With two small children and no car, a few extra blocks can feel like an impassable expanse. Brooklyn, where we live, is full of parks, concerts, beaches, diners, water features and all manner of cultural experience. But because the subways are, as you might have heard, hellish and car services on the reg are prohibitively expensive, we’d settled on spending weekends very close to home. Me and my boys basically traveled as far as I could push them in a stroller.
Then, a few months ago, I found an old Yuba Mundo Classic bike on Craigslist. I had been in the market for a family bike for a while. There are a bunch of options, some are really good. Bike Friday’s Haul-A-Day and Surly Big Dummy were among the front runners. Of course, if I could have, I would have bought a bucket bike like the Danish Christiania bike but if that were the case, I might as well have bought a car. [A fully loaded Christiania runs about $2,800.]
Then the Yuba Mundo showed up on Craigslist, heavily used and slightly affordable. Immediately I responded. I picked the bike one sunny morning up from a guy in the West Village who had used it with his daughter for the last seven years. It’s a heavy thing but, like a horse, its heft is reassuring. The bike itself is long enough to comfortably fit two children (mine are 4 and 5) in easy-to-modify arrangements. My youngest still rocks a Yepp Maxi bike seat while the eldest sits in front of him, feet kept out of the wheels by an easy-to-install foot rest.
For my boys, this is the steed they never before had. Riding on the back of the bike is the intermediary step between the passivity of a stroller — which is, after a certain point, a humiliatingly effete posture — and the adventurous freedom of self-locomotion. From his perch in the back, my younger son is nearly shoulder level with adults. This, as compared to the constant crotch-staring of the stroller-bound, must be a big step up. From immediately behind me, my older son delights in giving me power pushes. Though his help is experienced as rhythmic shoves to the lumbar spine, it is still received with gratitude. But more than this, the boys don’t experience the bike per se as much as they experience the world because of the bike.
Now, with the Yuba, Brooklyn is our oyster. Playgrounds, hitherto in the hinterlands, are only a few minutes away. Coney Island is a possibility, too. With 7 gears, schlepping up the slope of Park Slope isn’t inhumane. And with a basket attachment up front where backpacks go, the Yuba has become the ferry of choice to and from school. As the kids grow, a few things will happen. We’ll change the car seat out for another cushion. My quads will get bigger. Eventually my kids will ride bikes of their own. But by that time, thanks to the family bike, their world will be much wider and richer than it ever could have been if we relied on our own feet to explore.