Carrying two bigger kids on a regular bike

I’m going to declare the current incarnation of The Old Mamabike (Bianchi Milano with Bobike Mini and Bobike Maxi) officially outgrown. Here we are six months ago, living the multi-modal high life:

The old mamabike

The weight limit of the Bobike Mini front seat is 33 pounds and my four-year old is a little bit heavier than that fully clothed. And there’s a comfort issue. Little kids fit great in front, but I’ve replaced my stem twice to accommodate longer legs (each kid hit a point where his knees bumped against the handlebars uncomfortably) and my extended reach has me leaning forward into the kid helmet a bit. This wasn’t such a big deal with the Nutcase in the photo above (note: helmets with rounded backs, like Nutcase and Bern, are most comfortable both in trailers and if you have a kid rammed against your chest), but his pointy-backed Giro pokes me in the sternum. If he wasn’t over the weight limit, it’d be worth looking into more swept-back handlebars. It’s fascinating how replacing small pieces can totally change a bike.

Removing the seat (and windscreen) is easy–just pull out a pin and yank it out of the bracket thingy. I haven’t removed the mounting bracket yet–I’m not sure which kind of stem I have (though I suspect it’s the easier one)–so I guess I’m not fully committed to a change yet.

Bobike Mini mounting bracket thingy

I started phase one of old mamabike conversion the other day by removing the front seat and windscreen…though it was really just so I could bring them to the Wheelha.us house and see if they’ll fit on a Madsen bucket bike for another family biker who is looking into front seats. It looks like it’ll fit!

Bobike Mini on Madsen

I want to get the bracket off so we can really test it, though. And in the commitment department, I left my front seat and windscreen in the Wheelha.us garage so I’m motivated to move on my next steps. And also because we don’t have a garage or much storage space. It’s not the first thing I’ve snuck into there, hee hee.

Another comfort item with the old mamabike is the seat height. We had a good five-year run with the low seat, but ever since I raised the Big Dummy’s saddle, I don’t find the old mamabike as comfortable. Now that there’s no front seat and I can slide safely off my saddle if need be, I’ve raised it up to proper height–looks like an inch and a half or so:

Raising the old mamabike seat

I still have some heel strike in the back, but now that I’m using it for the four-year old, rather than the six-year old, I think I can raise the foot rests up. Or I could hide his favorite yellow shoes that are three sizes too big. So here’s the current look. It’s so odd to see it unencumbered by front seat. I always stare open-mouthed at people who ride by on Milanos with no kid seats and whisper, “The future!” I imagine this as my around-town bike someday (unless you’re in contact with my husband, whom I’ve promised I’ll sell the Milano when we get a used tandem to attach kidback and Burley Piccolo as one of our other next steps).

The old mamabike--sort of

Why bother with the next step for the old mamabike? Because I like having a bus-able, two-kid-carrying bike. So what to do? One option might be a different front seat, many of which are highlighted in Hum of the City’s A front child seat for older kids. I saw one recently at the Ballard Bikes to School Kick-Off Event. It’s mounted on the seat post, but it’s really a front seat.

Big kid front seat (on the back)

And soon to the market is the Mac Ride front seat. It launched a Kickstarter campaign yesterday and I’m really tempted to get one while they’re cheap.

Though with any front seat I’ll most likely have to move my seat back down, though maybe not the full inch and a half. A lower profile seat will be more comfortable with a bigger kid–and I won’t have to keep my feet at the edges of the pedals and aim my knees out to the sides. And it will keep the old mamabike the same size for busing.

My original idea for the old mamabike, long before the idea of upgrading to a cargo bike, was to move the little kid to the rear seat and put the big kid on his own bike, attached behind with a FollowMe Tandem coupling system–now available locally at G & O Family Cyclery. In an interesting parallel, my friend who previously rode a Kona MinUte midtail cargo bike with her son, has just upgraded to a new regular bike with FollowMe Tandem. Note the bikes are connected at the hubs so it’s nice and stable–and doesn’t interfere with the part of the bike where a rear kid seat would sit.

FollowMe Tandem coupler in action

I think maybe I still want to do this. I like having the front of the bike all to myself. And I could fit a basket up there! Maybe something little and awesome like the Portland Design Works Takeout Basket or big and awesome like the Gamoh King Carrier.

But do I really want to lug around our heavy Danish Mosquito? The above photo is a week out of date–the trailing kid just upgraded, too, to an Isla Bike. I’m eager to get some feedback about the FollowMe with both the heavy and light kid bikes on our hilly terrain.

