The best and worst part about being a gearhead parent is that the minute you perfect your setup, your children grow out of it. Since my daughter was 6 months old, I’ve used a convertible bike trailer to cart her and her brother around our neighborhood. But now my 3-year-old and 5-year-old shriek and punch each other as I struggle to squeeze them into the trailer’s small seats.
It was time to upgrade our ride. I’ve consistently seen Bike Friday’s e-assisted Haul-A-Day on family bike forums being recommended for smaller parents. My interest was piqued.
Bike Friday is a Eugene, Oregon-based builder known for high-performance folding bikes. I’ve racked up about 45 miles of toting my kids on the Haul-A-Day. There are valid reasons this bike might not be for everyone, but so far it’s one of my favorite family rides. It doesn’t cost a fortune, and it offers exceptional value for the money.
Like all of Bike Friday’s models, the Haul-A-Day is made to order, so yours might vary a lot from what I requested. In general, the chromoly steel frame has a distinctive geometry, with 20-inch wheels and a low tube that runs from the head tube to the seat tube.
Basically, it looks like a folding bike, which got people very excited at the idea that I might be riding a folding, electric, two-kid cargo bike. I’m not. Sorry!
Bike Friday’s bikes do have a unique feature. The tube telescopes into itself, which lets you shorten the frame. It can accommodate riders as short as 4-foot-6, which is two inches shorter than the shortest rider that competitor Tern GSD can accommodate. At the shortest setting, the bike’s full length is 70 inches. Customers have fit it onto Thule and Yakima racks, but it’s not recommended. You can also disassemble it into two or three pieces for packing.
I should warn you that if you choose to tinker with the bike, you’ll need to be careful about tightening the bolts. I shortened my bike, lowered the seat post and handlebars, and strapped my kids on. I’d never known a bike to feel floppy around the middle before, and I had a very short, scary, squirrelly ride until the mechanics at my local shop identified the problem and tightened the bolts a little more.
Bike Friday sent me the complete package for young kids, with wrap bars on the rear rack, a cushion, footrests, a pannier, and a front rack with a basket. Complete with e-assist, the total came out to $3,361, which is a very decent price for an electric-assist cargo bike with all the accessories. Yes, there’s the RadWagon, which costs $1,499, but those seats, baskets, and wrap bars definitely add up.
On the Haul-A-Day, the Tongsheng e-assist system has a mid-drive motor with a simple handlebar console. While most affordable e-bikes have hub motors in the front or rear wheel, mid-drive motors—where the motor drives the bike via the chain drive—feel much more natural and balanced to me. But they require more maintenance.
The computer has four power levels, with a torque sensor in the crankset to calibrate how much assistance to offer depending on how hard you pedal. The 36-volt lithium battery didn’t offer as much power as some other systems I’ve tried, but it was more than sufficient to propel two kids, me, and baggage across roads on school pickups. And after 45 miles using the third or fourth assistance level, the battery is still at 50 percent.
It has the usual goodies, like disc brakes, smooth SRAM shifters, and flat handlebars.
When you bike, you see physics at work. Comfort, speed, stability, ease of use: You can have some of these things but not all at the same time. I prefer small bikes. They fit me better, and I find them more maneuverable. I’m not going to ride a bike if it’s a struggle to wrestle 70 awkward pounds through my front gate.
But smaller bikes aren’t as stable, which is a huge factor when you’re carrying cargo as precious and fragile as your own children. Even after I had the bolts tightened, I had one other scary incident with my kids. I decided to take them out to burgers for lunch, which requires biking through my neighborhood’s busy downtown. Distracted and hungry, I made a sharp S-turn on a crowded road.
The Haul-A-Day is rated to carry a rider of up to 220 pounds, while the rear rack is rated for 200 pounds. But each individual rider and their cargo can vary widely. The Haul-A-Day is very light and narrow—it weighs 44 pounds, compared with the Tern GSD’s 60 pounds. And unfortunately, my two kids, the Yepp seat, and their backpacks outweigh me. As I made the second turn, the bike and I weren’t heavy enough to compensate for the kids’ weight.
If my husband hadn’t been right behind me and grabbed the rack, we would’ve all fallen down. It’s worth noting that my husband outweighs me by about 60 pounds and pedaled the kids home with no problems.
Comfort and stability are reasons that most parents in my kids’ circle have picked a heavier and more stable bike, like the RadWagon. I feel more comfortable on bikes with a lower center of gravity, and I don’t have a problem with the Haul-A-Day on quiet residential roads. (I have opted to avoid the burger place for now.) But if our commute was longer, or passed through more crowded streets, I would probably opt for a heavier and more powerful bike.
For my family, the e-assisted Haul-A-Day is just the right solution, and I think the trade-offs Bike Friday has made in terms of weight and power have been good ones. Ultimately, though, my opinion isn’t the one that really matters. While writing this review, I asked my consultants if they liked being able to freely move their arms and legs while biking to and from school. “Yeah!” the 3-year-old shouted from his seat. “We go fast!”