Category Archives: cargobike

I am learning to cope with hills

Today was quite a hilly ride from Launde Abbey to Oakham and back (1,472 feet climbing in 12.1 miles) on my Bullitt Cargobike. It was also very windy with a headwind all the way back. I have done the ride many times before in the 8 years I have been coming to Launde Abbey for our District Retreat, but only once before on my cargobike (and that was before I had the cargobox).

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:18:47 01:23:34 12.06 8.66 45.63 1,473.10
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

While I am still not very fast:-) I think I have made a lot of progress since I wrote Getting defeatist me up hills for years ago. I’m not sure I’m a lot fitter and the weight I was hoping to lose at the time didn’t stay off, so I am a similar weight now.

However, mentally I think I have made progress when it comes to climbing hills. I don’t panic that I won’t get to the top. I am able to relax into plodding up for however long it takes and if I get off to walk it is no longer the end of the world (although I didn’t have to walk at all today). I can now look ahead and see the top in the distance without that frightening me.

My limited amount of running (my first 5k since May yesterday) does seem to help, especially when it comes to standing on the pedals when you can no longer spin in 1st gear.

All this has been without specialised, dedicated and committed training. Events like the Ford Fiesta help, but generally I think it is the combination of just riding for transport and adding longer rides into the mix. Learning to relax and not get so stressed also helps and part of that is knowing that I and the bike are reliable and so it does not matter if things take a bit longer.

Oh and two other points about today’s ride.

a) I wasn’t wearing any cycling specific clothing. T-shirt, light fleece and Acclimatise Fleece, normal casual trousers, trainers.

b) I’m not too tired after. Ready for an evening session on the retreat.

Neither of these would have been true 4 years ago.

A good bike choice :-)

So after deliberations I did use my Bullitt Cargobike to ride 15.7 miles to Launde Abbey today.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:30:25 01:27:18 15.67 10.77 31.32 836.61
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

This is why:

P1260220

By that I mean that you can’t tell that I have a weeks clothing, laptop computer etc etc all securely locked in the metal cargo box.

That means I can enjoy the ride without worrying that all my possessions are on show.

And no I wasn’t quick but I did manage to cycle up all the hills (and at 14.8 miles it does get to 19.2% which is quite steep enough for me on a loaded bike).

Which bike shall I pick for work trip?

So in an hour or so I am off on my annual trip to Launde Abbey for the Northampton Methodist District retreat for ministers and other staff. It is about 15 miles using a route designed to miss the big hill and traffic upto Tilton-on-the-Hill.

Some years I have had time to make it a longer ride but not this time as life is a bit busy. In fact it has been so busy that I haven’t yet re-converted by Bike for Life (Shand Stoater) back to everyday use after turning it into a wonderful Bikepacking bike for the Ford Fiesta.

So I could pack very minimally and use the Stoater in Bikepacking mode, sadly though I really need my laptop computer so that is ruled out.

I could take as little extra as possible and use my Whyte Suffolk (which temporarily has a rear rack on) but it isn’t very far and I don’t like using that bike for too much load carrying.

So I’m going to use my Bullitt cargobike. Very quick and easy to pack (just throw the bag in and go)

P7100060One of the many great things about this option is that nobody actually knows what I’m doing. You can’t tell I’m off on a 4 day/3 night trip and if my route happened to take my past a coffee shop (sadly it doesn’t unless I’m ready early and detour) I can leave all my stuff locked in and secure.

Having multiple bikes is great because I like choice 🙂

 

Innovative Cargobike by Rob English

English Cycles Electric CargobikeWhile I don’t have the same need to transport a cat, this new cargobike by Rob English is full of innovation.

  • If you are going for an eBike then having the motor replace the Bottom Bracket makes great sense (weight in the right place and you are free to use hub gears).
  • The integrated racks are beautifully done. Details such as supporting the rear mudguard to the rack are very neat.
  • Fully integrated lighting is a oft missed must.

Bullitt Cargobike Photo Gallery

All the photos of my Bullitt Cargobike in one place.

Despite all the posts Sainsbury’s forgot some signs

I have been getting at Sainsbury’s and Leicester City Council for the mess they have made of the junction of Melton Road and Troon Way/Watermead Way. See

Anyway, we went shopping there yesterday (yes by bike, traffic on a Friday afternoon is terrible, we would have been crazy to drive).

We were trying to find our way in and find the bike parking. It turns out that my original guess (south side of the vehicular entrance) was wrong. The best way in on a bike is off Troon Way. But despite all those posts there is not a single sign anywhere to tell cyclists how to get to the store. DUH!!!!

I wonder how a large company like Sainsbury’s can work so hard to promote themselves as having excellent environmental policies, how they can have huge posters everywhere explaining how this new store is so brilliant for the environment while being so totally useless about supporting staff and customers arriving by bike.

 

Just to prove a point

My study has been cleared, full of space.

To keep me in there the boss agreed to my having my own TV/DVD.

I only chose this size to prove that Bullitt Cargobikes can carry anything. Honest.

20131005_174416

The silly thing is that I still got home faster than I would in a car. And with these high volume tyres the ride is very smooth as well.

By the way the cargobox has the food in it 🙂

 

New Cargobox working well

Two very different uses for my new cargobox today.

This morning 4.5 miles each way to lead a morning service at Harrison Road Methodist Church. I could have taken everything in panniers:

  • laptop
  • projector
  • 25m extension cable
  • 4 way extension cable
  • change of clothes (it was so hot I didn’t ride in my clerical shirt)
  • Bible
  • etc

However, if I had done that then I wouldn’t have been able to stop for lunch on the way home and leave everything securely locked in the box while eating with Jane (in a very nicely cooled M&S).

This afternoon was a Cream Tea followed by a Songs of Praise in a local garden. With my special side opening lid I was able to carry 8 outdoor chairs very easily.

20130714_185521

20130714_185533

20130714_185547

With no parking at the home it is very handly to be able to ride your bike, complete with load, straight into the garden 🙂

New Bullitt Cargobox

I now have a new cargobox on my Bullitt cargobike. Photos on Flickr.

P7100056

It is from Convoy cargobikes and is made of Aluminium with a waterproof lid and good lock.

P7100057

Mine is the first from them with a side opening lid. The key advantage is that in 5 seconds, with no tools, I can undo the gas strut. Then the box lid can open all the way and hang alongside the box. This means that if I happen to buy too much shopping for the lid to close it is no problem, it can just stick out of the open top.

P7100059

P7100068

Obviously I need something to stop the fully open lid banging around. I am wondering if old inner tubes might be the best for this.

I also plan to line the inside with either foam or rubber so that things I am carrying don’t bang around – just using a rug at the moment.

I am very pleased with this!

 

Cycling with children

After the Leicester Cycling Campaign Group meeting last night we were talking about options for carrying children on a bike and I was reminded that I recently saw Cycling with children – Breeze – Sky Ride.

My views are somewhat different. We have 3 sons, the youngest is now 15 and when they were younger we tried lots of ways of taking them cycling (the youngest from just a couple of months old).

So a quick review of the options we have tried and what I think of them.

Childseat on the back of an adult bike

The cheapest option. However, it is unlikely you will manage this without at some point kicking your child in the face (when you forget and swing your leg behind the saddle to get on or off) or the bike falling over with the child in the seat (when opening a gate, or pressing a button at a crossing, or when parking, or when navigating getting up a kerb). You need to be a confident rider to cope with the position of their moving weight and you cannot see or communicate with your child while riding. When you have a childseat on there is very little in the way of options for you to carry anything (and with children this age you will probably at least be carrying a changing bag). Not an option I would ever try again (except see recumbent trikes below).

I would change my mind a little if I were riding on a high quality Dutch style infrastructure and riding a bike such as a Workcycles Fr8, but not on British roads with the bikes typically for sale in the UK.

Child trailer

We used one for years and were still able to pass it onto someone else afterwards. We carried two sons in it, even occasionally when the oldest was 6 or 7 years old. We carried our youngest in it from just a couple of months by strapping his “Carrytot” in. It worked well on reasonable quality cycle infrastructure and we used it on road mostly for relatively short suburban journeys on quietish roads. Will work with lots of different bikes and can easily be moved between bikes. You can take a child to nursery and leave the trailer there for someone else to use to collect them. We found this a good solution where we were in Crawley. I would not be happy using one along the Melton Road in Syston for example.

Child trailer bike.

We used two.

One a fairly basic, with a seat post mounting, which Jane never felt confident using (although I used it a fair bit, even behind a tandem). The handling was tricky though with it having an odd lean in corners. It also affected the bike handling a lot. It does allow you  carry panniers. Unlike a tandem the child does not have to pedal, however it is also a lot slower to ride than a tandem.

