Bike with a Baby
Biking with a newborn or infant sounds like a fun way to get outdoors and bond with your baby. But at what age can a baby safely ride along on a bike? And what’s the best way to bike with a baby when they are old enough? You have questions, and we have the answers you need so you can safely and confidently hit the road and have some fun along with your child.
When can my baby start riding on my bike with me?Template:Sa no numbers:
- Children can be bike passengers starting at age 1. In the United States, organizations like the American Association of Pediatrics,
Consumer Product Safety Commission, and Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute all agree that children should not be on a bike before turning 1 year old. Their primary concern is that the jostling, bumping, and bouncing of a bike ride may impact critical early-life brain development.
- Some U.S. states and localities have laws on the books that set the minimum age at 1 year.
- It’s true that age 1 is not the agreed-upon cutoff date worldwide. In some nations, 9 months or 6 months is the expert-recommended cutoff. In other countries, it’s common to see even younger newborns ride along in basket-style carriers.
- Your best bet is to talk to your pediatrician about when it’s safe for your specific child to ride with you on a bike.
- Your child should be able to sit upright unsupported. If your baby can sit up on the floor and keep their head fairly steady, they probably have the neck strength required to safely ride along on a bike. Even if you plan on putting your baby in a bike carrier that lets them recline or lie back, this neck strength is essential to reducing the amount of jostling that occurs to their head and brain.
- To play it safe, wait until your child is at least 1 year old and able to sit upright unsupported. For an extra dose of safety, get an okay from your pediatrician.
- Never put a child in an upright or slightly reclined seat if they can’t securely hold their head up and control its movement, no matter their age. The risk for head and neck injury is too great.
Best Options for Biking with a BabyTemplate:Sa no numbers:
- Bicycle-towed trailers: Tow-behind bike trailers are popular because they’re easy to use with nearly any adult bicycle, and because they enclose your child in a low-to-the-ground, protective “cocoon.” This doesn’t mean they’re always the best or safest option, though, so talk to your pediatrician and consider the following:
- Choose a model that has a solid structural roll cage to protect your child in the event the trailer tips over.
- Trailers that attach at your bike’s rear axle, as opposed to a higher spot like your seat, are less susceptible to tipping over.
- While adequate ventilation is important, make sure the trailer has a solid front screen to protect your child from debris kicked up by your rear tire.
- Especially if you’re riding with a young child who can’t easily sit straight up and keep their head steady, make sure they can ride reclined with their head supported to the sides and back. Some trailers allow for the installation of an infant car seat.
- Always ride with the high-visibility flag and pole attached.
- Ride with low air pressure in the trailer’s tires to reduce the amount of rattling and bouncing—it’s a bumpier ride in the trailer than you’ll experience on the bike!
- Front-mounted child seats: Front-mounted seats typically attach to the bike frame about halfway between your seat and the handlebars. This positioning allows you to easily see and interact with your child—and gives them a better view of things! Front-mount seats have less impact on your center of gravity than a rear-mount seat, but you’ll probably have to spread your legs wider as you pedal. Also keep items like the following in mind:
- Because they aren’t positioned near the ground or directly over a wheel, front-mount seats offer a less bumpy ride than rear-mount seats or trailers.
- The seat must have back, neck, and head support, a 5-point harness, and leg stirrups with holding straps to prevent your child’s feet from touching the front wheel spokes.
- Do not use a front-mount seat if your child cannot keep their head up and steady while wearing a helmet.
- It’s not safe to keep riding if your child falls asleep and their head starts bobbing along with the bumps.
- It’s possible that you might slam into your child during a frontal crash.
- Rear-mounted child seats: Rear-mount seats are convenient, since they attach easily above your bike’s rear wheel and don’t interfere with your pedaling or steering motions. Your body also acts as a shield to block wind, weather, and debris from reaching your child. While these are important advantages, consider the following before using a rear-mount seat:
- Because the seat is directly over the rear wheel, your child will experience a much bumpier ride than you.
- A rear-mount seat affects your center of gravity more than does a front-mount seat, which may make it harder for you to maintain your balance during turns.
- Even though your baby is close by, you can’t easily see them. This makes it hard to recognize if they’ve fallen asleep, at which point you should stop biking in order to protect their drooping head and neck.
- As with a front-mount seat, make sure any rear-mount seat has back, neck, and head support, a five-point harness, and rigid stirrups to protect your child’s legs from the rear wheel’s spokes.
- Cargo bikes: There are many types of cargo bikes out there—“box bikes” (like the Dutch Bakfiets), “longtails” that put the cargo over the back wheel, electric models, and a range of trikes, pedicabs, and other variations. If you’re considering one or more of these options, keep the following in mind:
- The younger your child, the more important it is to provide a supportive and protective seat for them. Make sure your cargo bike can be fitted with a proper child seat. Consult with your pediatrician before choosing or using a cargo bike.
- While they can be useful and multi-functional, cargo bikes are bigger, heavier, more difficult to store, and more expensive. A “box bike” like the Bakfiets can start at around $2,000 USD, with an electric model costing at least twice as much.
- Cargo bikes provide a different riding experience because of their size and weight, but a well-designed cargo bike should be stable and fairly easy to maneuver. This is an advantage over trying to turn a standard bike into a cargo (or baby-carrying) bike.
What kind of helmet should my child wear?Template:Sa no numbers:
- Use an age-appropriate helmet for kids age 1 and above. In the U.S., the bike helmet should have a label from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) stating that it is approved for children ages 1 and above. The helmet should fit snugly on your child’s head and have a snug chin strap so the helmet doesn’t slide back or side-to-side. Make sure your child can easily hold their head up and control their head and neck movements while wearing the helmet.
- Don’t use a helmet with visible signs of wear or damage, or one that has made impact with the ground or bike frame during a crash (even if it has no signs of damage).
- Talk to your baby’s pediatrician before using an infant bike helmet. In the U.S. at least, youth bike helmets are specifically designed and labeled for kids age 1 and up. However, it’s possible to shop online for infant bike helmets that are typically made of styrofoam material without the hard outer shell. But, before using the helmet (or taking your baby on a bike with or without a helmet), talk to your pediatrician for reasons including the following:
- The weight of the helmet may prevent your child from being able to hold their head up and keep it steady.
- The strap on the helmet may present a strangulation hazard.
- The helmet may offer limited protection in the event of a bike crash. These helmets don’t undergo the same type of safety testing as youth bike helmets.
- A child’s bike helmet has to be “installed” safely in order to offer its max protection, and the same is true for any type of bicycle-mounted baby carrier you choose. Similar product types can have different installation methods, so always make sure you read, understand, and follow the product manual before using the carrier.
- If you’re buying a baby seat, trailer, or other carrier at a bike shop, bring your bicycle along and install the item with the help of a shop employee. Ask the questions and get the answers you need to do the job in the future.
- Most types of baby carriers affect the center of gravity and handling of a bicycle, so ride with a bag of potatoes (or something similar like sand or rocks) as a safe way to get used to the new feel and handling of your bike. You might get a few quizzical looks during your ride, but it’s worth it!
- It may be tempting to strap a baby carrier to your chest or back and go for a bike ride, but safety experts advise against this option, and you should avoid it. Why?
- They don’t provide any protection to your baby.
- They position your child in such a way that it’s difficult for them to keep their head from bobbing around while you’re biking, even if they have adequate neck strength.
- Your center-of-balance and/or pedaling and steering ability may be unexpectedly affected, especially if your child is moving around.
- If you crash and fall off your bike, your body weight could seriously injure your child.