First of all, for the Americans, Mexicans, (Reunionese, lol) and other car-cultures, out there, riding the bike with a baby is totally a thing. In Germany and the rest of Northern Europe, nobody considers it unsafe. When people get reproduced here, they don’t stop riding the bike. They just ride it differently. Let me share with you English-speakers a piece of Northern axe-wielding viking wisdom.
Riding the bike with a 6-month-old or less
The above is how you do it before six months. The general philosophy being: if you can walk around with it, you likely can ride a bike too. Not true in all instances but a good rule of thumb. The baby-strapping appliance normally come with a system to hold the head upright. As long as Wee doesn’t have a neck strong enough to firmly support her head, it’s best to avoid seats. There are other ways with an infant: some methods allow you to strap the car-seat to your bike (like in a trailer), but the car seat is heavy.
I have ridden like this back in Reunion and it was just fine. I also did it shortly in Uruguay and a lot in Germany before we had a proper seat.
This method works way past 6-month-old. But the extra weight wears out the rider, I hear. So I’d recommend switching to something bike-supported as soon as Tadpole can support her head. Like a bike-seat!
Bike seats are the best compromise
They don’t look it, but the front and rear seats are really different. TL;DR: the front seat is better in almost every way, but might not fit your particular frame. The rear seat is more universal. Let’s start the list of advantages:
- It’s easier to have a conversation with your adult on a front seat.
- We have a much better view of things on a front seat. Plus, we’re in charge. I sometimes help Weirdo steering the handlebar.
- The front seat is lighter. No difference for us, but it makes the ride faster and the rider less cranky.
- You have a luggage-carrier? Might as well remove it if you use a rear seat. The seat will simply occupy all the space in the back and you won’t be able to carry your groceries there anymore. You’ll have to carry them on your back, but not too big a backpack too. Otherwise it will rub against your passenger.
- The front seat is more comfortable for the rider because the extra weight is roughly in the middle of the bike. The rear seat puts a lot of weight very far from the handlebar, and pushing your bike with a child in the rear seat is an exercise in frustration. You’ll also find that getting on the bike is also harder when there’s a kid in the back, if you’re used to getting on your bike by throwing your leg over the seat.
- Front seats are cheaper. Not that I care but it’s defo a plus.
Now for the drawbacks of front-seats:
- They last less. Past 3 years old, it’s hard for us to fit in the small seat. Rear seats are much more spacious and will support us till we’re five and ready to ride on our own. Personally, I can’t wait to outgrow my current one and upgrade to this exclusively East-German gem:
- On with the drawbacks: With some frames (the ones where it barely fits) the seat is right where your knees should be when the pedal is up. You can still ride, but it’s a little less comfortable and I needed at least three bullet points so…
- It’s real hard to sleep in them. That might be a deal breaker for you. It’s possible, mind you, but taking a nap in a rear seat is ten bazillion times cozier. Yet, it’s got nothing on trailers.
Trailers are the best for the kids.
Trailers are like the Holy Grail of riding the bike. Wait… do you count as riding the bike when you’re in a trailer? Nevermind, it’s über-awesome. I can’t even begin to describe it, but let me try anyway: It’s like a moving pillow fort! A kid-sized bubble of cozy! Also, you can look up and left and right, you can have your toys, you’re out of the cold, wind and/or rain… It’s just brilliant. Most models are two-seater so you can ride with a buddy! It’s also the best place to fall asleep ever. I kid you not, bike trailers is like baby-sleeping-pill. They’re also the most secure option for you and us. Not so much in the way that you’re more likely to survive in case of crash. It’s got more to do with the fact that trailers inspire respect in the heart of car-driving folks. Who knows why, it just works. And, to add to the teetering pile of wonderful that trailers are: scratch that rule about less-than-6-months-olds. You just fasten a car-seat inside the trailer, and voilà, you’re ready to ride around town with an infant.
Now, to be truly honest with you guys, I must add that trailers do have drawbacks. They’re just all on the rider. First of all, trailers cost the price of ten seats. Then they’re really heavy. Your rider will feel like they’re dragging an anchor. Then they’re limiting their options. No more cheating the line of dumb cars at the red light. No more jumping sidewalks. Finally, they take a bit of logistic to attach, detach and store. There’s really nothing good for adults in trailers, but they’re pure joy for us babies. Yet, they can be beaten.
The Dutch are just better than the rest of us
Will you look at what those potheads came up with:
My buddy Jamiro rides in one of those and I must say I’m quite jealous. It’s even superior to the trailer in the way that you’re riding front and higher, so you get a much better view. The ride is also smoother, you get to see the face of your adult instead of its ass, the wooden shell feels top-secure and everyone that sees us think we’re dope. Once again all the drawbacks are on the rider, with an astronomical price, 40 kilos of dutchness to propel, you can’t detach the familiness, so the adult either needs another entire bike for itself, either will feel really silly using it without us. Unless it goes shopping for the whole month, of course.
We’ve only scratched the surface
There are countless other options, but I think I covered the most common ones. If you want to stay on the bleeding edge, keep your eyes open and set up a couple of google alerts. I mean, would you look at these!
Here in Germany, I’d say that the most popular mode of bike-transportation for babies is the trailer. Most parents are happy to sacrifice their comfort and their bank account for the well-being of their dear spinoff.
Unsurprisingly, I ride on the cheapest option.
Note about the helmet: wearing a helmet is generally a good idea, except when it’s not. It’s not when there isn’t enough space. When you ride with Tiny strapped to yourself, fitting her with a helmet might bend her neck backwards in a way that, first, makes it more likely for her to get injured in case of accident and, second, what if her necks stays bent forever! That’s quite as lose-lose scenario. Same goes with the rear-seat and trailers. There’s often a headrest. If the headrest is designed with a helmetless kid in mind, then the helmet will likely give him a very uncomfortable position. With potential development issue down the line. As usual, common sense use is recommended. And don’t get too influenced by what’s legal and what’s not. When the law requires you to damage a baby, I hope you’ll join me in giving it the finger it deserves.