Sunday, 28 December 2008
Wednesday, 24 December 2008
He kept the bike straight all the way down until he rolled to a stop when he hit the grass at the end of the path!
What a magic xmas present! The boys a natural!
Monday, 22 December 2008
When he got it he wasnt remotely interested. When we suggested going outside on his bike he ran to the door and sat on it with the bike pressed to the front door! In Mikes world bikes are for outside!
Its a smart product. Its sold as a "pre-bike" for 18months+ 80cm+ (~£50) Two key points:
- The seat is very low to the ground so great for shorties like my boy.
- It steers like a bike. ie it goes where you look. This really works because Mike was fine until he looked around and then he'd veer into whatever he was looking at.
Mike was dog tired when we went out (we went out to keep him awake), and he didnt smile at all. We knew he liked it because if we tried to take him off the bike he screamed blue murder! I'm waiting for my brother in law to send us the video!
Thursday, 18 December 2008
All cycling is dangerous statistics compare accidents or deaths on a distance travelled basis eg per million or billion miles travelled.
Trains are safest, then cars and bikes are usually 10-20 times more dangerous than cars. Of course its nonsense for a variety of complex reasons. Which i have often explained at a dinner table till i've started to bore myself...
1) Individual routes make a huge difference eg Cars are safe on motorways but not A roads
2) Bike mileage is not comparable to car mileage, journey durations or trip nos would be more useful
3) Cyclists live longer than car drivers because they have protection against cardiovascular disease so its a truly dumb stat. Its dangerous not to cycle. If your family has a history of heart disease its suicidal not to cycle.
Back to that ecovelo response to the dumb stat....
"How any astronauts have died? But they travel a really long way, so that means space travel is statistically safer, right? Uh, no."
My son agrees and still resolutely refuses to go in the trailer. He wants to be on the bike with daddy. In fact he wants to ride the bike and have daddy sit on the back. He's pretty convinced he knows how to do it :-)
That said they have a lot of benefits:
-Can carry a lot of 'stuff'
-Gives the kids some freedom to do things
-Safe in a crash that doesn't involve cars
-Can carry infants from 3months with suspension and inserts
-Easy to load
The disadvantages are:
-They 'feel' vulnerable in traffic
-Increased width on the road (suddenly i feel like I'm holding everyone up)
-Awkward to park
-Restricted view compared to bike seat.
I often read\hear people assure me that drivers behave very nicely round trailers and in my experience they do, but i feel that I'm holding up the traffic (its harder to pass on our narrow roads). In rush hour i cant imagine drivers would tolerate being held up like this.
I do recommend having a trailer. Its a nice add-on to a child seat combo and increases luggage capacity for days out (I can fit my birdy in mine!). I'm really hope that in the summer on long leisure rides in country roads i can persuade Mike to use it , just to get him out of the sun for a bit.
Monday, 8 December 2008
A recent story caught my eye on a new product called the Trikidoo . Its an interesting story as its a modern take on the tricycle designed by someone who wanted something green to do this but didnt like what she found in bike shops.
For the price and for the right job i can see this working really well. It certainly appears to be the in thing for Notting Hill mums on the nursery run! I particularly like the stability when stationary aspect of this design.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
There is a story running in the Uk about a 10 year old child Sam who wants to cycle to school, but has been banned by the school as its too dangerous.
I first saw it appear on the CTC forum, where his dad asked for help on the issue. It got picked up by the local news (near Portsmouth UK) and then the National Press.
Its just appeared on Newsround , which is a very respected BBC News programme for children. Often the news on here is more objective than adult news as they cant easily get away with pushing agendas.
The best bit is the comments. Just lots of kids saying quite succintly and maturely, 'this is silly we cycle to school, so do my mates.' It puts a lot of adults to shame.
Good luck Sam and anyone like him!
Friday, 28 November 2008
Xtracycles are the most exciting thing on the block at the minute and its the owners who are saying it. Xtracycle owners seem to be the happiest cyclists i've come across. Read the blogs etc. Its worth noting that this company is in its infancy and many of the owners customise their bikes to suit their purposes. A very common customisation is two child seats. I'll post some links to some of the best ones, but the exciting news is that xtracycle are developing their own system:
My favourite child rig in the whole world is from a very clever chap who has a lovely blog called longwalktothegreen. The nice man is considering selling these seats . There are a lot of other folks on the web who have done similar adaptations, but this man has the nicest.
Another family worth reading about is carfree with kids. Their rig isnt as impressive as longwalk to the green's, but they more than make up for it with cheerful attitude. an OTT paint job and a cool numberplate.
These xtracycle bikes although still in their infancy have the following going for em....
- They can handle luggage + kids
- They are bike width and so are sill great in traffic.
