Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Tale of a Midtail Cruiser

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Traveling through the suburbs last week, I suddenly spotted something green and curvy zipping toward me on the opposite side of the road. It was a Yuba Boda Boda cargo bike - not a common sight around these parts. The woman astride it looked happy and carefree. As we passed each other, both of us waved with the zeal of true bicycle obsessionists, and yelled hello. I then spent the rest of the morning wondering who this mysterious woman was and how I could get a better look at her bike. But I didn't have to wonder long. Having recognised me, she soon got in touch and we arranged to meet up.

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Josette is a local cyclist and mother of two boys, ages 6 and 3. She lives in a hilly outer suburb of Boston and works in a neighboring, equally hilly suburb. Her typical daily commute involves taking her younger son to preschool, as well as cycling to and from work, for a total of 13 miles plus errands. Josette got back into cycling as an adult a few years ago, and has since owned a couple of bikes, including a modern hybrid and a vintage English 3-speed. She now wanted a cargo bike that was both easy to ride and could handle two children. She tried several cargo bikes, before settling on the Boda Boda - a new "midtail cruiser" model from the California-based Yuba: The Boda felt easier to manage than full sized longtails, and the handling felt more intuitive than that of the Dutch bakfiets. Josette purchased the bike at Ferris Wheels in Jamaica Plain (Boston) and has been riding it since October. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Yuba refers to the Boda Boda as a "cargo cruiser." Named after African bicycle taxis, this model was created in response to requests for a shorter wheelbase, lighter weight and lower stepover. On top of that, it promises casual handling combined with the ability to tackle hills. Featuring an aluminum frame, 26" wheels, fat tires, swept-back handlebars and 8-speed derailleur gearing, the Boda weighs 35lbs and is rated to carry over 200lb. There are two versions of this model: the Step-Through, shown here, is smaller in size and features a lower stepover. The base retail price is $999. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
The midtail rear end of the Boda features an integrated rack with a bamboo platform and an optional "Soft Spot" pillow - handy for ensuring passengers have a comfortable ride. Josette personalised hers with a custom crocheted cover, which gives a charming and unique look to the whole setup. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
The platform as shown here can fit both of Josette's children. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Although I only met her younger son, this picture illustrates how both boys fit on the bike. Josette's blog post on riding with kids provides more details about her experience. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
The "apehanger" style handlebars in the rear were an aftermarket addition, as Yuba's standard "Hold On Bars" did not work here. The main issue was that, given Josette's saddle height and the height of the rear rack, there was no way to install Yuba's standard handlebars so that they'd reach above the rack. In addition, the wider and more swept back apehanger bars make for a more accommodating and comfortable position for Josette's boys. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
The Boda's rear rack height is an interesting topic. You can't quite see this in my pictures because the bags cover it up, but the Boda's rack platform sits unusually high. This is because the e-assist version of the Boda (aka the El Boda), has its battery stored underneath it. Josette's feedback is that the extra height of the rack feels suboptimal, both as far as weight distribution when carrying passengers and cargo upon it, and as far as saddle height adjustment. For example, very short riders may have difficulty moving the saddle all the way down despite the extra seatpost showing, because at some point the saddle will start to interfere with the rack. Also, because the handlebars had to be threaded through the rack, I was not able to raise the saddle to my optimal height when test riding this bike. Despite the quick release skewer, the setup shown here cannot be easily shared between persons of different heights.

This issue aside, the owner is happy with the carry capacity the Boda affords. In addition to allowing her to carry two children on top of the platform, each side of the rack accepts two full-sized panniers, or Yuba's own "Baguette Cargo Bag" (The orange bag pictured is a pannier hybrid bag from Vaya, made in NYC). The front "Bread Basket," rated to carry 50lb of weight, can be purchased for even more carry capacity. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
The Boda Boda comes standard with swept back Dutch stye handlebars, cork grips, city brake levers, and painted bell,

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
26" wheels and wide, cushy cream tires,

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
platform pedals,

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
and a minimalist chainguards. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Fenders and a double-legged kickstand were added as accessories, as was dynamo lighting front and rear, and the front wheel "Deflopilator" stabiliser. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
I took the Boda Boda out for a quick spin. Though Josette graciously offered to lend me her son, I did not feel comfortable with that plan, and just rode the bike with 3 panniers on the rear. Mostly I was interested in the feel and handling, so I did a short loop that involved a local hill. 

