Madsen Cycles - Online Sale!

Just a quick note for those people interested in the Madsen kg271/Bucket Bicycle.   Madsen is having a sale on all remaining 2012 bikes and on the upcoming 2013 bikes. I'm not sure how long the sale will be in effect.  Go check out the site for more details, but here's a summary:

New 2012 Madsen bikes are on sale for $1200 (plus shipping), (normally $1750), in time for Christmas!

New 2013 Madsen bikes are on sale for $1300 (plus shipping), (normally $1850), and it comes with a free front rack, normally $85.  Pre-orders are expected to deliver in February.

This is probably the best time of year to buy one of these if you've been waiting to justify the purchase.  I consider them an incredible value, especially if you compare them to other utility bicycles on the market.  I don't think anything similar in this price range can touch the quality and functionality you'll get with the Madsen.  If you want to know how we've used it over the past several months, as well as how we made the decision to buy a Madsen, check out some of our other posts on the right.

For more info, check out their site:

Coming soon - cold weather biking with kids in the Madsen.

Weekly Use of the Bucket Bike – Partially Replacing the Car

Thus far we have used our Madsen bucket bicycle on average 3 to 4 times per week over the past 2 months.  Although it is not exactly replacing the car (yet), we are finding that we are limited by the weather a little.  Either it has rained or mother nature has threatened to provide us with heavy downpours about half the time in the past two weeks.  A rain cover over the bucket might have helped, although riding in the rain isn’t exactly fun for the driver either.  If I could be sure that the kids would be dry in a downpour, I would probably have used the bicycle a few more times.  Over the past couple of months, at least the weather was beautiful most of the time, and for New England that’s saying something.  Still, the last couple of weeks have only offered us 4 or 5 times on the bike.  Since purchasing the bicycle we have ridden the bike over 275 miles, more than half of that with kids in the bucket.  We have encountered only very minor issues with the bike, something that will be discussed in a different blog post.

Here are a few of the ways we have spent time bicycling with the family in the last couple of months:
  1. Taking the kids to school and/or picking them up from school.  We do this 2 to 4 times per week, and it is the primary way we use the bike.  It’s a beautiful ride, and the morning ride home is often spent in the company of stuffed animals.  Additionally, it is a good workout since it is about a 12-mile round-trip and takes about a half-hour in each direction.  On a fancy road bike that distance might be quicker & easier, but certainly not with 2 kids plus school accessories!
  2. Stopping at our Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) to pick up our local farm share.   We do this with the bicycle whenever the weather allows it, even if we did not pick up the kids with the bucket bicycle that day.  It is worth taking the kids in the bike since it is just so much darn fun getting our fresh, local, organic produce without using any additional auto fuel.  Plus, we get much better parking and plenty of curious folks to talk with.  Although it has rained a few times on our pick-up day, we still frequently use the bicycle (with one or more kids) to come home loaded up with fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers.  One day we rode home with a little rain - no big deal.
  3. Going to the grocery store with or without kids.   I went to the grocery store last week with the bucket bicycle to pick up a couple of gallons of milk plus a few additional “miscellaneous” items that we were missing at home.  Total time of trip (including time in store) was about 45 minutes, for a 3.5 mile round trip.  At the bike rack, a conversation was struck up discussing grocery transport by bike.  At a stoplight, another biker said that I can probably carry "a lot of stuff in there”… I confirmed his statement, and went on to say I could carry 600 lbs. of random stuff, I just didn’t know where I could find 600 lbs of kids and groceries!  This thing could haul 4 medium sized adults if you could fit them in the bucket.
  4. We also took a medium-length bike trip after school one day, including a picnic along the bike trail.  We met some friends (mom and her daughter) after school and explored a new section of bike trail that we hadn’t experienced before.  We set up a grill and cooked hamburgers, ate picnic food, and played on a beautiful tree.  After dinner we went for ice cream.  Ice cream ended after 8pm, and it was already dark.  We outfitted ourselves with headlamps and blinking rear lights and proceeded home.  It took us over an hour to get home, but it was a new experience we embraced.  During the ride we rode through one fairly pedestrian-heavy section of bike path where someone yelled out "How Cool is That??!".  It was fun for the kids riding around in the dark, until they got tired and quiet.  Our daughter fell asleep, and put her head down on a bag in front of her.  We encouraged our son to put his head down too, but he didn't feel comfortable doing that.  The kids were quite tired at the end of it, and immediately fell asleep as soon as their little heads hit the pillows at home.  Still, it was a memorable event for us that we would gladly do again... just perhaps make the night ride a little shorter the next time (or give the kids some pillows and blankets in the bucket!).
  5. Stopping at a local bike shop to talk with the employees and customers about the bucket bike, and checking out the bike accessories section.  We ended up buying a bicycle bell with a fake eyeball in the middle of it, and made some new friends.  However, one must be careful in bike shops with curious kids!  The bike store employee had to bungee cord a back wheel on one bike that the kids were spinning and cranking.  A hand or finger in the wrong place might make for a painful ride to the local hospital’s emergency room.
  6. Dinner at a playground.  This has happened a few times over the past couple of months and was more of a spur-of-the-moment thing, but it worked out great every time.  We ended up packing our dinner and taking it to the playground.  We played, ate, then rode home.  Great way to get out the end-of-day wiggles. 
  7. More random playground visits – we had a few more of these.  Excuse the somewhat fuzzy photo below, as it was taken near dusk.  The kids are now putting on their helmets by themselves, or helping each other get them on.  We find it fun to explore new playgrounds that we haven’t been to before, or some that we see regularly but don’t always have the time to visit.  
Feel free to contact us at: familybicycling@ gmail dot com.  We are hoping to expand this web site to include submissions of what other families are doing with bicycles, whether they are cargo bicycles, tandems, bicycles with trailers, classic bakfiets, or other creative solutions to transporting kids (both big and small).  Feel free to tell us about your adventures. More of this to come!

