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  1. #1
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    Recommendations for bike purchases.

    Hi! I posted this on the intro board and was sent here and carfree.

    I'm a stay-at-home mother to three kids, aged 7, 5 and 2.5yo. The 7yo hasn't been brave enough to take off her training wheels, but my 5yo is steady on his bike. My 2yo doesn't understand that he has to turn the pedals.

    My husband started taking the train to work and we got rid of the second car. The Family car isn't getting much use because most things are in walking distance of our house. We're thinking of getting rid of it. We're basically using it once a week, but we don't think we need it. Husband works downtown and we can use zip cars for places too far away. There's excellent transit and a taxi would work for late at night with tired children. Or for seriously bad weather. If we could get the lot of us on bikes, it would help. Traffic is slow in our 60's suburb, no thru traffic. If we venture a little further, there are sidewalks lacking pedestrian traffic.

    I liked the cargo bikes I've seen online. I haven't owned a bike since I was in my early teens. I had a speed bike I used to take long distance with my father. I'm not in horrible shape, but not doing enough. We're in a northern city, so if we did something like , I would want it enclosed to keep the 2yo warm. I'm a little put off that they stand out a lot. I'd rather avoid attention, but if it's the most practical solution, I'll go with it. I don't like the child carrier trailers because they're hard for cars to see back there. But I liked the sidecar chariot as a better solution. I like the tag alongs, not sure it that will start fights between the 5yo and 7yo.

    Anyway, I'm looking on here to see if there are other families using bikes for more utilitarian reasons. A little advice would be appreciated. Forgot to mention, a couple of steep hills here but mostly flat neighbourhood.

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    We have one car which goes to work with my husband. My kids and I ride bikes to school, to friends' houses, around the neighborhood and to the store sometimes.

    My 9 year old has a small adult-sized bike. She didn't quit using training wheels until she was seven, and as soon as we started riding more than a few miles we found that she needed a bike with several speeds and hand brakes.

    My 6 year old is the size of the average three-year-old. She has a 16" bike that's almost too big for her, but whenever we go further than the school, we use the trail-a-bike. Our trail-a-bike has a weight maximum of 85 lbs, but it's difficult to get my 35 lb daughter up the hills sometimes, even with her pedaling to help. The trail-a-bike attracts a ton of attention, too, much more than the stroller-type trailers. Every time we ride, we have at least one person in a car stop to ask where we got our bike.

    I don't think a sidecar-type setup would be useful if there's any chance you'll have to ride on sidewalks, especially if there's any pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk.

    If you're talking about riding with your husband and the kids, the easiest thing to do is to put the kids in the middle between you and the strongest rider in the back. If it's just you and the kids, it's a little more difficult to watch everyone. I usually put my 9 year old in the front and the little one in the middle, when she's on her own bike. Also, if you ride very far or very often, you should carry a wrench with you to tighten the training wheels. They have a habit of suddenly loosening during a ride.

    One other consideration is how you'll lock up all the bikes while you're in a store, or at the library, or wherever you want to go.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    Not too worried about where to lock bikes up. More what locks to use. There are lots of bike racks around here used by cyclists. I just don't see families cycling around here. Adults/teenagers walk, take transit and bike plenty around here. Families load into minivans or walk short distances. I don't have examples of parents using bikes for transportation here. I guess I should try being more of a leader and not be looking to copy someone else. But that's how I tend to operate if I'm trying something I'm unfamiliar with.

    What's wrong with the sidecars on sidewalks? Around my neighbourhood, the cars move pretty slowly. I'm okay on these roads. Once we leave our neighbourhood, the sidewalks have grass either side before the curb and very few pedestrians.

    I think it would usually me and the kids without husband. He'd be using his bike to get to the train station instead of taking the bus.

    Given that the kids are still growing pretty fast at this point and the bikes are intended to supplement other transport options; is it reasonable to buy department store bike until they reach their pre-teens? I don't want to invest too much on a bike with only 1-2 years of use.

  4. #4
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    We ride on the sidewalks outside of our neighborhood, but on the sidewalks when we're on busy roads. The sidewalks here are usually right next to the street, and the grass side isn't always level with the sidewalk. I wouldn't want to ride anything wider than a regular bike on our sidewalks, but that's because no matter what time we ride, there are always people out walking or riding here, so we have to maneuver around pedestrians, or come to a stop while they go past. It seems like the sidecar would make it impossible to maneuver around pedestrians.

    What I meant about locking up the bikes is that good locks are heavy and it's hard to find a place on a kid's bike frame to attach the lock where it will be out of the way when they're riding. So we ended up putting the locks in the bike bags that come on the kids bikes, and then the bike bags ripped. Now they carry the locks in their backpacks on the way to school. I'm planning to get a basket for my bike and I guess that will help with where to put all those locks while we're riding.

    Our experience with department store bikes is that they're fine as long as you're an occasional rider. I'm still riding one because that's what my budget allows for, but I bought it in May and things keep wearing out on it. I've already had to replace the brake cables and I've broken two sets of pedals, and had an issue with the back wheel getting shaky. I do my own repairs, but if I were taking it to be repaired somewhere, it wouldn't be long before I spent more than the bike was worth. My daughter had the same problem with her bike...it was fine for riding around the block once a week or so, but once we started riding five miles a day, stuff started breaking. I found her a better bike on Craigslist, which is actually a good place to look for bikes.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    Most stuff we can walk to in 5-15 minutes on a day to day basis. It's the swimming classes 5miles away once per week and the 4miles to the mall that I plan to use bikes for. School is a 5 minute walk. We have 3 playgrounds within 10minute walk but for a change of pace we might want to go further.

    I don't think we'd be using every day. More to supplement walking. When we were looking to buy a house, we tried to pick neighbourhood that was easy for non-driving pre-teens/teenagers, because like my parents, I'm not a chaufeur. But it looks as though this is coming in handy for me.

    I'll have to look into the locks. Couldn't locks stay in the back of a trailer/sidecar?

  6. #6
    smitten by саша pwdeegan's Avatar
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    i always carry locks in my trailer. it's super easy, and doesn't detract much from space for groceries, etc.

    the sidecar is trickier in urban situations because you have to rely on the full width of a path/road, which i seldom regularly have where i bike. the sidewalks are uneven in my area, and if my bicycle were on the sidewalk but the sidecar rode on the dirt/grass next to me, then: 1) the sidecar ride is going to be a lot bumpier; 2) there's a lot of dog poo and other nasties in this zone; 3) although there are very few pedestrians in your area, i always try not to push them off the only place they can walk, and even with your sidecar in the grass area the pedestrians will be nervous as you approach with your double-wide load.

    IME, trailers are easier to see than solitary bicyclists. adding blinking LEDs to them also helps. when i tow the trailer cars give me a much wider berth than without it. most of this has to do with your comfort level, but suffice it to say, the trailer is visible, and you can increase its visibility with relative ease. towing the trailer on the sidewalk also takes up less room than a sidecar (even if it still spooks pedestrians).

    tag-a-longs are great. kids will fight, because they are kids. if you got a double-wide trailer it can be used as a back up for a grumpy kid, and it will also carry more than a sidecar.

    finally, it will take some time (several months?) to get your strength up to pull 3 kids. stick with it! and when it's time to get off and push, never feel badly about it. you're a mom with kids on a bike, and that's the best thing ever.
    No slogans, just 14 facts.

  7. #7
    smitten by саша pwdeegan's Avatar
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    ps: a buddy of mine, Paul Adkins, here in EUG has a totally car-free life with his 4 kids. the kids *love* it. check them out here:
    http://www.organichaus.com/
    No slogans, just 14 facts.

  8. #8
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    I agree that the sidecar set up is not as practical as the child trailers that go along the back. I think a side car is even less visible to cars than a trailer that is attached to the back. In my opinion, a trailer attached to the back is a much safer option. Additionally, a side car will be annoy you if its gliding on grass instead of pavement as the kids will be bouncing around, you will be pedaling harder and it generally won't feel smooth.

    As far as department store bikes, my advice is to buy better brand bikes for them since you will be using them more often. I bought my daughter beautiful brand new department store bikes and although they looked really nice, they fell apart even though she only took them out 5-10 times max. Better brand bikes will last a long time and will be more durable. Look on craigslist for some good used bikes. Kids outgrow bikes so quickly that you should be able to find bikes in good condition for a steal. Good Luck.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    Thanks for the advice. And I'll be looking at Paul Adkins website.

  10. #10
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    We are very happy with an xtracycle, for carrying 2-3 kids. We can tow two bikes, so they can ride when appropriate, and hop on and off the parental bike with ease. The width is dictated by the amount of stuff you strap on the sides, so it is usually much narrower than a trailer, but can expand as needed. We (my husband and I) can both use it, depending on the seat height, so either one of us can take the kids and head out for the day. We can carry a costco run on that bike; it's got a ton of carrying capacity.

    It is not covered. We have hats and gaiters and good winter gear for the kids, and so far (admittedly only one winter) it's been fine.
    http://flickr.com/gp/fletzet/W6001x
    http://flickr.com/gp/fletzet/039099
    http://flickr.com/gp/fletzet/R2Vu5G
    http://flickr.com/gp/fletzet/67mP2z

    You could also do something like this: http://www.pedalpoweredfamily.com/20...un-rain-cover/

  11. #11
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    Oh, and this is an intriguing option for a semi-independent kid: http://www.followme-tandem.com/english/index.htm
    http://clevercycles.com/products/acc...ndem-coupling/

    We have this: http://www.trail-gator.com/
    Which we really like, but generally find less useful than just the xtracycle, since it really limits the amount of cargo we can have at the rear of the bike. Still, if you've got two parents along, it works well. The FollowMe coupler wouldn't limit the back wheel as much, but it costs four times as much.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Suburban's Avatar
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    Cool suggestions! Thank you!

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