The challenges of picking out a bike seat or carrier for your toddler

October 8 |
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Oh, did I forget to tell you that my family also doubles as bicycle catalog models? Because seriously, this photo might as well be in one.

While we do have a car, Sean and I are cyclists at heart. Sean bikes all over — to work, to school, downtown, etc. I haven't been on a bike consistently, other than random small trips, since I was 28 weeks pregnant and all of the sudden discovered I could no longer balance the way I used to.

We'd been throwing around the idea of getting some kind of cart or seat for Jasper for a while, but didn't really pick it up until I got a new bike a few weeks ago (something I desperately needed). After that, it was only a matter of time before some kind of baby-carting contraption made its way into our lives. Enter: the Bobike Mini Seat!

We considered a bike cart, something like the InStyle Quick N EZ Bicycle Trailer, but honestly? I wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of Jasper being in a cart behind me — a cart that people driving their monster SUVs and trucks wouldn't be able to see easily. Since we ride on the road, I wanted something that meant I could see Jasper, know that he was safe, and not have to worry about him overheating or the driver behind us not realizing someone was in the cart in the first place.

So then we moved on to bike seats that go behind you — something like the Beto Deluxe Reclining Seat, or, if you're working with a budget, the Bell Classic Bicycle Carrier. The back-of-the-bike-seat seemed a little bit better, at first, but then it rapidly occurred to both of us that my balance would be thrown way off. Plus, I wouldn't be able to see him — my primary problem with the cart.

We were back to square one.

After some random Amazon searches, I happened upon the Bobike Mini Seat — a front-of-the-bike seat! Bobike is a Dutch company, and if there's one thing I would say about the Dutch — they know how to safely and awesomely get around on bike. After making sure this bike meets all safety requirements (check!) and reading awesome reviews (double check!), we happily purchased it and an extra mounting bracket for Sean's bike so we wouldn't have to remove the hardware every time.

Jasper and I met Sean after class for his first trip on the Bobike Mini--total love! And yes, I know Sean needs a helmet. Tsk, tsk.
Jasper's first outing in the Bobike was a roaring success, and this is a kid who doesn't like it when the wind blows in his face while the car windows are down. He loves being in this seat. I love it because I know where he is, and can also talk to him while we bike — I talk to Jasper about nearly every single thing that happens during the day, so it's awesome to be able to communicate with him while we share our joy for biking.

The seat is also perfect for me because I can see him — I know that he's ok, and unless a car side-swipes or hits us dead-on (in which case I'm not sure anything would help us), he's totally, 100% safe. The mini seat will be great for Jasper until he's around 3 — give or take a few pounds. After that, Bobike has maxi and junior seats — the maxis can seat up to 6 years, and the junior up to 10!

So, fellow neurotic biking parents rejoice! We have a solution.

  1. So, I was looking at the first photo in this post, and Andreas walked by my desk. He was like, "What's with the Sears catalog family?" I was all, "That's no Sears catalog! That's Stephanie!"

    HA! :)

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  2. so glad to read this! my husband and i are huge bicycle enthusiasts – we rarely use our car. have you found anything for infant use? we were in amsterdam last month and saw a lot of mothers cycling with their babies in slings, but i dont think that would fly over here.

    • I live in Oakland California and there was a family in my neighborhood cycling with their infant in an Ergo baby carrier. Strapped to it's daddy's chest all safe and sound. Super cute and interesting.

    • The only thing I found for infants is the Chariot Trailer and adding their baby supporter accessory to it. Don't use it with an infant who can't hold their head up on their own. Their information says the supporter is for 6 to 18 months, but different countries have different guidelines as I'm sure you're aware (car seats). Officially, the US says don't bike before your child is a year and always have a helmet on.

      We've been using the Chariot since the bot was 4 months (able to support her head on her own). She absolutely loves it! Regarding a kid's helmet though, if you do ride with an infant, don't use a helmet if they're under a year it does more harm than good.