The not-so-simple parts are that I’ll need two open slots on the bus bike rack…though we usually travel at non-peak times and get the three-bike rack all to ourselves. And I’m not sure how long it takes to uncouple the kid bike. I’m not very adept at showing up to a bus stop with lots of time to spare.

If you’ve been reading closely, you might suspect there’s a Kona MinUte that will soon need a new home. Now that could work! Holds two kids and fits on the bus! But even if Kona hadn’t discontinued the MinUte, it’s not fair to use such a cool bike as a backup bike. Not to mention that during the sole two-mile ride we took on a MinUte, the kids were happy as clams for the first mile and then pummeled each other nonstop for the second. Although…they happily rode a horse together at a birthday party this summer which momentarily made me think they’re ready to share a small cargo bike deck.

Two on a horse, happily

Until five minutes later when they couldn’t share a tractor.

Two on a tractor, not happily

So what should I do? I’m going to ride the old mamabike around a bit to make sure I still love it as much as always (I’m pretty sure I do). It won’t work for the two-kid morning school run right now, but I can easily do preschool pickups and use it on non-preschool Thursdays and Fridays as long as I don’t want to carry anything big and impressive. If you’re so inclined, please weigh in because I’m awfully indecisive.

If money were no object, it’d sure be nice to get:

  • FollowMe Tandem coupler
  • Small 20″ Isla Bike
  • 16″ Isla Bike (not needed for the old mamabike conversion, but while we’re dreaming here…)
  • Mac Ride–overkill if I’m getting the other stuff, but why not? Maybe just for fun on my mountain bike.
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12 thoughts on “Carrying two bigger kids on a regular bike

  1. The MacRide seat is cool! I hadn’t seen that before. Although the one we got from the UK was only $20 ($40 if we’d had to ship it). Some friends are using theirs in combination with a craigslisted TrailGator to get their two kids to school.

    In our case I’m waiting to see how our son adjusts to riding on the trailer-bike regularly before thinking about spending money on something like a FollowMe (and of course we have the MinUte for short trips with 2). FYI he’s riding a 20″ Torker Interurban bike now, which we could buy locally. But for our daughter I think we’ll get the 16″ Isla Bike–there are no good local options in her size.

    • I really like the Torker Interurban! I’d say it’s relatively light for a kid bike. I’d say your Roland Add+Bike makes a FollowMe unnecessary. At least in the stability department. I guess if you were doing a lot of Torker ferrying, it’d be worth looking into. Have you carried kids plus bikes with the Bullitt?

  2. We’ve carried kids+balance bike on the Bullitt with the Roland attached. Whether we’d want anything more to haul their bikes depends on how they adjust to riding on their own over the next couple of years. The FollowMe is more of a “well, I guess it’s there if we ever need it…”

  3. I’ve tried a MacRide–blogged about it to help spread the word after meeting the designer at a blogger event. It’s a really great product, so secure on the bike & doesn’t get in the way of your knees. We were thinking of buying into the Kick starter too for a half price MacRide but thought too long–they’re sold out!

    As for your dilemma, wouldn’t the Follow Me be better as the kids get older?

    • Yay for MacRide! Though I wish you’d scored a half-priced one. After watching my friend’s kid apply the brakes (uphill!) while on his FollowMe coupled bike yesterday I’m still feeling indecisive. Not to mention I didn’t witness much pedal help. I’m a little scared to add so much weight knowing I’ll probably enjoy a similar fate.

    • Hi Neil, I’ve seen pictures of the iGo 2–it looks really neat! I don’t think they’d let me carry it onto the bus, though. Also worried I wouldn’t be strong enough to manage it–do you have one? I know the Adams tandem trail-a-bike takes a fairly strong rider, but the higher kids might make it quite different from the Weehoo.

      • It would be a bit of a struggle on the bus with two kids, as you’ve only one pair of hands. It’s not so much heavy as unwieldy. Any trailer system involves a weight penalty, It’s gear ratio management until the strength naturally builds. There are three bike shops in Seattle that list them if you wanted a look.

        I’ve just started working for Weehoo’s UK distributor and came across your blog looking for pictures of fitted Bobike seat’s to clarify things to a customer.

        The Weehoo seat positions are adjustable on the frame to allow for growth. When the eldest gets too tall and is on a solo the spare seat can be replaced with a basket.

      • Neil, I’ll see if any of those Seattle shops have them in stock. I know the regular iGos are often carried in stock, but hadn’t thought the special new iGo 2 would be. I think I know several people who’d want to try one out. I have a feeling some cities would allow the iGo to be carried on board, but they’re pretty strict about things like that here, unfortunately.

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