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VI - Family Cycling

I have some knowledge and experience here, but why reinvent the wheel? Others have written eloquently on this topic, and here are two good reviews of some of the best family-cycling, kid-carrying options:

If those links disappear, here's what Ms. Laufe had to say:

With all the fun and functional new biking systems on the market, becoming a parent doesn't mean you have to let your bicycle grow cobwebs.

There's a rig for every family, from the simple and relatively inexpensive baby seat to the snazzy Bakfiet, a Dutch cargo bike made for serious hauling.

Best choices for babies and toddlers are attachable seats, trailers or the cargo bike. At age 4 or 5, children may be ready to try a tag-along, family tandem or an Xtracycle. While there's no hard and fast rule for when to switch kids to a more independent riding system, Martina Fahrner, co-owner of CleverCycles in Southeast Portland, offers some advice.

"You really need to use your parent instinct," she says. "You know your child's development and what they're comfortable with."

Here are some options parents can consider:

Bakfiet Dutch cargo bike
What it does: Carries up to three young children plus a couple bags of groceries.
The good: These bikes are super-fun to ride, and kids love them. For some families, the cargo bike has even replaced a second car. Ethan Jewett traded in his old Honda and bought a Bakfiet to ride with his 1-year-old son, Jackson. Jewett says, "The seduction of having the car in the driveway was too great. Removing the car has removed the choice."
The bad: The cost is prohibitive for many families. And while it's great for short, flat-terrain trips, it's a bear to pedal up hills of any size.
Cost: About $3,000
Bottom line: You'll be the coolest mom or dad in the neighborhood if you buy one of these.

Xtracycle Free Radical
What it does: The Free Radical is a kit that extends the rear wheelbase of an adult's bike, allowing room for a seat deck on which two kids (up to 200 pounds) can ride. It also comes with large saddlebags that can hold four grocery sacks.
The good: Known locally as the PUB (Parent Utility Bike), these easy-to-handle bikes are especially popular with women. Juli Maus chose the Xtracycle fitted with a baby seat to get around with her two daughters because "it's not too heavy and it's pretty easy to handle."
The bad: If your child is old enough to ride on an Xtracycle, she may be old enough to pedal a tag-along or tandem -- and actually get some exercise.
Cost: The kit is $489 plus about $100 to install. Xtracycle also just came out with its own longtail bike, the Radish, for $1,999.
Bottom line: With an Xtracycle, you can drop the kids off at school and pick up a week's worth of groceries on the way home -- without setting foot in the minivan.

Kidz Tandem
What it does: The Kidz Tandem is designed for a child to ride in front and an adult in the back. (Traditional tandems put the shorter person in the back.)
The good: A tandem is perfect for kids who have a lot of energy, but who might not be ready for long rides on their own.
The bad: Tandems are so long, it's hard to transport them. Don't even think about mixed commuting (cycling part of the way and putting your bike on the bus or MAX).
Cost: The Kidz Tandem retails for $1,800. Eugene-based Bike Friday also makes the 8-Speed Family Tandem for $1,395; the 16-speed is $1,650.
Bottom line: Martina Fahrner, who collects bicycles like some people collect bottle caps, says that the Kidz Tandem is her current favorite for riding with her 6-year-old son. An added bonus: "You have a lot of control over the kids. When they're in the back they start to goof off."

Trail-a-bike or tag-along
What it does: The tag-along is a third wheel that attaches to the back of an adult's bike, usually to the seat post. Kids have their own pedals and handlebars, but are still connected to Mom or Dad.
The good: Wendy Lear, whose 6-year-old son has been riding a trail-a-bike for a year and a half, says, "He hated riding in the bike trailer, but he likes the freedom of the trail-a-bike. He likes it for all the same reasons adults like to ride."
The bad: Some adults report that riding a tag-along actually slowed their child's progress in learning how to ride a two-wheeler. And kids riding behind their parents may forget to pay attention or even fall asleep.
Cost: Several brands and models to choose from, including the Adams Trail-A-Bike, $160, and the Burley Kazoo tag-along, $225.
Bottom line: Easier to transport and less expensive than a family tandem, the tag-along is a good choice for kids who are ready to pedal on their own, but still need some adult guidance on the road.

Bike trailer
What it does: Trailers attach to the chain stay of the adult bike and allow you to carry one or two kids (up to 100 pounds) behind you.
The good: If you install an infant car seat to help secure her, even the very youngest child can ride in a bike trailer. Most also have room for a couple of bags of groceries as well.
The bad: Some kids can't stand riding in them because they feel too cooped up. Plus, says Liz Steszyn, who rides her son to school in an old Burley trailer, "It's scary being in traffic, but I can't ride on the sidewalk with it."
Cost: Ranges from $99.99 at Target to $725 for REI's top-of-the-line Chariot Carriers CX1 Stroller/Trailer Chassis.
Bottom line: Trailers are great for hauling kids short distances. Many can be converted into strollers, giving parents some flexibility when it comes to exercising.

Child seat
What it does: Allows babies as young as 9 months to go for rides with Mom and Dad.
The good: The latest models, based on seats that have been popular in Europe for years, put the child on the handlebars or on the top tube in front of the adult, rather than behind. This makes the bike easier to balance and lets you keep an eye on your child.
The bad: Catherine Johnson loves cycling with her 14-month-old son in a WeeRide seat mounted in front of her, but she says, "There's no way at all to stand up and pedal with the seat there. We're always in search of a way to go up Alameda Ridge without me dying."
Cost: The WeeRide Kangaroo is available on Amazon for $60. Bobike's models start at $139.
Bottom line: These seats provide a perfect way to involve young children in family cycling and make it easy for parents and children to communicate while on the bike.

Again, here's the link to the article Family Biking, by Ann Laufe in The Oregonian.

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References to specific companies or products at The Practical Cyclist are editorial in nature: I have received no significant goods or services in exchange for links or recommendations. Not that I'd refuse, but no one has offered. If this changes, I'll make it obvious and explicit.