Mixing the joys of cycling and parenting

The boys return from a ride ready for a rest. Photo Caitlin Fraser

The boys return from a ride ready for a rest. Photo Caitlin Fraser

Tony and Caitlin share their experience with a bike trailer for Samuel.

Having children brings untold joy into your life, with an exponential increase of the amount of stuff that can invade your house. Assessing what is really required it is easy to write off a bike trailer as unnecessary, expensive and space-hogging. But here are five reasons why they are worth it:

  1. Exercise
    It is so difficult for parents to find time for physical activity. Being able to ride with the kids to park, supermarket, crèche or friends house means that physical activity becomes part of everyday life a fabulous role modeling for kids
  2. Convenience
    Short trips on the bike are a time-saving miracle generally allowing parking near the front door with trailer that converts to a pram/stroller.
  3. Money
    Making these short trips on the bike saves money on petrol and parking and wear and tear on the car.
  4. State of mind
    Rolling down to the park along a tree-lined bike path is so much more fun and relaxing for everyone.
  5. Environment
    Bikes and trailers are a great way to reduce your carbon footprint no matter the application.

Criteria we used to select a trailer:

  • Strong, light frame and ease of attachment
  • Good quality covering
    Stones and other objects can flick up from the road so it is important that the material covering is durable and strong quality. Incorporating reflective materials on the covering and tire walls is also important for visibility.
  • Preferably five point safety harness attachments
  • Brakes
    Important with some models converting to a jogger or stroller giving them a hand brake.
  • Ergonomic seat
    Slipping and sliding is dangerous and makes the ride uncomfortable.
  • Suspension
    Enhances ride and limits jarring on child’s developing spine and neck.
  • Easy to use
    If you’re planning to use trailer as a pram or stroller it must be quick to unhitch from the bike and convert. If it takes longer than five minutes – forget it!

Trailer manufacturers recommend a child must have good head and neck control and be able to sit easily without support (generally around 12 months). Babies are too fragile for the bike; however some that convert to prams can be fitted with a “baby bivvy”. This allows the trailer to be a pram for babies albeit it’s not as easy to use and comfortable for babies as a traditional pram.

When purchasing a child’s helmet spend some time finding a good quality and comfortable helmet. Easily adjustable straps are a must!

Trailers will carry around 45 kg (either double or single). Any more weight will place too much stress on the bike frame even so they carry heaps more than just the bike and back-pack, or panniers.

Larger wheels with a low centre of gravity make trailers stable. The  ‘ball and joint’ hitch attachment on some brand of trailers means that even if the bike falls the trailer will stay upright.

Trailers create a different sensation – you tend to get a fair bit of kick back or a jerky ride. With the trailer being wider than the bike, you need to be more aware of where you are and gaps you chose to go through. Trailers (and occupants) can be quite weighty, so don’t plan an epic hill climb for first few rides.

When it comes to a cleaning maintenance regime and tyre pressures check  the trailer is generally the same as that of a bike and a regular vacuuming out doesn’t hurt.

Our trailer has been one of our best ever purchases. It has cut our car usage in half and made ordinary incidental trips so much easier and more fun. Unfortunately we didn’t discover trailers until we had already bought a pram. In hindsight, I would purchase a cheaper pram or stroller to use when baby is little, and use the trailer for longer trips.


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