One of the reasons I switched from the BodaBoda to a box bike was because I found it difficult to manage getting around by bike in the rain with kids on the back of a rear-carry cargo bike. Unlike box bikes, which typically have rain canopies available (and if one doesn’t already exist for your particular model the box is an easy attachment point for designing your own) rear-carry cargo bikes don’t typically have any sort of rain cover. Some kids don’t mind. I’m told anyway. My children decidedly do. They are not excited to be out on the bike getting rained on, they get cold easily, and honestly, wrestling them into the extra layers of rain gear makes taking the bike just that much harder and more frustrating to deal with. This is especially true when I was a stay-at-home mom and we were running multiple short errands where I didn’t want the children wearing their rain gear inside the shops but also didn’t want to carry it (or have to get them in and out of it multiple times a day). It’s less of an issue when they’re just being taken to daycare or school and we only need to deal with the rain gear a couple of times a day. So when we got our box bike I got a rain canopy ASAP and it was every bit as great as I’d hoped for. I could just get the children in temperature appropriate gear and not need to worry about them getting wet or too cold in the wind. It simplified using the bike so that it was easy to take it everywhere all through the long PNW rainy season. I honestly never missed having a midtail and the main reason for that was how much easier the weather protection afforded by the rain canopy made our lives.
Fast forward to now and we have the GSD. And I do love it. I enjoy having a smaller bike at times and I’m grateful for the shorter commute that it affords me. The wet season is upon us, however, and I needed to learn to navigate that with Little T on the back of the GSD in the Yepp instead of snug under the rain canopy of the Packster unless I want to pedal an extra 14 or so miles and spend another hour commuting every day. A popular option is to just put rain gear on the kid(s). That option has drawbacks though. The biggest for me is that even though Little T spends most of his day at daycare rather than running multiple short errands with me I still find the prospect of having to deal with rain gear for him on the water taxi daunting. It’s already a challenge to get us off the bike, the stuff we need unloaded (usually we eat some breakfast together on the boat) and manage our helmets and his toys. Adding another layer to that, on top of my own rain gear, is not something I’m excited about. There’s also the issue that kids get cold much more easily when they are exposed, so in addition to the rain gear I have to worry more about insulating layers as well (and taking them off inside the boat, ugh). Another option is to buy or construct some sort of rain canopy for the back of the bike, either covering just the child seat or covering the entire deck.
Rain canopy options for longtails/midtails and child seats is one of the questions I see come up most often in family biking circles and unfortunately there aren’t as many options as might be expected. Ashley over at Xtracycle figured out an option using a moped cover that works for larger longtails. And others have done things like construct canopies out of old tents, used WeeHoo covers, or put stroller covers on Yepp seats. unfortunately, there aren’t really any ready made canopies for longtails or midtails and unlike the makers of box bikes (who have at least mostly figured out that this is a feature families consider important) the manufacturers of longtails and midtails don’t seem to be interested in coming up with solutions. Nor are there many options for covering children riding in Yepp (or similar) seats, whether they are on cargo bikes or regular bikes. Hamax makes a poncho style cover for kids, though it leaves their face exposed which isn’t ideal in the cold. Otherwise the only covers are intended for putting on the seat when you leave the bike in the rain and want the seat to stay dry, not for covering the child while they are in the seat. The exception is the Maruto cover, which is manufactured for use with the seats on Japanese mamachari. The Maruto cover is the only one I’ve seen that is intended for use with bike seats and actually covers the entire kid + seat. Currently it is imported to the US by Clementine Climent at Kaeru Bikes. Earlier this year she asked if anyone was interested in being a product tester and I said yes. Even though I didn’t have the GSD yet at the time, my kids were being watched by a friend of mine who often had to put Little T in a kid seat on the back of her Metrofiets and she was interested to see if the Maruto cover would work better than her stroller rain cover hack. (So, full disclosure, I received the Maruto cover free in exchange for this review.) She used it for the last couple of months of the rainy season here (~April-May) and then gave it back to me as we headed into summer. I had meant to put together a review based on her impressions but time got away from me with our move and it didn’t happen. Additionally, by the time I got the cover back I knew I was getting the GSD and was anxious to spend some hands-on time with the Maruto cover myself.
The Maruto cover comes in blue, pink, and green. I got the green. It comes in a storage bag that is the same color as the cover and folds up pretty easily to fit back in the bag (though, truth be told, I just roll it up and stash it in the sling bags on my GSD rather than use the storage bag). Opening it up the quality seems pretty good (decent stitching, reasonable thickness to the fabric, and the zippers don’t seem cheap) but I did notice that the zippers are not a waterproof style and the fabric doesn’t have obvious waterproofing. The easy folding and small package of the Maruto also demonstrate a big weakness for use with US seats: it lacks a frame or any sort of stiffness. I imagine this is fine with Japanese child seats, which have wings at the head level that provide support for the cover. But the child seats popular in the US and Europe (Yepp, Hamax, Topeak, etc.) don’t have nearly the same sort of structure, so there isn’t anything to support the canopy and keep it off the child (and their face). Ignoring that issue for the moment the rest of the design if pretty good. There’s a zipper in the front that lets you hand things to the child (or in the case of my son, lets the child push beg buttons for crossing the street) and a long one down the left side that lets you open up the cover for taking the child in and out. There are a couple of vents on the sides that can be propped open with velcro, and some venting in the back. There’s also a couple of straps to attach the cover to the seat and a cinch cord in the back at the bottom to tighten the cover down around the bottom of the seat. Overall the cover is fairly large and should work for kids through age 3-5.
