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Now rolling on Portland streets: Zigos with Child Pods

Posted by on July 13th, 2009 at 11:38 am

[*UPDATE: We had a review of this bike planned, but it is currently on hold. Our test bike had a major part malfunction, which was then replicated by the dealer (Joe Bike). Following that, the dealer has pulled the product from their lineup. We’ll publish the review when/if the bikes are available in Portland again.]

Furthering Portland’s reputation as a cargo/kid-carrying bike test laboratory, a local shop is now selling the Zigo family bike.

The bike’s main selling point is its versatility. It can be used as a trike with a child carrier in front, a jogging stroller, a “Child Pod” (in jogging or stroller mode), or as a stand-alone bike.

Joe Bike proprietor Joe Doebele — who stocks Zigos at his store on SE Hawthorne — says he likes this bike’s “all-in-one” capabilities and that the conversions can be done easily and without tools.

Doebele says if it’s performance you’re looking for than this bike is not for you. “You probably can’t (and wouldn’t want to) exceed 12-14 mph.” he wrote in an email. The culprit is low-gearing on the bike’s 3-speed Sturmey Archer hub.

Doebele also says he thinks the bike will have broad appeal because it’s geared so low that even folks who are out-of-shape or not too skilled at biking, can now pedal 60-100 pounds of kids around “and not worry about falling over or falling out of breath.”

The Zigo retails for $1,349 and up to $1,500 with various options. Our family biking columnist Marion Rice is picking one up today and will share a full review soon.

I haven’t ridden one of these myself, but I’m very curious how they handle. Has anyone out there ridden one?

For more, here’s a video produced by Zigo:

[Publisher’s note: Disclaimer – Joe Bike advertises on BikePortland, but that had nothing to do with us wanting to share this information with the community.]

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

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michael downes
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michael downes

Cool looking thingy but from a design/function point of view I see some issues. Most people haven’t ridden tricycles since they were in diapers and are not aware that they take some getting used to (it’s almost like learning to ride a bike again). Much more steering is required than a two wheeler and they get very squirrely on steep descents or if the camber on the road is pronounced or variable. I’m not sure the transition from solo bike to child carrying trike, from a handling point of view, is as easy as suggested. The very fact that low speeds are recommended does not inspire confidence. I also worry about the effect of two hefty kids so far out front of the steering axis. I can imagine dismounting and the whole thing tips up. This product suffers from we designers call ‘feature creep’. It is trying to do too many things and will probably end up being crap at all of them. And at that price I think I will keep my Bakfiets.

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

I have, as we sell them at the shop I work at here in Chicago. Here are my observations:

Steering requires fairly wide turns, but still feels stable. Shouldn’t be a problem at the 8mph-10mph you’re likely to be moving at for “cruising speed” on one of these things with a kid in the front.

The gearing seems *very* appropriate, which is refreshing considering every other person taking their kid out on a MUP in a trailer seems to suffer from “I Don’t Get Gearing!” syndrome and is struggling. Parents and kids (as passengers) will probably ride *longer* and *further* on this just because of that. And as well all know, further enjoyment means higher return of investment.

On the downside, the gearing feels a bit too low in bike mode, where you’re *not* pushing a 60-100 lbs. in front of you. This kinda eats away at the seeming bargain of a bike/stroller/stroller-trike for the price. I also have trouble conceiving of situation where you might take your child someplace and then convert to bike mode – where to store the “Child Pod”, and considering the price, would you *want* to leave it anywhere? There’s no substantial win over a trailer in this context. If you’ve already got a bike, this may not be the best option, unless you like having (and can afford) lots of toys.

On a more practical note, the thing that makes me most nervous about this is the braking system in stroller-trike mode. The rear wheels of the stroller become the front wheels of the trike and seem solid enough, but if not set evenly, the trike will pull to one side when braking, even going into a bit of a turn. Underneath all this is a system of adjusting barrels which should make it possible to get the brakes set evenly with some fiddling, but it takes time and is very touchy. The fact that this is mostly under the stroller makes adjusting brake tension a serious PITA, and impossible to set/test/set/test quickly. I’m curious to see how stable this remains after the initial cable stretch.