- They ride like a bike and have good stability
- Its a system thats clearly going to develop as time goes on
- It can adapt to the kids growing older
- Without kids its a great shopper
The disadvantages are as follows
- Its long (duh!), which will make parking mildly awkward and stops it getting on a train, car etc
- They are heavy and are likely to need a good set of brakes and re-inforced rear wheel.
- Outside of the US they dont have much prescence, although there are a couple of UK stockists
- They end up expensive, but they do have the capacity to last a lifetime so not such a big issue
Monday, 24 November 2008
Seats are relatively well understood and common, so I'm not going to dwell on the specifics of each seat. I'll more aim to give my idea of an optimal set up. Its also not my idea, because you can buy them ready made! Like the Seine Motherbike or the gazelle bloom
A few key points on this bike:
- Its a step thru frame, this will really help mounting and dismounting.
- Its heavy and has a long wheel base, this helps the stability no end.
- The rear child seat allows space for panniers\side baskets
- The front child seat allows space for a front mounted basket
- Its got a powerful centre stand
- Its got the optional buggyme attachment
- Its a practical low maintenance bike
- Stable when riding
- Stable when mounting\dismounting
- Stable when parked
- Space for luggage and stuff
- Low maintenance (when will you get time to do bike maintenance!)
The market is awash with new child seats now. I still think the best rear ones are the hamax plus and co pilot limo (Both big rack mounted jobs). The co pilot offers the most protection and can stand upright off the bike but cant take panniers. The hamax plus is dead comfy, solid and can take panniers. I think the hamax sleepy is the best prong mounted one. The chap who wrote the 'CTC guide to family cycling' raised his kids on a Copilot limo. Its a worthwhile read particularly as it contains an account of a fall! (nobody hurt by the way!)
The front mounted market is a bit more mysterious, bobike and wee ride seem to be the most popular ones. The wee ride is the new kid on the block and I've seen a lot of people on forums swear by em', but I've never seen one in the flesh. Round Cambridge the bobike is pretty common. If you can buy a front mounted one from a local bike shop then do, even if it costs a few more quid as the sizing and fitting can be more awkward. The nice man at Totcycle has done a lovely article on them.
Another thing, the bobike front seat used to only classically fit quill stems, but be aware they do make an mtb adaptor.
Bike seats are often quoted as suitable for 12 months plus. For most seats I think the rule of thumb is can they sit up and support their head which for us was ~9 months. Of course in Holland new mums lock themselves away for the first 9 months of their babies life until baby is able to ride a bike....Nah! Its not uncommon to see baby in a front mounted moses basket (Aaaaah!) , or a car seat stuck in a basket or alternatively you can get the Steco maxi cosi bike mount. Gotta love those Dutch! I have a lovely picture somewhere of a baby in a front basket. Its the type that makes you go 'Aaaaaah isn't that cute' I'll try to dig it out.
Stopping, mounting\dismounting can be awkward. The key here is to have multiple safety systems. Start with a very strong stand and only use it as a last resort (I've broken one already). Its best to find a solid object, walls , fence, railing etc. Preferably find one away from traffic. Get the bike lent up so its nearly self supporting. Secure it with a lock. apply front brake to stop it rolling (i keep a hair tie on my handlebars to hold the front brake down).
Once the bike is secure, get yourself and your bags sorted. Then start on the kids. Get anything off them that is going to be packed away, eg helmets, windproof layers, finally remove child 1, then child 2. Job done! When you go do it all in reverse.
A perk of this bit is that passers by will stop and admire your cute children in the lovely bike seat!
So pros and cons of bike seats:
- They may fit to your current bike but not always
- Cheap, unless a new bike is required
- Widely available
- The bike stays 'bike shaped', which helps in traffic and storage
- Stability can be an issue for some types of bikes, but not the right types
- Cold\wet weather can be limiting for very young children
Friday, 14 November 2008
1) 2 child seats (front and back)
2) Workbikes (often wide bikes\trikes with storage\seating)
3) Long bikes (bikes with extended rears , normal bike width)
I'm not going to cover, tag a longs ; towing arms ; sidecars ; tandems ie bikes that are suitable for children who are at an age when they can ride a bike.
Next I'll declare my bias.
- I'm looking for some real solutions for UK based cyclists.
- I like a bike that behaves like a bike
- That rides well
- That can cut through traffic (or quickly get out of its way!)
- That can handle rain, cold, hills, a roundabout and a 30 mph sidewind
Although I hope to illustrate some real solutions for UK cyclists. Its a fact of life though that 99% of the kit I'll look at won't be British. However, what is British and is worth a read is 'The CTCs guide to family cycling'. Its a great starting place for someone trying to decide whats good for them. I've been meaning to do a book review of it for some time, but instead i'm just going to stick an Amazon link up.