This bike is a little strange to describe. If you've ever ridden a Northern European hybrid circa the mid-2000s (à la this), the position the Boda puts you in is very similar. The closest non-obscure equivalent I can reference is maybe the Breezer Uptown, but it's really closer to the European bikes. Mounting and dismounting, the stepover was indeed very low. There was no toe overlap with the front wheel when turning, although it was surprisingly close; not much clearance. Yuba does not provide geometry charts, but the cockpit area felt extremely compact, and there was something about the position of my butt in relation to the pedals (or saddle in relation to the bottom bracket, if you will) that I associate with a particular type of hybrid or cruiser type bike.  At the same time, I have to admit that the Boda felt light and speedy. And the low gearing allowed me to pedal it up a major hill without having to dismount (Josette tackles that same hill on a daily basis, and only has to dismount when both kids are on the back of the bike). The ride quality over potholes was nice and cushy.

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
In essence, my first impression is that the Boda Boda is what it claims to be: a cargo cruiser with easy handling that is ridable in hilly areas. 

Considering my recent test rides of the Xtracycle Radish, a comparison of the two is probably in order. The obvious difference is that the Boda is shorter and a bit lighter. This will make it more manageable for those who consider full longtail bikes unwieldy, but at the expense of giving up load capacity. The Boda has a somewhat lower stepover, which makes it easier to mount and dismount. As far as fit and handling, I prefer the Radish, simply because it feels more natural and intuitive for my style of riding. Others might feel differently. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
Having ridden the Boda on a more or less daily basis since October, the owner is pretty well used to it and enjoys the freedom of mobility it's given her. 

Josette's Yuba Boda Boda
With her boys and without, Josette has ridden the Boda in all sorts of weather, though overnight she keeps it in her garage and during the day at the bike parking facility in the basement at her work. The bike has served her well in the course of daily use. Some words of criticism include the rear rack height, the delay with receiving some of the accessories (she is still waiting for the Bread Basket), and the fact that the price of each accessory adds up to make the true price of the bike, once it's fully equipped for commuting, nearly double the stated MSRP. Still, 3 months down the road Josette is pleased with her decision to choose the Boda over other cargo bikes. It suits her riding style and her lifestyle. 

52 comments:

  1. Congrats on getting by w/o a car and with two boys to boot! Kudos! The smile says it all as you seem to enjoy this bike and the ways in which it allows you navigate your day. My solution was a bit different but we all have our own ways. Fast forward and both my boys are riding their bikes to work and me too:)

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  2. This looks like a really interesting design. A few compromises over a long-tail, but possibly much more useful in the city. I really like how the ape-hangars were mounted through the rack to accommodate seat height and passenger reach. Real good thinking on that set up!

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  3. Attention please: this is, once again, a center of gravity discussion. Consideration of normal bike geo partially applicable here. Which part few know.

    I think the height of the rear rack is ludicrous.

    I've picked up both bikes (ridden them too) - I think they're about the same weight; it's the length and CoG that're different.

    The Radish was set up diff from this.

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    1. The weight feels the same to me too, but the Boda is described as 35lb vs 43lb for the Radish. I am guessing this is because the Boda is weighed without any of the accessories, whereas the Radish with.

      I am trying to learn more about center of gravity before commenting on it. BB height is a current obsession.

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    2. Oh no! Important note: BB height isn't really relevant wrt frame design. BB drop is.

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    3. I was wondering if BB height was the same thing as BB drop...

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    4. BB height is the distance from the ground to the BB, with tires inflated. BB drop is the (vertical) distance from tip of the chainstay to BB (like so). They are related of course.

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    5. GR Jim - I want to keep the comments here non-eyeboggling for those who want to read about this nice easy bike, but a center of gravity discussion including the BB drop/height thing is long overdue. Maybe a separate post, or VSalon.

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    6. Yup, I know this...Just wondering how you were using the term.