On the whole, interesting idea, and probably implemented about as well as it could be. Gimmicky, yes, but cool. If I had a kid, it’d be a long “Hrmmm”, probably followed by a “ya know…”. 🙂

N.I.K.
Guest
N.I.K.

@Michael Downes:

I thought the same thing about the bike being “tippy” with extra weight in the front. I’m pleased to report it’s nothing like this at all, even on a dismount. That said, it’s probably because overall, the unit is heavier than you’d think. Weight distribution seems pretty reasonable.

As for handling on descents – yes, I agree, though I don’t think it’s being marketed as a super-utilitarian device. This is clearly more geared towards MUPly recreation than it is “cart your kid 25+ miles each way several times a week”. Or should be.

Scott Mizée
Guest

now pedal 60-100 pounds of kids around “and not worry about falling over

I’m curious about the effect of side hills. This is a very deceiving characteristic of trikes that people accustomed to riding bikes don’t even think about. Does it have some sort of “ankle joint” that allows the rider to stay upright while the wheels are on a side slope?

looking forward to riding one of these to judge for myself.

Michael
Guest

I rode 42 miles with my 5 yr old son in the New York 5 Boro Bike Tour and made every hill, including up the Verazano Bridge. Low gearing is what you want for day-to-day. In Cycle mode it does ride a little light, but fine for most casual riding. It is quite easy to steer and is not hard to get used to. I ride with my two sons around town (about 80lbs) total and there is no tip issue unless they step on the bumper. I love my Zigo, but hey I’m the CEO.

tbird
Guest
tbird

These things are SKETCHY at best, dangerous on a good day.
We considered these and got one to check out. Not a good design, well built but it would tip simply turning at a moderate pace on flat ground
sorry to be so blunt.

Michael
Guest

Tell us, Tbird, where did you get one to check out? Are you at a bike shop with a heavy vested interest in a different brand, for example a whole lot of very expensive dutch carrier bikes? Please let us know who you are.

Marc Urbanski
Guest

Hey guys, nothing like a healthy debate about a new product. I have been riding my Zigo Leader for about a month now.
When I first saw it I was unsure or skeptical of how it would work.(Kind of like a recumbent bike or trailer) For me it took a few rides to get use to it.. It’s funny it didn’t turn like my crit bike (on rails) or slide like my Mt bike around a turn.

What it did do was give me the ability to adjust my sons helmet when it went over his eyes. Talk to him without looking over my shoulder and steering into the road. I also love not having to worry about balancing or tipping over when I stop.I think we’ve all done that without weight.

I’ve been logging about 20 to 25 miles a weekend on my Zigo with no incidents to report. I’ve ridden dirt paths and roads that are off camber or bumpy. The leader is not meant for everything just like a cargo bike. It does work well around town where it counts.

In regards to gearing I think for a new cyclist its fine. For me I needed to swap the 22 rear cog for an 18.. That made a huge difference. My main issue was on the flats, it was to spinney. So I made a $15.00 investment and dialed it in.. I also added my egg beaters and the seat off my MT bike. Like any bike you can tweak it.

At the end of the day I have ridden a bunch of bikes cargo to custom. I think they all have their appeal and their draw backs. I would never recommend riding anything on two wheels over 15mph with a child on board. That’s why I have a crit and a mt bike. I suggest if your clever with a cycle purchase you should test ride things first. Find out what works for you and buy it. I’m stoked with my Zigo leader!

Oh yeah and now to lose credit .. I’m Zigo’s North American Sales Manager/Zigo rider. Give me a call if you have any questions or feedback.As Joe can tell you I love to talk!

Here are some pictures of Myself, Kooper and other Zigo riders form around the globe.. http://www.flickr.com/groups/zigo/

Bike Portland thanks for the post !

Cheers

Marc Urbanski

armando
Guest
armando

NOW this comes out. my 7 year old just started riding her own bike to school, and i ride my 4 year old on a tag-a-long.
i would have loved this when they were 1-3. i usually drop my son off at day care, and continue to work. with this i could leave the stroller at day are and continue riding a bike to work(i could leave the stroller at the daycare.
the only this is i couldn’t tell where the front wheel was stored when the cart was on the bike. and aren’t Bakfiets minimum two grand?