Wednesday, 15 October 2008
Mike and I usually do a mid week shopping run to local Market town Saffron Walden. Previously i could only pick up bits and pieces that could fit in a pannier and a basket. This always meant shopping had to be carefully packed into the panniers which was always a bit of a stacking puzzle. It also had to be done one handed while holding onto Michael.
I went on my first shop with the trailer this Tuesday. It was interesting. A quick note here. Mikes still on the seat. There's no way he's going in the trailer, he wants to sit on the bike with dad. Here's how it went:
Getting ready: Took about the same time. No mounting of panniers and basket, but had to get the trailer out of the shed On the plus side the weather looked iffy, so i just chucked jackets into the trailer. A lot less hassle than deciding on the optimum amount to carry.
Verdict: Nothing in it so far.
Getting there: Hmmm. Well the ride was fine. I was taking it easy, just to get used to the handling, (which is very good). The trouble began when i got to town. First i got to the usual traffic light queue. Instead of shooting down the right hand side until i got to the lights (no RLJing mind you!) i felt very stuck. After 5 minutes of queuing i got through the lights. Right time to park the bike..... I suddenly realised that the bit of railing outside Waitrose that i normally chain up to would be inaccessible with the trailer due to the chicane of pedestrian barriers that i'd need to negotiate. I decided to park in the Waitrose car park bike racks. Of course this is Essex, so the bike racks are out of the way, in a dark corner... Its an extra few minutes cycle round as well.. grumble grumble...
Verdict: Hmmm, mildly annoying
Locking Up: When i get there, I'm met with a kerb that might as well have been a cliff face. So i get off, push the bike through the car park, past the waitrose entrance, and back round to where i wanted to get to in the first place.....Phew! Got there now its time to lock up. Actually that went quite well. I stopped, whipped Mike off the seat , dumped him in the trailer (to restrain him), locked up bike, stuck trailer next to bike , locked up trailer, pulled out Mike and bag and off we went.....Locking up took about the same amount of time but was easier because i could leave Mike in the trailer. Verdict: Finding a bike rack: Angry letter to council! Locking up , lovely job!
Normally the journey takes 20 minutes it took 30 minutes this time. I could find a better place to lock up, but I'll still get stuck in traffic. Now it was time to sprint to the GPs (where i was now 5 minutes late for an appointment.....
Going: After a couple of hours and coffee and cake at CouCou, its time to complete the shopping and head home. This worked great, dump bits and pieces into trolley, do shopping, take trolley to bike dump into trailer. Its like a boot! Mount up off we go.
Verdict: I have a boot on wheels!
Mike dozes off on the bike and i unpack the shopping and put my feet up!
Conclusion: Mixed! I'll use it a lot , for big shops. For trips to the library and a loaf of bread i'll stick to the panniers. Real pros and cons. Parking and in-traffic handlling being the biggest. Not for rush hour! Still a good buy for £80.
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
- Its easy to hitch up
- Michael doesnt want to sit in it but thinks Doggy should. Doggy is his soft toy.
- After a while you forget its there
- Its impossible to maneauvre bike and buggy once dismounted
- It has a biiiiig turning circle
- Cars cant overtake very easily (which is bad?)
- Its great just throwing stuff into it , no careful packing of the panniers
- Its a hassle to park
- It rattles which is unnerving, but not dangerous (its the buckle on the safety strap
- Its great for a sunday trip out i wouldnt fancy it in town in the rush hour
Its first trip out was a Sunny sunday out to Audley End on Apple day. I felt very 'Sunday driver', cruising around with a trailer full of picnic stuff. Mike spent all day carrying Doggy, which was sweet. We filled the trailer up with apple juice and headed home. Mike obvioulsy spent the whole day on his Bike seat. He thinks the trailer is great (it does look like a childs toy), but its clearly not for people.
Thursday, 25 September 2008
1) The rotten weather. We've not done many summer family trips.
2) Its pretty routine now
Any journey that's just me or me and Mike I always use the bike (with the odd exception). Its a pretty polished routine now. I have all my local journeys worked out down to where I'll park the bike, how long it will take and how to pack the luggage. The only things that restrict my journeys are not having enough luggage space, Mike having nowhere to sleep and very bad weather. This huge success in car replacement is a bit of an anti-climax. Now i need a new challenge.
Sooooo... I've just bought myself a new shiny trailer buggy from Halfords. That's broken my new credit crunch economising routine. Hopefully I'll be posting stories about our buggy based adventures. Look forwards to such tales as:
- How i took my garden waste to the dump.
- How i got the whole weekly shop home , not just the top up one.
- How i sat and had coffee while Michael slept.
- How i saved Michael from sudden freezing rain.
Friday, 29 August 2008
Now I've been waxing lyrical about how wonderful people are , I'll move on to gloat at my proud father one-upmanship moment while picking Mike up from Nursery. The first time i picked him up, he was ever so pleased to see me and the bike (Ah bless him!). We were just getting his stuff together and his helmet on, when a second dad squeezes by in his car and picks up his toddler. CarDad looks at us and the bike with a look that says 'Oh dear is that the best you can do?'
