Family bike options

After our recent longtail test rides, Matthew’s view was that we should just buy something — whatever choice we made would be good enough and we would most likely enjoy having the bike.  Worst case scenario, we could probably sell the bike for a decent price.

Longtails revisited
I agreed, to some extent, so I pulled together some prices and basic information for three longtails: Yuba Mundo (specifically, the Mundo NuVinci Lux), Surly Big Dummy, and Xtracycle Edgerunner.  I ruled out the Kona Ute, considered in my previous detailed comparison, due to the larger wheel size (bigger wheels equal higher center of gravity, meaning heavy loads are harder to balance).

I added the Big Dummy (previously ruled out due to price) back into the mix since it was one of only two longtails we were actually able to ride, and it seemed like it might have a slightly more aggressive geometry (i.e., be faster and more nimble, assets on longer rides and hills).

I’ve also read numerous good reports on Xtracycle’s new Edgerunner, which features a 20″ rear wheel, meaning the rear rack sits 6″ lower than the other longtails we’re considering.  As explained in the above-linked article, this “lowers the bike’s center of gravity and makes the loaded bike feel less unwieldy and top-heavy.”  As described, the Edgerunner seems to have many of the advantages (“a sportier, more nimble feel, which makes for a quicker-accelerating and more confidence-inspiring ride”) that made us reconsider the Big Dummy, but at a lower price point.

Photo from Splendid Cycles
Edgerunner, photo from Splendid Cycles

So once again, we crossed the Big Dummy off the list, and we were left with the Yuba Mundo NuVinci Lux and the Xtracycle Edgerunner, both of which would cost about $2500 (before tax), fully outfitted for our needs (rear child seat, longtail cargo bags, lights, center kickstand, etc.).  Gulp!

But what about midtails?
In the midst of these considerations, I read this post, singing the praises of the Kona MinUte, a midtail cargo bike.  We actually test rode, and had an opportunity to get a good deal on, a 2012 MinUte back in April, but I was pretty set on a longtail at the time.  The post on the MinUte, as well as this review of midtails in general, had me reconsidering.

While a longtail will fit on light rail cars (although getting it to/from the platform could be a challenge in some cases), it will NOT fit on bus racks, nor can it travel on Amtrak.  While I don’t often take combined bus/bike trips, having the option is appealing.  Also, a midtail really might be plenty of bike for our needs.

While the Kona MinUte may have been the one that got away, the midtail blog post had other inspiring rides, including this Workcycles Fr8.  I love that it has the option of a front seat for older kids.  I may have been sold on this bike, except that, with only eight speeds, I’m worried about how it will handle hills, of which we have our share.

Workcycles Fr8, fully decked out for passengers, photo from J.C. Lind Bike Co.
Workcycles Fr8, fully decked out for passengers, photo from J.C. Lind Bike Co.

And yet more options . . .
In addition to reading [cargo] bike blogs, I am part of a cargo bike Facebook group, Revolutions per Minute.  While it provides great inspiration, it’s really not helping me narrow my choices.

Someone recently posted information on the Circe Helios, a bike that can either be a tandem (with a rear seat that adjusts to fit riders as small a 3’6″, i.e., only four inches taller than Sir) or a longtail, depending on how you outfit it.  Brilliant!

Decisions, decisions
Our [temporary?] decision is that we will stick with what we have for now, using the IBert front seat until he outgrows it (any day now) and then switching to the trailer.  Since we haven’t used the trailer all that much, I made myself use it over the weekend, to see how I really felt about this option.

As far as general handling, speed, etc., pulling Sir in the trailer on my road bike felt pretty comparable to riding my hybrid (more upright, less-aggressive riding position) with Sir in the front seat (which is kind-of how I imagine riding one of the cargo bikes would be.

However, when it came to riding experience/fun factor, there was no comparison.  In a way, I’ve been spoiled by all of these lovely rides I’ve had with my beautiful, smiling boy in front of me, right between my arms, continuously and effortlessly interacting with one another as we travel by bike and take in the sights (hence the appeal of that Fr8 with the front seat).

While a rear-mounted child seat on either a mid- or longtail would not allow quite the same level of interaction as the front seat, it would have to be better than having my little passenger WAY the heck back there in the trailer.

The limited rider-passenger interaction, combined with the fact that, with his helmet on, Sir’s head is already brushing the screen cover on the trailer, may mean that this budget-friendly option’s days are numbered, almost before they’ve begun.