Unwrapping the Madsen, First Ride

We were anxiously anticipating the arrival of our Madsen kg271/Bucket Bicycle.  After ordering it on a Friday, we received confirmation that it was shipped the following week.  Approximately two weeks after shipping was confirmed an 18-wheel tractor-trailer truck showed up in the street with a large, friendly, smiling man and a big box holding the bicycle.  A representative from the freight company phoned ahead of time confirming the approximate date and time of delivery.  Very professional.  The truck showed up at high noon on a beautiful, sunny New England day.

After befriending the individual, I helped the driver move the bicycle to the backyard.  We slid it on the grass most of the way, picking it up a little to make it easier to slide.  He said he peeked inside the hand-holds of the box just to see what it was out of curiosity.  I thanked him kindly for delivering it without any damage and helping me get it to the backyard.  The box weighed around 95 pounds, so it wasn’t too heavy, but it wasn’t light either! This was a large box.  It was around 7 feet wide, 4 feet tall and about 28 inches deep.  Finally, the bike was here!  What to do?  Of course... OPEN IT!

Opening it gracefully was more of a challenge than I had expected.  I could have just cut open the box, but then the kids couldn’t as easily use it as a fort or slide.  Neighborhood cats couldn't curl up in it on random nights, preventing me from chasing them out of it in the mornings.  We couldn't admire the size of it from afar, since we'd never owned a box this big.  It was glued together and had some staples, so it made it a little challenging to open cleanly.  I wanted to make sure I got all the staples, since staples plus children are not an ideal combination. 

Once I got the box open, I had to figure out a way to get the bike out without messing up the box too much.  I tipped it on its side and pulled the bike out horizontally.  Not easy or elegant, but it worked.  I must have looked pretty funny doing it.  I then had to take off some plastic that was connected to the handle bars, the front wheel, the bucket, and other random places.  The wheels were strapped down to a board.  The whole process to unwrap the bicycle took about ½ hour, but I was taking my time.  I could have probably done it in under 10 minutes.  It could have been easier if I was a little more ruthless towards the box in my approach and had a bigger knife, or perhaps a jigsaw.

This is how it was packed in the box:

Once unwrapped, I realized that everything arrived in perfect shape.   The box held the bike, some promotional literature, order information, an extra front derailleur (different size for different range use), and a cool piece of cardboard with MADSEN kg271 written on it. Most people would probably throw that cardboard away, but I plan on keeping it.  And most of all, no packing peanuts or Styrofoam, hooray!  This was environmentally friendly packaging.  Frankly, unless one was to go the self-assembly route, this was the best way to ship it for a typical consumer.  The bike was beautiful, really, and other than being large and somewhat expensive to ship clear across the country, it was a great way to ship a bicycle.  Shipping cost was $270 from Murray, Utah to Massachusetts, a little more than I expected, but not outrageous.  There wasn't a local dealer in town (yet!).

