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Old 03-18-09, 05:59 AM   #1
mamaC
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Looking for a minivan of a bike (Updated with solution Picture)

Hello! You all seem like the most knowledgeable and such helpful group for helping me find my minivan of a bike. I've learned so much just lurking on these forums! I've loved seeing the pictures of trains!

So, here's my situation. I want to go car free this summer (May-Sept) and to that I need a way that I can transport all 4 of my children (7 y, 5y, 3y & 7 mos) within my usual 20 mile radius around my house. My 7 and 5 year old can ride their own bikes around the neighborhood, but I'll be riding on the road & want them attached to me in some way (because my 7-year-old boy is one step away from a chimpanzee on RedBull)). Plus, I'd like room to haul light groceries.

My current set-up doesn't haul everyone. I have a good hauling 3-year old Specialized, a good infant seat & an icky used In-Step 2-seater trailer that was the worst investment for someone who actually bikes!

I don't think I can possibly carry a train of infant seat, tag-along, trailer... or can I? I'm not superwoman or even a semi-pro body builder. I'm a strong (enough for natural childbirth and) semi-fit (for a woman with 4 kids) though. This would be the cheapest option.

I was looking at getting a $1000 3-passenger Bafiet knock-off and adding an infant seat to it.
But, two things are stopping me 1. The price. That's a lot for me to justify right now. and 2. I don't want to cart my kids around when one or two of them could be pedaling, too. 3. The knock can't possibly be as good as the original, right?

Should I be looking at a tandem to take me long term with my crew of children? With infant seat & trailer?

Any other cheaper options?

Ahhh, what do you think? If you've made it this far -- THANK YOU!

Last edited by mamaC; 04-19-09 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 03-18-09, 06:55 AM   #2
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My kids are about the same spread as yours but 2 years further along. There are not many options for what you propose.

I think the Bakfiets solutions will be the most strenuous of all. You will be supplying all the horsepower.

The tandem trains are the most configurable but you do give up maneuverability. I don't find that to be an issue because I don't need to make a lot of tight turns (>90deg) or get into small spaces. If the trail/path/road is wide enough for a trailer, it is wide enough for a train.

One other option I thought of is a different version of the cargo bike (Bakfiets is generally grouped as a cargo bike). Something like this Kona or this Surly. You can fit two kids sitting on them from what others have done, you could then hook up a trailer to carry the two younger.

For cargo capacity (4 kids + cargo) I think the best option would be the cargo bikes. The Bakfiets would give the most if you could get 3 kids in the bin and one in a bike seat and hook up a trailer for cargo but I don't know what riding with all that would be like. The rear cargo bikes would give you as much space as a tandem or triplet train with all seats filled, cargo in leftover trailer space and hanging off you or racks on the bike. I have my doubts about the Bakfiets option though because of the size and age of the three older kids. I don't know how comfortable and for how long 3 kids would be in that. You would get one season out of the baby seat, after that the youngest would need a different place to sit and the older three will be bigger and heavier. You would probably have to move a kid or two to a trailer hooked up the Bakfiets.

The much more expensive option would be a triplet that could accommodate a wide range of riders, something like a Bike Friday.

The tandem/triplet would give you the most options for long term family cycling. Although you could recoup some of the cargo bike costs by resell. How much, I don't know.

Whatever you get, you will need to do some customizations to make it fit all the kids (bars, pedals, seats, hookups, etc.).

Good luck, update the thread with your progress.

Last edited by masiman; 03-18-09 at 02:01 PM.
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Old 03-18-09, 11:37 AM   #3
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You could get a triple + a 2-seat trailer for the little ones. The folder triple will grow w/ the kids to adulthood.



Or a tandem trail-a-bike plus a 2-seat trailer and pull them all behind your one-seat bike. That seems like a l-o-o-ng train to be pulling to me.




Or, a big-dummy/xtracycle could probably sit 2 big kids on the snapdeck and pull a 2-seat trailer behind it.



(not sure I added anything but color to masiman's post but it's fun to look through those sites...)

ps-> once my older outgrew the trailer we have been kinda stuck on how to move just 2 kids at once, haven't taken any steps beyond yet.
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Old 03-18-09, 01:45 PM   #4
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Dear mamaC,
how flat is where you live? Any big hills?
I occasionally drag four kids, but my passengers are smaller than yours.
I ride a train of bike + TAB + trailer. On flat it's not a big deal (unless windy and trailer adds a lot of windage). Uphill sucks (even with 4.5 y.o. on TAB helping pedaling).
How soon do you think your 7 y.o. can graduate for riding solo under your supervision?
As far as Bakefiets clone option you mentioned - I think your 3 kids would be really cramped - keep in mind you said 20 miles radius, that's about 4 hours for round trip. I know mine would not make it. The upside is the weather protection (trailer provides same thing though).
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Old 03-18-09, 02:03 PM   #5
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(not sure I added anything but color to masiman's post but it's fun to look through those sites...)
Done
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Old 03-19-09, 12:38 PM   #6
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Have you considered a Surrey? They're expensive, but fun! I've rented them in Cape May.
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Old 03-22-09, 06:10 AM   #7
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You folks are the best! Thank you!!!!

