Our New Two Wheeled Minivan: The Yuba Mundo Cargo Bike

We did it. We’re a cargo biking family as of a month ago!

For many years I have watched and read wistfully about families using cargo bikes for most of their transportation. It looked like so much fun and the health, environmental and financial benefits were compelling. Stacy over at A Simple Six was the first person I stumbled upon who was moving her large family around by bike. They went ‘car lite’ five years ago and go by bike as much as possible. I was impressed and inspired. Cargo biking with my children seemed like an ideal way to get around because a) I don’t like driving, b) Vancouver has a growing network of bike paths and bike lanes and c) cycling would allow us to go places that are too far for us to walk. Also, d) it looks really fun!

But I also had some hesitations about cargo biking. Could I really do this? I’m a former athlete but I’m not naturally athletic. I don’t pick up new sports or movements easily. Also could I find a cargo bike that all three kids could fit on that would also fit in my condominium bike room. The bike parking stalls are small and you have to exit bikes through two doors and up a fairly steep ramp. I wasn’t sure a cargo bike could fit through the doors, in a bike parking stall or easily go up the exit ramp.

Am I strong enough to pedal my three kids around on a bike? Okay, I was once an athlete but in this current stage of life I’m far, far away from my past career as a rower. Actually right when I was in the process of getting my cargo bike I tore a muscle in my calf and had to stop running. When the bike arrived I had lost a lot of my cardiovascular fitness. Here’s another concern: I’m a big person. Cycling is all about power vs. weight. My fitness wasn’t great and I was going to haul myself, the bike and my kids up a hill? I was intimidated. Intimidated and my husband thought I was a bit crazy.

Can I navigate the streets with my kids on board a cargo bike? I did have some experience road cycling pre-children but it felt like a lifetime ago. I sold my road bike when I was very pregnant with my oldest son seven years ago. Since then I’ve been on a bike exactly once when we rented bikes and I hauled our younger two in a trailer. I went through the archives of Stacy’s blog and took a lot of comfort in her candid posts about her first rides with her cargo bike: yes, it took some getting used to but she was quickly able to ride with several children on board. Also comforting to read: Stacy hatched her plan family biking and going car lite and she hadn’t been on a bike in ten years! This is exactly the kind of blind faith success story I was looking for.

It’s been a month since we got the bike and I’m happy to say yes I am strong enough (and getting stronger!) and yes I can navigate city streets with kids on board. I slowly built up to riding with more weight on the bike and if my three year old will finally get on the bike for more than a photo (he’s our stubborn one!) I’ll be riding with all three on board this summer. I’ll be sharing more about getting started and using our bike but for now, here’s more about our awesome orange family hauler:

Our new minivan bike is a Yuba Mundo 21 LUX.

It can carry up to four small children and has a hauling capacity of 440 lbs. We’ve kitted it out with a Yepp Maxi Easy Fit seat for the baby, soft spot and monkey bars for our older two, a bread basket on the front that can carry up to 50 lbs and one Go Getter pannier bag with an 85 liter capacity. This thing truly is a minivan on two wheels.

Awesome things about our Yuba Mundo cargo bike:

  • it fits in our bike parking! A cargo bike with a box on it would be too wide and long for our bike parking but this long tail fits in nicely.
  • it rides like a regular bike. It has a mechanism called a ‘deflopilator’ that makes the steering heavier to compensate for the weight on the back of the bike. The deflopilator is a must in my opinion – I have ridden the bike with and without this small piece added and it was night and day. It takes some miles to get used to riding a bike with that much weight but after a few rides I was up to riding with two kids (50 + 30lbs) and another 30lbs of gear.
  • it is incredibly fun. Here’s a little video below of two of my boys on the back enjoying themselves. What you can’t see is the grin on my face.
  • this bike could help us become car free again. In the next 1-2 years some things will change for our family – school location, smaller car seats – and with the Yuba Mundo cargo bike, walking, transit and car-sharing we could once again be car free!
  • the Yuba Mundo is an affordable cargo bike. Bigger box style cargo bikes can be in the $6000+ range. A long tail Yuba cargo bike starts as low was $1000.

