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We know everyone here at bikecommuters.com uses their bike to get back and forth to work at least some of the time. But what about other destinations? And what happens when you have to bring the family along?
Since my wife (who’s a stay-at-home mom) and I share one car between us, we’re familiar with a couple strategies and are considering a couple more. Here are a few things we’re using/have used/will use with our two daughters.
Our older daughter, J, is three years old. Since she was about a year old, we’ve used a BurleyD’lite trailer (my review here) to pull her around. We’ve used it on trips to the playground, trips to the grocery store, and for getting around while on vacation. It’s a handy thing: it holds up to two kids plus a bunch of gear (we’ve had a week’s worth of groceries in it before!). However, it is a little bulky and can be annoying to hook up (and unhook) when you’re only going a short distance.
Once kids are a little older, they can often bike along on short errands. We started J on a balance bike when she turned three (though other parents have started as early as 1!). She’s able to go around 2-3 miles round trip on this without too much fuss, which gets us to destinations like the library or the farmers market. Another good option for tired kids or longer rides is some sort of trailer bike.
For younger kids, it gets tricky. Most physicians don’t recommend putting infants in most bike seats, as their necks aren’t strong enough until they’re around 9 months to a year old. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t put them on a bike at all. The family over at Totcycle has compiled a good list of options, including using a car seat base in a trailer, or putting a car seat in the front box of a bakfiets or rear “bucket” of a Madsen. The bakfiets or Madsen bikes generally require a large up-front investment, but offer the advantage of a bike you can continue to carry kids in for several years.
We haven’t put our younger daughter, R (8 months, pictured here with her constant canine companion Otis), on a bike yet – a combination of laziness, cold weather, and not being too enthusiastic about our car seat working well with our trailer. However, we’re looking at a couple options right now. The Topeak Babyseat is a classic rear-mounted “kid’s bike seat” – on steroids. It’s got some nice safety and comfort features (suspension!), and has the advantage of being quickly removable (the rack then works seamlessly with Topeak’s other lock-on bags). We’re also looking at some front-mounted seats, such as the Yepp mini or the iBert. The advantage with these is that the child is in between your arms, can see really well, and can easily converse with you (assuming they’re able to converse with you to begin with). The disadvantage is these apparently turn many children into speed freaks, constantly urging you to go faster and making you work even harder!
There are tons of options out there – more than most people realize – and once kids get started biking, most of them continue to enjoy it (and will hopefully grow up thinking biking for errands or to work is normal and fun!). In my view, bringing up the next generation to bike everywhere is even more important than biking everywhere ourselves – and (most of the time) is a lot of fun too!