Tuesday, March 17, 2009

a bike for the whole family?

Last week my wife and I were desperately trying to kill time - waiting for her to go into labor. Now that our son is here, I've got to get serious about this kids bikes dads business. He'll I'll be chomping at the bit to get out and ride together before I know it.

While perusing the streets of Santa Monica - we stumbled into a small studio space with these beautiful bikes pictured below:

The story goes - the seller made a trip to Copenhagen and noticed the beautiful bikes and wanted to distribute them here in the United States. They are called Trio Bikes. The genius of their design is that the Trio Bike can be converted from family carry-all, to normal bicycle, and to large baby stroller.

The front portion can carry up to 170 lbs safely, so for most people that could include a spouse/partner in front with child while the other spouse provides the legs. I was told that this weight limit could be exceeded, so long as the spouse on the bike seat is heavy enough to counter-balance the weight up front.

I took this little guy for a spin and was very impressed at how light it was. The Trio Bike rivals a Bakfiets in functionality, but seems to be a fraction of the weight. The Bakfiets are probably superior in quality/durability, but the Trio can be deconstructed to take up significantly less space than a Bakfiets.

One handling issue that needed to be addressed was the front disk brake. The bike itself is equipped with a coaster brake and a front disk brake. The brake was very squishy and I would not trust it with a fully loaded cargo. I'm sure that this could be resolved by any knowledgeable bike mechanic - so do not fret.

One additional feature of the Trio bike that was of particular interest to me was the infant seat adapter. I have yet to see a bike that safely addresses the needs of parents and families who seek to bicycle with infants. Josef at Flying Pigeon did a quality job McGyvering a child seat into his Bakfiets - but for those of us who lack the capital to push $2-3K around to get this dream off the ground... possibilities appear limited.

I've heard of some individuals procuring an infant seat adapter into a standard Burley-type trailer. I haven't found these for myself yet as my research has been cursory at best, but that is probably the option we'll be going if we can find something reputable and safe.

Back to the Trio - the aesthetics are quite nice and you have to give a tip of the cap to them for the functionality of its de/re-constructability. I prefer the rugged utilitarian aesthetic of the Bakfiets, but I also lack the space and or cash to store this type of vehicle.

Any of you have experience with these types of issues? If you are interested more in more info on the Trio bike let me know. I took the guy's card, but can't find it at present.


ubrayj02 said...

You're in a tough spot on this one. A proper infant carrying bicycle would be something bakfiets-like, but the size and weight makes that not seem realistic.

Here is what I would do: secure covered parking for your bike somewhere (anywhere). Finance (that's right finance!) your bicycle purchase at a local credit union, or whomever will accept your proposal.

Do it right, and buy the best bike for your money.

I'm a year into my bakfiets, and I can't help but think I chose the right bike. Just today I hauled my baby and cargo from Lincoln Heights, to South Pasadena, and back to Lincoln Heights in traffic, under load, and with a sleeping infant in the front.

I'd talk to my friend Joe of joe-bike.com about a lower priced mini-bakfiets. He's got them from China at a significant markdown from the Duthch bicycles.

david said...

josef - you are a fount of bike/dad wisdom. that joebike site looks pretty promising.

one thing i'm a little afraid of at this point is - what are your thoughts re: road-vibration on your baby?

Ben & Carly said...

Congrats on the baby, he is darn cute. So I found that infant "insert" for the burley trailer at an rei garage sale. it was only 5 buck so I just bought it. When I got home and kind of took it apart I realized that it wasn't as sturdy as it was billed to be. It was mostly just a brace you hook through the harness of the bike, it is suppossed to support the neck but I wouldn't trust it unless the baby was already sitting and could hold their head up well. I noticed that it had a warning notice inserted in it saying that the company now recommends only using it if you are using the bike trailer as a stroller because it didn't support against road vibration. I think that is why they have stopped selling them. anyway I was dissapointed, it looked alot more promising online. I will probably still use it but not for at least 9-10 months. that bike you found looks awesome, unfortunately by the time I can afford one my kids will be biking next to me. It's hard having to wait a year for your baby to sit in the trailer, someone could make a lot of money if they invented something affordable to solve this problem. keep us updated if you find anything that works. I might be of more help when your in the "what-kind-of-snacks-and-sippy-cups-keep-the-whining-down-in-the-trailer-while-running-errands" phase.

ubrayj02 said...

I was banned from riding with my daughter in the bike until she was 3 months old.

I have learned to ride reaaaaalllllly slowly with an infant in the bike. The roads in certain stretches of town are ... well, they are a nightmare. If the pavement is not torn up, it is the insanely loud buses blowing by, or just the noise of traffic making life hell.

I would recommend taking things really easy, and riding the bike under load, but with no baby a lot before loading the little one in.

The baby seat in my bakfiets is winched down on a moderately thick piece of foam. That's one reason I have learned to take things slow with my girl in the bike.

Now that I think about it, it might be a good idea to find a good cushion-y something to mount under a baby seat to prevent crazy potholes from waking your baby up/potentially hurting them.

Also - the sun! The sun is brutal on little kids' skin. You will need a good sun shade/thin blanket to keep your little one form getting hurt with too much sunlight (since you'll be outside with them for long stretches of errand running etc.).

ubrayj02 said...

All in all, you will relish the time (with a bakfiets) to look your baby in the eye, make funny faces and eat ice cream together at 5 - 10 mph on quiet side street between your house and the park/store/mommies work/etc.

Showing up with a kid, and no car in tow, makes going out with a kid a lot more fun. We "park" right in the middle of the park - and with the folding bench in the bakfiets I'm hauling tons of stuff plus a primo changing table. We've have picnics out of the bakfiets that were awesome, and there is no hassle with parking permits, etc.

Plus, when things get too hectic for your baby, you can instantly stop, pick them up, talk to them, sing to them, hug them, or give them some boobie or food. Try doing that when you're stuck in traffic with a crying baby behind you, locked into a stuffy car seat.

ubrayj02 said...

Just for clarification, mom gives the boobie (she got to be riding the bakfiets or is in co-pilot mode on her own bike).

Cosmo said...

That Trio Bike is so lovely.