There are so many terrific bike products — big and small, ready-made and DIY — that make life easier for me.
Of the many bike parts and accessories I’ve had and loved over the years, my favorite has to be my double kickstand. My cargo bike sports a Rolling Jackass centerstand that makes it possible for the kids to clamber on and off the bike with no worry of tipping, I can load heavy cargo one side at a time with the bike staying upright, and we can even stand on the deck to reach high-up things.
Do you have a favorite accessory or a beloved piece of bike gear?
Here’s why I love my centerstand…
I can set the “RJ” by easing it forward with my foot like a regular kickstand, or I can deploy it with a lever on my handlebars. This means I can set the kickstand while straddling the top tube, with my weight centered over the bike, rather than having to fight to keep the bike upright from the side. This is especially useful if I’m carrying a heavy load, like both kids or a full bike of groceries. The same goes for disengaging the RJ — it has a spring to bring it safely under the bike with a bit of a shove forward, no need to sweep at it from the side with my foot.
The RJ is made for longtail and midtail cargo bikes so it can’t be placed on just any bike. However, there are burly kickstands for regular bikes: my old mamabike (a city bike with front and rear kid seats) had a Pletscher side-folding two-legged kickstand. I adored that centerstand. However, I snapped through two of them because they aren’t really made to handle the weight of two kids and two baskets full of kid stuff. And my tandem has an Ursus Jumbo, the widest after-market centerstand on the market as far as I know. When I was between kickstands on my old mamabike I got very proficient at loading the kids on the bike with it leaned against a fence or tree — or even against my hip if I couldn’t find a fence or tree — so I know I don’t need any kickstand, let alone the burliest kickstand available, but it certainly makes my life easier!
I’m curious to hear what products have made your lives similarly easier. After my kickstand, here’s my three-way tie for second-most favorite thing:
- I loved having a windscreen on our front baby seat. It made such a difference in wind, drizzle, and going downhill at even slow speeds for both of my toddlers.
- Bluetooth speakers are amazing for biking with kids. Tons of families listen to music or audiobooks while biking — soothe the savage beast (or distract the strangling sibling). I call mine my hill assist as it shaved 10 minutes off our long trip to swim lessons the summer we got it.
- An easy-to-ring Jellibell attached to the straps of our first bike seats kept the kids happy which kept me happy.
Thanks for reading. Feel free ask questions in the comments below or email me your story ideas and insights at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com.
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Madi Carlson (@familyride on Twitter) wrote our Family Biking column from February 2018 to November 2019. She’s the author of Urban Cycling: How to Get to Work, Save Money, and Use Your Bike for City Living (Mountaineers Books).
In her former home of Seattle, Madi was the Board President of Familybike Seattle, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting bicycling as a means for moving towards sustainable lifestyles and communities. She founded Critical Lass Seattle, an easy social group ride for new and experienced bicyclists who identify as women and was the Director of Seattle’s Kidical Mass organization, a monthly ride for families. While she primarily bikes for transportation, Madi also likes racing cyclocross, all-women alleycats, and the Disaster Relief Trials. She has been profiled in the Associated Press, Outdoors NW magazine, CoolMom, and ParentMap, and she contributed to Everyday Bicycling by Elly Blue.