Raising Bike Friendly Kids Part 1: The Trailer Years

Above: Ryan and kids getting ready for a ride.

By Ryan Barrett

One of the things I am attempting to instill in my kids (3 girls and counting!) is my love of cycling. I did not come from a “cycling family”, but my wife did, with a father and three brothers who all raced. I would be lying if I said this was a purely philanthropic attempt to allow them to learn the freedom that comes with cycling. Yes! When the kids are young, their bike time is our bike time and my initial purchase of a trailer was largely to allow myself to continue to train around a lifestyle where training is less and less a priority.

Anyone who has had children will tell you, your life changes fast! Unless you are making your living pedaling, bike time becomes increasingly difficult to justify. But, don’t despair- you can continue to train with kids by purchasing a trailer.

Use you own judgment on what is safe, but I find that once an infant can holds its head up, it is safe to ride in trailer. We started our kids off in the trailer at about six months. I have seen people with younger children in their car seats in the trailer, but that is not really how trailer are designed.

Many people do not put helmets on their kids in the trailer. It is true that trailers are very safe. The rider can crash and the trailer will stay upright. That said, why delay learning safe riding habits? Put a lid on that kid! I have visited kids in the ER with injuries that could have been prevented by wearing a helmet, and it’s not something I wish on anyone, much less a child, so (and I’m trying not to get too preachy here) just do it! As we all know, kids mimic what their parents do so wear one yourself.

There’s a huge array of trailers on the market. Think of this as a long term investment, especially if you plan to have more kids. Yes, you pay a little more up front for quality, but it will last. You can buy one at a toy store, but would you buy YOUR bike there?

On a similar note, if you are planning to have more than one kid within a few years of each other, I recommend getting a double (i.e. – two seater). Yes, it is wider, but you should be riding primarily on open roads and paths, so a little extra width isn’t such an issue. And when there is only one kid in the trailer, it allows them more room. And yes, they will want room.

Also, many people fear there bike will be damaged using a trailer and so will only ride it with an older bike. With modern trailers, it is simply attached via your rear quick release. I have pulled a trailer on each of my race bikes over the past seven years and have never suffered any damage. I actually did my first ride on my custom Seven pulling the trailer… desperate times call for desperate measures!

One thing that became apparent when we started pulling our kids around is that the trailer is an excellent place for a nap! This can become an issue as they get older- as late day rides to lead to late nights. But, when the kids are awake, it is important to have books, water, even snacks as they get older. We’ve also found that planning the ride with a stop at a park gives the kids something to look forward to. Ultimately, increased enjoyment for them will lead to increased bike time for you! I’ve also found that having a trailer can provide a great workout in a short time frame, allows a stay-at-home spouse some much needed alone time, or can be a great day out for the entire family.

Ryan Barrett is the owner of Turbo! Sports Management- an independent sales rep in the cycling industry and coaching business. He has over 20 years of racing and coaching experience. A self-proclaimed “lifer”, Ryan has raced with the Schroeder Iron and NetZero professional teams, as well as the US National Team, and competed in many of America’s most prestigious races including the T-Mobile International/San Francisco Grand Prix, First Union USPRO Championships, USPro Criterium Championships, Redlands Cycling Classic, Cascade Cycling Classic, and many more. Ryan was featured in the full-length documentary “The Hard Road” about the NetZero team, is still an active Category 1 racer, was the 2005 and 2006 Utah State Road Race Champion and the 2007 and 2008 Utah State Criterium Champion. He lives in Provo, UT with his wife and three daughters.

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