More to come on cargo biking! If you have any specific questions or photos/videos you would like to see of the bike in action please let me know.

 

Leaving Minimalism

The title Minimalist Mom isn’t that accurate for me. If you’ve read a few posts here you’ll know that I aim for less and what we can live comfortably with rather than a rigid goal of a handful of possessions.

I chose the name while in a burst of zeal for the idea of what Minimalism could give me. I was excited, hopeful and had grand dreams of sparsely furnished rooms and a wardrobe that could fit in a small carry-on suitcase. After many rounds of decluttering I’ve found that the things my family want in our home, the things we use, is often in flux. I’ve found that I’m not interested in counting our possessions or living a nomadic lifestyle. I am interested in the space, time and money having less can give me and my family.

I’m not really a minimalist. We have a television, my son has a push bike he has yet to master and I recently bought a blender and a crock pot.

While I’m not a true minimalist I’m still fascinated by the idea of fewer possessions and the many returns from living with less. That’s why I keep writing here. That’s why I deliberate a lot longer on purchases than I used to. That’s why I have just two pairs of jeans, why we don’t have a car and why I keep a pretty sparse pantry. I like what having less gives me.

Friends Saying Goodbye to Minimalism.

Recently two of my blogging friends have discussed why minimalism is no longer right for them.

Rayna, a contributing writer to Frugal Mama, wrote about shutting down her blog The Suburban Minimalist almost a year ago. Embracing the movement had been positive at first and then lead her to a place she wasn’t comfortable or happy with.

 I’d learned the hard way that although there’s much to be said for living with (much) less than the average American, there are also quite a few things to be said for creature comforts and man-made beauty. Fluffy towels and familiar mugs sweeten our daily rituals. A closet with enough flattering choices makes me feel feminine and confident on the days I’m just not. – Rayna St. Pierre

Her new blog, Bright Copper Kettles, explores simplicity, design and the small things that make her life wonderful. It’s a nice read and I recommend popping in particularly for her links round up. Rayna has a great eye for articles and design that will inspire you to find more beauty in your life without making you feel bad about your living room that is covered in children’s toys or that you have yet to replace the glass on a picture frame that broke three months ago (guilty).

Faith started writing at MinimalistMoms around the same time I started this blog. Later she moved to MinimalistatHome and has written several e-books on minimalism and families. Recently she decided to move her writing away from minimalism.

… it became harder and harder to write a “minimalist” blog after two years. I’ve grown tired of wondering if what I have to say is minimalist enough or even if I am minimalist enough.. – Faith Janes

Faith’s new home online for living with less is a digital magazine called Simplify that launches October 1st. You can sign up to receive the first edition here.

Still Sticking With The M Word

I’ll still be here writing about my own brand of minimalism, the challenges of living counter-culturally and if I really needed that crock pot or blender.

While the term minimalism sounds extreme I think there is a lot to glean from the movement for even non-radical folk like myself. I like the discussion here about how to live with less, the benefits of it and how to go about it happily in a world that doesn’t support slow and simple living.

Real Simple magazine always told me that it was ‘life made easier, every day’ but I found that when I read it, I hated my home and felt the pressure to buy a lot of baskets and label makers and organize instead of truly simplify. I used to flip through those glossy pages and tell myself that I’d have a show worthy home if I just tried harder and made bread from scratch and a jar of lemon curd for an Amalfi Coast inspired luncheon replete with Limoncello ordered direct from Sorrento, Italy.

Life wasn’t made easier. Life was harder and the expectations bigger in ways that just made me tired. I had zero of the 20 must-have classic wardrobe staples for a woman in her 30’s. My vintage mason jar collection was nonexistent.

