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Choosing Bikes For Cycling With Kids

17 May 2020

by Preeti Viswanathan

Biking as a family can be a lot of fun but may not be the easiest depending on the ages of kids in the family. Once your kids are independent riders, all they may need is supervision, support, and reaffirmation on road safety rules, but until they get there, it’s possible most family rides feel like a chore! Commuting with little kids can seem daunting – carrying one or many kids with their helmets, jackets, and several bags for school or picnics isn’t easy, and requires planning and preparation.

Fortunately, there are fantastic options out there – equipment and gear that can make this experience truly fun and rewarding. Taking the first step to becoming a bike commuting family might be easier today than ever before with technology and bike designs that serve the growing needs of people prioritizing healthy and sustainable commutes.

We’ve put together a collection of several options to consider for families that want to bike together, we’d love to hear more from you!

Riding With Babies (Ages 0 – 1 year)

In North America, babies are expected to be kept off a bike until they are at least nine months old and can wear a helmet. However, in several other countries, and especially in Europe it is relatively common to ride with tiny babies. If you do choose to ride with a child under 1 year the best option would be to strap them to their baby car seat which can then be placed on a suitable bike trailer. Babies are bobble heads, so while car seats protect them well, terrain matters, and even the best trailers may not provide them the protection they need off road. Dutch Bakfiets, rear facing wooden cargo bikes, have for long been considered the safest cargo bikes to carry babies. This placement is low, and the cargo basket is placed between the wheels of these long bikes, which minimizes the up and down movement from bumps, and makes tip overs less scary. The wooden box offers great protection, and the rear facing setup allows the baby to interact with the rider.

Dutch BakfietsThule Bike Trailers and Madson Bucket Bikes with infant inserts offer great options as well, but work best once kids are over 1 year old. If you don’t anticipate having a need for Trailers or Bucket Bikes for too long (depending on how many kids there are in the family and what all you use these for), consider buying them used through Facebook or other marketplaces.

Riding With Kids Ages 1 – 6 years (up to ~50lbs)

Mounted Child Bike Seats (Typical Ages 1-4 years)

Mounted bike seats are great way for toting around little ones—and talk about everything they see.  Most child bike seats fit snugly on the front, or back, frame of your bike.  But, before you rush out to get a bike seat, your child must be able to hold their head up on their own.  Some bike seats do allow for the child plus a few small supplies, so they can bring their own snacks, a favorite stuff toy, or even a blanket with them. 

Hamax and CoPilot are other great options besides Thule.

Shotgun Bicycle Seat (Typical Ages 1-4 years)

Although a rear child seat may seem logical, there is a whole new approach to riding a bike—and one that your kids will love.  The shotgun seat attaches to the frame of your bike—right behind the handlebars.  It reduces the risk for the injury to your child, and may even come with their own handlebars.  Not only are you able to fully interact with your kids, the weight will be distributed appropriately, allowing for better control of your bike.

Bicycle Trailers (Carry up to 100lbs)

Bicycle trailers are popular options for children who aren’t quite older enough to bike on their own. Most bicycle trailers can also be a jogging stroller, which offers a variety of workout options for active families.  Most trailers are low to the ground, more stable, and often allow you to carry more than one child. If you’re not comfortable with a rear bike seat or a shotgun seat, a bicycle trailer may be just what you need to stay active with your kids.

Thule and Burley make some of the most reliable Bike Trailers, though you may find many cheaper options that work just as well depending upon the ages of kids and the terrain you typically ride in.

Cargo Bikes

Cargo Bikes are the SUV of the biking world.  They are a combination of a bike and a trailer and can carry multiple kids—and still have room for supplies or groceries.  These “haul-anything” bikes allow you to leave the car at home, and still accomplish all your daily tasks.

Madson Bucket Bikes, Yuba Bicycles, Rad Power Bikes, Pedego Stretch offer super popular cargo bikes we love! Rad and Pedego only make Electric Bikes, while Madson and Yuba offer Electric as an option. If you plan regular commute with the family, or plan or using the bike to haul stuff, there isn’t a better time to get yourself an e-bike. Bucket/Cargo Bikes can be expensive but great if you have multiple kids and have already committed to a serious biking lifestyle. 

Bungees – For Nearly Independent Young Riders

A bungee is a great way to help a child just learning to ride, or a child lacking the endurance for a long ride.  The bungee attaches from your bike to your child’s, and tightens or loosens as you ride.  It’s perfect for helping young riders manage rough terrain or long distances.

Plan, Ride, and Have Fun

No matter if you’re in the mountains or commuting to the grocery store, biking is one of the best forms of transportation.  If you want to get your family active while riding, this guide should help you discover the best bike that works for your family.