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    7. Technically, BB drop is the distance between the BB height and the axles' height. And, while I do agree that BB drop is far more important than BB height in terms of handling/CoG, I disagree that BB height is irrelevant in regards to frame design; BB clearance is a huge concern off-road. Consider early 29r bikes: Fans loved what the BB drop did for CoG and handling, but critics didn't like the lack of clearance due to the low BB. The wheels rolled over obstacles better, but the rings had less clearance while hopping logs.

      This bike, the BodaBoda, seems like a form-over-function version of a cargo bike. Thankfully, it has retained enough function to be useful to some riders, and I'm guessing the aesthetics appeal to certain demographics better than the Mundo.

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    8. I want to keep the comments here non-eyeboggling for those who want to read about this nice easy bike, but a center of gravity discussion including the BB drop/height thing is long overdue'

      Yes.

      Fundamentally it is a nice, easy to ride bike... unless laden with a child while running.

      Its difficult to draw proper conclusions about the bike within a limited context.

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  4. The boy seems very engaged with the process. Far more intellectually stimulating than being strapped into a car seat watching dvds.

    Does the older boy's bike trailer attach to the rack?

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    1. The older boy either rides his own bike (that's a bike, not a trailer, attached to the rack in one of the last pictures) or sits on the platform, behind the younger one.

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  5. The rack looks like it's up high so that folks can ride on the back. I love doubling my friends on my bike... I'm a big fella and have carried a few inebriated friends home on my rear rack. Drunks are best instructed to hug the rider but sober people I find are easier to carry if they sit "side-saddle" with both legs over the left side instead of straddling the rack like it's a horse.

    This ride looks pretty sweet... love those fat 26" tires too; are they delta cruisers?

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    1. The tires are something by Kenda, 26"x1.95"

      "it's up high so that folks can ride on the back"

      Do you mean so that their legs will fit? Still not enough space for that; an adult passenger has to bend their knees quite a bit. The height is definitely an outcome of having to fit the battery on the e-version.

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  6. Speaking of bread baskets, among other unique products Velo-Orange sold in its formative years were these made by an family in rural Minnesota:

    http://photos1.blogger.com/x/blogger/7618/732/1600/501947/DSC00044.jpg

    Apparently getting a delivery truck to the family farm was an issue so VO had to drop them. Owe myself a big boot in the hiney for not having bought one when available.

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    1. I would really, really like to find a rectangular basket with a securely closing lid. Basil sells one similar to this now, but the rep has told me in the EU only.

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  7. Hi, Boda Boda owner here! It was fun and gratifying to meet Lovely Bicycle, whom I had been admiring online for many months. :) I just wanted to add that in terms of comparing the Xtracycle Radish to the Yuba Boda Boda, I wish I'd had the chance to do that when I was doing all my researching and test riding last summer. Ferris Wheels in JP is an Xtracycle dealer, but the salespeople there specifically told me that they did not recommend the Radish, and no other shops in the area had one, either. I did try a friend's Free Radical setup (the Xtracycle attachment that can go on most donor bikes) and found it too "flexy" for me with both kids on the rear. It was a tough decision -- I really agonized over which bike to buy!

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    1. So weird. I've heard from others whom the same bike shop has steered away from the Radish in the past, which could explain why Xtracycles earlier told me that these models "do not sell well in Boston." Colour me confused. Of course they won't sell if the bike shop that is your sole dealer is not behind the product.

      I've now pestered Harris Cyclery into carrying the Radish and becoming an Xtra dealer, and I hope more folks will come and try it.

      That is not to say that I am promoting it over the Yuba. The more options the better.

      What impresses me about the Boda is how many women who are otherwise not into cargo bikes find them accessible and easy to ride. 2 kids + groceries on a bike up hills is no joke. If a cute curly-cue "cruiser" can do that, kudos.

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    2. The cute factor and swoopy lines. The latter help make saddle adjustment and stoker bar fitment at odds to the bike's intended purpose.

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    3. Josette, Congrats on your Boda Boda! I'm happy to see another one in use in New England. The ape-hangers are a nice solution for the kids. I did a twice-reversed (backward and upside-down) drop-bar install for a similar fitment challenge on a Yuba. If you are still looking for a bread basket, I have a new one in stock in Hartford. I'm listed on the Yuba site. Cheers!

