Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CETMA Largo




To the Zoo!
As the proud papa of two small children, I began to ask myself, "How can I bike with two children and more importantly how do I want to do it?"  I like my Surly LHT plus WeeHoo rig for riding with a single child, but I was unable to make it work for use with a second child.  I've been in touch with the folks at WeeHoo, regarding their new two-seater to be released in April.  I'm looking forward to taking it for a spin, but in the meantime, oh darn, looks like I need a new rig.

Things I desire in a multiple child transport bike:
  • Safety
  • Comfort
  • Wide range of gears for big hills with big weight
  • Multipurpose vehicle (freight and children capable)
  • Active cycling for the kids (#1 could pedal the WeeHoo)
  • Reasonably inexpensive
Things I don't desire in a multiple child transport bike:
  • A double-wide trailer
  • A longtail
Initially, I was leaning towards purchasing a Bike Friday Family Tandem.  It's a neat bike with 20 inch wheels, which provides for a low standover height for small kids, yet adjusts to fit adult riders, too.  I figured I'd hook up the WeeHoo to the rear and I'd be good to go.  As the time neared for me to pull the trigger, I realized my four year old still regularly fell asleep while riding.  I didn't want to worry about her falling off.  I widened my search.

I stumbled upon the Oregon Manifest, which is an annual design/build contest for "the ultimate utility bike for modern living".  Wow.  There is some awesomeness to be found there.  I spent many days burning through related urls, searching out the most innovative transport bikes available.  I began to lean towards bikes that would enable me to carry my children in the front of the bike, in order that we may better talk with one another and allow me to watch them as we rode, such as a bakfiets (box bike).  I found the geometry and gearing of many bakfiets to be limited.

Eventually, I discovered CETMA.  The CETMA Largo hit five out of my six desires for a child transport bike and it's bi-partable and made in the good ol' USA by a craftsman to boot!  Compared to the price of other bakfiets, tandems and longtails, it is a steal, in my opinion.

I received my Largo on September 17, 2012.  I love it!  It is now February and I've averaged a bit over 140 miles per month on the CETMA, or roughly a third of my monthly mileage, despite our New England winter.  It is better than I thought it would be, which is saying something. I thought I would only use it for carting my kids around on the weekend, but I find myself riding it quite a bit for my commute and on group rides. My commute is 26 miles, round trip. The group rides I've taken it on have been between 32 and 45 miles. It's a very comfortable ride. I enjoy the relaxed geometry and the way the frame soaks up all the bumps. My other main bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker, with a dynohub/lights, racks, etc. I love it, too. The fact that I'll spin the Largo for 40+ miles (which is right in the Surly's wheelhouse) has surprised me, pleasantly.
My two year old has but a few words and one of them is "bike". She loves the Largo, as does my now five year old. It's been convenient as a discipline item, too: "If you don't start listening, then you won't be able to ride in the bike and you'll have to ride in a car..." Works like a charm.
We've pimped it out for winter and rain riding.  My wife has sewn a nice blanket with a matching seat pad for the bench and a canopy for the box from a tent fly and some remnant clear vinyl from the local fabric store. We ordered some fiberglass kite poles for the canopy structure, which I fitted to the box via a couple pieces of plywood scrap.  I've built a box bench for seating and storage and installed a couple of lap belts to keep the little ones from flying off the seat if and when I have to slam on the brakes.  Life is good.
One of the big pluses of the CETMA is that I can remove the box simply by removing two bolts.  Doing so provides me with a two foot by three foot platform with tie down hooks integrated into the frame.  It is quite useful.