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Commuting with Children

by Bike Shop Girl

Commute By Bike isn’t only about commuting to and from your work place.  It is anytime you chose your bicycle over a car, or other form of transportation, to get from point A to point B..  You could be commuting for many different reasons..  The library, groceries and school are three top reasons that are often mentioned behind commuting to work.

Carrying Your Child by Bike

Children come in play with these reasons, and others.  Maybe you are one of the forward thinking parents that take their children to work everyday by bike, or to the library.  I nod my head to you as you are not only improving today’s congestion but teaching your children healthy living habits..  There are many different ways to have your child tag along for the ride and today I’ll be covering my favorite ways to carry your child on or behind your bike.

Bicycle Child Seats

One of the most affordable ways to take your child on a bike trip with you is a bike mounted seat.  There are different varieties of these including the rear mounted ones that mount directly to a special rear rack or there are the ones that mount in front of you.

Topeak Bicycle Child Seat

Topeak Baby Seat

One of the most popular that I have seen over the years, and normally your local bike shop carries a variety of child seats in stock.  Another popular brand is the Co-Pilot Taxi & Limo series.  These seats range from $100-150 depending on brand and features.

iBert Safe-T Bike Seat

iBert Child Seat I haven’t personally installed an iBert, but world renowned mountain biker Tinker Juarez has his son in one all the time..  Your child is now within eye sight and you have them safely tucked between your arms.  This is also one of the most affordable styles at there at $95.

Pros: Child close to you for ease, you feel safer and the child may feel more comfortable being within arms reach.  Prices for seats start around $95.
If the bike tips over, as does the child..  Getting on and off the bike with the child on board requires a great deal of skill.  The child is exposed to the elements.  Weight limit of 30-55 lbs.

Child Bike Trailers

The bike trailer is by far my favorite way to carry a child with a bike.  I am biased towards the bike trailer, even over my beloved Xtracycle that is next up..  You’re able to carry up to two children in most popular trailers.  They often come with a mesh sun cover, and rain fly.  Put snacks, a book and a pillow in the trailer for the child and keep them entertained.  For safety there is a 5 point harness, roll cage and a pivot point near the bike so if your bike was to tip over the trailer doesn’t quickly follow.  (It is possible to tip a trailer, but not as easy as the child seats.)

Burley Child Trailers

Burley Cub Trailer

The tried and trued Burley trailer has been around for years.  If you remember I am reviewing the Travoy which carries belongings, not children.  Starting at $249.99 for the basic Burley Bee that holds two children.  There are many models between, but the Burley line ends at the Burley Cub at $589.99.  This is the do all trailer, converting into a jogger or stroller.  If you purchase this at the right time in your child’s life, you won’t need any other type of stroller unit.  I’ve heard stories of people taking these to Disney Land as two children can be tucked away under the mesh sunscreen..  Pack your snacks, groceries or pocket book behind the children in the storage space available.

*One of our sponsors, and BikeTrailerShop, are having a sale starting May 15th on Burley trailers (including cargo and the new Travoy!)

Pro’s : High weight limit, able to use in other parts of daily life, child is safe from user error
Con’s : The child is 3+ feet behind you, trailers are low to the ground so a blinky light and large flag are highly encouraged


The Xtracycle is the vehicle of choice of skilled bike commuters carrying large cargo or children.  Many people have made their own versions of carrying children, but Xtracycle does have the Peapod.  You are able to haul tons of groceries, and a couple children easily.

Pros : Capacity, expandable, ease of use.
Cons: Cost, addiction

BOB Trailer x 2

21 Responses to “Commuting with Children”

  1. Steven Soto says:

    Thanks for including the little ones. We do all sorts of errands with the kids.

    One option not mentioned is the “tag along” or trailer bike. We can keep the racks mounted to carry panniers whether the trailer bike is mounted or not. Pros: the kids love to help pedal, ease of use. Cons: more suited to confident riders due to high (seat post) mounting point, not suited for very young riders.

  2. Sean says:

    Love the video. I have a bike trailer and a BigDummy. My 2 year old loves the trailer, but my 6 year old likes to ride the “big bike” sitting on the snap deck, using a stoker bar and folding footpegs on the vracks. She really loves the attention from her friends when I pick her up from school on the BigDummy. Lots of “ooos” and “ahs” and “can I get a ride toos” from her friends. I heard one ask her parents why they don’t have a “big bike” like that. From the mouths of babes….

