Riding parents love their babies and love their bicycles, so it is natural to want to put the two together. Generally before the child is born parents will be thinking about how much fun it will be to go riding as a family. As a Mum at home with a baby the ability to jump on a bike and get around town opens up a whole lot of possiblities and is nothing short of liberating. As your family grows the fun and adventure that can be had because you are travelling by bike through your community will bring smiles and great memories for everyone.
The choices these days for carrying your infant on a bike are comprehensive. If you can think of a scenario chances are someone has designed something that will fit it. From trailers to child seats, to backpacks, to front and back cargo bikes parents all over the world are riding with infants.
Biking with 3 kids on board
Emily and Oscar getting ready for a morning ride
So what’s the story in New Zealand? When are you allowed to take a baby on a bike? The answer to the question,
“At what age is a child ready to be taken cycling?” might be, “At the age when you are ready for the child to crash if that should happen.”
Things to consider while pondering the above statement;
Helmet & Sitting: The first thing to think about in New Zealand – where it is law to wear a helmet on a bike – is finding a helmet that will fit and is not too heavy (see below for some tips). Is your child old enough to sit in an upright position? At what age can the neck support a helmet?
“Children are just learning to sit unsupported at about 9 months of age. Until this age, infants have not developed sufficient bone mass and muscle tone to enable them to sit unsupported with their backs straight. Pediatricians advise against having infants sitting in a slumped or curled position for prolonged periods. This position may even be exacerbated by the added weight of a bicycle helmet on the infant’s head.” The US Consumer Product Safety Commission
Tips for buying your childs first bike helmet;
- Size – for a child around 1 year of age you will need a 45-50cm helmet. Measure with a tape one finger width above the eyebrows or use a piece of string then lay it along a ruler.
- Coverage – seek out a helmet that covers as much of the head as possible therefore protecting more of it
- Weight – the less the better. There are helmets out there that weigh as little as 185 grams, try to find one but don’t comprise with too little coverage.
- Adjustment – it must have a sizing system for you to adjust it to a perfect fit.
- Heat & Care – Ventilation is good for summer so they don’t get too hot. Washable pads are also good
Traffic/Terrain: where do you want to ride? What are the road or trail surfaces like? Are there bike lanes for you to use or off road cycle trails you could take advantage of? What is the traffic flow like – are drivers expecting to see cyclists?
“If you had to pick a time when it is most important to protect the brain from excess vibration or bumps and jostling about it would be during that first year after birth.” Dr. Tord Alden of Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago
1 year old with a fitting helmet.
Jo and Hollie biking a trail
Ability & Bike: are you a confident rider? Do you believe in your own ability to ride defensively? Where will a seat fit on your bike? Could you manage extra weight on the front or the back of your bike? How will this effect your balance?
Practice: One of the keys to enjoying your time out on the bike is to practice in a safe environment before you do it for the first time and to think through some scenarios. How will you stablise the bike as you are putting your child into a seat/trailer? This means having a really good kickstand or understanding how to safely lean your bike against a wall – use your seat not the end of the handlebars! Do you have gears so that starting at intersections isn’t too difficult with the added weight of your child. This one means changing into an easy gear before you stop so that you are prepared when you go again.
The biggest determining factor for getting a baby on a bike in New Zealand is having a helmet that fits well and they can safely wear. Apply the low, level, snug and stable rule see How are you wearing your helmet. If you can’t find a helmet that fits – it’s simple no riding. It doesn’t matter where they are sitting or how good your riding skills are.
get Ready and goRide – Biking with babies on board
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