Cycling With Toddlers
If you follow me on social media or watch my YouTube videos, you can’t fail to have noticed that I’m the proud parent of a little girl. Life has changed so much since she came into my life a year ago; she is the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I have to pinch myself daily. Even twelve months after her arrival being called ‘Mummy’ is such a thrill and I commonly find myself thinking, “are you really, really, really here? Forever?” It’s fab. Hugging her little body to mine as she covers me in kisses is heaven indeed.
Obviously, being a parent is not without it’s difficulties and to pretend otherwise would be somewhat mean to all the other time-crunched, sleep deprived parents out there. I too am permanently tired and feel like I never stop, cleaning, tidying, grocery shopping, cooking and doing the laundry. The house is a mess even though it feels like I never stop wiping up. And of course, I can’t train or race quite as much as I used to and I do WAY more riding indoors on the Wattbike than I really want to in the middle of summer.
Because of that, and because I enjoy doing things with her so much, I’ve been taking her out on a variety of bike rides, most recently using a few different set ups so that I can figure out what works for us.
Rear Rack Mounted
We began with a rear rack mounted bike seat, which fastened to my supremely heavy old bike ensures I get a decent workout even if we don’t leave the cycle path. Our daughter enjoys cruising along spotting cows and lambs before we reach the inevitable cafe and indulge. It’s the best kind of cafe ride.
The benefits of this set up are that you can pass back flowers and snacks and chat easily. It’s also really obvious to other road users that you have a child, which you’d hope would make them drive with care. You do have to be careful that your child doesn’t fall asleep (or if they do, that their head doesn’t dangle to one side) and be cautious going through gates and narrow bits on bike paths.
It’s a good set up on roads and bike paths though not really off-road. We took her on what didn’t look like a bumpy forest trail but her head bounced around more than we were comfortable with so we aborted the ride!
Mountain Bike Specific
Last week I took delivery of a Mac Ride, a seat that fastens to a mountain bike (or a hybrid, though NOT a drop barred bike) and positions the child in front of you, between the handlebars. Your kid has their own little grips to hold (you have to remove your grips and levers, slide them on then reattach everything) and foot rests with straps.
I attached mine to my Marin Bikes Wolf Ridge, a full suspension mountain bike and took her up to Haldon Forest Park for a loop on their trails.
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Took the little one for her first proper shred on my mountain bike today and she was so wildly happy, it was the best thing ever. 😁 From the minute we set off she yelled “faster Mummy” and “let’s race,” requesting ‘more bumpy bits’ and that I try and keep up with @dangrant_tq3 and Shelby. I couldn’t/didn’t want to as I want to get used to riding trails with her sat on this special set up first whereas she is impatient and wants to rip it up right away 😆 I’m also somewhat lacking in energy…STILL! All in all a great maiden voyage though! For those of you asking, this MTB seat is by @macridemore ✌
I’ll write a full review in time, but for now, just know that she was nothing short of delighted. She had a great view of the trails, berms and bumps and I get the feeling it’s more like riding a bike, being up the front. I would have killed to have seen the smile on her face; judging my the whoops and hollers she was having the time of her life. She also kept telling me to go faster and race my friend. I wonder where she got that from?
She did get a slightly sore bottom so she is practicing unweighting over the bumpy bits – she is a big fan of them and actually asks for more bumpy bits so the solution is not to avoid them. I was also thinking of putting a gel seat cover on the rubber one it comes with.
Bikepacking with a trailer
The next part of our cycling journey together is going to be an overnight ride, a mini bikepacking adventure carrying all that we need to picnic, camp out and have a good time. I’ve written a few words about planning for this trip for a guest post on the Velovixen site, so do pop over there and have a look if that kind of thing interests you and find out where we are going.
Which Is Best?
There are so many options for cycling with a toddler or small child that it’s pretty hard to select the best one. And even worse, a lot of these things are SUPER expensive. For me, the two best options seeming to be the rear mounted bike seat with a front rack and panniers OR a trailer that she can sit in and that I can also put the tent and stuff in. I’ve very kindly been loaned a trailer by a friend at my Cycling club AND been offered a front rack by another member (yay, Mid Devon CC!) so perhaps I could try both.
My advice to anyone looking to do some touring, bikepacking or any kind of riding with a child is to find somewhere that you can hire or try out different seats, trailers and bikes. Here in the South West, you can try stuff at Torbay Velopark and hire bikes with trailers (even an electric cargo bike!) at Plymouth Bike Hire on the Plym Valley trail.
How do you ride with your children? Ever been touring or bikepacking with them? Let me know your tips!