How to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer

How to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat or trailer is something we often find ourselves getting asked about by parents with young children.  For many parents issues of confidence and safety are preventing them for taking that all important first ride with their children.

Even for people who were confident cyclists before having children, it is an enormous step to be transporting the most precious thing in the world on your bike. For people who haven’t cycled before, or haven’t been regular cyclists for a while, it can seem an insurmountable barrier.

If you’ve read this far you’re obviously considering it, so here are some tips we hope will get you wheeling away.

Cycle Sprogs’s Top 10 tips on how to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, trailer or cargo bike

Tip 1 – It’s ok to feel nervous

It’s only natural to feel nervous – you’ve loved and nurtured your little one, and it is inevitably that you’ll feel apprehension about cycling with them.  However, nerves can be a healthy thing, especially if you adapt your riding style and habits to take less risks and be more aware of any dangers around you.  The first few trips out may be a bit nerve wracking, but you will soon get used to the feel of having your child on board. The exhilaration from the freedom you get cycling, plus watching the enjoyment your little one gets from the experience will help sooth your nerves.

Tip 2 – Get some training

Cycle training has grown massively in the UK in the past few years, so there should be a training provider near you.  If you haven’t cycled before this is especially important, although anyone who hasn’t been a regular and confident cyclist would benefit from brushing up on their skills before taking on board a passenger.  For training providers in England and Wales the Bikeability website lists all training providers by region.  Further details on Scottish training can be found on the Cycle Scotland website.

Tip 3 – Leave the sprog at home

Before you start cycling with a small child in a bike seat or trailer (or other pullalong), practice without them. Make sure you are confident on your bike, and get some miles under your belt. Never try and set out on your first ever ride with your child.

Tip 4 – Become a cycle spud

Even if you’re a regular cyclist, it always pays to load up the seat, cargo bike or trailer with some shopping or a sack of potatoes and get used to the effect this has on your stability, braking and riding style before you take a passenger on board.

Tip 5 – Start slowly

how to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat or trailerWhen the time comes for you to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer, take it easy. Plan your route carefully, and don’t try and do too much on the first ride. You both need to get used to the experience (although they’ll probably be less phased about it than you). Where possible start off road – flat cycle paths along disused railways are often ideal starting places.

Tip 6 – Don’t avoid roads at all costs

It is cycling on the road that tends to scare people the most and with very good reason. However, if you are going to get out and about, you are likely to have to cycle on road at some point.   Try and avoid rush hour and school chucking out times, and plan your route carefully  to avoid main roads. It may help to ride a new route several times without your child on board so you’re aware of exactly where any difficult points may be.

There are many training courses available to help you cycle in traffic, so look out for one in your local area.  Tell the provider you want to start start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer, and they may well be able to tailor the course to suit this.

Tip 7 – Make sure you are fit enough

Carrying the weight of your child makes cycling much harder than you may be used to. Make sure you are fit enough to make the return journey. If you are recovering from child birth and pregnancy then make sure you are fully fit before starting to transport them on your bike – always check with your midwife or doctor before starting cycling again.

Tip 8 – Secure your child

now it's time to start cycling with a small child in a bike seatAlways read the manufacturers instructions for fitting and using your bike seat or pullalong. Make sure your child is properly strapped in, and there are no loose straps, scarves or toys that will interfere with the mechanisms of your bike.

Tip 9 – Practice getting the child in and out before you set off

This one is particularly important with front and rear seats.  Make sure you know how to balance the bike and get the little one out safely before you set off.

Tip 10 – Enjoy yourselves

This is the most important bit!!! Cycling with your little one is great fun, so do try and relax and enjoy it. Hopefully this will be the start of many miles great rides out together.

So, that our top 10 tips on how to start cycling with a small child in a bike seat, cargo bike or trailer – we’d love to hear how you get on.  Let us know via our Facebook page, or tag #cyclesprog on Instagram for a repost.

Other posts you may find useful:

This post was first published in January 2013, and updated in June 2017

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