Totcycle | Family Biking

Tots on bikes, kids as cargo, family cycling, and other high-occupancy velo goodness.

Not caring how much our bikes weigh since 2008.

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B is for bicycle

B is for ...


The ultimate family ride. There are other, homegrown versions of this "Long John" style of bike (Metrofiets, CAT, and now CETMA), as well as other US-designed "longtail" options (Xtracycle, Madsen, etc ...), and other Euro family bikes (Christiania and other trikes, various bakfiets imitators) Bakfiets, via BikePortland.orgbut the Van Andel bakfiets ("box bike") is a ready-to-roll family biking masterpiece, especially if you've got more than one young kid. It's got all the Dutch trimmings (fenders, dynamo lights, wheel lock, big rack, outdoor storability, available cozy rain cover for the kids), and yes, all the Dutch weight (to survive the salty outdoor air and rampant bike theft, they make their bikes extra-burly). But unless you live on steep hills or have regular need to cover long distances, the bakfiets might be just what you need. Only drawback? You might need to sell your car. They cost $3,000, but occasionally pop up used. You won't need that car anyway. 


You need one or more. You're going to need to carry stuff that doesn't fit in your pockets, and backpacks on bikes make so little sense, unless you like a sweaty back. You don't see cowboys wearing them on their load-carrying steeds, do you? But there is a hierarchy of baskets to be observed, often ranked by alcohol-carrying capacity (I will respect this tradition, even though this is ostensibly a family biking alphabet):

  • Dainty handlebar-slung baskets, often woven plastic or wicker, good for a jacket, camera, purse, bonbons perhaps. Perhaps a flinty Riesling?
  • Stem-clamped baskets jiggle less and carry more, and some have a quick-release that lets you use them as a shopping basket. A six-pack could work.
  • Front baskets that clamp to handlebars but have struts that go to your fork (Wald is the classic here). Now these can carry some weight. Case of beer? Why not. But since they're attached to your bars, said weight can affect your steering. With bar mounted baskets, it's handy to install a Hebie stabilizer spring (Dutch Bike Seattle and Aaron's Bike Repair stock them), to keep the front wheel from flopping sideways when parked.
  • Frame-mounted rack with ziptied basket (wicker, Wald, or even your store's shopping basket, in a pinch). The ultimate. Case of wine? Keg? Your drunk friend? Another bike? Not a problem. Your frame bears the load, and steering is unaffected. 3-4 shopping bags will work, if your basket is big enough. Trouble is, you need to be handy with a blowtorch, or install an expensive front rack (check the Workcycles distributors or David Hembrow's site). But so worth it.


Mandatory. Literally, in some towns. Find yourself one that tickles your fancy, and that you won't feel too bashful about dinging. I'm partial to these two:

  • The "dring-dring" bell on my Dutch bike. Classic.
  • The Crane bell on my other bike . The sustain, listen to it. It's famous for its sustain ... you could go change a flat, and eeeeee, you'd still be hearing that one.
  • But have a look at this cute montage, via David Hembrow:


Also non-optional (I wouldn't ride fixed-gear with a kid on board). But unlike bells, lights, fenders, and kickstands, US bike companies actually bother to include these with every bike purchase. Cantilevers, V-brakes, disc brakes, hub brakes, and coaster brakes, take your pick. They all work, some better than others, some with lower maintenance than others. I like no-fuss hub roller brakes (they do have a softer, squishier feel, though) and disc brakes. Coaster brakes are simple and nostalgic, but I like being able to reposition my pedals at a stop, especially when carrying kid cargo.

"Barney", from Dapper Lad CyclesBig Dummy

This is an xtracycle longtail frame that's not bolted together, from the fine folks at Surly. For the US cargo bike connoisseur, this frameset inspires much perseveration around one's Big Dummy build (choice of components), eventually resulting in the birth of a sturdy, practical, and handsome bike, and online posts of the joyous occasion by its proud poppa or momma.


To all the the bikes I've loved before ...



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February 2, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterShane

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