Buying a Bike
May 18, 2004 4:38 PM   Subscribe

Bicycles. I know nothing about them outside of the obvious 2 wheels and chain part. I need a bike. Not a fancy bike. A sturdy bike. A bike that can handle a wiggly 30+ pound toddler on the a seat, preferably...or maybe something that can be towed behind a bike? Recommendations for bikes? Recommendations for kid seats?
posted by dejah420 to Shopping (24 answers total)
Just as children should not ever under no circumstances be left alone inside a car, I say: avoid as much as you can carrying an infant while riding a bike, a segway or any similar hippie contraption where s/he can't be properly warm, seated and safe. Sorry to rain on your parade.
posted by 111 at 5:02 PM on May 18, 2004

Kronan. A bicycle designed by the Swedish military, it's sturdy and beautifully utilitarian.
posted by aladfar at 5:14 PM on May 18, 2004

I don't get that advice, 111. The reason you don't leave a kid alone in a car is because it can get really hot inside, and the kid could knock the transmission into drive. These dangers just don't exist on a bike.

On the trail I ride, I see an awful lot of people with these.
posted by mr_roboto at 5:21 PM on May 18, 2004

Burley make good trailers that keep children warm, seated and safe.
posted by normy at 5:24 PM on May 18, 2004

Don't perch your toddler up on the bicycle, because he can't protect himself well in a crash. Use one of the trailers like Roboto linked to. If the bike falls over, it usually stays upright, and it's already down near ground level. I have a Burley trailer that hitches and unhitches to most any bike in a few seconds, and it's very easy to maneuver.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:32 PM on May 18, 2004

I hadn't thought about planetkyoto's center of mass argument. But doesn't it seem like a crazy, dangerous idea to ride in traffic with a child in a trailer? What happens if a car sideswipes the bike or trailer? When you are turning, does the trailer swing out (even a little) in the opposite direction? Does the law require the child to be in a safety seat while riding in the trailer? Maybe it's OK for little rides around a quiet neighborhood, but I have seen some parents using them on roads that were very busy. Apologies for the non-answer.
posted by crunchburger at 5:35 PM on May 18, 2004

mr.roboto, exactly, these are opposite sides of the same coin. Children must not be left unattended, no matter if it's inside a car or riding with little if any protection in one of those unnerving baby carriages and seats for bikes.
posted by 111 at 5:41 PM on May 18, 2004

But doesn't it seem like a crazy, dangerous idea to ride in traffic with a child in a trailer?

I might agree, but not because it's dangerous from a risk of impact point of view, but because I might not wan't to inflict exhaust fumes on a child at that height.

What happens if a car sideswipes the bike or trailer?

It might not be good news for anyone, but a trailer is more likely to stay upright - child carrying trailers have a wide axle.

When you are turning, does the trailer swing out (even a little) in the opposite direction?

No. Not if it's properly set up according to the maker's instructions.

Does the law require the child to be in a safety seat while riding in the trailer?

IANAL. The child can be strapped into the trailer.

The question was about how to carry a child when bicycling, not should you.
posted by normy at 5:44 PM on May 18, 2004

The trailer has a safety seat, and a big red flag, is colored for maximum visibility and it's not huge, so it's not like you are swinging wide and letting it all hang out. The things track like a dream, and the center of gravity argument trumps them all, because it is so easy to handle. When you perch things up high, it makes your bike unstable. Mine is a cargo trailer rather than child trailer (my kid is just two months old, way too young), but they are built on the same frame and the hitch is identical.

Experiment: Balance a heavy bag of groceries on your handlebars or rear rack and see how much more difficult the bike is to handle. Then tie your kid's little red wagon (or similar conveyance, I don't know if these are still in use) to the bottom rear of the frame and put the groceries in there and compare. The purpose-built trailer is even better than this because it balances the load horizontally as well with a bend in the hitch. A bike shop may be able to give you a test ride.
posted by planetkyoto at 5:49 PM on May 18, 2004

Pff I didn't have a child chariot. I mean come on, you're on metafilter, let's try to be more hip and less Starbucks.

No be cool, and your kids will thank you for it. These seat things will eliminate the "car killing child" thing to a certain degree. Most likely you'll both go if one goes with one of these.

