Tonight my wife rode our two kids out to dinner in the bakfiets. The 9 month old baby rides in a rear-facing car seat, while the 4 year old sits on the bench seat. The target restaurant was in a mall parking lot off a busy road, about 3 miles away. However, with a bit of research and experimentation, we found a back way into the mall that is only a bit further and is much lower traffic. We even got to see a rabbit!
I rode along on our electric Yuba Mundo with the requisite parenting gear. The trip was a great way to combine some exercise, family time and transportation.
Welcome to Bikes-as-Transportation.com! This new site represents a merger of three blogs focused on electric cargo biking: Larry Clarkberg’s Bike Forth blog, MyCargoBike.net by Don Marsh and Mark Stosberg with his “Bikes as Transporation” blog.
We now blog from Ithaca, New York; Seattle, Washington; and Richmond, Indiana. We write about biking with kids from 6 months to 16 years old. Blog posts here will cover direct experience with a range of cargo bike options, from the common to the exotic.
The joint venture aims to provide a better overall experience for our regular readers and visitors. For more information about the site, you might start with About this Website or About our Bikes.
Cargo bikes are increasingly viable as car-replacement vehicles, but there are some significant differences between the options to choose from. The Surly Big Dummy is lighter, while Workcycle’s bakfiets puts kids front and center with a large box for cargo up front. Yuba’s elMundo is one way to add electric assist to the equation.
I have not had my own car for a decade. Instead my family replaces a second car with a number of bikes and other gear. Our bikes have included WorkCycles bakfiets, an electric Yuba Mundo and a Surly Big Dummy. Here’s how they compare with each other based on our experience riding each as part of our regular routines.
The basic details about each are readily available online, and won’t be repeated here, although the photos below will give you a sense of each.
I now have a Twitter account just for the topic of bikes-as-transportation. You can find me on Twitter as @BikesAsTrans. My hope for the account is to share related content from myself and others around the internet, as well as to provide short timely updates about my experiences with family cycling, cargo bikes, and electric bikes.
I look forward to posting more content here as well. This spring we added a second child to the family, and also added a Surly Big Dummy as my personal bike, complementing our existing bakfiets and my wife’s electric Yuba Mundo. There’s plenty to say about how these three distinct cargo bike options compare, contrast and combine. If you have a question about how any of them compare, leave a comment here and I’ll try to answer your question.
For now, here’s a couple recent photos from Flickr. Click through either for more explanation.
The box has small handles, and I used this area to cut a small hole with a utility knife for the battery wire to come through. This placement means water would have to be going up to get into the box, so I’m expecting no rain and very little road spray could make in it there. ( Adding drain holes to the bottom could also be a good idea, just in case. )
It was about a 16 mile round trip to the recycling point. In the scene above, I’d just found a second tree abandoned by the side of the road and strapped it on the trailer.
The temperature was perhaps 15F with a stiff headwind going out.
I was comfortable riding out using Bar Mitts with wool mittens inside, along with my usual assortment of gear. I have started wearing a waterproof shell over my softshell jacket for additional wind protection on very cold days.
Once I stopped and hucked the tree, I decided to take the long way home through the country to see the scenery. That plan worked pretty wheel until about mile 12, when I found myself at the bottom of a valley at the Abington/Salisbury intersection with a dying battery and about 120 lbs of bike to get home. Ah well, I succeeded at getting a good workout on a day I might have otherwise stayed inside.
“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” Ranulph Fiennes
We had a comfy ride to daycare and she reported that nothing was cold upon arrival, despite the sometimes 20 mph windchill generated from the moving bike at a temperature that was 15F to start with.
The ~3 year old is wearing a winter helmet with built-in ear covers, a “thick and thin” balaclava, ski googles, as well as some snow pants and snow boots. I’ve got a merino wool hat, face mask, OTG ski googles and a scarf. Neos overshoes help keep my feet warm on especially cold days, and bar mitts keep my hands warm while allowing me to wear modest gloves.
Sure it looks ridiculous to many. But I’d rather stay warm with a bit of extra clothing than to wear a 4,000 lb car for a short crosstown trip. I mean, when the primary reason you take a car on trip is a feature associated with clothing– like keeping you warm– then you are primarily wearing the car, right?
The electric Yuba Mundo works well asa kid & cargo winter bike. Recently I’ve been trying out Bar Mitts which so far seem to very effective at keeping my hands warmer while allowing me to wear thinner gloves inside of them. Compared to the bakfiets, the child needs to be dressed notably warmer. Since this photo was taken, we’ve also gotten some child ski goggles for her as well. In sum, we’re able to make cross-town trips comfortable at 15F (-9.4C) which is about as cold as it gets here in Richmond, Indiana.
The bakfiets makes it easier to keep the child warm with the greenhouse-like canopy, and the fully enclosed chain guard is definitely a plus for the bakfiets– On the eMundo the drive train got clogged with frozen slush in just about 15 minutes on a cold day– it was easy to clean out a little later with a stick, but no fun– plus the eMundo chain will need to be cleaned more after getting wet.
However, what the eMundo has going for it is a motor which allows me to get places faster and spend less time outside on very cold days. For that reason I currently prefer the eMundo to the bakfiets for most winter uses. The Mundo’s electric motor smoothed over the problem with the slush– while pedaling became “chunky” due to that issue, the motor could pull me along just fine without pedaling anyway.
Here’s same scene in a bakfiets from the previous winter: