Creative Solutions

A Creative Solution

When we went car-lite a few years ago, I’m pretty sure our kids thought we went off the deep end. At that time they were 12, 14, and 16 and the idea of their parents being seen around our conservative suburb as the “weird hippie couple on bikes” had to be a living nightmare. Fast forward three years and surprisingly, they’re pretty well-indoctrinated. Our now 19-year-old son is a serious transpo bicyclist who routinely rides his Breezer to college and other events 10-20 miles away at all hours of the day and night. Our youngest, who has not quite made the transition to using her bike for all of her local transportation needs, has at least embraced bike culture and loves to participate in tweed rides and other events. And while they were initially petrified at the thought of it, now they seem downright proud to have the old folks out setting a good example in the neighborhood.

When we went car-lite a few years ago, I’m pretty sure our kids thought we went off the deep end. At that time they were 12, 14, and 16 and the idea of their parents being seen around our conservative suburb as the “weird hippie couple on bikes” had to be a living nightmare.

One of the little challenges of getting groups of teenagers around from here to there is the fact that everything seems to be decided at the last minute. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure the proverbial best laid plans of mice and men were put to rest by a group of teenagers. Add to this the fact that our kids have chosen to wait until they’re older to get their driver’s licenses, and we’ve had to get creative at times.

One handy tool is the cargo bike. Most people probably think of the cargo bike as a way to haul things such as groceries, building supplies, or furniture. What they may not realize is that a bike like the Mundo (shown above) can also tow a bicycle and carry passengers, replacing an SUV in the process. For example, a mother of two can tow one bike behind her to after school pick-up, give the second bike to the older teenager to ride, and give the younger kid a lift on the back of the cargo bike (assuming the teenagers don’t mind being seen with Mom… LOL). In the case of the Yuba, there’s also a child seat available if there’s a third, younger child in the family. Mixing and matching these various options goes a long way toward meeting the transportation needs of spontaneous and fickle teenagers.

We keep saying this over and over, but we’re firm believers in the idea of blooming where you’re planted. We also believe getting creative can lead to many wonderful and inspiring transportation solutions. Our family is living proof that even with a house full of teenagers in the suburbs, it’s possible to simultaneously limit your car use while maintaining familial bliss, and yes, even have a grand time while doing it.

22 Responses to “Creative Solutions”

  • jdmitch says:

    Ha, yeah, I’m starting my kids indoctrination early (4, 2 and newborn). At this age, they think it’s the greatest thing in the world. Of course, we’re still working into how much we can use where but it’s looking good so far.

  • Frits B says:

    Complicated way of towing a second bike. Dutch moms simply steer with one hand and hold the second bike with the other . But I agree: your way is safer.

  • Frits B says:

    I had added “very big grin” after “the other”. Does this show :-)?

  • Larry says:

    A cargo bike like the Mundo or Dummy would solve a lot of problems and help my family be more car minimal. I’ve thought about both. Cost and weight are both factors. (I know that cargo bikes aren’t supposed to be light, but I live in a very hilly area).

    One of the advantages of the Dummy is supposed to be the versatility of the xtracycle components. What do you think? Is the Mundo versatile enough? When you haul small stuff (like groceries), do you mostly use the gogetter bag, or something else?

    And how did you secure the towed bike?

  • Mark says:

    Wow, I’m impressed, particularly that you’ve managed to get your kids into this whole thing. Funny you should mention waiting to get a driver’s license. I just graduated college, I’ll be 22 on the 16th, and I just got my license last Wednesday.

  • Alan says:

    @Larry

    “When you haul small stuff (like groceries), do you mostly use the gogetter bag, or something else?”

    The Go Getter bag is super. It’s fine for carrying small loads, but it will also swallow 4 grocery bags. For quick trips that only involve a bag or two, we usually ride our standard length bikes.

    “And how did you secure the towed bike?”

    The front wheel drops into the sideloader on the Mundo, so all that’s required is a single strap.

    Alan

  • Alan says:

    @Mark

    “Wow, I’m impressed, particularly that you’ve managed to get your kids into this whole thing.”

    When our son realized driving meant getting a job to pay for gas and insurance, the option of riding a nice bike and focusing on school full time looked a lot more appealing. We’re proud of his decision.

    Alan

  • SB Tim says:

    Riding bikes seems to be a more “cool” thing to do for teenagers now than it was when I was a teen in the 90s. While you both have likely been the biggest influence on your kids having incorporated biking into their lifestyle, the “cool” factor can’t hurt in sustaining that. You guys set a great example.

  • Alan says:

    “Riding bikes seems to be a more “cool” thing to do for teenagers now than it was when I was a teen in the 90s.”

    Agreed. I like to say fixies are the new skateboards. Seems to be that way around here anyway…

    Alan

  • voyage says:

    Good narrative! One of the joys of teenagers is trying to convince them their brains aren’t fully-developed.

    And one secret to car-lite is to go huge grocery shopping every three months using the automobile. The rest is just fill-in using the bike or walking for little and fresh/perishable things. But try convincing them of that…

  • Steve Grimmer says:

    You mention pulling a second bike with the Mundo to pick up two teenagers after school. Presumably, the teens are also being taken to school in the AM? It sounds like a cool idea, but couldn’t the teens simply ride their own bikes both ways like I and my kids do?
    Otherwise, good article. I keep thinking I want a cargo bike….

  • Alan says:

    @Steve

    ” Presumably, the teens are also being taken to school in the AM? It sounds like a cool idea, but couldn’t the teens simply ride their own bikes both ways like I and my kids do?”

    Perhaps they had plans after school that fell through, perhaps they were supposed to take a bus but forgot to take their pass, perhaps they stayed overnight at a friend’s house and walked to school, etc., etc. The point is that plans change quickly and often, so it’s good to have options.

  • MarkA says:

    I was writing about this just today on my blog, this idea that we need to get families on bikes and encourage ‘cargo bike culture’. Looks like you guys have totally got it sussed though!

    I think the point you make about your son weighing up his options as to whether to get a job to learn to drive and buy a car and run it, or concentrate more on his studies speaks volumes. When I graduated from Uni I got a car, just like everyone else, and lived a car-centric life. Thing is, looking back, I didn’t need to, it cost me an absolute FORTUNE and it made me unfit. But I did it totally unquestioningly, ‘cos, well, that’s just what you are supposed to *do*. I look back in horror and am much happier now I live car-free, but I do wonder how we get through to the majority and get them just to consider the bicycle?

  • Adam says:

    You guys are awesome. Keep it up.

  • Ryan Patterson says:

    Great Article! I also fully enjoy the towing capabilities of the Yuba. Often on Sundays my son and I ride to the farmers Market (downhill) and then he rides on the back and we tow his bike (uphill) for the way home.
    The Yuba has been an excellent option for our family thus far however we have been considerably car dependent since we having a new baby 3 weeks ago. It’s easy to throw my 7 year old onto the Yuba but my wife is a bit more nervous about strapping on the car seat.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for biking with an infant?

    And for those out there wondering if the Yuba is as useful as an Xtracycle, it certainly is! I cannot speak towards the lighter weight of the xtracycle but the yuba is tough, and capable of carrying whatever you’ll need and VERY easy to secure your goods too. You can spend some of the $$$$ you’ll save a few extra bungee cords and your ready to go!

  • Derek says:

    Yuba has plenty of accessories for the Mundo. Just check out their website. I have the go-getter bags, the soft spot seat and hold on bars for a passenger, and a peanut shell seat for the littler passenger. I plan to get the dual leg kickstand that is shipping later this month (I already have the deflopilator), and the front rack.

    The bike rides quite nicely and is rock solid. I have ridden the Big Dummy before and it is quite nice also, but Xtracycle did not have any accessories I wanted that Yuba doesn’t offer for the Mundo and I wanted the extra deck length and hauling capacity of the Mundo.

  • Matt says:

    My wife is the true ecoveloist riding her custom build Surly/Xtacycle Big Dummy. She caries our five tear old daily, and occasionally she even carries our 10 year old as well (their combined weight exceeds my wife’s (she’s amazing). We’re suburban homesteaders going carlite. The big dummy has been great, but I picked up a yuba for myself last month. Having built a Big Dummy from the ground up, and now going through the build up of a mundo, I can speak to the utility/build quality of both.

    Big dummy advantage: lighter, higher quality welds/manufacturing,
    Cromoly, better stock components on a complete.
    Big dummy disdvantage: though I appreciate the modular nature of the v racks an h racks sliding into the frame, I have to say that the aluminum tubes, and the pop up tent style spring loaded pins that retain them ar not as burly a structure as I would want on a truck-bike. It Is definitely a more nimble a bike than the mundo, but that comes at a cost of sheer burlyness, Wichita the mundo has in spades.

    Mundo advantages: integrate rear rack, seemngly more burly H racks, cheaper
    Mundo disadvantages(summary): this beast is heavy! Components and build quality of of the v3 are better than past versions, but still not to the level if Surly. It rides slower and not as nimble. Doesn’t flex as much as the BD. I have had my wife, both daughters, and myself, on the bike (460 lbs), and experienced little pecuevable flex in the frame!! Only the rear tire complained from not enough pressure (fixed by filling to max rating).

    If Yuba can add a better seat cushion for the rear using a design closer to the magic carpet, and if they can improve design (disc brake mounts are not as well designed As they should be), and build quality, then i would say that the yuba might actually steal the cargo bike crown from xtracycle. Have to say, I’m a bit torn. I love extracycle and Surly, but I see the benefit of an integrated rear rack with tons of brazeons and screw mounts to hang new options on it. The slide in V/H racks are certainly capable, but I don’t know if the flexibility and modularity of the design compensates for the structural compromises that you have to take with it.

    In either case, both bikes are serious game changers fir car lite or car free families. I really mean that. They are absolutely opening up options that just did not exist for my family, and millions other American families, just five years ago.

  • Ryan Patterson says:

    Thanks Matt!
    when I was looking to buy a cargo bike I was hardpressed to find an honest review of xtracycle v. yuba mundo written from personal experience. In most cases it was just bloggers and reviewers comparing the stats on the website. Thanks for this honest account and I hope it helps more people in thier pursuit of happiness on a truck bike in the future!

  • SB Tim says:

    @ Ryan Patterson
    “Does anyone have any suggestions for biking with an infant?”

    I wondered the same thing 3 years ago when I was thinking of ways to take my infant son on rides. I thought about strapping the car seat to a Burley style trailer, but a coworker thought it was a bad idea because of something called “shaking baby syndrome”. I don’t know if that is really a risk, but I do know that trailers and unsuspended bikes can be a bumpy ride and I decided to wait till my son was big and strong enough to ride in the front mount bike seat (which he still loves). So we walked a lot to get around when he was young. A few times, my wife or I did ride with our second child on our back in an “Ergo” baby carrier. We are both competent and long experienced riders and we took it really easy on bikeways when riding like this. Our daughter mostly slept on those rides because she was so cozy against us.

  • Larry says:

    @ Ryan Patterson
    “Does anyone have any suggestions for biking with an infant?”

    My kids are now 5 and 8. If I could do it again, I would have gotten one of the infant seats that mounts behind the handlebars. The baby gets a front-row seat and parent and baby are both reassuringly close. With a rear seat, the kid has no forward view, and the parent doesn’t know whether the kid is awake or asleep; bored or enthralled.

    You might also check local regulations – in NY state, forward seats are illegal, and infants are not permitted on bikes until six months old.

  • steve says:

    This is great! A friend of mine has a volunteer program that tries to get preteens and teens biking – sadly people in the community attack it as promoting an unsafe habit

  • Andy says:

    I’ve seen a couple of postings about your Yuba, with promises of a full Yuba review to come. Is it still coming, or have I missed it?

    Thanks!

 
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