Strapped to pressboard and cardboard:

The bucket and seat belts, paperwork, and derailleur in bubble wrap:

Although I took a while unpacking it, the bike arrived completely assembled and tuned up ready to go.  I didn't even need to add air into the tires.   

That afternoon, after I got it all ready to go, I decided to go to the post office to ship a medium size box, then pick up the kids at school.  The school was 6 miles away, and an extra mile to stop at the post office.  I didn’t exactly give myself extra time to make it.  My afternoon was busy with work, and this wonderful “distraction” ate into my work time.  Here’s the box I took to the P.O. in the bucket:
I rode quickly to the post office, and upon arrival locked the front wheel using the built-in front wheel lock.  That was awesome.  I felt that it was sufficiently locked, especially since I could see at least part of the bike from inside the post office.  If anyone was going to take the bike, they would be walking suspiciously with this rather heavy vehicle – not easy to do, and they wouldn't expect the front wheel to be locked.  Still, losing this bike to theft with only 3 miles on it (heck, any number of miles on it!), would have been a nightmare.

After the post office, I took the main road to the school the remaining distance, since it was more direct than the bike path.  In this section of road the bike handled very well and was surprisingly nimble.  It was mostly downhill but busy with relatively wide shoulders.  In town it was a little more work to maneuver, but only because it was a little wider, longer, and lower (at the rear bottom cog of the chain section) than an average bike.  The geometry of pedaling was great, and the overall experience was more comfortable than the 2010 Madsen bucket bike we rented earlier in the summer.

I got to the kids’ school, locked up the front wheel and walked in with 10 minutes to spare.  The kids were thrilled to see the new bike, and my daughter instantly told everyone she saw that she was going to be riding home in the bucket bike!
Here are some photos from that first ride home with the kids.  At pick-up:

One of the bridges we crossed on the rail trail:

Taking a breather (although it was only for the photo, really!):

After this first ride, I knew I would be riding this bike many more times in the coming weeks and months, hopefully several times per week.  What a fun way to travel, spend more quality time with the kids, and get some exercise at the same time!

All in all, the first day of owning the bike was sublime.  Not only did everything work as expected, but I felt like I was part of a new trend, at least in this part of the world.  It seemed as if everyone who saw it saw something that they've never seen before that day, and it frequently brought a smile to their face.  People were genuinely interested and couldn't resist the visual oddity of seeing little kids being transported in public in something other than a bike trailer or car.  Already, after only a few hours, I felt great satisfaction in having pedaled 13 miles on this unique human transport machine.

Deciding on a Family Cargo Bicycle

 After we rented a Madsen kg271/Bucket Bicycle on vacation, our family discussed the possibility of owning a cargo bike.  We weren’t 100% sure we would buy one, but we were taken in by the “cool factor” of hauling the kids in a cargo bike, as well as the design, practicality and efficiency of the Madsen.   We envisioned a day when we would rather take the bike than the car, when it wouldn’t take any longer to get the kids in the bike than the car, and where the car would only be used occasionally, and rarely for short trips.  We also thought that it would be a healthier way to live by biking more regularly.

Here are some of the different cargo bike styles we looked at, in addition to other bike solutions:

  For more info, see: Momentum Magazine

 We thought about a number of factors that went into the purchase decision.  We wanted a vehicle that could transport two young kids (4 and 2) and gear in a variety of situations, today and at least over the next 2-3 years.  

Our most common use would be traveling about 6 miles each way to the kids’ school on paved roads.  This included mostly flat terrain but also a few small hills and not perfect pavement in some sections.  Some small sections of gravel, sand or dirt road would be encountered, but nothing lengthy or worrisome.  Over half of the trip was on a smooth rail trail, but we also would need to navigate streets with some variety of traffic, including city and country roads.  

We wanted a possible replacement for our car for commuting situations, and a vehicle in case our car wasn’t available.  Having something that would give us a backup in case of an automobile’s flat tire, broken car starter or (perhaps) a massive EMP would be nice.  Being a backup vehicle wasn’t at the top of our list, but it did help justify the purchase.  Our bike and trailer did this, but it was more work to get it together and get the kids into it than we liked.

We wanted to be able to transport kids and/or gear quickly and easily.  We did not want something that was made exclusively for transporting kids, but offered some flexibility in case we wanted to haul something like big boxes to the post office or a piece of furniture from a garage sale.  It would need to allow us to run some errands while still having the kids with us on the bike, such as stopping at our local farm (CSA) and picking up our (sometimes large quantity) farm share produce.  We also wanted a quality long-term investment, if at all possible.  Getting people on the street to smile, wave, and ask questions every day the bike is used isn’t a bad part of the return on our investment either!

The following were the different solutions that we reviewed:
  • Separate bicycles – More of a future consideration, this was not realistically considered at this time due to the distances to be covered, safety, and the ages of our kids.  Perhaps in 5 years, or if we lived closer to the kids’ school(s).  In any case, one of the bikes would need to be a cargo bike to meet our requirements.


  •  Attached Riding Co-Pilot Trailer/Bike Seat Solution tethered behind the main bike – Our daughter would probably not be ready for an attached riding co-pilot trailer for at least another year (she is now 4).  We assumed both kids were too young for this solution right now.  This was an assumption - our daughter could probably ride one, but riding regularly for over an hour a day might be a little much.  In another year or two, a solution could be for an attached riding trailer (for our daughter) and a seat on the main bike for our son (now 2).  Although we see these around from time to time, we thought this wouldn’t allow the kids to interact with each other as much as other solutions, would not allow much in cargo capacity, and was not elegant.  Perhaps this could be used as a transitional solution when riding together as a family with a parent tethering the child in such a device, but I find them aesthetically unappealing and not ideal for regular use. They are inexpensive, usually under $100.  The main bike with co-pilot tethered trailer would need to be a cargo bike anyway to meet our requirements.

WeeRide Co-Pilot Bike Trailer, $74 at
  • Long Tandem Bike for 3 or 4 people – although this might be the bicycle version of a limousine (leaving out the world of cycle rickshaws and bike taxis here), we didn’t consider it seriously for most of the same reasons as the attached riding co-pilot trailer – the ages of our kids are too young.  Plus, these would be hard to find, fairly expensive, less flexible, built for a specific number of people, possibly a custom job, and don’t have a lot of cargo capacity like a real cargo bike.  They take some time to start up and stop, and there is a learning curve involved for everyone riding and the driver managing them when starting and stopping.  It is focused on transporting people more than transporting gear, and they can get very long (making maneuvering, storage, and transport difficult).  Adding a bike trailer behind it for gear makes it even longer, although it would help increase cargo capacity.  On the other hand, this bike would give the kids a purpose and some exercise while riding around.  Plus, this bike might be more efficient since there is some help in the pedaling among multiple riders.  The big thing these may have going for them is the “cool factor” where family synchronicity looks and feels great in addition to the educational experience of riding with others in a single cohesive unit where everyone contributes.  There are not many around, so one would get a lot of looks from passers-by.  Some may disagree and think that riding one may be embarrassing (e.g. teenagers being picked up from school on one).  I can understand both sides of this.  One of these didn’t make sense for our needs, but they look like a lot of fun.

Look ma', no handlebars! (not the best example)

  • Bike Trailer hauled behind a Utility Bike or Hybrid Bike – Although they are collapsible and portable, common, most are lightweight and inexpensive (<$300), and the kids can fall asleep in them (a benefit on longer rides), we didn’t like trailers for a number of reasons.  We also have had one for a number of years and find them limiting and less practical than other solutions.  

This was our solution for the past few years, and may still be used occasionally.  It is a 2008 Trek 7.2FX bicycle ($500+), and an Advent On The Go 2-child trailer ($600 new, although we purchased ours used).  The bike is aluminum and light, the trailer is steel and heavy.  Fatter tires on the bike would probably help improve traction, but the trailer is sturdy and worked well for us. 

Here are some of the downsides of trailers, when compared with other solutions: 
  • Kids are confined and do not interact with their environment, the driver of the bicycle, or others around them as easily.
  • Trailer solutions are always going to be 2 units – a bike+trailer – requiring additional hookups to be maintained as well as 4 wheels/tires to worry about.
  • Trailers are harder to maneuver in traffic than other solutions.
  • Many trailers have a bumpy ride due to the design.  I am sure this is highly variable, but ours is an older design that is bumpy.
  • Kids are close to the ground and away from the bike driver, plus accidents just seem to be more likely – maybe that isn’t really the case, but I just don’t like the kids that far away from me in traffic and having to maneuver a 2-section vehicle.
  • Limited in cargo capacity and load weight, but generally better than some other solutions (i.e. co-pilot trailers, tandem bikes) in this regard.
  • Heavily loaded trailers should probably have a bike with disc brakes for additional stopping power.
  • Somewhat inefficient and clunky design, in my opinion.