      I absolutely love the chariot, the longest distance we've rode is about 30 miles and she did great. We take it to the museums, markets, everywhere we can really, and if you buy the stroller attachment, it turns into a stroller once you get there that doesn't take up much more space than any other stroller – and it has a pretty impressive turning radius. It's also covered in reflective and glow in the dark material, so there is no way someone can't see her there.

  3. This is awesome! I'm currently pregnant but already researching how to tote my baby (once it's got adequate neck strength to hold up a helmet, obviously…I think this is usually around a year old?) on my bike. I was looking at the front seats, but heard from some that it's harder to pedal (i.e. your knees bang against it) and steer. Do you find that with this seat?

    • Hey! I actually never have a problem with my knees hitting at all, but it could be my height–I'm 5'4" or 5'5". My husband says his knees do, and he's like 5'9". I think. Ha. I've also never had a steering problem. Sometimes when turning sharply it's a challenge, but that rarely happens. I just take my time with it.

  4. I have a cargo trailer for my daughter, and although it works, it's irritating for all the reasons Stephanie mentioned. My brother-in-law bikes everywhere, and he has an xtracycle. It's an extension added to his bike that allows him to carry an extra person. Xtracycle makes all kinds of extensions, even some with baby seats, which can then be removed when the child is larger. I want one so badly! You can check them out at xtracycle.com

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  5. THANK YOU! I have been trying to find something my husband and I would both agree on and this just might be it!

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  6. It only goes to 33 pounds. :-( My one year old weighs 31. Two pounds isn't that far off. (He's also tall, at 33".) I really want to ride but haven't found a good-for-us solution yet. Glad you found yours!

    • They make them for older/bigger kids! Check out the Bobike Maxi! It's a rear seat.

  7. We just bought an Ibert (another front mount seat) for the little man's first birthday. I can't wait to try it out!

  8. We just got a "trail-a-bike" from REI for our 3 1/2 year old son. He loves to pedal "super fast". Our twins ride along in a regular bright yellow trailer pulled by my wife. The trail-a-bike is harder to balance and the trailer for the twins takes strength to pull up hills but it allows us to bike as a family.

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  9. So funny to read this because on my commute home today, I saw the dutch cargo bike being used by a mama!

    I also saw a dad pulling his son along on an xtracycle, and all I could think about was that you'd have to be pretty damn sure that your kid is mature enough to not let go or anything while riding behind you.

    We have the iBert and love it.

  10. I had an iBert for my son for a little while and it was cool to have him up front but he got too big for it REAL QUICK. My knees did frequently hit the seat and my balance was thrown off whenever he turned his head, pretty much. It would be better for young toddlers, I did not purchase one until he was already 2.5 years old which was nearing the upper limit.

    Now we have a Bobike Maxi and I love it so much more. He can still throw me off a little with big sudden movements, but it takes a lot more so I feel more confident that we won't keel over. One thing to be cautious about is the foot straps are easily gotten out of. He's usually really good about keeping his feet in there, but once he was having big meltdown and got one out. Scared the bejesus out of me!

    I really wish that we could get a bakfiets or Xtracycle, but we ride public transportation on parts of our routes and neither bike can be loaded on bus or light rail bike racks. Same goes for a bike with trailer attached.

  11. I recently traveled to The Netherlands and one thing that struck me was just how incredible the Dutch are at transporting multiple kids, groceries, fresh flowers, and a dog on a single bicycle, while wearing stilettos or a $1000 suit. In addition to checking out their amazing kid-carrier attachments for bikes, we (USA-ians) have a lot to learn about sustainable, healthy, and fun means of family transport. Kudos to you , Stephanie, for choosing an awesome way to transport your little one! I hope more Offbeat Mamas and Papas follow in your footsteps- I mean tire tracks!

