Our mini cyclists take to the road

Published by Lyn on 21 November 2011

** This continues to be a popular blog on the site, but please note some of the brands and trailers discussed are no longer available. For example, the Chariot brand has been bought out by Thule. Nonetheless I've kept this blog live in case the general advice is useful. **

Cycling has taken a few exciting turns in our house lately. Our 4-year-old mini-cyclist discarded her stabilisers a few months back and spent the summer exploring the backroads of Montcaret. More recently, she's insisted on riding the 2km to école maternelle, and pedals alongside me. Her bike – a simple little number from Decathlon – has truly broadened her world and given her a sense of independence.

Our mini-cyclist and her wheels.

Our mini-cyclist and her wheels.

Our other big cycling news is that we splurged on a trailer so our future cyclist (now almost 8 months) could also tag along. 

After months of research, we opted for a Croozer Kid for 2 (silly name, I know).

I would have loved a Chariot, but their entire range was out of our league budget-wise – and with our trailer needed mainly for the school run and the odd weekend trip, we couldn't justify the extra cash we would have spent if we'd been planning a long tour. I also looked at the ever-popular Burley range, but the Croozer won the day, mainly because of its attachable baby support. As our future cyclist was still under 6 months when he first started riding, the baby seat support was as big an issue as choosing the actual trailer.

We considered strapping our car seat into the trailer – an option that was recommended to us by several other cycling families, including Family on a Bike – but our car seat would have been too wide in a two-seater trailier, leaving no room for big sister when she needed to jump aboard (see first paragraph).

I came close to buying the Melia baby seat (similar to the Weber Babyshell), but decided in the end to stick with the support recommended by the trailer manufacturer.

As our future cyclist is quite long for his age, we went for the toddler/baby seat rather than the baby sling – he slotted in just fine and it was better for our budget not having to buy another support so soon.

(Thanks to Family on a Bike, Pedal Powered Family, Linda, Phil and Luca and Travelling Two for their baby seat advice via our Twitter discussions.)

Future cyclist snoozes at the end of another tough school run.

Future cyclist snoozes at the end of another tough school run.

Space, space, everywhere there's space

The boot space in the Croozer was the other major selling point for us. We live in a small village just over 2km from the school and the nearest shops, and the bike is my only means of transportation during the week – we needed storage room for school and baby bags, as well as the odd bag of groceries, winter coats and a generous supply of baguettes. You could get lost in the boot space in the Croozer – it's massive.

I only have 2 gripes with the trailer, and both are weather-related and easily overcome. Being from Australia, where skin cancer is so prevalent, and living in the south of France, where summers can be scorching, my insistence on keeping the kids sheltered often borders on paranoia. The Croozer has a (great) gauze flap that guards against unwanted passengers (bugs, flies, etc) and a second plastic flap that goes over the top when needed (both roll neatly up for open-air riding). However, neither the flaps nor the (plastic) sides of the trailer offer much sun protection, though I realise this is an issue common with most trailers.

Extra protection comes in the form of a sun cover accessory (at additional cost of around US$20), but we've overcome the problem by simply pegging a muslin square to the top of insect net (the only hassle being having to rejig it when you change directions). It does limit our future cyclist's ability to see out of the trailer but, to be fair to Croozer, he's usually so comfy that he's asleep half the time anyway.

Of more concern was getting caught out in an unavoidable heavy downpour en route to school one afternoon. We'd ridden in light rain and the odd shower, and the trailer had held up well with no leaks. But 20 minutes of persistent driving rain resulted in the plastic cover leaking at the seams and a lightly sprinkled little boy (with wet feet) emerging with the sunlight. We'll ask Santa for a rain cover to ensure it's only Mum who gets wet next time. (Update: Santa delivered the rain cover and it has been magnificent; we've ridden through driving rain and small hailstones and the kids have come out without a single drop on them.)

And the verdict ...

Overall, I'm really happy with the trailer – it's easy to assemble (and dissemble), with wheels that pop off at a press of a button, it takes just moments to attach to the bike, and it converts easily to a stroller/jogger, a feature we're unlikely to use often but one that will help the trailer's resale value. It handles really well – other than on hills, you can barely notice it's there (especially when pulling just one passenger), and I spent the first 4 weeks repeating "don't forget the trailer" over and over in my head as I pedalled.

We're still only doing short and steady runs until our future cyclist is a bit bigger, but so far he's loving it, as is his big sister when she climbs aboard. I'm loving it, too, as it's once more given me unrestricted access to my bike (any cycling mum or dad will tell you how a new little family member can affect established cycling habits, especially in the early months). With plenty of great trailer options now available, it's definitely no longer necessary to wait until kids are old enough for bike-mounted seats.

Links to help you choose a trailer

There's a kids' bike trailer out there that will meet both your budget and your cycling requirements – you just need to do a little research (and a few test rides, if possible) to find the right trailer for your future cyclist/s.

In France, Decathlon has a basic trailer, but its limited boot space ruled it out for us. Remorque-velo.com and Lecyclo.com are both worth checking out.

Generally speaking, I found French trailers more expensive than those available in the UK and in Holland (even after delivery costs were factored in), and the range less impressive. For second-hand options, search leboncoin.fr (the French word for trailer is 'remorque', but search with 'velo' and/or 'enfant' because car trailers are also called remorques). eBay is of course another option.

In the end it was cheaper to import the trailer from any number of online Dutch bike shops. In the US, the trailer is available from Amazon. It's also worth checking the Bike Kid Shop (USA).

Amazon's US store has an extensive range of trailer options (and also sells Croozer accessories), while the UK Amazon store has fewer trailer options but is worth checking for bargain-priced lower end trailers; likewise Halfords in the UK. Check also mainstream online bike shops for options. 

I'd love to hear from other cyclists on their experiences with trailers.

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