Cycling with small children

Kids. Change. Everything.

Once those adorable, exasperating bundles of energy have entered your life nothing will ever be quite the same again. The good news for bike loving parents is that the arrival of little people doesn’t have to mean an end to riding. Just strap the kids in and take them with you.

Why cycle with children?

Cycling is simply a great way to get around, and even with kids in tow it can still be the cheapest, healthiest and most convenient

way to do the nursery run, get to the shops, or just go exploring. Cycling with kids from an early age is also a good way to introduce them to the joys of riding a bike: the fresh air, the sensation of being self-propelled, the feeling of freedom and independence.

So what are the options?

There are a bewildering number of different options for transporting children by bicycle, each with their own pros and cons. For simplicity let’s boil them down to 3 main categories: seats, trailers, and cargo bikes.

Bike seats

The most commonly seen bike seat in the UK is the rear mounted type where the child is seated behind the saddle. The seat may be attached to a rack, or else cantilevered from a bracket on the frame.  They will have high backs to support a child’s head (particularly important if little one dozes off) and a harness to strap them in. More common elsewhere in Europe and in the US is the front mounted seat which attaches to the top tube, positioning the child between adult and handlebars.

Ordinarily bike seats would only be used to carry one child at a time, but as this Dutch “supermum” demonstrates, carrying three children plus shopping is possible.

•    Pros: Child is close to you so simple to talk to, and is high up so easy to see and be seen. Quick and easy to attach and detach, and relatively simple to store away when not in use. Inexpensive.
•    Cons: Top heavy so it can take a while to adjust to the way the bike handles. Risk of bike toppling over if left unattended.

Trailers

Bike trailers are like little buggies for either one or two kids which attach to the frame of your bike via a towbar. They will commonly have a cover to keep out the elements when necessary and pockets to store snacks and drinks within easy reach. Most will double up as strollers when detached from the bike.
•    Pros: Lots of room for extra luggage, great for spending the whole day out and about. Trailer is very stable and will remain upright even if the bike falls over.
•    Cons: Two children are within easy squabbling distance of each other. On busy roads some parents may feel uneasy about pulling their offspring behind them and low down to the road. Detaching and storing away can be a little long winded.

Cargo bikes

A popular option in cities such as Amsterdam but still relatively rare in the UK, Cargo bikes are purpose built for transporting two or more kids (or other precious cargo). The most famous is the Christiania bike, named for the Copenhagen hippie enclave where they were first made, but there are lots of different configurations out there, including this ingenious design which converts to a stroller. Availability in London is improving, with specialist shops like London Green Cycles offering a wide range, and some councils (Waltham Forest for example) offering free trials.

•    Pros: Sturdy, stable and durable. Positions the kids in front of you where you can see them. Loads of room and flexible seating options for two or more kids.
•    Cons: Not cheap. Needs a lot of room to store. Doesn’t provide the flexibility of converting back to a regular bike once you’ve dropped the kids off.

Give them the cycling bug

Some of these options involve a considerable investment, but the good news is that quality bike trailers and cargo bikes hold their resale value extremely well. Of course the real benefit to all of this is that before too long they’ll want their own set of wheels, so you can get them off your bike and onto theirs, opening up a lifetime’s enjoyment of cycling as a family.

One thought on “Cycling with small children”

  1. Brilliant! It reminds me of times long gone when my son and daughter were children and we spent many happy hours together on our bikes cycling around the lanes of Suffolk.

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