The Thule Group of Sweden, a global giant well-known for bike racks and bike carriers, cargo carriers, and car carriers for snow sports and watersports, has announced that it is acquiring Chariot Carriers of Canada, maker of the Chariot Carrier brand of bike trailers. This is an enormous departure for Thule, which previously has made racks and such for carrying the more interesting products of other companies. According to the press release, this represents Thule’s increased focus on brand building and retail. Thule has some very well-known and successful business people on its board, and is controlled by Nordic Capital, an investment firm, so presumably they know what they are doing. However, on the surface, this seems to make about as much sense as Thule getting into the bike, kayak or ski business….or the business of any other product you can carry in or on a roof rack or cargo hitch. Certainly there are distribution synergies, as Chariot Carrier’s products and Thule’s are sold in similar channels, and certainly they both bend metal to make their products, but beyond that the match was not an obvious one (though granted, that the word “carrier” appears often in both companies products.) This likely represents just the first step in Thule diversifying away from it’s core carrier business and moving into first-hand active lifestyle products. Will this set off an acquisition spree for other active lifestyle brands, such as Burley and Zigo? If it does, it will be one more business niche that has lost its independent roots.
It seems that more manufacturers of bike baby seats are incorporating a forward-positioned design. What many parents seem to want is the ability to keep their kids close by and within eyesight. The Kangaroo Carrier by WeeRide accomplishes just this. With this design, the child sits between the rider and the handlebars, positioned in a way which is reminiscent of a Kangaroo mother and her baby joey. WeeRide says that this forward-mounted position, as opposed to the conventional rear-mounted baby bike seat, provides better weight distribution and an improved center of gravity. With the Kangaroo Carrier, the rider’s arms surround the child, assuming a natural and comfortable protective position. Not only does this position give more peace of mind to the driver, but it allows parent and child to experience the ride together. With rear-mounted seats, the child’s view would be obstructed by the rider’s back. The WeeRide Kangaroo Carrier can even accommodate a cushioned pedestal for the child to rest his head on when he gets sleepy, which is convenient for longer rides.
It should be noted however, that the WeeRide Kangaroo Carrier is an accessory, requires assembly and must be securely mounted to your bicycle. The WeeRide website says setup should only take ten minutes.
Potential limitations of the WeeRide Kangaroo baby bike seat, and other front-mounted baby bike seats are: there is not a lot of room between a rider and the handlebars, limiting the age/size of child that can be accommodated – they are best for children age 1 to 3; clearly you can only carry one child at a time in a forward-mounted baby bike seat (though you could carry a second on a rear-mounted seat); depending on the seat design it can interfere with your pedaling, as your knees may hit it - this can be especially uncomfortable for longer rides; the high center of gravity makes tipping an issue, especially when mounting and dismounting (i.e. you always need to keep a hand on the bike); loading and unloading a child can be especially challenging for smaller adults; and remember, while you are riding, if you fall over, the bike seat falls over. Although a child is in most ways more protected in the front position, it also means that the adult rider may land on top of the child in the event of a spill. An additional risk of a front-mounted seat is that an item dropped by the child can catch the front spokes, causing a head-first fall – so make sure your child does not carry anything while riding.
At $59.99, the WeeRide Kangaroo Carrier is definitely an item to consider. Though your kids will outgrow it a lot quicker than a bicycle trailer, such as those made by Burley or Chariot, or a Carrier Bike like the Zigo Leder or Taga Bike, it is a good entry point into family biking.