(Photos © J. Maus)
Last month, as part of the six-week Oregon Manifest event, Portland families got a chance to get up-close and personal with the latest bikes, accessories, and services to outfit the human-powered lifestyle.
Event organizers took over a parking lot in Northwest Portland, filled it with vendors, and closed an adjacent street so people could use it as a carfree test-riding zone. The turnout was dampened by rain, but the people that did show up stayed very busy pedaling a wide variety of bikes and hearing about various ways to their carry kids, groceries, and other precious cargo on them.
And the kids. Wow. You’d think we were in Disneyland or something. They couldn’t get enough of all the bikes and were running from one to the other, pleading with me to take them on this one or that one “Just one more time!”
The family biking stalwarts at Clever Cycles had a busy tent. They shared their latest Xtracycle and Dutch bike set-ups. Their Surly Big Dummy with the Stokemonkey electric assist (created by one of Clever Cycles’ owners) is a tried and true winner. Its small footprint (compared to some other cargo bikes), versatility, and dependable power make it a tough option to beat. Clever Cycles also had Workcycles city bike with a very stout child seat arrangement. No plastic here, just steel bars, sturdy pegs, a solid seat for the little one — all positioned right in front of the rider.
Joe Bike, who’s created a niche in the local cargo market by modifying existing designs, shared some of his shop’s latest creations. Using the chassis of front-loading, bakfiets-style cargo bikes he imports from China, Joe Bike partners with local builders and his own imagination to come up with some great options. The front ends have locally-made cargo bins configured in a number of useful ways. I especially like Joe Bike’s highly modified front loader with an additional top tube for reinforcement and an ingenious front rack. The kids couldn’t get enough of this one.
Bike Gallery brought along the Madsen rear bucket bike and the “Bullitt” a Dutch import from the curiously named company Larry vs. Harry. The Bullit is built for speed and cargo, not necessarily kids, but it still handles beautifully even with three of them loaded on it. I could swing into turns with full confidence, and the kids — white knuckles and all — loved it.
Co-motion Cycles came up from Eugene to show off their Periscope Tandem. I’ve always loved the concept of the Periscope, but this was the first time I could see it in action. It’s essentially a regular tandem, but the rear (stoker) has a tiny seat tube and telescoping seat post so it fits a very wide range of heights. This is the ultimate solution for taking your kids on long event rides and tours.
In addition to test rides was the booth of safety promotion group Think First Oregon. They had literature about safe transportation behavior and helmets and an eye-catching prop to drive home the point — a human brain. Yes, my girls got to hold a (plastic of course) human brain and think about how precious those heads inside their helmets are.
Later in the afternoon, Oregon Manifest hosted a Family Biking Solutions Workshop. Clever Cycles co-owner Martina Fahrner helped to organize a panel discussion and breakout sessions where attendees focused on three ingredients to a thriving family biking culture; community, infrastructure and products. The information gleaned from the workshop will be put into a white paper that will be used as a resource for families curious about doing more by bike.
This event validated what many already know — family biking is surging in Portland. With family biking, perhaps more than any other market segment, the right products are essential, so it’s great to see Portland businesses filling that niche.
Watch the slideshow below for more of the action:
I adore that joe-bike attachment with the bars on either side… went and had a look at it the other day. Neat that it’s interchangeable w/ the box. I’m also pining for a Kona Ute, but I’m still waiting for the article that guides me to convince a skeptical partner that it’s safe to bike with kids. When should we expect that article? 😉
I am working on that one!
I have a bunch of bikes to review and Elly and I are working on a revision to the Bike Set Ups article.
I think it will be after Tday for sure. But soon!
We are also busy with the white paper Jonathan mentioned and will keep you posted when it available for review.
Don’t know what article yer waitin’ for, regarding “safe to bike with kids.” People have been pulling rugrats behind them in trailers for a very long time, other than the kids somehow being mounted directly on the bike (child-seat, astride a rack or handlbars, etc.) – and that’s just in the USA; much of the world embraces the idea without a blink. It’s not a new thing.
