I am not a bicycle specialist or a child development expert. I’m a mom and cyclist. Talk to your pediatrician about when biking with your baby is appropriate and take your time at finding the right (Longtail cargo) bicycle for you and your family.
A Longtail bike what? And should I make the switch?
When a friend of mine posted a picture of their new longtail bike on Facebook I was instantly fascinated by it. I had never heard of it and quickly giving it a google I found that this has already been a big thing in the States. Weird that in a country where people bike a lot I hadn’t seen one already, but after doing some research it’s obvious that it is becoming quite popular.
What did I find out?
FROM WHAT AGE CAN YOUR CHILDREN RIDE ALONG?
The age at which you can start carrying your child on a bike is a contested issue. Basically your child needs to have the neck strength to comfortably sit-up on their seat. Usually, this is a skill that they learn between six and twelve months. Please note this does not mean that a child can sit up for hours at a time. If you are planning a cycling holiday with longer trips, stop regularly. Parents who are eager to start cycling with children this young can find themselves in a quandary as to what is safe, legal, and practical!
PROS AND CONS
- Depending on the model, a load capacity of +100 kg to +200 kg.
- Possibility of comfortably transporting several children.
- Possibility of mounting two bicycle seats at the rear.
- Large bicycle bags so you can take a lot with you.
- Light, narrow and maneuverable like an ordinary bicycle.
- Your child (ren) is (are) close. That is a nice idea and also cozy.
- Possibility to carry other bikes. This way, your child can cycle until he/she is tired and then take a seat at the back.
- Many different options for accessorizing the bike.
- Although limited, this bike requires just a little more storage space.
- Your child (ren) are also subject to the weather elements.
- The children sit behind you, which makes communicating a bit more difficult than in the case of a bicycle seat in the front or a cargo bike, for example. But I still find it hard to converse with my while he is in the front carrying cargo bike and the top is on.
- Most models have a high step.
- Equipping the bike as required requires extra investment.
- Choosing the right Longtail.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT LONGTAIL
There are different types of longtail bikes. What should you pay attention to during your purchase?
What do you want to use the bike for? How much weight do you plan to carry? Depending on the model you can carry more (+200 kg) or less (+100 kg) weight. Attention extra weight also requires extra pedaling power. Try to be realistic about this. Carrying 200 kg without extra support is a challenge anyway.
A number of models use smaller wheels in the front and / or rear. This is to lower the center of gravity and thus create a more stable driving experience. A lower luggage rack also makes it more accessible for children to step on their own. A disadvantage is that your load space becomes proportionally smaller.
Are you a mileage eater or do you have another reason why you can use extra pedal assistance? In the case of a longtail cargo bike, the extra weight that you can carry provides an extra reason to consider electrical support. But just like with other bicycles, electric drive is accompanied by an extra financial investment.
Most longtail bikes are equipped as standard for transporting additional luggage. If you want to dress them up for the safe transport of children, then you are obliged to install additional accessories, which entails an additional cost. An advantage is that many different combinations are possible: Monkey Bars, two bicycle seats, one cushion, and one bicycle seat, an extra handlebar and footrests, and so on.
The different models available have a different range of gears. You need to be aware of the environment you will be biking in. If you cycle regularly through hilly terrain or over bridges, more gears can be useful. The more bicycle gears, the more cycling comfort.
Measure well in advance how much space you have available to park your bike. The length of the different models can vary considerably.
Be aware that the bicycle has a sound standard. The bicycle is intended to accumulate a reasonable amount of weight. For ease of use, it is therefore essential that the standard bears this weight when stationary.
Some models have a ‘one size fits all’ frame, others have different options. If it is intended that you and your partner both use the bicycle, this can help determine your choice.
THE LAST TIP …
Always try the longtail bike! A round at the bicycle repair shop in front of the door is really insufficient. A serious bicycle mechanic will always give you the opportunity to take a test drive. If you are going to test, take your children with you. So you know what it feels like when the bike is loaded. By testing different bikes, you notice the differences in weight, stability, ease of use, etc. Is the distance between the handlebars and saddle comfortable for you? Can your children get on it easily? Is the bike stable?
WHAT WILL I DO?
Well, I’m still busy with my driver’s license and that will take at least another 10 months. But even if I would have one, I would still ride a bike most of the time as I believe that it is better for the environment and I just enjoy this time together with my son.
Whether I would buy a Longtail, I have to say that I am inclined to. I have been riding a ‘normal’ bike with my son on the back (because of a flat tire on my cargo bike) for the past week and it does ride easier than a cargo bike, it’s just a bit too small at the back for my almost 6-year-old. Easier to handle. I have testdrived a Yuba already and would like to try out a few others and so who knows.
LOOKING TO TEST DRIVE A LONGTAIL IN FLANDERS?
Fietsenwinkel de Geus / Marnixplaats 4, 2000 Antwerpen | Grote Steenweg 95, 2600 Berchem
Bakfiets & cargo bikes-festival./ ANTWERP- This is only once a year (next one is on the 14th of March 2020) but it’s a great way to see what’s out there, hear testimonials and have some great truck food. 😀
Up-Cycling bikeshop / GHENT