  • A tricycle, bike taxi, or cycle rickshaw (cargo mounted rear of driver) - Popular around the world, particularly in Asia and many large cities, these are used daily as taxis and transport instead of cars (which are often too expensive for most people in many 3rd world nations).  I classified these mostly as bikes with frame-attached cargo in a single unit (a single crank-driven bike without tethering a trailer), with the cargo in back.   
Double Seater, a custom tricycle - Reference: Lightfoot Cycles and

Classic Pedicab - Rickshaw Tricycle Taxi Bike, about $3500 for a base model.
For more info, contact:

Some considerations:   
  • Bike taxis or cycle rickshaws are great for bike-friendly places, but not ideal for our commute.  They are probably fine for cities that cater to them, but we need something more efficient, quicker and more maneuverable.  
  • The smaller ones like the custom Double Seater version above might work for a lot of people if distances are shorter.  Finding or building ones like this might be a challenge, but I didn't look into it extensively.
  • Prices vary significantly, particularly with custom built tricycles.      
  • There are endless versions available… just visit an Asian city.  They can be found worldwide, but less so in the USA due to the transportation infrastructure and prevalence of automobiles.
  • These seem a little safer if one goes upside down (flips over) since they have a roll bar of sorts.  They are also wider in the back where one can easily install flags or reflective materials.
  • Three-wheeled versions of this bike with the cargo/kids in back were OK, but the Madsen had a more efficient design with similar functionality for our needs.  We would probably choose a tricycle for off-pavement terrain, if we lived in a city with shorter travel distances, or if we were older and less proficient bicycle riders. A 2-wheeled version would be preferable for us for any distance longer than a mile or two since we assumed it would take less energy to pedal heavy cargo.
  • Cargo (people sitting inside) have a luxurious and stable ride, possibly with some rain protection.
  • In general, these are larger, heavier, and possibly less efficient than what we were looking for.  However, the Double Seater tricycle (above) might work.  Unfortunately, ones just like this are hard (perhaps impossible) to find in our area.

  • A Bakfiets, front-cargo tricycle, or Long John bike (cargo mounted front of driver) – A Bakfiets is Dutch for “Box Bike”, and used as a generic and brand name.  A Long John bike has a low-slung frame in front of the rider and can have a box mounted on this low section of the bike.  I can imagine taking my kids to school on one of these, dressed like a chauffeur (but maybe not more than once or twice):

I classified these mostly as bikes with frame-attached cargo in a single unit (a single crank-driven bike without tethering a trailer), with the cargo in front.  These are elegant, stylish, have European roots, often well designed, stable, have good capacity, and the kids could interact with the driver.   They seemed to be among the “coolest” solutions.  I could even build my own customized version of one of these and take some pride in ownership.  A tricycle version would make a great farm vehicle or even a small business at a county fair.  I liked these, and one of these in a 2-wheeled version (such as the Babboe City Cargo bike below) would have been our 3rd choice overall.  However: 
  • These seem to be better suited for city travel than mixed distance travel – these would be great if we had a different living/commuting solution, say in a European bike-friendly city like Copenhagen or shorter distances to travel with mostly bike-path or bike-lane travel.
  • The turning and maneuvering of these seemed more difficult than the Madsen, but I didn’t actually try one so I can’t say if this was a legitimate concern.  I can’t imagine turning would be easier than in any bike with the kids in back, but talking with the kids in front might be worth it.
  • Overall, a bigger vehicle than most other solutions.
  • Wider than other solutions, but cargo capacity is good.
  • They are relatively expensive; a nice one was at least $2.5k.
  • Building my own was not realistic at this time.
  • A three-wheeled, larger and more stable version was not as efficient as a 2-wheeled solution for the distances we wanted to travel regularly, but would be nice for stability in unpredictable terrain. 
The following Nihola Tricycle seemed to be one of the top-end, more luxurious Bakfiets (that is not custom built with wood).  I like it much better than a Pedicab bike taxi, and assume it would be more efficient (wind drag and rain would be handled worse with the Pedicab, for example).  These retail over $3500.  It is a more realistic purchase, compared with the custom wood Bakfiets above.

