Biking is a great outdoor activity for families! It was one of the few things we could safely do with Oliver soon after being discharged from the hospital since it was germ-free and protected from sun! Eliza has low core muscle tone from her NF1 (but she has gotten SO much stronger in the past year!) so she still isn’t quite coordinated enough to go on her strider bike very long. Because of this, we do lots of family bike rides towing the kids! Eliza is almost 4 and Oliver is 2.
One disclaimer is that Seth is the true biker in our family, not me. He does ALL of the work hooking up the trailer, loading it, and hauling it. He bikes 5 miles to work and 5 miles back each day so he is in significantly better shape than I am. I just see if I can keep up with my bike while he hauls 70 pounds of kids and stuff no problem.
Just like with camping, we have had a few learn-by-failing-first moments with the bike trailer. Here are a couple things we have learned!
- Invest in a quality bike trailer! The In-Step (around $100) or similar bike trailers are fine if you don’t use them often or for very long. We had an In-Step one until Eliza turned 2 then upgraded to a MEC Bike trailer. (MEC is Canada’s version of REI). The MEC trailer has bucket seats that keep the kids from tipping in to each other. Similar trailers are the Burley or Thule. The only bummer is these trailers are pretty spendy ($300 – $700). We bought our MEC trailer used on Craigslist in Canada for under $100.
2. Keep them warm! I don’t know why it takes us a couple fails to figure this out on any activity we do but if the kids are cold they will cry! We bundle them in their packable down coats and put a packable down blanket on their legs. We also bundle them in hats and gloves. When we are biking as adults it is easy to stay warm and forget how cold you can get being towed in the wind! Obviously, this is less of an issue during the summer months but even in the summer evenings it can get chilly in the trailer.
3. Bring snacks, water, and diapers. I guess this one should be obvious too, but we have learned by failing on this! We bring the little Munchkin snack cups and fill them with animal crackers or goldfish crackers. Each kid gets their Contigo water bottle to have in their side pouch.
4. Bike somewhere fun! We have biked around the Seawall at Stanley Park in Canada, on cross country mountain biking trails in Whistler, on the North Lake Whatcom trail, to Woods Coffee, to ice cream, and many other places. If the kids have something to look forward to when they get out it helps keep them excited to go again and again!
5. Start them young(ish)! Most owners manuals say not to tow your child until they are 12 months old for safety reasons. We had Eliza in the trailer a little earlier than that but strapped her in her infant car seat. Maybe this was wise, maybe it wasn’t, but both kids are past the infant stage now! After age one, the more you take them out, the more used to going out they will get!
By far our favorite places to bike are NOT on roads! The Seawall in Stanley Park was awesome for biking with no cars! We also biked through the Othello Tunnels in Canada which is a crushed-gravel trail. We are excited for when our kids can ride their own bikes but it looks like that will be a while so Seth will keep getting his towing workout in for now!