • sarah gilbert April 17, 2008 at 10:41 pm

    it\’s funny, as this post was being written i was at clevercycles discussing this very thing! i have three children (5.5, almost 3, 9 months) and i\’m planning to do bike + xtracycle + front and rear seats so i can tote the younger ones around, with very occasional ride-along on the xtracycle for the oldest.

    my solo bike is a mountain bike, though, that won\’t work for the setup so i\’ll have to buy a new bike. i don\’t want it to be enormously expensive, but i want a step-through that\’s sturdy and has plenty of room in the handlebars for the baby. if anyone has any ideas what i should get that would be great!

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  • Jeff April 18, 2008 at 8:58 am

    Sarah —

    I\’d recommend you pick up something used… ideally a mid-range frame from 10+ years ago, so it\’s already got a rigid fork. I have a used but fairly high-end steel frame for my \”donor bike,\” and if I were going to do it again I\’d get a lower-end aluminum or heavy steel frame — light and high-end often means flexible and springy, which feels great as a solo bike, but gets kind of twisty and spongy as an Xtracycle.

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  • Rick April 18, 2008 at 11:36 am

    We ride a standard road tandem with child stoker kit and/or trailer depending on who\’s on the bike. The tandem setup, in my opinion is the best way not to sacrifice the speed you would normally enjoy on a single bike before attaching a tag-a-long etc to it. Of course it\’s pricier so it really would depend on usage. We also use a triple when my wife joins the boys and me. 13.5 feet with trailer attached, but it doesn\’t really handle much differently than the tandem setup. U-turns are tougher though…

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  • Happy Bakfiets Owner April 18, 2008 at 7:13 pm

    If BMW made mini-vans, and the mini-vans were bicycles (and you translated the German into Dutch) they\’d be called bakfietsen.

    In other words, bakfiestsen are super roomy and practical for families, expensive, but you get what you pay for. In two years of ownership, our family has neither done, nor spent a dime on, maintenance.

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  • Scott Mizée April 19, 2008 at 6:29 am

    sounds like a satisfied customer testimonial to me. Your comments are consistent with others I have heard. I like your analogy. Happy Bakfiets riding.

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  • Scott Mizée April 19, 2008 at 6:38 am

    Joe.. or anyone else… do you know where i can pick up some extra Burley Moose Racks for our Piccolo? We have the rack on both of our tandems right now, but would like to add it to some single bikes. Will a Moose Rack attach to a Bike Friday?

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  • crossit April 19, 2008 at 8:34 am

    thank you for this article!! sooo glad to see this story! my 10 month old loves the burley trailer… and we\’ve continued to uses his 1st car seat in it, which officially is to small for in car use. he wears his helmet in it, which was a challenge to find. when have peeps transitioned out of the car seat for liitle guys? thanks

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  • JayS. April 20, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Scott, contact Burley.

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  • Metal Cowboy April 20, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    Scott,

    Stop by my place, on willamette if you don\’t get any feedback from Burley – I think they are producing them again but I might have a third one – right now I have one for each of our bikes but I might have a third one in the garage.

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  • Heather H. April 21, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for this great post and encouraging families to bike. I just bought a bike after 10 years without one because riding through the SW Hills — the narrow, windy, bikelane-less streets — was not appealing. Add two young kids and it seemed impossible. I finally admitted that, yeah, it will be hard in spots, but it\’s totally doable. My 6-year has been off training wheels for a year, and we\’re teaching her to ride on the street. (She recently rode the 9-mile Waterfront Park/Esplanade loop by herself!) My 3.5-year old rides the tag-along, and while we may have to get off and walk our bikes up a few hills, I think the trade-off of fun and exercise will be worth it. It took me a long time to get to this bikey place, so I\’m soaking up every bit of family-biking advice you can offer. We don\’t see many families biking around Hillsdale…hopefully that will change one day!

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  • Marion rice April 21, 2008 at 9:24 am

    Heather, thanks for the inspirational host. I have a friend who just got an Xtracycle and you will most likely see her biking around Hillsdale, her daughter goes to Mary Rieke. Do you use the bike/pedestrian path on Terwilliger or just the bike lane. Evidently originally it was designed as a bike path?

    Best,
    Marion

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  • Heather H. April 21, 2008 at 7:40 pm

    Well, I haven\’t biked on Terwilliger yet! I would probably use the bike lane because other than the sidewalk I\’m not sure about any other bike/pedestrian path (I\’m assuming that\’s the sidewalk?). I always get irked when cyclists ride on the sidewalk when there are lovely bike lanes on either side of Terwilliger.

    My daughter goes to Rieke, too, so I\’ll keep a look out for the Xtracycle family. It would be so nice to have bikes lanes over here that connect Hillsdale, the SW Community Center and Multnomah Village. Well, everywhere, actually! There are partial paths, but then they just end. Thanks, Marion!