  • A 2-wheeled Long John such as one of those below seemed almost as good as a Madsen kg271/Bucket bicycle, but with the kids in front.  I think the kids would like being in the front (in the Long John) almost as much as in the back bucket of the Madsen.  The Madsen bucket seating is slightly higher up, providing the kids with more visibility and interaction with the surroundings.
  • I think I would feel less comfortable riding one of these over 20 MPH (such as down hills), compared with the stability I feel where the kids are in the back, particularly the 2-wheeled version.  This is mainly due to the design of how this vehicle turns and what I am used to.
Here is the beautiful Babboe City Cargo bike, around $2500

Here is the Birota Long John, a slightly different design at $1500 and up.

  • Longtail Bike with Separate Seats for Kids – this is an efficient and organized bike.  The price for an average model like the XtraCycle Family version is around $1700.  It is ideal for the distances we expected to travel but lacked some flexibility and cargo capacity for us.  They also have conversion kits that allow you to add a large back rack and seats for kids to your own bike (see XtraCycle web site for more info, link below).  

It would take on the job of transporting the kids and some gear quite well.  I’m sure it would handle and turn well.  The kids couldn’t sway or move around as much as in the Madsen bucket, and they are high enough to see everything around them.  However, I didn’t like the fact that this bike was a little “busy” and not as elegant of a solution as the Madsen.  At least I didn’t have to worry about the kids moving around much once they were strapped in.  Everything seems to have its place, which is both good and bad.  The “good” is that everything (including the kids) is organized.  An engineer or perfectionist that likes everything in its place would probably love it.  The “bad” is that it lacks some flexibility of what you can carry, and if you wanted a longtail and had to carry a big box on top of it without the seats you would have to remove the seats – then lose the flexibility of having the seats until you put them back.  Riding directly on the back rack is an option, but doesn’t seem as comfortable to me as a real seat with backrest.  Overall, not a bad bike at all – a great bike in fact, but the Madsen with its bucket seemed to have a slight edge design-wise for our needs.  This was our 2nd choice and was a serious contender.

  •  A Madsen kg271/Bucket Bicycle (i.e. a Longtail Bike with a bucket) – elegant, stylish, unique, stable, relatively simple, good capacity (40 gallons, 271 kg/600 lbs in bucket), kids have plenty of room and can interact with the driver and each other, room for additional kids or gear (up to 4 kids total), steering and maneuvering in traffic is easier than other designs, customizable bucket with accessories in the future, front rack available, efficient since it is only 2 wheels, priced well under $2k incl. shipping.  It puts the “horse” before the "cart", attaching the cart to the horse, so to speak.   
 Possible downsides for us: 
  • No rain or sun protection available from Madsen yet – something that most bike trailers and some Bakfiets have.  We expect the rain cover to be available soon.  Of course, I could probably build a rain or sun cover.  Having to regularly put sunscreen on the kids takes extra time, particularly when deciding between car and bike.  This isn't any different with the XtraCycle or most other designs.
  • Back wheel is smaller than the front - perhaps making it slightly less efficient but more stable and "roomier" than the XtraCycle.
  • Kids can more easily get into trouble with the extra freedom of movement.
  • See post on "Experience Renting a 2010 Madsen Bicycle" for all the pros and cons we found with the Madsen.
Here is the Madsen kg271/Bucket bicycle, at $1650+shipping.

Decision Making Time
From this list of solutions, the Madsen seemed to be the right choice for us, at least for 2-3 years.  Resale value is assumed to be excellent based on uniqueness and quality, although we wouldn’t have any plans to sell such a great utility vehicle.  Even without transporting kids, it would be a good investment since it can replace a car for many short trips.  It can hold a lot of groceries, post office packages, or other random items.  It is quick to get the kids in and out of it for trips of any length.  It would be a unique vehicle that we would be proud to own.

