The following is an article I wrote for the July issue of Family Pulse Magazine. You can view it online and find it all over Reno, Sparks and Tahoe.
Though summer was late in arriving in Northern Nevada, it’s finally here, and it’s great weather for cycling with the family. But for kids that are too small to ride their own bike there is some equipment and strategy necessary for having fun while rolling around the parks and events in Reno and Sparks.
Once your child can sit up on his or her own completely stable, and they are physically big enough to fit into a helmet, they’re ready for at least simple rolls to the park. Be sure to check with your pediatrician if you are not sure if your child is ready for a bike ride.
There are three basic options for carrying your kid with you on your bike. There are seats that mount to the handlebar, or behind you on a rear cargo rack, and trailers that follow behind the bike. Each has their advantages and disadvantages.
Rear Mounted Bike Seats for Kids
Vanessa Vancour and her Husband Matt haul their daughter Billie around on a rear mounted seat on their Electra cargo bike. “We bike a lot to down town,” she says. “A lot more in the summer.” The bike is modified with an Extracycle rack that extends the length of the bike and allow them to cary additional cargo. “This has taken her and a white water kayak in the back at the same time,” Vancour says.
Most driving trips are short local jumps to the store, school or daycare that are perfect for bikes. Vanessa takes a lot of trips to the grocery store with Billie on the bike. Most days I pick up my son Bowie from daycare by bike as well.
Traffic is a huge concern as well. ‘We try to take more the back roads, or what we call the scenic route,” Vancour says, “to avoid all of the traffic.” My routes with Bowie are fairly conservative as well. Don’t hesitate to use the sidewalks when necessary, or cut through parks to save exposing yourself to more traffic.
Kid Trailers for Bikes
I use a Burley Solo trailer for taking Bowie to and from day care. There are several advantages to the trailer including the fact that it has a water/wind proof cover which keeps him warm and dry. Also the trailer holds him and all of his gear including his car seat. Also, trailers hold a child low to the ground with two wheels so that even if the bike falls over, they stay stable and upright.
The disadvantages of the trailer are that it is heavy and has a bit of jerky feedback as you ride. It’s fairly far behind you so you can’t just reach back and check on your child. “We preferred this over a trailer,” says Vancour. “Just to have her that much closer.” Many people feel like their child is too exposed to traffic in a trailer, but it is a larger more visible object to motorists than just a bike, especially if you run a whip and flag for added visibility.
Front Mounted Kid Seats for Bikes
The third option is the European style seat mounted to the handle bars. My sister and brother-in-law, Carrie and Dave Bushá, use the iBert Safe-T-Seat seat for their son Elliott. “the steering is very stable,” Carrie says, “And the baby’s weight is in the right spot.”
Advantages of this setup are that your kid has full unencumbered view of what’s ahead, “He loved being right out in front where he can see everything,“ Bushá says. They are really close to Elliott and can easily interact with him while they ride.
Disadvantages include having to modify your riding position and cadence depending on your bike. Since the seat is up in front of you, there could be interference with your knees, with more weight on the front tire, it can be hard to lift the wheel up over obstacles, and the mounting bracket is heavy and stays on the bike when the seat is detached.
Cycling with your kids is easier than you think. Any of the local bike shops will be able to help you pick out and order a carrier or trailer and helmets. And as with anything, don’t force it. My son was super into it from day one, but if they aren’t into it, hold off. Chances are your kids will quickly learn the joy and exhilaration of cruising on two wheels!
Resources for Biking With Kids
Front mount seats
Rear Mount Seats