Gear Prudence: I’m thinking about getting a bike so I can ride with my kids. They’re not old enough to ride their own bikes, plus I’m a little queasy about letting them ride in traffic. I want a cargo bike, but there appear to be two types (the one where they ride up front and the one where they ride in the back) and I don’t know which is better. Any advice? —Can Anyone Recommend Good Option?
Dear CARGO: GP doesn’t have a lot of personal experience with cargo bikes or biking with kids, for that matter. But it does seem like there’s been an explosion in popularity over the past few years as more parents decide that bicycling their kids around makes more sense than abandoning them in the forest or loading them into the tragically unhip family minivan. What makes biking alone appealing also applies to biking with kids: avoiding traffic, not worrying about parking, saving gas, getting some exercise, and maybe even enjoying your travels. Plus, some avowed car-free folks don’t want to capitulate just because they made the decision to procreate. Cargo bikes, in this regard, make a lot of sense.
But where to put the youngins? Up front where you can keep on eye on them, or in back where you don’t have to? According to Loren Copsey, co-owner of The Daily Rider, there are a few factors to consider before buying either type of cargo bike. With the kids up front, it’s easier to carry on a regular conversation. Also, they sit closer to the ground with this option, lowering the center of gravity on the bike and helping to stabilize it. But the killer difference is the versatility. “After kid duties are finished, this is a great bike for picking up drywall or five bags of mulch or your entire week’s worth of groceries,” Copsey says. “It can be done on the longtails, but it just takes more doing.”
Longtails, where the kids sit in the back, ride more or less like standard bikes. You can either buy bikes that are pre-built or invest in conversion kits that transform regular bikes into cargos. Kids sit in the back, either straddling the bike or in a kid’s seat. Longtails have other key benefits, says Gillian Burgess of Kidical Mass Arlington. “They are easier to store at home and to park at racks,” she says. “Some are even light enough to maneuver up and down a few stairs.” Additionally, they’re generally priced much lower than frontloaders. You might find one second-hand for even less. Kids are expensive enough.
In either case, go for a test ride. Remember to bring your kids. It’s a pretty big investment, both in money and in lifestyle, so take your time and get it right. —Gear Prudence
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.