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Vienna Pedaler: Cycling For The Family

Adults of all ages can enjoy riding, as can children, even those too young to ride a bike on their own.

I’ve focused mostly on cycling as an individual endeavor, but truth be told, cycling can be fun for the whole family. Adults of all ages can enjoy riding, as can children, even those too young to ride a bike on their own. This week, I’d like to address some options for the little ones.

First and foremost, no matter how you choose to include the youngest members of your family in cycling, please make sure you do everything possible to ensure their safety and comfort. That means only use equipment that was specifically designed for use with small children and by all means, have the child wear a helmet! It’s not only wise, it’s the law.

Probably the most familiar and common ways to bring small children cycling are child seats and trailers. A child seat generally resembles a child’s car seat, but specially designed to attach securely and safely to a bicycle. In the US, the vast majority are designed to mount behind the rider, and that’s generally been viewed as the safest option here. Seats that mount in front of the rider are found in Europe and elsewhere, and have some advantages, namely that you can observe the child and communicate with them better. The front mounted seats are becoming more readily available here, so you can explore both options for your little one.

One drawback to the child seats is that they affect the center of gravity of the bike and can take some getting used to. In addition, in the event of a fall, your child is going to go down with the bike. A properly designed and built child trailer addresses both of these issues, and can be quite stable and secure, as well as fun for the child. While the trailer will affect the handling qualities of the bike, it’s not as extreme as a seat, and most adults find they can adjust to it easily. In addition, most trailers have plenty of room for things like your child’s favorite teddy bear or toys, which can make the journey more pleasant for everyone. Some trailers are designed to carry a single child, while others can accommodate two. And as a bonus, you can even use a trailer for grocery shopping with a little thought.

Now, what to do when your little one is getting big enough to pedal, but might not yet be ready to head off on their own? Or what if they are able to ride alone, but you just want to be able to enjoy the ride together? There’s several options there as well, starting with what I would call a “half bike”, a vehicle with one pedal-driven wheel and a hitch that attaches to an adult bike. They’re sold under a variety of names, such as Trail- a-Bike, Tag-along, and Burley’s Piccolo. Each of these designs allow your child to pedal or coast as they wish, so keep that in mind and don’t assume you’ll always have a “booster” behind you! Regardless, if you shop carefully and get a solid, stable “half bike”, you’ll find that you and your child can have a lot of fun.

Tandem bicycles, or “bicycles built for two”, can also be a fun option for sharing a ride with your child. Most conventional tandems are designed for two adults, but some models, notably those from Bike Friday (of folding bike fame) can be adapted to fit a child in the back. There are even some tandems specifically designed for use with children, at least two of which, the Kidz Tandem and Buddy Bike, place the child in front of the adult, yet allow the adult to do the steering and controlling the gears and brakes.

One added feature of the Kidz Tandem is that it’s designed to “grow” with your child. To start, the front position can be occupied by a modified child seat when your little one is too small to pedal. Once they are able to help propel the bike, simply substitute a conventional seat and let them pedal. Finally, when you reach the point when the child is ready to ride off on their own bike, you can even install a large cargo basket for running errands. A truly ingenious bike, designed by a fellow who owns a bike shop in Colorado, Chris Brown.

So as you can see, there are a number of options for sharing the ride with your kids, even when they’re not ready to ride on their own. Do some research and shopping around, and you’re sure to find a way to have some family fun.

Look for a future article on how to get those little ones up and around on their own two wheels. Meanwhile, be safe and have fun!

Some resources:

http://www.kettlerusa.com/bikes/child-carriers (rear mount child carriers)

http://www.ibertinc.com/gallery/ (front mount child carriers)

http://www.burley.com/home/bur/index.html (child trailers and "half bike")

http://www.trail-a-bike.com/ ("half bike")

http://www.browncycles.com/tandems.htm (tandem designed for an adult and wide range of children)

http://buddybike.com/ (tandem for adult and child)

http://www.bikefriday.com/bicycles/tandem (tandems designed primarily for adults but adaptable to a child)

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