My sister recently asked me for some advice on buying a bicycle and outfitting it to tote her children, ages seven and two. I don’t have kids and have never transported one on a bike, so I had to rely on my bicycle commonsense and the blogs of biking mamas.
Most child transport options are dependent on age and weight such as child seats, trailers and trainers, or you can go for a cargo bike designed for carting your brood around town.
|Capital City Trail|
First, let’s talk about trailers. They are by far the most common way to transport kids in the Madison area. Trailers have a low center of gravity and they enable you start riding with a child or two without much of an investment – starting from $280 at your local bike shop, or less from Craigslist. Still, they have some disadvantages worth mentioning: trailers aren't in the same visual field, elongate the space your bike takes up, and put your child outside of range to chat while riding.
|iBert Safety Seat|
Child seats have come a long way since the time my mom strapped me (helmetless) into the yellow plastic one on the back of her ten-speed. A nice option is a front seat that puts your kid right between your arms. This way you can talk to them and they have a nice view of the world you are cycling through. Also, having the weight right in front of you, I imagine, would make it easier to balance when stopping and starting to bike. Loading and unloading your kid can be tricky – Dorea of Carfree with Kids suggests getting a double kickstand to add stability. This style of seat is good for kids from 12 months to 4 years or 38lbs.
|The Carfree with Kids Xtracycle|
There are a few ways to carry a child on the rear of your bike including a rear child seat, though, most are only good for children up to 48lbs – not adding much more use than what you could get from a front seat. If your child is older, there are more options such as handlebars that affix under your bike seat which your child can hold onto while straddling the rack.
|The Boxbike as pictured on Joe-bike.com|
When the time comes for me to look for a family vehicle, I’m going for a cargo bike. There are many options from two-wheelers to trikes. Buying a cargo bike is a greater upfront investment but still much cheaper than a minivan! While researching I discovered the Boxbike by Joe Bikes out of Portland and love it. Dorea and Angela of Car Free with Kids use one and are quite happy with it. They spent a lot of time considering options before making the decision to get the Boxbike, which you can read about here.
There are also some super fancy cargo bikes such as the Winther Kangaroo that I read about at J. C. Lind Bikes. I have also read some good reviews of the Gazelle Cabby. Yuba offers a versatile utility bike that is worth a look.
This is just a starting point for parents looking to bike with kids. Advice on toting your family by bike is all well and good, but parents should choose based on what they feel most comfortable with and what will get them out there taking more trips by bike.
I suggest reading this awesome post at Totscycle that offers ideas from infancy to when your kid hops on their own bike – from an actual mom. Other great family biking blogs to check out include: