Bring the Kids along in a Bike Trailer
Ron Fritzke explains how you can take the kids along with you on your next cycle ride.
Cycling has an inherently selfish nature to it. Well, at least the kind of cycling that necessitates hours and hours out on the road away from your spouse and kids. The type of conditioning that is needed to get in shape for the next road race or triathlon.
I faced that dilemma of whether or not to go out on the road without my little kids and found that it was not necessarily an 'either/or' proposition. I did not have to choose my workouts over my kids; I could include them in a lot of my rides by towing them behind in a bike trailer. And for the most part, they loved it.
Years ago, before the Burley bike trailer company came out with a full line-up, I towed my two toddlers behind me in what was the precursor to the Burley Honey Bee. It did not have a suspension as does the current Burley D'lite, but it was sufficiently sturdy to withstand miles and miles out on the road and even some time on the dirt fire trails in the National Forest land surrounding our house.
My advice to you when choosing a bike trailer
Don't Skimp on Quality
If you are at all serious about cycling, do not skimp on a steel-framed, cheap bike trailer. You probably are not still training on an old junky ten-speed, so why tow around a low-budget bike trailer that will be lucky to make it through one cycling season?
Companies like Burley, Chariot, and Croozer make trailers with the same care and engineering that you no doubt demand from your bike company.
Features to Consider in a Bike Trailer
High-quality bike trailers are made of aluminum frames rather than steel. The best of them have suspension systems in them so that in addition to the 'give' of the pneumatic tires, and the hammock-style seats, there is a suspension system to keep the kids' teeth from chattering.
The typical bike trailer seats two, although there are models like the Burley Solo that are explicitly designed for only one rider. Another commonality is the cargo space behind the passenger seats. This allows you to bring along all of that stuff that has to travel with a kid.
An interesting feature that the better bike trailers have is what is called a 'helmet pocket'. In the old days, I would look back into the trailer and see my kids sitting awkwardly with the back of their helmets up against the back of the seat...and their head and neck kinked forward. Being a highly trained Chiropractor, I quickly judged that this did not look very good for their neck.
Of course, I did not let a little thing like the health of my kid's spine shorten the workout. Besides, my kids had usually fallen asleep early into the ride anyway.
Back to helmet pockets. The better bike trailers currently have a space to accommodate the back of the little rider's helmet. This is critical to the child's ability to keep their head upright. It seems like such an obvious thing.
Multi-Use Bike Trailers
Something else to consider is how the bike trailer performs when it is not a trailer. Like when it is converted into a stroller or a jogger. The nearly $1000.00 Chariot trailers come with stroller and jogger kits that quickly turn your new toy into three different playthings. The other brands necessitate the purchase of separate kits; so, if your heart's set on 'multi-use', be sure to calculate the added cost of the respective kits into your bike trailer budget.
While turning your bike trailer into a stroller or a jogger is not for everyone. Turning your bike trailer into a flattened pancake is universally relevant. By that, I mean storing the thing without taking up too much space in the garage.
Look for a bike trailer with easily detachable wheels and folding sides so that it converts into a 'bike trailer Frisbee' without too much trouble.
A Few More Things
The coverings on bike trailers are an issue too. The better trailers have tinted, UV protected windows as well as various ventilation options. High-quality bike trailers can be battened uptight for protection from the winter elements, or they can be aired out with a screen net in front of the kids so that the ride does not get stifling during the hot summer months.
I have found that bike trailers can be an ingenious way to include your kids in your love for the outdoors. If a few safety precautions are followed and if a high-quality trailer's chosen, many miles of travel in a bike trailer may ignite in your child the same passion for being outside that you experience when cycling.
Give a bike trailer a try.
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About the Author
Ron Fritzke is a cycling product reviewer with a passion for "all things cycling". A former 2:17 marathoner, he now directs his competitive efforts toward racing his bike and looking for the right cycling products. Ron spends far too many hours (ask his wife) scouring the web for high-quality cycling products and writing about them for his readers at cycling-review.com.