Note: Please remember—I am not a doctor or a child development expert. I’m a mom and cyclist. Talk to your pediatrician about when biking with your baby is appropriate.
One question I get asked all the time is “when can you start biking with a baby?” This query comes from parents who are avid cyclists and are itching to get back on the bike, as well as moms who are new to biking but are anxious to get out of the house and do something active with their young babe.
The quick and easy answer to this question is “one year old.” This is the recommended age provided by the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). Around 12 months old, babies develop the neck strength required to support the weight of a helmet and to keep their head from bobbing when riding over bumps.
With our own son, we waited until a few weeks before his first birthday to start riding. Even though we were desperate to start riding sooner, we decided to err on the side of caution and follow the AAP recommendation.
We used both a trailer and a front-mounted child seat immediately after his first birthday. Both his and our favorite at this age ended up being the front-mounted seat. It allowed him to be up close to dad where he felt safe, provided him a great view of whatever was going on, and let us keep an eye on him without having to turn around.
Despite our choice to wait, there is another, more controversial, school of thought that riding with babies (in a safe way) is not only okay but something that we should absolutely do. As more and more families realize the devastating impact of a car culture, they are giving up their automobiles for bicycles.
If you don’t have a car, and you have a baby, you’re going to have to ride. Parents in Europe–and all over the world for that matter–do it; so should we.
In this article, we share options for biking with babies–whether that means biking with a newborn or infant or waiting until that all-important first birthday.
Options for biking with an infant (under 12 months)
For folks who aren’t willing to wait until a year old, there are several options for hauling a baby. With any setup you want to ensure that their neck is supported, that they aren’t being jostled, and that they are reasonably protected in the event of a tipover.
Here are a couple of my favorite options.
One of the sanest articles I’ve read on biking with a baby is over on the Totcycle blog. This Seattle-based doctor, recommends using a cargo bike with a bucket—examples are the Dutch bakfiets or Madsen.
In this scenario, you would simply secure your baby’s carseat into the bucket. Amongst the family-cycling, cargo-biking crew this is probably the most common setup.
The one thing to be aware of in this setup is that there can be a fair amount of jostling in a bakfiest style bike. You will need to ride extra carefully and slow way down for speedbumps and other hazards.
Read more about cargo bikes and some of our favorites:
For recreational cyclists, the most popular option for biking with a baby is the good old bicycle trailer. This is my least favorite choice because of the potential jostling of baby, but on the other hand, it is the most affordable.
If you do choose to bike with a baby in the trailer, ensure that you get a really good one. I recommend the Thule Chariot Cross as it has suspension and the “roll cage” will do a good deal to prevent injury in the event of a tipover or accident.
Many trailer manufacturers have infant seats or slings but they market them for strolling only. Nonetheless, I know several parents who have used the slings for biking with great success.
Here are some of the available baby slings or hammocks:
Another, perhaps even safer, option is to simply strap a carseat into the bike trailer. Keep in mind that carseats are designed FOR CARS, not trailers, and there really aren’t any studies on their safety in a bike trailer.
Still, plenty of parents we’ve heard from do it and feel that it’s totally worth any risk. Here’s one video showing someone using a car seat in a bike trailer.
Options for biking with a baby (over 12 months)
For those of you have made it to that critical year-old point, your options have just increased. All of the above options are still viable, although you can now ditch the carseat. In addition to the cargo bike and the trailer, you can also consider:
Front-mounted baby bike seat
As I mentioned already, our favorite way to ride with our son at 1 year-old was a front-mounted seat (specifically the iBert). These seats attach to the front of an adults bike and allow little people to have an interactive ride.
At this age, the best baby bike seats have a harness to keep little ones secure. We love the front-mounted seats because they allow you to keep your baby close and to talk to them as you explore the world together.
Rear-mounted baby bike seat
A rear mounted bike seat attaches either to the adult seatpost or a rear rack on the bike. The advantage of this setup is that it can grow with your child (expect it to last thru several years of riding). Because babies love to nap on the bike, we like rear bike seats that offer a place for sleepy, floppy heads to rest.
Baby Bike Helmets
If you choose to bike with an infant, you shouldn’t put a helmet on them. Why not? For one, their necks just aren’t strong enough.
The helmet will do more harm than good by adding weight to the head and pushing the head forward. Secondly, if they are in one of my suggested car seat set-ups, there will never be a linear fall—which is all a helmet is designed to protect against.
Once your baby is a year old, or when you switch to a no-carseat riding arrangement, then you should put a helmet on them. It’s important to choose a lightweight helmet that fits small heads.
Before biking with your baby, make sure you know the laws in your area. Some states strictly prohibit biking with a child under 12 months, and some require all children to wear a helmet (something babies can’t do).
Of course, these laws are often ignored and not often enforced, but it’s still a good idea to know where you stand legally before biking with your child.
If you want to err on the side of caution, wait until your child is a year-old to start riding with them. At that point in time they have the neck strength to withstand the jostling that bike riding creates.
On the other hand, if you are a bicycle addict or you don’t have a car–and you are willing to take an educated risk–there are ways to ride with a baby.
Learn More About Biking With Little Tikes
- Guide To Cycling With Young Children
- 7 Ways To Haul Kids By Bike
- 5 Best Helmets For Babies And Toddlers
22 thoughts on “Biking With Baby: From Newborn To Infant To Toddler”
I’ve seen people biking with both a front and rear mounted child seat before, how hard is that/do you have to have a special bike?
I have two kids (3.5 and 1.5) and live in a small New York City apartment. I tried using a trailer for a bit, but getting both kids and the bike and trailer out the door and down the elevator is more than I can reasonably manage on a regular basis.
Yes, it’s definitely doable, although you will feel the weight. You don’t need a special bike but if you don’t already have a rack, I would definitely add one to the rear. Also, if you don’t have a kickstand, you’ll want one to load the kids.
Do you have recommendations for a good helmet for 18 month old?
Hi Cheryl, For little ones that tiny, our favorite helmet is the Giro Scamp.
Can you help with choosing a bike front seat?
Check out this post: https://rascalrides.com/the-best-front-mounted-bike-seats/
I live in Dubai and very keen on riding bike with my 6 month old. My daughter’s head and neck balance is consistent.
I did visit your page ‘biking with baby under 12 months’ but not sure what’s best for a 6 month old. I have seen many parents n Amsterdam with young infants.
Could you please suggest the best options?
Yup, Amsterdam has a great mindset about biking with babies and kids. For a 6-month-old, I’d recommend keeping her in a carseat strapped into either a trailer or a bucket style cargo bike.
Hi, I am soon going to be getting a cruiser bike, and I have an almost 8 month old. I had been looking at the trailers with the special “snuggler” insert for infants, but knowing my daughter, I know she is going to prefer to be up in front with me exploring the world! I realize for the front mounted baby seat I am going to most likely need to wait until she is a full year old. When that time comes, what baby mounts can I use with a cruiser bike? All of them that I have seen specifically say “NOT for use with cruiser bikes”!!! Do you have any recommendations??
I would go with the iBert. It works great on most beach cruisers, and we loved ours when our son was little. Here’s my review: https://rascalrides.com/review-ibert-safe-t-child-bicycle-seat/
Can you ride with a rear seat and a trailer?
Yep, most trailers hook into the bike frame by the rear wheel and don’t interfere with how a rear rack for a child’s seat bolts on.
“Pello really puts a lot of thought into their bikes. And the design behind the Revo is no exception. But first off, I want to mention that I love that every bike comes with a pre-ship checklist that is hand checked! They make sure that everything you need is there and in working order! Talk about great service.”
I have ridden often on short rides with my toddler in a soft structured carrier. I just put his helmet on him and put him on my back and ride carefully. I can feel the extra weight, but he is so close to my center of gravity that it does not mess with my balance at all, and he likes it.
Hi Kim, I’ve seen other parents do that too. Seems like a legit choice!
I have a 2 year old and I am looking to buy a bike and a child seat. Would you recommend a regular bike or an ebike?
It totally depends on your budget and where you live. An e-bike would be ideal, but it’s also significantly more expensive. If you live in an area with lots of hills, plan on riding long distances, or riding every day, then it probably makes sense to splurge on an e-bike. But if you’re on a budget or live in an area that’s relatively flat, you’ll be just fine on a regular bike.
You’re right, Amsterdam is great about bike riding with kids and babies. I would suggest that a 6-month-old be strapped in either a trailer or a bucket style cargo bike while in the car seat.
Wow cargo-bike seems so clever! I’m biking with Amy since she’s been 6 months I think and we use a trailer. Although now, when I look at the cargo-bike I like the idea even better! Especially since she’s falling asleep a lot. We’ve had sleep training with Susan Urban’s book: https://www.parental-love.com/shop/toddler-sleep-training – very recommended one, teaching to self-sooth instead of just letting baby cry. So this would be even better to see her all the time that way. Thanks for the idea!
They didn’t mention riding on the sidewalk. This is one of the most dangerous things that beginners do. So many times i’ve heard of cyclists getting hit passing a driveway on the sidewalk or transitioning from sidewalk to road where cars are turning. Am I wrong here?
It depends on where you live. In some areas it’s decidedly more dangerous to bike on the road. In some areas biking on the sidewalk is illegal.
Thanks for the great article and links! Have you ever seen anyone talking about using a recumbent trike and carrying infants using a front facing baby carrier? It’s hard to beat an adult body in terms of suspension efficiency 🙂 And using a trike would mean that both hands are available when not riding.
Or even better: a recumbent tandem like the Pino Hase so that the adult in the front always have both hands available 😀