Mar 21, 2013

Biking With Your Baby Onboard

So, here you are, older than you'd ever thought you'd get, and the proud parent of a brand new baby.  Welcome to your new life filled with poopy diapers, sleepless nights, and an unexplainable level of stress/excitement/nervousness that all parents feel.  Added to that mix is also the need to transport your new baby with you everywhere you go so undoubtedly, you are finding that you are driving a whole lot more than you maybe did before.

...traffic is gridlocked...your baby is screaming at the top of their lungs in the backseat...your feel your grip tighening on the steering wheel...your can feel your stress level rising......aarrgh!!!

Do not despair, things will get better, and you'll soon be biking again, maybe even with your new baby onboard if you choose.

When can I start cycling with my baby? 

AGE: Generally speaking, most companies that make baby-cycling stuff recommend the earliest age you can get going at about 9 months old. It is really important that the child's neck is strong enough to support the weight of their head with a helmet on. Of course, this may differ from child to child.

HELMETS: The smallest diameter helmet we've been able to find is 46cm but this can sometimes still not be small enough for some little humans. When looking at helmets, try to find one that has a fairly flat back area, especially if you are planning on using a trailer.

WEATHER: Remember, your little one is not moving even if you are so bundle them up in cool/cold weather as they'll often get cold quick and will not be able to explain that to you in words, only in crying, screaming, and/or shivering.

And then there is this...





Biking With Kids Tip #1

Children love the feel of the wind rushing past them just as much as adults do.  I still have vivid memories from when I was 5-6 years old living in Mimico (a community in western Toronto) and riding on a baby seat on the back of my Mom's bike.  We'd ride along Lakeshore Road to the grocery store and frequently stop at the toy store on the way home.  I remember this feeling of exploration and excitement that I think has stuck with me since.  Could those early bike adventures have set the stage for a lifetime of cycling?  Stranger things have happened.

Biking with your baby is super fun for both of you and offers your little one that same sense of adventure, freedom, and exploration that you feel when you bike alone.  On top of that there is the obvious exercise that you get to enjoy but even more powerful than that - you can show your baby how getting around by bike is an easy, natural, and fun way to get around your community without a car.  By modeling this behaviour to your children when they are really young you can set a great example for them and perhaps put them on the path towards a car free lifestyle - or at the very least show them that you do not need to do everything and go everywhere in a car.

Biking With Kids Tip #2

Biking with your baby onboard has never been easier and once your little one is old enough to wear a helmet (it is the law in Alberta) you're ready to go.  There are 4 main options for biking with baby and we'll go into details on each -

1. Bike mounted baby seats
2. Cargobikes
3. Trailers
4. Trail-a-bikes

Baby Seats


Baby seats come in two configurations - front mounted models that are good up to about 35lbs. and rear mounted models that are good up to about 48lbs.  They have very easy to use on/off connectors so you can quickly remove the seat if you are riding solo and extra mounts are available if you want to move the seats between multiple bikes.  They are easy to clean and can even be locked onto the bike if theft is a concern.

The front mounted Thule Yepp Mini and iBert seats are great for kids aged 9 months -3 years old and will fit best on city, commuter, or cruiser styled bikes.  Windshields are available to help keep cold wind and/or precipitation at bay and a foam sleeproll is also available for when Baby inevitably falls asleep.  Adjustable foot buckets keep their feet secure too.  Some mountain bikes are ok too but often not ideal because your body position on a mountain bike usually has the rider reaching and leaning forward - right where the baby seat would be.  Front mounted seats are also not recommended for use on the front of bikes with drop-styled handlebars.

Rear mounted Thule Yepp Maxi seats are usually for toddlers and mount directly to the bike or to a sturdy rear rack.  They are bigger in size than the Mini and have higher backs and bigger seatbelts.  Foot buckets are easily adjusted and there are even guards installed to keep their feet out of the spokes.  Special mounts are available is you also want to carry panniers behind the kids seat.

*** Contact us if you unsure whether your existing bike will accept a seat ***

Biking With Kids Tip #3

Cargobikes

Larry Vs Harry's incredible "Bullitt" bakfiets cargobike.
 Cargobikes come in a few different configurations and depending on how many children you have (or are planning on having) there is something for every family and every budget.  These incredible bikes are the SUV's of the bicycle world and are capable of hauling up to 4 kids or 400lbs of cargo.  They are really fun to ride and once the kids have grown up they can still be useful for shopping and errands.  You can break these bikes down into these categories - 

