Biking at every age and stage
When Toronto mom Corinne McLean Lynds first put one-year old Ben on her bike in a rear-mounted baby seat, she was so excited. “I had visions of serene family bike rides around the neighbourhood. But it didn’t work out that way at all,” she describes. “Little Ben cried the whole 10-minute ride home.” Fast-forward 18 months. “After I started picking him up from daycare on my bike, he began to love it. And then he’d cry when I made him come off! This summer, I’m looking forward to some longer family rides, although now I’ll probably have to get him his own bike.”
For fitness, fun and greener transportation, many of us are turning to pedal power. Read on for what you need to know about cycling and your children, from baby stage onwards.
How young is too young to cycle? Theoretically, babies can ride on your bike or in a bike trailer at as young as six months when they’re able to sit and hold their heads up, note bike store owners. But as McLean Lynds discovered, the biggest challenge is finding a helmet. “I realized that at one year Ben was still a bit small for the bike and that was most apparent when I tried to buy him a helmet small enough for his head,” she says.
It’s tough, but not impossible. “Often with children under two years old, we have to size the helmets down so we add extra foam to the inside of the helmet. The smallest size in the market is 46 cm. and babies heads are smaller than that,” says William Martinen, owner of West Side Cycle in Toronto. Adjustable helmets often range from $30–$50.
The next decision is the type of child carrying device: a rear- or front-mounted baby bike seat or a trailer that hitches to your bike. “It depends on the situation with every individual family so it’s not so much which one is right, but which one makes sense for your family,” says Martinen.
For instance, bike seats tend to be less expensive, ranging from $120 to $200. They’re convenient to tote a child around in and let your babe tuck in close behind or in front of you. The drawbacks are that they only carry one child and eat up storage room on your bike. Also the seat has a high centre of gravity and if the bike falls, the child goes down too.
A front carrier, such as the Safe-T-Seat for children four years and under, mounts just below your handlebars. Front carriers are about preference and don’t necessarily offer greater safety, says Denyse Boxell, project leader in Toronto with Safe Kids Canada. “The extra weight in front makes it harder to steer and pedal. It’s certainly not better than the rear-mounted seat where there are still balance and weight issues,” says Boxell. “If I were to look at these from a fall perspective, a trailer is safer because it’s lower to the ground.”