The other was an early Hase Trets. This was fantastic, we used it loads including a two week camping tour. The child can contribute (but don’t rely on much power). They can also sleep. Your load carrying capacity is not affected, the impact on bike handling is minimal and it will work with almost any kind of bike. Unlike a trailer bike it does not make getting on and off your bike any more difficult. As a next step after a trailer it is excellent and we felt it was worth every penny. When our youngest had outgrown it we sold it to a family with a severely autistic child, who we hope found it as wonderful as we did.

Child on the back of a tandem

If you can get either a “childback” tandem or one with kiddie cranks then this is an excellent option. We had two tandems and based on them my preference would be to have straight handlebars (the extra leverage they give for holding the bike upright when stopped is very helpful) and I would be more careful about checking the brakes are powerful enough.

Sadly a tandem is tricky to store, tricky to park and likely to be nearly impossible on public transport. If you live somewhere (like Syston where we are now) then much of the cycle infrastructure is going to be tricky or impossible to use. It also does not solve the problem with very young children. As the child gets larger they can affect the handling significantly (one of ours was rather dyspraxic and that led to some quite scary experiences at junctions or bends). They can also be difficult for climbing hills requiring more skill and strength than a trailer as you can’t stand and “honk”.

Again we would choose this again if we could afford a modern child back tandem and lived somewhere without lots of narrow barriers on the cycle tracks.

Recumbent Trikes

We used a Stein Road Shark tadpole recumbent trike (2 x 20″ wheels at the front, 1 x 26″ wheel at the back) with a childseat and a trailer to carry up to 3 children to a nursery 4 miles away. It was excellent as all the stability issues with a childseat disappeared. It also had very low gears so even with 3 children you could get up the hills, even if slowly.

I also used a much faster Trice XXL with the Hase Trets (and for a shorter time with the childseat or trailer). Again that worked very well indeed, felt very safe even at high speed (well over 20mph was no problem downhill).

The ultimate was our Trice Tandem recumbent trike. We could adjust the length so that our sons could fit as stoker from about 8 years old. We also used this with the childseat, trailer and Hase Trets. I often used this with 2 sons under 10, one a stoker and the other in a childseat, trailer or Hase Trets. The Hase Trets was used with the tandem recumbent trike for a 2 week tour loaded with camping equipment, the only issue was that the huge panniers hid the Hase Trets from view in the wing mirrors and so we could not see if our son was pedalling (the others said he rarely did). Our record was over 30mph, rock solid even when steering with just one hand. Up hill we were able to use the very lowest of 81 gears to get up almost anything – just very slowly.

You probably are not going to suddenly switch to a recumbent trike in order to carry children, that was a side benefit to our solo trikes and with the tandem it was one phase in the life of a trike we plan to keep using for 40 years or so.

Multiples

If you have more than 2 children then you are going to need to be creative with combinations, what is possible will depend on the relative ages/sizes of your children, the terrain, traffic levels and the quality of cycle infrastructure. I have managed 3 sons a few times (tandem with the oldest, middle one on the trailer bike and the youngest on the trailer behind that) but that was only possible on segregated infrastructure with no barriers and no significant hills. The Dutch have well sorted solutions for flat terrain but also assume a safe separation from traffic.

Recommendations

So based on what we have learned what would I recommend or choose today?

The big difference now is knowing about cargobikes. For general transport of small children around a town or city a Long John style cargobike would be my first choice (ie a Workcycles Cargobike, a Bullitt or a Cetma). We didn’t know about this option. I would much prefer this to every other option for babies and young children. You can see them, you can talk to them, they have a solid box around them, you can carry other stuff as well and they can be kept dry. If the distances are shorter or you don’t feel comfortable balancing then a trike such as a Nihola or Christiania can have even more capacity but don’t expect high speeds!

If all your riding is car free or on quiet roads then the trailer is a good option. However, few of us will feel comfortable about this option in heavy traffic.

Once the child is ready to start pedalling then I would be choosing between a Hase Trets or a tandem (or maybe a Hase Trets first and then a tandem after). The tandem is better suited to open roads, longer distances and stronger children. The Trets is more flexible and better for younger children.

I have lots of reservations about cheap trailer bikes and childseats. In my view they have very limited use unless you live somewhere where you are going to be separated from motorised traffic most of the time.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: