Tuesday, February 26, 2013


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.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Bobike MIni

#2 arrived in February of 2011.  Her older sister and I have been happily rolling along with our WeeHoo, but we'll need to modify our rig to allow for another rider.  The first ideas to pop into my head were to purchase either a two seat trailer, such as a Burley, or add a front mounted child seat.  I've experience pulling loads on a modified InStep trailer, and I'm not a big fan of anchoring weight via a hub skewer.  I didn't like the way the load handled and it didn't seamlessly integrate into my ride.  Have you ever been hiking with a backpack, then snag your pack on a passing branch and have your momentum jolted backwards?  That's what it felt like to me,whenever I'd start pedaling from a dead stop with a loaded, skewer mounted trailer.

A modified InStep child trailer I built for hauling.

I decided to add a front mounted seat to my bike, as the WeeHoo would interfere with a rear mounted seat. The leading contenders were the ibert, Bobike Mini and the Yepp.  I liked the mounting system for the Bobike better than that of the ibert.  The ibert secures, what I perceived to be a spike, around the headset with a couple of bolts.  The Bobike mount is a headset spacer.  There are no bolts to loosen and no way to spear oneself on a spike when not using the seat, with the Bobike.  I'd not seen a Yepp in person.

I found a Bobike Mini on Craigslist with a wind screen.  I picked it up the next day.  Fun fact: The Bobike comes with a 1" headset mount for quill stems.  My bike has a threadless 1 1/8" headset, so I needed to special order a new mount.  Once I installed the mount and the seat on my Surly, I found that I couldn't ride it.  The Bobike's seat back interfered with my ability to reach my drop bars, and my gut barely fit between my saddle and the child seat, when standing.

Fortunately for me, I'm a bicycle addict and I just happened to have a step through framed bicycle in my basement waiting for a purpose.  I swapped the mount and the seat over to it.  It was still a tight fit for my gut, but I was at least able to steer, brake and shift.  The first test ride with the Bobike on front and the WeeHoo on the back was, of course, a hoot!  We rode to the Big Apple Circus at Boston City Hall and hit a few playgrounds on the way back.  We must have been quite a sight because it seemed everyone was pointing and waving "Hi" to us.  Good times.  The front mounted seat fit much better for the missus, as she is much more petite than I.  The missus is not a big bike rider, but she enjoyed coming for a spin with this setup.

In the end, I was able to use the rig, but it was not as comfortable for me as I would have hoped.  It was comfortable for my wife, and I believe most petite riders will enjoy the setup, too.  I started researching bakfiets; wow!  I began saving my pennies.  Next review: CETMA Largo.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Boston Blizzard 2013

The perfect way to get around town after 24 inches of snow in 24 hours.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Something Different

So, #1 and I were loving life with our Topeak Co-Pilot.  We were enjoying biking, ice cream and the zoo for a second year; what could be better?  As the leaves fell and winds turned stronger and snow began to fall, my daughter grew too cold from her exposed position on the seat to continue riding into the winter.  I unmounted the Topeak seat and rack from my bike and together we settled in for the winter.

I've a confession to make.  I love REI Garage Sales.  For those who don't know, REI sells off all the items that have been returned to them by their customers/members, quarterly.  I've had great luck at these Garage Sales and have missed but a few over the past five years.  I found myself at one of these Garage Sales, shortly after having retired our bike seat for the season, when I happened upon a most unique bicycle trailer.  When originally deciding what type of contraption to purchase in order to ride with #1, I briefly considered purchasing a trailer.  The reasons I didn't were these:
  • They seemed really wide to me.  I was worried that I would not be able to successfully negotiate my bike with a trailer attached into narrow spaces, such as pedestrian gates at park and cemetery entrances.
  •  I thought the trailers, with their low to the ground geometry, might not offer my child as good a view as the one offered from a higher perch.
  •  Cost.  The trailers I coveted most were made by Burley.  If I were to do it over, knowing that our cycling together would be a success, then I could certainly justify the purchase price.  However, at the time, I didn’t know if co-cycling would work for us.
Dozing away.
This new trailer I was staring at chased all previous doubts from my mind.  It was set up as a third wheel recumbent, which attached to the tow bike’s seat post.  It had panniers.  It had pedals.  It was glorious.  My little girl had just turned three and would soon outgrow our Topeak seat.  I'd reservations about putting her on a more traditional third wheel tag along bike, as I'd heard rumors of kids dozing off and falling off of these bikes.  In this seat, she'd be in a recumbent position, secured by a three point harness and velcro pedal straps.  She'd easily be able to doze as we covered some miles.

As I walked to this beautiful machine, another guardedly stated "Sorry, buddy.  I'm buying this one." with his hand wrapped round its tow pole.  "Mind if I check it out?", I asked.  Together, we looked it over.  It was a WeeHoo and neither of us had seen anything like it before.  We searched for the reason this vehicle was returned, in order to assure it would be safe for a child to ride in.  We discovered one of the velcro pedal straps to be missing; an easy fix.

I left REI buzzing.  I had to have a WeeHoo!  I started saving my pennies.  By March, I was the proud owner of a blaze red WeeHoo.  It came together pretty quickly.  My daughter couldn't wait to go for a ride.  She was extremely excited to have pedals and bounded with joy.  

I love bikes.  I'm pretty sure you've figured that out by now.  I love biking with my progeny even more.  The addition of the WeeHoo to this equation elevated my love for cycling to a new level.  We flew.  Together, we increased our distances.  Thirty mile treks became not uncommon.  We went fast!  Thirty plus miles per hour on a downhill?  Yes, please!  The WeeHoo tracked wonderfully and my little stoker helped quite a bit when tackling large hills.  When tired, my eldest slept securely.  If you're considering a trailer for a child too big for a rear mounted seat, yet not quite ready for a traditional tag along, I can not recommend the WeeHoo highly enough.  It is an amazing machine.  I've one of their earliest models.  In May, I believe they are to release a tandem WeeHoo.  As I've now a second daughter, to be two next month, I'm hoping to test one out.  More on how we've included #2 into our cycling lifestyle will follow in the coming weeks.
A ride to the playground in December 2011