Category: Biking with Kids

In one of my previous articles, I discussed ways to carry kids around on a bike and get them involved in biking as transportation early on. However, with the first phrase out of anyone’s mouth after an adult confesses to riding a bike being, “do you wear a helmet?” you can bet your panniers that helmets for kids – and especially little ones – are a must: if not for safety, for the impression of safety.

There's a child under the helmet, somewhere

The problem: hardly anyone in the U.S. really believes that kids under the age of 2 or so are going to be on a bike!  Hence… the great infant helmet search of 2012.

The first thing you have to figure out when looking for a helmet – for anyone – is head circumference (generally in centimeters, though a few manufacturers will throw you off and do it in inches). For R – our 9-month-old – that magic number is 45 cm. That makes things quite tricky – most “toddler” helmets don’t go that small – and those that do, look ridiculous on her! Additionally, a lot of helmets are designed for on-bike use and stick way out in the back – making it very hard to get an infant or toddler into a trailer or high-backed seat in anything resembling a comfortable position.

Here’s what I’ve tried or found reasonable-looking so far:

Lazer infant helmet – Only goes down to 46 cm, but Totcycle reports it’s a smaller helmet, so it leaves infants with less of an “I have a football helmet on my head” feel.

Nutcase's Little Nutty ("Hula Lounge" print)

Nutcase Little Nutty (XS) – More expensive than pretty much everything else at $55, but looks like it might not dwarf an infant head so much. The first Amazon review says it’s too small for a 2-year-old (which many others aren’t), so that may be a good indicator.

Giro Me2 – Only goes down to 48cm, looks huge on an infant. However, it’s a nice helmet and we’ve used it with our older daughter. Spin dial on back makes size adjustment a breeze.

Bell Sprout – Only goes down to 47cm, but says it’s optimized for trailers and seats – which may be better than many others.

Specialized Small Fry toddler – Fits 44-52cm according to the label, but it doesn’t fit my daughter’s 45cm head very well. Also, it’s approximately the size of her torso. A nice helmet overall though.

A lot of these are available in different styles – I’ve just linked to girly ones because we have girls (and when all you can see is helmet, it’s nice not to have your child’s gender misidentified).

Anyone else have a recommendation? Any experiences with any of the above?

With the National Bike Summit taking place last week, a number of interesting news articles popped up in my Google news alert. Two of them really caught my attention: they are both essays based on the National Women Cycling Forum (which took place during the Summit) on why more women are not choosing two wheels over four.

The first appeared on Greater Greater Washington and served as a good overview of the main topics discussed during the Forum. You can take a look at that by clicking here.

The second also talks about the main topics, but the author also adds in some personal thoughts:

I’ve never thought of myself as a female cyclist. For the last 13 years, I’ve been a bike commuter in DC, and I figured my needs were the same needs as any cyclist. But for the last six months, I’m a biker that doesn’t bike, and that has everything to do with the fact that I’m a woman. So the Women’s Cycling Forum, which kicked off the National Bike Summit yesterday, hit home for me.

After all, I had taken the metro. To the Bike Summit.

Why wasn’t I riding? I just had a baby. So did my partner, but somehow he never had to stop cycling. But then, he didn’t find himself gaining 28 pounds in nine months. Or pushing a baby out his bike-seat anatomy. And since he’s not nursing every three hours, he leaves the house without Luna more often than I do, so he has more cause to bike. At two months, she’s too young for a bike trailer.

Read the rest of the essay by clicking here. Both are well worth the visit, and both offer some very thought-provoking looks at strategies toward getting more women on bikes.

We know everyone here at 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?


J in the Burley, hooked to my commuter

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.


J "commuting"

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.


R with her shadow

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!