So you’ve decided to take your baby for a bike ride, but how the hell do you do it? Here are eight simple tips for cycling with babies that will get you started on your family biking adventures.
Get a decent bike!
You’ve probably been perfectly happy dodging traffic on your rusty old mountain bike for the past few years, but now you’ve got someone else’s safety to worry about too. And that someone also happens to be tiny and pathetically defenceless, so any bike malfunctions could have serious repercussions. If you don’t want to buy a new bike, at least get your current one serviced and make sure all the key safety features (brakes, gears, tyres) are in decent shape.
Get some decent bike tools
My first embarrassing mistake when biking with our little boy was forgetting to pack spare inner tubes and bike tools. And guess what happened? Halfway round a six-mile cycling loop, we got a puncture. Because we weren’t too far from home I hadn’t even considered taking some kit with me, but it left us stranded and helpless with too far to walk home before baby bed time. Thankfully I wasn’t on my own because otherwise we’d have been screwed…
There’s something slightly unsettling about being on your bike alone with a baby’s life in your hands, so if possible always rope another adult into the trip. When we got a puncture, I was able to drop Sonny and his mum in a very handily located pub beer garden, then quickly cycle home and get the car. But if I’d been on my own I’d have been screwed! Having another grown-up on hand also means they can keep a careful eye on your baby as you’re moving, and pull plenty of entertaining faces!
Find the right baby bike seat
Where do you even start looking for something like this? The prices vary wildly and there are so many different styles to go for. Do you want your baby perched by the handlebars or behind your bike seat? Or maybe even in a trailer that you pull behind? I opted for a rear seat and looked at lots of different options, but eventually word-of-mouth and some good recommendations led me to the Hamax Kiss from Halfords. It only cost £50, works with most adult bikes, was easy to fit, seems very stable, and Sonny hasn’t complained yet after three rides.
Do some practice runs
I quickly found out that cycling with babies isn’t too different to biking without them, but your bike does feel a bit funny at first. The balance is slightly different, your heels may occasionally catch things that weren’t attached to your bike before, and if your baby is perched in front of you then you’ve got an obvious distraction before you even set off. So before you load your kid into the carrier take the bike for a spin to make sure you’re happy with how it all feels, and maybe even load some weight into the carrier to get a feel for how differently your bike will handle once the baby is strapped in.
Put safety first
Remember how you used to like dodging in-between cars at traffic lights and jumping over curbs? Don’t do that any more. The only thing you should be thinking about is riding defensively and protecting your child. This doesn’t mean you can’t ride fast and have fun, but don’t take any unnecessary chances – especially on busy roads. Invest in a child helmet and plenty of hi-vis clothing. It might look rubbish, but it’s worth it if it keeps you both safe.
Pick a sensible route
Don’t be too ambitious with your routes when cycling with babies, especially when first starting out. My little boy seems perfectly happy in his bike seat, but that doesn’t mean all kids will be so keep the rides short to start with. And try to avoid roads – especially busy ones. Do you have cycle paths nearby? Or a local park you can pedal around? These are both nice options to help build your confidence and work towards bigger and more exciting trips.
Make cycling with babies fun!
Let’s face it, the whole reason you’re doing this is to have fun as a family. Make the routes varied and interesting, sing songs, talk to each other, spot wildlife, plan plenty of stops, take snacks and drinks, and generally just try to enjoy yourselves as much as possible. If you love cycling as much as I do, this is one of the greatest things you can ever do with your kids.