Family biking after the Chariot
April 20, 2019 7:16 PM   Subscribe

My kid is outgrowing the bike trailer, both in size and in disposition, and I'm having trouble figuring out where we go from here. I bike her to school a few days a week, and we need a new solution. Ideally it will allow me to bring her bike along too, and not cost as much as a used car. It seems like we are looking at some kind of cargo bike situation. What family biking setups have worked best for your family?

The commute is about 6 miles each way, mostly flat with a few gentle midwestern hills. 5 miles are on bike path and 1 mile is in a kind of crappy bike lane on a road that is 100% NOT suitable for a child to ride on. We bike April-October right now.

The kid is 3.5, and has been in a single Chariot trailer since she was about 9 months old. The trailer is no longer cutting it because she's getting big, and because she increasingly wants to ride her own bike. I'm delighted that she wants to ride (and she's good at it. She rode 15 miles today) but she can't ride independently for our whole commute due to the one sketchy road and also the fact that however good you are at riding a bike, it takes forever to get anywhere when you're riding a single-speed with 12" wheels and 4" cranks.

Options I have considered:
Weehoo: Nicer that most kid-tandem solutions, but wouldn't give her the satisfaction of riding her own bike.

Midtail: I had fun test-riding a Benno Carry-On with her, but I'm not sure I could get her bike strapped onto it, especially if I was trying to carry anything else. I hated the Yuba Mundo

Longtail: I haven't ridden one I really liked, but maybe I this is the best solution and I need to let go of the idea that I'm going to have a fun biking experience here.

Box Bike: Prohibitively expensive, not even sure I could actually fit kid+kid'sbike inside.

FollowMe Tandem Coupling: If you have any actual experience with this, please advise!

Other Information:

We have 2 seasons of biking left before the commute becomes a 2 block walk to kindergarten. We will obviously still bike for fun and transportation after that, but the setup I'm seeking now won't be a daily need in the same way after that. Also, with the current trajectory, she can probably just bike most places supervised but unassisted by that point.

I'm usually carrying one Ortlieb backroller pannier with work clothes, lunch, etc. in it. It would be nice to be able to fit 2 panniers-worth of stuff (plus kid and kid'sbike) in a pinch.

She rides a Frog 43, I ride a Surly Midnight Special. We both really really love our bikes and will be sad if/when we have to ride something else, so whatever we come up with needs to still be fun.

Not interested in electric.
posted by juliapangolin to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add that we also enjoy touring and to this point have been pulling the trailer, heavily laden with camping gear) behind our tandem. This was fine last summer, but now there's no way we're going to get away with not bringing her bike. If you can suggest something that will work well for touring/bike camping too, that would be great. Wisconsin has an amazing network of bike trails, so the touring use case is nearly 100% not on roads.
posted by juliapangolin at 7:21 PM on April 20, 2019

We have a Big Dummy and have fit our entire family of four on it for short distances (Dad bikes, Mom and one kid ride, pulling the second kid in a trailer). More often, my husband bikes the two kids, sometimes with the bikes in the trailer. He has to leave one of the panniers off to let the kids get on the back of the bike by themselves, so isn't able to pull both of the bikes that way but can do one. The panniers are enormous. Each pannier can fit a kid (obviously we have not ridden the bike this way, but they wondered if they could fit so we checked).

I can't manage driving it, but he says it's fine. It's not as awesome of a biking experience for him as riding solo would be, but apparently the Big Dummy "rides like a horse" (feels more like a regular bike) whereas some other longtails "ride like an ox" (less comfortable, takes longer to get up to speed, but more powerful).

We also have a Tagalong which would work for one kid (but not bringing their bike along). When we have a competent biker, we could have that kid on their own bike and the other kid on the Tagalong which would be a slightly easier ride for the parent.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:37 PM on April 20, 2019

My kindergartener rides with me to school (2.5 miles) on a Burley Kazoo tagalong, which I detach from the rear rack and lock up at his school. Then I bike 4 more miles downtown to work (and park in a bike locker that would never fit a cargo bike). It is really great. We tried a different tagalong that attached to the seat post, and my son hated it because it was too wobbly, and I hated it because it was a pain to detatch, plus it didn’t have good clearance over my rear rack with Ortlieb panniers. The Kazoo feels much more stable (lower connection point) and comes with the most solid rack I’ve ever seen. We bike on trails and Minneapolis city streets, and I love it.

