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cargo bikes - an ideal way to cycle with a young baby
There are plenty of child bike seat choices available, but all of them need your kid to be upwards of 6-9 months. Is your poor deprived newborn doomed to be in the world for more than half a year without experiencing the joy of cycling? Are you doomed to spend over half a year barely being able to get on a bike yourself? Happily, there is a solution: the ever-fabulous and highly versatile cargo bike.
Juliet Kemp, mother, author and cyclist, shares her experiences of using a cargo bike with her young son, Leon.
Getting started with a baby and a cargo bike
It's possible to strap a stage 1 car seat into some cargo bikes, including the Christiania, which is the one I have direct experience of. So, if you want to, you can ride with your baby from the moment they're out in the world. Although I only have the one baby, I can see that this might be particularly useful if you have a toddler to transport along with your newborn -- there should just about be room in there for the car seat on the floor and one child on the box seat.
The basics are straightforward: you just need a seatbelt in a suitable position to strap in your car seat. For my Christiania, this meant getting an extra belt fitted in the base of the cargo box. I'd also recommend trying out the arrangement with a few test rides (perhaps with a big bag of rice in the car seat) before you take off with your brand new baby in there.
For my son Leon, that monumental first ride (about a 2-mile round trip) was at 5 weeks, and he was remarkably unfazed by the whole process. The car seat is fitted parent-facing, so we can chat and sing away to him as we ride, which is lovely. This does work better when the rain hood isn't up, but L isn't that keen on the rain hood anyway unless it's tipping it down.
Using a cargo bike with a baby - some hints and tips
If you're tempted by the idea of getting a cargo bike to ride with your young baby, here's a few tips from my experience:
- Ideally you want a flat-based car-seat, or one with some kind of base it can clip into. Ours rocked a bit, and we used some polystyrene blocks to keep it secure.
- You'll become much more aware of bumps on the road. Be prepared to take it very slowly in general, but especially over bumps.
- Don't expect to go too far all at once. The furthest from home we've managed is 4 miles, and that needed a couple of roadside stops.
- Babies of course vary, but newborns are often quite easy to alarm. We definitely found that we had to be prepared to stop for a cuddle or a quick feed by the side of the road. (Easier on a bike than if you have a crying baby in a car!) He also fell asleep in it more than once, though.
- It gets quite warm under the rain hood. We put ours up (even now it's colder) only if it's properly raining. But Leon runs quite warm himself and dislikes being over-hot; again, your baby may vary.
- A muslin tied over the seat makes a good sunshade if needed.
- I doubt you could fit a newborn-friendly pushchair in a trike, at least not together with the car seat; we use a baby carrier (usually a wrap or ring sling) instead, which is easy to whip out at the end of a journey.
I was a little dubious initially about whether it would be worthwhile, but there's no question that it has been. It's been great to be able to get that little bit further afield, to places which would be a very long walk or inconvenient by public transport. It's meant that I haven't gone from riding all the time (I cycled right up to the week Leon was born) to riding not at all, which for a long-term cyclist was a scary thought, especially since getting some exercise is really good for my state of mind. And the trike is great fun to ride -- if not exactly a speed machine.
The big downside of a cargo bike is the expense. But they're useful for longer than just those first 6 months (especially if you plan to have more than one child), and for more than just carrying small people. Just the other week I took 20 ft of recycled scaffolding board across London in ours. (The baby was not in it at the time.) If you think that you might want a cargo bike to transport your baby as they get bigger (which we did), it's well worth going for it right at the start, and getting that extra cycling time with your baby.
And as of 7.5 months, we've just moved Leon up to the box seat and a little Y-belt, and the next stage of the Christiania's journey begins.
For more information about the Christiania and where to buy, visit the official UK Christiania website
You can read more about Juliet and Leon's adventures with the Christiania on Juliet's blog Twisting Vines
Please note, the cargo bike reviewed in this article is the authors own and was not provided for review