The New Home Economics

Cargo bike!

16 Comments

Finally, my Christmas wish from 2009 has come true. We are the proud new owners of a Sun Atlas cargo bike! Here’s Adam and the kids riding it home from the farmers market last weekend:

Why a cargo bike? Well, the kids outgrew their baby carriage and I needed a way to get them to preschool in the mornings this fall.

Why the Sun Atlas? Price was the deciding factor — it’s among the most affordable complete cargo bikes we’ve seen, and we’ve been shopping around for a long time.  We looked at Xtracycle, Yuba Mundo, an Electra Townie with Xtracycle FreeRadical add-on (which was affordable but uncomfortable), and we also even fantasized about the Big Dummy or (be still my Dutch heart) a bak fiet.  But our tight budget won out in the end, and we went with this very comfortable, affordable, versatile solution.

The other thing was this: I’m four inches taller than Adam, and in order to justify spending this kind of dough on a bike we wanted to be able to share it.  That meant a frame that was made for sharing — the seat is easy to adjust and at an angle such that it moves farther away from the handlebars the higher you raise it, making on-the-fly adjustments easy.

So enter the Sun Atlas, which we were lucky enough to be able to test ride — both of us — and buy at Varsity Bikes in dinkytown.  This bike is no Big Dummy; many of the components are a bit on the cheap side: the center kick-stand, for example.  But Adam’s a pro at finding gently used bike parts on eBay so we should have no problem swapping out various components as that becomes necessary.  The frame and the wheelset are the most important things right now, and they rock!

Here’s how we customized it for four-year-old twin transport:

mountain bike bar ends - or foot pegs

First, Adam picked up two sets of mountain bike bar ends from the salvage bin at the Hub to attach for foot pegs, so the kids’ feet wouldn’t just be hanging there.  Here’s how the look on: (with princess shoes of course)

However, their heels were still dangerously close, at times, to those spinning spokes, so we also decided to go for it and get the Xtracycle bags. The Sun Atlas is made to be compatible with most Xtracycle accessories. They’re not necessary for hauling kids, obviously, but they’ll make the bike much more useful in the long run.

Here was our solution for something to hold on to:

Stem from the Hub salvage yard, and an inexpensive set of handlebars and grips, considerably cheaper than the Xtracycle “stoker bar.”

Finally, we did a bit of sewing — a bit of colorful canvas and some foam from the fabric store and we had a nice little pad for the kids to sit on.  ALL SET!

Sun Atlas Cargo bike

The first couple times we took this out the kids were a little nervous, but now… well now they barely even hang on and I have to warn them when we’re about to go over potholes.  Anneke sits in front and holds on to the handlebars and Rowan usually just holds on to the bar under the pad.

This thing is A BLAST to ride. Much easier than pulling the baby carriage, even with 75 lbs of kids on the back.  And the basket that Adam bought me for my birthday last year fits perfectly on the front! This bike is the bees’ knees.  It was worth the wait!

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16 thoughts on “Cargo bike!

  1. Glad you got what you wanted and it seems from your post it was perfect timing! Family looks very comfortable on the cargo bike! Congrats!

  2. That last photo is priceless!

  3. You guys are Über-brilliant about these things. Way to go!!

  4. LOVE THIS!

    Husband and I were just watching this the other day:
    http://www.utilitycycling.org/2011/10/cargo-bike-documentary-2/

    Keep sharing your experience, this is so awesome.
    BIKES!

  5. I want one. I have four kids and it would be great to tote the two smallest this way while the bigger ones ride their own.

  6. What a great-looking bike! Thanks for posting this — seeing the picture of your partner riding with the kids helped me get over my hesitation and start riding with our four-year-old twins on the cargo bike we got about a week before you got yours. I love, love, love the bike, am so happy that our family has shed the cocoon of the car. Enjoy your bike!
    Nancy

    • Nancy, go for it! I actually feel a lot safer riding this than I did pulling them in their old burly-type carriage. This bike is so huge people can’t help but notice, and we’re right at or above their eye level as they drive — even if they have SUVs. I always felt like cars couldn’t see the carriage when I would pull it behind my bike, since it was so low to the ground. Now people slow down to stare at us. Perfect!

      • Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer. Was it tricky for you to learn to balance the bike at first? Any problems starting on hills, or do you like in a place with hills?

  7. Nancy, it was a little tricky the first couple of times out on the bike. At first the kids were super nervous, and then they got over-confident too quickly and one time Rowan leaned really far over to look at something while Adam was coming to a stop and he actually fell off! Fortunately this happened at 2MPH and other than getting a bit scared he was unhurt. So that was how the kids learned not to lean too much to one side.

    My recommendation would be to take it slow and easy and just go for some short rides on dedicated bike trails or even possibly sidewalks for the first couple of times you go out, then gradually work your way up. I think we went on 3-4 practice rides before I started taking them to school.

    As far as starting on hills, just shift into a really low gear. We only have a few minor hills so it hasn’t been an issue for us.

  8. Thanks for your advice, Jennifer. We’re in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, so we have some pretty major hills. I couldn’t get up them with the kids without the electric assist I put on the bike. I resisted it, but it really is great. I’m just so happy to be out of the car! Hurrah for bikes!

  9. I also bought the Sun Atlas here in Boston. I take my 7 year old everywhere on it.

  10. Can you tell me exactly what’s involved in putting the bar ends on the bike? I have some old ones. There is a circle shape on one end that clamps around a plug. How does this attach to the bike? You have a piece of silver metal attaching the black bar ends on. What is it? Thank you so much.

    • Hi there! Adam had to pry apart the circle shape on our mountain bike bar ends. One actually broke in the process. Find ones that aren’t a complete circle so that you can pry it far enough apart to slip it over the bar and then clamp it back together. I’m going to ask Adam to go into further detail on this, since I can’t remember exact details now. Hold on!

  11. Thought you might be interested in my home-made load platforms for the Sun. Cheap and easy. Nice to see someone else with one of these bikes…not much out there on them.

    Here is a link to my photobucket slideshow.

    http://s36.photobucket.com/user/mbrickell/slideshow/Sun%20wide%20loaders

    • Matt, THANKS! What a super cool idea! I’ve been thinking about the next couple years, and what we want to do with this bike long-term when our kids become too big to ride on it. We have maybe one more summer, and then the bike will be on to its next use!

      I got groceries with it one time, but our co-op is a little too far away for me to be able to realistically spend 3 hours getting groceries every week (including travel time), plus loading the groceries was a little awkward. A box or something would be significantly easier.

      Anyway, cheers and thanks for the link!

  12. I love your mountain bike bar end footpeg idea, and I might implement that one myself, so only fair to share the load platforms. 🙂 Take care.

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