It was immediately obvious that this cover wasn’t going to work on the Yepp seat without *some* sort of support. My first attempt at this involved the rain canopy support from our Deuter hiking pack. I knew it wasn’t going to be completely adequate but I thought maybe it would make a good interim solution while I worked on something else. It wasn’t nearly enough. It was entirely too short for Little T (who is fairly tall for being newly 3) and did almost nothing to keep the cover away from his face. He was pretty clearly unhappy with the setup, even though his helmet meant the cover was never actually in his face. He definitely seemed to feel too closed in with it on and asked to have it off quite quickly. I was also pretty uncomfortable because of how close it was to his face, even with the helmet preventing direct contact.
Back to the drawing board. I concluded I needed to make something more substantial and the most obvious material for that was PVC. So I dropped by the hardware store and picked out some connectors and a length of 1/2″ PVC pipe, along with a PVC cutting tool and some PVC cement. The materials cost a total of ~$30 but >$20 of that was the cutting tool and PVC cement. If you’ve got a saw (even a hand saw) and some glue (many types other than PVC cement should be fine for this application since we don’t need the resulting product to be watertight) you can skip those and it becomes a much cheaper project. My basic idea was to make a sort of PVC “halo” over the Yepp seat. My first version used connectors coming in at the middle of the halo on either short side. Our trial the next day worked alright, but I lost a section because I hadn’t wanted to cement everything together until I was confident of the design and so some pieces worked themselves loose during the course of our commute. Lesson learned. It also still didn’t keep the cover as far from his face as I was hoping for.
The second version of the PVC halo moved the main supports to the corners using a different type of connector. This brought the front of the cover forward and away from his face without pulling the back too far forward. It was also clearly more comfortable for Little T. He even asked to have it put on during our ride home when he got cold, refusing to let me put a warmer jacket on him and instead demanding the rain cover. I wasn’t quite satisfied though. It was better, to be sure, but I still didn’t like how it pushed back toward his face at speeds >15 mph. So one more round of tweaking was in order.
The final version of the support frame retains the main supports along the back edge of the PVC halo. But this one also adds wings in the head region so that the cover doesn’t push in at higher speeds and come close to the passenger’s face. It does make it harder to get the child in and out of the seat compared to the basic halo, but not markedly so. Because I’d already cemented most of the parts of the basic halo together I couldn’t add the wings on at the front corners unless I wanted to remake the entire thing (I didn’t) so I drilled holes and used zip ties there. If you want to improve on mine you could use the same 3-way 90 degree connectors I used in other locations in the frame for a cleaner look (and less stuff shifting around). With this version the canopy doesn’t push back into the passenger’s face and the cover stays pretty nicely in place, even on fast downhill stretches.
OK, so now we’ve gone through kind of a lot of effort to get it set up and we know it works in the wind, but what about the rain? That’s main point, right?
I’ve been through a variety of rainy commutes with the cover now and I’m happy to report that the performance is really good. When my friend was using it with less of a frame to keep it away from the kid it had some issues with rain seeping through when it got really wet. With the frame that hasn’t been an issue. I think the issue there is that the fabric isn’t *really* waterproof so it does have a bit of a tendency to wick water through the fabric if there is something touching it. On the other hand, when it isn’t touching anything I have not experienced any issues with water leaking through. So with the frame it’s been quite successful at keeping water off my child and the seat. The only place they tend to get a little wet is on their legs. My kid has solved this by putting his feet up on the deck when he’s riding in the Yepp (I don’t strap his feet in to the foot cups on my cargo bike). It would also probably not be much issue if you do strap their feet into the cups. It’s only a problem if you leave their feet free and they decide to put them somewhere that isn’t under the cover. Overall I would give the cover 4 out of 5 stars for keeping the kid dry. It’s not as good as a box bike rain canopy, but it does a solid job, even in heavy rain or on long rides.
I have two seats on the back of the GSD on rainy or cold days. One is a Qibbel Jr that is uncovered, and one is the Yepp Maxi with the Maruto cover. I let my 3 year old pick most days which seat he wants to ride in. If it’s rainy he always picks the Yepp w/ cover. If it’s cold he picks the covered seat about 75% of the time. On warmer, dry days he always picks the Qibbel Jr. On a recent chilly morning I tried to put him on the bike on the Qibbel and he started crying and telling me he wanted his rain cover because it was cold. From that I think I can infer that overall he prefers riding in the Jr seat but that he appreciates the protection from wind and rain that he gets from the Maruto cover enough to make it worth riding in the Yepp if it’s rainy or cold. That feels like a pretty strong endorsement of the cover for a 3 year old. He also seems to like that it allows him to do absurd things like refuse his coat for the ride home in 45F weather and ride home under the cover in just his T-shirt.
So is the Maruto cover the right pick for you? That likely depends. If you don’t have a passenger rail (which makes it easier to hack a rain cover that will cover the entire rear end of the bike) and want something that can work with your existing Yepp (or similar) seat, maybe so. Especially if you’ve just got one kid you need to keep dry. It’s relatively pricey ($60 for the cover, another $10-30 for the PVC frame depending what tools and glue you already have available), so you might prefer to just stick to rain gear for your little. But on the whole I really love ours and it’s been a great solution for us. Our commute would be much more difficult without it and I’m hopeful that this post will help make it easier for others to make a frame and use this cover with their Yepp because I suspect there are a lot of you out there looking for a solution just like this.
Is the Maruto cover interesting to you? Or have you come up with your own form of wind and rain protection for your kid who is on a longtail or in a bike seat? Tell me about it! I’d love to see.
Edit: here are some pictures to show the size of the various pieces of the frame. This size worked until my son was nearly 4. Now he’s a bit tall for it and I’ve added some extra length using couplers and small pieces of PVC pipe.