Of course the one I remember being in didn't have cushions and was just a plastic shell.
posted by geoff. at 5:53 PM on May 18, 2004

Safety is paramount, but do not let that keep you from the joy of putting your kid on the bike. They loved it and it is a good way to spend some time with them.

I like a bike seat on the back of the bike. If you go this route, take your toddler to the bike shop with you and get the bike and the seat together, along with helmets for you and the toddler. Make sure the seat does not allow his/her feet to come out and get anywhere near the spokes, not an issue with most, but check to make sure. A mountain or hybrid bike is best with a seat or trailer. Road bikes are just for one rider. Some bikes have a short wheel base which helps make quick turns (not a plus with the toddler on board) but leaves less room for your toddler on the rear.

Trailers are great too, but more expensive. You can make up your own mind as to safety between trailers and seats. The main fears - trailers make bigger targets for cars approaching from the rear, and rears seats put your child in danger if you tip over. If you are a careful rider and stick to safe roads neither should be an issue.

I certainly would avoid busy streets and would stick to the roads or at least very smooth trails with either. You do not want to fall or unduly bounce your toddler around.

Just ignore 111, it just hangs around to annoy.
posted by caddis at 5:59 PM on May 18, 2004

trailers make bigger targets for cars approaching from the rear

When bicycling, impacts from behind are the rarest form of injury causing incidents, by far.
posted by normy at 6:03 PM on May 18, 2004

normy is right. They are the biggest fear, but least common. I think the most common is having a car pull out or turn in front of a cyclist.
posted by caddis at 6:14 PM on May 18, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks for the links gang. Mostly it would be for just riding around suburban the park, to the pool, and whatnot. The area we live in is still mostly rural outside of the sprouted subdivisions, so the roads outside the subdivision aren't even a possibility. (2 lane country roads with no shoulder, steep dropoffs and tractors and livestock trailers going a zillion miles an hour. I'm spooked in a truck on some of those roads, I can't imagine them on a bike. )

I just figured that a bike would be great exercise for me, and if I had the boy on the back, we could ride along as my dog takes my husband for a walk.

The trailers are the grooviest thing! If I lived somewhere where biking was a feasible way to get from point A to point B, I would so want one of those. But it seems like it might be too pricey for something to just go around the block a couple of times every day.

Those Keller seats look really safe too. Helmets are a given. Although, the concept of him getting hurt has me spooked. He's pretty wiggly, and I'm fairly klutzy. Considering how big he is at 17 months (already over 30 pounds and about 33" tall), perhaps I'd be better off waiting until he's ready for a bike of his own and we can all ride together.

He's just getting too big for his stroller, and as the temperatures climb towards the upper 90's, I thought there might be a more fun and fast solution for us getting to the park and the pool. I mean, it's idiotic to take a car for a 2-3 block journey, but maybe a little red wagon to pull him and all the swimming accoutrements would make more sense.
posted by dejah420 at 6:33 PM on May 18, 2004

There is always the jogging stroller; you don't really have to jog. They go over all terrain and most hold a lot of extra stuff.
posted by caddis at 6:40 PM on May 18, 2004

These are pretty nice carriers.

They are modular so you can use them as a stroller/jogger or even as a pulk in the winter time.

Also, they make the only single-seat trailer I've seen.
posted by Icky at 6:41 PM on May 18, 2004

Take the wagon! My brother and I rode ours all over the place when we were little, and we loved it. It's one of the few things I still remember from that age.
posted by xil at 6:41 PM on May 18, 2004

I've used both the on-bike carriers and the trailers. The carriers do make the bike a bit tippier, especially with a heavier child, but not so as to be unmanageable. The kid trailers, however, are really fantastic. Often you can find them used for rather less than their outrageous new prices. Here is a short comparison of a few of the major US brands. I've used Burleys and Chariots. Both were excellent trailers.

For the future: your boy could start using a trail-a-bike in a couple or three years. They're a really nice way to involve kids on an "adult" ride.
posted by bonehead at 7:31 PM on May 18, 2004

I wish people would remember that children are not made of glass. We all survived a less saftety-concious/paranoid era, and so will our children too. I say this as someone who was a) once a child, and b) until recently living with a toddler. And if we really want to protect our children's health, we will be getting them out of our cars and our houses to get some exercise outside, even if it does mean they might scrape their knees. (Actually, I broke two limbs and sliced off the top of my finger - and I got better. Be safe, but don't be paranoid).

