Having kids is life changing but you can still enjoy cycling with children – it just needs a bit more planning than in your happy go-free days before parenting. A few key items of kit and a bit of imagination will set you on the right path to years of fun family cycling.
Taking baby cycling with you
Bike trailers for children
Most manufacturers of bike trailers recommend that babies need to be over a year old before using them and must be able to safely sit up and support their own head. Some brands such as Thule offer a supportive hammock for your smallest passenger to use until they are big enough to sit comfortably in a seat with a five-point harness.
Most children enjoy the experience of seeing the world from the trailer and find the motion of the rear wheel in front of them mesmerising! There is space in a trailer for them to play with their own toys and books, which is handy for longer rides to stave off any boredom. If they nod off you know they are safe and secure, just check their position is supported and they are not slumped forward with their chin on their chest.
Having your child behind you makes it a little bit harder to keep an eye on them and communicate with them, but for longer rides, or if you want to carry other things such as a picnic or camping gear, a bike trailer makes a lot of sense. Despite the extra weight behind you a trailer doesn’t affect your bike handling and you can still confidently ride out of the saddle on hills. Children can comfortably sit in bike trailers until they are four or even five so a bike trailer is a great choice as a long-term cycling investment.
Bike seats for babies
As with trailers, babies need to be able to sit up and support their own head before they can use a bike seat. Bike seats are in many ways simpler to use than a trailer, they are less cumbersome, take up less space to store and, of course, are much lighter for the person pedalling. There are loads of innovative designs for baby bike seats to suit different styles of bikes.
One decision to make is whether you prefer your child to sit in front or behind you. Rear seats are larger than front-mounted seats and offer more features such as the ability to recline, suspension, and shoulder straps with more adjustability. It is also easier to get on and off your bike with a rear-mounted seat. However, you need to check compatibility with your bike, as many need a rack or pannier mounts.
Front-mounted seats are the smallest seats and are suitable for ages 9 months to about 2.5 years old. With the baby bike seat placed between the rider’s arms, it can feel safer and cosier for both parent and child. Seats that mount on the top tube, like these baby bike seats designed for off-road mountain-biking keep the child’s weight over the midpoint of the bike, making it feel more natural for the adult to ride and steer. It also gives your child a taste of how controlling and moving a bike by bodyweight feels, especially on off-road trails.
Never too young to feel the wind in your hair
Making cycling part of your child’s routine in the early years of their life will stand you in good stead as they get older. When the time comes to introduce them to their own bike they will most likely be excited to have a bike like mummy’s or daddy’s and be keen to experience the freedom of their own two wheels. Seeing the adults in their life enjoying cycling makes healthy activity a normal part of everyday life, setting them off on the right track for a life-long enjoyment of exercise.
Next month we will be talking to Cycle SOS Consultant Solicitor, Paul Darlington, on how he supported his children on their own journey into competitive cycling.