Cycling has always been my preferred way to nip around town. I also love spending my weekends on two wheels, heading out of the city and getting some fresh air.
When I had my first child, I worried that all of this was a thing of the past. How would I be able to safely carry a baby or toddler with me on my bike?
At first, I was just too nervous to take my daughter out with me. But my love of cycling wouldn’t let me go, so I started to investigate. I spoke to every parent I knew that transported their kids by bike to find out how to do it. Thanks to these chats, and some trial and error, I’ve figured out how to cycle with three small children!
So, what are the main things to consider when carrying your child by bike?
Embrace the nerves
First and foremost, embrace the nerves. It is natural to be nervous about carrying your child on the road without the protection of four doors. You do need to be more vigilant when cycling with a child. You won’t be able to squeeze through those small gaps like you used to. Let your nerves help you adjust your cycling style to be a bit more cautious.
Know your limits
I was surprised how much weight my child added to my bike. Cycling was noticeably harder. Until you get used to it, know your limits. Don’t try and embark on a 20-mile countryside adventure on your first trip out.
Before you head out on the road with your child, practice cycling with your child seat of choice. Don’t forget to load the seat with weight, like a bag of potatoes, to make it more realistic. Most importantly, practice balancing your bike when putting your child (or potato sack) in and out of the seat. For me, this was probably the hardest new skill to master.
Get the right gear
Fortunately, there are a lot of different options available for actually securing your child on your bike. You need something that works for the size of your child, and that you feel comfortable with. There really is no right or wrong choice, it depends entirely on you.
Remember, whatever you choose, follow the installation and safety instructions carefully.
1. Rear Mounted Child Seat
For smaller children, the most common seat you will see is a rear mounted child seat. This is suitable for babies from about 9 months. Your child needs to be able to hold their head stable before heading out on the bike. These seats can take children up to about the age of 6, depending on how fast your child is growing.
It is an open debate whether a seat or trailer is safest. I personally prefer a seat. It makes it easier for me to keep an eye on my child and talk to them.
You can generally only carry one child at a time with a bike seat. If you want to carry multiple children, with multiple seats, it is possible to get a longtail bike. These bikes have a longer rear, giving you space for an extra seat.
2. Front Mounted Child Seat
I like a front mounted seat as I like to be able to see my child, rather than have them behind me. Front mounted seats are generally appropriate for kids from about 9 months to about 4 years. It can also be used in combination with a rear seat if you are carrying more than one child.
I personally find it easier to cycle with the weight in front of me. You do need to keep your arms widely spread to make room for the seat. This can be a strain on longer cycles.
3. Bike Trailer
If you are carrying multiple children, or just want extra space, a trailer can be the way to go. You can now get trailers that barely weigh more than a bike seat. But remember, if you are carrying multiple children or a lot of cargo, your load can become heavy, fast.
Trailers generally come with a safety harness and cover to protect your child from the elements. Again, a trailer can be appropriate for kids up to about 6 years old. However, your child will probably feel like they have outgrown it before then.
I suggest getting a trailer that converts into a stroller. This way you can use it when you reach your destination.
You can also get front mounted cars, which are basically a trailer at the front of your bike. I personally haven’t used these as I find the bike too heavy. I do have a friend with an electric assistance bike who loves her front trailer for transporting her two kids.
A trail-a-bike is great for older kids. They want to be in the saddle but are too young to navigate traffic or pedal for the whole day. These are an additional wheel and saddle that attach to the back of your bike. This lets your child can sit in the saddle and pedal. But you are responsible for steering and can haul them when little legs get tired.
Make sure your bike is up to it
When carrying your kids, you’ll want to make sure your own bike is up to the challenge. Experienced cyclists will know how much easier it is to ride with a good quality, well-maintained bike. This is doubly true when carting extra weight, so maintain your bike. You may be accustomed to cycling with brake pads that have worn down a little too much. But you won’t be able to swerve and maneuver in the same way with your kids on board.
Don’t forget safety equipment
Hopefully, we have all accepted the importance of a helmet when cycling, and the importance of lights at night. Bike safety is even more important when cycling with kids! Get lights and reflectors for your seat or trailer that make the presence of your child clear! Drivers will generally be safer and give you a wider berth if they know you have a child onboard. Also, don’t forget a properly fitted helmet for your child, even if they are riding in a trailer. You will want to protect their precious heads in case of an accident.
It’s down to you
After six and a half years of carrying my kids by bike, I feel like I have tried everything! We are lucky that there are so many excellent options for carrying children by bike. The most important thing when deciding how to carry your child is what makes you feel most comfortable. At the end of the day, cycling safely with your child is down to you. You need to feel safe on two wheels and navigating the roads, trails, and traffic. Go with your gut.