Take the 2-minute tour ×
Bicycles Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for people who build and repair bicycles, people who train cycling, or commute on bicycles. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Our 2.2 year old toddler seems very interested in a random, abandoned bike seat we found, so we're considering some method of letting him ride with us. But I am not sure whether to get ...

  • A bike seat, which fits one toddler, and mounts above the rear wheel on the rack

  • A bike trailer, which fits possibly two toddlers, has its own wheels and attaches to the rear of the bicycle.

It seems to me the trailer is more flexible and potentially safer, since the center of gravity is much closer to the ground. I also worry that having a thirty+ pound weight on the rear rack will cause us to make more riding mistakes, and if the bike falls over, there goes the toddler.

However, the bike seat seems more fun for the toddler since he can see more of the ride and feels more like a co-rider than a passenger.

It's hard for me to decide without trying both, and right now I've tried neither. Can someone who has tried both a bike trailer and a bike seat with their toddlers share their experiences and thoughts on this? I'm interested in the pros and cons from people who have spent some time in the saddle with their toddlers using both.

share|improve this question
4  
Both are quite common in Holland (as in, you see them all the time). However, I think a seat is easier to combine with a typical dutch bike (which is less race-y than the crazy bikes people in other countries seem to use for daily use), for instance the foot-in-wheel scenario as described in one answer is impossible, since there is standard protection around the backwheel. Since most people still stick with seats, it apparently isn't that dangeroes. I do however see that more parents are starting to fit their children with helmets. –  markijbema Jul 31 '11 at 6:52
    
Anecdotal: My mother used a bike seat with my brother, fell in traffic, and was so terrified by the experience that she hasn't ridden a bike since. –  fbo Aug 31 '12 at 14:35
    
See also this question on Parenting.SE: At what development stage is an infant ready for a ride in a bike trailer? –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Aug 31 '12 at 19:54
add comment

15 Answers 15

I've had both. A really nice trailer and a child bike seat -- where the child sits between the rider and the handlebar (like the WeeRide Kangaroo Child Bike Seat).

weeride kangaroo child bike seat

My daughter was ok with the trailer, but absolutely preferred the seat.

I found with the seat in front of me, the weight didn't affect me almost at all, and if the bike was going to fall, I'd be in a much better position to protect my child (since she's directly in front of me).

We used that for a long time and never ever had an issue (and lets face it, with the kid along for the rid, you're not likely to ever ride like a madman, right?)

She's six years old, and still misses it (we stopped when she was about 3.5 yrs old--just getting too big!)

share|improve this answer
    
I second the above answer, we had the WeeRide and our child loved it too (nice to be able to talk while riding) ... but like above it has a limited time that it can be used. My wife used it mainly and by the time our boy was 3 yrs old he was too big. My wife is shorter (5 foot 1) so a taller person could get more use out of it. –  dark fader Aug 1 '11 at 2:38
    
From another perspective: When I was a kid, my dad had something similar on his bike. It was a lot of fun and we never had any problems with it. –  Daenyth Aug 3 '11 at 17:27
add comment

I would never use anything but a trailer for safety reasons alone. The amount of force which can be applied to a small child's head from a fall from a bike seat can cause a severe injury. Even as an adult riding carefully on a bike path I've had an accident (dog running in front of me). With a trailer it is nearly impossible to flip or cause other blunt force damage to the passengers. Short of riding off a cliff or getting run over by an automobile the kiddos are safe.

share|improve this answer
    
I felt unsafe on the road with a rear seat. I would constantly stop at stop-signs and hold onto them because I felt so top-heavy. –  memnoch_proxy Aug 1 '11 at 18:10
1  
just to clarify, you have ridden with both a trailer and the rear seat.. yes? –  Eggs McLaren Aug 2 '11 at 8:06
    
@memnoch_proxy How did you stop? When carrying a heavy load I find that braking and using the pedal as a step to step straight forward off of the seat, and then using the pedal to step up onto the seat helps a lot. That way the bike stays straight up when stopped instead of being leaned over. Trying to lean over and touch the ground with a foot without getting your butt off the seat will always be a little unsteady. –  freiheit Aug 5 '11 at 17:33
    
