It’s time for the final installment in my series of posts about carrying two bigger kids on a family bike (don’t miss part one, part two, and part three). I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no simple, off-the-shelf solution to fitting a 10 and a 12-year old weighing 170 pounds onto a bike, but there are solutions out there and some of them don’t take much customization. And that’s just today, who knows what the near future may yield as the families with small kids on e-cargo bikes find they need bigger solutions and the market is ready for what I’m exploring now.
I don’t think this is such a far-fetched idea: 12 years ago it was very difficult to find a kid bike seat. I scored mine on eBay after much searching and bidding, kicking myself for not buying one when visiting my relatives in the Netherlands six months earlier, assuming I could find one just as easily at home.
My first post led to me getting to borrow an Urban Arrow Family model. If the interior of the box was an inch or two wider it would work perfectly for my needs. As it is, I need one kid to sit on the front bench, facing backwards, which means the weather shield won’t fit over him. So it works, even if it’s not the perfect solution, and I’ve learned how great it is to maneuver this much cargo weight in the low front box — I can walk the Urban Arrow while it’s full of kid weight whereas I can barely hold my Surly Big Dummy longtail cargo bike upright.
But what does work well for two bigger kids? A lot of things! This isn’t by any means a comprehensive list, but I’ve got some great ideas. For the solutions with just the adult pedaling, most riders will want an e-assisted version for a two-tween load. Many will even want an e-assist for the bikes that have pedals for everyone. Oversized bikes are heavy and kids don’t always provide enough pedal power to make biking in tandem easy enough.
➤ Madsen bucket bike
The Madsen bucket bike holds four little kids on two benches so it’s definitely got room for two big kids. Madsen recently came out with an e-assist version and Seattle’s Bike Swift makes a Madsen electric assist kit for those wishing to convert an analog Madsen.
➤ Triple tandem
The bike in my photo is a Me’n’u2 triple from Thorn Cycles in the UK. Closer to home, Bike Friday and Co-Motion Cycles, both in Eugene make triples. My tandem is a used Rodriguez from Seattle and they also make triples (and then some!).
➤ Tandem plus trailer bike
A similar and perhaps simpler solution is to attach a Burley Piccolo trailercycle (weight limit of 85 pounds) behind a tandem bike. We used to ride like this, but my lighter kid is a more consistent pedaler and therefore better tandem stoker and my heavier kid is now too heavy for the Piccolo. I would like to work at riding the tandem (sans Piccolo) with just my heavier kid to work on our communication and his cadence, but my knees aren’t so keen on this idea.
➤ Semirecumbent tandem plus trailer bike
Semirecument tandems, like the Hase Pino and Bilenky Viewpoint are wonderfully versatile family bikes, perfect for adult and kid stokers alike (as well as great front perches for infant car seats) with short wheelbase that makes it easy to stick a trailer bike off the back.
➤ Longtail conversion for all of the above
Well, not the Madsen bucket bike, but everything else. Xtracycle’s current bike extender is called the Leap and it works on big wheels and 20-inch wheels. Older, cheaper Xtracycle FreeRadical conversion kits are sometimes easy to find used or as NOS (new old stock a.k.a. unused). Adding a Leap to a tandem adds both cargo space and room for one kid to sit.
➤ Or a very sturdy rear rack
I’ve never seen an Xtracycled bakfiets, but bakfietsen tend to come with very sturdy racks that can support the weight of a full-sized person. I have seen bakfietsen (mainly Bullitts) with the Cycletrucks Caddyrack. The Caddyrack provides a large spot to put a cushion (or kid seat or trailer bike) and can also tow kid bikes.
In the meantime, I’m still having a blast carrying both my kids easily for the first time since they were little and I’m happily taking them places I would have grumbled about if we were on three bikes. I won’t be replacing my beloved cargo bike, but this is definitely a wonderful car replacement for someone who wants to carry two kids aged through eight and 10 (and even with a third smaller kid on the second bench) with the weather shield.
Do you know of any other creative bike solutions that carry three people aged 10 and up at once? Thanks for reading!
Remember, we’re always looking for people to profile. Get in touch at madidotcom [at] gmail [dot] com if it sounds like fun to you.
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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.