After years of idly daydreaming about ferrying our family around on a cargo bike, last summer we chanced our way into actually owning one. We were up early one morning, groggily grousing about our mostly miserable apartment hunt when James noticed a listing for a bike on a neighborhood Facebook group that he was trolling for apartment listings. A local family was leaving the city and their decade-old bike wouldn’t be making the cross-country trip with them. James fired off a 6:00 am note to the poster and before he’d even finished his coffee, he was out the door in the pouring rain to buy the bike.
One hour and $300 later, he was back with a creaky beast of a cargo tricycle that had been loved by at least three families before the folks he bought it from. Its plywood box had been patched and repaired and in some places was worn clear through; the chain had gone rusty and the tires gone bald. We all fell immediately in love. In a year that just about crushed us, the worse-for-wear bike felt like a silver lining with lots of potential for polish. When we finally found our apartment, James rode the kids in bike to sign the lease. I posted a celebratory shot on Instagram and devotees of family bikes recognized the classic design of the Danish cargo bike company, Christiania. They put us in touch with Linnaea and Peter James who import Christiania bikes to the US and over the next few months James would work with them to rebuild the box and get the bike back into shape. Now she’s both beauty and beast and one of the very best investments we’ve ever made.
Linnaea and Peter just relaunched the Christiania Bikes America site this week and today is National Bike to School Day, so it seemed like a perfect time to answer some of the family bike FAQs I get from readers. (And! In case you’re in the market, Christiania Bikes America is offering RMTL readers 10% off with the code TEA.)
Without further ado, here are some answers to frequently asked family bike questions. Feel free to add ask more in the comments.
What kind of family bike do you have?
Our bike is the Christiania Model Light Danish Cargo Bike with Sloped Box. The Christiania is the original family bike, a classic Danish trike built to withstand harsh Scandinavian winters and also Brooklyn ones!
When James rebuilt the box, he swapped a solid front panel for a door that opens and closes, giving easy access to whatever we have loaded inside, especially our kids. He also added a removable bench with safety belt and two new y-belt harnesses for additional safety. For cold and rainy days, we also have a removable Bugatti Hood.
Why a Christiania?
Because we really lucked our way into finding this bike, I won’t pretend that I sought out a Christiania specifically and I can’t speak from personal experience on how this bike compares to others. I can say we really adore this trike and would choose it again in a heartbeat. We love being able to see the kids in front of us when we ride. We love that we were able to rebuild the existing bike, replacing only what needed replacing and maintaining everything else. We love that it feels so sturdy and doesn’t require superhuman strength to get around. We love how much our kids love it. We love how it handles bumpy city streets and potholes and turns. I love getting carted around by James! (Many, many more reasons to love Christiania’s this way.)
Is it heavy or hard to ride?
The bike is a total joy to ride. I’m not always the world’s most confident urban biker, so I was a bit hesitant to ride it at first, but when I finally got on the bike I was so pleased by how easy it is to maneuver and how solid it feels to ride. There’s some real comfort in the bike’s heft, too. It’s hard to miss us cruising down the street! The bike itself is heavier than we can easily lift, but that doesn’t make it heavy to ride. One huge plus for us is that the bike seat adjusts without tools so James and I can change the height quickly and easily when we take turns being the one to ride.
Do you have an electric assist?:
We don’t! For the most part our biking routes are pretty flat and our bike came with a 7-speed internal hub so we haven’t felt the need. If we were taking longer trips or more regularly taking routes that had large hills, I can imagine the electric assist would be appealing (and I might personally be more willing to bike up hills or over the Brooklyn Bridge, but for now James handles those trips).
What do you use it for?
We’ve used this bike for just about everything from everyday uses like bringing kids to school and parks and playgrounds to carting around secondhand furniture, and project supplies, and a huge canvas floorcloth. It’s a picnicker’s dream come true, especially when you set up the picnic spread right in the box. We brought home our Christmas tree in the bike this year and filled it up with nursery finds this spring. It fits more groceries and goodies from the farmers’ markets than we’d ever buy at once and leaves plenty of room for kids and soccer balls and extra jackets. So much of having little kids in a big city requires a certain commitment to schlepping and I can’t tell you what a game changer this has been. The bike is just incredibly handy for loading up with all of the supplies we need for a full day out of the apartment—snacks and picnic blankets, changes of clothes and diapers, water bottles, bathing suits, a cooler, etc. Having it has been a total dream.
Where do you store it?
We lock our bike up outside. The folks we bought it from gave us their very heavy duty chain when we bought the bike, so we use that and keep it locked up in a well-lit spot. Our hood helps protect it from the elements and very regular use keeps it in motion.
Have you named your family bike?
Anything I missed? I’m not a family bike expert, but I’m happy to try to answer other questions below if I can.
And don’t forget, if you’re interested, Christiania Bikes America is offering Reading My Tea Leaves Readers 10% off bikes and accessories with the code TEA.