My son was at the size limit for the kid seat when we tested it out, it was like having an egg crate full of books atop the rear rack--the bike wanted to pull me down to left or right. I would roll up to the intersection almost touching the curb and get a foot up on the curb and lean forward putting my weight on the handlebars to keep the front wheel from twisting out from under me. I'd try and lean the kid seat against the sign or a wall to do an actual dismount. –  memnoch_proxy Aug 5 '11 at 20:42
1  
FWIW, I did flip the trailer with my daughter in it - trailer landed on its side. She just woke up and was suspended in the 5 point harness, kind of curious as to why the world was sideways. –  Trey Jackson Sep 13 '12 at 19:51
show 1 more comment

We live in the country, and ride on gravel roads pretty much exclusively. We used a trailer for years and have kept it even though the kids outgrew it long ago. It remains useful years later when the kid(s) are riding solo. Our trailer is over 20 years old and we used it just last week, riding out to pick up our CSA veggies, which probably weighed more than many toddlers.

The big trailer advantages are that it can hold two, it can hold stuff (snacks, drinks, diaper bag, picnic blanket) as well as people, and it can hold a sleeping infant in a car seat. As well, if you need to stop and get off your bike for something, you don't need to get the child out of the trailer and you probably would need to get them out of a seat. Since ours comes with a cover, you can also keep a little one shaded or rain-protected easily. It lets you start taking your child with you much younger than a seat does, and simplifies longer trips.

Be aware that some older trailers have safety issues around finger entrapment in the wheels. If you buy a used one, check first if it was recalled for those problems.

share|improve this answer
1  
Stopping, and carrying two, or two plus groceries is a big advantage. If you bike with canvas or nylon grocery sacks, consider keeping some large D-clips attached to the top bar of the trailer so that you can dangle your grocery bags from them and the items don't spill under the seat and get stepped on. –  memnoch_proxy Aug 1 '11 at 18:09
add comment

I'll not speak for the trailer, so much as against the rear child bike seat. My sister, was at 2 years old, riding in a high quality, bike shop sold and properly mounted bike seat.

She was strapped in, and all was well. My dad was the captain of the vessel, and they were having a grand time.

My dad hit a broken bottle on the road. Never saw it, he said. But the cut in the tire was enough to deflate it pretty instantly, and between balancing the weight of the child on the back, and the suddenly squirrelly handling of the bike, he crashed.

Dad was fine. He was able to protect himself as the bike went down. My sister, in her strapped in condition, was less ok. She had 31 stitches in her face and whiplash, before all was said and done. Because she hadn't the age, strength or experience to protect herself, and my Dad couldn't do it either in the middle of an unexpected emergency.

There is a post here which says:

(and lets face it, with the kid along for the ride, you're not likely to ever ride like a madman, right?)

The facts are that you don't wear a seat belt for the days when you plan to get in a crash. You do it because you can't guarantee you won't, and it's just smart.

I feel the same way about child seats on bikes. You can protect yourself. The kid can't. And you can't protect them by guaranteeing no accidents.

share|improve this answer
    
great point about unconsidered enthusiam –  memnoch_proxy Aug 6 '11 at 6:53
    
I was about to post a hypothetical scenario about this, but you have an actual story. I fully agree with this, I ride motorcycles and there is a big reason why there are no seat belts on a motorcycle, because being strapped in would be a lot worse in a crash, you can not be thrown clear of the bike. In a trailer, the child is protected by the frame in a roll. –  BillyNair May 18 '13 at 12:31
add comment

I've used both and prefer the trailer. Weatherproof, able to be swapped from one bike to another easily, able to be used on my good racer and mountain bike that would never fit a seat rack and a much lower center of gravity, you almost don't notice it's there while the child seat makes the bike less stable. Plus you can also fit a picnic bag our shopping in the trailer.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I use both (we have an 18 month year old and a 3 year old). The trailer for going riding on tracks, small roads and old disused railways at the weekends, the seat for taking the older one to nursery on 'bigger' roads.

The trailer is fun for both of them, plus they can sleep in it, and we can cover a bit of distance - the seat is probably more comfortable and safer/more sensible for riding in town.

The seat does add a bit of weight and you can't swing your leg over the saddle to get on (or at least without performing a roundhouse kick on your son/daughter), so that can be a bit of a challenge - but really it works fine.

Jon

share|improve this answer
    
Napping in the trailer is a huge advantage, and if you want to be super nice, place a big stuffed animal in there for them to cuddle and fall asleep on. Rain and wind are other considerations. –  memnoch_proxy Aug 1 '11 at 18:06
add comment

Speaking as a parent and a former 3 year old, I'd advise against the rear bike seat. When I was 3, my mom bought one of those and popped me on it. We were out riding for a long time and I wanted to stop, so... I jammed my foot into the rear wheel. That was a REALLY bad idea. Lesson learned: don't stick foot in bike wheels.

