My Town got has Bike Lanes...Yay
September 9, 2016 9:15 AM   Subscribe

How did you make the transition from car to bike easy and intuitive? How did you make "bike" the default when "car" is always a possibility/temptation?

My town just made major improvements and we now have bike lanes to/from almost every place I go. This combined with the fact that I can no longer afford the parking at my university, means I want to go full on bike.

I need to change how I think about transport and always assume I am biking which takes more time. I also have to think about how to carry my life on a bike and make sure I look not horrible at work.

What products did you buy and love for:

-taking along your 7 year old (can ride a bike, but can't be trusted not to randomly ride out in traffic)
-taking along your 3 year old
-biking in the rain (raingear that goes over my clothes?)
-Hauling your laptop
-Getting groceries
-accomplishing a quick change from riding a bike to work to office casual at work.

posted by songs_about_rainbows to Travel & Transportation (28 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not trying to totally upsell you, but given your needs (7yo, 3yo, groceries) you seem like a prime candidate for a longtail cargo bike such as a Yuba or Xtracycle. You can put two age-appropriate seats on the back of it and get big cargo bags which will hold a load of groceries.

Assuming that's not an investment you want to jump right into, these are things that help:
- Buy a backpack that is comfortable on you and holds your laptop in a padded sleeve.
- Buy a rain cape (and possibly rain overshoes) and keep that in your bag at all times.
- Put fenders on your bike. Seriously, put fenders on your bike.
- Put more lights than you think you need on your bike.
- For groceries, get a rack and then either a pannier or a foldable basket to attach to it. Two panniers or baskets if necessary depending on your household's grocery volume and frequency of grocery trips.
- Get one of those reflective strap things to go around your pant leg and keep your pants out of the chain and front sprocket.
- If possible, depending on your bike, get a chain guard to further reduce the possibility of chain oil soling your pants.
- Keep a change or two of clothes at the office. Once or twice a week as needed, bring your office clothes home and other clothes into the office.
posted by gauche at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [7 favorites]

I have an Xtracycle Edgerunner which easily fits a 4y/o and our combined luggage (kid's school bag and my work clothes). Kid sits on a Yepp Maxi seat which will fit him for another 6mo-1yr I think. You could fit the 7y/o on the Xtracycle too with just a cushion to sit on.

Kid did have a kid-on-a-bike-seat poncho that cleverly fitted over him/the bike seat and over his helmet. He outgrew that so has a rainsuit now.

I shower when I get to work (well, more accurately I shower at a gym near work as work doesn't have showers - I joined the gym solely for that purpose). Because I shower at the end of my ride, I mostly forgo any waterproofs - they just make me sweatier than I would be otherwise. I only wear an outer shell when it's really cold. I do have waterproof shoes for cycling but they still let water in through the top so you still get wet feet in the worst weather. They stop the odd puddle giving you damp toes though.

My recommendation for any sort of cargo is panniers! And/or a front rack. Significantly more comfortable than a backpack.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Overall budget for making this transition? Do you have a bike? You can fit two kids or a metric f-ton of groceries (or one kid and half a metric f-ton of groceries) on one of these babies. And/or use a trailer. Or go full Dutchie.
posted by supercres at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2016

taking along your 7 year old (can ride a bike, but can't be trusted not to randomly ride out in traffic)
We just started easy, and rode in gradually in heavier and heavier traffic. I prefer to have her ride in front of me, so I can see situations in front of us and shout things at her (mostly I do a stream-of-consciousness situational awareness thing).
taking along your 3 year old
I preferred a trailer to a rear seat. My kid also hated the trail-a-bike that we tried a couple of times, but some kids love it. Because she could ride by that point, she didn't like not being in control of the bike.
biking in the rain (raingear that goes over my clothes?)
A good rain jacket and rain pants. Get one with a hood and you can either wear it under or over your helmet. There's also shower-cap like things that you can put over your helmet, but I prefer a hood.
Hauling your laptop
Laptop goes in a neoprene sleeve that in turn goes into waterproof panniers.
Getting groceries
Groceries go into panniers.
accomplishing a quick change from riding a bike to work to office casual at work.
I walk my bike to my desk, sit down, and turn on the little fan I keep under my desk to blow on me and cool me off. Once I've stopped sweating, I either walk to a bathroom and change, or I quickly change pants and then shirt at my cube (sounds risky, but takes 2 seconds each).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2016

A good bike with fenders and a rear rack is a start.