- Longtails like the Xtracycle Edgerunner, Bike Friday "Haul-a-Day", and the new Benno Boost/Carry On place the load behind the rider offering a ride that is most similar to a regular bike.  These bikes are the most affordable option on the market and brilliantly transition from being a family hauler into a load hauler once the kids have grown up.  Carrying children is handled by installing baby seats in the front of the rider or on the deck in the back.  They are also available electrified allowing you to cross the city or effortlessly climb those big hills we have. Both the Edgerunner and Haul-a-Day have a cargo capacity of around 100kgs with the Benno offering about 1/2 that.
- Bakfiets (pronounced bak-feets) literally translated from Dutch means "box bike" and is used to describe bikes like the one pictured above - a Larry Vs Harry Bullitt.  They are 2 wheeled bikes placing the load (or babies) in front of the rider making it very easy to see and chat with your kids or break up a fight between them.  The box keeps your precious cargo safe in the event of a tipover and can easily handle all sorts of cargo loads like groceries, recycling, and garden centre runs.  They are incredibly stable, even at slow speeds, and are available with a rain cover to keep rain and cold winds out.  These bikes are haevier than longtails but lighter than trikes and usually have a cargo capacity of 100 kgs.
- Trikes are similar to bakfiets in their load carrying capacity and positioning of the load in front of the rider but differ in that they have 2 wheels in front and 1 behind.  They usually weigh a little bit more than longtails and bakfiets but offer more stability in rough weather - meaning, you can ride these further into the winter safely than the other 2 designs.  If you have 2+ children these are the bikes you may need to consider since they can accomodate up to 4 kids.  In general, these bikes work best in situations where you are not covering really long distances and are best recommended for use in your community because they are not as light or fast as the other 2 designs.

*** We try to keep at least one model of each design in stock at all times *** 

Biking With Kids Tip #4

Trailers

Probably the most ubiquitous of the kid hauling options, trailers have been the main option for cycling with kids in North America for the last 20 years.  I am not sure why trailers took off here they way they did but I'll take a guess that the combination of car culture and fear mongering towards baby seats - plus the lack of cargo bikes and good quality baby seats on the market - pushed trailers to the forefront.  They are widely availble now and can sometimes be quite expensive - some of them are the same price as our cargobikes!  They can mount very easily to most bikes and can usually be converted into a stroller too.  Most trailers are equipped with rain covers and cargo hauling weight capacity is usually in around the 75lbs. range.  Many can be converted into a stroller as well.

While trailers are easy to add onto an existing bicycles they can be heavy to pull (most are 25lbs+ before cargo/babies added), they can affect the handling of your bicycle negatively, and they put your baby way back behind you making it impossible to chat while cycling.  They are also more difficult to use in tighter spaces, like parking at the grocery store and you need to be aware that you are longer and wider - I have seen parents clip bollards and curbs and have even flipped my own trailer (with kid in it) years ago by clipping a curb cut. 

Biking with Kids Tip #5



Trail-a-Bikes

Trail-a-bikes are devices that attached to the seatpost of your existing bike and allow your child to pedal along with you.  They are essentially a beam with a set of handlebars, a seat, and a rear wheel.  They are available in singlespeed and geared versions, as well as a folding model that makes storage and transport a little easier.  Depending on how tall your little one is you may be able to start around them at around 3-4 years old.  They are a popular option for families that want to have their kids pedaling instead of just coming along for the ride on a baby seat or on a cargo bike and are useful for trips that are further afield and maybe a little too far for those little legs to pedal.

A few considerations - they do not work that well on many bikes that have a rear rack as it can interfere with the connection point to the bike.  They can be heavy as well with the lightest alloy version coming in at around 20+lbs before you plunk your baby on it.  And finally, kids can fall off them if they are not paying attention (I've witnessed this happen, it wasn't very much fun).

So, just to sum it all up, biking with your baby onboard can be easy and fun and there are plenty of transport options available depending on the type of cycling you do and the age of your children.  Just follow these simple tips and you'll be on your way to helping your children see bicycles as a normal way of getting around -

- Start 'em young.  You can get cycling with your kids as soon as they are old enough to hold their head steady with a helmet on.
- Ride often.  Taking your baby on errand/grocery runs by bike is fun and demonstrates to your children what is possible with a bike.
- Take the long/slow/safe route everywhere.  There is no rush when out cycling with kids.  Enjoy the slower pace and savour the time togther.
- Don't worry about the weather, plan for it.  Kids love being outside, even in winter, so bundle them up and keep on cycling (and of course refer back to the tip "take the long/slow/safe route).

We currently have a Larry Vs Harry Bullitt, Xtracycle Edrunner, and BF Haul-a-Day demo bikes available if you are interested in trying them out over a weekend. 

*** FOR 2018 ALL OUR CARGO BIKE DEMOS WILL BE ELECTRIFIED ***

And finally, do you have any tips and experiences you can share with others?  Leave us a comment!

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