Michae
Guest

The front wheel of the Cycle can be carried on the Zigo Rear Rack, which has a mounting point for the quick release of the wheel.

todd
Guest
todd

Michael, you are correct in surmising that tbird is affiliated with a bike shop you might as well have named, down the street from your new Portland dealer. His opinions and expressions are his own. I share your disappointment at the hit-and-run character of his comment. But I reject your implication that he is inspired by a “heavy vested interest in a different brand,” as if he were shilling.

Our decision not to carry your product wasn’t about brands, origins, costs, or even quality, but about design, and I don’t mean styling. The design and build quality of your trike seems to me respectable, exhibiting the agonizing tension of compromises common to most trikes. Most of our concerns apply to all the family transport trikes we’ve tried, which is why we don’t sell any. In this sense we sell no competing products. Normally I wouldn’t criticize a product we don’t sell in a public forum, but since the bell can’t be un-rung, I’m going to try to ring it better.

Most people who ask us about child-carrier trikes have never carried children on either bikes or trikes. They may never have ridden much under any circumstances. They are often fearful of bicycles, specifically of them tipping, and they reason naturally enough that 3-wheelers are more stable and easier to ride than bikes.

The problem is that this isn’t true in the general case, and learning the truth can be a rude awakening to people lacking street confidence, and even to experienced bike riders, for whom trikes usually feel unnervingly weird. Trikes can’t fall over like ill-equipped bikes when they are parked, but they tip easily in turns, especially descending at speed or turning left on cambered roads. This is especially true of trikes with an upright rider, a narrow wheel stance, and a relatively light construction, like yours. I don’t consider this a safety problem as much as one of mismatched naive expectations and real-world performance.

Your design compensates partially for the inherent tippiness of upright trikes by sharply limiting the turning radius. In our trial of your product, Michael, we found the turning radius so wide that we needed to do 3-point U-turns on Portland streets, dismounting to back up, especially if we didn’t initiate the turn from the gutter or the door zone. We found this lack of agility more objectionable than tippiness, which is a problem most trike riders learn to manage and even come to enjoy safely. Tipping is a little bit of two-wheel thrill in the otherwise stolid slogginess of pedaling a trike. We like bikes, though.

I encourage people to ride your trike before buying, and also bikes appropriately equipped for child carriage. I sincerely hope I am wrong about your product’s appeal, because more people and less heavy machinery on our streets makes us all safer.

As a car-free parent, I find it particularly regrettable that tbird called your product unsafe, because that engenders fear. I know that fear of the street, or of falling, or rather of getting hit by cars before or after falling, is precisely what keeps so many people traveling 3 urban miles in 2,000 lb motorcages, when hopping on a bike (or a trike) with the kids would be safest for all. I think the real safety differences between and among bikes and trikes pale in comparison to the dangers of the fear-driven arms race of styrofoam armor, blinky lights, paint, horsepower and tonnage in public space!

Joe Doebele
Guest

I’d like to clarify a few apparent misconceptions. First, to Michael Downes (1), most of the weight in the pod is directly over the hubs, not forward of the wheels as you say. This is pretty key to stability, as I’m sure a designer such as yourself would understand. From you comment, it sounds like you haven’t ridden the Zigo or seen one in reality.

Secondly, to the others, the turning radius of the Zigo is improved significantly by removing a limiter pin that is sort of a relic of an earlier design/manufacturing issue that’s been resolved. If you had any issues with turning before, I suggest you give it another try. True, a trike’s turning radius will be wider than a bike’s; this should go without saying, though we always remind our customers of this fact as well as the fact that trike-riding, unlike bike riding, is a skill that does have to be re-learned after 30 years.

I’ve had no problem navigating Portland’s streets, bridges, and bikeways on the Zigo. On any kind of bike, I rarely find it necessary (or a good idea, really) to do a U-turn, and, with a load of kids, I’d be very careful doing so even when riding our shorter-box Boxbike, the Yuba Mundo, or an ExtraCycle; all naturally have wider radii than conventional bikes. Moreover, the only time I’ve had to do a three-point turn on the Zigo is when I park it inside the shop at closing time. On the other hand, while riding a 9-foot-long, 100 lb. Bakfiets I found the potential for running nose-first into parked trucks a real concern, forcing me to take the lane at speeds that don’t otherwise justify doing so.

