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A Simple Six: The Great Bike Debate

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Great Bike Debate

Nothing quite like a frustrating situation to propel a change. My anger and worry over our finances was the impetus for lightening our car burden and plowing into a bicycling life style. I have not had a regret since. It's been a very rewarding and exciting change for me and our family, despite my husband's worries over us biking to and from school.  He admits he worries when we drive there as well. Worry and anxiety is his nature, especially when children are involved.

I don't want to give up on my current life style choice. I set out to do one month because I like finite self imposed limits. If I has said "as long as I can," I might have given up at anytime. Anything longer than one month might have pushed my husband to the edge of his patience with my process and he too found he liked knowing that "if he could just wait it out till September..."

Interestingly, he didn't know that today was September first and as our friends who take our children to school were out of town, he biked the three children to school himself. He came home to leave me the trailer and reported the ride was relatively easy and fun, although he still thinks crossing onto Washington and Norway are very dangerous (I agree). I didn't ask him how he handled Washington, but he did ride the children on the side walk on Norway. No complaints from anyone till the very last steep hill just two blocks from school. It took them 30 minutes, and because we didn't leave enough time this morning to debate with London, they were about two minutes late.

School Commuting Troubles Continue
What I was getting at, was how frustration begets change. I have had several frustrating commutes home from school with the children. It is usually because one of them is very, very tired and I don't have enough room to transport more than two with the trailer/stroller/bike combos I have been using. The closest I came was yesterday when London rode my bike, towing Avery and Oliver in the trailer. Yet it was Elliot who was exhausted to tears for the first half of the walk. I offered him space in the trailer and putting Avery on the bike seat we could continue walking the bike home, but he declined. We actually jogged home together for the last quarter.
London towing Avery and Oliver and all the back packs, Elliot and I jogging home down Wiltshire Blvd.

Coming home from another 95 degree, 90 minute bike-walk-jog, exhausted and frustrated was yet another prompt for change. The research for a new bike has been in progress for a couple months. The past couple weeks it kicked up a notch as I test rode two bikes in Columbus last weekend and I have been in touch with two other bloggers, Car Free with Kids and Family Ride, who have been tremendous about helping me hash out different scenarios. I thought all I needed to know was on the internet, but between the forums, reviews, flicker pools, blogs, business sites, my lack of knowledge, lack of diverse bikes in the area, and our unique situation (location and family size), it's been daunting, and that is an understatement. The experience of someone who has "been there and done that" is invaluable. I can't thank these women enough for what they have done for me. The email exchanges with Car Free with Kids are continuing as I parse out options and considerations.

The Debate
The research process has led me to two bikes I feel will best, but not perfectly, meet our needs. I know that neither the Madsen kg271 or the Yuba Mundo will roll out of the box just as I need them. There will need to be some adjustments with seating and towing options and the consideration of an electric assist. Neither will fit on the bus bike rack. I looked at several different options that would allow us to continue using the bus but they were outside our price range at this time, but something to consider later when the children are older (as the scenario and cost would change). Despite some of these barriers, both of these cargo bikes are better than what we have now and would make the commute more pleasant for us all. I don't want our methods of transportation to be the only thing we think, talk and blog about, I want it to be a solution and means, enjoyable and safe, empowering and inspiring.
The Madsen contender (older model)

Yuba Mundo option.

While I will be purchasing one of these bikes soon, the possibility of purchasing them both has entered the equation. I displayed this option to Brent last night as I knew it would be one of the two and I couldn't decide. I asked him to sell his brand new bike and then consider getting both the Madsen and the Yuba, as having a team of bikes like this would certainly meet all our needs. His argument was that neither would fit in the elevator at work, like his current bike does.

How would you solve our problem? Pros/cons comparison to the Madsen and the Yuba? Do you have another option?

*As I finish up this post it has started to rain and has the potential for rain the remainder of the day. This will add a little spice to our home from school commute today and I will let you know what becomes of it.

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At September 30, 2011 at 8:11 PM , Blogger Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

I'm really curious about why you chose the Yuba over the Madsen. Also, why didn't you consider an Xtracycle?

My family of five has been car lite for seven years - mostly walking and public transit, but I'm trying to get us more into biking. Your blog is an inspiration!

At September 30, 2011 at 8:39 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

Erin, Great questions and an extra thanks for reading and commenting! Not a super simple answer, but I can give it a try here.

I was completely torn between the two (Yuba and Madsen). In the end I choose the Yuba after talking to a rep at Madsen. They said there was no comfortable way for my 21m old to sleep in the Madsen without being on the floor but then he wouldn't be buckled in. They were also not selling the covers for the bucket yet, and I didn't want to make my own (yet). I felt my husband would be more comfortable on the Yuba and it had a greater load capacity for hauling more children and groceries. I was also not able to tow anything with the Madsen (trailer, bikes, trail-a-bikes, etc). However, I am saving for a Madsen, hopefully this spring, as I think it will be a great addition to our bike fleet, just not for our first cargo bike. I tried very hard to persuade Brent to let me buy them both and sell the van. Obviously my powers failed me.

When I began my bike research I did covet the Xtracycles. I was drooling over the Big Dummy. I was not thrilled with the pricing. I was never able to find one in our area to test ride and it still didn't have the overall high reviews the Yuba did (when compared to the Sun Cargo Atlas as well), based on blog and internet research (nothing scientific). I also didn't find anyway to tow an extra bike on the X, which I knew would happen (like yesterday). I do think the Big Dummy would have been a great choice, but I am extremely happy with the Mundo, now that I have been riding it for two weeks and have worked out the initial awkwardness. It's a beast of a bike and the right bike for us right now.

That said, there are many other bikes I would also like to try, but given our location and resources, that won't be happening soon. I have been looking at the Bike Friday and Onderwater as something for school commuting to help navigate the hills. Oh in the ideal world... :)

The ladies at and have been a huge resource. They would love to hear from anyone sorting out a good family bike situation.

Keep me posted on what becomes of your investigation. It's been a thrill to undertake this change in our lives.


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