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  • Marion rice April 22, 2008 at 5:41 am

    Hey, I know what you mean about being irked when cyclists use the sidewalk and there is a nice bike path. However, WHEN you have your kids and deem it SAFER to use the bike/pedestrian path on a windy road like Terwilliger, I think your parental judgement ought to trump anything else. Send me an email at marionrice@mac.com and I will hook you up with my SW Xtracycle Mom!

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  • Peter Brownstein May 3, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Anyone want to buy an Adams Ultimate Trail a Bike $350 and figure out how to get it shipped from Utah. pab@xmission.com

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  • Liza May 31, 2008 at 10:42 pm

    New Xtracycler here with two kids… almost 3 and almost 5. We have been tooling around for about a month and a half now and the kids and I looooove it! I have my 2+ yr old in a used Bobike Maxi behind me and my almost 5yr old son on the snap deck. I padded and upholstered the deck so he\’s got a happy bum and made him a handle bar w a pipe bender and some conduit that attaches to the front of the v-racks w pipe clamps…very sturdy. I also made running boards for his feet… no footsies, since he couldn\’t quite reach them. Both kids are very secure, have the rules for loading and unloading down, and know there is no head-butting of helmets while we ride or I stop the \”car\”.

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  • Duncan June 1, 2008 at 9:29 am

    This Adams Trail a bike?

    http://www.consumeraffairs.com/recalls04/2005/trailabike.html

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  • MaryBeth June 20, 2008 at 2:10 pm

    I am jonesing for an Xtracycle, but don\’t want to part with my trail-a-bike. My son loves \’helping\’ mom, and I think that it has really helped him better understand how bikes work (especially turning). If I knew that I could still fit a trail-a-bike on the Xtracycle, I would get one tomorrow.

    MaryBeth

    http://www.dinkswithkids.com

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  • […] In fact, while I was searching for a picture of kids on an Xtracycle conversation, I came across an excellent Bike Portland post about bike set ups for family riding. All the ones I have mentioned plus a few others are discussed in the Bike Portland post, so […]

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  • jj October 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    “”One drawback of tag-alongs is that they are not compatible with rear fitting child seats.”

    I wish someone could import the Roland Add+Bike, which is compatible with the Bobike Maxi rear child seat….”

    Oh hey! I found the solution after much searching! This summer, I ordered a FollowMe Tandem (http://www.followme-tandem.com/). I’ve been using it now for a little over a month and it’s so far perfect for our needs.

    Last I heard, Clever Cycles was emailing with them to see about getting some in stock, and they talked to someone at Eurobike this summer about distributing them as well, so hopefully they’ll be more widely available soon.

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  • JayS. October 22, 2008 at 10:59 am

    If your using a bobike seat the Burley tag a longs (piccolo and somthing else) will work. They attach to a rack that they come with.

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  • Ron Callahan October 22, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    What’s the opinion on the lowest cost option?

    While you can certainly re-use a trailer or cargo bike, eventually, the kids are going to grow up and ride on their own.

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  • JayS. October 22, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Personally I think the Bike Friday Family Tandem is the best bang for the buck. You can put on a child seat, tag a long or trailer on it and the stoker can be any size from 3′ to somthing like 6’2″. We use ours daily for three riders

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  • jj October 22, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    Jay, I couldn’t figure out how to get the Bobike installed with enough clearance over the rack to allow for the big knob that the Piccolo attaches with, not without attaching the Bobike to the seat post rather than the actual frame of the bike, which didn’t seem wise. Plus it would’ve put the seat up quite a bit higher which seemed like it would make the center of gravity way too high for my liking. But that might be just the geometry of my bike and its slightly sloping downtube. I’ve never seen anyone using both the bobike and piccolo – do you have pictures? I know several people who’d be interested in that solution.

    I’m loving the FollowMe though, especially for the fact that when we get to a park or to a trail, I can unhook his bike in seconds and he’s off and riding on his own. That flexibility was a big factor in deciding to get it. He loves to ride his own bike, but it’s not always practical or safe since he’s only 5. This way, we get the best of both.

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  • JayS. October 22, 2008 at 11:33 pm

    I have not actualy seen it, sorry. I just figure with the way each was designed it would work. I hadn’t thought about the handle clearance. I’m no tech wizard but it wouldn’t surprise me if it worked on some bikes.

    The FollowMe’s flexibility sounds great. How does it ride?

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  • Marion October 29, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    Hey Guys, we just tried the Piccolo and Bobike combo and it does NOT work.. but I am interested in the Follow Me through thing.. any links you can share?

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  • jj October 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm

    Marion, the link to FollowMe is http://www.followme-tandem.com.

    Jay, as for how it rides, I can’t really compare it to other tag-a-longs since I’ve never used them, but to me it feels very stable and secure and not much different than having the Burley behind me. Other than the big difference of that he can help me pedal up hills now – the Burley defininitely doesn’t do that!