CarDads Toddler looks at the bike all eyes wide and excited, then turns to his dad and gives him a look that clearly says 'Dad that looks fun. Why cant we do that?'.
CarDad looks at me crossly with a look that clearly says 'Damn it! That's not fair, now look what you've done!'. CarDad grabs Toddler and and shoves him in his car. We smuggly mount up and head off.......Weeeeeeeeee!
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
Anyway i was reading her write up on BikeRadar and saw this snippet:
If your a Cyclemum or Cycledad, I bet you had a little rush of emotion on reading that. It gives you some insight on how what we do now affects what our kids can be in the future. Give yourself a pat on the back :-)
PS Congrats to Emma Pooley on her silver as well.
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Since i got the Agattu, I've left it at the station and picked up a second bike at the other end. The Agattu just looked too big to fit on the train and was going to be very heavy to lift up the stairs. I'd been thinking that I'd try it when the school holidays started on a day when Mike wasn't going to nursery. As it happened when i got to the station this morning i found that I'd left my bike lock by the backdoor. Time to take the bike on the train....
Damn its heavy to lift! Eventually i found a spot to hold that worked. There's no way i could lift it with one hand while carrying Mike in the other. But i have a secret plan on how to handle that......
I got it onto the train and yep the damn thing is far too long to sit in the corner like my Dawes tourer can. However, i put the stand down, put the front brake on (with my magic hair tie, that i keep on the handlebars) and left it stretched across the carriage between the doors. In this position it was very stable, didn't move and people could get around it easily. Hurray!
So i got to Harlow and get to my busy roundabout. As i approached i saw a car turning left into the exit before mine and a blue van moving fast behind it. I slipped the gear into 5th, shot out (like a rocket!) , quickly slipped to 7th and Bam! I've cleared the danger zone of entering the roundabout. The blue van was left standing. That's the quickest start I've ever done! That'll cut minutes of my commute (it wont be any safer I'll just adjust when i can pull out at junctions :-)
The capability of these machines continue to amaze me. Why doesnt everyone have one?
Monday, 21 July 2008
Mike gets to watch the Tour as its the only way i get to watch it ( i should be putting him to bed) Now Mike is just starting to notice the 'Telly', but on the whole he ignores it. He loves Le Tour! He even has a little dance for the music (I'll try and get it on Video!)
We were sat watching one of very first downhill stages. The camera was following a lone cyclist who was descending very fast. Mike suddenly makes a screaming noise. We quickly ask what wrong and realise he's not in pain he's grinning. Then he refines the noise and tries again. He hadn't actually screamed he'd said "Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee".
He kept saying 'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' all the way down! I reckon this qualifies as a first word but Julia reckons 'Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee' isn't a word.
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
Friday, 27 June 2008
I've mentioned before how stable my bike is with the rear child seat. A lot of people will find that a rear child seat makes a bike much less stable. The reason it works so well (as a nice poster explained to me) on my bike is because it has a long wheel base and the rear rack is closer to the centre of the bike , due to the battery.
Theres a few bikes on the market that take this to the extreme. These bikes are also solutions to the famous qaundry of how to carry two kids on a bike. All these bikes are long wheel base bikes.
- The current hip favourite is the Xtracycle and all its derivatives
- Another fave is the Yuba , a project for africa that became popular in Europe
- New on the market in 2008 from a big brand the Kona UTE
- And from Holland the filiduo or tweelingsfiet (the same bike seems to be branded several ways, so a bit confusing)
Apparently there are waiting lists on most of these bikes. Must be a gap in the market for a bike that can do a little more. Still havent seen one yet but it must only be a matter of time. Its funny how bikes that are really useful have big waiting lists. Bromptons, my own Agattu, these Long Bikes, some of the new cargobikes. Do mainstream bike companies just not understand that people are using their bikes for everyday tasks and not just sport?
Thursday, 26 June 2008
We went to Cambridge for a few reasons: I needed some bits and pieces; a bit of casual tourism; just for the ride ; but mostly to go and see a carpark. "A Carpark?" i hear you cry! Yup, but not just any carpark, we went to Park Street Cycle Park
We rode in, parked the bike, picked up our pushchair, walked into town and had a lovely day.
Lets just say the middle bit of that sentence again, as the simplicity and perfection of it need repeating.......
'picked up our pushchair'
I can't possibly overstate how great this was. The one thing that makes it hard to shop and travel by bike with a little one is not being able to take a pram. Yet in Cambridge they have the perfect solution. Loan pushchairs. They were nothing special, yet did the job and Mike could have his little sleep while i could enjoy a restful lunch with a good book and a nice glass of wine.