I wasn’t inspired by the supposed ease of this everyday beautiful simplicity. I was overwhelmed.

There is room in my life for beauty and minimalism. I keep fresh flowers on our kitchen window sill, not the dining room table, because that is where I enjoy them most. When I’m washing dishes I see my vase, sometimes it’s just a water glass, filled with the cheap and cheerful white carnations I buy myself or roses, a gift from a friend, and it’s enough for me.

Because I have less I appreciate what I do have more.

I’ll still be here writing about minimalism and how we’re making it work for us. With our roses on the window sill, our blender and even my expensive ballet flats that fell apart.

When the Simple Life Gets Complicated

Source: cspost.com via Kelly on Pinterest

 

I do love the Isle of Man.

I love this slice of small(er) town life. I love that the horse tram drivers always give us a wave if we’re walking on the Promenade and that we haven’t been asked to show our seasons pass in months. I love that it’s quiet and friendly and that people look familiar even if you’ve never met them.

One thing I don’t love about the Isle of Man is the recycling.

Vancouver spoiled me. Vancouver has convenient readily available recycling for both apartment and house dwellers. I could take all of my recycling to the waste disposal room in our condo building: paper, plastic, tin, cardboard.

We also had less to recycle in Vancouver because our food had less packaging on it. It might seem strange but it’s hard to find unpackaged produce here. I’m used to fruit and vegetables out in the open, you can smell and feel the oranges and kiwis and melon and you don’t have to put them in a plastic bag to be weighed.

Now most of our fruit and vegetables are packaged in plastic with best by dates printed on them.

We have more waste and fewer recycling options in the Isle of Man.

The new building we moved to has no recycling bins. None.

After some sleuthing I found nearby recycling options for glass, tin and gray card (light cardboard). Every other week I tie several bags of recycling to our stroller and get the job done.

After a lot of research I found out there is public recycling available for plastic, cardboard and clothing. The only snag is that the walk there is over an hour.

Not having a car can be inconvenient.

We like not having a car. It simplifies things for us. We can’t overload our schedule, we have to be deliberate in our planning and it saves us a lot of money.

Sometimes though, it makes life harder.

It would be a lot easier to have a car for my high maintenance recycling routine. Bundling a toddler, stroller and a few weeks worth of cardboard and plastic onto a bus, or out for a very long walk, is a lot of work.

Simple doesn’t always mean, perfect or easy. And sometimes it complicates things.

I’m not ready to give up recycling. I’m also not ready to buy a car to make it easier. So for now I’ll make do. And maybe write a letter or two asking for better recycling options in my area.

Anyone else made a choice for simplicity that complicated, or created more work, in another area of their life?

Take A Bow

 

A reader recently emailed me with her story of conquering debt and simplifying.

Over a year ago she and her husband were mulling over all the extras they would buy and do with an upcoming increase in income. It was regular stuff, stuff that I know well: renovations and vacations.

Then they found Dave Ramsey and this blog.

It changed everything.

Instead of buying more they took a step back and started giving things away. Instead of upgrading they made do, and enjoyed, all the things they already had.

They quickly paid off a big chunk of debt. Now they’re tackling their mortgage.

I love reading these stories from people that have decided to live differently.

Not move to a commune different or sell the house and buy an RV to travel the country different.

Just different from what their peers or their family or the spring ‘must-haves’ list from Lucky magazine are telling them is the normal way to live.

Spend less. Have less. Do more.

I’ve collected a little shout out list below of people deciding to live different.

Rachel’s Shout Out List

Little Green Village Made $946 in April turning clutter into cash.

The Minimalist Year Donated a car load of stuff including dozens of mini muffin cups for the mini muffin pan she never owned.

Rethinking The Dream Sold their big house and moved into a two bedroom apartment. Now they’re able to travel more and have more family time with a shorter commute.

