Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Prepping for Neva's First Bike Tour

So, Neva is that age where she has been riding for over two years now, and she's outgrowing her trailers.  Our ever so trusty trailers that have carried her over 50,000 miles over these last five years, it's kind of hard to believe. It's thanks to my friends over at the Bike Shop Hub, and brands like Chariot Carriers, Burley, Nordic Cab, and Tout Terrain that have allowed us to test their trailers in the past and be experts on child trailers, and now it's time to get out of the comfort zone and into the uncharted territory of Neva assisted bike-touring!

What are the options then?

There's the long tail bike with seat, like the Xtracycle.  Now, I haven't ridden a longtail bike in a while, but they can be very heavy if it's all one bike frame (Yuba), and wobbly if it's an added attachment (Xtracycle) and you're carrying a lot of weight.  These are popular around beaches, and bumming around town, and though people do use them for long touring and may like them, they can be cumbersome, and Neva wouldn't be able to pedal.  They also are a bit of an investment, so it might be worth considering a tandem if you're willing to spend the extra money and have the extra frame weight.

Holds a lot of gear
Heavy and cumbersome, difficult to travel with
Has a seat and harness when child wants to sleep (extra cost)
Neva can’t pedal
Good for around town, small day rides
Need to either redo whole bike, or buy new bike ($500-$1300)

The tandem is a possibility, but a very large investment, so we would have to calculate out realistically how many years we might be able to get out of a set up like that. I like the idea of a tandem, but I would want Neva to be able to stop pedaling when she wanted to, and that set up is also costly.  It could be a very good set-up, but it would need (off-road capable) tandem + kidback (so she could reach the pedals) + seat (so she could fall asleep) + clipless pedals/shoes (again, for sleeping).

Kidback kit

Just like a regular bike, but longer (ie. familiar for repairs, can transfer rack/pannier set up, etc.)
Cumbersome, difficult to travel with (even with S&S couplers, which add $600-$1000 to cost of bike)
Seat and harness potential
Cost : $3500 (bike) + $300 (kidback) + $60 (backrest) + etc.
Neva can pedal for years if she wants to

There is also the trail-a-bike option. This style bike typically hitches to your seat post, and it trails similarly to a trailer.  The child can chose to pedal or not, and you can add the additional seat for if they want to fall asleep. You would probably also want to get clipless pedals for this set up so their feet aren't dangling. This seems like a good option, but may be limiting depending on the terrain, and length of the ride. 


Most trail-a-bikes aren't meant for off-road use, and don't have shifting capabilities, though a few do, like the Burley Piccolo which is a 7-speed, and lets the child learn about how to shift. The Piccolo is also unique in that it attaches to an included rack instead of to the seat post.  This means that you will be able to mount your panniers without worrying about clearance from the hitch arm. The concern I might have is how the trail-a-bike might lean if she does nod off and if the hitch is made for that kind of use. 

Tracks similarly to a trailer, fits child with adjustable seat and handlebars, can add seat
Short lifespan, depending on how quickly child grows (though possibly a good 3 years)
Has shifting capabilities for learning and rack so you don’t lose storage options (with Piccolo)
Leaning potential for when the child is sleeping
Detachable, small, light (aluminum) potentially easier to travel with
Unknown capabilities for long, off-road trips
Reasonable price : $359 + backrest

Lastly, there is the Weehoo IGO Venture Trailer. This trailer has not only shown to do extremely well off-road, but it also is the leader in safety since the child is able to fall asleep due to the recumbent position. No additions necessary. The chain is also covered to prevent tiny pant legs from getting caught. The seat adjusts back as your child grows, so it does have long lasting potential, and there is a cargo space, and we always need more cargo space!  They really have thought deeply about the construction of this trailer and hit all of the major issues I've seen in trailers.   My only potential issue with this trailer is that with my short stature, I may not be able to mount a rack, though the newer IGO has full panniers which may give me all the space I need. Out of all the trailers, it seems like it fares best for both functionality and value.

Image result for weehoo igo venture

Good ergonomics and safety.  Neva can fall asleep, and no extra gear is needed as she is in full recumbent position
Unsure of rack compatibility (for short riders like myself) with seat post mounted hitch
Has been shown to do well off-road
Potentially mildly cumbersome and difficult
to travel with.
Reasonable price ~$489 (and doesn’t need clipless pedals, seat, etc., and includes storage area)

Adjustable to grow with child, long life-span

So these are the options that our family is looking at now.  It all depends on how much we want to spend, and what kinds of trips we will take with Neva over the years.  Our first trip (most likely) will be with Neva doing RAGBRAI, which is an all-paved ride that is supported.  The trail-a-bike would be good for that scenario because if there was a day she didn't want to ride and I did, we would un-hook her bike and SAG with Christian, as opposed to me riding a tandem.  But having a sturdy tandem for off-road might be the best answer for the Great Divide ride, but for when she's older, as she would probably be more comfortable in the recumbent-style Weehoo during her younger years.  I'll keep you tuned-in and let you know what we decide for our summer tour.  If you have any great family riding stories or photos, please post and share!


  1. Tough choice ahead choosing one bike for various terrains. Interesting article.

  2. How about a weehoo? They seem a lot of fun, and Neva can chill or pedal!