What a great lot of options! Woot! I'll try to answer individually below with quotes.

Let's see, what I decided was the cheapest way to go was to buy a used higher quality TAB. And, test out the train. So, for $60 off craigslist, I picked up a barely used 2006 Trek TAB. I need a helmet that fits the baby & then I'll be all set. I plan to test it out this afternoon. Ahhh, I'm so excited! I hope this works!
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Old 03-22-09, 06:16 AM   #8
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masiman - thank you so much for taking the time & explaining everything in such clear detail - pros/cons etc. Your advice is wonderful!

Quote:
Originally Posted by HardyWeinberg View Post
You could get a triple + a 2-seat trailer for the little ones. The folder triple will grow w/ the kids to adulthood.

I would LOVE that. That would really really rock! I'm hoping my poor man's train is going to work this summer... but in the mean time, I'm going to be saving up for this. My 4
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Old 03-22-09, 06:26 AM   #9
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Dear mamaC,
how flat is where you live? Any big hills?
I occasionally drag four kids, but my passengers are smaller than yours.
I ride a train of bike + TAB + trailer. On flat it's not a big deal (unless windy and trailer adds a lot of windage). Uphill sucks (even with 4.5 y.o. on TAB helping pedaling).
How soon do you think your 7 y.o. can graduate for riding solo under your supervision?
As far as Bakefiets clone option you mentioned - I think your 3 kids would be really cramped - keep in mind you said 20 miles radius, that's about 4 hours for round trip. I know mine would not make it. The upside is the weather protection (trailer provides same thing though).
Where I live there are some hills in between me & where I want to go. That is what worries me about the train. But, I think I just have to give it a go! I did it with 3 kids and none of them helping, I can probably??? do it with 4?

My 7yo does ride solo now, but my husband & I both feel like he's not quite ready to ride in the road. We do have bike lanes where I live, but they're not always honored.
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Old 03-22-09, 06:28 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by neilfein View Post
Have you considered a Surrey? They're expensive, but fun! I've rented them in Cape May.
Oooh, that looks like fun! I rent some a few years ago & it was a blast.

My father lives in a beach town, I'm going to see if he can find some kind of used deal there.
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Old 03-22-09, 02:00 PM   #11
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Bah! The TAG isn't compatible with my infant bike seat. I'm trying to see if I can do something to rig it...
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Old 03-22-09, 06:11 PM   #12
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Hmm, so now I'm thinking to build a train for all 4, I'll need a front mount infant bike seat - then the TAG, then the trailer.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:03 AM   #13
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I really like those front mount infant seats. There are 3 on the market that I know of, Bobike, Ibert and Wee Ride. The front mount seat will get you through I think this season. They are not the best option for smaller riders because they don't have as much space to fit the child. Workable, but if you are smaller you might find that you have to spread your arms and legs to get around the child and seat while riding. Other than that, they really are a excellent way to get little ones around. I wish I had known about them when our kids were younger.

You can do a search on Bobike or Ibert to find out more info:
Front Mounted Seats

I'd love to have a triple myself but can't afford it right now.
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Old 03-24-09, 08:15 AM   #14
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One word of caution: Front mounted seat + TAB might be quite a workout to keep vertical (been there done that), especially if your TAB passenger is easily excited (as mine is).
I found it easier for me to have the little one in a backpack carrier ( http://www.ergobabycarriers.com/baby...egory/carrier/ ) vs. front mounted seat. YMMV.
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Old 03-26-09, 01:47 AM   #15
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Great replies above!

The bike Friday's are really fun, high quality bikes, but rather pricey. I'd love to have a bike Friday tandem myself.
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Old 04-19-09, 11:22 AM   #16
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Thank you all SO much for the advice & the suggestions! I really really appreciate it! I've started saving up for a tandem for next summer, because I think that's where we'll be headed.

For this summer, I managed to get a $60 gently used Trek trail-a-bike off Craigslist and then traded some babysitting for a front mount baby seat. The result is really good!

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Old 04-20-09, 07:49 AM   #17
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Thanks for the update. You all look great!

What front mount seat is that, WeeRide? Does it get in your way at all. It looks like you have to move your knees a little but not too much.