This is my favorite rack. It sits a little farther back, so it's less likely that I'll kick any bags with my heel.

For carrying stuff to and from work, I like this Banjo Brother's backpack pannier. It's waterproof and easy to use on the bike and as a backpack. It's also way more affordable than other backpack panniers.

I like this bag for going to the store. I bring it in as my reusable bag.

My best tip for riding to work is to keep a full change of clothes at work for those times you forget something or get something dirty/wet/etc. When I say full change, I mean everything from naked to ready.
posted by advicepig at 9:30 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Echo-ing gauche, I will note that the thing that made the biggest difference for me in terms of starting to use the bike as a regular everyday mode of commuting was getting an electric cargo bike (a Yubo Mondo) that fits my 2-year-old and all my stuff easily. For me, the fact that it's an electric bike was a game-changer, although that's mostly because I live up a giant hill and the sweat factor for hauling myself and a bike trailer with the toddler was a huge disincentive. (I only turn on the motor to ride up the big hill--the rest of the ride I leave it in regular mode.) Now I know I can get outside and enjoy the outdoors during my commute without feeling like I need to be in the mood for a serious cardio workout.

If you're in a pretty flat area, though, I think a double kid trailer might be fine. Kids fit inside, and then you can use the pockets on the trailer (or panniers on your bike) to haul your stuff. We got a used Chariot off craigslist - it was in great condition and we've used it a ton, well worth the $350 we spent.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:35 AM on September 9, 2016

I can't address the kid stuff aside from what I've seen others do, but I can talk about everything else.

Getting groceries: I bought a large set of double panniers that live on the back rack of my bike, along with some reusable bags [the ones that ball up into little stuff sacks]. They fit ~4-6 standard plastic-size-bags of groceries, or about 40 pounds, though my bike does get a bit more sluggish adding that much weight.

Hauling my laptop: I know there are laptop-specific panniers, but see above where my panniers do not swap out easily. I just haul my laptop in a backpack with a padded slot.

Rain: I have a light poncho in a small stuff sack; it does the job. I do find it a bit clammy. But it's long enough that it also protects my legs somewhat.

Quick change: I don't. I ride in street clothes. I ride relatively slowly, in the 10-15 mph range, and this prevents me from getting really sweaty. It does help that my rides are generally across fairly flat ground, nothing I have to put OMG I AM WORKING OUT effort into. On really really hot/humid days where sweat can't be helped, I do wear wicking shirts on my ride in, wipe down in the office bathroom and change shirts for the work day. I wear more pants than jeans, because they tend to be a bit more flexible for biking; I also wear A-line skirts [I do know people who bike in pencil skirts, but I find they ride up too much, and since I'm short, there's already not enough much to ride up before I'm flashing someone].

Other notes: I specifically picked out a step-through bike, more in the Dutch style of heavier, more durable, can deal with being left outdoors, can deal with more weight than just yourself bikes. It has fenders, so you don't get a skunk stripe from riding through puddles. It has a chainguard, so you don't have to roll up your right pants cuff for fear of it getting caught. It has a coatguard, so that if you're wearing a fluffier skirt, it won't get caught [and the panniers also help a lot in this respect]. It has a sturdy rear rack that can accommodate panniers and/or a child seat.
posted by Pandora Kouti at 9:42 AM on September 9, 2016 [4 favorites]

The answer to most of your questions, for us, was our cargo bike. Edgerunners sit right at the intersection of easy to ride, relatively inexpensive, and utility. They're not the cheapest cargo bikes out there, but they give you the most cargo space for the dollar spent. They're not nearly as cool as wheelbarrow bikes like bullets or bakfiets...but they're like half the cost. I love ours, and plan on keeping it until the kid can reliably ride on his own for long distances.

Until very recently, due to commute changes, I rode everyday and picked the kid up from daycare. The bike held 5 bags of groceries, the kid, and towed his bike when he got tired (or when the roads were not suitable for him to ride along with). This hitch was added custom (by drilling a couple holes in the back frame of the bike) but works great, and our local shop now offers them to other folks. The kid can't ride on the bike when its being towed (as shown), but it helps with kids that are 'inbetween' being able to ride on their own. Trailers can be cheaper, but they're usually pretty unstable, and based on how they actually pull cargo, can feel WAY heavier and harder to ride with than a unified cargo bike. I had a trailer for a year, and it was real dumb for daily commuting and grocery-getting.

