Introduce cycling to your family early on


I lived on my 10-speed throughout my elementary and middle school years,
but as a parent I’m late to the biking game. Now, as biking season approaches, cycling-related questions
often pass through my mind: how often should I buy my eight-year-old a new helmet? Is my five-year-old
ready to go without training wheels? Are either of them ready for some trailer cycle action?

From baby bike seats to run bikes to tandem bikes, these days it’s easier than ever to get your child
involved in the biking scene. But how do you know what are the best bike and gear options not only
for your child, but also your family? Read on to sort through the many cycling products and attachents
available to you as your children grow.

Seat attachments

The most convenient way to get your children
involved in cycling (not to mention tote them
around) is attaching a baby bike seat onto the
back of your bike. “If you’re just taking short trips
where your child isn’t going to fall asleep, then
a bike seat is effective for them,” says Gwendal
Castellan, a Vancouver-based dad of two and avid
cyclist who once cycled from the southern tip of
Patagonia to the Northwest Territories. Bike seats
also take up minimal room and are relatively easy
to install. “However, for a longer ride these seats
generally don’t offer as much support for a child
who is sleeping. You’re exposed to elements such
as rain and sun.”

While you can pop your child into one of
these seats as young as six months old (and once
they’ve developed the stability to sit), don’t forget
to shop around for a baby bike helmet as well.
And while the traditional rear-mounted seats can
run anywhere from $45-$70, you might pay significantly
more for the alluring front mount options
such as t-mounted seats which, as they sound, are
installed on your front handlebars.

If you are considering a baby bike seat, Gwendal
advises you to be sure of your biking skills,
particularly since the seat adds weight and can
throw off the balance point of the bike. “If you’re
not a very confident cyclist, then having them up
high on a bike seat may not be your first choice
because you can’t let the bike fall down,” he says.

Front mount: iBert safe-T-seat
$160 | Go to livetoplaysports.com for a
bike store near you.

Rear mount: Topeak BabySeat II
$205–$215 | Go to livetoplaysports.
com for a bike store near you.

Trailers and cargo bikes

Less confident cyclists might find a rear-mounted bike trailer a better option
than front- or rear-mount seats. These are essentially two-wheeled covered
seats that attach to the back of an adult bike and can often convert into other
active-family tools such as a push stroller or even a piece of equipment to put
skis on. Don and Lucy Brooks, co-owners of the store More Bikes in Vancouver,
are the parents of four pint-sized cyclists. Don suggests there might be more of
an age issue with trailers. “You don’t have as much interaction with your child
and can’t communicate as easily because they’re behind you, so the trailer
is better for an older kid,” he says. In fact, trailers, which go for anywhere
between $90-$200, might have more longevity since you can use these
comfortably until your child is into kindergarten age. (A bike seat will top out
long before that.) The downside? Trailers are space eaters and can take some
work to attach, so if you don’t have the room to store it every day, you need to
figure out how to detach the trailer, fold it down and put it away possibly with
rear mount a sleeping one-year-old on your hands.

Schwinn Two-Seat Bike Trailer (with stroller kit)
$300 | Available at Canadian Tire stores across Canada.

Could this
bike work for
your family?

A newer option for carting kids in
North America is the cargo bike,
also known as bakfiets (Dutch for
“basket bike.”) As it sounds, this
bike comes with a basket attached
to the front of your bike that is large
enough to hold two small children.
While these run on the pricy side –
up to $2,000 a bike – convenience is
at hand: your children are strapped
into the front, can see everything
and you can communicate with
them. “Most of these are two-wheeled
bikes but some are threewheeled
and they’re popular to use
with children,” says Paul Bogaert,
owner of Bike Dr. in Vancouver. “But
they are also heavier in many cases
than a bike and trailer.”

Babboe City Cargo Bike
$2,500 | Go to onthefourth.com
for retailers across Canada.

Run bike

A “run bike” is essentially the frame of a bike, without pedals. Kimberly Trask,
a mom of two in Regina, started one of her children on a run bike, and the
transition to a regular bike was smooth. Many cycle store owners are fans of the
run bikes, including Gwendal, who’s currently using a run bike with his threeyear-
old. “She’s already learning how to balance and she can now go down a
slight hill lifting her feet and have complete balance,” he says. “It’s a lot easier
for a child to learn to walk and hold the bike at a younger age. The challenge is
combining balancing and pedalling at the same time. But with run bikes, they
balance first and progress much more gently to pedalling later.”

