The Van Andel heavy-duty frame-mounted front rack and Leco top-tube mounted kid’s seat were not particularly easy to fit but they have immensely increased the usefulness of the Africa bike.
The rack went on first, after removing the fork mounted rack which has been on the bike for the last few months. Heavy loads are more easily controlled when attached to the frame rather than the fork or handlebars. The first issue I encountered was the installation of the down tube mounted bracket. The Africa bike has a lovely curved down tube. The bracket is straight. Before I ordered the rack I’d had a good squint at a picture of it on the website of Practical Cycles and had figured that it would likely fit ok, and if it didn’t it would find a home elsewhere. In the event it went on with much fumbling and grumbling and the help of a few hammer blows to the clips which clamp it to the frame. The rack is designed to be removeable, two long prongs, plastic covered extensions two of the rack’s struts, slot into two tubes which form part of the bracket.
I’m guessing that some folk might like to swap the rack between bikes with the purchase of extra brackets. In use this removeability feature causes the rack to rattle over every imperfection in the road. And since it rests on the head tube (on my bike at least) it scratched the paint on the head tube within 100 metres. I’m not bothered about this, this is a utility bike after all, but it’s something to watch out for if you value your paint. But I do mind a rattle and it was easily silenced by strapping the rack to the bike with a toe strap (nb. There is a similar frame mounted rack available which attaches instead, without quick-release-ability, to the head-tube). In use it has transformed the bike. Front mounted loads no longer have any detrimental effect on the steering and the load capacity has increased substantially, so mission accomplished. It achieves precisely what I’d hoped it would.
My girlfriend’s boy Rufus is approaching his 4th birthday, until now he has been hauled around in a good old Burley trailer. The morning school run features a great volume of barely moving traffic heading in to York city centre. The Burley, useful though it is, doesn’t excel in this environment. It is a royal pain threading its wide track through the stationary cars lining the route, all you need is one schmuck to stop too near the kerb and you’re stuck, sometimes for an age. Hence my interest in the Leco top-tube mounted child seat, again from Practical cycles. The Leco was a proper fiddle to fit and, it appears, uses medieval agricultural machinery technology. The seat itself is a rather fetching black plastic number. A bracket with a welded-on seat-post stump bolts to the frame via a sheet of rubber strip, to which the seat, with a rudimentary back rest bolts to with a regular old school seat clamp.
I’m not looking for carbon fibre in a product at this end of the market but Jeebus. I’ve been to museums, I’ve seen how blacksmiths used to make things. Actually I reckon that a medieval blacksmith would have drilled the holes so that the supplied bolts could fit through them. No matter, I own a drill. High tech it isn’t. Getting the bracket tight enough to stop it moving on the frame required so much tightening of the bolts that the bracket itself bent. Hopefully it’ll stay tight in the long term but I anticipate that I’ll have to adapt it at some point (but actually, having used this product I’m almost inclined to strip the frame down, take it to the engineering shop down the road and have them simply weld a seat post stump to the top-tube).
In use this little seat is an absolute delight. Rufus and I went for a test ride around the block and we just laughed the whole way. Half way round he shouted; ‘That’s what I’m talking about babay!’ We can communicate easily and he can ring the bell and wave to people as we glide by. The back rest, which is also the mount for the ‘safety belt’ lasted only a few minutes before I took the hacksaw to it. It really got in Ru’s way when climbing on and off the bike. And actually if the worst happens and we do have a fall I don’t want him to be attached to the bike. He rests his feet on the new front rack and he’s big enough to hold on all the time. We love it.
We’ve been to school on it a couple of times and most evenings we pedal with his big sister Phoebe up the lane to feed the horses but the real test was last Sunday when we rode ten miles to a picnic spot and back. At the end of a very long day he was falling asleep and wanted to climb into his trailer but it was a total success and we got smiles and nice comments from people all day long.