You will recall that a couple of weeks ago I was terribly excited about getting a bike trailer to haul Punky around on, after I got my bike of course.... Well.
I picked up my bike on a Tuesday morning & was soooooo happy when the trailer arrived a couple of hours later, I wasted no time in putting it together & taking Le Punk for a spin....
Issue A: Punky hated it. HATED. She hated the helmet, the restraint in the trailer, being in the trailer & if I'm honest, she really didn't look very comfortable.
I thought "She'll get used to it, it's just the first time..." so later in the day I decided to try again. This time I put a couple of pillows behind Punky so that she looked a bit more comfy & adjusted the straps so they were under her arms (...that's probably illegal but she was still very secure!) & away we went. She wasn't happy at all. The only way I could get her to settle down & not scream & squirm was give her her dummy & my phone & a book & random other things, having to get off the bike & go back to the trailer to give her something else of pick up what she'd dropped so often that I wasn't really riding at all, just pushing along my bike with a heavy trailer dragging behind it. There was a tiny hill, I'm talking minuscule... and the combination of my being terribly unfit & the weight of the trailer saw us walking yet again.
We finally reached the park where I collapsed in a heap while Punky, liberated from her rolling cage, bounced merrily around on the grass.
When I'd plucked up the courage to make a start on the journey home (oh, we're talking like a 15min walk here, not a marathon distance...) we set off rather well, until, while trying to negotiate yet another small incline the chain came off the bike... now I don't know anything at all about bikes or reinstalling chains so I put it back on as best I could & we continued on, it soon became apparent however that however I had put the chain on was definitely incorrect - the gears wouldn't change at all. Fair enough, I could pedal in the gear I was in until we got home... that was until the seat on my bike slipped backwards - the bolts were obviously too loose. That annoyed me more than anything, I'd paid an extra $40 to have the bike assembled when I bought it as I know that The Boy and I are just not the kind for correct & stress free bike assembly.
SO. We got home & were both ridiculously glad to be there.
The next day I rang the shop that had assembled the bike & told them about the chain & the seat, they said to bring it back & they would fix it. The Boy took it down for me as I couldn't do it with The Punk in tow & was stopped by the police... I didn't think he would have been riding it because of the state it was in, but, alas, he was, and without a helmet at 5.30am (on the way to work), luckily for him they just had a bit of a grumble & left him to go on his way. The next day when he brought it home I went out to ask him if it was better & received "Nope" in reply.
Apparently he hadn't notice that the gears still didn't work until he was halfway home, and the seat was still loose.
Convinced that the store I bought the bike from had NFI I literally dragged the damn thing back down the street to the bike shop to have them fix it, The Boy picked it up for me a couple of days ago & joy of joys, $50 later it works again..... but the seat was still loose!!
The Boy bought home the appropriate seat tightening tool this afternoon & it is now, finally, tightened, and the bike is ride able. That doesn't change the trailer situation however, it just isn't going to work for us.
I have spent the last couple of days trawling through so many reviews, articles & advertisements for different kinds of bicycle child carriers that I have been dreaming of them.
Not only are there so many different kinds but the opinions on all of them vary greatly, depending on where you look.
Before Punky was born I saw a picture in a magazine of the Weeride, I had never seen a front mounted child carrier before & thought it was a fantastic idea, in fact that is what inspired me to get a new bike in the first place, but after looking at all my options I decided to go with the bike trailer as although some people disagree, the majority of reviews seemed to think that bike trailers are the far superior safety option for kids & cycling. Well, now having the "best" option ruled out, I went back to the Weeride.
I found several reviews, amongst the raves, about issues with parents having to ride "bow legged" or having their knees bump painfully on the seat, then I found several opinions on front mounted carriers in general, being referred to as "Euro baby killers" & "Kid killer carriers" etc, understandably, that was rather distressing. It seems that this opinion, about the front mounted seat being extremely unsafe, is spouted mostly by mountain bike enthusiasts without progeny of their own. They would reply to anyone who had actually used a European style front mounted child carrier with comments like "...you disgust me with your European child killing devices.." or, when told by a parent who has safely used a seat for many hours of riding, through many children "That's like saying you drive drunk but haven't crashed yet...", then it seemed that it wasn't just front mounted carriers being dismissed as unsafe, but all bicycle carriers altogether, one user on a forum for bike enthusiasts stated something along the lines of "...if you can't afford a car you should just stay home..." - erm, yes... because NOBODY has ever died in a car accident, have they?
