Disclaimer: I’m just gonna put this general statement out there right off the bat: Bike riding with babies in North America is a contentious issue. It just is, I accept that. And, to each their own. It is even a bone of contention in my own family! We all have our reasons or justifications, experiences, and cultural backgrounds to draw upon to inform the decisions that are right for our own families. We all love our children and are trying to make the best choices possible for them. So, ultimately, my sage advice (and disclaimer, really) is to just do what feels right for you when biking with babies; as with all parenting decisions, they are yours to make. You do you.
There is not a lot of information available on the internet that addresses biking with babies. Nor is there a lot of common knowledge in North American society. There is, however, a good degree of extreme conservatism mixed with some fear mongering about how you will scramble your baby’s brains if you dare to bike with them earlier than one year old.
In cultures where active transportation is the norm, it is both accepted and common practice to ride a bicycle while pregnant and then again, with babe in tow, when the parents decide they are ready.
If you choose to go biking with babies, here is how you can get it done. On your own terms. Within your own timelines. (See my disclaimer, below.)
Biking with a baby
|Conclusion||Crème de la crème for city use, all ages, and all weather.||A great starting point for getting out riding with your baby.|
|Centre of Gravity||Nice and low.|
If you tip (or dump, as we say), your kid does not touch the ground if they're strapped in. The Dutch recommend keeping the bucket car seat handle pointing up, such that it can act like a roll bar in a very worst case scenario.
|Nice and low.|
Some bike-specific models even have canted wheels. Note that trailers are hard to flip, but it IS possible (usually due to poorly balanced weight, cornering too quickly, or hitting a bump like a large root; I've never done it, my husband did it once unloaded, hitting a root).
|Visibility of Baby||Excellent.|
Put the young baby rear-facing on the floor of the box and you can watch them giggle or sleep.
You cannot see inside of a trailer unless you stop and look, but really it's more like: stop, get off bike, and then go look (frustrating for checking on sleeping babes).
Bonus: If you're afraid of judgy onlookers, they probably can't even see that you have a baby in there!
|Weather||Excellent if you have a cover.||Excellent (all models I have seen come with a cover).|
|Ease of Use||One unit. Just roll and go.||Good. But not awesome for us as I used it daily for walking the dog and mucking about; the real bummer was the jog wheel freezing on in winter (getting all ready to ride and then realizing we couldn't...).|
|Share-ability||Most styles can accommodate different sized riders fairly easily.||Ideal for daycare swaps if you have a hitch on each of the bikes to be used.|
|Baby Seat||Can affix a bucket seat rear-facing to the base of the box, using straps or a Steco Baby Mee.|
Hard-shell "sling" (Weber).
|Hard to get a bucket seat to fit (but possible in older models with more slender, European-style car seats).|
Soft-shelled infant sling.
|Price||Expensive, hard to find used.||Expensive, but not as much as a bakfiets. Easy to find used. Can often be used for walking, jogging, or xc-skiing, too.|
|Riding Style||Often upright and step-through.|
Many models are slow and steady, it's a zen thing and you get used to it.
Some models are zippier and peppier, and an e-assist helps this a lot, too.
Because the box is in front, the bike uses linkage steering. All this means is that you have to look where you want to go and not at the front wheel! You will get used to it within a few rides (max 2 weeks); you'll be proficient within a few weeks or less.
|Similar to what you are used to if you use your old bike, just more weight to pull!|
|Locking||One unit, so fairly easy, although you may have heart palpitations leaving behind your several thousand dollar bike secured with a couple hundred dollars of lock(s). Highly recommend a frame lock for the front wheel and 1-2 more locks depending on where you live and how long you're leaving it (we use Abus Bordos).||PITA. You have to lock up your bike and you also have to lock up your trailer. (Drove me bonkers, while wrangling a kid or two at the same time.)|
|Storage||Bigger footprint. This is one thing that kept us from getting a bakfiets early: we didn't have covered place to store it.||Okay, although you'll likely be un/hitching frequently, depending on your storage set-up.|
Most trailers fold relatively flat for transport or storage.
|Multiple Functions||Nope.||We use ours for walking, biking, towing extra gear, and xc skiing.|
|Transportation||Very challenging to impossible for most people. CETMAs are bi-partable.||Same as before, you just need room for a folded up trailer in your car.|
|Other Safety Features||Passengers are in front of you, quite visible to all.||Trailer acts as a roll cage.|
5-point harness (usually).
Want to learn more about bakfietsen now? Definitely go here:
Personally, I ride a front-loading bakfiets. Here is a link to my review of it:
And, a more detailed explanation of why I think it really is the ultimate bike, for me at least:
If you are considering riding with your baby in a soft-structured carrier, I cannot speak from experience about doing that. I have a friend who did so with her second born when they lived in Japan (along with many other parents), I used to see a dad ride by our old house in Vancouver every day with his daughter on his back in an Ergo, and I know that it is done. I can, however, refer you to this piece written by CycleSprog.
However, I did try it out a couple of times with our toddler, on my back, in a Toddler Tula and it was great, she especially loved it!
Your other option could be a trike. I have never tried one and urge you to do so before you buy. I think a lot of people gravitate towards trikes because they are wary of the bizarre contraption that a bakfiets seems to be. I think that trikes can be awesome, but know that they do have their own quirks! Like, you ride tilted if you’re riding on a road with camber (unless you get the tilting Butchers & Bicycles one)! Remember that a bakfiets is just a bike once you get used to the steering.
And, check out this great electric assist cargo trike that my buddy Sara rides:
Longtails are not an option for young babies, but if you are on the fence between trailers, long tails, and bakfiets set-ups, check out my conclusions on bakfietsen and why I think that they’re truly the ultimate choice.
And here is a comparison post between longtails and bakfietsen:
Just get out there
If that is what you want to do and feel comfortable doing, then go for it. Everyone has their own comfort zone and every baby enters this world in their own way with their own strengths.
For us, we started rolling at 4 months old with our first (around when I could walk more or less normally again after dealing with a nerve injury) and 5 weeks old with our second (would have been earlier but I had a wicked sinus infection). 7-9 weeks old seems to be the sweet spot for many families. Some families prefer to start earlier or wait until babe is 9 months old or so. This variation is a reflection of our climate in Canada (where most of us have winter), what kid-toting gear is available, cultural norms and pressures, and – most importantly – parental discretion.
Keep in mind that getting around by car with your kids is likely one of the most dangerous activities that you will ever undertake with them. An activity that most people do multiple times per day without blinking.
Ready to bike with your slightly older infant? You have a few more options available and can read about them here:
Curious what your options are for the long term? Here is an overview of all of the many ways that you can carry kids by bike: