Ring my bell

A week ago, I typed “iBert” into the search box on Craigslist, along with a few other front bicycle seat names, not really expecting to find anything.  Imagine my surprise when I found a recently listed iBert seat — for five dollars!

Cautiously excited (since there was no picture with the posting), I contacted the owner with a few questions.  She confirmed that it was in good shape and said she would just give it to me, so we set up a time to meet.  Wednesday night, Sir and I arrived home the proud owners of a lime green front bike seat!

The only hold up to using it?  We still need to get him a helmet.  I bought a basic toddler helmet at Target a few weeks ago, but with a starting head circumference of around 19 inches, it was still slightly too big.

There are toddler helmets that have a range that includes head circumferences down to 18 or so inches — we just need to get one.  We should have that resolved this week, but not using our new toy over the weekend was hard.

I installed the seat on Sunday afternoon and practiced getting Gabriel in and out.  I resisted the temptation to go for a spin around the block.

Initial verdict — he likes it much better than the trailer!  I showed him the bike bell, thinking it would take him awhile to catch on and figure it out for himself.  Not so much . . . .

Come back next week for the iBert test ride report.

Trailers, longtails, and iBerts, oh my!

Last week, I shared some green baby strategies, one of which was, “Wait on it.”  While I’ve done a good job on that in general, there are a few things that I wish I had waited on, one of those being the bicycle trailer.

Despite the fact that we’ve had it for over eight months now, I can still count our “biking with baby” trips using my my hands.  I need both hands, not just one, but still.

Sure, there have been mitigating factors: waiting until Sir was a bit older and had decent head/neck control, ordering the baby supporter accessory, winter weather, carrying the trailer in and out of the basement because we have no garage . . . but enough with the excuses!  An average use of once a month at most?  Not good!

Given that we found a high quality, good condition, used trailer for a reasonable price, I’m not sure it was a bad purchase, at this point it just does not seem like a good purchase, either.

Ever since I saw this post on the Momentum magazine blog, I’ve been thinking about options that don’t involve a trailer.  A longtail bicycle, like the Yuba Mondo featured in that post (and here, as well), seems like a great option.

In my excitement, I dug a little deeper into the world of longtails, and found some reviews and comparisons of various bikes including the Yuba Mondo, Surly Big Dummy, and the XtraCycle Radish.*  Based on our initial research, we lean toward the Yuba for it’s combination of features that meet our needs and being a good value.

A couple weeks after my longtail excitement, I read S’s post on front-mounted seats on Simply Bike.  While I like the idea of a longtail, I’m less excited about the price tag — far more affordable than a car up front and down the road, but still overwhelming to my frugal sensibilities.

With a front-mounted seat, you don’t sacrifice the cargo room on the rear rack as you would with a rear-mounted seat, and you don’t have to deal with the weight and bulk of a longtail (especially a factor in our case, with carrying it up and down stairs).

Also, your little one is right up front, experiencing the ride with you, which appeals to me.  While Sir does not seem to mind riding in the trailer, he doesn’t seem particularly excited about it either, and I can’t really blame him.

When thinking about biking with baby options, front-mount seats were not even on my radar, but based on the post I mentioned above, the main contenders are the Yepp Mini, the iBert, and the Bobike Mini.**

Immediately after reading about front-mount seats, I saw an iBert on Craigslist.  For better or worse, I didn’t feel ready to grab it up without more research on the various options, including which seat styles work with which bicycles, and that seat is now gone.

For now, we’ll continue using the trailer, if less often than I would like.  And I’ll be dreaming about front-mount seats and longtails.

*For more info, check out these resources:
Heavyweight Showdown: Big Dummy vs Yuba Mundo
Cargo Bikes in Momemtum Magazine
Beautiful Bicycles: Yuba Monda Cargo Bike
The Best Cargo Carrying Bikes Of 2012: A Review

**See comments to S’s post for feedback on front-mount seats:
Front mounted bike seat for a child: what are your favorite options?

The rubber hits the road

When I looked at the forecast for New Year’s weekend and saw temperatures in the 60s, I knew it was time for Gabriel’s inaugural bicycle [trailer] ride.  My parents gave us the baby supporter accessory for Christmas, so we were ready for action.

Friday morning, after his first nap, we strapped The Dude into the trailer and rode our bikes to Tower Grove Park.

