As I posted
before, we’ve been looking for a new family bike. I do want to start teaching my son to ride independently, but, given the traffic and hills in Seattle, we’ll still need a family bike for a couple of years, if not more. There appear to be 3 options: another trailer bike, a cargo bike, or a tandem.
I did think about a cargo bike. I know folks who have Madsens and Xtracycles – come to think of it, one fellow has both a Madsen and an Xtracycle. They’re very cool, but Spencer’s very tall for his age and I suspect that he would outgrow the passenger stage before long. Plus I like having a co-pedaler. When I was discussing the options with my family and mentioned the Xtracycle, Spencer said “No, I like pedaling!” Then he paused, thought about it a little more, and looked at me with big eyes and a little grin. “Mommy, do you want a challenge? You should get a bike where I don’t pedal – and then ride it up a really big hill!” No way is that guy getting out of pedaling now.
Then there’s the tandem – I have to admit, I was a little baffled by the options. How do they accommodate a growing kid? I don’t really want to buy one that we would have to replace in a couple of years. None of the shops nearby seemed to know anything about tandems for kids. So, without some ready examples, it seemed too complicated and I was impatient to get us back on the road.
What are the trailer-bike options? Well, I definitely didn’t want another Adams. Even if I got a post-recall hitch as a replacement, I’d still feel uneasy with it. Plus, the side-to-side wobble has always been annoying. One option that looked really cool is the FollowMe Tandem
. It’s a device that attaches a kid bike to an adult bike, lifting up the front tire. This has the great advantage of being able to ride together to the park and separating the bikes so that the kid can ride independently. However, they’re not carried by any stores in Seattle – in fact, Clever Cycles
in Portland is the only distributor in North America that I could find. I do plan to make the trip before long, but really wanted to check one out in person first. Bring in the cavalry! Madi of Family Ride
, who has amazing bike sense, found a local FollowMe owner and got her email. After check it out, I was impressed. It seems to be very well made and it felt solid as a rock. Despite the steep price tag (about $400), I thought this was the way to go. Plus, I would surely be able to sell it to local bikey people when Spencer out grew it. Lots of them have kids younger than mine. So, after carefully constructing my rationalizations for a week, I called Clever Cycles – who are sold out of the FollowMe and don’t expect to get more for months. Sigh. I picked my broken heart up off of the floor and moved on.
The next choice also was by way of Madi, who found and tweeted about a used Burley Piccolo
at Recycled Cycles
(have I mentioned that she has amazing bike sense? She’s like Spider-Man for bicycles). The Piccolo is a trailer bike, but it connects to the parent bike by a special rear rack, rather than at the seat post, which is more secure, according to the reviews. After checking it out and liking what I saw, I decided to get it.
|Meet the Burley Piccolo!
We’ve been riding the Piccolo for about a month now and are really happy with it. Our trips have been around the neighborhood, probably 4 miles at the longest. The connection to the rear rack does indeed feel very strong and secure. In addition to the locking post, there is a bar underneath that should prevent and accidental separation. I’m also very pleased to find the ride to be more stable, without the side to side wobble. It’s still not as solid as a single piece bike like an Xtracycle, but it’s a noticeable improvement over the Adams.
|A darn strong connection via the rear rack.
The handlebars can be adjusted up and down, which is a real advantage for us and I expect to get at least 2 years out of it. It also has 7 gears. This delights Spencer and I now hear a continual chatter about what gear he’s using, and 7th gear is the best, because it has the most power, right Mommy? He’s actually right! I was surprised at how much more of a boost he can give me with this bike vs. the Adams. Now, if I can only get him to apply this power when we’re going up the hill, rather than down. Little speed demon. Some reviewers have complained that their panniers don’t fit. I can see how this could be a problem, as the tubing pinches in at the middle, leaving very little clear space for pannier attachments. Luckily, the hooks on my Ortliebs can slide back and forth, so I could adjust them to fit. Keeping my cargo capacity is VERY valuable. Apparently the new model has an additional straight bar along each side, so they should be compatible with a wider variety of panniers.
All in all, I’m pleased with the Piccolo. Aside from our mechanical issues with the Adams, the Piccolo handles better as it’s is less prone to squirreliness at low speeds and less affected by the kid’s motions. It looks like it will accommodate a taller kid, which should give us more time with it. The gears are definitely entertaining and potentially even useful.
Now, I can’t wait to take it out on longer rides!