How to transport children by bike

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How to transport children by bike

Cycling with young children can be a real joy. But there are so many options, it can be hard to know what set-up works for the different ages of children. Cycling UK's Victoria Hazael and Alix Stredwick from CarryMe Bikes explain the options to help you make the best cycling choices for your family and budget.

If you want to take your children cycling alongside you there are plenty of options whatever their age, but it can be confusing to know what to do. Our infographic produced for Bike Week 2020 sets out the most common options, please download a copy or share with friends.

Below there is further information and a few more options. If you have a set up you use with your children you'd like to recommend, please do so in the comment box at the end of the article. 

Cycling can help you during pregnancy to get around, it can help you get a breath of fresh air and a change of scenery when you have young babies and toddlers. Children often like the feeling of motion and nap in trailers and childseats. Cycling is also a practical way to get children to and from nursery and school, and is an opportunity for some exercise to improve everyone physical and mental health. 

The infographic

Pregnant            

The cheapest option is to use your normal bike – as long as it can accommodate your bump and it’s not uncomfortable.       

You could borrow a more upright Dutch-style bike, that will have more bump room, and will relieve pressure on your wrists. Drop handlebars can be more uncomfortable depending on your bump.

A step-through frame or folding bike might be easier to use in your second and third trimester. Some mums-to-be prefer an e-bike as it makes pedalling easier, and prevents you getting out of breath and overdoing it.

Victoria Hazael blogged about her experince of cycling when pregnant and more recently Laura Moss wrote about cycling long distances when you are expecting. Our advice is: cycle if you are comfortable to do so, and talk to your midwife or GP if you have concerns.               

Cargobikes

A cargobike is an investment that gives you options from birth to much older children. On bigger models you can carry 4 children and have room for bags. For more information about the types of cargobikes please read our guide to cargobikes by Alix Stredwick.

Another long-term investment solution that grows with your children is a tandem such as Circe Helios or Morpheus. It will take a changing combination of seats and pedalling passengers.

One baby under 9 months

A baby is too small to sit in a seat on the front or the back of your bike.

However, you can carry a baby on bike using a trailer with baby support inserts. You will need to use the inserts until your baby is over 9kgs. If you have twins or might have more children in the next two or three years, use a double trailer. Otherwise, a single or slimline trailer will give you room for your baby, and some trailers have a compartment for a nappy bag. 

There are lots of trailers to choose from, our guide to child trailers explains the differences. 

Using a sling with baby in is not technically ‘legal’ as it is not a modification on a bike specially to carry a passenger.

For any baby too young to sit in a bike seat, a trailer or a boxbike-style Cargobike is really the only good option. It’s possible to get attachments that allow a support frame for a Maxicosi carseat to be attached to the backrack of your bike, such as the Steco Baby Mee; but it’s not something we normally recommend for light bikes.

Child seats                                                     

Baby 9 months – 4 years              

If your baby can sit up unaided without cushions and weighs 9kgs, they are ready to go in a child seat. 9 months is a rough guide and it really depends on your child's weight and how good they are at sitting up. 

For a child seat on the front of bike usual weight limit is 15kg.

Which type you go for will depends on the geometry of your bike, the handlebars, and how long your legs are. WeeRide front seats with their own horizontal bar often work on drop-handlebar bikes where ‘standard’ style fronts seats attached to the headtube might not fit.              

For a child seat on back of bike the usual weight limit is 22kg

You have the options of mounting to a back-rack (which may come with its own back rack) or to a seat tube, depending on the geometry of your bike and what type of rack you have/can fit on to it.

You can get seats designed for older children up to about age 7 that go to 32kg; these must be attached to a rear rack with the required weight limit.

Remember, when buying a child seat it will need to be comfy for your child for a few years. If you like long rides, opt for a rear seat that reclines for naps and buy a support for your child's neck to stop it lolling around if they sleep.

There are lots of child seats to choose from. You can read our guide to child seats to find out more.  We are currently testing child seats for Cycle magazine (the magazine Cycling UK members get six times a year) the results will be published in the autumn.

A baby and toddler or two toddlers       

There are a few options for this, a front seat and back seat attached to normal bike is the cheapest. Although if you are not a strong rider, the extra weight can make it a bit tricky to balance and manoeuvre.

You can use a double trailer.

You can also use a longtail-style cargobike with two rear child seats. You may prefer a boxbike style cargobike for two children. You just need to use a baby/toddler support insert for when the youngest is small. The benefit of this is both your children are in front of you and you can see if they are sleeping, crying, laughing, or fighting, which you can’t if they are both in a double trailer.          

Tandems such as the Circe Helios or Morpheus can take a baby (via a Steco Baby Mee and Maxi Cosi attachment) and a toddler in a child seat.

For two toddlers you could also try a Mamachari-style bike with 2 built-in child seats.

Baby over 9 months and child aged 4+ who can pedal

Front seat and back seat attached to normal bike, up until the largest can fit in a 25kg max back seat. Then a back seat up to 32kg can be used. This has less side protection as it’s aimed for older children who won’t fall asleep.  

Tag-alongs for the 4-year-old, plus a front seat on your bike for a younger child is also an option. A rear child seat cannot usually be used with a tag-along as the seat will get in the way of the seatpost-mounted backseat. Be aware on a tag-alongs your child cannot fall asleep and is not strapped in. One of mine once tried to get off at the traffic lights.

To find out more about tag-alongs, trailerbikes and towbars read our guide. 

Instead of a tag-along you could attach your child’s own pedal bike using a Followme tandem

Baby over 9 months, 4-year-old and 6-year-old

Front seat, rear seat, and Followme Tandem is an option, or two seats and a trailer.

Try a longtail Cargobike with two back seats and a tag-along if the older child insists on pedalling too.

Tandem such as Circe Helios or Morpheus that can take both a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old who can pedal, then attach a single trailer with inserts for baby.  

Toddler and 4-year-old

If your toddler is small, they could fit in a front seat and the 4-year-old could go on a back seat on the back rack up to 32kg. Alternatively use a rear seat plus single trailer

Longtail Cargobike with two back seats, or a smaller boxbike-type cargobike where both children can sit on the bench seat.

Toddler triplets               

Try a combination of child seats and trailer or a longtail cargobike with two back seats plus a single trailer or a small boxbike cargobike with an extra child seat on the back or the front.  

A larger boxbike cargobike would fit three toddlers inside the box. You might like to use booster seats and/or toddler support seats depending on their age and size.

4 school-aged children                                               

Longtail cargobike or larger boxbike cargobike would fit four children inside the box, examples of this would be the Babboe Big or Bakfiets.nl Trike.


 

 

Family     Bike Week

Places to get help and advice

The Cycling UK Family Cycling section on this website is packed with guides, videos and information. If we don't cover a topic you'd like to know about please let us know in the comments section at the end of this article. 

You can consult the collective wisdom of other cycling parents by posting a question on the Cycling UK Forum family section or on the Facebook group Family Cycling UK. They are both friendly places to get help and sometimes secondhand equipment.

You can consult our experts in Cycle magazine by emailing a question, but you will have to wait for the answer to be published in the magazine.

You can go to your local bike shop for advice too. 

The cost

Buying secondhand will save you a lot of money, just check for damage. If a cargobike is for sale very cheaply, chances are it is stolen. Cycling families often sell or just pass on their equipment on the Cycling UK Forum.

There are a wild range of prices for trailers. However, even the double trailers can be bought new at around £150 if you catch a Aldi/Lidl offer. Or trailers can be between £400-£700 for the top range ones. Shop around, borrow equipment from family cycling libraries like CarryMe Bikes or friends.

A cargobike is an investment that gives you options from birth to much older children. You will be able to sell it secondhand when you no longer need it. 

Think about where you will store the bike, will a cargo bike fit along a narrow passageway to a shed in the garden?  

Carrying other bags

Think about what else you will need to bring.  When transporting children, you often have a lot of other stuff to lug round. Options are:

  • A good basket fitted to the front or back of your bike
  • Front pannier carriers fitted to your front wheel and invest in smaller front panniers (although this can be a fiddle!);
  • Get a pannier rack extender, so that if you have a child’s back seat that gets in the way of using your pannier rack, you can still fit panniers to the back of your bike;
  • Get a flatbed freight trailer such as the CarryFreedom, which attaches to your rear hub and can carry cargo (but not children), flatpacks quickly and easily, and can easily be used for those non-child trips too;
  • Go for a child trailer option even if you only have one child to carry; it’ll free up your back rack for panniers, and some trailers have lots of room in a luggage compartment too;
  • Go for a cargobike option so there’ll be plenty of room for unexpected loads (another child home for tea, and shopping)
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