Guest post written by Sara Hastings-Simon, cargo biking mom extraordinaire!
The Babboe Carve Mountain is a tilting cargo trike with e-assist that can transport kids and/or massive amounts of stuff all over town.
I purchased and have owned the trike for 4 months and put around 600 km on it in this time. I ride it with my two kids (age 7) to school, activities, as well as on my own to work. Since owning the bike I’ve reduced my car use to 1-3 trips per week.
- Super stable and great for winter riding
- Carries A LOT
- E-assist will take you everywhere
- Locking tilt adds flexibility
- Price point
Where to Buy
- BikeBike Inc. in Calgary, Alberta
Super stable and great for winter riding
In high school physics we learned that 3 points makes a plane — the most stable stool has 3 legs and this trike is no different. I rode my kids on a midtail (Bike Friday Haul-a-Day) when they were younger and found as they got older (and heavier) it got more difficult to balance them on the bike. Moreover, I am a very cautious (read: anxious) winter biker, with or without the kids.
This trike solves that all: it feels SOLID. You can ride no handed, steer with your elbows, sit back and relax at red lights; I’ve managed to skid the back wheel a bit when going really fast over ice but never to the point of instability. No checking the frost bike report or cautiously steering over patches of ice. It’s not a requirement to have a trike to carry kids or ride in the snow/ice – I know many people who do it happily without issue – but if that isn’t you then a trike may be the answer, and if you are someone who tenses up and carries that anxiety in your neck and shoulders while riding then you will love the feeling of freedom and stability draining the stress from your shoulders, and they will thank you for buying this trike. I use it in the snow/ice even when I don’t have the kids.
One of the downsides I often heard about a trike is that feeling of leaning to the side when riding on a road or pathway that isn’t flat. It is indeed very distracting and somewhat uncomfortable at first because, normally, leaning to the side on a bike is a sign that things are about to go very wrong so your brain is constantly telling you, “danger”, and trying to fix it. The thing I didn’t expect is that 4 months in I realized one day that it no longer feels unnatural – in fact, I simply don’t notice it anymore! I presume after enough time one adjusts to it, your brain realises it’s not actually a sign of an impending crash, and as a result no longer worries about it (because you aren’t really leaning very far)! I can’t pinpoint when this happened but it certainly took some time (more like weeks/months than days), so it isn’t something you can get over during a test ride but it is good to be aware that the odd feeling should pass. I’ve heard similar experiences about learning to ride with linked steering.
The other good news is that it doesn’t mean you can’t ride a regular bike anymore – I alternate with my 2 wheeler without issue.
The other stability question that comes up with respect to trikes is steering around the corners. I find a wide corner turn (say a right turn when riding on a street) at around 15 kph isn’t an issue. Any faster or tighter and you will indeed risk tipping a trike over, so it depends on riding style and preference. With this trike the tilting mechanism can allow you to go faster than that (I haven’t pushed it to its limits there, but it certainly takes the corners as fast as I ever want to).
Carries A LOT
Related to the stability is the ability for the trike to carry almost everything. Multiple kids, groceries, adult children, basically whatever you throw at this trike it will take. The winter cover helps keep passengers (and things like takeout pizza) warm even when it’s cold outside.
One of my favourite things about the ability to carry a lot is how much more my kids ride their own bike as a result, counterintuitive as it may sound! Here is how it works: Because I know I can carry both my kids and at least one of their bikes I don’t hesitate to let them ride for trips even if they will only be riding for parts. The other day they ended up each doing 10 km on our 20 km round trip. I would NEVER have dared to propose they ride the whole thing (the following week they only were up for about 5 km each) but because of the flexibility for them to hitch a ride when they need it there is no reason not to try – and no need to deal with fighting/whining/etc. when someone gets tired – biking can be just the fun part.
Of course the trike can also carry non-people things. The cargo area does get pretty full with two 7 year olds so we added the back rack and baskets it is hard to think of much it couldn’t carry.
E-assist will take you everywhere
The carve mountain is equipped with a Yamaha mid-drive motor. Much has been written elsewhere about the many benefits of e-bikes so I won’t repeat that here. The motor is definitely enough to make it rideable but on the biggest hills you are still putting in a good amount of work/going slowly. The Carve also comes with a less powerful motor but if you will be going up major hills the Mountain version is likely worth it.
E-assist and cold temps
The mid-drive, as apparently happens with most brands, seems to get a bit glitchy if it is below -20 C. I think this is likely due to the grease starting to harden around that temp.
Locking tilt adds flexibility
One of the unique features of the Babboe carve is a tilting mechanism that locks. This is really the best of both worlds – unlike a standard trike the tilt allows the trike to lean around corners and ride more like a bike. But unlike some of the other trikes with tilt you can also lock the tilt so it rides like a trike with extra stability for very heavy loads/slow speeds. It is basically like owning two trikes in one (without having to find the space to store them both). Riding with the tilt “on” requires some practice before it feels completely natural, and is best at higher speeds and on pathways with a bit more space. The kids tilt in the bucket which they seem to find fun!
No getting around it, this is a big bike – which means it is heavy, takes up a fair amount of space, and may not fit on really tight pathways. I haven’t gotten stuck yet, even on some of the pathways with bollards, but it can be a tight squeeze. It is not the kind of bike you can bring inside a house or apartment to store and I do worry about getting stuck somewhere with a flat that is hard to change. Without the e-assist you have to be pretty strong to carry much additional weight or go up any hills but it is rideable in case you run out of charge.
I hesitate to put this here as on the one hand it reinforces the belief that a cargo bike/trike is an expensive luxury while a car is often seen as a necessity (even though the latter can easily cost 2-10 times more). But, on the other hand, it is true that this is an investment to make. As a car replacement it is a great deal and very capable, too. The tilting feature is nice to have but in my opinion not a necessity for all users – an electric trike without it might save you a bit of money.
Without any suspension your cargo gets the full brunt of any bumps in the pavement -– even relatively minor ones. Unlike a bakfiets the cargo area is directly over the wheels and I wonder if this makes the ride more bumpy than it would be in a two wheeler. With older kids it’s mostly a nuisance. We manage with a combination of trying to avoid bumps (at least on the two front wheels), warning them about bumps so they crouch down, and just going slowly when needed. I would be more hesitant about putting a really little baby in the box, though it seems Babboe does offer a carseat holder with suspension to help deal with this issue.
The trike has opened up winter biking for me and kept me biking around a big city with (slightly older) little kids. You can sit back and enjoy the view with no worries about staying upright.
I would fully recommend the Babboe Carve Mountain for anyone who wants to carry heavy kids or a lot of stuff and/or wants stability in ice and snow. It is certainly worth trying out a trike and see how you like it but remember that weird leaning feeling will eventually go away.
Sara Hastings-Simon is a mom of two and an enthusiastic (but not hard core) family cyclist. She can be found cycling in Calgary and working on policy questions in energy and cleantech across Alberta – sometimes at the same time. She can also be found at: @S_HastingsSimon