family bike transportation

Good evening! Tonight I have a brief and unusual post, which is a product review of an electric cargo bike and its accessories for transporting kids. Let’s see if I can get this finished while I wait for my new laptop to finish installing.

So, I have three young kids (5yo, 3yo, 1yo), and I need to get them places. Before the 3rd was born I would use a bike trailer (Thule Chariot Lite single, bought when there was just one kid) and a bike seat (Thule RideAlong Lite, attached on seat-post). That was fine, though sometimes the thought of lugging their ever-increasing kilograms somewhere would give me pause. Then when the third kid arrived, hoo boy; I got a front-mount Thule Yepp Nexxt 2 Mini, to see if I could do three kids on one me-powered bike, but that was too tight to manage; not enough space to kick my leg over when getting on.

In the end we finally broke down and looked at electric cargo bikes. Of course I had looked at these over the years and always bounced off the price. Initially I had thought a front box-bike would be the thing, but then as kids grew up I realized they wouldn’t be comfortable there, and that a long-tail was probably better for the long term. But holy Christ, they are expensive. Happily, Decathlon came out with an electric longtail which is quite acceptable, and for about half the price of something equivalent from elsewhere.

Funny story: a friend got her bike stolen in the center of Geneva one day; thieves came and took all the bikes on a rack. I guess it was a battery-operated angle grinder; apparently that is the modus operandi these days. She moped a bit but then decided to buy the same bike again, from Decathlon as it happens. While she was at the store she entered a raffle. Then the cops called to say they found her bike – I know right?! Turns out some other bike that was stolen had an Apple AirTag on it, and its owner called the cops to tell them where the bike was, and all of the bikes were recovered. In the meantime my friend’s insurance had paid out for her stolen bike, so she had an extra bike. Then the local Decathlon called to tell her she won the raffle, for some kind of electric bike. When she went to pick it up, it was the electric longtail, for free. Anyway, we got to try hers before deciding to get one too.

One of my questions was, can you jam 3 kids on this thing? In terms of weight, yes: it will take 80 kilos on the back, and our kids total 45 kilos. In terms of space it’s OK, but really for the 1yo you need a bike seat, and even for the 3yo she should really be in a seat unless she’s very awake. The back rack has a frame around it, which does help keep kids on, but it’s not sufficient for a sleepy 3yo.

I was hoping to find a quite narrow kid bike seat so I could put on two seats for the young ones and then jam the oldest in somehow. I started with the Thule Yepp Nexxt 2 Maxi, but the release clamp kinda wants to be where the frame around the back rack is, so it’s not so efficient, and not easy to remove. Also the plastic guards so that kids don’t catch their legs in the back wheel aren’t needed on this particular bike, but they do prevent me from effectively accessing the otherwise well-designed panniers (c’est drôle mais ce ne sont pas des panniers, mais des saccoches).

So, with the Thule rear-mount seat I could get one bike seat for the 1yo and then jam in the 3yo and 5yo. It worked fine.

Then, annoyingly, thieves stole our electric longtail. Apparently insurance will pay out for us too—this is a relatively standard feature in France for the kind of insurance you have to have already for your place of residence—but for the last few weeks we have been without our longtail, and it is terrible. In the end we decided just to buy the same bike again: proof that it is good enough.

There are other electric longtails out there. If you can afford it, a pedal motor will be better than the hub motor on the Decathlon model. But if you are willing to accept less than the best, I think the Decathlon bike is quite good for what it is and I am looking forward to picking up the new bike tomorrow. It fits the kids, easily adjusts between different rider heights, and is a real joy to be on as a family. It lets me go places I wouldn’t think of going without the ability to just chuck everybody on the bike and zip away.

As far as bike seats go, I am going to try a new seat, to see if I can avoid the leg covers and to see if it’s more narrow. Ping me on the Mastodon if you want a follow-up. Thoughts welcome below for things that have worked for you. Until next time, happy cycling!

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