Q&A: Bicycle riding with baby?

Consumer Reports News: May 14, 2008 09:08 AM

I’m in the market for a bicycle-mounted seat or trailer. Which one is the safest for infants? My baby is 9 months old and big for her age. She looks ready to ride.

We don’t think she’s quite ready yet. If you’re shopping for a bicycle trailer or a bicycle-mounted seat, wait out this purchase until your baby is at least 1 year of age (which is technically toddler territory). We don’t recommend bicycle trailers and bicycle-mounted seats for children younger than that because they may not be physically equipped to withstand the forces they’ll be exposed to when riding in a bicycle seat or trailer. And when they’re younger than age 1, they can’t be properly fitted for a helmet, which all riders should wear. But after that, the coast is clear. Here, some shopping tips:

Take a trailer or a bicycle-mounted seat for a test ride. Put some weight in it if you test it at the store. Don’t test-drive it with your child in it. Save that for home, after you’ve selected a seat, installed it according to manufacturer’s directions, and feel comfortable with it. Bring your child along when you shop, though, just to see if the seat or the cockpit is a good fit. If you can’t test drive at the store, borrow a friend’s bicycle trailer or mounted bicycle seat and take it for a spin with weight in it, such as a sack of potatoes (not your child).

Buy for your bike. In our informal tests, some bicycle trailers couldn’t be mounted on bicycles with disc brakes, and some bicycle-mounted seats couldn’t be used on bicycles with oversize tubes. The Wee Ride 98055, for example, a seat that mounts in the center front of an adult bike, could only be mounted on bikes with a small head tube, the metal tube between the handle bars and the front forks. So keep compatibility in mind when you’re shopping.

Avoid buying a trailer or bicycle-mounted seat that you’re not able to examine carefully, such as one sold exclusively over the Internet. Keep your receipt and the trailer or mounted seat’s packaging in case you discover a fitting problem when you get home.

Consider your cycling ability. The added weight of a little passenger in a bicycle-mounted seat can be unnerving or annoying depending on your cycling expertise.  Towing a bicycle trailer will also test your cycling ability and you may feel like a beast of burden once the weight of the trailer and passenger(s) exceeds 50 pounds. 

For more information, see our report on bike seats and trailers for children including features to consider.

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