Family Biking – Transporting Big Bikes

This is part of a Guide to Family Biking. You can learn more about: 

Okay, you want to get a Family Bike – but how do you get it around? Many people opt for a family bike that can get most places on its own. See the E-assist section for more on electric family bikes. But some Family Bikes can go on transit, and that may be an important consideration. You may also want to know how to carry a larger and heavier bike with a vehicle, particularly if you need maintenance or don’t live close to a bike shop. All of these options are available!

Family Bikes on Transit

Buses and other transit can have designated areas or racks for bikes, but they also have rules and limitations to what they allow.

In the Pacific Northwest, Seattle’s King County Metro has several standardized bike racks on their buses, and they allow up to three standard-sized bicycles up to 55lbs. You can bring your bicycle along for no additional charge, as long as it meets the requirements, and the bus rack has room. This can preclude some Family Bikes and E-bikes, but if this is an important consideration there are smaller family bikes that will fit these requirements.

If you’d like to try out your bike, there are several Practice Racks around town so you can get the hang of things in a stress-free environment. You can find the “Practice Racks” link here.

Amtrak, Sounder trains, Link light rail, and the King County Water Taxi (foot ferries) often have similar limitations, but the larger car ferries can hold full-sized Family Bikes and Trailers. BoltBus has carried large bikes which fit in their cargo area, but we’d recommend preparing and arriving early!

Family Bikes on Cars

Some Family Bikes can fit on standard vehicle bike racks, but you’ll want to consider their weight and how you’ll load and unload them. Hitch-mounted racks will be more secure and will be able to hold more weight, and check if your vehicle can hold the size and weight of larger family or e-bikes. Vehicles which can handle 2″ hitches will be able to carry more than the 1 1/2″ hitches. Tray-style racks will make it easier to load bulkier bikes, and you’ll probably want to make sure Family Bikes with wider wheelbases will fit before buying a rack. Some racks are more adjustable than others. Some people use ramps to get their bikes up on the racks, or into vans or trucks. A trailer may even be a good option if you’re willing to deal with the extra challenge of pulling one.

Many U-Haul locations install hitches, and are a good budget choice. Shops such as Mann’s Welding can be pricier, but are also pros and do custom work.

Emergency Rescues

Family Bikes do break down, and – particularly if you don’t have a car – this can be a challenge. There are several options, however. Even some of the largest family bikes will fit in some minivans (particularly if the seats fold down) and in most truck beds. If you have a tow hitch, you can also rent a motorcycle trailer. You’ll want to secure the bike with bungees or rope so it doesn’t shift. There are also services available to pick up your bike for you.

Better World Club offers Bicycle Roadside Assistance, and in Seattle, Lowside Towing & Assistance (RIP😢) was experienced in rescuing stranded family bikes.