This is part 2 of two guest cargo bike reviews from a Cambridge MA family with four kids. Parents are Katie and Josh. You can see their prior review of the Madsen here. Here Katie describes their experience with the Xtracycle Edgerunner:
Xtracycle Edgerunner Review
Although Josh had been commuting by bike and hauling the kids on the Madsen for a while, I was a car commuter for a variety of reasons. During Fall 2013, I changed jobs and my baby turned 1, and I was able to become a daily bike commuter as well. Josh does the full morning routine with the kids, and I do the pickups and afternoons. This posed a bit of a challenge for our bike commuting plans, since we only had one cargo bike. You know those logic puzzles where you have one boat and have to get all the people from one side of the river to another? That was sort of our situation, and we did eventually solve our logic puzzle with a system that involved leaving the Madsen at day care every day. We purchased a cheap used bike (known as “junk bike”) which was parked overnight at the day care that Josh would take to work after locking up the Madsen. Then I would ride my bike to day care, lock it up, and take the Madsen home. In the evening, Josh would ride junk bike back to day care and then ride my bike home.
Even though this system was working out pretty well, there were a few issues with it. Josh liked having the option of biking the older boys to school, but with this plan he had to put them on the bus in the morning, which sometimes made him run late. Junk bike was pretty junky and Josh was not happy with that leg of his commute. I also was having a lot of difficulty carrying the cargo that I needed for work on a regular bike. I work between two locations and need to carry a lot with me every day, and would have to strategize which books I had room for each day, and make decisions when packing my lunch about what I could reasonably fit on my bike. I did have pannier bags but they split from the weight of the load after just a few weeks of use.
We started to casually look into other cargo bike options that could carry two kids. The older boys took the bus home from school, so we just needed a bike that could carry a 1-year-old and a 4-year-old. The tricky thing was that it also had to be a bike that was good for the rest of my commute. I work in Somerville, MA which is known as the city of seven hills. Before I started biking, I thought Spring Hill, Winter HIll, and Prospect Hill were just neighborhoods, but it turns out they are (not surprisingly) actual hills. The days I brought the Madsen into work were really difficult, so I knew I had to be careful about what sort of bike I got or my commute would be miserable. I needed a bike that would work well for the first 8 miles of my childless commute, and would also carry the two kids and all their gear home for the final 2 miles of our ride.
I spent some time looking into options at Bicycle Belle, the new cargo and Dutch bike store in Somerville. Based on my internet research, I thought the FR8 from Workcycles would be great for me. It had many nice commuter features I found appealing, like an enclosed chain, lights, sturdy kickstand, and front wheel lock for quick day care pickups. I tried it out with my 1yo on the back and my 4yo on the front saddle and it was an awesome ride. My 4yo son loved it and really wanted me to buy that bike. But I also tried it on some hills without the kids, and found it was not a great fit for a hilly ride, so decided that would not work out.
My kids were getting impatient with the bike trials, but before leaving I tried an Xtracycle Radish at the store that was not for sale. I found that it rode as well as the mountain bike I had been commuting with up the hills, and I had one of my big kids hop on the back and really liked how that felt as well. I had read a bit about the Edgerunner and knew they were not available at the time but would be soon.
Through our local bike email list, I was able to arrange a test ride of an Edgerunner. I tried it without kids and then with two of my kids, and decided that it would be perfect for my situation since it felt great with and without live cargo on the back. Since they were being released slowly, I was able to pre-order one from Bicycle Belle in their September shipment.
When the bike arrived (In October, not September) I had to figure out how to best configure it for my kids. Carice at Bicycle Belle was enormously patient as we tried a number of different options to see what would be the best fit. My initial plan was to do a front Yepp mini for the 1yo with a Hooptie on the back which could hold an assortment of big kids. I tried the bike with the Yepp mini and found that I didn’t like it much at all. It felt fine when I was riding, but getting on and off the bike was very tricky and involved tipping the bike quite a bit, which would have been tricky with kids on the rear. So I opted for a Yepp Maxi seat in the rear. This does have the disadvantage of blocking some access to the side cargo bags with the legs, but it looked like there was still plenty of room for cargo, and I figured I could get a front basket if necessary.
