Recently we received this question:
I’m super-excited to go carless and use a bike and child trailer to get around this summer.
Who’s got tips on biking with toddlers, from what to look for in equipment to the practicalities of getting around?
… and I was totally stoked that we did! Back in 2010, I wrote about picking a bicycle seat for our then-one-and-a-half-year-old. That toddler has now grown into a full-fledged kid (he’ll be three soon! You guys!), and also recently graduated from his bicycle seat (we’ve been using the Bobike Mini Seat). We’ve spent the last few weeks looking for something new. Here are my favorites of the options we saw and a few things I’ve learned about bicycling with our child on board.
First and foremost: I very, very, VERY much recommend that you look around for a local bike shop and ask them any questions you might have — they’re the experts. It’s fun to look for seats online, but if you have ANY questions about whether or not a seat is safe, if it will work on your bike, or how long it might last, the bike shop is the place to go.
The practicalities of bicycling with a kid
So now let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what bicycling with your kid is like. In one word: FUN. Our son LOVES to ride around on our bicycles. He has his own tricycle that he’ll occasionally cruise around the neighborhood on, but if we’re taking a trip to a nearby cafe or grocery store, he totally loves going on the bike. In general, here are the guidelines we follow:
Check the weather ahead of time
Nothing makes you feel shittier than when you’re out biking with your kid, everyone’s having fun and singing songs, and then all of the sudden — BOOM. Thunder. We live in Alabama, and our springs are notoriously intense. Trust me, it’s totally not fun for anyone when your kid is getting rained on and you can’t do anything about it. It’s not practical or safe to carry your child and push the bike, so you’re kind of stuck making your kid endure the rain. I’m not talking a few sprinkles, but downpour. You don’t have to save your biking excursions for only perfect sunny days, but if you’re planning to be out for a few hours… try to know what might happen.
Make sure you’re all properly attired
Late winter and early spring can be pretty chilly — sometimes you’re fine in a t-shirt and jeans if you’re hanging out in the yard, but getting on a bicycle in only those items can leave you both cold. Even if it seems too warm for it, bringing a jacket or windbreaker along for your kid is probably a good idea.
Stick to less-traveled roads
My husband has no fear about bicycling with our son on the road, but he always tries to take the back roads. If we’re in a neighborhood on the way to a park I don’t mind getting in the road, but otherwise I stick to the sidewalks. I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do, but we don’t live in a bicycling-friendly city… and I’d rather not take my chances with my kid and drivers who might not realize he’s there. It’s one thing to harass me on my bike (which happens), but it’s another to do so when my child is sitting in front of me.
Now let’s talk front-mounted seats for toddlers and kids
I’m still a HUGE fan of kids sitting at the front of the bike — or rather, a big fan of my kid sitting at the front. Unfortunately, it seems like all of the front seats only carry kids up to 40 lbs. If your kid falls under that weight limit, and you think he or she will for a while, here are some awesome choices:
At $179 the Co-Rider Front Facing Mid-Mount Child Bike Seat is a little on the pricey side, but it’s perfect for kids between 2 and 5 and up to 45 lbs. It can be attached to men’s, women’s, hybrid, road, and mountain bikes, and it also has leg shields for the kidlet. I think my favorite aesthetic feature is the attached handlebars — I imagine it makes your kiddo feel like he or she is also steering the bike! I also dig the harnessing around the waist — your kid is definitely safe, but also gets to learn to balance with his or her top half free:
The iBert Safe-T-Seat Front Child Seat ($97) is nearly half the cost of the Co-Rider, and also NEON GREEN. I had to type in all caps because you guys… it’s NEON GREEN:
I like this one because it was created by bicycling parents who were frustrated with their perceived lack of alternatives to bicycle trailers. It holds kids up to 38 lbs, so it’s not quite as long-lasting as other options, but it’s awesome for parents who prefer something in front of the child to keep him or her in place. It’s also super easy to load and unload — no swiveling parts or extra straps here!
If you prefer bicycle trailers (and there’s no practical reason not to — they’re just not a personal preference of mine), here’s a rad one that has room for two kids and possibly a small pet:
Speaking of pets… I don’t know if it’s safe, but I’ve totally seen cyclists arrive at the dog park with their pet inside one of these. Cyclist pet-parents: check it out!