I was nervous when first riding the Xtracycle, especially with H. on the back. I ride a bike daily, but I have a short commute (3/4 mile each way), so I have lost some of the “city-biking chops” that I used to be so proud of. With a child on the back, the Xtracycle is a little more wobbly than the green Giant mountain bike that I’ve been riding for 10 years or so. But a little riding cured me of my wobble and it is now a very smooth enjoyable ride. A person might also be nervous about riding a bike with a hell-raising gremlin on the back (that would be the two-year-old H.). But we have rules about the bike (like “no wiggling” and “don’t touch the driver while the bike is in motion”) and we stop the bike ASAP if she breakes a rule. She likes to ride, so she’s well behaved. She also tells me “shoe on pedal Ima!” as soon as we’re ready to ride because she wants to get moving! We’ve instituted a checklist we go through: helmets (for both of us), foot straps, and seatbelt (this checklist is the result of the fact that I once forgot to strap her in — and she corrected me right away).
The bike is a little taller than I’m used to (we got a bike at the upper end of my size range and the lower end of Nathan’s, and I think we probably got the smallest bike that would accommodate both the Free Radical and the Peapod) and has a straight top tube rather than a step-through style top tube. I am very short (5′ 1.25″, and, yes the quarter of an inch is important), so it’s a little challenging for me to get on the bike, but I’ve gotten used to that at this point. The bike can also be hard to walk with because it is longer than a standard bike and not as maneuverable. It’s taken me about a week, but I’m fairly good now at moving it in tight situations.
They don’t call it an SUB (sport-utility bicycle) for nothin’! It takes H. and I everywhere we might want to go and lets us carry all the stuff we might want with us. The other day we went to sleep over at a friend’s house and had the following with us: my work backpack (with my computer, files, etc.), our “trip” backpack (with changes of clothes, H’s sleeping gear, etc.), H’s bag from school (which was full of towels and blankets and changes of clothes because it was the end of the week when all of that junk comes home), and a full picnic dinner for us to have after school. We fit all of it easily in the Xtracycle and could have hauled much more. We’ve even strapped our stroller to the bike (OK, Nathan did that one, but I think I could do it too!). One day last week, I picked H. up from school and then went grocery shopping on the bike (and today we’ll do the same, except I plan on picking up a drying rack at the same time).