If you’re eager to get outdoors with your child but aren’t sure if they’re old enough, this is the place for you. I’ve been there—I’ve had the same questions when riding with my two kids!
There are a few important considerations when riding with small child to help ensure that you are doing it safely and comfortably for your child.
I’ve been riding with my two little ones since they were infants using different riding methods, including child seats and bike trailers. Here’s everything you need to know about the minimum requirement to safely and comfortably ride in a bike trailer.
What’s the minimum age to ride in a bike trailer?
A child should be at least 12 months old and able to sit up before riding in a bike trailer. Children under 12 months can also ride in a bike trailer when using an infant-specific insert or car seat.
In order to sit comfortably and safely in a bike trailer, the industry-wide recommendation is that a child is at least 12 months old. The age requirement is set in place to ensure that a child has adequate support muscles in their neck and back to sit up properly inside the bike trailer.
Why should a child be 1-year old before riding in a bike trailer?
Although every child develops at a different rate, the reasoning behind the 1-year benchmark is that a child should be able to sit upright on their own while wearing a bicycle helmet. This ensures that the child has enough body strength to enjoy a ride in the bike trailer without experiencing too much aggressive back and forth bouncing.
Regardless of the age of your child, it is recommended to not ride aggressively on rough roads or at speeds above 10 mph (or 16 kph).
What does Burley say about the age recommendation?
According to Burley, which is one of the leading bike trailer manufacturers based in the United States, they state:
“To ride in a Burley trailer behind a bicycle, the industry standard is to wait until a child is one year old. While each child’s physical development is unique, we recommend that a child should be able to sit upright unattended and hold his or her head up while wearing a bicycle helmet. Please check with your pediatrician if you are in doubt about your child’s neck strength.”
United States age recommendation vs other countries
The 1-year recommended age requirement is promoted primarily in the United States. In other countries, it is actually common to see parents riding together with infants in car seats or in infant inserts. I have personally seen many parents in Japan and the UK riding with children under 12 months old.
In fact, according to some polls I’ve done in group forums of parents (notably in the popular Facebook group by Rascal Rides), many people do ride with infants under 12 months old:
Of course, every parent should ride responsibility with a child, but there are ways to ride with an infant safely by using an infant insert or a car seat.
Below I’ve outlined more info about these two options.
Is it safe for an infant to ride in a bike trailer?
As mentioned above, it is very common to find cyclists taking infants around in bike trailers in other countries, most notably in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe.
But in the United States, it is almost universally recommended by bike trailer manufacturers to wait until the child is at least 1 year old. But why 1 year old?
The 1-year benchmark is recommended for a few reasons:
- Infants do not have strong stabilizing muscles to assist them during the ride
- The possibility of a crash might impact an infant negatively
- Infants are not able to properly wear a bicycle helmet
With these concerns in mind, biking with an infant can still be a very safe and healthy activity for both child and parent.
I wrote an in-depth article just about how safe bike trailers actually are. Check it out here.
Two methods to ride with an infant: Infant insert vs car seat
Infant inserts are designed for bike trailers and are small enough to fit two children in the trailer, but they offer limited options and can be costly. Car seats are safe and convenient but are bulky, which does not allow for two passengers to sit together in the trailer.
Option 1: Infant insert
The main benefit of the infant insert is that it is designed for babies in bike trailers. Although the manufactures of the infant inserts will state that the insert is not compatible with any bike trailers other than their own trailers, that is not always the case.
Infant insert pros
- Comfortable for the baby
- Supports the baby’s head and neck
- Small enough to allow for a second passenger in the bike trailer
Infant insert cons
- Limited bike trailer options
- Not compatible with many bike trailers
- Additional cost
Option 2: Car seat
It is very common to find cyclists taking infants around in car seats in other countries, most notably in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe.
In the United States, however, it is almost universally recommended by bike trailer manufacturers to wait until the child is at least 1 year old.
However, according to some polls I’ve done in group forums (notably in the popular Facebook group by Rascal Rides), many people in the United States do use the car seat method to ride with an infant. In some cases, people prefer to use an infant insert.
Car seat pros
- Comfort and safety of a car seat
- Supports the baby’s head and neck
- Will work with most bike trailers
Car seat cons
- Larger car seats will not fit inside a bike trailer
- Takes up the entire bike trailer
My overall recommendations
In general, my recommendation boils down to whether you will be riding with one child or with two children.
Use a car seat for one child
Overall, I recommend using the car seat method if you will just be riding with one child. You just have to make sure you a bike trailer with a large enough interior to fit an infant car seat (like the trailers mentioned below).
For example, my recommended bike trailer of choice the Schwinn Joyrider has a large interior that comfortably fits our car seat.
Use an infant insert for two children
If you plan to ride with two children, then I recommend getting the Burley infant insert for the baby, which is small enough to allow for two children to ride side by side. It costs around $80, which is on the lower end of infant inserts for bike trailers.
Although Burley states that their infant insert is only compatible with Burley trailers, any bike trailer with a harness will work in theory.
Infant insert options
Some bike trailer manufactures make inserts that are specifically designed for bike trailers. Here are three you can check out:
Burley Design Baby Snuggler
This infant insert will be compatible with most bike trailers that use a harness system. You can get it from Amazon and see if it works for your bike trailer, then return it if it isn’t compatible.
Thule Chariot Infant Sling
This infant insert by Thule is only compatible with Thule bike †railers. It costs about $100, but it is an excellent infant sling.
How to safely ride with an infant in a bike trailer
Here are four tips to safely ride with an infant:
1. Place your infant in a car seat or infant insert while inside the bike trailer
It is recommended to place your baby in a car seat or infant insert while inside the bike trailer. By doing so, you will ensure safety standards designed for the car industry while also keeping your child comfortable (don’t be surprised if he/she falls asleep every time you ride!).
A car seat can be inserted into the bike trailer, facing forward, and strapped to the bike trailer using a belt or cord.
2. Travel at low speeds under 10 mph (16 kph)
Regardless of the age of your child, it is always recommended to keep speeds under 10 mph (or 16 kph) to reduce the risk of losing control and causing an uncomfortably bumpy ride.
(Good luck going any faster than that anyway 🙂).
Kidding aside, riding at lower speeds will give you more control over steering the trailer and also braking when needed. In addition, riding fast may cause more bumping up and down for your baby, especially on rough terrain.
3. Ride on smooth surfaces
Riding on a smooth surface without much gravel will give you better control over steering your bike and the bike trailer. Smooth surfaces also help with reducing the risk of throwing the baby around.
4. Use flashing lights and a flag
One of the potential dangers of biking in general is cars and other riders not seeing you. This is even more important when riding with a child, because bike trailers are closer to the ground and a driver might not see it.
It is always good practice to ride with flashing lights on your bike, as well as on the bike trailer (even during the day). The other recommendation to ensure visibility is to mount a flag to the trailer that will put the trailer in the eye line of drivers. Most bike trailers come with flags to help with visibility.
All in all, if you follow these four simple recommendations, then riding in a bike trailer is arguably safer than riding in a car because of the slow speed and added control.
My recommended bike trailer: Schwinn Joyrider
Check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer for more help with choosing a trailer. I also have compiled a list of the top bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.