I actually prefer capes and ponchos while riding, as opposed to jackets. Jackets tend to allow rain to pool and gather in odd spots, and even the best waterproof jackets start to leak eventually. Capes/ponchos let you breathe a bit more, and keep your temperature down and increase airflow. I use a cheap ikea poncho modified as shown here. It works in all but the worst rain. I will probably upgrade when I have more cash to throw at the problem.

Invest in a couple dry-bags for spare clothes and your laptop. They're very inexpensive.

Since your bike lanes are newish, you should get the brightest lights you can afford (you really ought to do this anyways). Cars are not always going to see you; Get obnoxious bright lights. The brightest lights. Make sure everyone sees you. Use them in the daytime too.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:43 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've never used one, but I'm intrigued by as a way to tow a kid's bike when they are over riding by themselves.
posted by advicepig at 9:53 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bike messenger tip: if you live in a northern clime subscribe to a newspaper. In winter the delivery bags over your socks keep your feet warm and dryish, and the paper tucked inside your jacket insulates your core.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:18 AM on September 9, 2016

I used a Trail-Gator for years when my kids were younger and loved the thing. The tricky thing is with two kids, the trail gator means you can't do a kid rear-seat on the bike or a trailer when the trail gator is attached. Also, the trail-gator could sometimes clip my panniers during sharp turns.

My rig when my kids were both young, then, was a Trail-Gator for the bigger kids and a Chariot Side for the littler kid car. This worked OK, although I never got the Chariot Side Car to fit my bike perfectly. If I went back to full time biking with two not-fully independently riding small kids, I would be very tempted to go for the cargo bike solution. (My solution worked great in principle but in practice required lots of small, almost daily adjustments).

But kids will grow up and out of this stuff amazingly fast (long days, short years, goes the well worn cliche.)
posted by Doc_Sock at 10:20 AM on September 9, 2016

For the smaller kid: We love love love our WeeHoo. Kiddo is tall for his age and almost 6 and will probably be too big for it next year, but we've had it for 3 summers and it's been great. We live in a hilly place and were having major difficulties hauling a bike trailer; having a little help has worked well. Next year we'll probably get the ride-behind trailer that's more of a bike. One big downside: it doesn't fit with panniers, and the storage on the WeeHoo itself is not much. I have a front basket if I need to carry more than I can manage as a backpack, but a weekly grocery trip would be too much stuff.

I ride in in my work clothes. I think drivers are better-behaved than when I dress for exercise, and as I'm commuting, not exercising, I don't get super disheveled. I don't ride if the morning weather is poor but if it rains on the way home I just change then.

One other side note: since you mention parking, check to see if your university has any kind of program to encourage non-car commutes. Where I work we get a free 24/7 bus pass, 2-3 weeks' worth of one-day parking passes, and access to a free shuttle service for emergencies, in exchange for not getting a car parking pass.
posted by tchemgrrl at 10:21 AM on September 9, 2016

How many miles a day are we talking? And how often does it rain in your area? What's your budget? That will influence some of the answers here. I can't help with the kid question but a few things not mentioned yet, from my 10 years of not owning a car:

Lighting. I highly recommend you consider using a dynamo lighting system. I preach this to anyone who will listen, I don't know why they aren't more widely used outside of Europe. The lights are amazingly bright, have extremely focused beams, rarely get stolen (or forgotten at home) because they are bolted down, and most importantly they ALWAYS run at 100% because there's no battery to charge. You can run them during the day for visibility, which everyone should do on bikes anyways but is impractical if you use battery lights. It makes lighting exactly like the headlights of a car, always there, always on, always bright. The time to think about this is before you get a new bike, because the generator is in the front wheel, although even if you have to buy a second wheel i still think it's worth it (I have dynamos on 3/4 of my bikes). I often have other road users assume I'm a moped or motorcycle because of how bright they are.

Carrying stuff. Definitely go for panniers, but I have to say, the humble basket is the most useful thing in the world. The best way to do this is to buy a sturdy front rack, zip tie a Wald basket to the top, and buy a net cargo net. Like this.

