Biking with a baby for the first time is often a “interesting” experience for both the cyclist and the passenger. No one is quite sure what to expect. I biked with my son – who is just under a year old – for the first time last Saturday.
Of course, he wasn’t riding the bike – he was in a trailer attached to mine. I told him he should say, “Mush, mush, mommy!” I suspect I shouldn’t repeat that joke when he’s old enough to understand it. It went about as well as I could expect for such a new experience. He was mostly neutral with the potential for a more positive reaction in the future.
Getting Ready to Ride with a Trailer
Before I stuck Sprout on the back of my bike, we did some preparatory work. My parents gave me the Burley Honey Bee for Christmas, which is similar to their basic trailer. It has the one major advantage of turning into a stroller when you unhook it from the bike. Burley is known for being one of the best when it comes to trailers, so I was pretty confident in the quality and comfort level.
The trailer itself was easy to put together. At least it was according to Chris, who did all of the work while I played on the lawn with Sprout. Getting it on and off the bike was somewhat challenging. I had trouble lining up the precise spot on the bike with the right spot on the trailer hitch, but I hope it gets easier with practice. My awkward efforts did demonstrate the trailer’s safety. I knocked my bike over and the trailer didn’t budge.
After the construction phase, I tested out my bike with an empty trailer. It added a lot of weight, making it almost as heavy as the bulky Capital Bikeshare bikes. Otherwise, it wasn’t all that different from my normal ride. My balance wasn’t affected at all, unlike if I had a regular child seat on the back. I was most concerned about the turning radius, which was much better than I anticipated. The only thing I needed to watch out for was the additional length. If I wasn’t careful, it was easy to bump the trailer over the curbs of shared use trails. That isn’t that dangerous, but it would be uncomfortable for my little passenger.
Heading Out Biking with a Baby
Once Sprout woke up from his afternoon nap, we were ready to make our maiden voyage. We decided to bike to a Ben & Jerry’s about a mile away. I had a hankering for sweet dairy and the start of summer. (Plus, food-based rides are kind of my thing.) It was a good distance, long enough for Sprout to get a feel for the experience but short enough to be tolerable if he didn’t like it. If we really needed to bail, we could always walk home. Plus, Chris isn’t nearly as enthusiastic about biking as I am, so a couple miles was a good warm up for the season.
Before we could leave, Sprout needed his helmet. Not that he understood, but I explained to him that besides the safety reasons, my mommy would be very, very angry at me if he didn’t wear a helmet. (My mom regularly scolds her students at school to wear helmets. There Would Be Words if her own grandson didn’t wear one in the trailer she gave as a gift.)
He wasn’t happy about it at first, but once I adjusted it, he stopped fussing. I also put a rolled up towel behind him for support. Trailer seats recline so much that they push helmets forward over babies’ foreheads. But as I was just finishing my other tasks, I glanced over and saw him chewing on the helmet’s chin strap. Hmm – that clearly wasn’t going to do him much good in an accident. After another round of readjustments with accompanying whining, we were ready to go.
Once we started, Sprout seemed to accept of situation, even if he wasn’t pleased by it. Looking at him with my rear-view mirror, I saw that he didn’t cry at all. But he didn’t smile either. He looked somewhat surprised and confused more than anything else.
I can’t blame him – it’s really different from anything else he’s ever done. The ride is far bumpier and faster than the stroller and completely different from the car’s highly controlled environment. He has a similar reaction to most things that are radically new, including foods that he really enjoys later on. It probably didn’t help that we had to wake him up from his too-long nap, so he was a little cranky.
Riding with him wasn’t that different than riding with the empty trailer. The main difference was that it was 20 pounds heavier, drastically affecting my power and speed. Last year, when I rode the Tour de Cookie seven months pregnant, I was so proud of being able to pass the guy towing a kid in a trailer. As I pulled our trailer, I realized I had less of a reason to be proud than I thought! I’m usually far ahead of Chris unless I make a concerted effort to go slowly. But with the trailer, he was able to keep up without a problem at all. Pulling the trailer will just make me earn my sweets even more.
In general, the ride went just well enough for me to consider it a success. I hope they it will just be the first of many rides we have as a family.
Since I originally wrote this post, we’ve biked together as a family many times. Read about how I reintroduced Sprout the next year to the bike as a toddler and how my identity as a bicyclist has changed since I became a mom. Be sure to follow us on Facebook!