At first, Carice set up the Yepp Maxi within the Hooptie, but to do this the Hooptie had to be on its largest setting. As soon as I saw that, I knew it wouldn’t work out well. I park my bike in my office at work which involves manuevering it through some tricky doorways, and it was hard enough with a regular bike. So I decided to instead get stoker bars for the front rider, which were not yet in stock.
With the Yepp Maxi on the back and a space in front, the bike was well configured for my two normal commuting kids. While waiting for the handlebars to come in, my 4yo was content to hold to the front notch in the flight deck. But I had been hoping I could carry two big kids on the bike on occasion, and this wasn’t going to work with this configuration. I tried putting a pad on top of the Yepp adaptor and riding with two, but the kid in the back did not feel very stable with nothing to hold onto. So the bike still wasn’t just right.
Carice had mentioned that a Yepp seat for older kids was coming in April, and when searching online I found that these Yepp Jr. seats for ages 5+ were already available in Europe. This was appealing to me since it is compatible with the Yepp adaptor, and could be swapped out with the Yepp rear seat to allow an older kid to sit back there since it is so easy to get the Yepp seats on and off. I found one European retailer that was willing to ship the U.S. for a hefty fee, but the price of the seat was so reasonable that it seemed worth it. Then I realized how great it would be to have two Yepp Jr. seats, since I could have two adaptors and switch up the order of the seats when it made sense to (moving the Maxi in front if I just had the youngest or was carrying a lot of cargo and needed more access to the bags). This would also give my 4yo a real seat on the bike. Having him sit on the deck was fine, but he had an annoying habit of saying on the ride home “I’m tired” and then getting really quiet, which was a little worrisome, and I liked the idea of something holding him in. So I ordered two Yepp Jr. seats and one adaptor from hollandbikes.
The Yepp Jr. seats arrived after just a week, and have been a great fit for the bike. My large 4yo fits great in the seat and we attached the footrests to the front. At first, his feet would sometimes bump into mine, but eventually we discovered that if he tucked his feet behind the footrests, his feet stayed in place for the whole ride with no trouble, and he found this equally comfortable.There is a single buckle that goes around his chest (under the arms) which provides a bit of security. Unfortunately I got to test the strap when I fell off the bike going up on a curb with the two little kids on the back, and my 4-year-old was completely unharmed since he didn’t hit the ground in the fall, as was my 1-year-old who was protected in the Yepp seat. Neither kid even whimpered and we all hopped right back on.
I’ve swapped out the rear Yepp Maxi seat for the Jr. to carry two large kids, and even with my two biggest kids on the back, the Edgerunner handles well with both kids. This means we can now seat any combination of two kids on the back of the bike, which will make the bike much more versatile. I know it is technically possible to have more than two kids sit on the back of the bike, so we have limited capacity to only two by installing the Yepp adaptors, but if I ever need a bike for 3-4 kids, we have the Madsen for that. I have noticed when I have two big kids that there is a very slight wobble to handlebars and I grip them a little tighter (also true with the Madsen when fully loaded), but it handles fine with smooth stops and starts. Xtracycle has recently updated their FlightDeck to allow for Yepp seats to be installed directly on it, and I am considering this purchase since it would bring the weight of the kids down a bit, which I think would make for an even smoother ride. I haven’t tried significant hills with kids on the back, but from the mild hills I can tell that it is much easier than the Madsen to get uphill since the bike itself weighs so much less.
We are loving this new addition to our fleet. My commute is great with the bike and I can load it up with everything I need for the day, and then still fit all the kids day care stuff in when I pick them up. Josh and I swap bikes sometimes when I need the Madsen to pick up the older kids at school, and the bike fits him well too. With the electric assist on the Madsen, it is a nice bike to ride with multiple kids, but I’d still go for this bike with one or two kids since it really still just feels like a normal bike with a bit of extra weight on the back.