Now that I'm a parent myself, I think I'd rather have my kid in a bike trailer or one of the seats like Chris or Garret mentioned that goes between your seat and the handlebars. To me, it seems like you'd have better control and could better protect the kid if something bad happens. And the something bad would NEVER be your kid sticking his foot in the wheels.

share|improve this answer
    
the bike seat in question has some pretty serious velcro straps to hold the toddler's feet squarely in place; maybe what you're describing is why! –  Eggs McLaren Jul 31 '11 at 5:45
add comment

Having used them both, I say they are useful in different contexts. The bike seat I have is someting like this:

Bike seat

combined with a dress guard like this:

enter image description here

I have no fear for small feet getting stuck. The seat is much faster when you just want to pop over to get some milk and such, but its limiting when bringing more then one child with you or have more goods to carry (on the other hand its wonderful when you have no kid but grocery bags). I stopped using it when my youngest was about 3½ years old, it then started to feel to wobbly.

On the other hand a trailer is more work to get going, but useful with heavier kids (mine is rated up to 35kg). I bought it when I separated and didn't have access to a car anymore and it have served us well.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Consider at least one alternative to your (seemingly binary) choice - trike with frontal bay:

Cargo bike makers carry high hopes

or their more attractive cousin

Kangaroobike by Winther

I'm sure there are similar ones available in your locality so you don't have to consider complex logistics to get them from Denmark or even immigration to .dk in the bottom line ;)

share|improve this answer
1  
There are some US box-bike manufacturers (CETMA, Metrofiets, Bilenky, Hudson Urban Bicycles, Larry Vs Harry aka Bullitt, Madsen, etc) but $1200-$3000 for a cargo bike seems more likely to be out of budget (money and storage space) than a trailer or seat. –  freiheit Aug 5 '11 at 17:54
add comment

A friend of mine wrote a blog post about this recently, building a pretty solid argument for a bike seat that goes between your seat and the handlebars: http://offbeatmama.com/2010/10/biking-with-toddlers

We considered a bike cart, something like the InStyle Quick N EZ Bicycle Trailer, but honestly? I wasn't totally comfortable with the idea of Jasper being in a cart behind me — a cart that people driving their monster SUVs and trucks wouldn't be able to see easily. Since we ride on the road, I wanted something that meant I could see Jasper, know that he was safe, and not have to worry about him overheating or the driver behind us not realizing someone was in the cart in the first place.

So then we moved on to bike seats that go behind you — something like the Beto Deluxe Reclining Seat, or, if you're working with a budget, the Bell Classic Bicycle Carrier. The back-of-the-bike-seat seemed a little bit better, at first, but then it rapidly occurred to both of us that my balance would be thrown way off. Plus, I wouldn't be able to see him — my primary problem with the cart.

After some random Amazon searches, I happened upon the Bobike Mini Seat — a front-of-the-bike seat!

share|improve this answer
add comment

I did some research on this issue and ended up going with a trailer for my two-year old son. We use it for our daily commute to day care and work, and so far it seems comfortable for him, and easy for me to handle. Cars give us plenty of space. My one issue is the amount of time it takes me to get the trailer out of its storage shed, lock up the shed, attach trailer to the bike, and then at day care, detach, lock both etc. I am starting to envy parents with bike seats who show up and get in and out quickly to drop off their kids.

share|improve this answer
add comment

My wife and I have been riding our son around in an iBert front mounted seat since he was able to hold his head up with a helmet on.

http://www.ibertinc.com/

The seat mounts on the handlebar stem and is easy to get on and off. It mounts on the handlebar stem, which can scratch the bike's paint...so i wrapped a piece of an old innertube around the stem before mounting it. Once mounted, it is not super rigid, and can move around a bit, but it is impossible for it to come off. At first, I was worried about the movement of the seat, but it ultimately served as a shock absorber. If I remove the inner tube, the seat is more rigid...but after testing I decided to keep the inner tube in place. I also put a swim noodle piece I cut around the seat stem to add a tighter fit.

Being that the seat mounts in the front, it is a lot of fun for our son because he gets to see everything very clearly, as well as put his hands on the handle bars, just like mom.