B-Bip Running Bike
by Mamma Cangura
$139 | Available at
balancebikescanada.ca.

Training wheels

If you’d rather not have another bike lying around, or don’t intend on doing
long rides where little ones may find it hard to keep up, Don suggests starting
kids with a 12-inch bicycle with training wheels that can be removed when the
child has mastered pedalling and is ready to work on balance. Kimberly Trask’s
other child started on a 12” wheeled bike with training wheels, proof that different
solutions work for different kids.

Norco Megablaster/Sparkle 12”
Unisex Bike with Training Wheels
$155 | Go to livetoplaysports.com
for a bike store near you.

Trail-A-Bike

Another option for helping little ones keep up on a
long family bike ride is a bike extender. This piece
of equipment looks like half a bike that attaches by
a bar to the back of an adult’s bike. “So your child
needs to be tall and stable enough to hold on and
pedal,” says Don. “You want to make sure that
your child is really stable because you don’t want
them to fall off when you go around a corner or
over a bump. So for these we usually recommend
the child be a stable four- to five-year-old.” A bike
extender or trail-a-bike is preferable to a tow bar or
rope between the bikes. “We tried the tow bar. It
seemed like such a cool idea but it was the biggest
disappointment for us,” says Kimberly. “It didn’t
work well, if at all, and it mangled up the front of
the bike scraping off all the paint.”

Adams Trail-A-Bike
$225 | Go to livetoplaysports.com
for a bike store near you.

Bike

Finally, the bike! If your child is ready to hop
aboard, head to your local bike shop for a proper
bike fitting. “There they can sit on and try several
different bikes,” says Paul. “Or if you can’t do that,
measure their inseam to get an idea as to what
kind of height they can stand over. And then get
the bike shop to set up the bicycle so the seat is at
its lowest height. You child should be able to sit
on it and have their toes touch the ground. Their
feet should be flat on the ground when they’re
standing over the bar.” Generally children start
with a 12-inch cycle (which indicates the size of
the wheel) and move up two inches every time
they’re ready for a new bike, all the way up to an
adult-sized 26-inch bike.

Norco City Glide 20” Bicycle
$460 | Go to livetoplaysports.com
for a bike store near you.

Get
in gear

Helmet: Put down the
hockey helmet and get your
child a helmet designed
for bike riding. “Children’s
helmets go quickly out of
adjustment – cheap helmets
often have buckles that
don’t stay in place,” says
Paul Bogaert, owner of
Bike Dr. in Vancouver. The
solution? Once the helmet
is set up, stitch the buckle
to the strap so it doesn’t
move. “Some helmets have
a good clamp that holds the
buckle into the right place.
But the helmets get tugged,
thrown around, pulled out
of bags and the helmets
routinely go out of adjustment,”
he adds. Double
check that your helmet is
Canadian Standards Association
(CSA) approved.

Bell: Most provinces have
laws requiring bells or
horns for safety.

Cycling Gloves: Really?
For a child? Don Brooks of
More Bikes notes that when
kids fall, the first things
they are going to land on is
their hands. “So gloves are
highly recommended.”

Bike Lock: There’s a range
of locks available these days
from the plastic covered
chain with a padlock to the
pricier kryptonite locks. It’s
a matter of choice.

How can
you help your
children become
safe cyclists?

For starters, ensure
you’re a careful cyclist,
so whatever safety
habits you practise –
such as always wearing
a helmet when riding
– your children will pick
up as well. Consider
these safety points:

  • Safe Kids Canada
    recommends that children
    under 10 stick to the
    sidewalks and shoulders,
    and not ride in traffic.
  • Rather than opting
    for a 10-speed bike, bikes
    with coaster brakes (where
    you reverse your pedals to
    stop) are a better choice
    for kids, according to the
    Canada Safety Council. 
  • Ensure the bike has
    a bell and reflectors. 
  • Stop for all stop signs
    (even if other cyclists
    ride through) 
  • Always ride on the right
    with the flow of traffic. 
  • Avoid riding at night.

Astrid Van Den Broek is a Toronto-based
writer and mother of two who
looks forward to family bike rides,
once her son masters his two-wheeler.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, July 2013.

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