Rain. IME unless you have full fenders, with mud flaps, then it is pointless to even try to stay dry. Go for the fenders on the bike first, then you will need rain gear. Personally I only do rain jackets/shoe booties/etc. if it's a light rain. If it's actually raining I just wear 'bike clothes' to work (bike shorts, wool jersey, wool cycling socks, rain shell, appropriate gloves, etc.) and change when I get there. I use fairly cheap backpacker style dry bags for clothes, laptops, etc. No matter how waterproof a pannier supposedly is, I always use a dry bag for electronics.

Commuting. I just wear street clothes and ride at a reasonable pace, if it's unusually hot or a long ride then I just wear the aforementioned bike clothes and change. You will need to account for like 5-10min to 'cool down' after riding, then I wipe down with baby wipes and then change. I'm bald so I can't help you with the hair problem.

Gear. Go buy the appropriate clothing. Yes, it's all expensive. It makes a massive difference. Buy things as you need them, but go take a look at the kinds of things they have a well equipped bike shop and take note of what other people around you are wearing. Gloves! You need so many gloves if you're going to ride year around. Start with some bike shorts and a jacket and some gloves, or at least pair of cycling-specific jeans (Levi's makes pretty ok ones, not terribly expensive).
posted by bradbane at 10:24 AM on September 9, 2016 [3 favorites]

First of all, depending on how long your commute is, you can challenge the mindset that biking takes more time. At my university, the walk from my office to the nearest place to my office I can park a car already eats up the time difference between driving from home and biking from home. And if I have an errand to run elsewhere on campus, I can bike there instead of walking there, saving yet more time.

As for hauling kids: we used a Burley. It was expensive. But it has lasted us through eight years and two kids. You can totally wipe out on your bike and the Burley stays upright, and your kid is safe. In fact they even laugh. Ask me how I know.
posted by escabeche at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [5 favorites]

Not particularly practical advice, but I find that cycling is a self-reinforcing habit. After zipping to work on my road bike (there's a big roadie culture in London), I often think "God I love cycling." And that makes me look forward to the next ride!
posted by henryaj at 10:29 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think this is much easier if you think of yourself as a person who gets around in the world in whatever way makes sense, rather than creating some kind of moral value judgment against any time you opt to drive somewhere. Ferrying kids around, especially, seems like a completely acceptable use of a car if you have one.

Re your specific questions:

1. Best practices here is to start teaching your kid that bikes can be used for transportation and not just play. But take it slow, don't feel like if you get in the car, you've lost. Re products, a bike and helmet for your kid? Seven is old enough to ride your own two-wheel bike under your own steam.

2. Wait, you have TWO kids under 10 and you've decided the best tack here is to heap negative self-talk on yourself if you choose to drive them places? That said, this is an area where there are a lot of great products to get your 3-year old safely on your bike, and I think this would be worth looking into if you have money to drop on some fun toys or you end up really loving the bike commuter lifestyle. But I'd probably start experimenting on your own first rather than running out and buying a Bakfiets tomorrow.

3. For biking in the rain, I have three good recommendations. First, a bike with fenders. Second, a breathable raincoat. Third, some kind of grooming kit for cleaning yourself up after you ride in the rain (there's basically no way to keep 100% pristine the way you would if you'd driven). If you need to travel with a laptop or other electronics every day, you may also want a waterproof bag. It's also completely OK to say "ugh, it's pouring, I'm going to drive today..."

4. Re your laptop, I'm a fan of a bike with a rack and panniers. You then just chuck your laptop bag into a pannier. There are a lot of different types of panniers to choose from, so this is something you'll have to experiment with to see what you prefer. I was always partial to the wire foldable kind and putting my bag or other items inside that, but other people like bags you can attach directly to a rack. Only you can figure out what works best. For a long time I rode with a backpack, but this will exacerbate sweat.

5. Re groceries, this is why you have a car. A rack and panniers are good for picking up milk on the way home, bringing a 6-pack to a party, or hitting the farmer's market, but it's not going to haul groceries for a family. Even when I was a singleton (and I'm a petite woman who doesn't eat that much), groceries from the supermarket on my bike really didn't work well.