Purchasing a cargo bike may have some other factors that we would want to consider:
  • Any heavily loaded vehicle needs to be rated for the weight being hauled, and have appropriate safety measures in place.
  • Just as truck drivers need to be careful with heavier loads, drivers of these larger human-powered vehicles need to adhere to the rules of the road.  They need to understand that it takes longer to stop, particularly in wet weather, and that it takes longer to climb hills.
  • Potential accidents, however unlikely, need to be taken into consideration.  If the driver is at fault and takes a fall, one would want the kids to be relatively unscathed, if at all possible.  The higher the kids are up, the further they can fall.  Seatbelts are a good idea, and integrated into the designs of most of the cargo bikes.
  • The size of the kid-carrying device (on whatever cycle it may be) becomes smaller as kids grow, making most of these vehicles a little too small after a few years.  That does not mean we need to get rid of it - it is still useful as a human-powered utility vehicle, but we'll need to come up with another solution for transporting the kids.
  • Build quality for long-term ownership will need to be determined, as with all bikes and trikes.  There are not a lot of long-term reviews out there.
  • There are no nearby dealers or other owners to talk to about most of these bikes, so we may be the ones people come to for advice in our area.  We also may have to get replacement parts from the manufacturers and do the work ourselves.
  • Price of the vehicle cannot be ignored, but it isn't as important for a long-term purchase like this one.  One needs to look at overall cost-effectiveness, which requires a broader approach with quantitative and qualitative measures.
  • Having a good locking process is important, and should be methodical, easy and convenient.  It takes little time for a thief to ride off with $2k worth of bike without something to deter him/her.
  • Electric power kits may make these vehicles even more fun to drive, will likely promote more frequent use, and change the safety factors of using such a human+electric powered vehicle. (e.g. being able to get out of traffic quicker and more frequently will improve safety, but going faster more often may reduce overall safety if not careful).
  • Will electric power kits, like other electric bike, make these vehicles questioned in areas that are posted “No Motor Vehicles”?

After a few weeks of discussion and research, we decided to purchase the Madsen kg271/Bucket bike in black.  It was an easy decision for us, once we figured out our needs.  Pink wasn't our color.  We placed an order. 

Feel free to leave your comments and viewpoints below!  Do you agree/disagree with some of these points?  Do you think we made the right choice?

Biking is better for the environment, your health and your wallet

We recently saw this sign at an IKEA store and thought it was inspiring!  As one can see, the unfortunate thing was that there weren't any bicycles on the bike rack.  We were as guilty as any of the other shoppers.  Of course, to our defense it was well over an hour drive for us to get there.  Most people probably don't think about bringing home furniture on a bike.  I'm sure there would have been more bicycles... at least one bicycle... at an Ikea store in Europe.  This was Connecticut.

Please feel free to leave a comment below!  Have you seen bicycles at an Ikea store or anyone carrying anything big on a bike?

Experience Renting a 2010 Madsen kg271/Bucket Bicycle

Earlier this summer, our family returned from a week’s vacation at Martha’s Vineyard, MA.  During our stay we rented a Madsen kg271/Bucket bicycle, and a tandem bike in Edgartown, MA from the Wheel Happy bike shop.  We pre-planned renting a Madsen bike from this shop since we were really curious about how it would look in real life, the capacity, the comfort, and generally how it would work over several hours.  We rented a 2010 (we think) version in blue. 

We biked from Edgartown to Oak Bluffs, had lunch and walked around, then returned to Edgartown, after some more “playing around” and testing out the bike.  Although this was only a relatively brief test over several hours, it was sufficient for a first impression and a feasibility discussion.  Our trip lasted a total of about 13 to 15 miles, mostly along coastline and small hills.  We were on the bikes over 2 hours in total, but we did take a few breaks.  There were a few small hills, but nothing too difficult for us to handle with the bucket bike.  We were very impressed by the Madsen kg271/Bucket bike, and considering all of our options, we believe that this bicycle is the best (most efficient and practical) way to transport kids in this leisurely way.  Here is a photo from our lunch stop in Oak Bluffs:

Below is a photo of my mother-in-law trying out the bike while her puppy looks on – she found it stable and easy to pedal.  While sitting near the kids, her dog jumped out of the bucket two or three times, but quickly learned to stay inside the bucket.  She may be interested in purchasing one for her grass-fed beef farm, and to go back and forth to the farmer’s market to sell her beef.  She mainly rode on a rented tandem bike on this trip, but she did try out the Madsen and was impressed by it, particularly the pedaling geometry.

Here is a brief video of her riding and getting off the bicycle:

This is me transporting my mother-in-law in the back of the Madsen Bucket bicycle.  She loved it!  She would have gladly been transported back several miles to Edgartown this way if one of the kids were big enough to ride on the tandem bike we rented at the same time.

Below I have listed a few pros and cons with the Madsen Bucket bicycle.  These are mainly related to this particular bicycle, but also include some basic Pros and Cons of bicycle transportation.  Granted, the Madsen we tested was an older model, so some of these Pros and Cons may no longer be valid.

