05.Biking for babies
When your child’s not quite old enough to ride a bike, you can still take them with you when you ride.
Your three main options are:
- a trailer
- a child seat or
- a trailer bike (also called a half-bike trailer)
A trailer is probably the safest way to carry a very young child, although it’s not without risks. For one, it’s a pretty rough ride, and your baby’s brain will get quite a rattling. Experts say you shouldn’t take a baby under 12 months old in a trailer. In any case, you’d be hard-pressed to find a helmet that fits, and you shouldn’t for a second consider carrying a child without a helmet.
Depending on the model, a trailer can also tip over quite easily (if one wheel goes over a rock or kerb, or you turn too sharply, for example). When you’re choosing a trailer, get one with rollbar protection, a five-point harness and a hitch that will allow the trailer to stay upright even if the bike tips over.
Also consider ventilation (it can get pretty hot in there); protection from the elements (rain and wind); protection from bottom bumps; ease of attaching; and ease of storage and transportation (a fold-up model with removable wheels will take up less space in your home and car).
A child seat can be mounted on the front or back of your bike. Your child needs to be strong enough to wear a helmet and still keep their head upright (over 12 months). The seat should have guards so their hands and feet can’t get caught in the spokes.
As with trailers, it’s a pretty bumpy ride. When you go over bumps, you use your legs and saddle to absorb some of the shock, but the baby will feel every jolt. The main problem with a child seat is the destabilising effect it has on the bike: one wriggle and the bike goes careening sideways or, worse, tips over. A large number of accidents happen when the child is sitting in the seat while the bike is leaning against a wall or on its stand before you get on — putting your child in a child seat is really a two-person job.
A half-bike trailer has a seat, handlebars, pedals and a rear wheel and attaches to your bike like a trailer. It’s the ideal option if your child is old enough to keep their balance and do a little pedalling, but not strong enough to cycle a long way on their own. And with a little luck, it will make your job easier on the uphills!
See our Child bike seats and trailers review for more information.