That said - a seat or a trailer - go with what you think would be easier for you. The trailers are more awkward if you have narrow sidewalks, but they do have the added bonus of functioning as a kind of sport stroller. We have a trailer for my neice, designed for cycling or jogging, and it is the best stroller you could ever have for walking or running around. And if you have a large one, you can pack so many groceries down beside the kid - just make sure the cookies are on the back.

If you get a trailer that works with a bike or with jogging, you have two different ways to get to the park, depending on your mood.

A wagon would also be a lot of fun - though not as easy for you to pull (the handles are often not long enough for an adult - that is something to watch if you are buying one).

As for sturdy bikes - anything cheap and heavy should do. If you aren't tall, you might find a female style easier to get on or off, though I find them harder to balance. If you can find an old Raleigh (should say made in Nottingham, England), those last for decades and are terrific.
posted by jb at 8:30 PM on May 18, 2004

We have a Topeak Baby Sitter and two of its racks so that we can switch the seat between our two bikes. It's great. Very sturdy, well made, and easy to use, if you enjoy HATEFUL BABY SEATS OF ROLLING DOOM, that is.
posted by ulotrichous at 8:37 PM on May 18, 2004

Another vote for the Burley trailer. I was amazed how well it handles, and I found that cars gave me a very wide berth when I was pulling it. It's sort of like walking on a crosswalk with a stroller-- cars are much less agressive and give a wider berth when there's a baby involved.
The kid I was pulling in the trailer also liked it more than the bike seat, because we could pack drinks and snacks and toys in there with him, which made the trips more fun.
Also, when I biked with him in the bike seat on the bike, he would poke me at intersections and shout "go!" or "caaar comiiiing!" which gets distracting after a while.
Lastly, although they are very expensive, you might be able to find one used, and the resale value is generally very high, so you can plan to sell it when you're kid(s) grow out of it.
posted by bonheur at 10:36 PM on May 18, 2004

Great information - thanks. I'm a somewhat avid cyclist with a 14 month old boy and would love to take him out with me on some rides. Will have to decide whether the trailer (which may be a bit much for San Francisco hills) or regular seat works better.
posted by birdsong at 8:54 AM on May 19, 2004

I think a hybrid bike would be good for cruising about town/hauling kids. You're more upright than on a road bike, and not in as aggressive position as a mountain bike. You'll have more gearing than a cruiser, and you'll want those for hauling the cargo.

I can't say enough good things about the trail-a-bike bonehead pointed out. One of my biking buddies put one on his rig, and his young daughter loved it. She got used to pedaling, but she could take a break and let him do all the work when she got tired. Stick with the trailer until they're walking, then stick 'em on the trail-a-bike.

I think your best bet is to go to the local bike shop, get measured out, try a few bikes, and then either plunk down for one there or hunt on eBay. Recommending brands will bring on a Ford vs. Chevy-esque debate, so go with what feels good and comfy. And don't fear the cushy seat. Love it. Embrace it.
posted by RakDaddy at 2:00 PM on May 19, 2004

Response by poster: OMG, that trailabike is the coolest thing I have ever seen!

After going through everyones links and comments...again, y'all rock!....I think I'm going to take the boy with me to a "real" bike store, as opposed to a superstore that sells bikes and try a couple of things out...but man, I'm so in love with the trail a bike thing. I just sent them an email and asked about recommended ages and to see if they perhaps had a seat option that was a little more secure than a standard bike seat. I think a 17-18 month old is still to young to try and put on a regular bike seat. But damn, that's such a cool idea. I really, really want one of those.

For other people considering trailers as well, I found a bunch of them on ebay for really good prices...Burleys for around a hundred dollars instead of 400.

I've decided that the first step should be getting *me* a bike and making sure I don't fall over on a regular basis. (A couple of years ago I had a pretty bad accident, spent a lot of time in traction and in physical therapy to relearn how to walk...and I really am pretty clumsy sometimes.)

Since trailers on ebay are fairly cheap, I may get one of those as a stopgap until he's old enough for the trailabike.

Again, you folks are the best resource a girl could ask for...rock on with your bad selves. :)
posted by dejah420 at 1:05 PM on May 20, 2004

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