Biking with Kids, lessons from Citybiker Bob K.
How to tote your kids around when they are wee…
Rear childseat on your bike: Probably the cheapest option. Not so good if you want to carry anything else besides your child. Maybe not the best option for kids who like to look around a lot, as they get a really great view of your butt and not much else.
Front Stem mounted (behind the handlebars): Really great for young children because it’s easy to keep tabs on them, but as they get bigger it becomes an obstacle because your kid’s weight will negatively affect steering. You can talk to them while riding though, and your kid gets a great view from the front of the bike.
Trailers: Good for carrying one or two kids. Very easy to remove from your bicycle, and will work with most any bike. Most trailers can also carry a bunch of other stuff, groceries, toys, a dog, etc. However it’s not easy to talk to your children, especially when riding in heavy traffic.
Trail-a-bike (Kids 3ish – up): Also a pretty low entry cost. You need to be confident that they won’t try to get off while riding, as you cannot keep visual track of your kid. Generally it’s very easy to remove from your bike when you’re not using it; and your child does not need to pedal if they do not want to.
Xtracycle: Super great for carrying up to three kids and weeks worth of groceries. Lots of different accessories, child seats (up to two), foot rests, load carrying options, etc. Kinda pricy, and you need to completely modify your bike, however it’s not difficult to ride around unloaded. Check with you local bicycle mechanic about it’s compatibility with your bike. Relatively easy to ride up hill.
Cargobikes: Great for carrying kids (and other stuff), but generally very expensive. You are committing yourself to owning a bike that’s only good for carrying stuff. Also can be a bit big and cumbersome to store, so think about where to store it when not in use.
A. Front loader. Bakfiets, Joebike, or Metrofiets, great because you can see your kids. You can carry more than one kid, sometimes up to four. And you can usually buy a rain cover for the cargo area. (at least your kids will stay dry even if you don’t) Not very fast, and a little difficult to go up hills.
B. rear loader. Bucket style, can carry bunch of kids (up to four). Xtracycle style, with the same pros and cons.
C. Cargotrike. The minivan of the human powered world. Large cargo area can carry up to four children, and a bunch of stuff (groceries, dogs, etc…). It usually comes with a rain cover so your kids will stay nice and dry even in the worst weather. It’s designed to be left outside in bad weather, because trikes are usually a bit too big to bring inside. However at a starting weight of 75lbs it’s not so easy to go up hill!
Tandems (great for older kids): Definitely the fastest of the child moving devices, and not too hard to ride around when you don’t have someone on the back. You can set up to carry other things just like a regular bike. Downsides include a big price tag, storage, and your kid can’t stop pedaling unless you do (the cranks are all chained together). But for older kids it’s a great option to expand your cycling range.
How to keep you child interested…
Kids will get bored way quicker than any adult will while riding a bike. Play verbal games, I-spy games, tell stories, sing songs, whatever it takes to keep them happy. Stop and take breaks frequently, and in addition to snacks, bring rain gear and sunscreen.
When they want their own bike…
Most kids by age three are ready for a kickbike (also called a Balance bike), a pedal-less bike where they have to scoot themselves around with their feet. It is a great way to develop essential riding skills like balance and steering.
Training wheels? Avoid ’em. They give kids a false sense of security, one which they will be forced to give up when you take the training wheels off. Let them learn balance and steering on a kickbike, or by removing the pedals from their bike. You can put them back on when they’re ready.
Pedal bikes. There are lots of small sized bikes available for little folks from a variety of manufacturers. Get them a bike that fits them now and commit yourself to buying them a new bike when they outgrow it in a year or 18 months. The money you spend now will ensure that they will love riding bicycles well into the future.
When to start:
In the united states most people feel limited by the age when a child can hold their head up while wearing a helmet (usually between 9 and 12 months). In the rest of the world people will bike with their children as young as three or four months old. There is no legal limitations to this, just when you and your family feel comfortable doing it.
2 Responses to Biking with Kids, lessons from Citybiker Bob K.
I think you have given all the available options.
I personally prefer the rear child seat for young kids and the tandem bike for older children.
Since I have a bike company I can say that the tandem bikes are becoming very popular. A lot of couples prefer to ride tandems than separate bikes. I cannot understand that – especially if I have to be the one sitting on the back. You are practically doing nothing and as you said “staring on the other’s but”.
In city conditions riding a tandem is not so safe – it is longer, less stable and less manoeuvrable.
Totally agree that training wheels should be avoided. Balance bikes help kids learn to ride a bike faster and makes the transition to a ‘standard’ bike much easier. People should especially check out balance bikes at http://www.balancebikes.com. These bikes include hand brakes, kickstand and footrest to make the transition even smoother. Here’s a video that shows them in action. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9hgrHaCFv4
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