It had the added benefit of making me appreciate all the money we spent on his luxury top branded pushchair.
Town planners please take note of this small piece of genius. The people who spend Bristol's recent windfall should really consider this.
Monday, 16 June 2008
- For extra support when you know that your little one is going to fall asleep, take an inflatable neck pillow. It gives total support of the head.
- If your planning to leave the seat on the bike when you lock the bike up. You should secure the seat. I have a thin lock for securing panniers and seat in one go, but i know someone who's just attached a little jangly padlock to the rack.
- Mikes got new waterproofs from Muddy Puddles. Still not had to use them though.
- I use these all the time now (my other panniers have been retired)
- They stand upright when you put them down, which makes them better than a normal pannier and better than a laptop bag. It also means you can put them in the bottom of a shopping trolley and load your shopping straight in.
- Its really easy to find things. Partly because the shape means the bottom is not very far away and partly because they have an almost luminous orangey yellow lining which makes it easy to see and find things.
- After a lot of practice i can take them on and off quite quickly now. Not as quick as my ortliebs but acceptably so.
- One of them is a good size for my laptop , a book, lunch, water, tools, and odds and ends. Theres just room to spare if i pick up a bottle of wine on my way home :-)
Thursday, 29 May 2008
- Would be a good baby transporter.
- Would let me do our hilly local journeys of 4.5 miles to the station and 6 miles to either of our nearest market towns, without sweating.
- Would let me cycle when poorly.
- Would let me cycle when injured.
Well now my knee is playing up and i cant get to work on my Dawes Sardar or Birdy , so i'm using the Kalkhoff to get to the station. So thats point4 answered. My knee still hurts a bit by Saturday but its not getting any worse.
The thing is while taking it easy to rest my knee i'm equalling my best journey times on the Sardar! Now its very rolling hilly, so i go slow up, but on the sardar, with the drop handlbars and lycra i'm like a rocket on the downs and one long flat stretch, so i was shocked to see the Agattu match these speeds while taking it easy and wearing office clothes.
When my knees better will i get back on the Dawes?
Tuesday, 27 May 2008
A few notes on from my wife's perspective. It was my wife's 3rd ride since she'd had Michael and it was also her first ride on the Agattu. She's lost the 'habit' (in the drug dependency meaning of the word) of cycling.Her first challenge was what to wear (I'll refrain from the obvious comments here as a) I'm just as vain and image conscious and b) she'll hit me). When i pointed out that the bike had power, rubber pedals and a skirt guard and that she wasn't going to get sweaty and that she could wear what she liked, she instantly thought great! and went off to change. Of course she was back 5 minutes later moaning her nice summer skirt was in the wash.....
The other things she liked were:
- She instantly liked the smooth ride which was reminiscent of an old dutch style bike she used to have.
- She loved the power when we hit our first hill. I told her to wait for me at the top:-)
- She loved the way having Michael on the back had no effect on the ride.
- She liked the new basket on the front. Great for throwing stuff into
All in all a convertee. I just need her to use it more now so that she can get her own!
Thursday, 22 May 2008
I recently found Bike Radar which has a specific Family and Kids forum. Its not quite as intimate as the CTC forum, but its great to have a dedicated place to go for family cycling discussions.
Friday, 9 May 2008
Monday, 28 April 2008
On Saturday i popped to our local Market town (6 miles each way and hilly), picked up some shopping, had some lunch and headed home.
On Sunday i popped to our local garden centre and picked up some seedlings (2.5 miles and mildy hilly), headed home and did some gardening. Mike loves his watering can!
Prior to getting the child seat and the new bike, both of these would have been car based journeys, as it was they were really pleasant outings. We passed 'horsies' on both trips. As we cycled slowly past Mike had a good long look coupled with urgent pointing. Normally horse riders and cyclists have a slightly fragile relationship , but this time we got 'Oohs!' and 'Aahs' and 'Look at the little baby!'
In fact we get this reaction wherever i go with Michael on the bike. Utility cyclists are quite rare round my way and i don't think I've ever seen a baby on the back of a bike, so i guess we're a bit of a novelty. What fascinates me is that people smile and they have this sort of pleased look on their faces , which is clearly saying 'That's so nice to see'. Makes me wonder how many think it would be nice to do !
Thursday, 17 April 2008
I’ve now used the Agattu for a day out round town with Mike, a commute to work via the station and several mini trips. I now have a good idea of what it can do. This is my first big city style bike (although my wife used to have one) and my first electric bike.
Ive noticed 4 things I love about it:
- Its so heavy and such a strong ride, that you don’t notice the weight of a child in a rear child seat. Obviously the Dutch have known this all along, while I learnt it yesterday.
