05.Child readiness + safety
Is your child ready to ride?
Whether you use a child seat or trailer, your child must be strong enough to support their own head while sitting upright. By law, they must wear a helmet, even if in an enclosed trailer, so make sure they can bear that extra weight too. They’ll also need to be able to cope with the bumps and bounces experienced when riding, and with acceleration forces as you speed up or slow down. Most children are ready at around one year old. If you’re not sure, get advice from your child’s doctor.
Once your child is too big and heavy to fit in a child seat or trailer – typically from around four years of age – you can consider a tag-along style of trailer, which is like a partial bike with seat and handlebars and a rear wheel. Or of course you can start them on their own bike, with training wheels if necessary.
Riding with children
When riding with a child in a seat or trailer attached to your bike, pay extra attention to safety.
- If you aren’t already a reasonably experienced cyclist, get some practice in before you start riding with your child. Confidence, skill and fitness will make you a much safer rider with baby on board.
- If possible, try riding with the seat or trailer empty or with a dummy load, to get used to the bike’s changed handling characteristics.
- Avoid riding in traffic. Stick to cycle paths in well-lit areas.
- You and your child must wear helmets.
- Don’t ride at night or in low visibility conditions such as rain or fog.
- Be especially careful when cornering. The weight of the child in the bike seat could make the bike unbalanced, and a trailer could tip if you take a tight corner too fast.
- Allow greater time and distance for braking.
- Allow extra time for crossing roads and other danger points, especially with the extra length of a trailer.
- With a child seat attached, your bike’s centre of gravity and handling will change.
- Keep hold of your bike whenever a child is in the seat.
- A child in a rear-mounted seat may be able to access your saddle springs, so cover these to prevent little fingers getting caught.
- If you’re wearing a backpack, make sure it can’t hit a child seated behind you.
- For more general cycling tips, see our report Getting around on a bike.
- You and your child must wear properly-fitting helmets when cycling. It’s the law, and in any case is a common sense safety precaution. Your child must be able to comfortably support the weight of the helmet for the duration of the ride, so make sure it’s not too heavy.
- Helmets sold in Australia must meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 2063 or US Snell Standard. All the major brands do, but check the packaging or labels to be sure.
- If you’re using a trailer, make sure its roof gives enough room for your child to sit up straight while wearing their helmet, otherwise an uncomfortable stooped position can result.
- Go to a good bike shop and try a few different helmets. Get the shop’s expert advice on fitting; the key points are that the helmet should sit level with the rim just above the eyebrows, with the chinstrap even on both sides and fitting snugly but not too tight. The helmet shouldn’t wobble or move about once the chinstrap is done up; if it does, adjust the padding or straps, or try another model.
- Don’t buy a second-hand helmet unless you’re absolutely sure it’s undamaged. Damage, such as cracked foam, is often not visible.
- If possible, give your child a choice of helmets; they’ll be happier wearing a helmet if they choose it themselves.