In the front, in the rear, trailing two feet behind, pedal-pushing parents have various options when it comes to pillions for their tiny passengers. As a result, these options raise a host of questions for first-time purchasers of child bike seats.
When asked for advice, the guys at Recycle-A-Bicycle were forthcoming if stern, “Yeah, don’t buy a cheap one.” It also doesn’t hurt to check what your local ‘gently used’ baby store has in stock, as these items have a very limited life (only 1- to 5-year-olds can use them). For my son, I chose a carrier that fit snugly over the knobby rear tire of my mountain bike. The difference in the handling of my bicycle was barely noticeable, but getting my son in and out on solo rides is a joint effort. I clamp the back wheel between my knees and hoist or lower him as he straightens his legs and maneuvers them under the lap bar.
Another dad with whom I ride most often, chose a different carrier for his son. His straddles the slender cross bar of his fixie. He too reports very little difference in bike control, but he does have one complaint: “The child seat is too close to the bike seat, so there isn’t much space for my foot when I mount or dismount the bike.”
Neither of us cared for trailing carriers, though many parents in our neighborhood swear by them. The contraptions, with their little orange flags alerting drivers to the tiny tag along, can be seen coursing through the side streets and paved park trails in our neighborhood.
Consumer Reports offers the following ‘Shopping Secrets’ that will help you when purchasing a child seat: put some weight in it if you test it at the store; bring your child along when you shop to see if the seat is a good fit; buy for your bike (not every seat is universal); and avoid buying any carrier that you’re not able to examine carefully, such as one sold exclusively over the Internet.
Here are my three picks in each category:
CROSS BAR – Weeride ‘Kangaroo LTD’ (because with the special edition, Weeride has “taken it to a sofa level”). $79.99
REAR MOUNT – Kettler ‘Flipper’ (because it takes up to 50 lbs – the maximum I’ve found – and has a safety lap bar). $230.00
TRAILER – Burley (because they have “a strong commitment to help support our community, the outdoors and our environment.”) $250.00
REAR MOUNT/TRAILER HYBRID – Xtracycle ‘Custom Kit’ (because it incorporates wood and works for groceries too) $489.00
There’s also the option of a tandem bike, but my son is only 3 – “No. Three and a half!” – so I have no experience with these as of yet. And forget about riding with your child in a baby backpack or a sling (illegal, dangerous and stupid).
Enjoy the first days of Fall with an extra long bike ride.
Photos from the Flickr pages of cafemama. She has more beautiful photos of the Xtracycle in use.