- If I get home from work and I want to take my son out for a 5 minute ride I can just get on it and go. Its got full lights and reflectors (so I don’t have to worry about visibility), Its got a chain guard (so I don’t have to tuck my trousers in my socks), Its got plain rubber pedals (so I don’t have to put on shoes that I don’t get mind getting roughed up or my ‘special’ clipless shoes), Its got a built in lock and no quick release mechanisms so if I park it at the village play park or outside the local shop, I can just clip that shut and walk away.
- The electric motor is incredible when pulling away. Just push the pedal gently and off you shoot. In top gear! In the city with a child seat, this is just amazing! I cant wait to try a roundabout!
- It climbs my local steep hills (again top gears best!), with very little effort from myself. In fact it climbs better than it goes on the flat! This is what i bought it for, the other three things are icing on the cake.
Any cons? Well more niggles really:
- I wish I’d bought the step through frame to make using the child seat easier.
- The inner tubes came with woods valves. For those of us born after the war, Woods valves are a very old type of valve that first appears to have been used by Stone Age man. Why they’ve been fitted to a 21st century bike I have no idea. Annoyingly the free (Not free! I paid for this useless lump of plastic!) pump is for woods valves only as well. As I’m not a body builder I couldn’t actually pump my tyres up. They’ll be making bikes from wood next.
- They should have fitted forks that completely lock out, on very smooth roads, the fork travel is wasted. That said the forks are very well behaved , you don't feel like your bouncing and the handling is superb on fast descents and braking.
- The handle bar grips are incredibly comfortable, but on a hot day they felt very sweaty compared to old fashioned handlebar tape. I might sew a posh leather sleeve for them.
Overall though, 9/10 with lots to love.
We’re settling on the Hamax plus system as the system of choice for us. I thought I’d put my thoughts down on paper about this system. As i said earlier, we bought the seat and a rack first as we were desperate to get out on the bike and it just looked right.
The system consists of 4 parts: The rack; The Seat; Panniers and a basket.
So there’s actually 3 different racks (called Carriers), not one. The Basic, The Plus and the Plus Premium. The two posher models have straps on the top for attaching loose luggage, fit a wider range of bikes, are allegedly easier to fit and remove and incorporate pumps and lights etc. Our first purchase was the Basic, so I’ll restrict my comments to that. It’s basically a normal rack but it’s a bit more substantial and you feel that when you pick it up. The Rack will take any type of pannier when the seat isn’t on. Following the fitting instructions enabled me to fit it to my wifes Dawes Sardar in about 30minutes. About 20 minutes of this was dealing with the horrendous plastic threaded screws on the existing rack and the new one. Of course these will never shift which is what you want on a rack where your wee-one will be sitting on. Once fitted it looks very sturdy and secure.
There are two mechanisms to adjust the angle of the rack and also the ability to raise or lower it about 1cm. I shoudl think any bike that can take a rack will have no problem with adjusting it. When searching on the internet, I found some wild variations in pricing from 14.99 to 29.99 so look around for a good deal. I’d be tempted to order through your lbs and haggle for a price for the whole system. The rack is only marginally more expensive than Hamax’s other fitting mechanism, so they’re quite comparable in price.
First Impressions: Well I discussed this earlier, its great. It’s the most substantial seat I’ve seen, with a best in class recline (by 2 degrees!) and more space in the head area for the rear of the helmet than any other seat I’ve seen. I’ve used it for my day trip in Cambridge, which is a UK city that knows child seats, and people with 1 year olds kept asking me about it because they were so impressed with how substantial it looked compared to other things they’d seen. The photo on the right shows the seat reclined.
Safety and Ease of Use: As rear seats go it’s as safe as any in the event of a fall. My advice is don’t fall (and buy a rear view mirror). However, in terms of giving your pride and joy a safe ride it’s very convincing. The 3 point harness fits smoothly, easily and securely. The blurb says it can be done with one hand and it’s true. The straps are easy to adjust and look secure and comfortable. (In fact the straps are much better than Michaels expensive car seat!)
Getting the feet in the foot rests is a bit fiddly, but I don’t bother with this for short journeys. Looking at reviews of other systems, foot rest design is a perennial problem, so don’t let that put you off. Basically it’s the best on the market.
Comfort: As I said Mike loves it,. The powerful spring keeps it soft even on a touring bike on a bumpy road. It can be reclined up to 22 degrees by twisting a big red knob which is easy to turn even against gravity. I have one quibble, which is that it doesn’t recline far enough; it could do with another 5 degrees. When I fitted it to my new bike and used it in Cambridge I found that my sons head kept falling forward. This hadn’t happened on my wife’s Dawes Sardar and I think there were two reasons for it. First there’s a very slight difference in angle in the fit of the rack, so I’m going to try tilting the rack back a little and seeing if that resolves the problem. Secondly, on my trip to Cambridge, my son was wearing a thick coat with a big hood and a scarf. Both of these were filling the space between his neck and the back of the seat, thus making it difficult for his head to fall back. If addressing these two issues doesn’t resolve it, I think I should be able to arrange something with Velcro that would allow me to stick the back of his helmet to the rear of the seat. When he’s awake I’ll keep the Velcro covered up and when he falls asleep, I can pull over, stick his head to the seat and carry on. Given that this rack reclines further than others and has more space for the helmet and neck than others, it makes you wonder if the others can work at all , without fitting the seat tipped back in the first place. Look at how much headroom Mike has in the photo above! Compare that to other bike seats you see around.