Thirdly, the Zigo with weight in the pod is more stable (and stable-feeling) than when the pod is empty; this is a problem when people go for test rides with an empty pod, which may have been the case in some of the comments above. Even 10 lbs. will make a noticeable difference; you’ll find that it’s very hard to tip the thing over.

It seems like a certain amount of common sense would go a long way here. Of course you wouldn’t make sharp turns while going downhill at high speed on a trike. If you did and you took a spill, my question would be, “What were ya thinkin’?” Just as you wouldn’t crosscut a hill in a Jeep, jump off the Marquam Bridge to take a refreshing dip in the Willamette, ride over broken glass, slip-slide your roadbike onto muddy trails, or go jogging with your Bakfiets.

Like Clever, we would generally discourage customers from trikes and had never carried them until now. We made an exception for the Zigo by virtue of its stability and very low center of gravity, its low gearing and total stability at a stop or at very low speeds, its ability to charm noncyclists out of their cars and into bike shops (where we encourage them to ride and compare our utility bikes vs. the Zigo), and the ease with which it converts into a trailer, stroller, jogger, or simple bicycle. The Zigo is not for everyone, as we can say about any other kind of family or work cycle. For those who WANT to take it easy and enjoy the ride with their kids without trying to compete with cyclists in speed and agility, or who don’t want to worry about stability while stopping or starting, or who appreciate the versatility of a more or less all-in-one machine, I think it’s a wonderful machine.

Thanks to Todd for reintroducing civility to the board and for reminding us that we’re all on the same team here. I couldn’t agree more with him that fear works against us…and is something we can shape and influence for worse or for better.

Joe

Noodle
Guest
Noodle

I can’t wait to try one out.

todd
Guest
todd

Joe wrote: “On the other hand, while riding a 9-foot-long, 100 lb. Bakfiets I found the potential for running nose-first into parked trucks a real concern, forcing me to take the lane at speeds that don’t otherwise justify doing so.”

I too have noted an uncanny correlation between the length of bikes and their attraction to parked trucks. I’m sure your 7′ long bakfiets knockoff feels much safer in the door zone than our 8′ original, and probably suffers fewer spontaneous combustion incidents as well, no doubt due to its lead-based finish.

Hannah
Guest
Hannah

I totally agree with Joe that “its ability to charm noncyclists out of their cars and into bike shops” is a crucial victory in itself.

Gosh…an awful lot of mud rucking amongst folks on the same team…bummer. That helps no one.

Anon
Guest
Anon

Saying the joe bikes bike has lead based paint is like saying that the bakfiets are painted with the ground up teeth of dutch children. It’s sensationalist and it’s untrue.

todd
Guest
todd

Right you are, Anon, as far as I know :-). Similarly, I know of no spontaneous combustion incidents affecting any bike. I was not the first to make silly stuff up about a “teammate’s” product, so thought I’d return the favor with some over-the-top humor. I keep forgetting this is the internet.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

Hold onto your hats, folks. We are about to post an update to this story.

Marc Urbanski
Guest

Hi Guys, I just a made a zigo turning radius video, for your enjoyment!

Its unscientific but will give you a better idea of turning on a Zigo Leader!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx2xizHHAVw

Hug it out guys.. Yes this is all about getting people out of thier cages and pedaling!
Cheers

Call me with any questions 877.438.9446

Joe Doebele
Guest

Wow, Todd. Lead-based paint on kid-carrying bikes is humorous? Making untrue comments about that subject is pretty serious stuff, whether it’s on the internet or just in your shop. I have no idea what sort of combustibility comment/silly stuff you’re referring. I’ve gone out of my way to praise your bikes and your shop, aside from the obvious size and weight issues of the Bakfiets and the fact that the Bakfiets frame is not actually made in Holland but somewhere in the vast developing world (this from your employees). To get back to your tangent, though, the fact is our knockoff, Portland-remade Boxbike is far easier to ride, handle, turn, propel, climb with, store, and afford than your Bakfiets.

