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. 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 child bicycle 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 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 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. 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 child bicycle 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.
- Our favorite front-mounted bike seat: the iBert or MacRide
- For more top picks and advice on how to choose: Ultimate Guide to Front-Mounted 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.
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: The Thule Yepp Maxi*
- Learn more about rear bike seats: Ultimate Guide to Rear-Mounted 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 kid bike 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. Most carriers 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|