I think having your 7 year old in a pedal position is the right place for him. Your 5 year old could also contribute I bet, just not as consistently.

See how much riding you all do and want to do this year. Use that to help decide if you want a multi seat bike. If you do enough family riding, a triplet is the way to go. They will give you fewer hassles about where to put kids so that you can go on longer rides. The downside is that transporting can be a bear and they are not as convenient if just two of you want to go on a together spin. Triplets also do not come up on the used market as often so buying new might be required (again, with buying used, working out shipment can be a big part of the logistics). One option to a triplet is if you have a second captain, two used tandems can often be cheaper than a triplet.

For your current bike, consider getting narrower, smoother, higher pressure tires. They could give you considerably less rolling resistance. We ride on 1.2" and 1.5" wide tires and no flat problems. Also keep your brakes in tip top shape as you probably know. Alot of brakes can be improved with better pads. Kool-Stop pads are just about everyone's favorite and many like their salmon colored ones. Any better bike shop would be able to get them for you. If you can learn to adjust brakes yourself, all the better.
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Old 04-20-09, 09:44 AM   #18
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outsanding!

This weekend we kicked our 7 yr old off the trail-a-bike for in-town errands, he has to ride his own bike now. For time-oriented stuff (late for swim class!!) will still hook him up. But making him fly solo frees me up to pull the trailer w/ our 4.5 yr old which my wife really appreciates.
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Old 04-20-09, 11:26 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mamaC View Post
Thank you all SO much for the advice & the suggestions! I really really appreciate it! I've started saving up for a tandem for next summer, because I think that's where we'll be headed.

For this summer, I managed to get a $60 gently used Trek trail-a-bike off Craigslist and then traded some babysitting for a front mount baby seat. The result is really good!

Wow, that's a great setup! Next time I'm grumbling under my breath about being too pooped I'm gonna think about this photo. You rock!
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Old 04-21-09, 08:59 AM   #20
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mamaC,
You rock
Please post an update in few months how this setup is working for you on longer rides.
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Old 04-22-09, 01:24 PM   #21
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Thank you for the great advice, masiman! Yes, that is a WeeRide. My first choice would have been an iBert, but the WeeRide was sitting in my friend's garage unused... so the price was right! All in all, my train cost me an additional $60 (for the used Trek trail-a-bike). I do have to cheat my legs out slightly, but not enough to cause difficulty. The ride is really pretty good!

I will definitely upgrade the brakes. I've got 300 lbs worth of people I'm moving, plus all the gear. When we go downhill, I need the brakes to uh... break!

Now, doing narrower, smoother tires, would that effect balance? I do feel like balance is the thing that I'm most concerned about. I'm usually quite fine pulling everything. It's really not that bad at all! When my 5-year-old is riding the trail-a-bike, her balance isn't very good & it can start to throw me off.

I'm looking forward to more nice weather & longer rides! So far... it's been really great!
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Old 04-22-09, 11:26 PM   #22
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It won't affect balance directly but it should give the bike a quicker feel, i.e. it will feel more sporty. It might even feel a little more secure since the sidewalls would probably be lower profile and firmer giving a little less mush feeling when turning. The ride would be firmer also, less shock absorbing from the softer tires. Your tires look like 2.x, if you wear them out try between 1.75 and 2.0. You would still notice a difference stepping down from 2.125 or more, especially if the tread is smoother and the pressure is higher.

I know what you mean about the wiggling. If you remind them enough they typically understand that it is dangerous to move about.

You really did quite well putting the hole thing together for so little. Hopefully you'll get plenty of park, lunch and ice cream rides in.

Check the position of the fender on the TAB (the rectangular black plastic thing near the pedals). It looks like it is positioned well to block water down low, but it may be a little low to protect against things thrown high to the face area. It's hard to tell from the pic.

I usually ride without the screen down on our trailer, but again, you'll have to watch out for water, sand and rocks. If you can't avoid them, then slow down so they don't get thrown into the trailer rider faces.
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Old 05-03-09, 08:54 AM   #23
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Thanks for the thoughts on checking the TAB fender, it wasn't positioned quite right. I adjusted it & it seems just perfect now! Thanks for the head up!

I always ride with the screen down on the trailer, I just put it up so the two in the back could be in the picture. Heck, they usually want the rain guard down, too, because they pretend they're trapped in a bubble. :lol

So, I've covered quite a few trips to Target, ice cream, playground, Library, Barnes & Noble rides... and now I broke the bolts & connector holding the Trek Trail-a-bike to my bike. I've upgraded to stronger bolts, but the connector is bent & I think I'm going to need a new one to even ride! I'm trying to figure out how to order a new one & get it here relatively fast! The kids are calling for FrankenBike! (That's what they call it even though it's a Mom-Train)
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