Note: I was the primary “driver”.  We also had perfectly clear weather around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. The handling of the bike in wet conditions or off of the main bike path was not tested.  We dealt with minimal traffic and sidewalks.  We did ride the bike through sand that was over the sidewalk, sometimes over an inch deep and sections that were over 10 feet long.  I maintained a line through the sand, kept my momentum, and didn’t have a problem.  Although I was a little worried at first, and the sand seemed unpredictable, the Madsen handled the sand better than I expected.

  • Great for transporting kids and gear for a day trip, and being able to talk with the kids while riding. 
  • Bucket is a good size for our kids, who are a little larger than your typical 2 and 4 year old.  Our kids are 33 and 42 pounds respectively.
  • Would make a great vehicle for leaving large events where car traffic (bumper to bumper) would be an issue, such as the 4th of July fireworks, concerts, or similar events that end at a specific time.
  • Good vehicle for bike-friendly cities
  • Worked well enough for my height.  Not sure the geometry is ideal for my height, but it is good enough.  On a good day in the morning, after a long stretch or hanging from the monkey bars, my height measures out around 193 cm, or 6' 4".
  • Works for dogs after they learn to stay inside the bucket
  • Ride is smooth, good geometry for pedaling, no real need for pedal clips or baskets.  Set height adjustment was sufficient.
  • Relatively efficient for carrying a lot of weight; assume Madsen bike is more efficient than a tricycle cargo bike since it has only two wheels.
  • More stable than expected, even with kids moving around.
  • Turning was easier than a tandem bicycle, and not much different from most other traditional bicycles.
  • Lots of people interested in the bicycle coming up and asking about it – we were happy to help answer their questions.
  • Price seems reasonable although today’s price is higher than previous versions.  It would be an investment for most people.  Occasional discounts (for pink versions, black Friday sales, etc. are nice).  When we mentioned the price people were slightly turned off, but I believe it is probably justified.
  • Climbing hills is probably easier than with other bicycle options that offer similar utility, depending on gear ratios, height of rider, etc.
  • Felt surprisingly stable in short sections of sand over the bike path.
  • Great backup for an automobile over short distances, if automobile is not working or being serviced for some reason, or if there is too much traffic to allow an automobile to get to its destination in a reasonable amount of time.
  • General bicycle pros can be added to this list, which vary by individual use, but they include things like free parking, ease of maneuvering through busy traffic, exercise/fresh air, improved health, lower carbon footprint, attention and smiles by others, etc.  
  • Cargo capacity is amazing at 271 kg (600 lbs)!

  • Seats in the bucket came undone and fell off the Velcro.  This was unexpected for us, and the kids each told us to stop immediately and fix the problem (as well as a 2 year-old can do so).  This may have had to do with kids wiggling, the seat belts, or issues with the dog.  In any case it was quickly fixed.  Stronger or larger hook and loop fasteners (Velcro) might help.  This seems to be fixed in newer versions.
  • Kids get more sun exposure in the bucket bike than in a traditional trailer
  • Hard seat (we know the new model has a more comfortable seat)
  • Chain in rear runs low to the ground.
  • Parking it is not as easy as other bikes, but probably easier than a bike with a trailer.  Parking is probably similar to a tandem bike, maybe easier.
  • Hills difficult, although no more difficult than a bike trailer or other setup.
  • Need to make sure air pressure is set properly for heavier loads.
  • Since this was the first trip using the Madsen, it felt a little small for serious cargo hauling, but it seemed to handle what we needed it to do without any problem - I believe it is more comfortable and efficient for hauling gear than most “typical” bicycles I have tried in the USA.
  • Other general bicycle cons cannot be denied, such as the fear of a bicycle getting stolen, flat tires, maintenance requirements, poor weather riding conditions, getting hit by cars, chased by dogs, health hazards (i.e. heart attacks), and other individual use factors (such as being sweaty when getting to a destination where one needs to be presentable to the public or office crowd), etc.
  • Not sure how easy the bucket is to take off to do maintenance – unknown.
  • Chain guard rattled a little.
  • Shifting/gears needed adjustment 2/3 way through trip – this may have been an isolated incident, since the shifting worked great during the 1st half of the trip.
  • Bicycle is longer and wider than most – it is more difficult to transport by car, and more work to get it on top of a car’s roof rack than a bike/trailer combination.
  • Water may pool in the bucket without drain holes, a very minor issue that is remedied by drilling a couple of small holes. This is fixed in newer models.

Have you rented a Madsen or are looking to rent a cargo bike?  Do you have any strange bicycle renting experiences?  Feel free to leave a comment below!