Ready to roll

I’d debated using the trip to run an errand but ultimately decided to keep it all pleasure, so we biked the outer loop road in the park, and then headed back home.  Apparently The Dude was pretty comfortable — he looked around for a bit at first, and, shortly after we entered the park, he fell asleep for the rest of the ride.

My biking boys

Suffice it to say that after a year of research and planning on how we would include a baby in our preferred form of transportation, actually taking a bike ride with him was wonderful!  That, combined with the fresh air, sunshine, and physical activity really lifted my spirits 🙂

Previous “Biking with Baby” posts:

Bike void

I’m pretty sure it’s been over a month since I last rode my bike.  I believe the actual date was October 15th, when I made a late evening gelato run to use a Groupon before it expired.  (I returned home with a quart of half pistachio, half cherry, in case you were wondering.)  So yeah, hard as I try, I can’t come up with a time since then, which makes it a month-and-a-half 😦

When I was a full-time bicycle commuter, I’d barely hesitate before heading out on cold, dark rides.  I’m afraid that I’ve gotten a bit soft after wo years of car commuting, plus the last few post-baby months of barely biking for non-work trips.  Though I long for the day I return to full-time bicycle commuting, the all-weather aspect will require some readjustment.

Knowing I’m not the only new bicycling mama in bicycle withdrawal does help a bit.  If we actually had the baby supporter, we might have given the trailer a real test drive (i.e., one with The Dude) last Friday, but alas, it only exists on our Christmas wish list right now.

I really doubt we’ll take him out in the trailer in the dead of winter, for fear of creating a Dude-sicle, and as goes baby, so goes mama.  That means we’re looking at the spring before any chance even semi-regular biking around here.  It just occurred to me that maybe I should get one of those trainer thingies for my bike, or I might not be fit to ride my bicycle around the block, much less take longer trips pulling a trailer, come spring!

Biking with Baby — Part II

I’ve been mulling this over for a few months now, and you can read my first post on the subject here.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any hard and fast plans — more reading and research = more confusion!

Bicycle as Transportation
In reading comments on some other “biking with babies” type posts, it’s obvious that many people assume that biking is solely for recreation and not transportation.  Comments such as, “If you and your husband want to go for a bike ride, leave your baby with a sitter,”  reveal general ignorance about using a bicycle for transportation.

What if we want to go to an event in the park WITH the baby?  What if I need to pick something up at the grocery store?  Am I confined to only using my car for these short, easily bikeable trips for the first 12 months unless I leave baby behind?  Despite all the naysayers, I’m not giving up yet.

First, discard the false (yet commonly held) belief that cycling itself is inherently dangerous.  In fact, it’s no more dangerous than driving or riding in a car, yet most people hop in a car every day with little thought to the risk, and no one bats an eye at a pregnant woman driving a car or parents transporting their infant in a motor vehicle.

That leaves us with a couple of possible legitimate risks to consider when biking with babies: 1) balance and 2) road vibrations.

A child seat attached to the bicycle could destabilize the bike, especially if they raise the center of gravity.  However, most accidents here occur not while the bike in motion, but rather while it is stopped.  Solution: use care when loading/unloading and get a kickstand that provides more stability, either a double (i.e., pyramid) style or one that mounts closer to the rear of the bicycle.  You could also invest in one of the specialty cargo bikes that I mentioned in my last post, or use a trailer.

Road Vibrations
Although there are no studies on the subject, some people claim that riding in a bicycle trailer exposes young babies to levels of road vibration that can cause brain damage similar to shaken baby syndrome.  While I certainly don’t want to discount this risk, there is NO EVIDENCE that bicycling with babies in trailers causes brain damage.  Solution: Invest in a trailer with a suspension system, keep the trailer tires inflated at a lower pressure to absorb more impact, and secure infant in a car seat so that his/her head is fully supported.

Making it Happen
Since last writing on the subject, I have talked to two parents who love their Xtracycles for biking with slightly older children, but I am leaning toward a trailer + car seat as the best (and most economical) solution for biking with a young infant.

Unfortunately, the nice trailers that have suspension systems (examples here and here) cost significantly more than the run-of-the-mill bike trailer, and, because they’re less common, I imagine finding a used one will be next to impossible.

Realistically, I think the earliest we would try this would be around 3 months of age, meaning we have a bit more time to ponder.  Ideally, there would be a way that we could try various cargo bikes and bike plus trailer combinations before committing to one, but at some point, we’ll just have to make a decision.