6. There are two schools of thought here. Mine is that I ride in a leisurely manner and don't carry a backpack, thus reducing the chances that I'll arrive a sweaty mess. I also don't ride in bad weather or if I need to look especially fancy on the other end. Others emphasize having access to a shower and basically doing your morning grooming routine at or near work. This is going to depend on a million variables, depending on how long and arduous your commute is, your physical constraints (do you sweat a lot, what's your hairstyle like, etc), and the facilities available at your workplace.
posted by Sara C. at 10:32 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Disagreeing with a previous poster, I recommend you lead your daughter, rather than having her ride ahead.
You'll watch her via a mirror on your helmet or glasses.
The most obvious reasons are that you cannot see the road surface directly in front of her. And she's too young to be responsible for that. If you are in front you will lead her around potholes, etc.
And you can't see incoming dangers (such as cross-traffic) until she's already in danger. Even if you shout at her to stop, that doesn't make her stop. Kids panic. If you're in front, you'll see, and meet, the danger first.
Finally, again, kids are unreliable. Even if you shout to "take the third right off the traffic circle," for example, that doesn't mean it'll be understood, or that it'll happen safely. You need to lead.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:38 AM on September 9, 2016

I ride a Bike Friday Haul-a-Day cargo bike and really love it. It's hugely practical, lighter than other cargo bikes and has a low step-over height. I also have a Xtracycle attached to a Bridgestone MB-1, which should be an equivalent ride but somehow fails to end up being the steed I use day to day. The HaD has a great mix of stable, easy ride, practical load carrying, fast and convenient to pack up. Electric option via Bionx also available from Bike Friday. Also child carriers.

I wear my working clothes on the bike. Unless you are sweating your way up a big hill, there's no real need to be overly paranoid about it. Millions of people do it every day.

I used to use a poncho but now have a good quality rain jacket I can roll up plus some rain pants from Showers Pass. The rain pants slip over my regular pants and are the more important of the two. Those two items take care of 95% of my rainy day riding. The shoes are sometimes a problem but the solutions aren't that great (shoe covers).

You'll need a good quality set of traffic lights (Planet Bike makes good ones that are inexpensive) plus a higher wattage light for dark winter riding and road illumination.
You'll need a tool kit you always have with your bike with pump, tubes, chain breaker and patch kit.
You'll need a good quality U-lock that you use religiously. Don't skimp on that.
Helmet - I use them when riding on busy streets and not when on less trafficked areas.
You'll need a set of eye protection glasswear. I use cheap clear safety glasses most days and sunglasses on bright ones.

When I carry my laptop, I have a Pelican briefcase that is foam lined. It's pretty cheap, fairly water resistant and lends a strong protective outer barrier that I think would protect the unit if I fell over on my bike. I put the case into my messenger bag and then into the cargo bags. Works pretty well, never had a problem carrying it quite a bit.

You'll need a set of riding gloves, to keep your hands warm plus if you fall to protect your hands. You'll want to think about how to fall if that should happen (hint...fall on the thick portions not on your hands or extended arms). Guess that's my riding tips. There's a bunch more but limited time to pontificate on riding.
posted by diode at 10:47 AM on September 9, 2016

Set a realistic goal. If you ride 9 days and take an Uber on the 10th, then that's a WIN, not a failure. Don't set yourself up with a mental "All or Nothing."

Get lights. Good ones.

Plan for flat tires, chain issues, and other mechanicals because they add some time to your commute. (Gatorskins are my personal lifesaver for flats!) A mechanical is always a bit of an annoyance. When a mechanical makes you late for work, it goes from annoyance to meltdown. Build time into your schedule to deal with mechanicals.

Ruthlessly consider what you need to carry each day - Can you drop clothing, makeup, baby wipes at the office once a week by car? How about your lunch? Can you bring a week's worth of lunches to the office on Sunday? What about that work laptop? Do you need to carry it home every day?

Stash a safety outfit at work - underwear to blazer - and everything in between. Some rides are sweatier than others. If you need a full-on change of clothes, then you're prepared.
posted by 26.2 at 10:59 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Consider a hybrid lifestyle. I bought an electric bike after getting advice here, and I love riding it so much that I'm always motivated to get onto it. I ride it for my commute, whether to a bike locker at our local park and ride bus stop, or to a bike locker at our local train station, or all the way to and from work. Sometimes I pick up groceries on my way home on my bike. It's easy to ride rain or shine with fenders, waterproof panniers like Ortliebs (in which I store a bag with my work clothes, which I change into at work), and rain gear, meaning your basic rain poncho/rain skirt/rain jacket and lightweight waterproof rain pants.