  3. Rockfish says:

    Don’t forget the Bobike front seat.
    A bit hard to find, but worth the effort.

  4. Doug D says:

    The best method of all is a long-John style cargo bike. CETMA, Joe Bike, Bakfiets and similar bikes are great ways to carry kids and cargo. With the kids on a bench in front of you, you can easily converse with them as well as having them in a low, easy to carry position. I got mine last year and I believe it is the most usefull mechanical item I have ever owned.

  5. Russel Haynes says:

    Just a couple of notes:

    The iBert seat has a weight limit of 38 pounds, not 40-55.

    Also, I would say that it requires care, not really skill to get on and off the bike with a child on board. On second thought, maybe that’s because I use it with an Electra Townie that allows me to have my feet on the ground while sitting in the saddle.

    It is fun to ride with my son right up there with me on the iBert seat.

  6. JRF says:

    Servicable tandems can regularly be found on craigslist (at least in Seattle) for less than $500. Keep an eye out for ones with a short seat tube in the back and you won’t need a kidback. The main alteration will be crank shorteners to keep from spinning the kid’s legs off. Regrettably these are enough of a specialty item to set you back around $100.

    I feel *much* more stable and safe on a tandem than with a trail-a-bike. You would be amazed how much power you can get from an 7+ year old stoker…when they are motivated. You can’t really tap that power source on an xtracycle.

  7. Elise says:

    So many great options for kids these days! There’s no excuse not to go by bike if you want to. My kids love riding the bike and they are much happier (and so am I) when we get home by bike rather than car.

    I use a Madsen cargo bike to carry all 3. Love the cargo bikes in general for this (Xtracycle, Big Dummy, Yuba mundo, Kona Ute and others)- much more stable than the baby seat on back and has the advantage of carrying your stuff easily as well.

    If you have a distance to go or just not up to pedaling some of your hills with the extra weight, electrification can really change this equation for you. It helped me go from an occasional use to my every day car over my hilly 6 mile commute. We save tons of money without using the car, keep our world and community a better place and best of all, are happier and healthier. It’s been worth every penny of the investment made. Feel free to check out my website (cycle9) for advise and help on electrification.

    Thanks for the article!

  8. Maureen Sklaroff says:

    I’m new to commuting with my kids, so this is a great article for me. You don’t mention the option I settled on, the Chariot Sidecarrier, which is a side car. I would love to know more about how others handle hills with kids in tow. Elise’s suggestion for an electric bike is great, but for me, going up isn’t so much an issue as going down for me. The sidecar specifically says it is not meant to be used on hills (I think that gravity might put too much torque on it on hills), so maybe that’s a negative of a sidecar. Do trailers not start pushing you down the hill from behind if it is steep?

  9. JRF says:

    Another good resource for family biking:

  10. Thank you all for the comments! Sounds like a follow up article is needed.

    Russel – I have edited the weight limits, thank you.

  11. Everett says:

    I’ve been carting my son around in an iBert since he could hold his head up. He loves being able to see where we are going and to feel the wind in his face. Isn’t that why we all love bikes anyway? 🙂

  12. norm says:

    Wow, a sidecar! I would be concerned about riding in traffic as the sidecar would make you pretty wide. Is the bike on the left or right side of the sidecar?

    I used to pull two kids and groceries in my old Burley d’Lite and I’m pretty sure I was close to the 100lb weight limit a lot. I used a mountain bike with a wide gear ratio range so it was easy to just downshift when I came across a steep hill. Also, if I were to fall off my bike (happened once or twice) the trailer never tipped. I was afraid of that happening if I had a kid in a back-mounted seat.

  13. Maureen Sklaroff says:

    The way the sidecar is designed, we’re not very wide. Supposedly no wider than a double trailer. It is on the right. It won’t tip over if I do either. I also worried about that with the seats, I’m just not experienced enough of a rider right now. If I had known about these cargo bikes before I bought my bike, I probably would have bought one of them instead. Right now, we can’t ride enough places that I could justify the expense, but if we move closer to the city that we spend most days in, I’m going to buy one of those.

  14. JRF says:

    It seems there is a continuum anchored at one end by the xtracycle which is a cargo bike with a variety of attachments for carrying different kinds of cargo, including small humans. At the other end is tandem which is about two riders.

    In my experience, kids in the non-recreational ride are a bit like cargo in that they often only partake in part of the ride…delivery to school, playdate, daycare and so on. So an interesting dimension, is whether the kid-carrying apparatus is something you can detach and leave with the kid. And if not, if it is adaptable to efficiently carry other cargo on the kid-less leg(s) of the journey. And on a different axis, as the kid gets older and capable of contributing power, does the apparatus allow the kid to productively pedal?

    I have a tandem and it wins hands down on the last point, but I’m still scratching my head about how to make it a good cargo bike for non-recreational purposes. It would need some mid-frame rack that can be (or get) out of the way of the stoker, when riding, and not interfere with the pedals when the stoker is not around.

    The trail-a-bike style affords productive pedaling from the “cargo”, but doesn’t carry other cargo well. On the other hand, it is easily detachable. Do trail-a-bike users often leave the trailer with the kid? Personally, I found the handling of the trail-a-bike quite disconcerting which led me down the tandem route.

    For the non-pedaling kids, an xtracycle, a trailer (or sidecar), or a dutch-style cargo bike seems the most versatile in the dual-purpose category, but I’ve never used any beyond a spin around the block.

  15. norm says:

    Interesting! I have not yet seen a bike sidecar. Sounds well thought-out. I can see it having some definite advantages compared to a full on trailer.

  16. Camilla says:

    Not sure how easy it would be to ride, I think a cargo bike probably looks more comfortable, Cetma or Double Dutch or what have you, but for sheer ingenuity and awesomeness, gotta love the tandemtransporter –

    It can carry up to three children at once, as well as an adult, and you can convert the front or back into cargo-carrying. gets the kids into the saddle too.

    Know of at least one bike sidecar, not specifically for kids though – Smike
    Not sure if these are available in the US but thought I’d mention anyhoo!

  17. M.J.D.A.B says:

    I just commuted this morning for the first time with the kids. It was awesome. The kids (1 and 2.5) ride really well together, so far. We live on a fairly busy road so I had to keep it to the sidewalks for most of the time. Day care is only 1 mile from our house and then I ride another mile and a half to my work. It went well, but my one year old refuses to keep her helmut on. She feels the same way about any hats and the winter’s where we live are especially brutal.

    Any suggestions to keep helmut’s on?

    Thinking about sticking some padding under their seat in case we hit any bumps that brush the bottom of the trailer. Owie!

    Looking forward to the commute home!

  18. Bliss Chick says:

    My three dudes are now 6, 9 and 12, but I have used a bike seat, a bike trailer and a Trail-A-Bike for them, and really recommend the trailer options. The Trail-A-Bike and trailer are easy to secure on my bike, keep the kids safe and/or engaged, and the trailer offered extra room for the inevitable extra gear we brought along. Plus, I didn’t have to buy a specialized bike to commute with them. With the Trail-A-Bike, the kids get to help on the hills, which is not an option with a cargo bike.

    The only problem I never knew how to solve with the trailer and the bike seat was how their heads were pushed forward by their helmets. I think Nutcase helmets might help a bit with that, but I didn’t have that option when mine were little.

  19. sara says:

    My first week with my daughter – 4 1/2 yo – in a temporary situation. We are using my standard step-through with an older model attached Adams trail-a-bike. We are doing better every day, but I don’t like the “fishtail” wiggle. We may or may not continue bike commuting together, but if our situation turns into a regular bike commute, than I will probably invest in a Cetma long john or a longtail — esp keen on an xtracyle radish, which are very poplar around here (local designer done good). We are in Oakland, and commute to BART, and use Public transit in San Francisco. She is having a blast BTW – singing and waving like a parade queen at passing motorists.
    This is a great site.

  20. sarah says:

    You forgot the trail-a-bike! These methods are great but what about when you have to cross town with an older child? It’s not practical or safe for them to ride their own bike. My 9 year old goes to a private school which is an hour bike ride across the city.

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