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Getting around Bristol: my experience of hiring an electric bike + kids bike trailer

 

It was pretty tricky being an intermediary between Bristol Council and Kids Bike Trailers. Bristol Council initially said it wasn’t possible to connect a trailer to the bike and wouldn’t tell me what bike they were giving me or the spec of the bike. Kids Bike Trailers were really helpful (as were lots of people on this group and Bristol Bicycles who I phoned for advice). Essentially you just have to tell Kids Bike Trailers the specs of the bike and they will send you the right connecting bits.

Connecting: The super lush staff in Bristol Bicycles were so helpful and kind. Gutted to hear the shop has closed. Massive shout out to Colin who went really out of his way to help me. I took the bike (which was an old Bristol Bicycles bike) into the shop with the connecting bit of the trailer and Colin fitted it for me for free and adjusted the height of the saddle etc etc. Gold stars all round, so kind and generous. In retrospect I could have fitted the trailer easily myself. Just needed a 19mm spanner: Undo the nut on the wheel, connect the trailer, put the nut back on. Good to go. But it was very reassuring to have someone do it for me as it wasn't something I'd ever done before.

I found the trailer (a single Burley Bee) very easy to handle and a very smooth ride. I expected it to be cumbersome, like driving a car towing a caravan but it really wasn’t. Easy to tow. Easy to go round corners etc. Just had to be slightly more mindful of width, that’s all.

My daughter (aged 7) absolutely LOVED being in the trailer and cried and pined when it had to go back. She found it like her own personal taxi. She rushed to get into it every time. Very excited. Got all cosied up with a blanket tucked around her and she LOVED putting all her snacks in the integral pockets and settling in all snug. She simply adored it and was so happy to get in. Just absolutely proud to be in it and chuffed about the whole thing.

The trailer was in mint condition. Looked new out of the box. Very easy and intuitive to assemble. Quick release wheels just pop on and off. Whole thing pops up within seconds. Looked to me to be sturdy, reliable and well-made. I appreciated the big storage space on the back of the trailer and was able to stuff school and work bags, laptop, scooter, coats, shoes etc etc in there with ease and seal it all in securely with the velcro. Came with a waterproof rain cover to keep my daughter dry which was very appreciated. Also supplied: back light and flag.

 

Slight downsides: The length of the whole thing. Tricky going in and out of some park entrances in Stoke Park and Eastville Park. Basically places where there are (rightly) barriers to prevent motorbikes. I had to get off the bike and manually lift and drag the trailer through. I wasn’t always able to hold onto the bike and the trailer at the same time whilst doing this and several times the bike toppled over as a result (but not the trailer). Not able to go on the train from Stapleton Road to Redland as it was so long (got told off for wedging it on the train! Rightly so!) When locking it in cycle racks it was also so long that it either stuck out massively or I dragged it round into a curve and it blocked the next cycle bay.

Overall I’m less keen on trailers than something like a long-tail cargo bike or a cargo bike with a box on the front. I just feel like you are putting a lot of trust into other road users not to plough into the trailer. And it’s disconcerting not being able to see the trailer. If I was on a quieter/safer route I would be less worried, but the route I was on wasn’t very pleasant. (This is part of my extended and constant rant about cycling in Bristol vs cycling in London. Which is that road users are less aware of cyclists, there are not as many dedicated cycle lanes on the roads, there are fewer parking permits which means narrow roads with cars parked all the way along both sides - very hazardous, the dual-use cycle paths are a nightmare with MAMILS hurtling along at 40mph as well as dogs, toddlers etc etc. Rant, rant.)

Also being completely honest the bike was pretty knackered. Gears were shot and crunched and got stuck, and also the left hand gear lever was so hard to move I had to use both hands to move it (or practically dislocate my thumb). Also it only had two gear positions available on the left hand lever, and it should have had three (so only 16 gears available instead of 24). Battery was shot and had to be charged every evening as it went right down to nothing over the course of the day (never ran out completely though). Going up any kind of big incline zapped the battery pretty quick. Saddle was extremely uncomfortable! BUT having said all that, the electric motor still worked well and did what it needed to. And having any kind of electric-assist was an absolute life-changer, and 24 gears not necessary. Also because it was old and knackered I wasn't worried about bashing it around!

So overall I would say this is a very good, cheap interim solution if you need to carry an older child (or any child for that matter) for a week or two across Bristol up and down hills.

I don’t drive and my other half was away for 10 days and I had to do the school drop off and pick up (Fishponds to Redland) and this was a really good work around for us.

 

Blog written by Katie Darling from Bristol

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