Many cyclists, after becoming parents, put their bicycles to one side only rediscovering them, dusty and rusted, years later. As we prepared for the birth of our first child we were determined to continue our car-free lifestyle so we set out to discover the best ways to carry a baby or toddler on a bicycle.
Our set-up has evolved over the last eight years as our children have grown from babes-in-arms to confident independent riders. There are many products out there to transport your baby or toddler on a bicycle. The ones referred to in this post were bought after a great deal of careful research. We can fully vouch for their performance, quality and value for money.
How soon can you put your baby or toddler on a bicycle?
A child needs to be able to sit up confidently by themselves before they are ready to go in a bike-seat or bike trailer (though we know others who have found solutions via using an infant car seat within a cargo-bike or other kind of trailer / carrying set up). Some trailers, including the Chariot range, do sell baby slings, but the instructions say these are only to be used when the trailer is in pram mode, not when being towed by a bicycle. So it’s a question of child development which is different in each child. Having the necessary head and neck control could happen as early as six months or as late as twelve. Both our children first went in a bicycle trailer aged ten months.
Thule Chariot Cougar 2
Although we only had one child at the time, we purchased a Thule Chariot Cougar 2, which seats two children. We loved its suspension, mesh cover for hot days, rain-shield plus a wrap-around raincover for wet and windy days, storage ‘boot’ at the back, five point harnesses for each child, baby supporter, pram conversion kit and reassuring safety features.
A friend gave us a cheaper model to try out and our child bounced and bumped around. Surprisingly she fell asleep but seemed to loll and tip in the seat rather alarmingly. We didn’t have any such issues with the Chariot.
We purchased our trailer when our eldest was ten months old and initially used it for shorter journeys around town. Soon after, we bought an extra hitch so we could swap the trailer between two different adult bikes with ease. We enjoyed being able to park our bikes, pop the pram wheels into position and head off to the shops without have to disturb an often sleeping baby. One of us always had a sling in their pannier in case she preferred a closer cuddle.
A few months later we had an 18 month old toddler, a three months pregnant Mummy and we decided to embark on a three week cycle tour from Sheffield to Lindisfarne. We tested the trailer to its limits and it triumphed. We managed to fit all the camping kit plus the toddler and her toys in the trailer. Our only difficulty was lifting it over the Sustrans cycle gates on the Transpennine Trail – without waking the baby! In retrospect, a bikeseat in addition to the trailer would have been helpful at this point, to offer our toddler more options and keep her within touching distance. I think we would have gone for the Yepp Mini but we don’t have any actual experience of this seat ourselves.
A baby AND a toddler
Once baby number two arrived we had a pause in our whole-family cycling until he gained the necessary head and neck strength (but continued with trailer and our first donated bike seat, a Hamax, for our eldest). We did use the trailer, though, as a double buggy with the extra baby sling. This was followed by a period of about eight months where we transported both children in the trailer. The main problem was the toddler and the baby prodding each other until the other cried; not exactly a flaw we could complain about to the manufacturer! At this point, we’d usually stop and have a break, snack or walk along together.
Our eldest loved the trailer, although she could feel rather bored in there too. Sometimes it was only constant singing that allowed us to keep going when she was awake. Otherwise we had to simply stop. She typically felt cosy and protected in there. Although we didn’t think the Hamax bike seat was ideal she did enjoy sitting up higher. Still the trailer had its appeal and she would often hop in, even when she had her own bike to ride, to escape from the elements. It was a sad day for her when she became too tall to fit in. One of us would pull the trailer and the other pull her bike attached to the Follow-Me Tandem.
Our youngest slept comfortably in the trailer but otherwise preferred to be in the bike seat, even in full waterproofs. He liked the more elevated view. Similarly, once he could ride a bike, then cycling himself was certainly his preference.
The Yepp Maxi
After our experience with a Hamax seat with three-point harness we settled on the more substantial Yepp Maxi. We loved the water-repellent, shock-absorbing rubber seat and the five-point harness. Both children were extremely comfortable in it and the foot rests are quickly adjustable so it was easy to swap if the children changed seats. We found it really worked to give the baby or toddler on a bicycle options so they could choose between bike seat, trailer and, later on, Follow-Me or their own bike (we’ll write a post about this soon).
The Yepp Maxi attaches either to your seat post or to your back rack with an easy-fit window, or with the easy-fit adapter. You can detach the seat when not in use in under a minute. We each had an attachment on our bike, so one person could drop off at nursery, leave the seat there, then the other parent could collect the baby or toddler on a bicycle with ease, using the same seat.
The only downside is that it does not recline and so is not a suitable place for your child to sleep (one or two seats offer a tilt-back option, but reviews swayed us against these). What we did do, however, was to transfer our sleeping child into the trailer where they were better protected from the elements, once they had fallen asleep.
So there are many options for carrying a baby or a toddler on a bicycle. You can definitely carry on cycling once you have a family. Your set-up will grow and change with your family. We’ll post soon about the next stage, which included the Yepp Junior and, in the end, two Follow-Me Tandems!