For kids who aren’t old enough to bike on their own–or for kids who are old enough to bike on their own but aren’t fast enough or strong enough to bike long distances—there are lots of options for hauling them. A bicycle child carrier is a great way to get outside with the family and have some fun.
Bike trailers and bike seats tend to be the most common way to carry babies and kids, but there are plenty of other less common but perhaps even more effective ways to bike with kids depending on their age and ability level.
Here we’ve outlined seven of our favorite types of carriers, as well as a comparison chart to help you choose the best one for your family. Criteria you might want to think about when choosing a bicycle child carrier include budget, the number of kids you need to carry, your storage space, and your appetite for risk.
Types of Child Bike Carriers
Our bicycle child carrier comparison chart includes seven types of carriers: bicycle trailers, front-mounted bike seats, rear-mounted bike seats, trailer-cycles, cargo bikes, tandem bikes, and tow ropes/tow bars. Here’s a bit of information about each.
Bike trailers are best for parents who are concerned about safety and for babies and very young toddlers. High end trailers are basically designed to be rollcages, and can be used with additional accessories for little ones like an infant sling.
Many are also designed to fit two children which may be nice if you need to haul more than one kid. There are several bike trailers on the market that are designed to convert to jogging strollers, so for parents who run as well, this option can be the best bang for your buck.
The downside of a trailer is that your child is relatively unengaged and it can be hard to hear and interact with them while biking. They can also be heavy and feel a little sluggish.
- Our favorite bicycle trailer: Thule Chariot
- Learn more about bicycle trailers: The Best Bike Trailers for Cycling with Children
Front Bike Seats
This is my personal favorite type of carrier for toddlers. It is easy to talk to and interact with your child while biking, and it is fun and engaging for them.
The price of a front bike seat is generally much cheaper than other types of carriers as well.
That said, I only recommend front bike seats for parents who feel confident on a bicycle as there is a fall danger if you were to tip over or get hit. Depending on the design of the adult’s bike, it can also be hard to mount a front bike seat. Cruiser bikes are particularly difficult to put a front bike seat on.
- Our favorite front-mounted bike seat: the Thule Yepp Mini or MacRide
- For more top picks and advice on how to choose: Ultimate Guide to Kids Bike Seats
Rear Bike Seats
Rear bike seats aren’t quite as much fun as a front bike seat, but they are able to hold older kids and they work on cargo or long-tail bikes like the Xtracycle. A rear bike seat is probably the best option for parents interested primarily in commuting.
Rear bike seats are mounted either to a rear rack or to the frame itself. Like a front bike seat, it can sometimes be a challenge to get a rear bike seat to work with some types of bikes.
And, just like front bike seats, there is a fall risk associated with having your child on your bicycle so make sure you are comfortable balancing and maneuvering on a bike before choosing this option.
- Our favorite rear-mounted bike seat: Thule Yepp Maxi
- Learn more about rear bike seats: Ultimate Guide to Kids Bike Seats
Also known as trail-a-bikes, trailer-cycles are an attachment to the rear of an adult bike that allows a child to pedal along. This is a great option for kids ages 3 and up because it allows them to get exercise and feel involved in the outing.
The weight and length of the set-up can take some getting used to. Trailer-cycles can also be a challenge to transport if you’re driving to a trailhead or path.
- Our family’s favorite trailer-cycle: the Weehoo
- Learn more about trailer-cycles: The Best Trailer-Cycles for Kids
Tow-Ropes and Tow-Bars
Tow-ropes, and to a lesser extent, tow-bars, are a great way to bike with kids who are old enough to ride their own bike, but not yet capable of making it up big hills or long distances.
The only real disadvantage of a tow rope is that your child does have to pedal and steer their own bike, so if they throw a tantrum or choose to swerve or otherwise go crazy, you have no real way to haul them home.
- Our family’s favorite tow rope: the TowWhee
- Learn more about tow ropes and tow bars: The Best Bike Tow Ropes and Tow Bars
For families who are looking to seriously cut back on the amount of time they spend driving, or who want to get rid of a car altogether, buying a cargo bike is the best option. Cargo bikes can not only haul kids, they can also haul all kinds of gear including groceries, library books, and even crazy things like lawn mowers.
There are several different types of cargo bikes including longtail bikes, bucket bikes, and electric assist bikes. An e-assist can be hugely helpful for carrying kids–they are heavy!
- Our favorite cargo bike: the Madsen
- Learn more about cargo bikes: The Best Cargo Bikes for Hauling Kids
Tandem bikes are probably one of the least used ways to carry kids by bike, but for folks with the budget for yet another bike, this is a fantastic way to carry kids. They are particularly convenient for families planning to ride long distances, either on-road or off-road. Several bike manufacturers make tandems with the ability to add a stoker kit so a smaller rider in back can pedal along.
- Our favorite tandem for kids: Bike Friday Tandem
Comparison Chart: Bicycle Child Carriers
In order to help you find the ideal bicycle child carrier, we’ve created this comparison chart. Yes, some of these rankings are a bit subjective, but should at least help you get started in making your decision.
In terms of budget, tow ropes and bike seats are the cheapest. They also happen to be the easiest to store. Cargo bikes and tandems are the most expensive since you’re buying a whole new bike, but they are also the most usable for families who plan to do LOTS of biking.
Age also plays a huge deciding factor. If you plan on biking with an infant, make sure to read this article about biking with babies first. Bike trailers, bike seats, and cargo bikes are the best (only?) options for biking with babies and toddlers. Older kids tend to do best with a trailer-bike, tow rope, or tandem since it gives them the option to pedal and be involved.
Depending on whether you have a big garage or live in an apartment in the city, considering storage space is also critical. A bike tow rope can fit in a drawer, a bike trailer can’t.
Finally, the number of children you plan on carrying is important to consider. Generally, a bicycle child carrier will only haul one or two kids. If you have more, the best bet is a cargo bike designed for large families.
|Type of Carrier||Price / Budget (1 is cheapest, 5 is most expensive)||# of Kids it Can Carry||Safety |
(1 is less safe, 5 is most safe)
|Ease of Storage (1 is less easy, 5 is easiest)||Appropriate Age|
|Bike trailer||3||1-2||3||3||Baby - Preschool|
|Front bike seat||2||1||2||4||Toddler - Preschool|
|Rear bike seat||2||1||2||4||Toddler - Preschool|
|Trailer-cycle||3||1-2||3||3||Preschool - Grade School|
|Tow Bar / Tow Rope||1||1||2||5||Preschool - Grade School|
|Tandem||5||1||4||1||Preschool - Grade School|
|Cargo Bike||5||2+||4||1||Baby - Grade School|
More Resources To Help You Have Fun Biking As A Family
- Guide To Biking With Young Kids
- 7 Safety Tips For Biking With Kids
- Ultimate Guide To Bike Commuting With Kids
The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.
Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.
If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!