Hauling two (and three!) bikes

Last Sunday was an epic kid-and-bike-hauling day: two kids plus three bikes on the Surly Big Dummy:

Photo courtesy DBC Photo

Photo courtesy DBC Photo

20-inch kid bike in the left FreeLoader bag, 16-inch kid bike and my grownup cyclocross bike on the WideLoader on the right. FreeLoader buckles pulled as tight as possible, a few bungee cords, and one toe strap holding my cross bike snugly to the Yepp FlightDeck adapter made things work. The ride was only a mile and a half, but all uphill. It was much easier than the ensuing cyclocross race and I think that was easier than riding back home alongside the kids (blog post on riding with kids coming soon).

It’s fun to haul big, impressive bike loads. I’ve hauled hauled cargo bikes with my cargo bike, but usually I just haul the two kids and their two bikes:

Dragging two bikes

The picture above is from two months ago, the day before the Ballard Greenway celebration when we tested the route. That was my first time dragging two bikes and I had them on the wrong sides–the hand brake from the bigger bike poked my Yepp seat passenger in the back at every bounce. Oops. So this is how we roll now, 20-inch bike on the left, 16-inch bike on the right:

Dragging two bikes

I’m careful about making tight turns and this means I sometimes have to do a bit of route adjusting, but it works surprisingly well. I don’t think I’d tip over if the wheels touched one another during a turn, but I’d have to park and straighten things out. Bikes with wheels smaller than 16 inches fit completely in the pocket (and even the 16-inch bike fits in the pocket if it has to) so here are a couple pictures of our journey to this point…

Two balance bikes, one in each pocket with other gear (snacks, extra layers) shoved in where space allowed:

Big Dummy + two kids + two balance bikes

Or Two balance bikes on the same side, using the WideLoader for days with lots of other gear:

Bicycle Day

Our next two configurations were…
– 16-inch pedal bike plus small balance bike (Kinderbike Mini)
– 16-inch pedal bike plus 12-inch balance bike
Both of these were most easily done by dragging the 16-inch pedal bike rear wheel from one pocket and putting the smaller bike completely in the other pocket.

I didn’t use the WideLoader for any of the above unless I also needed to carry a couple big bags of stuff, but it came in handy for 16-inch pedal bike on one side and two little bikes on the other. Three bikes!

Carrying 3 kiddie bikes

I had intended to have some sort of hitch built back when we were at the dragging-one-bike stage, but didn’t get around to it. Apparently the Xtracycle rear crossbar is the perfect width for a fork mount from a bike rack. Here’s the one on Edward’s (the mechanic who built my bike) Big Dummy:

Edward's Big Dummy trailer hitch

Perhaps I could stick one out to either side. That would keep the bikes very stable, but it adds a bit of time to the whole process and stowing the front wheels separately will probably end up taking up just as much room.

But back to dragging from the FreeLoaders…

I’ve dragged a tiny bike out the back–once with our 10-inch-wheeled Kinderbike Mini during an on-the-bike-off-the-bike-back-and-forth-dance along the Alki Beach boardwalk, but I prefer having the weight completely in the bag with no drag if possible. However there’s more cargo room with less bike in the bag. Our 16-inch wheel takes up about half the bag:

16-inch wheel in FreeLoader bag

And our 20-inch wheel fills enough of the bag that I can only fit something small in front of it:

20-inch wheel in FreeLoader bag

Things would be a bit easier if I didn’t have the Yepp seat’s leg supports pushing front wheels out at an angle, and every bike is a bit different, but following are some pictures of how our specific bikes fit. Reinforcing with bungee cords or cinch straps (non-stretchy, like a toe clip or Yuba Cargo Straps) is great, but I’m lazy and if I can make it work without extra effort, that’s what I do. For our 16-inch Sparkle BMX-style bike, threading the buckle of FreeLoader bag through the fork works best for keeping it straight:

Buckle through kid bike fork

However, I just had a front brake put on the Sparkle so now I’m worried about messing that up if I try to squeeze the strap through. So far just going over the top is working OK.

Buckle over kid bike fork

Notice three pictures up that I’ve fastened the buckle through the spokes. I used to be scared of doing so, but saw a friend securing her bikes thusly so I’ve been doing the same…until I noticed a couple bent spokes. Doh! The bike should fine, but I don’t want to bend even more. Despite all the weight I put on my bikes, I have never broken a spoke and I don’t want to start now. Fortunately, whether through the spokes or not, two snugly fastened FreeLoader buckles keep the 20-inch Danish Mosquito in place without extra help.

Doh, bent spoke

This isn’t the case with our other 20-inch kid bike, the impulse-purchase Trek Jet from replacing stolen items day. This bike’s different shape requires a bungee cord from frame to Yepp adapter to keep it from flopping to the side. Although I hurriedly buckled through the spokes on the way to cyclocross last weekend and it sat fine sans bungee.

Kid bike secured with bungee cord

Carrying a bike with a full-sized wheel works pretty much the same way. The bigger wheel leans out to the side more so I usually need a bungee cord to hold it in.

Adult bike secured with bungee cord

It looks floppy in the close-up, but it tracks nice and straight.

Dragging an adult bike

Adult bikes are much easier to carry without the Yepp seat–or at least, without the Yepp seat at the rear of the FlightDeck. Here’s my road bike on Davey Oil’s Xtracycle EdgeRunner. It has the same Xtracycle FreeLoader bags as my Big Dummy and I can buckle the middle strap up and over across the FlightDeck from one bag to the other.

Preparing to taxi the EdgeRunner to its home

If I’m towing a big bike and no kids, I’ll often remove the Yepp seat to stow in the non-bike FreeLoader pocket.

See the Xtracycle Bikes in Tow Flickr gallery for more fun pictures. And please, pass along any tips and ideas!

Added November 18:
Here’s a picture of my friend Tom towing a balance bike and 16-inch pedal bike by putting the back wheels in each pocket and keeping the front wheels up off the ground with bungee cords so there’s no drag and still cargo space in front of the bikes! Notice is also has a hitch on his bike for towing a full-sized bike. Little does he know I’ve been working on a post with pictures of some of his cool stuff :)

Tom towing two kid bikes

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7 thoughts on “Hauling two (and three!) bikes

  1. Thanks for the info, it’s helpful. My son & I just tried it w/one bike semi successfully (we made it home). I kept having him check if it was tipping. How was your cx race? I’m doing my 1st one of the yr in 2 wks.

    • Congrats on the bike haul, Kristin! There have been many times I had to stop and repack often. Not lately now that I’ve got the hang of it,though :) It gets easier. CX was hard! But fun! I want to do more, but I am worried about how cold it will be. Have fun!

  2. Pingback: On Writing & Riding: Family Ride | chasing mailboxes d.c.

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