It’s true that when you have kids, you want to spend maximum time with them. And when you are a cyclist, you love tagging them along on your bike rides. Do you need to wait till they are 8 or 9 years old before you can get back out on your bike?
Not really. You may have heard about bike trailers.
It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a trailer you hitch to your bike, and your kid(s) sits in it, and then off you go in your bike together. You get to take your kid with you wherever you want and ride off into the sunset gloriously happy.
Benefits Of Using Bike Trailers For Kids
1. It’s A Great Way To Keep Fit
It can be like walking a tightrope having young kids and still finding the time to enjoy just getting out, be it for a run, or cycling. The burden and the joy of parental responsibility can get in the way of staying in shape. But by using a bike trailer, you can build a routine on the bike, keep active, and take the kids to places you would only ordinarily go on the bike yourself.
Pulling that extra weight behind you might not make you go any faster, but it’s great endurance training if you want to get all the positive you can out of it.
2. Quality Time With The Kids
It’s a great way to get some quality time both with yourself and the children. Quality time is really important, but that doesn’t mean it has to be you just finding 101 things to do in the living room on an average day and going stir-crazy looking at the world passing you by outside.
3. It Gets The Kids Out In The Fresh Air
Rolling down the windows in the car just isn’t quite the same. Every time you go out is an adventure. Children will be more involved with the journey. They can feel the air, and smell the flowers, not isolated behind metal, glass, and plastic.
Of course that doesn’t mean that just owning a bike trailer will land you instantly in some sort of karmic utopia. Some things need to be considered when thinking about Bike Trailers.
Possible Disadvantages Of Bike Trailers
1. Increased Travel Time
Over shorter distances, and in areas with high levels of traffic congestion, this may not be an issue. However, when riding with a trailer, it’s wise to consider that life will go differently than in a car. Also with all that extra weight, you might not be able to keep up to what was once your average speed either. Of course, if you’re towing kids would you want to go all that fast in any case? But this “extra” time can be seen as a positive as well.
Modern life is just so hectic, that in our turbo-paced lives, we often miss the opportunity to see the wonder of the world around us, trading speed for quality. I mean, what’s an extra 15 minutes on your journey time, when accompanied by a child’s giggles, a cool breeze, the smell of wildflowers, and incessant questions about cows, butterflies, and fairies?
Extra weight and offsetting the center of gravity on your bike will affect how your bike steers and maneuvers. The way you corner may have to be adapted, and stopping times may increase, as well as the way you sit on your bike. It’s not that a trailer hurts your cycling, but it will need to be taken into account.
3. Increased Length And Width
Bike trailers will make your overall bike length longer, heavier, and harder to maneuver. The additional resistance of two extra wheels may also make your pedaling experience less enjoyable. But a suitably lightweight trailer may alleviate this issue. It also comes down to your level of fitness, but I’m not going to comment on that. You will be wider as well. This might not be an issue in the park or on the trail, but in traffic-heavy areas or just on the road in general, you will have to account for that extra width, especially in cycle lanes where you might take up all the designated space available for riders.
In my experience however, trailers seem to garner less animosity and are not as involved in the whole ‘them and us’ battle between cyclists and motor vehicles, and motorists are more likely to give you more space. Again, that’s just my thought on the matter. Maybe it’s because trailer riders are more likely not to try to squeeze through traffic, or people are just more aware that there are children nearby, I don’t know.
Children in trailers can have restricted views due to the reclined nature of their seated position. This isn’t such an issue when the weather is good, but if it’s raining or cold, then sometimes it can seem like the child in the trailer is sitting in their little isolated lifeboat.
It’s not the limiting factor you might think. It might not be the best idea in the world to go out in a blizzard, but otherwise, most trailers do come with good all-around weather protection for both the cold and the heat in the form of dust screens and rain covers.
Safe Route Planning
If you would rather stay off the roads, then finding traffic-free routes can be a hassle. That said, taking minor diversions through parks or along canal sidings can be a fun way to explore the parts of your city you never knew existed. Most places these days are seeing huge growth in trying to be more bike-friendly, building dedicated cycle paths, or just recognizing that bikes have as much right to the road as cars.
