When we had one child, we got a bike seat. Brilliant inventions. We got to ride as a family at the weekends. My husband took our son to nursery on the bike. Brilliant.
But our family wasn’t complete as we always planned to have two children.
I’m not sure anyone with one child really knows what they are letting themselves in for when they have a second. If they did then I think there would be far more only children in the world.
Our daughter was born just after our son’s second birthday. Now, instead of managing one small, demanding and often highly unreasonable person, we had two small, demanding and often highly unreasonable people to cope with.
This had an obviously huge impact on all areas of our lives. Including our cycling.
Once our youngest was old enough, we could get a second bike seat and go out all together again. However, that didn’t help me during the week when my husband was working. One adult and two children seemed to me an impossible ratio for a bike.
I thought briefly about a bike trailer, but I didn’t feel comfortable with these. To me they seem very low to the ground (and the traffic) and I wouldn’t be able to see what the children were up to in there without looking around. Since my children like to argue quite a lot I really needed to be able to see them.
Enter…The Cargo Bike
Fortunately for me, my husband is more of a bike geek than me. He had heard of cargo bikes.
Spectacularly fortunately, he had a friend who was thinking of selling his cargo bike as his children were now wanting to ride their own bikes instead of travelling in his.
We became the proud owners of a bakfiets cargo bike.
If – like me at the time- you have never heard of a cargo bike. This is a cargo bike:
It is basically a town bike with a wooden box between the handlebars and the front wheel.
In my opinion, cargo bikes are incredible things. Even better than bike seats.
Great things about cargo bikes:
The children are at the front and can see all around them. I can chat to them about what they see and what they have been doing.
- I can see and sort out arguments between the two of them (I once had to sort out an argument about whose turn it was to throw the imaginary ball to the imaginary dog).
- I get to ride a bike and look after my children at the same time.
- Home to school takes 15 minutes, regardless of traffic and the availability of parking spaces.
- We save around 40 miles of driving a week, just on school and playgroup transport.
- We decided we now only needed one car instead of two – a huge financial saving.
- It’s a great form of sustainable transport.
- There’s room for the children and all the stuff that seems to need to be transported with them.
- You can fit all sorts of things in a cargo bike – two children or a week’s grocery. The man who sold us the cargo bike cycled to our house with his road bike in the box so he could get home again. There are lots of photos of Christmas trees on cargo bikes at this time of year.
It even has a rain cover. Essential in Scotland.
I should probably add that we are very fortunate to have a good cycle path network in Edinburgh. I do use the roads, but minimally.
For all that I am a massive fan on cargo bikes, they also have downsides.
Not so great things about cargo bikes:
- They are slow – I average 8 mph on a good day.
- They are really expensive (although cheaper than buying and running a car).
- They are very distinctive – I quickly became “that woman with the bike”.
- They take a lot of space to store.
- They have the turning circle of a cruise liner.
- You can’t put them in the car and take them on holiday.
- Hills – anyone who has ridden a cargo bike up a hill will know what I mean.
- As the children get bigger, the cycling gets harder.
Lots of cargo bikes do now have electric assist. As my children are getting bigger, I often wish I had this. That said there is a part of me which feels righteously ‘hardcore’ as I struggle up a slight incline at slightly lower than walking pace. It has also done wonders for my climbing on the road bike – I have never felt so strong!
One of the best things for me about cargo bikes is that they really do seem to be catching on in the UK. When we first got ours, it was ‘the only cargo bike in the village’. People would stop me to say they had seen me about town. There are now at least three in the local area.
The Best Thing About The Cargo Bike?
But there is something even better about having a cargo bike…
Not once, but several times, I have had high school children speak to me or shout comments at me. I kind of expected teenage scorn, but no.
“Where can I get one”
“That’s such a smart bike”
“Wow, look at that”
I am in my 40’s and – thanks to my cargo bike -I am cool!
Well, sort of.
My children continued to get bigger and heavier – as they do! In 2018 I was struggling with painful knees and realised that the weight of shifting my beloved bakfiets was making this worse. After a long time considering all the options for continuing to carry two children by bike, I bought an e-assist Babboe cargo bike. It has been not without it’s problems, but I still love cargo bikes.
In just over two years we have covered over 5000 miles in it. At eight and six years, my children are starting to outgrow the cargo bike, but I will always have very fond memories of when they were cargo kids.