If your daughter feels sad that she’s not riding her own bike, Burley makes a similar tagalong with gear shifters - maybe that would make her feel awesome and in control?

(I got our Kazoo for $75 on Craigslist!)
posted by Maarika at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2019

I sort of fell down a rabbit hole looking a kid/adult bike options and now I want this awesome bike which sadly costs more than most cars but is so cool looking. I do wonder if you could pair a bigger kid on bike seat and a trailer her bike could be tied to so she could bike as much as possible then passively ride the last/unsuitable mile?
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 8:45 PM on April 20, 2019

We absolutely adore our Benno Carryon. With two side panniers and the front bag, you can carry a lot of stuff. We carry a kids' bike on it by balancing the bike across the back of the rack and lashing it to the kid seat with a bungee cord.

It is also fun to ride and generally a great bike.
posted by medusa at 9:21 PM on April 20, 2019

We had the weehoo, which was our summer option (a large Chariot in the wintertime), and both kids loved their "wheel-seat". The bonus is that the kid is still strapped in, so they can fall asleep on the way home and not fall off the bike. During certain ages, especially after outgrowing naps, they fell asleep everyday on the way home. School is tiring!
posted by indecision at 2:48 AM on April 21, 2019

We have a RadWagon that we just put 5000 km on. They go on sale periodically, so even with shipping this is a 'reasonable' option. We DIY'ed the kid seats and back rests.

Both our kids can be lugged along (at 5 and 7) and it makes our hilly commute to school and work smooth.
posted by Sauter Vaguely at 7:10 AM on April 21, 2019

YKMV but my kid looooved the Weehoo. Working together to get home was totally satisfying to him, especially when I asked for a little boost getting up hills. He grew out of it at 6-7.
posted by tchemgrrl at 8:04 AM on April 21, 2019

We have a Trail-gator which I can heartily recommend - it's survived two years of year-round towing a 7-8-year-old. Sadly, I notice that it's over twice as expensive in the US ($110) than the UK (£50).

I love that it's quick & easy to attach and detach my daughter's bike so I can continue my commute to and from work without having to tow her bike along too!
posted by dogsbody at 8:14 AM on April 21, 2019

when my kid was that age, this was our rig for daily commuting. I would ride solo to work with his bike in tow, pick him up at daycare and we would ride home together (right after I hauled up an annoying steep hill). It is an Extracycle edgerunner, with a bike mount drilled into the tail. This allowed furnace.kid to ride as long as he was able, but then just hop on the back when he was tired. It worked real well, and the amount of stuff you could haul was impressive. We still use it for longer rides. It is comically long with the bike attached, and you’ll get some looks. I found using the longtail much safer and felt far more secure hauling stuff on it than I did a trailer (which we used for several years). I personally enjoyed riding the longtail, but it’s not for everyone.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:20 AM on April 21, 2019

The hitch, it should be mentioned is not load bearing and a kiddo can’t sit on the bike while it’s in tow.
posted by furnace.heart at 8:37 AM on April 21, 2019

Something like the Mac Ride might be a good option for when kiddo can't ride her own bike.
posted by oceano at 10:47 AM on April 21, 2019

The Burley Piccolo was our family's solution in that situation. When they got a bit older and able to fit onto various regular tandem bikes, we used tandem bike plus the piccolo.

The Piccolo alone doesn't really answer your issue of how to bring along the kid's own bike, but the Piccolo is rock solid and gives the kid a lot more of the "I'm riding my own bike!" experience, because they have their own handlebars, shifters, can pedal independently, etc.

The piccolo is solid enough that we would hook up a bike trailer to it (ie, tandem OR single bike up front, piccolo attached to it, then bike trailer attached to piccolo) so there is a possible way to transport you, kid, and kid bike plus other items simultaneously.

(We had two kids the same age, thus the need for tandem+piccolo type arrangements. Parent & one kid on the tandem, other kid on the piccolo, stuff in the trailer. Or solo bike up front with parent, one kid on piccolo, one kid in trailer. Various configurations like that.)
posted by flug at 3:37 PM on April 21, 2019

My neighbor used the FollowMe for several years and highly recommended it to me, but I did not follow up and get one.
posted by look busy at 8:57 AM on April 22, 2019

We are using the Yuba Boda Boda. It is the closest we found to riding a normal bike (long-tail, but not that long). We really love it.
posted by papergirl at 6:42 PM on April 22, 2019

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