DIY midtail cargo bike

UPDATE (9/10/14): Matthew rode this fully loaded (i.e., Gabriel in the seat, plus loaded panniers on the rear rack) yesterday, which turned out to be too much weight in the back. He was fighting to keep the front wheel on the ground. So, this set-up works with either a child OR loaded rear panniers, but not both at the same time.  Matthew is looking into adding a front rack to the bike (for the panniers) to even out the weight distribution.  Until then, he’ll avoid riding with Gabriel and cargo, which means he can’t use this bike to drop G off at school on the way to work.

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As I mentioned yesterday, Sir started preschool this week.  He’s been waiting to go to “Baba’s school” (my MIL, Sir’s “Baba,” is his teacher) all summer, and thanks to our trial run in the spring, we were pretty confident it would be an easy transition for him.

So far, so good.

In some ways, it’s probably a bigger transition for Matthew and me, and I’m not talking the emotional, “my baby’s going to school” thing, but rather the very practical “getting Gabriel to and from school” issue.

G’s preschool is about four miles from where we live, and I’m already mourning the loss of the super easy half-block walk to childcare that we enjoyed for the past 14 months.  It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Fortunately, G’s preschool is more or less on Matthew’s way to work, so the general plan is that Matthew will take use the longtail and handle both drop-off and pick-up on most days.  But there will invariably be days (including this past Monday), where there’s a scheduling conflict, and Matthew either has to be at work early or stay late, and the timing for child shuttling will not work for him.

We realized almost as soon as we got the longtail that, in an ideal world, we would have not one, but two Big Blues for such times.  (Since we sold the trailer, the longtail was our only way to transport G by bike.)

But alas Big Blue cannot clone herself, and we really can’t justify purchasing another bike right now (though that doesn’t stop me from looking and dreaming — n+1, right?).

However, when we were going through the whole Yepp child seat debacle (in which I bought a “standard” model on EBay, when we needed the Easyfit for the Edgerunner), we noticed a particular accessory, the Easyfit Carrier XL, which claimed to extend a regular rear bike rack so one could fit both a Yepp child seat and panniers.

With this accessory, we could use the single Yepp Easyfit child seat on multiple bikes.  After a bit of discussion, we decided to adapt Matthew’s back-up bike (a Giant hybrid) for this purpose.*

IMG_4873

What you need

  • A good bike — you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars, but visit a bike store instead of a discount store.  You’re going to be transporting your child, so you want something that is safe and reliable.  Matthew took his bike in for a tune-up to make sure all was in working order before adapting the bike.
  • A heavy-duty rear rack.  Most rear cargo racks are meant for loads under 50 pounds, and some are only rated for 25-30 pounds.  If you’re carrying a preschooler plus other cargo, you need something that can handle more than 30 pounds.  Matthew found this Axiom Journey rack — reasonably priced, with a capacity of 110 pounds.
  • The Yepp Easyfit Carrier XL, along with the Yepp Easyfit Seat.
  • Panniers that work with the rack (more on this below).

Optional

  • When Matthew took his bike in for a tune-up, the mechanics mentioned that he was probably due for new wheels.  Given the heavy (and important) load he’s planning to carry, he opted for a more expensive, heavier-duty wheel.
  • Matthew also added a center [two-legged] kickstand.  This is not nearly as stable as the center stand that is on Big Blue (where I can leave G unattended if necessary), at least for short periods.  It will help make the bike a sit more stable when loading and unloading, but Matthew will still have to be there, helping support the bike, anytime that G is in the seat.

IMG_4875

The Easyfit Carrier (silver) bolts onto the rear rack (black), and the seat quickly and easily snaps into the port on the carrier (similar to the built-in port on Big Blue’s rear deck).

After getting everything set up, we discovered that Matthew’s basic grocery bag style panniers did not work when the child seat was attached.  The built-in hooks that attach the pannier to the top bar of the rack were too widely spaced (to work with the child seat in place), and not adjustable.

While new panniers were not part of the original plan, Matthew has been wanting something different (waterproof, with a built-in rain cover) for awhile now, and Ortlieb’s roller-bag panniers fit the bill (their clips for attaching to the top bar of the rack are adjustable).

This is not a free, or even a super-cheap, way to transport a child, especially if you don’t already have the Yepp seat, but for us, it made a lot of sense.  If you already have a decent bike, it’s a lot more affordable than going out and buying a midtail or longtail.

Now I can, say, use Big Blue to drop G off at school in the morning, leaving both the seat and his bike helmet at school, and Matthew can use his pseudo-midtail to pick G up in the afternoon.  This does, of course, involve some planning ahead: Matthew remembering to ride the correct bike and me remembering to leave the seat and helmet.

We still don’t really have a plan for dealing with weather (i.e., pouring rain, thunder and lightning, or icy/snowy roads) other than using the car.  Matthew can easily take the bus to/from work in these conditions, but, sadly, the bus route is not convenient to G’s school, so we may still find ourselves car-bound a bit more than we prefer.

*This set-up is still, technically, in testing mode.  Matthew’s used it for a few short rides around our neighborhood with G, but it has not been proven over time and distance.
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3 Responses to DIY midtail cargo bike

  1. Pingback: Two-wheeled troubles | Her Green Life

  2. LAURYN says:

    Do you use a double kickstand with your setup?

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      My husband added a cheap double kickstand to this set-up, and it’s literally a flop. Very unstable, unlike the center stand that comes with the Xtracycle.

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