At Bunch Bikes, we believe that family biking is for everybody!
But sometimes your child's needs change as they grow. And some options, like full wheelchair access, are beyond what we can build in-house for now. That's parent ingenuity comes in!
Today we're proud to spotlight one amazing Bunch Squad family - and the awesome mod they built to carry their daughter's power wheelchair on board.
Leana and Andy joined the Bunch fam in spring 2022. Early on, they used the bike "as is" with their two kids, then 2 and 6. They had fun riding around with their friends, their Labrador retriever, and even Leana's mom in the passenger area together!
Living up in Minnesota, the family appreciated that the Bunch extends their bike riding season. It's stable even is snowy or icy weather, unlike a two-wheeler which can wipe out if the roadway is slippery.
Planning for mobility
Their younger daughter has mobility needs and uses a wheelchair. The toddler seat gave her the support she needed to ride comfortably in the bike - but she also needed a way to get around when the family arrived at their destination.
Early on, her parents would bring along a stroller-style wheelchair for her, but that limited her independence - like many toddlers, she preferred to explore on her own!
A smaller wheelchair at first
The family started experimenting with carrying her Explorer Mini - a joystick-powered mobility aid for babies and toddlers. It fit in the Bunch Bike cargo area with both kids, but it was heavy and cumbersome to carry.
As their younger daughter grew, it also became somewhat limiting - it moved more slowly and less nimbly than her everyday ride, a full powered wheelchair.
Designing a new setup
Leana and Andy decided to find a way to modify their Bunch Bike so that it could carry their younger daughter in her power wheelchair - and allow her to load and unload easily. That way she could enjoy full mobility at her destination!
By this time, her older sibling was comfortable riding their own bike - or catching a ride on the back of the family's other ebike. So fitting another child in the passenger area was no longer a requirement.
The inside of the cargo box was wide enough to hold the wheelchair - but just barely. Any extra protrusions would make it impossible to ride in and out.
Also, the wheelchair was definitely too heavy to lift over the side of the cargo box, especially with a child in it! But it couldn't fit through the Bunch's standard front door, which is only 18" wide and also has a lip at the bottom.
The bike would need a ramp - and a safe, stable way to travel up and down.
Creating a wider opening
In order to fit the wheelchair inside the cargo area, Leana needed to use the full width of the box. Clearing that space took a couple of steps:
1. Removing the bench mounts
The standard Bunch side panel has wooden mounts that hold the front bench for cargo or passengers. Leana removed these mounts for an extra half inch of clearance on either side.
2. Replacing the corner brackets
On a typical Bunch Bike, a 90° bracket connects the front panel to each side panel. Leana replaced this bracket with a flat metal plate, adding about an inch of clearance on each side and making the front panel fully removable.
Next, she added taper connectors between the front panel and the edge of the side panel - so that the entire front panel can now slide into place from above.
She cautions that these taper connectors are not intended for outdoor use. They may eventually rust and need to be replaced.
Safe loading and unloading
3. Adding support legs for the front of the box
Andy suggested adding two support legs that drop down from the box to rest on the ground during loading and unloading. This helps ensure that the bike does not tip forward when loading or unloading. That power wheelchair is heavy!
The legs fold up and tuck under the cargo area when the bike is in motion.
4. Bringing a heavy duty plastic ramp
This is a curb ramp designed for wheelchair use. Leana cut it in half to make it easier to bring along in the bike. She says it's not perfect and they're still experimenting to find the ideal ramp setup - but it works for now.
Parking in front of a curb makes it easier to create a shallow angle and roll the wheelchair in and out.
Securing the wheelchair
5. Installing carpet flooring
Leana added a rectangular carpet segment on the floor of the box for better traction for the wheelchair. While the bike is in motion, the wheelchair's parking brakes are fully engaged!
6. Adding wheelchair tie downs
We provided heavy duty eye bolts that are properly rated for use with wheelchair tie-down straps. The wheelchair is locked into place, just like it would be in a wheelchair van.
A convertible setup
Leana says the new setup works well for carrying her younger daughter and the power wheelchair. They stick to slower speeds to keep the ride comfortable.
At times when the family prefers to ride in the Bunch Bike together, it's easy to remove the power wheelchair, put the rear bench back in, and use the conventional seating setup!
The front bench can no longer be used in this configuration, but their dog doesn't seem to mind.
Leana says the family did consider using a dedicated wheelchair bike instead, like the ones made by Van Raam. These bikes can be an excellent fit for families that need a wheelchair-specific setup. But they are expensive and can be difficult to import and ship. They are also more difficult to modify.
Because the Bunch cargo area is wooden, it's more flexible - Leana says her family enjoys projects and likes the option of configuring the box to meet their kids' needs, now and in the future.
Ready to ride?
Leana is extremely handy, and she and Andy love taking on projects. But building your own mobility setup is not in the cards for every family!
If you're looking for a way to get around with a passenger with mobility needs - we're here to help.
We have a wide range of adaptive seating available, and we can also connect you with a network of enthusiastic parents who are biking with passengers of every age, with a wide range of abilities and needs.
How to connect
You can also find a vibrant, active and supportive community in the Bunch Bikes Club on Facebook. That's where Leana first shared this mod - to widespread applause!
Finally, our inclusion portal allows you to connect with us so that we can learn more about your family's needs and figure out if the Bunch Bike can work for you.
We're looking forward to connecting with you!