Bikes · Parenting

Our first cargo bike

About a month into living in Eugene we stopped by Arriving By Bike to look at pannier options for T’s commute. While there we decided it would be fun to take a look at the cargo bikes they had available. I was vaguely familiar with the idea of the Xtracycle, having previously been a big bike commuter when the Free Radical was a new thing and come across it while reading bike forums. I was definitely impressed with how far things had come. I was initially attracted to the Boda Boda V3 and ended up taking H on a quick test ride before the kids got too cranky and we decided to head home. She had a blast and was made that we didn’t get to ride longer.

The idea of being able to put both kids on one bike so that I could take them places by myself was really appealing. Initially we decided there was no way we could afford it, but the idea stayed a topic of conversation over the next couple of weeks and ultimately we decided that when we sold our second car (a Fiat 500 that was not working for us with 2 kids) we would go ahead and buy a cargo bike. So we listed the car and started test riding bikes. Compared to previous experiences test riding it was definitely challenging to do test rides with two kids! Every bike we wanted to try would need to be set up properly for kids and we could only ride a couple without them getting upset. We ended up picking a day where me and T could go test ride them all ourselves, then picked our favorite to take the kids out on for a final ride.

We test rode pretty much every cargo bike Arriving By Bike had to offer. Although the electric assisted Edgerunners and Spicy Curry were a lot of fun to ride, we decided that e-assist was out of budget and not necessary for us since we were living in a very flat part of Eugene. That plus the need to carry two kids narrowed our focus to the Mundo, Boda Boda V3, and unassisted Edgerunner. I could tell very quickly that the Mundo was not going to work. It felt unwieldy to me and I nearly dropped it the first time I tried to ride even though it was completely unloaded. The Edgerunner and the Boda V3 both felt pretty good to ride but the substantial price difference made me lean toward the Boda. I was worried about whether the higher deck would be a problem so we had them set it up for the kids and returned a couple of days later to see how it felt loaded.

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Our final test ride with both kids on board went well, though in retrospect I wish we’d spent more time on it (but of course that’s hard with two kids who can decide to just be done with it at any time). Both kids seemed happy with the bike, especially H, and while it was in motion I didn’t have any trouble with the weight of the kids being there. It was easily adjustable between the two of us and we both felt comfortable riding it. We decided to go for it as soon as the car sold. Luckily for us that happened only about a week later. We started out with the Mini Monkey Bars, Soft Spot, and a Yepp Maxi for little T, letting H ride on the deck.

The honeymoon phase did not last long. On one of our first rides out I realized how difficult the bike could be for me to manage while both kids were on board. I let it tip a little while coming out of the parking area at the house and within a second the bike was on the ground with both kids on back. It was terrifying for all of us. Even though I’d had a good grip on the bike I wasn’t able to do anything to stop it going over because of the way the weight was distributed and how light I am. The kids were shaken up but after a few minutes to recover and ice some bruises we were able to convince everyone to get back on the bike and we went for our ride. I modified several things at that point. I only loaded the kids onto the bike far enough away from the locking location that I would not need to lean the bike to maneuver it out of the parking area. I made sure to always hold the bike so I maximized my control over it if it did start to tip. And because H became more wiggly as she got more comfortable on the bike and could make the whole bike move in a very unnerving way we purchased a second Yepp Maxi for her. This more or less solved the problem, and I never dropped them again, but it did make me appreciate how the higher deck made things more difficult, especially for smaller riders like myself.

Although electric assist would certainly have been fun and might have resulted in us running more errands with the bike than we did I found us most held back by the lack of a cover to help keep the kids dry and warmer. H is a bit sensitive and that made it tough to take them out much once the summer ended. The gear range was plenty wide enough for our needs in Eugene, the large tires made it a smooth ride when loaded, and the integrated easyfit windows made putting the kid seats on very easy. We kept H in the Yepp for about 5 months, then let her go back to riding on the deck once the foot pegs finally came out for the V3 and she’d matured enough to stay still most of the time. About a month in I had to replace the pedals with better ones as one had developed a clicking noise but otherwise the components were adequate for our needs. It took a little while to build my confidence but before long I was able to climb the moderate hills we encountered with both kids on board. And I had enough fun on the bike that even without kids I usually took the Boda when I went out.

One thing I found funny is that even though there are midtails and longtails all over Eugene there are not many with multiple Yepp seats. That attracted a lot of attention and I got a lot of question about the bike! People thought it was very cool. The drawbacks for using the V3 with two Yepp seats (which I’m not sure Yuba recommends, they don’t have any pictures of such a setup) are 1) the kids are very close so a smaller child in the back doesn’t have tons of room for their head/helmet. This actually was an advantage with little T because when he fell asleep his head would lean on H’s seat but I could see some kids not liking it and 2) The front spot is too close to the rider to be able to turn the Yepp seats backwards to protect the kids from the wind. This was suggested to me by a few people to help with the lack of a cover but wouldn’t work for us. Overall though, I think it worked well for two kids. We regularly did rides in the 3-6 mile range and only had trouble when little T was tired or it was too cold.

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Both kids in Yepp Maxis. H is 3.5 years and T is about 12 months here.
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New helmets, new mittens (Mittyz!), and H back on the deck. We put the extra internal bars back on the monkey bars after this ride and found it reduced wiggling.

We also had some fun taking the bike out together for an anniversary ride sans kids!

And used it to go pick up my commuter bike when I had to leave it across town one day.

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Although we only had the Boda for a few months and there were a few hiccups we had a lot of fun with it and it served as a great intro into the world of cargo bikes. For the price I think it’s got a lot of great family focused accessories (we used the bread basket constantly and loved the ease of use with the Yepp seats) and is adequate for two younger kids. It was cheaper and more functional for us than I think an Edgerunner would have been and being able to purchase from a local shop was important to us, which ruled out some of the other midtail options. The test rides were absolutely crucial to us for introducing us to the wonderful world of cargo biking and the staff at Arriving By Bike were awesome to work with.

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