And by the way, we offer as an option local powdercoating in any color you like…for less than what you charge your customers for a plastic rain shield.
Joe

Joe Doebele
Guest

Oops, I meant “referring to”, not “referring”, if you don’t mind prepositional endings.

todd
Guest
todd

I’m glad you’re thinking about the children, Joe. Do you mean that you were not joking when you started this Zigo-irrelevant tangent with the untrue comment that a Bakfiets is 9′ long and prone to “running nose-first into parked trucks”? Is that what you mean by having gone out of your way to praise our bikes? Spare us the phony outrage.

I have no idea why you’re bringing up product origins, as bikes of many quality grades are made of parts from many countries, and I’ve never made a big deal of that either way. But the Bakfiets frame is made in Holland: http://azor.nl/index.php?page=info_bakfiets&laat_zien=1

Good luck.

Joe Doebele
Guest

I was not at all joking when I described my experiences with your 100 lb. Bakfiets (whatever its actual length), when I wrote:
“I found the potential for running nose-first into parked trucks a real concern, forcing me to take the lane at speeds that don’t otherwise justify doing so.” That you twist “potential” into “prone to” is your issue or maybe your experience revealing itself. Who knows. But handling was central to your discussion of the Zigo, and so my discussing the handling of other bikes was appropriate. No reason to go insane. Good luck to you.

Shane
Guest
Shane

Wow, just came back to read this when I heard about the indefinate delay on the review and boy is it hot on here! How fun, some real cargobike action- wish Jan from HPM could throw down some of his wild words in here to really heat it up.

Where oh where will this lead??

henryinamsterdam
Guest

Oh man, this is some priceless mud slinging! And Shane (24), you said “lead” he he heh.

The Zigo rep came to visit us at WorkCycles (in central Amsterdam, NL) and we rode and tinkered with the bike for a couple hours. We’ve had pleasant interchanges with various Zigo people but the bike, both in concept and execution, just isn’t appropriate for the Amsterdam market. We decided not to carry it and wish them success.

But Elly Blue (18) what happened to the rest of the Zigo story? You post that teaser but two weeks later I can’t find any update? Inquiring minds want to know.

Elly Blue (Columnist)
Member

Thanks for the nudge, Henry. The review was on hold while we learned more about a malfunction that occurred with our review bike, and just heard back this week.

We have posted the following update at the top of this story:

[*UPDATE: We had a review of this bike planned, but it is currently on hold. Our test bike had a major part malfunction, which was then replicated by the dealer (Joe Bike). Following that, the dealer has pulled the product from their lineup. We’ll publish the review when/if the bikes are available in Portland again.]

henryinamsterdam
Guest

Elly, thanks for the quick response.

Umm, if Joe Bike has suddenly pulled the Zigo from their lineup we’re apparently talking about a safety issue in which case you would do your readers a service to report about it. At least a brief explanation would be appropriate. Zigo will, after all, arrange another dealer in Portland and (as you can see) bikeportland has a readership that extends far beyond your own city anyway. Thanks.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Hey Henry,

I agree with you.. and that’s a good point. We’ll see about publishing something earlier next week.

henryinamsterdam
Guest

Hoi Jonathan,
Very curious. Looking forward to it.

Groeten,
Henry

Joe Doebele
Guest

Here was our (Joe Bike’s) experience with the Zigo. A ball-and-socket steering-linkage bolt, one of several installed at the factory on each unit, cracked on the model that bikeportland was reviewing. Several hours later, the exact same bolt cracked in an identical manner, at almost exactly the point on the bolt’s length, on a second Zigo while a mechanic and I were testing it. In both cases, no parts had been unduly stressed, and yet the bolts fractured. Our chief mechanic, who used to be a jet-engine mechanic for the Navy and who has been a bike mechanic for 20 years, determined a spacer had either been placed in an incorrect position (i.e., an assembly error at the factory) or else that the spacer was too short. A third possibly was some deficiency in the steel itself. An engineer for Zigo confirmed via email that they understood and were working to correct the problem. I would add that the sales rep, the head of the company, and the engineers were all very much on top of this situation once it emerged. But the mere fact that two of the same bolts broke spooked us and made it impossible for us to consider keeping the trike in our shop, particularly (at least in my mind) given the possibility of a problem with the steel.

