Tips for Carrying Kids
Perhaps the most life-changing thing you’ll do with your Xtracycle is ride with your kids. Family biking is a great way to spend time together and have fun with your loved ones, and there’s no better way to help your kids get comfortable with the idea of biking as transportation. There’s a number of ways to set your bike up, depending on how many little ones you’re carrying and how old they are. Read on for tips on starting, stopping, loading and unloading, and carrying kids with cargo.
Riding with Passengers Aged 1 - 4
Everywhere you look, you’ll see a different recommendation for how old kids should be before you put them on your bike with you. The most basic consideration is muscle development: can your child hold their head up without support? Xtracycle and Thule (the manufacturer of one of the child seats that our bikes are compatible with) both recommend a minimum age of 1 year for reliable comfort and safety, but it also depends on you feeling comfortable riding with your child. In most states, the legal minimum age is 9 months so be sure to check with your local laws and consult your pediatrician before riding with children under 1 year old.
Once your little one is ready, they can ride with you in one of the child seats compatible with our bikes. If you have an older Xtracycle deck, this article will help you figure our which deck you have.
These seats range in age and weight limitations, with some accommodating children as young as 9 months old up to 40 lbs/18 kg (be sure to consult a pediatrician for children under 1 year old). Once your child outgrows the child seat, you can usually ditch the seat and switch to a Hooptie handrail (we recommend kids are at least 4 before they ride in a Hooptie without a child seat).
If you’d rather keep your little one in your sights at all times, you can also install a Thule Yepp Mini or similar front mounted child seat to start out. These seats are quite a bit smaller, and mount in front of you rather than behind. They will carry your child from 9 months to 3 years old, up to 33 lbs/15 kg (be sure to consult a pediatrician for children under 1 year old). Once your child outgrows the front mounted seat, you can transition to a child seat on the rear deck, and then on to the Hooptie and/or SnackBars.
The Thule Nexxt Mini is available at your local bike shop or online.
Riding with Passengers Aged 4 - 7
Once your little one reaches the age of four, they can ride footloose and fancy free in an Hooptie handrail. The Hooptie keeps everyone in line while you do the pedaling, and provides a place for small hands to hold onto. It has a narrow setting and a wide setting, meaning you can adjust the width of the bars as necessary. The wide setting is required if being used along with a toddler seat. The configuration we recommend for children 4-7 is two Hooptie rails, as shown here:
The dimensions of the Hooptie are as follows:
We recommend the addition of a MagicCarpet to cushion rumps from bumps. The included U-Tubes (on Swoops and Stokers) or RFA Footrests (on RFAs) provide a place for passengers to rest their feet.
Carrying multiple passengers
Depending on the number of passengers you intend to carry, we likely have the ideal ride for you. Every setup will look different depending on the ages of the passengers, and it will change as they get older.
How many passengers can each bike carry? Here are the most ideal rear passenger set ups for each Xtracycle model:
- The RFA is ideal for carrying up to 2 children (one of these children can be in a child seat).
- The Swoop and Stoker are ideal for up to 3 children out of child seats or two children in child seats.
Keep in mind that these rear passenger numbers don’t take into account that you can add a front seat or rear trailer to increase the passenger carrying capacity of your bike. So for example, if you added a front mounted child seat to an RFA and a rear trailer, you could carry up to 5 children depending on their age and weight: one in the front, two on the rear deck, and two in a trailer. If you intend to carry multiple little ones under the age of four, you will need a child seat for each child not in a trailer.
An Xtracycle longtail deck like that on the Swoop and Stoker can accept a maximum of 2 child seats. The RFA deck can only accommodate 1 child seat. On all Xtracycle models, you can always add a front mounted child seat for a younger child. The weight limit on these front seats is lower than that of the rear child seats, so hopefully by the time your littlest is over 33 pounds, the other child or children are big enough to hang out in the Hooptie on the rear deck, with no need for a child seat. If this isn’t the case, your kids might be taking turns on the bike for a while. If it’s worth the investment, you could look into pulling a trailer with your Xtracycle until everyone’s ages line up. You can read more about installing a trailer on your Xtracycle here. Once each child turns four, they can ride directly on the rear deck with the Hooptie and/or SnackBars.
A Hooptie and a child seat can be used together by adjusting the Hooptie rails to their wider setting. This will allow the child seat to fit in between the bars. If you are only using one child seat, we recommend installing the seat in the rear position on the deck. This makes it so the other passengers aren’t cut off from the rider and you have the heavier children riding closer to the middle of the bike. This is a pretty cozy setup for the children not in child seats so you might look into running a magic carpet over the deck and up the front of the Hooptie for extra cushioning. Here is a picture of a magic carpet folded on the deck of the Stoker:
Looking to carry 3, 4, 5 or even 6 kids on your Xtracycle? Check out our article on carrying up to 6 kids on a longtail here.
