Recently my wife and I had the opportunity to test-ride a couple of Zigo Leaders at the NYC Summer Streets event. As a serious racer with 2 youngish children and a wife who is an average cyclist I’m always looking for opportunities to include the family in my sport. In the interest of disclosure I should mention that a long-time friend of mine (Marc) works for the company and asked that we accompany him on the Summer Streets ride. That said, our personal relationship had no bearing on what you’ll read below.
The Zigo Leader is a modular carrier bicycle that lets you ride with one or two children in a ChildPod. The pod acts as the front wheels (basically a reverse tricycle set-up). The modular aspect comes from the fact that you can detach the pod and use it as a double stroller, a jogger or even a traditional kid trailer. The jogger and trailer modes require the purchase of additional accessories.
A Brief History of Totting My Kids
Over the years I’ve had experience with a couple of different contraptions designed for hauling kids with a bike — rear-rack mounted child seat, a rear trailer attachment. The rear-rack seat is OK when your kids are small, but even then it tends to be a bit tippy and you have to look around behind you to check on your kid. You can mount the seats to your regular bike, but with the model I owned you had to have rack braze-ons. Since none of my race bikes had them the seat went on my wife’s MTB. Trailers are a nicer, more expensive option. I never owned a trailer, but borrowed one from a friend and towed the kids all over Block Island, RI a few years ago. The experience was pretty good, but I didn’t like it enough to purchase one.
Sizing up the Zigo
Before the Summer Streets ride I had only seen online pictures of the Zigo. Truth be told I was a little apprehensive. The whole thing just didn’t seem too slick. But when we arrived in SoHo to meet up with Marc I was pleasantly surprised. The bikes were actually rather cool and the setup was easy. The ChildPod takes shape through a siple series of unfolds and clicks — sort of like a regular stroller, but on a larger, more rugged scale. The Pod attaches to the bike via what Zigo calls the Leader Link. Basically two large, easy-to-manipulate knobs that, when tightened, secure the ChildPod to the bike part of the Zigo. I’m pretty ham-fisted when it comes to things like this, but it was simple enough that once I saw Marc do it once I had no problem operating it myself. Now we were ready to load up the kids. My son (5-years-old) hopped in, buckled the 5 point harness and was ready to go. My daughter is 7 and quite tall — she had a tougher time. She couldn’t really get under the harness and spent much of the day w/ her legs hanging out the front. Can’t really call this a flaw w/ the Zigo just a simple statement of fact that there is an upper limit for height. All that said there wasn’t any complaining from her about being uncomfortable. As for my fit the height-adjustable seat (via a standard quick release) was fine. I’m 6’1″ and still had plenty of post in the seat tube.
Let’s get something straight about the Zigo — it’s a bike designed to carry your kids. It is NOT nor does it claim to be a race bike or even an everyday road or mtn. bike. The riding position is pretty upright, which for most casual riders is rather comfortable. To a racer it feels hokey at first, but you don’t really notice after a minute or two. The shifting on the Zigo is handled by a Sutrmey-Archer 3-speed internal hub. I’ve had no experience with these type of hubs before, and was curious to see how they worked. The shifting was pretty quick and smooth, but the 3 speeds just aren’t enough. I think even the casual rider would find it limiting. The low isn’t low enough (my wife had to really work hard up the one or two steep-ish hills on our route) and the high gear often left me spinning like crazy. For most bike paths I think this gearing would probably be fine, but if you have many ups or downs you’ll be looking for more gears. Luckily the folks at Zigo tell me that the next generation of the bikes will feature a 7-speed internal which should help things out a lot.
The steering on the Zigo feels a bit heavy since you have the ChildPod right in front of the handlebars, but the heaviness actually works to your advantage in that the ride is very stable and steady. On a few quick downhill sections I appreciated the heavy feel at the handlebars in that there was no hint of speed-wobbles. That steadiness is also an asset when you come to a stop. Due to the 3-wheel configuration there’s no need to put your feet down when you slow or come to a stop. This is a real advantage over the rear-rack carriers which require you think ahead as you slow down due to their top-heavy nature. My wife actually toppled over once at a traffic light with our daughter in the rear carrier. Nobody was hurt, but it was sort of scary. The stopping duties on the Zigo are handled by drum brakes in the front and rear wheels. The lever feel is light and the brakes to a fine job of stopping the bike.
In short, a fun day was had by all. Although I initially had my doubts a day spent on the Zigo was a good time. As a serious racer I sometimes lose sight of the simple pleasure of a bike ride with the family and friends. Since my kids are both riding 2-wheelers a Zigo probably won’t find a place in my garage, but if I had younger children a Zigo would be high on my list. At $1349 it’s not inexpensive, but when you take into account that the Zigo is a bicycle, a stroller, a jogger (with a $70 accessory), or trailer for any adult bicycle (a $75 accessory), the price seems much more reasonable. My advice is to visit a Zigo dealer and take a ride to see if it’s right for you and your family — I think you’ll be impressed.