But I also have kept driving my car, albeit now only for short local jaunts to run errands or very long business or pleasure trips. My car is just too handy for larger grocery runs, package pickup/drop off, and trips that are too long for biking.
posted by bearwife at 11:12 AM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

My office quick change involved keeping a pair of nice shoes and a black blazer at my desk and then changing from t-shirt and sports bra to whatever shirt and normal bra at work (that I carried with me).

My unsolicited advice is to do a little bit at a time and you'll figure out which parts you want to keep and which parts you want to change. Can you start riding without the kids first before you invest in a cargo bike or trailer? I feel like I see people drop a lot of money on stuff that they realize a few months later isn't quite what works for them.

Biking generally does take more time, but it also doubles as exercise and, for me, helps with my mental health. I am so much happier biking than riding in a car that I feel like I come out ahead.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:18 AM on September 9, 2016

Looking up your regular trips on Google maps, finding out the km/miles, looking up your car's gas usage, and doing the math and learning that it costs $X to go to Y can be a pretty good car-usage deterrent. I can't bike, but it was useful to get me on board with limiting drives to multi-errand runs, to think of "going there just for that will make the thing I am going there for cost an extra $8.47, not even counting wear and tear on the car..."
posted by kmennie at 11:23 AM on September 9, 2016

Re groceries, this is why you have a car. A rack and panniers are good for picking up milk on the way home, bringing a 6-pack to a party, or hitting the farmer's market, but it's not going to haul groceries for a family.

If you have a hammer everything looks like a nail. OP asked how to make the car not the default, but like you say, for most people a week's groceries is like the most immediate default reason to own a car in the first place. Making the car your non-default is more a mindset change than anything to do with bikes.

Groceries are a good example because there are a lot of other solutions. Everyone needs groceries. In my city, I either spend an hour plus doing a big car run once a week, or I just run in for 10-20 minutes every day on my bike ride home from work and pick up a few things at a time. Same time investment, two different methods depending on the week. If a store is close, I've walked there and taken a cab home. I did a CSA for a while, that was cheaper than any market or store I could get to by bike or car, and they delivered it, that cut down on grocery runs regardless of mode. Most actual grocery stores deliver, I'm always surprised how many people don't know this. If you meet their minimums it's cheap/free.

Consider the 'real' cost of driving ($.55/mile) and the amount of time it takes you to drive there, park, go pick everything off the shelves, wait in line, load it into your car, drive home, unload it... with two kids in tow? I think most people would be surprised if they did the math, driving might be more expensive not even considering how much time it takes. And this has nothing to do with bikes. Everyone driving to the store every time they need something is a bad solution to organize society around, but here we are.

Anyways, that is how I make driving my non-default: I try to consider all the real, actual costs and time involved and see if there are other solutions or things I'd rather do with that time. Tackle one part of your weekly routine at a time: your commute, your grocery run, etc. It just requires a different way of thinking about it. Most people never consider their options because they assume driving is cheaper/faster/easier and that's not always true. All this stuff about bike gear or ways to haul stuff around by pedaling is secondary.
posted by bradbane at 12:19 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Can you tell us where in the world you live? I don't want to assume, and these things are really location-dependent.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:18 PM on September 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bakfiets. Bakfiets, bakfiets, bakfiets.


I love my bakfiets. I had hauled my kid around in a trailer, but I couldn't see her or carry nearly enough groceries. After researching cargo bikes, I figure the bakfiets was what we needed. I have never looked back. Until we moved from Santa Monica to Seattle. Then I had to spring for an e-assist, because hills. So many hills.

I'm a fan of Workcycles, and their latest bakfiets, the Kr8, is supposed to come in a flat pack. My bike is the original version, and it came in two bloody great boxes. It was still cheaper to buy from Workcycles direct than from someone in the States, but that might have changed.

posted by RakDaddy at 9:14 PM on September 9, 2016

This year I switched from rain jacket to this $11 rain poncho, and it was amazing: easier to put on, less water gets through, packs small, easier to dry, etc. I put fenders on my bike for rainy season. For the most part, only my feet ever get wet when when I ride, so a change of socks and shoes might be helpful. The poncho goes over my backpack.