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    4. @Josette-- My family owns a Radish (2010) and a Boda Boda. We are quite pleased with both bikes. Gotta say that I am really surprised to hear that your local bike shop folks (& Xtra dealer!!!) recommended against the Radish as it has served us well for multiple years. However, we are really excited about the Boda Boda as well...

      @Daily Rider Chris-- Riding a Boda Boda here in New Haven, not too far away from you.

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    5. I've called Ferris 3 times, all times rudely treated. Once I heard the same guy be very accommodating to the woman in the background.


      It doesn't surprise me at all.

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  8. Looks like an awesome bike! You ladies are so lucky to have both Xtracycle and Yuba to choose from. I am trying to decide between them and will have to order on faith. These detailed reviews are a big help.

    The crochet pillow is beyond words! But I followed your link and I only see skirt guards. Sold out?

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    1. Maybe Josette can provide more details, but I believe she ordered dressguards from the seller and asked for a pillow cover to match, supplying her with the pillow dimensions. In the end she decided not to use the dressguards, since the wheels are covered at all times by large bags.

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    2. The seller on Etsy does custom stuff. I provided the color palette and asked her to make me matching skirt guards, pillow with velcro straps, and basket liner -- I just haven't put the skirt guards on yet, and I'm still waiting for the basket to arrive from Yuba.

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    3. Thanks Josette and Velouria!

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  9. Thank you for featuring biking with kids! As a mom, this is the one topic I find lacking in your otherwise excellent blog.

    Looking forward to more family profiles!

    Liesl

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    1. Thanks Liesl ...But, as a non-mom, I do not feel that I can write authentically about cycling with children. So, while occasionally you might see posts like this one here, I have no plans for a series of family profiles. I suggest other sources on the topic, including Totcycle and Carfree with Kids.

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  10. The Boda Boda looks great, and I love that cushion on the rear rack! Double MSRP after fully equipping the bike sounds crazy, but if it's the right bike, I'm sure it's all worth it in the end.

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    1. The MSRP is pretty much for a "naked" bike. No fenders, no double kickstand, no cargo bags, no wheel stabiliser, no pillow, no passenger bars, no lights... you get the idea. Of course the final price depends on how the owner wants to equip the bike, but I would guess that few if any people out there are riding $999 Bodas.

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  11. We've had our Tern Cargo Joe/xtracycle since Christmas and have enjoyed it with a 5 year-old on the back. We're still waiting for the Hooptie rear cage. For the price ($1k) and convenience, it's worth a look for kid carriers.

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  12. Just a note - the Radish is great for one kid sat right behind mommy or daddy. Two if placed properly.

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  13. The Yuba Boda Boda and the Xtracycle Radish are nice looking bicycles. What I don't like about these bicycles is that they are fitted with rim brakes instead of drum brakes. Rim brakes are less safe than drum brakes in general, and even more so on bikes designed for carrying heavy loads, children or pets. It looks like riding the Boda Boda or the Radish in bad weather or on bad roads could be risky because of this.

    Wim

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    1. When I rode the Radish in snow, the v-brakes worked fine. I like drum brakes on a city bike for all weather riding, but some complain of limited stopping power, especially with a heavy load.

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    2. For very heavy loads, a lot of downhills, or a lot of riding in the rain, I would recommend disk (not drum) brakes.

      However, kids are actually not a particularly heavy load and I've found rim brakes to be adequate (if not ideal) for all my longtail usage. Commonsense about riding style is important when carrying children and heavy loads regardless of equipment.

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  14. Would you find it obnoxious if it were pointed out that Jossette's manor of carrying her son is not in compliance with the Mass. law?
    If you would, I won't do so.

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    1. [If this turns into a flame war I'll delete the whole thing, but hopefully that won't be necessary.]

      I believe the mother is aware. As I understand the law, this will only hold true for another few months. Age limits are arbitrary and an individual child's maturity comes into play in these situations.

