We have three children under the age of 5. They may be bipeds, but they haven’t mastered pedaling (at least not fast enough to get very far) just yet. For those in the same boat, fear not. You are not landlocked — here are some tips for getting back in the saddle again.
I have tested out the four main types of child bike carriers and while I have discovered my own personal favorites, just like with all things child-rearing, it is not a one-size-fits-all. What works for us, may not be what’s best for your family. Below I will outline the different options, include some suggestions, and throw in my own two cents. (See here for more details on a child’s biking progression.) Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages, and within each category there are myriad options with vast price ranges. When choosing what is best for your family, you should consider: safety, performance, comfort, and usability.
As you can see in the above picture, I am able to take all three of my kiddos for a ride by using a mid-seat carrier and a bike trailer. Read on to find what will work best for your crew.
There are 4 main types of child bike carriers:
1) Front/Mid Seat Carrier
I will be completely upfront (no pun intended) — these are my favorite. This carrier is placed between the rider and the handlebars. After trying and researching several options, this felt safest to us. Check each product for specifications, but our favorite, The WeeRide, goes up to 40lbs. I loved being able to cradle my child between my arms and grew to love the feel of his helmet against my chest. Together we would set out on adventures, and since he was right there, front and center, he had the best view. He would happily shriek and point at something, and I would explain everything we saw to him. Even now, at 4.5 years old he and his younger siblings fight for the coveted up-front position! One of the other perks is seeing the smiles on people’s faces upon realizing you have a baby in front of you when you pass by. These range in price from $69-$100 and can go up to 40lbs.
2) Rear Seat Carrier
This is the bike seat we remember from our childhood. It is placed behind the rider, enabling the child to remain close and compact. Once our son was nearing the max limit of the mid-seat carrier, we moved him into one of these. He is taller now, so he gets more than just a view of our backs. He still enjoys being close, the feel of the bike underneath him and we can still carry on our adventuresome conversations. These range in price from $50-$200 and the weight limits vary by seat (anywhere from 35-50lbs).
3) Bike Trailer
These are great for multiple children! Some people swear by them from the very beginning, but for us it just wasn’t a good fit. We tried it when our son was 19 months old and he hated it. He screamed the entire time. When we took him out, he stood up wobbly and unsteady, which made us think he was jerked around too much. We even had one of the top-end models! However, if you think you want this style, please try it for yourself, as I know MANY people who love theirs. They also sell head supports to help stabilize them during the ride. That said, after adding two more children to our clan, we didn’t have much choice. We bought a new one and gave it another go. Now that he is bigger and gets to ride with one of his younger siblings, he enjoys it much more. (But only if he gets to pick which side he sits on!!!) Some of the advantages of this carrier is that it is low to the ground (be sure to attach a flag so other vehicles see the trailer!), can store stuff inside and in the back, and it offers plenty of shade protection. These range in price from $100-$2000, so do your research! Weight limits vary by model, but can generally hold ~100lbs in a two-seater.
If you really want to splurge, get one that converts into a stroller. I found a great deal on one and it was a lifesaver on a beach vacation where we used our bikes constantly and didn’t want to take sleeping kids out every time we stopped. I wouldn’t make this my go-to every day stroller though. It is a smooth ride, but it is rather bulky.
4) Tandem Rider
We haven’t tried this yet, but it will be our next purchase. Kids seem to love them and I hear rave reviews. For ages 4-9, this attachment allows your mini to pedal backwards, forwards, or coast. It is great for longer trips when you want to stay together, move faster, or you think they might not last the whole time. Once we try it I will let you know how it goes. I would love to hear your input! These range in price from $80-$250. They can hold ~75 pounds.
Above all, please don’t forget the #1 piece of equipment- a helmet. All helmets are required to meet safety standards, but not all fit the same. Personally, we found the Giro brand to fit our infants the best. As our son got older, his head better fit into the Bell versions and he was able to choose a Jake, TMNT or Princess helmet. At this point it is important that they are excited to wear it!
Now that you have the gear, it is time to hit the trails! Here are some links to help you out:
Local trails: (If you aren’t in Knoxville, just google your own town and you should be able to find some great suggestions!)
Please share any awesome family-friendly trails you come across on your adventures!
Until we meet again… (“Happy Trails”- anyone? anyone?)