Our Electric Boxbike & Yuba El-Mundo: customizations, modifications, ideas….

We own 2 electrically assisted bikes, for getting our 2 kids (and their stuff) around. My partner and I are simply suburban child-sherpers, and our children are non-paying tourists who demand fun transportation! 

sheep are sweet
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the whole damn fam on a bike!

Our ultimate aim is to replace all 30km-or-less car trips with bike trips, and we pretty much have achieved this. We still have 1 car but when it dies, we wont replace it too quickly and see how we go using our bikes and rental cars for long journeys

 FAQ #1:

Our kids are 5.5yrs and 2.5yrs old. Some people question why you would need to transport kids who can ride their own bikes, in a boxbike or longtail bike. Why wouldn’t you just all ride individual bikes like normal people? The answer is simple. They are too bleedin’ slow! Like most people, we lead pretty busy lives and it’s just not practical to take 4 bikes out every time we want to go to the library or local pool. Our “big bikes” can get us there faster than a car (parking right out the front!) and its much more fun. 

(I resist the temptation of answering: If you and your husband can both drive, why don’t you drive separate cars to the shops?)

Bike #1: Box bike

Description: an electric, 2-wheel, Chinese-made boxbike. Not one of the lovely Dutch or Danish ones but similar. We bought it (2nd-hand) before we realised how much we would use it (we have done about 3,000km on it every year for the last 3 years). It is a lower quality than the european ones but was also about 1/3 the price. If we were doing it all over again, we would fork out the cash for the sparkly Euro one… Having said this, the company we bought it from (www.cargocycles.com.au in Collingwood, Melbourne, Australia) has been fantastically helpful and supportive (thanks Gary!).

I wont go into the benefits of a 2-wheel boxbike over the 3-wheel versions , or the electric assist and whether it is necessary (it is if you want to go far or up hills with kids. And more importantly, you arent completely knackered all the time so you can actually chat with your little squids and share observations- the best thing about boxbikes!), or whether you need 2 e-assisted bikes for carrying kids (you don’t- as a family we just love riding them around so much, we needed two!) Also, the boxbike is a trickier proposition for my petite partner so we ended up getting the Yuba for when she is the sherpa…).

This cool blog tells you exactly why boxbikes are so good

http://sustainaburb.blogspot.com.au/search/label/Cargo%20bikes

FAQ #2 What is better- pedal assist or throttle-type?

The boxybike is a pedal-assist type (where you have to pedal to activate the e-assist). I really like this. It makes you work as much as you want to, or don’t want to… Our yuba is a throttle type e-assist. Man, you dont even need to pedal. Currently, I prefer the pedal type idea because its more versatile for any way you want to ride. The throttle is just way too easy. And I reckon you should have to pedal a bicycle to make it a bicycle. Having said that, its a 1st-world problem my friends….

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Our kids when they were littler (3.5yrs and 1.5yrs). Note we had both kids in car seats. Our older one came out of the car seat and onto the bench when he was about 4. Our younger one is just starting to travel alongside our bigger one on the bench (she is now 2.5yrs)
Bigger one on the bench (prior to lowering it)

Box Bike Modifications, customizations and Ideas:

When I was modifying the boxbike, I found very little info on how to put in car seats, change the bench height, and just generally improve it…

So here’s some info: If you want any more tips, please leave a comment and I’ll happily get back to you…

So here’s the bike with no rain cover. Two kids on the bench and one on the car seat (with shade cover installed)

Here’s the bike with the raincover on. Its a really great raincover. Never let a drop in.

When not in use, we keep the raincover rolled up and strapped behind the box. Its a good spot for it. Il’ upload a picture of it soon. Some other photos on the blog might show it.

Here’s the car seat closeup.

Here is how i installed the car seats into the box

(the, “if you can’t do knots, do lots” principle…)

Ok, before you read this bit, if you like neat and pretty things: sorry it’s going to be bad. There’s going to be knots and buckles and sh&t holding other sh&t together. But I was a scout and I know how to tie a granny knot ok? And I know that if you tie heaps of them, stuff stays where you tied it.

I found a car seat on the side of the road (they are everywhere here in Melbourne). I had to cut the bottom of it to make it sit flat. I left the seat belt mechanisms intact and was real careful not to nick any of the seat belt webbing when cutting it.

I wanted to have a system where I could remove the car seat pretty easily (say if I wanted to cart 10 slabs of beer somewhere). Obviously I also wanted the seat to stay anchored in the event of a crash too. Car seats work on the principal of softening impact (ie through padding in the seat) and absorbing impact (by not being completely firmly fixed in place. They need to move a little bit on impact so that the child moves with the seat).

Anyway, this is my completely uniformed understanding of carseats. This is my informed opinion on riding with my kids: The best way to keep your child safe on a bike is to not crash (or be crashed into), so I tend to make that my aim whenever I go riding with them.

Car seats are anchored by the bottom and top of the seat (usually by by the retractable car seat belt at the bottom. And at the top by the seat belt and the straps that hook into your anchor point of your car.). As the box bike doesn’t have a seat belt to anchor it, I drilled two holes in the bottom of the seat (the seat is blue) and then two corresponding holes in the box). I then slipped seatbelt webbing through all this and attached it outside the box with a car ratchet thingy (see below). This way I can loosen the ratchet easily and then slip the webbing through the whole shabangabang and take the seat out. Takes about 2mins to install the seat and 1 to take the seat out). I haven’t crashed yet so I can’t tell you how well it works on impact.

Here you can see the top anchor straps of the seat that I hook onto the webbing at the bottom. Basically the seat straps at the top attach to the seat straps at the bottom

Here’s the holes at the back of the seat with the webbing going through.

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Here is how I made a step for the kids to get in easier. Just an off-cut of decking wood (highly durable) with a couple of galvanised hinges. Has worked without a prob for 2 years. It has a bit of Velcro on it so I can fold it up out of harm’s way when riding)

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Here is the sound system (essential for long trips. However, I ride, I choose the music. Well that’s the theory…)

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Here is how I changed the bench seat height (I lowered in a few inches to lower the centre of gravity of the kids’ weight, and to give them more protection from the box in the event of a crash. As they get older I may have to put it back up…

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Here’s how I changed the raincover height (to get it over the car-seat). I just used some thick plastic sheeting from the hardware store and stuck all-weather Velcro on the original cover, and the new plastic “skirt”. The skirt is removable for when I don’t have a car seat in there anymore. Works really well.

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Here’s a car-seat shade cover I made to keep the littly shaded. I just used an old pram’s shade cover. Its retractable and removable, and remarkable (not that remarkable really…)

Bike #2 Yuba el-Mundo (electric-assist longtail bike)

Description: We just got this bike 2nd hand at Xmas 2013 for $900.

Our yuba pre-customisation- boooring
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our yuba with new stuff and children attached. Domestic bliss on a bike

Its more awesome than we hoped for. We have friends with one of these and other friends with a Surly Big Dummy. Both are cool bikes. The yuba suited us better.

It has pretty much all the options except for the bread basket (a massive front basket- might get one later). The trailer slot on the running boards is really cool and useful (especially when taking a bike to the mechanic).

Its throttle-assisted (see above for my ideas on this).

It has monkey bars installed (big metal handrail around the passengers). We really like them. Our 2.5yr old could sit there without the monkey bars but she is not quite ready for that yet. We could have got her a peanut shell seat but she is kinda almost past that. Our bigger one sits behind her and keeps a pretty good eye on her. The monkey bars make it hard for a real person (ie an adult) to get on and off. This is its biggest drawback. But to that I say “toughen up princess. You’re getting a free ride from an urban-sherpa, deal with it!”

Here’s some things I have done to improve it (or make it weirder to non-bikey types in our suburb)

Rain Canopy for passengers:

I got the idea for this from this cool website. My appreciation guys!

http://youaintgotjack.blogspot.com.au/p/diy-childs-bike-seat-weather-protection.html

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3 thoughts on “Our Electric Boxbike & Yuba El-Mundo: customizations, modifications, ideas….

    • Thanks! The merbau decking board is unbelievably durable. Unfortunately a rainforest timber but snaffle up any scraps you ever find. This one came from a pile of decking boards someone was throwing away. I also built some garden beds out of the boards too. Might do a post on them.

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