Having little ones at home doesn’t mean you have to pump the brakes on your biking habits. With the right gear, biking with kids can be hassle free. From seat attachments to specialized bikes, this Pro Tips guide will help you get a handle on what you need to know to bike with your child.
HITCH A RIDE
You don’t need a specialty bike to take your child for a ride. Seat attachments — in both mounted and trailer form — are available so that you can cycle with your kiddo using the bike you use for your personal riding. The type of seat attachment that works best for you may depend on the age or size of your child, as well as your own comfort level and biking skills. Consider:
Mounted seats are attached directly to your bike frame. There are three types of mounted seats: front-mounted, rear frame-mounted and rear-rack mounted.
As the name suggests, front-mounted seats attach near the front of your bike just below the handlebars with a bracket on the handlebar or handlebar stem. These seats are typically designed for smaller and younger toddlers from nine months up to two or three years old.
Front-mounted seats enable the rider to have a view of their child at all times which allows for easier communication and, for some, provides a sense of security. However, depending on the size of your bike, front-mounted seats can cause your ride to feel a bit cramped.
Both rear frame- and rear rack- mounted seats tend to have higher weight capacities than front-mounted seats, allowing for them to accommodate older toddlers and children. Rear frame-mounted seats are made to attach directly to your bike’s seatpost. Rear rack-mounted seats, on the other hand, can be used if you have a rack connected to the frame over your back tire. If you choose a rear rack-mounted seat, be sure to check that your rack has a high enough weight capacity to handle both the seat and your child.
Rear-mounted seats tend to offer more adjustable features for comfort, like shoulder straps and footrests, but they also can make it harder to chat with and check on your child during a trip. They also can be reclinable, which is great for kiddos who may fall asleep during the ride.
Also known as chariots, the second type of bike attachment is the bike trailer. These are wheeled attachments that connect to the rear of a bike with a hitch. Available in various sizes, some trailers can be more accommodating for older children than the mounted seat options and some are even made to accommodate more than one child.
Typically hooded, bike trailers also offer the added bonus of helping to shield children from the wind, sun or precipitation. They also have more space for comfort or even toys. However, as with rear-mounted seats, trailers can be more difficult to communicate with your child and can sometimes make for bumpy rides for little ones.
FRAME OF MIND
When choosing a bike seat, there are a few key elements you should kick the tires on before making a decision.
- Bike Compatibility – Whether you are looking at a front-, rear- or chariot-style attachment, you should make sure that your bike is compatible with the preferred seat type. While looking at front-mounted seats, keep in mind that they are generally more compatible with bikes that have threaded headsets. It is also important to measure the space in between the seat tube and handlebars to help ensure that you and the seat can both fit comfortably.
For rear frame-mounted seats, you need a bike without cables on the seat tube and a saddle that is at least two inches away from the frame. Meanwhile, for rear rack-mounted seats, be sure that your bike has eyelets for a mounting rack and disc brakes.
- Child’s Age and Size – Although front-mounted seats generally have lower weight limits than rear-mounted seats and chariots, each attachment will have a weight limit specific to that product. If you want to purchase a seat that can be used longer term, you may want to choose an option with a larger range that can accommodate a growing child.
- Safety and Comfort Features – Keeping your child safe is, of course, the top priority. Be sure that the shoulder straps of your bike attachment fit firmly on the shoulders of your child. Some seats also offer comfort features like helmet pockets that allow the child’s helmet to recess into the seat. Side bumpers can help protect your child’s fingers if the side of the seat comes into contact with another object.
Front-mounted seats are not reclinable, but those with higher seat backs can offer your child more comfort and stability. Adjustable footrests are available on both front- and rear-mounted seats and can help keep your child from interfering with your steering while keeping them more comfortable, too.
- Laws – Before you take your child on the trails, check the local laws in your area to see if they have restrictions on age. Some states don’t allow children under the age of one to be on a bike in any capacity, while others have laws in reference to specific seat types. You should also be sure to purchase a helmet for both you and your little one. Safety should always be the No. 1 priority.
In addition to attachable seats, there are bikes that are specifically made to make traveling with family easier.
- Cargo Bikes: Cargo bikes are essentially utility bikes with a cargo box attached in the front. There’s no assembly required and the boxes tend to be large and sturdy enough for children up to school-age to have room to comfortably sit. Seats and safety straps are including inside the box to make for a safer ride.
- Tandem Bikes: Tandem bikes are designed to be ridden by more than one person at a time. They can come with anywhere between two to five seats, making it convenient for a whole family affair. Tandem bikes can be used once children are older and comfortable with motor skills and sitting up for longer periods of time.
Now that you are up to speed on the different ways to take your child biking with you, you can grab your helmet and your kid and go for a ride.