As much as I wish it hadn't, the negative comments about front mounted carriers made me second guess myself & my intuition - I had originally loved the idea of the child being up front with you, observed at all times, "safe" between your arms & enjoying the ride, I had wondered at the enjoyment of riding in back, with a view of your butt & unobserved/not easily attended to. I spent what seems like another age looking at all the rear mounted seats & the reviews & opinions on which of those is best.... oh.... my... god.
You wouldn't think that this would be SO HARD! Then, ironically, I found testimonials from people about how they had a rear mounted bike seat & it was awful, unsafe etc etc etc, blah blah blah....
I swear I almost gave up right then & there - but then I'd be stuck with a bike I couldn't ride unless The Boy was home with Punky. I started again, clean slate.
I decided that I did in fact want a front mounted carrier, the issues with rear mounted just seemed too great - the centre of gravity of the bike is changed, making for issues with bike handling & balance, you can't easily see the child or whether they've catapulted a shoe overboard or their helmet is in their eyes, you can't interact with the child, it's difficult to load & unload the child while balancing the bike on your own and it didn't seem like a very comfortable or fun way to ride for the child.
As for the "kid killer" comments, challenged as they were to prove any sort of incidence of injury to a child from a front mounted seat specifically, the nay sayers that I found could not produce the goods. In my opinion, if you are involved in an accident on a bike with a child in any sort of carrier, nobody is going to come off that great, but, prevention is always better than cure. From the HUNDREDS of reviews I have read by real parents with real kids who put their real carrier on a real bike, the overwhelming majority who have tried a front mounted carrier are happy with the ride & the safety aspects. Parents, in my experience, do not generally, cheerfully, put their child in harms way. Soooo many of the negative reviews from bike enthusiasts seemed to be saying "...but what if you were pelting down a dirt track & hit a rock & endo'd (flew over the handlebars) - you'd squash the kid..." ...yes. Well. I think even if you had your child coated in titanium body armour that sort of thing would be dangerous, but for a gentle, slow, careful ride around town....? How many people do you see riding happily down the street suddenly fly A over T over their handlebars? Perhaps it really is a common occurrence in the lives of mountain bikers, but I have never done it, not even come close. Adding to the general consensus was the fact that front mounted carriers are quite the norm in countries where biking is an everyday, common form of transport, front mounted carriers are very popular.
So, having decided on where I wanted the seat, I had to decide on what seat I wanted there.
I narrowed it down to three choices;
The bobike mini.
The ibert Safe-T-Seat.
All have their pros & cons.
The bobike mini; Pretty much every review I read on this was favourable, bar a couple. What made me strike it off my list was the lack of moulded leg supports - I could just see Punky hating that fact that her feet were strapped in but her legs weren't - moulded leg supports seem more comfortable, the leg is resting on the support as opposed to being held down by a foot strap only.
The Weeride; Lots of rave reviews on this one & it is by far the most popular & well known front mounted carrier in Australia, in fact, before I really started researching it, I thought it was the ONLY front mounted carrier! What I liked about the Weeride is that it is mounted on it's own specially mounted bar that secures to the centre rack, that & the cool little dashboard deal'e that the kidlet can hold on to as well as rest their weary head on. I abandoned this idea because on every page of reviews, atleast a quarter of them mentioned something about having to ride with your legs/knees right out & although it wasn't that much of an issue for some, it was for others & it definitely would be for me. From the photos of the Weeride in action, there really doesn't seem to be too much room left for the rider. Also, many reviews talked about the fact that if the child fell asleep even with their head resting on the dashboard, they would have to continually centre their head on the board or hold them steady as they would keep slipping off.
The ibert Safe-T-Seat; This seat is relatively new to the market, well, compared to the other two (I believe bobike have been around for years & years, while the Weeride has been around for a while, with a name change along the way) & has very few negative reviews against it. In fact, if you want to see a major ibert love fest, check out the amazon reviews in particular. Several articles I found where independent testers had trialed the Weeride & the ibert together, the ibert came out a hair in front - because of the extra knee/leg room afforded to the rider. One main difference between the two is that the ibert is mounted to the actual handlebar stem, while the Weeride is centre mounted - I initially thought this would be an issue with handling/steering but by most accounts the difficulty is minimal & nothing compared to the handling issues of a rear mounted seat. Can you tell this is the one I ordered?!
I was sold by the fact that the Aussie distributor offers a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee - I can try it & return it if I don't like it, but I am hoping, hoping, hoping, that it will be a keeper. We all know however, what happens to carefully laid plans around here...
I do have a good feeling though. I had to try a couple of baby carriers before we found the Ergo & loved it & I bought that based on the mass of positive reviews I found, so fingers crossed for me!!