Local bike clubs, internet forums, and bike stores will probably be more than happy to assist in finding that car-free route to wherever you want to go.
Blood, Sweat, And Tears
Cycling is exercise. Exercise isn’t always fun. If you’re taking your kids to the park, is there a chance you’ll be wasted by the time you arrive? Will you have the energy to play with the kids when you get there? Will you dread having to cycle back up “that hill,” afterwards? Are you ok with sweat?
Buying a trailer may also entail buying some new breathable cycling clothes. Of course, a decent trailer will have storage space for spare clothes, a must if you get wet when traveling, or are sweaty.
At What Age Can You Safely Take A Child Out With You?
But be aware of the laws and regulations in your country of residence. Every country and state is different and has its own rules for transporting kids on bikes. Don’t break the law; find out what you need to have to be legal where you live.
The main issue with taking any infant out on a bike ride is their necks, and specifically, injury to the neck, rather than their age. It is the strength of your child’s neck that will decide if they are ready to go out on a bike or not, not how old they are.
However, there are few if any health professionals who would recommend taking a child out at any less than 12 months of age. Generally speaking, a good indicator, however, is to gauge their readiness as having been able to hold their head up for about 2 minutes, unaided.
There are a few reasons for this
- Children’s bodies need to be able to handle the jostling movement of bike travel and also be able to withstand the occasional jolt, and an accident, should the worst come to the worst.
- Children’s necks should also be able to support the weight of a bike helmet.
Choosing A Child Bike Trailer: What To Look For
Right, so a bike trailer, is the obvious solution! But don’t just go out and buy the first one you see. It’s important when buying a bike trailer for the kids you make an informed choice, so you can get the best you can afford. First of all, do some research. Of course, by reading this, you already have, and are, so go for being diligent.
To help you make that informed choice, here’s some really good advice on what to look for, and what to do when you’re thinking about buying:
|Strength and Weight
|Look for trailers that can be converted into strollers for added versatility.
|Repeating Past Mistakes
|Consider a two-seat model if you plan on having more than one child.
|Check for additional cargo space behind the child’s seat for groceries and other essentials.
|Ensure good communication with your child; choose a trailer that allows you to hear them.
|Ensure the trailer has a secure 3-point harness to prevent escape attempts.
|Choose hammock-style seating for comfort and protection from debris.
|Mud and Dust and Rain
|Check if the trailer can be sealed for protection in cold and wet weather.
|Look for trailers with small spaces to support your children’s heads for added security.
|Consider adding extra padding around the head area for comfort.
|Safety Above All Else
Why Not Try A Cargo Bike Instead?
In Copenhagen, Denmark, there are 35,000 cargo bikes alone. Trust the Danes. A ¼ of all families in Copenhagen with 2 children or more, own one. Some of them look like something out of the 1930s and others look like they just arrived from BladeRunner.
In essence, Cargo bikes are generally longer than your average everyday bike and are either 2 or 3-wheeled. As you might expect, you don’t have to use them to carry children, hence the name. Again, generally speaking, the child sits in the cargo box between the handlebars and the front wheel.
So Why Should You Consider A Cargo Bike?
Let’s face it, if you live outside Copenhagen or the Netherlands, Cargo bikes aren’t exactly an everyday thing you’d expect to meet on the road. From that point of view, it could be argued that they are safer as you won’t help but be noticed by other people. When it comes to the child-carrying variant, most of them will transport 2 kids and a bunch of other stuff quite easily.
They are stable, but they will be heavy, and it is 1 complete unit. You can’t just detach the cargo part of the bike and ride off into the sunset as you would on an ordinary bike. They are also relatively expensive when compared with other kid-carrying options. But they are a talking point, will make you seem all hip and cool and stuff, and could realistically be considered as a replacement for a 2nd car…
This right here is what you’re looking at as an example:
The real point I’m making here is that there are always possibilities other than your standard bike seat or trailer option. And of course, the Danes do tend to be a bit ahead of the rest of the world when it comes to bike innovation. Look at what this guy invented: Carl Georg Rasmussen, inventor of the Leitra Velomobile.
Where to find a bike trailer?
You can pick up a bike trailer at almost any decent bike shop, and this may be a good first port of call, but you can also pick them up quite easily second-hand, often almost as good as new. This is because if the trailer was only used for child transport the chances are that it was well looked after. But when buying second-hand, really give the trailer a good going over to check for damage such as cracks in the frame and worn parts. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
5 Bike Trailers worth considering
The following list is not exhaustive of potential trailers. All the trailers featured are solid, decent trailers that won’t let you or your child down.
1. Burley D’Lite Child Trailer
The D’Lite comes with everything you’d expect on a good trailer; UV windows, safe hitching, helmet pockets, cargo area, and space for 2 kids, as well as plenty of safety features like reflective taping and a flag. This is a solid good choice.
Available from: Jensonusa.com
2. Burley Solo Child Trailer
Another one from Burley, but in a single-seat design. Why buy bigger than you need? Comes with everything you’d expect.
Available from: Cambriabikes.com
3. Thule Coaster 2 Bike Trailer
Thule is another name worth considering when it comes to selecting a new trailer. Sure this one may not have the rounded edges of the Burley variants, but it’s sturdy reliable, and can be used as a stroller as well if you want to bring your kids somewhere your bike can’t go. I.e., inside the Mall…
Available from: REI.com
4. Avenir Entrepid 2-Seater Child Trailer
It’s the cheapest one here, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less good than the more expensive ones. It may be light on features, but it’s still effective and still does exactly what you’d expect a bike trailer to do. It’s built from tough stuff and has UV protection etc built in as standard.
Available from: Chainreactioncycles.com
5. Adventure AT6 Alloy Child Trailer
The AT6 is a high-performance lightweight trailer that will hold 2 sprogs comfortably and is one of the quickest folding trailers out there. Like the Thule Coaster above, it also turns into a stroller if you don’t want to always take your kids out on the bike and fancy a walk instead.
Available from: Leisurelakesbikes.com
What Other Options Do You Have?
Still not convinced? Are you after the hitherto hidden 3rd option? Ok, here it is.
1. Build Your Bike Trailer
I wish my Dad had built me one of these when I was a kid, although I think I would have preferred a Sopwith Camel version. It’s just making the point, that you can build your own if you know one end of a hammer from the other. Of course, I can’t vouch for the safety or durability of making your trailer, and I don’t know if I could recommend taking it out on the open road, but in a quiet part of the world away from traffic and going at a relatively slow speed, yeah sure, why not.
2. Bike Child Seats
Bike seats on a bike go either on the front of your bike or the rear. Generally speaking, a good fit for use with a child is between 1 and 5 years of age. I don’t like them. I think that while they might be an acceptable form of transport for kids, I think the potential for serious injury is higher than with a bike trailer. If you use one already and disagree then that’s fine, it’s just my opinion. But these are my reasons:
- In the event of an accident, a child will have about 3-4 feet of travel downward before they hit the ground. Bear in mind as well, that it’s not just the fall that has to be taken into account. Child seats have a higher center of gravity. If an accident happens at any forward speed, it’s not just the vertical height drop and hardness of the ground that will be an issue. Horizontal momentum will increase the impact speed as well.
- Child seats also tend to have an upright backrest. If your kid falls asleep on a long ride, which is quite likely due to the gentle rocking motion, much like a kid in a car, their head may slump forward, and be uncomfortable over an extended time. So if you do go for the seat option, make sure you get one that reclines.
- Children are generally more exposed to the vagaries of weather in a bike seat.
- Having said that, 50% of all admissions to hospitals involving child seats on bikes are due to feet getting caught in the wheel spokes. Make sure your seat has secure foot straps. Footrests are not enough. Beware of dangly things like scarves and trailing strings or foot laces getting caught in the wheels as well.
- Bike seats, especially forward-mounted ones may seem like a lot more fun for the little one, especially if they have access to the bell.
Bike riding is one of the most formative experiences for children growing up. For many kids, learning to ride a bike is one of the first real moments of independence. It builds confidence, gets them outside, and offers memories for a lifetime, for both child and parent. Of course, when they’re young, that experience can be limited by their age and physical abilities which is why buying or building a trailer, is a great way to overcome those age-related obstacles.
Bike trailers allow them to feel the breeze on their face, and get some quality time with parents. It allows parents to take their kids to other places that might not have been accessible before.