It was just over a year ago, when I was hugely pregnant with my 3rd baby, that my husband and I started talking about getting a family bike. He’d just purchased a bike for himself, and I’d developed a raging case of bike envy. But I knew a bike would be virtually useless to me if I couldn’t take all my kids with me on it.
Still, we liked to dream. Initially our imaginings were borderline ridiculous: we’d get a good solid bike, put a child seat on the back for our 3-year-old, another seat on the front for the baby, attach a tagalong for our 6-year-old, and then add some pegs for me to stand on while he pedaled. It could totally work, right? (Hey, if Walk Off The Earth can all play one guitar, then the Heiselt family can all ride one bike.)
It didn’t take too long for our ridiculous imaginings to take a turn for the serious. After all, getting 3 kids around Brooklyn with no car is not something to take too lightly (although there is always going to be something that feels ridiculous about trying to get 4-5 people on one bike). We have some friends who do it with the aid of box tricycle. And watching them from afar, their kids all right there in front of them with room to pack a nice big picnic lunch looked mighty appealing . . . .
However, once our baby was born we realized that we still had many many months before we would feel comfortable putting that floppy little child on a bike, so we let our idea rest until this spring, when we were taken with the idea again to the point of obsession. Over the course of a couple of months we looked all over for a bike that could transport an adult and 3 children, groceries, toys, other bikes . . . whatever we needed. And that we could wheel into our apartment every night for safe keeping.
It turns out that there are actually quite a few options. If you’re in the market for a family bike, maybe one of these would work for you.
The Family Bike Show 1 of 7
Hop on the bandwagon! Family bikes are awesome.
Trailers 2 of 7
As we started our search for the perfect family bike, our first thought was to get a normal, 1-person bike and put a trailer on back. And maybe a child seat on the bike itself. It seemed pretty versatile: I could put one or two kids in the trailer and one in the seat. If I only had one kid to transport, I'd just take off the trailer. I'd have a normal bike to get me around if ever I was on my own.
However, we were nervous about having the kids so low to the ground. I was a little uncomfortable, as well, with having them so far away from me. I didn't want us to be yelling at each other if we needed to communicate.
And then there was the issue of storage. A bike and a trailer meant adding two more wheeled conveyances into our collection, which we store inside our small apartment. Getting them both up the front stoop seemed like it could be tricky, and hugely annoying.
So while it seemed like the obvious option at first, we scrapped the idea and moved on.
image via istockphoto.com
The Bike With Tag-a-long Trailer 3 of 7
If the trailer itself was the problem, and it would be nice to have a bike that could actually be "normal" if it needed to be, then maybe there were other options? We'd seen bikes that had an attachment for another bike or partial bike that an older child could sit on. What if we added a tagalong to the bike, then put child seats on front and on back? That would get us our three bikes with at least two of the kids close.
But what if we were taking our older son to school? We'd need the tagalong on the way there, but not on the way back. Would it get in the way? Would it be hard to detach?
In the end, there were too many variables. It almost seemed too versatile too many possible scenarios that could be complicated by having a tagalong. So we moved on.
image via trail-a-bike.com
The Box Bike 4 of 7
The next thought was a box bike. This solved the problem of having the kids so far away and low to the ground. The kids would sit in front of me (or my husband, if he were driving), and we could talk/bicker without any problem. The box also seemed like an ideal way to transport plenty of other gear as well. Certainly we could load it up and take everything we needed for a day at the park without any problem.
We had some friends with a box bike (actually, theirs is a trike) and they love it. Their word was almost enough to convince us that it would be perfect until we decided that outside storage really wasn't an option for us. We needed something we could bring inside. And lugging a box bike up the stairs and into our apartment which has a very narrow hallway was entirely out of the question.
But we test drove one anyway, just for kicks. The kids loved it. But it was a little awkward for me to steer because the front wheel is so far away from the handle bars, and I ended my experiment with the bike after just once around the block.
image via istockphoto.com
The Tandem 5 of 7
My grandparents owned a tandem bike that my mom and her sisters used when they were in high school, and that my siblings and I liked to ride around on when we visited. Tandem bikes are a lot of fun if you can get one with enough seats!
The one we tested (pictured above) had two little seats in front, then the driver's seat, and then a rack on back where we thought we could put a child seat. My boys loved being able to pedal along with me. They were less thrilled that their handlebars didn't allow them to steer. This one was easier for me to maneuver than the box bike, but only just. I made it twice around the block on my test drive before I decided that, fun as it was, it wasn't for us.
The Cargo Bike 6 of 7
We stepped into a bike shop near our apartment one day and explained our situation to the clerk. He introduced us to the cargo bike a bike with a rack on back and to the idea of having one kid sit on the cargo rack, one in a child seat at the back of the rack, and another in a child seat on front. He said he'd added handlebars and foot pegs to a cargo bike for a customer and she was able to get her two kids on there without a problem.
This seemed like the way to go. We felt like we were on track with the cargo bike. We could add cargo bags as well, and use it to do our shopping. Suddenly this whole "family bike" thing seemed like it was something our family could actually pull off.
image via konaworld.com
The Longtail 7 of 7
That night, after we were introduced to the cargo bike idea, my husband spent some time online doing comparison shopping while I went out with friends. When I came home he told me he'd found the family bike of our dreams. It was a longtail bike a cargo bike with an extra long cargo rack in back that can hold a lot (400+ lbs.) of weight. We could put a 2-3 kids on back of it and load the cargo bags with groceries and not even break a sweat. As my two boys grew, they would still fit on the back, and when my baby got too big for a child seat, she could join them back there. It was one bike, but it was light enough (which is not to say that it is actually "light") that I could carry it up our stoop, and it fit through our narrow hallway.
While we were pretty sure this was the bike for us, we hadn't actually spoken with anyone who had one. So my husband, as he was commuting to work, kept an eye out for the elusive long tail bike. And he found a few, chased them down, and asked the owner's opinion. The response: "Everyone should have one."
That was, of course, what we were hoping to hear. We purchased the bike and have not looked back. The kids love it. We love it. And everyone who sees us with three kids on one bike seems to love it, too.
(We got a Yuba Mundo, pictured above.)