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    2. John Alan has a series of articles on the randomness of child passenger prohibitions that may be of interest:

      http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=2149
      http://john-s-allen.com/blog/?p=4032

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    3. The younger child is 3, but he weighs about 40 pounds and has no trouble holding on. (The law seems to say _either_ 4 years or 40 pounds.) Incidentally, I've passed by many a policeman on my commute and have only gotten friendly "hello"s and waves from them.

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    4. I love the Aspen barCan you tell me where you got it?

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  15. You and your son look like kick-ass riders on that awesome rig.

    Rim brakes, drum brakes, the curve of the tubes, none of that matters. What counts is that a bicycle has to look good and be fun to ride. Two check marks on this green monster.

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  16. Glad to see this early adopter of the car-lite lifestyle in the Northeast getting some attention. It would be great if Josette could provide a link to the Etsy seller so I could get some custom accessories for my bike too.

    I've tried the Boda and its a great bike for commuting - fast, light, lots of capacity - but after 4 years of owning a Mundo, I don't know if I'm ready to give up all that capacity.

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    1. The link was included in the post, but here it is again. Glad to know you are enjoying the Mundo.

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  17. The other advantage of a Boda is that is fits on a train bike rack--when you turn the front wheel around 180*, it's pretty much the same length as a regular bike.

    I have a Yuba Mundo, and an Xtracycle on a Cannondale MTB frame. The Xtra is definitely a more sprightly setup, but the Yuba is the family tank and pizza-carrier (we have a bread basket).

    One thing I don't like about my cargo bikes--used mainly for hauling groceries and children with their paraphernalia--is that the BB seems unnecessarily high off the ground. For my Xtracycle I understand why the BB is too high for my tastes, but why couldn't Yuba have lowered the BB an inch or two? My Mundo is as high as the MTB. Good grief, I'm hauling my children, not jumping over logs. I would like the whole thing a little closer to the ground so I'm not constantly hopping on and off the seat with 130 lbs of child weight wiggling and squirming behind me. (And no, I'm not so short--my inseam is 31.5".) In photos, I sometimes see people overcome this issue by lowering their seat, but that's evil on the knees.

    I find the rear rack on my Mundo too high also--it's just bad physics. One or two inches wouldn't much have hurt adults' ability to catch a ride, and would have only helped handling.

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    1. This is it. It is a design borne of someone who had not ridden it like this.

      I say drop the BB to 8cm drop, the rest follows.

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    2. The high BB is to maintain clearance with the long wheelbase. If you have ever seen a stretch limo or a lowboy tractor trailer "high-center" (get stuck) on a small slope or railroad crossing, that's probably the best analogy. A silver lining is that I have found that I can pedal through turns and corner fairly hard on my Mundo without fear of pedal strike. I have done a bit of off-roading with the Yuba, and the extra height has been handy for log clearance as well:)

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    3. This bike is for city-ish conveyance, not so much trials/woods riding.

      Pedal strike is an adaptive thing; one learns how to ride within the confines of the design.

      Ask me if I've ever high sided on a moto or in stupid crit catching a foot peg or pedal. Never blamed the bike, only my incompetence.

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    4. Mm. Gotta say my 7ft. Bike has never been'beached' despite single tracking.

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    5. I`ve used a longtail for many years and do not agree. Taking the bike up and down sidewalks and other uneven parts of the city for sure calls for extra BB height. I`ve had the bB scrape the pavement more than once. Most citys are not like a kitchen floor.
      badmother

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  18. I have a Boda Boda, and I don't notice much difference when carrying my 60 lb son on the back. Except a bit uphills. I have also taken his 90 lb friend home on the back. They didn't fit on the back together, but I think part of that was that they didn't want to get that close.

    However, a 32 lb bag of dog food on the back rack does create a noticeable drag. Placing the weight in the panniers (low) does not seem to create the same drag.

    The bike is a very comfortable ride for me as I was having a lot of hand and wrist pain, and I prefer to commute on the BB even when I don't have to pick up my son from afterschool care.

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  19. When my kids were this age I was not so much a bicycle enthusiast as much as anti car. It didn't matter what kind of bike I was riding just as long as it carried me and my kids to school/work and back. There are far more choices on the market today and for that I'm glad. Kudos!

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