GOOD:

  • front mount provides lots of stability and ease of control

  • best visibility for the toddler

  • easy on and off, but near impossible to fall off
  • easy in and out, my wife puts our son in and goes for rides on her own
  • it is fun for toddlers to be up front and pretend to stear
  • very light weight, which makes for easy balance

BAD

  • it is a bit wobbly, but sturdy. I was worried at first, but it has turned out to be a non-issue

  • not really a "BAD," but this seat will only be useable for a short while as it is intended for toddlers...although I can see it lating into our son's third year and he is in the 105% for height.

  • there is not back head support, which is problematic when our son falls asleep on rides; we have to hold his head up until we get home.

Overall, I recommend this seat, and would but it again.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Markijbema's comment on the original question touched on one aspect that nobody has mentioned:

"A seat is easier to combine with a typical dutch bike, which is less race-y than the crazy bikes people in other countries seem to use for daily use"

The construction and design of the bicycle determines how well it handles a load, either over the rear wheel, front wheel, or distributed evenly (in this case a 20-40 pound child). I'd like to compare three bicycles of roughly the same price point and frame/wheel size (~560mm, all measurements in mm or degrees).

The bikes: A) Surly Long Haul Trucker--700c, heavy duty touring, B) GT Zaskar Sport--29", hardtail mountain bike, C) Specialized Allez Comp--700c, speedy road bike

((I couldn't find any geometry details on Dutch-style cruisers, but I feel that they will be more in line with the Long Haul Trucker.))

  • Chainstay length affects whether your heels hit your pannier bags and the size of tire you can ride. (A) 460, B) 445, C) 405)

  • The wheelbase affects handling. A longer wheelbase generally increases stability. (A) 1056, B) 1110, C) 986)

  • BB Drop determines BB Height as well as the length of the stays and down tube, affecting the overall flexibility of the bike, as short tubes are stiffer and more responsive. (A) 78, B) 65, C) 69)

  • Fork rake influences steering stability. Larger rake offset means more stable steering. (A) 45, B) 39, C) 45)

  • Head tube angle influences steering response in concert with fork rake. (A) 72, B) 72, C) 73.5)

Each bike has its virtues, but not all bikes are designed to carry a load.

While the Allez is a fast and nimble road bike, it would feel twitchy and harsh with a child in a seat. There is no provision for mounting such a rack to this bike and frame clearance allows for 28c tires maximum, increasing the likelihood of a flat (also, this wouldn't be a fun ride for the kid!)

Mountain bikes like the Zaskar are becoming common for general riding. They're reasonably comfortable, have quick handling, and allow for large cushy tires. Like the Allez, however, that quick steering response is not a good feature when hauling anything. Also like the Allez, there are no provisions for mounting racks. With a high bottom bracket and cushy tires, your seat will be much higher and, consequently, you won't be able to put a foot down without dismounting.

The sensible choice would be the Long Haul Trucker, but of course it was designed for just such a load. It accommodates cushy tires, fenders, lots of racks, and a good deal of weight. It isn't as nimble as the Allez and can't ride over fallen trees, but it is very good at moving things around.

When it comes to choosing between a trailer and a mounted seat for hauling your kids around, not all bikes are equal.

share|improve this answer
add comment

After reading about this issue all night, and thinking about it for days, I think I'm going to go with a trailer. I may be able to do well enough with a seat, but I'd rather not risk my daughter's safety. I know my wife will feel even more strongly about that than I do. I just can't shake the chill I get when I think about tipping my bike over. I'm a pretty good rider, but even at low speed, things have caused me to spill. I can walk it off, but I can't imagine how awful I would feel if something awful happened to my little girl. I'd rather her be safe than I be sorry.

Thank you to everyone who has posted in response to this issue.

I must say, too, that the cargo bike and kangaroo (I think it was called) were certainly interesting. Had I known about them before we bought our bikes, I might have considered one.

share|improve this answer
1  
I would update original question with this –  Baumr May 15 '13 at 12:28
    
Yes, I think this would be better as a comment on the original question. –  amcnabb May 15 '13 at 19:35
add comment

In France, bike trailers are forbidden for transporting children on regular roads.

Moreover, many car drivers told me that bike trailers are almost invisible, even with flags.

share|improve this answer
2  
Please provide cite, I could find no mention of this. –  Stimy Aug 4 '11 at 21:28
2  
+1 for cite, I've never heard/read that (and I live in France). For the visibility issue, I've experienced quite the opposite, from the bikers standpoint: the cars give me with my trailers a much wider clearance than my companion with her bike. –  jv42 Aug 25 '11 at 17:13
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.