Riding a bicycle with a toddler can be challenging, but it can also result in some of the most pleasurable and memorable days of your lives together. Don’t be afraid to take your toddler for a bike ride, just make sure you’re prepared for it.

 

Where do I put them?

There are two common ways to tote your toddler on a bike: pulling them behind you in a trailer or strapping them into a special seat attached to your bike. Here are some of the pros and cons of both methods.

 

Trailers - Pros

  • Stable – If you fall off your bike a lot this might be your best bet. You can fall and they will still be sitting in their trailer, most likely laughing at you.

  • Room to play/sleep – A trailer has plenty of room for toys and a pillow, in case the little one desires a nap while you’re sweating it up the hills.

  • Weather protection – Rain? No problem! She will be warm and dry with the rain flap pulled down on your trailer, and when the sun comes back out she’ll have shade too.

  • Room for extra gear – If you have a toddler you know how much you have to carry on a trip. A trailer handles it easily.

     

Trailers - Cons

  • Big and heavy – That trailer isn’t light, and neither is all the stuff you packed it with (don’t forget the toddler!) On the plus side, you’ll get a good workout in under 10 miles.

  • Far from child – If he needs something, you’ll have to stop the bike to take care of it.

  • Harder to transport – Most trailers fold down, but they are still somewhat bulky and require a bit of room to get around town.

     

Bike seats - Pros

  • Close to child – Your little one will be within arm’s reach, which makes it easy to attend to their needs, and makes conversation possible (okay, maybe not conversation at this age, but you can at least point out the nice doggies chasing you.)

  • Minimal weight/resistance – Bike seats are much lighter than trailers and are attached to your bike, so less rolling resistance.

  • Same width as bike – You know those barriers that block cars from going on the bike trail? Never noticed them? You might with a wide bike trailer. No problem with a bike seat.

  • Easy to transport – Most racks will accept your bike and the attached bike seat with no problem.

 

Bike seats - Cons

  • Less stable – Toddlers enjoy swinging their arms and looking to see what you just passed, which causes your front wheel to move in the opposite direction. Takes a little getting used to (as do toddlers.)

  • No weather protection – Rain? Big problem, unless you packed a raincoat! See the next bullet for why you didn’t pack a raincoat.

  • Less room to play/sleep/carry gear – A bike seat is just that . . . a seat. Not much room for all the extra stuff that keeps a toddler happy or comfortable. This can be solved with a backpack or panniers, however.

     

How do I entertain them?

  • Toys – Yep, toddlers like toys. It’s wise to fasten them with elastic so they don’t get lost inside the trailer or at the bottom of the big hill you just pedaled up.

  • Food – Whatever your toddler likes, bring it along! Eating is a great cycling activity for non-pedalers. Make sure to bring plenty of fluids too.

  • Tree branches – Our son started yelling something that sounded like “monkey pants” on a club ride. Turns out he wanted “more green plants” . . . we had been pulling small branches off nearby greenery as we rode along to amuse him. Don’t hesitate to use everything in the vicinity to occupy your toddler’s attention.

     

How do I keep them safe and comfortable?

  • Helmets – Wearing a bike helmet is a must for your toddler whether they are in a trailer or a bike seat. Not only does it protect them, it also gets them used to wearing a helmet, which can be one of the early challenges to cycling together. HELPFUL TIP: Pinching their neck when closing the chin strap isn’t the best way to start a ride.

  • Weather – Cold is more of a factor than heat. Your toddler isn’t pedaling, so they are not as warm as you are. Make sure to layer their clothing so you can adjust as necessary.

 

How far can I go?

This really depends on your toddler’s mood that particular day/hour/minute and how much you like to live on the edge. That blissful ten miles out might not be quite the same coming back if something happens to upset your toddler. It’s a good idea to keep your mileage down until you both adjust to riding together. But once you’re both in agreement that riding on bicycles is fun, you’ll be riding farther than you ever thought possible (especially when they fall asleep!)

 

Ride Well!

 

- Bill Adams