I recently saw a poster with the following quote:
“The bicycle is a simple solution to some of the world’s most complicated problems.” Unknown Click To Tweet
And while I was unable to figure out whom to attribute the quote to, it doesn’t lessen the truth of the words.
However, bicycling isn’t always that simple – enter my twins.
WHERE AM I COMING FROM?
Living my life in a way that is gentle on the Earth is something that I’m passionate about. I haven’t always been aware of how my decisions were impacting the natural world around me, but I had my eyes opened when I started dating my husband.
He didn’t have a car and pretty much biked everywhere he went.
Now, I wasn’t completely new to getting places powered by my own energy. I’d regularly biked or ran to work, and when I was in university I biked or took the bus. But before it was all more about getting exercise or saving money (it was expensive to park at the university) than minimizing my impact on the environment.
My eldest son doesn’t share the same earth-friendly transportation goals as me. This is probably because he didn’t grow up with them. He was older when I adopted them for myself.
So when my twins were born, I wanted to make sure they grew up with the idea that using our van should be the last resort. I wanted to really focus on minimizing the use of our vehicle as much as possible, so they would learn, without even realizing it, that walking, biking or scootering are ‘normal’ ways to get around – and not just something their parents are forcing them to do.
Turns out that this is a big challenge, when you’ve got twins.
My endeavor to get out biking with the twins has been an ongoing process of trying and rejecting different methods. And just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, the twins grow and render whatever my current set-up is obsolete.
WHERE DID I START?
When the twins were infants, I did a lot of research about biking. Many sources suggested that babies should be at least one before going on a bike – it has to do with the vibrations and their neck and brain development. But, on the other hand, there were lots of people who were advocating an earlier start. One of the methods suggested for transporting an infant was to put them in their car seat and then strap the car seat into a bike trailer.
What decided it for me was the lack of helmet options for babies. It’s the law here to wear a helmet when biking, and so if they couldn’t wear a helmet, they couldn’t go on the bike. Besides, even if there had been a helmet available, it would’ve been very uncomfortable for them until they were able to sit up and control their necks.
In fact, my twins were closer to 18 months before we really did any biking – this was because of the helmet issue. They just couldn’t sit up well enough in the trailer to be comfortable with their helmets on until then; they’d start to cry shortly after I had them loaded up – not the vibe I was going for.
Until they were old enough, I got around using our double stroller; an Easywalker duo – which I loved, by the way.
OPTIONS FOR THE LITTLE GUYS.
Once I’d deemed the twins were old enough to have a comfortable ride, I had to decide what method I was going to use: trailer or child seats. This was a pretty easy decision for me. Even though it’s possible to put two child seats on a bike by putting one on the handle bars and one on the back, I knew this wasn’t an option for me. Balancing a bike with one child seat on it is challenging (I remembered this from when my older son was little), never mind with two. In addition, I knew getting on and off the bike with both seats would be tricky; there just wouldn’t be a lot of room to swing my leg over. Besides, where on earth would we put all of our stuff?
So, trailer it was. Plus, my brother had given me the bike trailer from when his son was young, making it a no brainer, really.
The main challenge I had with the trailer was that mine didn’t convert to a stroller. I think most of them do now, but it’s an important consideration when you have twins; you’re going to need a stroller when you get to your destination.
BUT THEN THEY GREW OUT OF IT.
The bike trailer was a solution for a few years, but the twins grew out of it way before I was ready for them to. Bike trailers are really built with two different ages of children in mind.
I scoured the internet for other options. They were far from being old enough to bike on their own any great distance.
I got really excited when I found the Adams Tandem Trail-a-bike (ours wasn’t exactly like this, but you get the idea).
We even found one used. And it was really great – for my husband. What I hadn’t realized was that I wasn’t heavy enough to counter-act their weight; you have to be double the weight of the passengers you are towing. I tried it once, and we crashed. Luckily, we crashed on the grass at a pretty slow speed, but it took a while before Twin B wasn’t nervous getting on the Trail-a-bike.
There were two other problems with the Tandem Trail-a-bike:
- It wasn’t easily transportable, so it only worked if we left from home. The newer ones fold, so this probably isn’t an issue anymore.
- It’s built for two children that are two different heights. It isn’t made for twins. The rear seat is meant for the child to be shorter ; whichever twin was back there had to be very careful to not bang his knees on the handle bars.
I tried to find an option where I could use a single trailer bike and a child seat. Problem was I could only find trailer bike models that attached to the seat post, which meant I couldn’t use a rear child seat, and my twins were too large for a handle bar mounted seat.
Once again, I was sidelined on the biking. We travelled by bike when my husband was with us, but I couldn’t go anywhere with just me and the twins.
WHAT ABOUT A CARGO BIKE?
When I discovered cargo bikes, I got excited. I mean really excited. I obsessively searched the internet for an option that would work for us. At the time, I was babysitting two children, and suddenly I could envision taking all four kids on my bike!
It was totally possible. Check out this mom who transports six children by bike.
As usual, it fell to my husband to rein me in. Cargo bikes are amazing, and I still secretly dream of owning one, but they are expensive. It just wasn’t in our budget. Maybe, if we had invested in one when they were still little, but how many more years did we really have before they’d be out biking me? I also really wanted my children to be part of the pedalling-power. It wasn’t good enough for them to be just sitting in a box or on a seat not building the strength in their legs – besides they’re heavy. I was going to need some help. I don’t live in the prairies after all; we’ve got hills.
SO WHERE ARE WE AT IN OUR BIKING QUEST?
My excitement was once again peaked when I discovered the FollowMe Tandem.
This was what I’d been looking for. The FollowMe Tandom allows you to pull your child’s bike behind yours. It’s quick to attach and release the bike. So the child can ride free when it’s safe, and then get ‘hooked up’ when it’s a bit dangerous or when the child gets tired. The best part, for me, was that it attaches to the wheel of my bike, rather than the seat post; this allowed me to use a rear seat for the second child. It was expensive (not as expensive as a cargo bike, but still a good chunk of money), and it wasn’t widely known in Canada, so getting it used wasn’t an option, but we went for it anyway.
We were back on the road.
I happily towed one twin on his bike, and the other twin sat on the rear seat. I used my pannier bags to ensure that the child on my bike wasn’t in danger of getting his feet caught in my spokes. It was hard work, and we had to walk some of the hills, but we were back biking.
The twins LOVED it; although there was some ‘fighting’ over who would get to sit on the back of my bike and who ‘had’ to peddle. They nicknamed it ‘the bike rig.’
Of course, they kept growing, as children do, and now they’re too heavy for me to balance them both safely. We aren’t using the rear seat anymore.
The twins are starting to be able to ride some pretty significant distances though. They can easily do 5 km, but it’s very challenging and STRESSFUL to bike on the road with two six year-olds.
The solution? One of the twins rides free, and the other one stays ‘hooked up’ when we are on the road. When we hit the trail, I free both of them. For longer trips, I leave the bike ‘hooked up’ and alternate which twin rides free and which one gets to have a rest while he gets towed.
WHAT’S MY ASSESSMENT?
It was definitely worth it to keep working to solve my biking challenges. It really warms my heart to see how excited they get when we head out. Sometimes, the one being towed starts off being a little ‘lazy’ and doesn’t peddle, but it doesn’t take long for ‘biking fever’ to kick in. I can feel the burst of power 🙂
We still aren’t perfectly bike mobile, unless we have dad with us; but we’re getting out there and having fun, and that’s what’s really important.
If you have stories about getting out biking with your twins, you can share them in the comments below.
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