When’s the right time to start cycling with a toddler?
Many experts recommend introducing your kids to cycling early before they even know how to pedal or balance on a bike.
In fact, you don’t have to wait until they are walking fully before introducing them to the joys and fun of cycling.
Starting at around 9 months, you can use a child seat or carrier to take your toddler cycling with you. Between 1 and 2 years, you can introduce them to a balance bike to help them learn the basics of cycling.
Between 2 and 3 years, most toddlers are ready to pedal their first proper bike.
All this time, until they are around 5 years old, you can keep using a child bike seat or a bike trailer for longer rides or when you want to take them with you on errands.
Here’s more information on each of these options, with tips on how to make sure your child is safe.
Note: Whichever option you choose, your child should always have a helmet on even if they are not pedalling or controlling the bike.
Child Bike Seat
A child bike seat is the starting point for parents who want to cycle with their kids. You can carry a child as young as 9 months in a bike seat, mounted at the front or rear of your bike.
Most bike seats have a safety harness system to keep your child safe and secure especially on a bumpy road. They also have foot rests and padding for comfort.
When you are buying a child bike seat, check the weight limit to make sure it’s safe for your child. For most seats, the max weight limit is 22kg.
A bike trailer is a good alternative for parents who don’t want to mount a child seat on their bike. The trailer attaches to the rear of the bike and has its own wheels.
Most bike trailers are covered with a mesh fabric so kids can still feel the air rushing through and look outside.
The main downside of a trailer is that kids don’t get good visibility of the road ahead since they are low on the ground. They can get bored especially as they grow older.
Furthermore, they are exposed to more car exhaust when you are on the road.
Yes, there’s a bike trailer and a trailer bike.
A trailer bike is great if your kid is bored with the passiveness of a bike trailer or bike seat. It allows them to get a feel of cycling without worrying about balancing or steering.
A trailer bike consists of a single wheel, a pair of pedals, a saddle and a frame that attaches to the back of your bike.
They can pedal but you are the one doing all the steering and balancing.
You are also the one producing most of the cycling power. So you can ride further without your kid getting too tired.
A bike trailer or child bike seat allows you to have fun cycling with your child. But they don’t really learn how to cycle.
For that, introduce them to a balance bike when they are between one and two years old.
A balance bike has no pedals. Your child will scoot and coast with it, slowly learning how to balance and steer.
Between 2 and 4 years, your child is ready to get their first proper bike. Make sure you buy the right wheel size depending on your toddler’s age and height.
You can keep the training wheels on if they’ve yet to master balancing and steering. But in most cases, training wheels are not very helpful.
If they’ve been using a balance bike, they don’t need them. If they’ve not trained on a balance bike, it’s easier to teach them how to balance and steer with the training wheels off.
Once they’ve mastered cycling their own bike, go on short rides with them in the park or on flat trails away from roads.
From here on they’ll get better naturally as they grow older eventually culminating in a mountain or road bike at around 7-10 years.
In the meantime, even if they can ride their own bike, you can occasionally enjoy longer rides together on a trailer or tandem bike.