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  12. We have an Xtracycle that my husband uses to pedal our 7-year-old everywhere. It's a conversion kit that lengthens your bike frame by about 6 inches and shifts your tire back a bit to give you more stability, plus it has big cargo bags for hauling stuff. He can carry the kid and all our groceries for a week with no trouble. They make different versions with baby seats. They're a little pricey, but since it replaced a car, it was worth it for us. He says he hardly feels a difference in balance.

  13. After watching "No Impact Man" I really wanted a rickshaw for us. We bought a ride-behind seat for my son when he was wee little, but now that he's bigger we are worried about the safety implications. We also thought about a trailer, but I honestly did not consider about other vehicles not seeing it. I like the idea of a front seat. Maybe we will look into it.

  14. we wanted to rent bikes when we went on vacation in cali and kept seeing all these front kid seats on bikes. the one bike shop we went to said, "they're dangerous. when you crash on your bike you usually flip forward"…or something to that effect. is this true? or possible?

    • Here's one take on safety: http://www.ibike.org/education/infant.htm

      Child seats create a higher center of gravity than trailers so in terms of physics and stability they have a high risk. But we haven't heard of enough accidents involving either to say that any higher risk is statistically significant. The smaller the child, and more proficient and safety conscience the cyclist, the more the risk for a child seat is reduced to about the same level as for a trailer. Road and traffic conditions can also affect risk. Some road and traffic conditions favor trailers and other conditions favor child seats. Road and traffic considerations may be a more significant factor than stability issues so it can't be said that one method is better than another in a given situation.

  15. My dad always used to cycle me around on something similar to this and I loved it. I rode it up to quite old (it was a lot simpler, just an extra bike seat on the cross bar with a foot rest and I held onto the main handles.
    scary to think of now, but at that age you trust your parents so much.

  16. I'm not sure if this has been mentioned before on offbeatmama, but this website is AMAZING… http://www.pedalpoweredfamily.com/
    Its a blog about a family that will be traveling with their two small children for a year around North America. I am sure they would have especially thoughtful viewpoints on various bicycle attachments, as they use various ones for different trips/terrains.

  17. They used these seats in Japan all of the time and they love bikes there. Best of all, you can have a basket or saddlebags on the back for shopping bags, etc.

  18. So cute! Does baby protest having his feet strapped down?

    We've been using a jogging stroller with bike attachment. He hates it, pretty much, and he gets hot.

    • He totally doesn't! Every so often he wiggles them loose, but he's usually so happy to be on the bike that he doesn't care.

  19. I'm 2e weeks pregnant (still cycling) and have been investigating baby/child bike carriers since we don't have a car and would like to not get one if possible once the baby's born.

    For newborns you can use the Taga (www.tagabikes.com) in conjunction with the Maxi Cosi child carrier and Taga adaptor. Once the baby's old enough to hold its neck up, then it can sit in the child seat that comes with the Taga.

    This is the only option I've found that works from newborn so far…

    Joyce

    • Hi!
      You can also use the dutch cargo bike (www.dutchcargobike.com.au) for traveling with an infant. It is a cargo bike with a sturdy wooden box and you can get a special click system for a bassinet for a new born. My friend cycles with her to girls (3 and 5 yrs) and a baby, and they love it! I can ask her for a pict if someone wants to have a look. I am 23 weeks pregant and cycle my twins in the bike and are planning to cycle with them and the new born in Feb!! It is a bit expensive, but good quality, sturdy and safe. We use it as a second car and I must say this is much cheaper than a second car 😉
      On the 21st of Nov there is a cargo bike event in Port Melbourne where you can try all the different cargo bikes. So if you are not sure what suits you it might be an idea to have a look!

  20. This might have saved my mom from the surprise of my head hitting her back when I feel asleep as she rode her bike! 😀

    Ah the 1980's when bike seats for babies didn't have a lot of straps. We lived so dangerously!/sarcasm LOL

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  21. We're getting a trailer for my bike, but that is only because my little angel is a fraking escape artist and wiggleworm. But all these have given me wonderful ideas for different trailers and what to do when she gets bigger.

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