family bike FAQs.

May 5, 2021

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?

Glad you asked!!! Silas has christened the bike Song-y. He loves blasting a portable speaker and cruising with his jams cranked all the way up. (I have put a flower-y PSA on her rear.)

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.

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  • Reply Heidi May 5, 2021 at 11:27 am

    Love it! I’d love to know where the kiddo helmets are from?!

  • Reply Megan May 5, 2021 at 11:33 am

    $300 what a steal!! And to be able to repair it yourself with the door and bench and straps. Been waiting for this post for awhile, so happy to read more about your family bike. Will the bike accommodate all three kids? Is there a separate set up for Calder?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Kellyn May 5, 2021 at 1:20 pm

      You can get supportive seats to accommodate kids from less than 1 on up

    • Reply Courtney September 4, 2021 at 6:50 pm

      So helpful! I stumbled upon this brand while researching cargo bikes and this was super helpful. You got a great deal. Can’t wait to get mine.

  • Reply Kellyn May 5, 2021 at 11:37 am

    I’m 2.5 years/nearly 4000 miles into having a cargo trike in Boston and it is amazing. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought.

    In the world of cargo biking, trikes can get a bad rep because they feel different than a two-wheeled bike (bike remains perpendicular to the ground whereas you can make adjustments with balance on a 2 wheeler). You also can’t take turns quickly because the bike can tip. But, there are so many benefits. You don’t have to balance at stoplights, you don’t have to engage a kickstand to quickly get off the bike to help kids in the front or hit a crosswalk button. The kids won’t tip you over if they’re wiggling/leaning/climbing in and out. Rain shields make the box truly an all-year vehicle. In the winter we call it the greenhouse because the sun warms it up pretty quickly on cold. blustery days.

    I’m so glad the non-electric is working for you. I’d recommend if someone can get it (it is pricey and usually adds 2K to the purchase price) to go for it. Besides making any ride doable, it also helps with safety. I can pick up speed quickly when a light turns green and keep up with traffic – all of which makes riding on streets feel much more secure. Also, folks who have e-assist are more likely to use their bike, so most will find it’s well worth their while when you break down the price per mile over time.

    Happy cargo/family biking one and all! I could talk about this kind of stuff all day….

    • Reply Linnaea May 5, 2021 at 11:09 pm

      Kellyn, love your comments and congrats on your mileage! I agree that 3 wheelers get a bad rap, but I love mine for all the reasons you describe. We have a 2 wheeler too and I so much prefer rolling up to a stoplight on the 3 wheeler and not have worry about balancing my bike! And my electric assist has just upped my amount biking! I’m at 2300 miles in 17 months on my assist bike. Thanks for your comments and bike love!

  • Reply MM May 5, 2021 at 11:43 am


  • Reply Judith A Ross May 5, 2021 at 12:13 pm

    Love the part where James rushed out in the rain to get it before he even finished his coffee.

  • Reply Kirsten May 5, 2021 at 1:15 pm

    Thanks for the review! After years of hoping to snag a second hand cargo bike, we finally decided to just buy one this year and are actively shopping. It’s so overwhelming deciding between all the different options! I’m likewise curious if there is a way for Calder to sit in this bike safely – we have a very wiggly 16 month old as well as a four year old and I can’t find anything in the accessories on their website that looks like it would contain him. But if there is a way I can cart little littles, your discount code might tip me in this direction!!

  • Reply Emma May 5, 2021 at 5:30 pm

    Love this! I’m not a confident biker but am eager to have a quicker way to get around and transport groceries etc. in DC. But it’s just me! Are there smaller options or other cargo fixes for regular bikes that folks could recommend?

    • Reply Kellyn May 6, 2021 at 7:40 am

      You could look into a Tern GSD/HSD (HSD is the smaller option). Or google ‘mid-tail cargo bikes’

    • Reply alex May 6, 2021 at 10:58 am

      Depending on how often/much you want to shop for groceries via bike, I find that a good set of panniers works perfectly! the ortlieb ones are good and you can get the mounting affixed to your bike at a local bike shop if you are not as comfortable with bike tools.

  • Reply Rachel May 5, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Wow, I love this — the story of how you got it, the upgrades, and all the pics! Feels like a bit of magic. <3

  • Reply Tamara May 5, 2021 at 7:29 pm

    This post is such a delight to read. I never have seen or heard about this type of bike before but I remember seeing your post with the Christmas tree in it and fell in love. Thanks Erin! Your family is adorable and we readers love that you share so much quality content on your blog.

  • Reply Kristina May 5, 2021 at 7:35 pm

    I’m a cargo bike lover and owner in Toronto, Ontario! Our family has had ours for a year and a half and it’s an absolute game changer. We have carried some many things in our bike from our now five year old to Christmas trees and pumpkins. So fun to hear about your adventure finding a fixer-upper!

  • Reply Jackie May 5, 2021 at 9:57 pm

    This is so cool!!

  • Reply Maya May 5, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    Wow, love this, what a steal, go James! It’s so satisfying when a neighborhood find/posting works out. Pls send my apologies to James. I bombarded him w questions last yr about the bike on insta when we were madly searching. In the meantime, we have found our own and it’s been a game changes indeed! Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply Linnaes May 5, 2021 at 10:56 pm

    Hi you can get the bikes with a Y belts which is perfect for kiddos that age! That combined with a lap belt keeps the kids strapped in well!

  • Reply Isa May 6, 2021 at 3:48 am

    Thank you for this post, I love biking with kids! We have several setups (Römer on the back of the bike, Thule…) but my heart still wants a Christiania trike, even if it would not be the most perfect setup at this stage of our life. Also, I’m so happy seeing more and more people riding big cargo bikes in my neighborhood instead of cars. Thank you for the fun Instagram-FAQ, had to lough out loud several times 😀

  • Reply Eve May 6, 2021 at 11:48 pm

    Marvelous post!

    Also marvelous is Faye’s romper, please share where it’s from, that darling (Liberty?) print is screaming springtime joy.

    • Reply ERIN BOYLE May 7, 2021 at 11:39 am

      It’s the Mila jumpsuit from Mabo!

  • Reply Sophie May 14, 2021 at 12:02 am

    Hey Erin, I love that you love your Cargo bike. They are very common in my German hometown but we never bought one, partly because my partner never wanted to let go of his car which gave us a wider range for weekend family trips. But I borrowed our neighbours‘ when it was my turn to take out kids to their swimming lessons and I loved not having to get off the bike at traffic lights. Have you ever heard of the Freetown Cristiania in Copenhagen, where I always thought the name christiania bikes came from?
    It‘s not mentioned on their homepage but you can see the entrance to Christiania in the photos from the 80ies in the video on their homepage.

  • Reply Syd August 2, 2022 at 7:35 am

    Hi I just bought a used one too! Was it hard to retrofit the front door?

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