I use a lightweight Chrome Cardiel backpack with an additional padded laptop sleeve; works fine, no complaints. It's been my work bag for years and Chrome even repaired it after one crash that tore apart both shoulder loops. I tend to ride a little easier in the mornings to keep the sweat off my back, and harder in the afternoons. I might find it more comfortable to put my backpack on a rear rack if back-sweat was a morning concern for me.

I have a separate bike for regular grocery trips, a $90 secondhand mountain bike with the Xtracycle Free Radical attachment for cargo capacity. For smaller after-work grocery trips, the Chrome Cardiel backpack with roll-top can expand to hold quite a lot of stuff.

Inside my backpack, I keep a small cloth sack with necessary bike things: a multi-tool, gloves, and spare batteries for lights.
posted by migurski at 9:51 PM on September 9, 2016

Simplest way to make biking your default? Make driving harder. I have neither car nor license, so the choice is obvious. As for ways to make biking easier...

CARGO/UTILITY BIKES: A cargo bike - either longtail or bakfiets - sounds like a good option for you. I am madly in love with my weird cargo trike (photo of similar trike, not my own) but they are hard to come by and not, by default, outfitted for carrying kids. My point here, however, is that a bike designed for cargo (and/or kid-carrying) makes the biking life much easier than if you have to retrofit an existing bike.

If you don't get a special-purpose bike, a trailer is a pretty good alternative, especially if you have room in a garage/shed to park the bike and trailer without disconnecting them. If you choose a trail-a-bike style kid carrier, look at the WeeHoo. I hear they're less tippy than a lot of the alternatives.

BUCKET PANNIERS: A cheaper (and optionally DIY) solution to cargo carrying is bucket panniers. They aren't as fashionable as Ortlieb or Axiom bags, but they cost an order of magnitude less while providing equal-or-better waterproofing. Also, they never sag into your wheel. The largest size of Tidy Cats bucket will hold a small laptop, or you can apply the same treatment to a container with a different form factor. My laptop carrier is an aluminum briefcase, sort-of visible in this photo.

RAIN GEAR: I usually commute in regular clothes and wear raingear over the top if needed, because I hate getting rained on. I have a Showers Pass jacket from a former employer, but normally favor a Marmot jacket and Sorel rainpants that I bought used. Showers Pass, in my opinion, gets more praise than it deserves. I wear leather-and-canvas hiking boots treated with Sno-Seal to keep the water out. Full fenders are necessary not only to keep water off you, but to minimize the water kicked up onto your bike's drivetrain and braking surfaces.

*POGIES*: My single favorite piece of raingear is a set of pogies or bar mitts. They keep my hands warm and dry without any need for gloves (which get wet or lost or stinky or just cumbersome).

DYNAMO LIGHTS: If you can afford the up-front cost of good dynamo lights, DO IT. Some basic commuter bikes come with low-end dynamo systems that aren't worth the trouble. Expect a good dyno system to cost $200+. It's not cheap, but it's worth it. You'll have bright lights day and night, and never worry about dead batteries again. Dynamo systems make your bike lights as effortless as the headlights on your car.

Other things:
- Bell
- Mirror (I just replaced my old mirror with a Safe Zone from local machinist EVT and am never going back)
- Trailer (for cargo and/or kids)
My partner likes to say that everything in/on your car has a bikey equivalent: Trunk = panniers; horn = bell; passenger seat = guest bike... So consider that when outfitting yourself (or when looking at bikes).

Ultimately, though, think about what and how you will ENJOY riding. That might be a sporty road bike with add-ons for kids and cargo, or a heavy-duty e-assist bakfiets, or something in between that's a little more nondescript. (For me it's a weird recumbent. Whatever floats your boat...)

Up top I said that the simplest way to make biking your default is to make driving harder. But the BEST way to make biking your default is to ride in a way that you love. The main reason I ride my bike is because it's FUN.
posted by sibilatorix at 3:02 PM on September 10, 2016 [2 favorites]

I have loved our Burly Bee trailer from day 1. The only lesson, outside of having a well fit/well maintained bike, is to not skimp and get a cheapo/cheaper trailer. The Burly brand hasn't failed to impress this sample-size-of-one part-time bike commuter with kids.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:39 PM on September 10, 2016

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