    If Milo throws his weight to one side or the other suddenly, I feel it, but it’s not a big deal. The only other issue is the fact that since he’s on his bike, he’s got coaster brakes and he does sometimes engage them accidentally if he’s coasting, and I do feel the drag when he does that. But a reminder is all it takes to get him to stop.

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  • Marion October 29, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    Cool, thanks so much.. is it available in the US anywhere? Was the web site in Dutch?
    I couldn’t tell 🙂

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  • Marion October 29, 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Duh.. I figured it out.. had to find the English button.. got it.. thanks

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  • jj October 29, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    Marion, it’s not currently available from anyone here – I had to order mine and it was shipped from Germany. Last I heard, Clever Cycles was emailing with them about getting some shipped over, but I don’t know where they are on that. They also were talking with someone this summer about being a US distributor but it hasn’t happened yet.

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  • Julian December 31, 2008 at 11:50 am

    Hi Marion & Co …
    I’m a huge fan of front child seats for young toddlers for the fun and social aspects of riding. I’ve got a big roundup of front seats we’ve used here:
    http://totcycle.com/blog/all-about-front-child-bike-seats.html
    Our favorites are the English Bike-Tutor seat and the Dutch BoBike Mini …

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  • Nicole October 20, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    I have a tag along now for me and my six year old. We used to use a bike trailer, then a child seat, and now the tag along. I have to say I kinda miss the two previous incarnations of our family biking experience. My tag along feels heavy and i tend to get cranky when my kid doesn’t pedal to help out. I don’t know if it’s because I have kind of a cheapy kid attachment, or if she’s just getting heavier, or both. If anyone has any suggestions for a good and affordable tag along option, I may pony up the cash to find one.

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  • Dean C October 21, 2009 at 8:25 am

    http://www.weeride.com/Kangaroo-Center-Mounted-Child-Bicycle-Carrier

    This is what I use and I never see them around. It puts the child nearer to the center of gravity and I can see my little girl the whole time.

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  • Shelly Mossey December 1, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    Love seeing all those happy familys on their bikes.i live in NYC and have been riding with my son since he was 6 mo old.
    Burley trailer,topeak baby seat,trail a bike Recumbent tandem, pedicab ,,,more to come. Have a look at http://urbanmobilityproject.blogspot.com/

    NYC is a great bicycle town too!

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  • Rachel July 19, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks so much for this article!! We have a 7-year-old and a 3-year-old and have been debating how to transport two of them with one adult through city traffic. The older is not ready yet to bicycle through traffic, they don’t both fit in a bike trailer, and we can’t add both a bike trailer and a tagalong (or a tagalong and a toddler seat) My husband thinks a pedicab would be great, but I can’t stomach the $$$. This gives some more food for thought! My guess is that many of the more expensive options could also be sold after use with good resale; there are lots of parents trying to figure this out!

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  • jennie akse-kelly September 4, 2013 at 2:27 am

    We’ve lived in Holland for the past 5 years and use an older-model bakfiets with 3 wheels. Its great for stopping whenever you want because you don’t have to pull back to get the kickstand on, so we stop all the time to forage for edible plants en route to our destination. When we head to the train station, I load the whole thing up, paniers, etc, with our luggage AND our two kids!
    If you can afford any kind of bakfiets – get one!! Don’t worry about your kids getting older and losing money on this – bakfietsen are exceptionally well-made and the resale value is almost like new – would you believe that even the oldest model (mine) will resale for about €900?
    We are moving back to Canada (Toronto) and you can be sure the bakfiets is coming. When my two girls are big, I’ll still be using it for groceries, and to take home furniture etc – I have come across tons of antiques set out for garbage day that I just load up on my bakfiets and take home with me to give away – I’d have never been able to do it with a regular bike. Good luck!

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  • Saki May 31, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    Does anyone know of a good electric bike that is compatible with a tag-along or similar package?

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  • Jennifer Matthews August 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    Hello! I’m wondering if you can help? We have a chariot sidecarrier which we love and would like to start pulling our one month old with it. I want to be able to pull my 6 year old too! I was thinking of getting something like the xtracycle edgerunner and pulling the sidecar with it. Do you think that would work? I’m worried about legs hitting the sidecar when turning…

    Thanks!

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  • karen allmer May 4, 2016 at 3:23 am

    hi there! please add the 2-rider to your list. it’s a 4-wheel bike for 2 persons sitting comfortably side by side. I would like to add a pic of riding it with my daughter, but don’t know how to add it.
    cheers!

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  • Kirsten July 11, 2016 at 12:23 am

    I’m looking for a sociable bike or conversion kit that will let an adult guide ride side-by-side with a small child on a 13″ wheel. Possible?

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