trailer bikeBiking is a good way to exercise and bond with family members. Exposing a child to biking can begin as early as 9 months old or when the child can sit up by themselves. As parents, usually you are exposed to numerous errands; and piling the child into the car isn’t always the easiest. Having a good bike that is fitted to accommodate a child is a better option sometimes than cars, especially if the errand is just a few blocks or miles away. Usually, children ages 9 months to 5 years old are considered non-pedaling passengers and as such have to be accommodated via some type of seat.

There are a lot of options available for parents looking to bike with children. Child seats attach to both the front and back of a bike, bike trailers, trailer cycles, tandem links, and Bakfiets to name a few. Depending on your budget, children’s ages, and number of children, you will have to decipher which of these options best suit your family’s needs.

Many parents worry that taking their younger children out is never a good idea, however; taking them out for a biking experience is not a problem as long as you consider a few tips.

Tips for riding with a child below 5 years of age:

  • If you will ride with your spouse and child, the most experienced rider will have to fit the trailer, child seat or luggage to his/her bike.
  • The rule of the thumb for using the bike to run errands with a child in tow, is to go five miles and less. Start with smaller distances before you set your eyes on longer ones.
  • Be familiar with traffic rules concerning bike riding and using the bike lanes. In the absence of bike lanes, it may be better to go around a safe neighborhood than to brave the streets with a child in tow. Use your best judgment when it comes to routes to take for errands.
  • If you can afford a trailer, then you should seriously consider investing in one. Trailers offer comfort and protection to a child and accommodate two children.  Other road users will give you more space upon seeing the trailer. In case you fall, the trailer will still stay upright and the child is protected by a roll cage in case it falls on its side.  Choose a flat and paved terrain when towing a trailer especially if you are riding for the first time. Make sure you bike is equipped with good brakes and you have enough lung power.
  • Make sure that the child wears a helmet that protects the forehead.
  • Choose a route that has less or no traffic to encourage conversation with you spouse or significant others.
  • Consider the needs of your young child. Choose a route that will allow your child to rest in the grass or to play for a while after the ride.
  • Protect your child passenger from the weather. Use sunblock lotion in summer and proper clothes for the cold weather.
  • When using a child seat for a bike, have it fitted correctly. Install a strong kickstand to support the bike as you get your child in or out  of the seat. Never leave the child alone in the bike even with the kickstand on.

When the children start to ride independently, teach them the basic rules of traffic. Observe your child’s behavior and point out to him/her things that the child should avoid when riding in the streets.   Cycling is a perfect outlet for both parents and children.  Overall, remember to have fun!

Image courtesy of Flick.