Ron
Guest
Ron

Nothing like a good cargo bike throw down! Looking forward to the update as I’m looking for something that my bike shy wife can pedal our children around on.

zoomzit
Guest
zoomzit

So, I came across this post while researching cargo bikes and the comment war really bums me out. I came away with a lot less respect for both bike shops. Congrats everyone’s a loser in this battle.

zoomzit
Guest
zoomzit

Ok, I have to post on this topic again. I know that the last post on this topic was almost 3 months ago, but that’s part of the issue. I am doing some cargo bike research and for two separate search terms, this article and related comments came up high on the list. Per the comments, I am wondering:

Do I take the unwieldy overpriced bike or the poorly constructed knock-off?

Todd and Joe, don’t you realize that you are not actually competing against each other? If you are going to spend your time trying to take business from each other, then you are both going to starve. Your focus should be getting people out of cars and into bikes. By pointing out the perceived deficiencies in each other’s product, you are just shrinking the total market. That shrinks the total number of bicyclists and inhibits bicycle advocacy in general.

By the tone of your comments I question both your product and your judgement. I say these things to plead that you contemplate how you are projecting yourself, your product and your business before you make public comments. These comments will be preserved on the internet for quite some time, to the detriment of both of your businesses.

Joe Doebele
Guest

Hello Zoomzit,
That was indeed a while ago, on many levels. This might reassure you: Tomorrow, Sunday Oct. 25, Oregon Manifest hosts Family Cycling Day. The planning for this event, and for the focus group that will follow, involved Clever, Joe Bike, and Bike Gallery together, along with OM. You should stop by if you can (see oregonmanifest.com for details) and check out the bikes. Metrofiets will also be there.

I also invite you to check out the build quality of our knockoffs (I love that term–we’re referring to a design that originated nearly 100 years ago from at least two countries), of which several new, Portland-built models will be making their debut at the OM event. We design some of the most innovative family/utility biking solutions out there. I’ll post a link to photos here soon.

If you can make it to the event tomorrow, or to our shop anytime, please don’t hesitate to introduce yourself. I can’t help but agree with your point.

Joe

Zoomzit
Guest
Zoomzit

Joe,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply and the heads up on the OM event. I’m going to try and make it out there tomorrow (on my bike, with kid in tow).

Cheers

henryinamsterdam
Guest

Joe,
Sorry for the late comment here. I just have to note that it irks me when you write that your “knock-off” (your word) is based on a nearly 100 year old design, referring to the old Long John bike. The bike you very creatively modify is indeed of this basic format (long wheelbase, cargo behind front wheel) but it is far more relevantly a very faithful imitation of Maarten van Andel’s revolutionary Cargobike family bicycle designed in 2001. For those not familiar with the Cargobike (outside the Netherlands often called “Bakfiets”) it was novel because it was a purpose-built family carrier bike – far too many elements to note here were specifically invented/designed for it’s function. After a long struggle the Cargobike has been very successful commercially, in real world use and naturally also in inspiring other companies to produce competitive products. Disclaimer: My company WorkCycles distributes the Cargobike and has contributed to its development.

The “knock-off” you import was amongst the first to appear and is so close in design that even the cargo boxes and canopies are interchangeable with the original. The European courts confirmed this and banned this copy from sale in the EU, thus the manufacturer sought out other markets. The IP protection either doesn’t extend to the USA or van Andel has chosen not to pursue it there, so you’re able to distribute them. We’ve discussed this directly so I sure you’re aware of this important distinction.

I have no problem with the business activity of importing these bikes, modifying them and selling them. There’s a strange history behind it but it’s apparently “fair game”. However the denial of another man’s had work and intellectual input seems disrespectful, bad karma and unnecessary anyway. Just tell the story like it is and people will respect you for your straightforwardness and honesty.

Thanks in advance.

-Henry

Lindsay
Guest
Lindsay

I came here to do a little research on the Zigo and felt totally bombarded by the battle of bike shops. Seems very unprofessional of almost everyone involved and left me still none the wiser in my decision because everyone seems so one sided and immature.