Ride Quality: You’ve got a massive heavy lump on the top of the rear of your bike. When we fitted it to the Dawes, we found it took some getting used to. Once your moving its fine, but starting off is a bit wobbly. However, when fitted to my tank like Kalkhoff Agattu you don’t even notice it! I guess the Dutch, Swedes and Germans have known this for years. If you want to use a rear seat in town ie where you will be stopping and starting a lot, then get a big bike. If you just want it for occasional leisure rides then a lighter bike is fine. One of the design reasons for using a dedicated rack is that you get the centre of gravity as low as possible. I’m guessing every cm counts for a weight in this position.
Originally I’d intended only to use the seat as our leisure ride seat, but I’m so pleased with it that I decided to cash in and get the whole system. So I bought two more basic racks and 2 panniers. The panniers are designed so that they can be fitted when the bike seat is attached. After buying them, I realised I could squeeze my ortlieb rollers on there as well, although not when loaded with something rigid.
First Impressions: Metropolitan Unisex Urban Cool. They are very ‘unbikey’ and look like a normal modern satchel style city bag. When you open them up you find a very nice satchel strap (good!) and a big orange bag, which is clearly for waterproofing (bad!).
As a Bag: The bag is a long rectangular box shape with a lid that splits in two by means of a zip in the middle. Once its opened up, its very easy to pack and to find things, which is in marked contrast to a normal pannier. There is a zip pocket under the front flaps, which is easy to access but out of sight, so I’d be happy to keep cards, keys and phone in it. There is also an internal little pouch in the roof of the bag, which is just the right size for a spare inner tube, a couple of tools and a packet of tissues. The bonus here is that when i open the bag, there aren’t random bike bits floating around in it, just ‘normal’ things. The split top design works really well as a bag. When you want something, it’s easy to pull one side open, shove something in and close it again without looking. It’s comfortable to carry, but suffers from the rack attachment catching on your back a bit. Hamax take note!, Build a flap of material that will cover this while being carried, but can be rolled up when not being used. I’m probably going to try and sew one on myself.
As a Pannier: The pannier attaches by sliding it on and off the rack.There’s a catch at the rear end that needs pulling out to attach it. You can see it in the right hand corner of th photo. Personally I hate it. If I’d been designing it, I’d have built re-inforced slots into the side of the bike seat that would have enabled fitting of a modern quick release system. Once it’s on, it does seem to sit still, so no problems so far. If you wish to fit it while the child seat is attached, you need to fold (or stuff) the front corners in. There is a knack to this which I’m learning, but I’m sure there must be a better way.. Hamax take a second look at this please!. Once its on you can only get things out of the rear half of the bag. It’s the price you pay for having the most substantial child seat on the market. That said , its also a feature because one of the Hamax publicity shots shows the bag, with the rear flap open and a bottle of wine, a newspaper and a bunch of tulips sticking out the top (Everything your modern Dutch shopper needs ϑ).
Overall Impressions of the Panniers: This morning I was riding to work without the child seat. I looked at all my panniers (I have a few) and chose one of these. Why?
- Its a great bag for work. Crucially I’m happy to carry this around at work without it looking like dorky cycling kit.
- Its really easy to pack and find things in it. So it makes a great laptop + bits + lunch +stuff bag
It does suffer 2 major flaws, which I really hope Hamax will look at.
I didn’t buy it, but I am going to buy a different one for the front of the Kalkhoff Agattu that uses a ‘Click Fix’ mechanism as we already have these on our tourers for a handlebar bag with map case.
I love the seat and I love and hate the bags. They do the job and they do it with a certain style. There are a few features that seem very ‘version 1’ and I hope Hamax work on these, because I think the concept is great. A complete system for your bike which turns it from a toy, to a practical family transport system, without the complicated research.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
It was a lovely sunny day, so Mike loved cycling from our house to the station, which is very rural, i could see him in my rear view mirror twisting around and pointing. He loved the trip on the train and then riding round cambridge at the other end. Citycycling is really stimulating for countryside kids, just because of the diversity of what they see. Plus Mike loves all the bikes and cambridge folks love kids in bikes.
It was my first full day out with him and the bike, so it was a learning experience. I think some of the things i learnt were:
- He loved it and we're doing it again!
