My husband and I were both avid bikers before we met and before kids. For us biking was an alternative to commuting; a leisurely way to explore new neighborhoods in New York City, and a way to get some good cardiovascular in as we pumped around Prospect Park.
So we were anxious to get back on two wheels as soon as possible after our daughter was born. As soon as she was old enough to sit up by herself, hold her head up and manage the weight of a helmet with ease, we hit the road as a family on bikes. Key to making this possible was finding a good bike seat for our child.
Bike Seat Versus Bike Trailer
We decided to go with a bike seat because it offered us more maneuverability than a pull-along bike trailer. Riding in the city we wouldn’t be worried about the width of a trailer in traffic and we could also go on narrower off-road trails.
On the other hand, bike seats demand better balance and comfort with your bike since they change the weight distribution dramatically without adding any stability. I remember going up one extremely steep hill and having to lean forward hard so that the front tire of my bike wouldn’t come off the ground with the extra weight in the back (This was a very rare experience – and rare level of steepness). And when the kids got on the big side, if they shifted suddenly, I could feel the little wobble up front.
This stability issue starts right in the beginning of the bike ride. With a trailer you can load the kids in and relax as you get on your bike. With the bike seat, once you load your child on, you have to be holding the bike up and keeping it stable. You have to keep stabilizing the bike when you get on and off the bike as well.
Best bet for figuring out what is right for you is to try each one out. And take your initial bike rides with your child on trails that you feel comfortable on depending on your skill level. Level and out of traffic.
What to look for in a bike child seat:
Here’s what we discovered – after a few different tries – makes for a good child seat for your bike:
Fits Your Bike and Easy Attachment. We ride mountain bikes and one seat we purchased didn’t fit easily over the tires to attach on the hub. For this reason it’s important to verify that the seat you’re purchasing fits the width of your tires.
Also, if you use your bike frequently without a child on board, you may want to get a bike seat that separates from the attachment rack for easy removal.
Location. We used the rear-mounted bike seats. Since we liked to hammer hard on our bikes, leaning forward, a front-mounted seat wouldn’t work. Also, for the best control over your bike, you want to keep it light up front over the handlebars where you steer. Front-mounted bikes seats may interfere with your steering.
Comfort. The bike seat should be nicely padded and include footrests for the passenger. And for your comfort, be sure and make use of the straps to hold little feet in place. I discovered the importance of these restraints when my butt started to get gleeful kicks from behind. Now I know how a horse feels.
Cost. Bike seats range from $35-$135.
So get your little one on the back with a good child bike seat and get riding and exploring. The experience will sow the seeds for enjoying biking. And when they get a little bigger you can move up to a trail-a-bike or trail-gator attachment where they actually bike themselves.