Riding with Passengers Aged 7+
If you are carrying older children directly on the deck of your Xtracycle, you can use the SnackBars instead of the full Hooptie rails or a combination of the two to make getting on and off the bike easier for your passengers.
The are three different configurations we recommend for older passengers.
A HalfHooptie is best for children who are able to get on and off the bike on their own.
Two sets of SnackBars are best for older children or adult passengers.
One set of SnackBars is best for one older child or adult passenger. Not recommended for more than one rear passenger.
The SnackBars (which come in pairs) allow older kids to more easily mount and dismount from the deck. If you prefer, you can keep one Hooptie rail installed on the non-drive side (traffic side) of your bike and install one SnackBar at the front and one SnackBar at the rear. These create a gap, or “door”, through which your kids can more easily get on and off the deck.
The SnackBars will also make it more comfortable for adults to ride on the back of your bike as they won’t feel so constrained.
The SnackBar dimensions are as follows:
Starting and stopping with passengers
While it doesn’t take any special abilities to carry passengers on your Xtracycle, it does take a bit of practice to get the hang of managing the extra weight.
We highly recommend riding your bike first without any children on board so you can get a feel for the handling of the bike. Once you've got that down pat, add one child and ride around a little to get the hang of it. Starting from a complete stop might feel a little wobbly and unstable at first but you’ll quickly adjust to the extra weight. Once you get going it won’t be hard to balance, and with a little time you’ll be able to maneuver the bike easily even at slow speeds.
Get in the habit of shifting down to a low gear (the gear that allows you to pedal more quickly) as you come to a stop, as this will make it significantly easier to get going again. Brake gently, and start applying the brakes well ahead of when you’ll need to stop to avoid jolting your passengers. The disc brakes spec’d on Xtracycle bikes are powerful so you can stop on a dime if the need ever arises - keep this in mind during your first few rides!
Loading and unloading the bike
The dual kickstand on your Xtracycle provides a way to keep your bike upright during all the loading and unloading you’ll be doing. Make sure the bike is on stable, flat ground, and the kickstand is fully engaged before loading and unloading passengers. Check that the rear child seats are firmly attached on the rear deck before lifting children in. Kids over 4 can be lifted into the Hooptie, or they can climb in under the bars if the Hooptie is in its widest setting. Here are tips on how to use each model of KickBack.
If you have an KickBack 3 (left), RFA KickBack (middle) or LT1 KickBack (right):
The KickBack 3 and RFA KickBack are our most recent kickstands and are currently available on our website. If you have one of these KickBack models, you can disengage the KickBack once all passengers are loaded, before mounting the bike or after mounting. To disengage the KickBack 3 or RFA KickBack before mounting, place one foot on the ground, directly in front of the kickstand, and gently roll the bike forward. Alternatively you may lift the wheel slightly off the ground to disengage the kickstand. To disengage the KickBack once mounted, hop on your bike and gently roll the bike forward until the KickBack fully kicks back.
The LT1 KickBack is the first iteration of the KickBack and works similarly to the KickBack 3 and the RFA KickBack.
If you have an LT2 KickBack:
The LT2 KickBack worked with older EdgeRunner models and the Tern Cargo Node. If you have an Xtracycle with an LT2 KickBack, you must disengage the KickBack before mounting. Simply load your passengers, put your foot in front of the KickBack, and roll the bike forward to disengage the kickstand. Once the KickBack is fully retracted, you can then mount your bike and be on your way.
When unloading the bike, you’ll want to dismount and engage the kickstand before unloading your passengers or allowing them to climb off. Keep in mind that a double kickstand will lift one wheel off the ground slightly, and you may feel the bike rock forward or backward on the kickstand as you shift weight around. Always be cautious when loading and unloading passengers.
If you have an Ursus Jumbo kickstand:
If you have an RFA Sport or Utility with an Ursus Jumbo kickstand, you must disengage the kickstand before you mount the bike. Simply load your passengers, put your foot in front of the kickstand foot and roll the bike forward to disengage the kickstand. Once the kickstand is fully retracted, you can then mount your bike and be on your way.
Riding with kids and cargo
You can absolutely ride with kids and cargo at the same time - it’s just a matter of how you load everything. If you’ve got child seats on the back of the bike, the child seat footrests can hang inside the rear bags or outside the rear bags. For rear passengers not sitting in a toddler seat, their legs can hang over or around loads of stuff in the bags, or they can ride side-saddle in the Hooptie. Having a PorterRack and PorterPack on the front of an Xtracycle can help free up space for passenger's legs.
Here is a Yepp Nexxt seat on the RFA Utility with the RFA CargoBays:
Here are a few examples of the Yepp Maxi seat on a longtail bike with both the now retired X3 CargoBays and the SlingSet:
Have additional questions about riding with kiddos on an Xtracycle cargo bike? Drop us an email at email@example.com and we'll answer your questions best we can!