Before they could ride their own bikes, mine went on adventures or shopping in a Burley trailer, rain or shine, and loved it. No more dangerous than any other activity outside the shelter of the home, honestly. Cargo-type bike frames are an improvement on hauling the kids in a trailer, inasmuch as the kids can be monitored constantly, more easily communicated with, and ya don’t have to horse a trailer around.
I got a beer that says the “skeptical partner” is not a regular rider – and that’s okay, not everybody has to be. There is, however, no substitute for experience out on the street. Tried renting a unit from Clever Cycles and going out for a ride with the skeptic & kids? The proof is in the pudding sort of thing…
Hah! I was mostly kidding, you guys, but the more resources, the better. I keep broaching the subject in a roundabout way, but we’ve only gotten as far as a trailer being the only “safe” way… Looking forward to see what you guys have to offer on that subject 🙂
The starting place for realizing that it’s reasonable to bike with kids is helping people see that driving with kids is dangerous! It’s the #1 killer of kids (and in fact all Americans up to age 35). I was mad when my OBGYN wanted me to stop biking while pregnant because of potential trauma in a crash, but I could tell she wouldn’t have felt responsible for any trauma that happened to me in a car crash…which I would bet is the #1 cause of death and injury to pregnant women.
Thank you for the report on this! I was unfortunately very busy cyclocrossing that weekend and couldn’t make it to this wonderful event. It’s helpful to get a flavor of the options presented.
ironically, skeptical rider used to bike commute regularly, when he worked downtown. And I did get him out to one of the Sunday Parkways last summer (albeit grudgingly). It will all work out, somehow. I’m determined enough to make the right argument. Pretty much 100% of my friends do it with children the same age as mine and I’m starting to feel “left out”! hehe (all that dang peer pressure)
Soooooo many awesome bikes!
Another awesome event that I wished I hadn’t missed!
Yeah, this looked like the perfect excuse to come down from Seattle and drool over family bikes, so I did. Sorry I missed you there, Jonathan, but it was great meeting Marion!
I also liked the FollowMe tandem, Joe Bike fabric-on-frame enclosed bakfiets with electric mid-drive, Mundo with 2 rear seats, and the Kidztandem with child stoker (or toddler seat or cargo bin) in front.
My demo ride impressions and photos here:
The Family Solutions Workshop was excellent as well:
Now that Seattle’s elected officials are possibly even bikier than yours, I’d love to have something similar up here to get some family cycling input into what will hopefully be a dynamic mayoral term transportation-wise.
As for the “is it safe” debate … no reliable data exists comparing ways to transport kids by bike. The study that compared rear seats to trailers did not have a reliable denominator (how many hours/miles ridden in each mode) to accurately compare injury rates. I’m partial to front seats for little ones and family cargo bikes for bigger kids and multiples.
I’m a bit iffy about little toes near the chain path of the Stokemonkey on the Big Dummy – probably too many years as a safety inspector. Still, it looks like the captain’s foot following the pedal around will be a functional chain guard.
Lots of great bikes. I wish some of them had been around a few years back for full time use. Now it’s just the grandcritters from time to time.
Larry vs Harry. A Danish import.
Just a little fun-loving stiring of the pot…
Why do the kids have helmets on if the adults (as is the case in a couple of those photos) don’t?
They’re too young to take care if the presumptive parent suffers a brain scrambling crash, and if helmets are the menace some tell us why condemn the little children to that additional risk?
And yes, I’ve happily and (I think) safely cycled with my kid in traffic with a variety of contraptions.
SOOOO jealous. Out here in Baltimore it’s impossible to find any of these bikes.
The new Joe Bike and KidzTandems look incredibly cool and useful, allowing you to carry kids and stuff at the same time, if extremely expensive at $2,700 and $1,950.
I’m curious if any of Tom LaBonty’s custom/reclaimed cargo bikes were featured. His stuff seems to be both useful and affordable, with the potential to really expand the market for family & cargo bikes.
I think tandems, particularly like Comotion’s, work well for kids of a certain age–too old for a trial-a-bike but still too you to navigate urban traffic independently.
I did a couple blog posts sharing our approaches here: