Sunday, October 12, 2014

Cycling with two kids

I believe that driving cars is very unsustainable, and am a keen cyclist. Generally, where possible, I ride my bicycle in preference to driving a car. I have done many cycle-camping trips, and am comfortable riding with a lot of luggage or a trailer. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the "best" way to cycle with kids.

Options (each has advantages and disadvantages):

Child seat

On an ordinary bike, it is not easy to carry more than one child. I have ridden a 10-speed, steel-framed racer with my four-year-old in a rear seat, and my 1-year-old in a front seat (that attaches to the cross bar) -- riding the bike is fine, but it is very difficult to get on and off the bike. A Ladies'- or mixte- frame, with a seat that mounted on the handle bars would be easier to mount, but heavier to steer. Particularly with front panniers as one needs with a rear-mounted seat.

My solution, which I think works well, was to buy an xtracycle kit, and convert my bike into a long-bike. Then there is room at the back for two seats.
The advantage of this is that there are still only two wheels on the road, and it rides similarly to a normal bike with little extra weight and no extra rolling resistance.
The disadvantage is that weight near the back of the xtracycle (behind the rear hub) tends to unbalance the bike. This can be compensated for by riding without shaking the bike, and I haven't found it to be a problem (my now-two-year-old weighs 15 kg, and I regularly ride with them both on the back plus lots of luggage and it is fine).

More detail of my setup is provided in this article.


This option gets the weight of one's bike at the price of an extra tyre on the road. It makes the bike much longer, and the child can't be too tired. On the plus side, when the tag-a-long is remove the bike is an ordinary bike.
UPDATE: I recently saw a tandem tag-a-long that has one wheel on the road, and carries two kids -- one behind the other. It looked nice, and I think it was by weeride, and was about AU$450. Because the kids are in a line, it's no wider than the bike, and so gets around the width problem of a trailer (below), and only has one extra wheel on the road. Had this option been available previously, I might have done this instead of the xtracycle.


This is perhaps safest for the kids, though its width is often a problem. It also adds lots of weight, rolling resistance and wind resistance -- riding is much heavier work. The advantage is that no modification to the bike is needed and the trailer can be shared between bikes.


On the whole, I feel that the xtracycle is a great option. It rides like a normal bike (unlike, for example, a bakfiets), weighs only marginally more than an ordinary bike, but can carry two kids plus lots of luggage. I've happily ridden 25 kms with my two young kids plus luggage.

I should note that my xtracycle is based-on a recycled bicycle that I bought from the nice guys at the bicycle revolution in Brisbane. It has a Rohloff hub, velocity rims, and some Magura hydraulic rim brakes that I salvaged from an old bike. I love my xtracycle!

This article was written by Angus Wallace, and first appeared on

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