- I was a bit alarmed to see him sticking his arms out all the time trying to grab or point at things. This was bit of an issue when cycling in a narrow 2 way cycle lane, but much less so on the road, where theres more space. Its something to pay attention to.
- He's happy to have his hour long sleep in the bike seat, whether its moving or still. I rode round a park with him for 10 minutes to get him to sleep and then adjourned to a riverside cafe with a good book and a coffee.
- The bike becomes the pram, which means i couldnt spend the day shopping, but if my wife had been with us as well, we'd have had plenty of space for luggage and someone to share baby carrying duties.
- Cambridge has a fantastic central bike park
- The piccies taken on the train going home. Mikes got that dazed but happy look on his face.
Monday, 7 April 2008
Tuesday, 1 April 2008
Friday, 28 March 2008
- The reviewers who i trust said this was the bike that the Uk had been waiting for
- Its a panasonic drive thru engine, that only works when i do (so i dont get lazy), but will boost me up any hill.
- Its adjustable stem and saddle post mean it should fit my wife and me
- Its got a great lighting system
- I'll be one of the first in the Uk with it!
- The Kalkhoff bikes ooze quality and sturdiness, and look more agressive than their Dutch cousins.
A forum friend has just posted a piccie of it! This is breaking news in the UK pedelec scene! I have to say that it doesnt do it justice. They have a lovely paint job, Kalkhoff , that doesnt shine through in a photo.
Tuesday, 25 March 2008
- Japanese school runs
- Dutch bikes in cambridge
- Great ctc forum thread
- Dutch people (and i mean several of em!) on bikes
- ...dont forget the Danish. Check out this video on this great Blog
I'll add to these as i go...
- At his first birthday party he was more interested in the hosts bike than the soft play toys, presents, other babies etc.
- He stands at the back door with the key to the bike shed looking sad and occasionally pointing to the shed
- His first object that he can recognise in a book is a bike
- He screams and lunges towards bikes.
Saturday, 15 March 2008
Thursday, 13 March 2008
- The bobike mini (Looks nice, has the front windscreen, Uk shops indicate that it can only be mounted on quill stems, widely available)
- The wee ride (Looks fussy to mount)
- The bike tutor (watch the promo video on this site! Heartwarming stuff)
I came to the realisation that you need to sit in an upright position for this style of seat. Our bikes didnt really lend themselves to this and that made me think about getting a new bike.....
I saw this picture in a letter to A2B magazine (Sept 2007 for the full article) and thought Oooh! That's it! Its clever isn't it? Takes the baby, the pram and the shopping!
- The seat on the front is the Dutch bobike mini.
- The pram carrier is the BuggyMe
- The stand is the ESGE twin stand
- The bike is a lafree electric pedelec
- The pannier is a big one :-)
This letter set me thinking about what i wanted to do with the bike. Fundamentally i wanted an alternative to the car for local trips. Mike hates his car seat, and i hate driving. There are three trips i do regularly and all of them are 5-7 miles in uppy-downy terrain. For all of them i want to be able to tale Mike, Mikes stuff, and my stuff or shopping. The rig above was clearly capable of this, so i started looking for all the bits. As you can see from the links, i could source them easily enough with the wonder of the internet. However, i'll discuss more on these in later posts.
PS I have to recommend A2B magazine. Its inspirational...
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Tuesday, 11 March 2008
New bike first! We've been taking mike out a couple of times a week, just very short rides for both of us to get used to the bike. Its still damn cold and i don't want him to freeze.
As an aside, my wife and i have decided that this is the seat for long weekend leisure rides on our touring bikes. Hopefully this year we'll even manage a short tour. However, it takes up the entire rear pannier rack and so isnt a car replacement for a single person as the luggage carrying capacity is limited. So i'm continuing with my research.....
So it was winter and we still hadnt found a seat we liked. They all looked too flimsy, too uncomfortable, too upright, etc etc Then one day the cycling gods rewarded us. It was a lovely february day, still , bright and quite warm. I'd taken my wife to see a bike a seat in our local town bike shop to show her why i didnt fancy it. Anyway they didnt have it in, but they did have a brand new one from Hamax. It was part of the hamax plus system.
Sunday, 24 February 2008
- They looked really upright, more suitable for a much older baby
- The baby was stuck behind you.
- They took up the whole rear pannier rack
- There were reports on forums of them making the bike unstable
Saturday, 23 February 2008
This blog will be about my boy Michael, his cycling parents and our quest to get back on a bike. I'm writing this blog, because i couldnt find any good websites on cycling with babies, the best i found was the occasional post on a forum , bland advice about trailers and bike seats and the odd blog. I'm hoping to share our troubles and quests to find the right system for us.
Most of all I hope something on this blog will help or inspire parents to get the family on bikes.