Not Buying Anything Pony Rider sent me to this blog (thanks!). Radical living without buying anything except groceries and guitar strings and not selling anything. We’re not aiming for this style of living but I applaud their efforts.

las maison des minous is biking more and driving less.

Stacy is getting the word out about cycling as a family and all the great benefits to living car-lite.

Momma Jorje has been running Minimalist Monday since October. If you’re a blogger you can grab the Minimalist Monday badge and make it part of your weekly posting schedule.

Hugs and Strawberries ran Project Simplify in March. Great before and after photos.

Mama Loves Life is cutting her living space in half. This will allow her a lot of freedom financially. Bonus: less to clean.

Green Veggies is getting rid of things they don’t use. Love that they got rid of socks, not because there were holes in them, but because they just had too many.

Well done!

Anyone else making small changes?

Things I Bought That Were A Waste Of Money: 2001 VW Golf

Essentially unemployed? Great time to be shackled to a car lease.

Have you heard of writer Mindy Kaling’s blog Things I Bought That I Love? This is the Yin to the Yang of that blog. For another shopping mistake check out my terrible suede blazer purchase.

My intentions were innocent enough. I needed a car. I was trying to work full-time and get back into training for rowing. I needed a vehicle to get to the lake for early morning workouts. I had $2000 saved and I applied for a $6000 car loan. I figured I could get a decent used vehicle at this price.

My previous car experience was a few years driving the family kid’s car: a rusted out VW Rabbit that leaked when it rained. It rains a lot in Vancouver.

I knew very little about cars or how to buy them. Neither did my boyfriend. His previous car experience was leasing a new Honda that he eventually offloaded to his mother when the car payments were above his means.

After discussing it with my boyfriend (please note: this is not the man I married) he easily convinced me that used cars were a bad investment. I should lease something new. Something that was under warranty. He sweetened the deal by saying he would split the lease payments and insurance with me. The small catch was that his credit score wasn’t very good so I would need to apply for the financing myself and have the car in my name.

The warnings were all there. Boyfriend advising me to do something he himself had done that hadn’t turned out well. A verbal commitment to split the costs but we never hashed out the details on what we would do if we broke up. Boyfriend advising me to spend more than I could afford on my own.

Despite all the warning signs I leased the vehicle. I was blinded by the Volkswagen’s looks, the smooth ride and how fun it was to drive. At the time I could fit the costs of it, the 50% that was my share, into my budget. I could pay for it but I certainly couldn’t afford it. I was working full-time, making the minimum payments on my at the time $9000 student loan and had a couple thousand dollars in credit card debt (debt that was in the US – another story for another day).

A year after getting the car I moved to Victoria, BC and my boyfriend moved to Toronto. I became a full-time athlete, essentially unemployed, and I had the full lease payment and car insurance to pay on top of my living expenses.

Never buy a car with your boyfriend.

It was my mistake. I don’t blame the boyfriend. I signed the lease and I decided to go for new instead of something affordable that would be paid off in a couple of years.

But what a huge mistake. Eventually I was getting an athlete stipend to live off of and eventually my athlete income went up when I won a medal at the World Championships. Unfortunately that was after a few years of struggling and a lot of credit card debt. Leasing a car I could not afford was a big part of that debt.

I’m not alone in making this mistake. You wouldn’t believe how many women I know who have a similar story. A boyfriend convincing them to get a car they couldn’t afford, promising to assist with the costs and then the woman is stuck with car payments and insurance that she can’t afford. Seems to be a hallmark of women in their early 20’s. If I ever have a daughter she’ll be warned.

Cars are money pits.

Cars are not investments. They are finite. They have a life span and maintenance costs. They depreciate in value with age.

When I finally sold the vehicle a few months after buying it out of the lease I made back a little above the buy out cost. I had no car but a lot of debt from owning one.

Can you see why being car-free holds such an appeal for me?

Anyone else ever buy a car they couldn’t afford?

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