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Bluetooth speakers and a “Rolling Jackass”: These are a few of my favorite things

Posted by on April 24th, 2018 at 12:16 pm

I adore my Rolling Jackass centerstand.
(Photos: Madi Carlson)

There are so many terrific bike products — big and small, ready-made and DIY — that make life easier for me.

Our Family Biking column is sponsored by Clever Cycles.

➤ Read past entries here.

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?

A sturdy kickstand has many uses.

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.

This lever (upper left) deploys my centerstand so I can set it while straddling the bike.

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!

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I could barely muscle this 63-pound bed frame onto my bike, but my centerstand held it steady while I huffed and puffed it on board.

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.

— Madi Carlson, @familyride on Instagram and Twitter

Browse past Family Biking posts here.

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14 Comments
  • Avatar
    CaptainKarma April 24, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    I have fond memories of chugging my two toddler boys around in their heavy Canondale trailer with a Fisher-price kid cassette player (no such a thing as Bluetooth back then). They loved it. We learned all the classic Wee Sing songs. “John Henry” (the steel-drivin’ man) sure helped pop in his hard-drivin, gear jammin’ quad-building chuggin!

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      B. Carfree April 25, 2018 at 12:22 am

      We burned through several models bouncing them around in the front basket of our rear-steer tandem back in the day. Maybe it’s time for some tunes for the granddaughters I pick up every day.

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    David Hampsten April 24, 2018 at 1:32 pm

    34mm to 36mm wide rims. I’m a very fat guy and I used to tear sidewalls on my tires. Not any more with wide rims on the rear.

    Disc brakes, especially dual-arm mechanicals, are a godsend – they stop even in the rain, my wheels now last 5-10 years, instead of every 2-3.

    Best new(ish) tools: Pedro’s Vise-Whip and Park PW-4 pedal wrench. Fewer cracked knuckles and less broken skin.

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    Mike Sanders April 24, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Being able to drop your kickstand to the ground while you’re still on your bike is a great idea, but I’d give it some color. Blue or red, maybe?

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    joan April 24, 2018 at 2:43 pm

    This is great, Madi! The photos really show what a great product this is!

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    GlowBoy April 24, 2018 at 9:00 pm

    I do like my Polk Swimmer Jr. bluetooth speaker. Wraps itself around a handlebar or other tube, unlike most bluetooth speakers that are decidedly difficult to mount to a bike.

    Maybe my favorite accessories, though, are my CatEye Reflex Auto blinky lights. They turn on anytime movement is detected and stay on until about a minute after the bike stops. No need to turn them on and off every time you get on and off the bike, and no accidentally leaving them on, only to find them dead or dim the next day. Plus they’re pretty bright, last a good long time on 2AAA batteries, and have CPSC-compliant reflectors.

    Only downside is they’re designed for Japanese conditions, which means they only operate when it’s dark outside. This is road-raging America, dammit, and we need our blinkies working at all times. Fortunately it only takes ten seconds with needle nose pliers to rip out the light sensor and disable the function. This does not disable the automatic, motion-sensing function.

    Kid-wise, my favorite thing is our Chariot Sidecarrier “trailer” – a sidecar! We got one years ago for our first kid, just before they discontinued it. We are still using it with our second kid, though it will probably be outgrown after this year. It’s a bit fussy to install the special mount that wraps around the bottom bracket, and it won’t fit most bikes that have a shorter front-center (i.e., nearly all modern road bikes), and some serious accident from improper installation is no doubt why it was taken off the market, but if it properly fits your bike it is wonderful.

    Unlike motorcycle sidecars it pivots and stays level even when you lean the bike, and it’s narrow enough that the total package isn’t really any wider than most 2-kid tow-behind trailers. On numerous occasions I hitched BOTH the Sidecarrier AND my BOB cargo trailer to my bike for grocery trips to the Sellwood New Seasons. My favorite memory (of many) is from a return leg of a Trader Joe’s run: we were both was famished, and thanks to us sitting next to each other my child and I were able to share a package of crackers all the way home.

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    • Madi Carlson
      Madi Carlson April 25, 2018 at 12:20 pm

      Yes to the Chariot Sidecarrier! I know a mom who pulled one of those and a trailer bike at the same time. A wonderful way to squish two kids onto one regular bike.

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      Belynda April 27, 2018 at 8:34 am

      Great. One more way life sucks more every day. Why do people think that because they want to hear something everyone around them wants to hear the same thing? One of my favorite aspects of bikes is that they are QUIET. Or they were.

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    Doug April 25, 2018 at 9:03 am

    Those speakers go on my list of most detested accessories. Inflict that noise on somebody else (Maria) if I hear another Blondie album again I’ll wretch.

    Beloved accessories? Touring Front bags aren’t cool, but they are useful. That’s the problem with cycling in general way too much cool, not nearly enough useful.

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      Jeff S(egundo) April 25, 2018 at 9:33 am

      “Touring Front bags aren’t cool…” Dang, I had no idea!
      “…but they are useful.” Indeed!

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      Jason Skelton April 25, 2018 at 12:18 pm

      Give em hell Doug!

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      David Hampsten April 25, 2018 at 7:51 pm

      A bike isn’t like a car, it’s mechanically more like a payloader, so bags in front make perfect sense. I’ve been doing it for 2 decades, but then I’m not cool…

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    Audrey April 25, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Can anybody recommend a cup holder that mounts on a hooptie? Repeatedly handing my water bottle behind me to a thirsty 3 year old is going to result in a crash one of these days.

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