There are a host of benefits to riding together with a child. But what is the best and safest way to do it? This is one of the first questions parents ask when considering riding together with a child or children.
There are essentially three main options to ride with a child: the front-mount child seat, the back-mount child seat, and the bike trailer.
I have used all three methods for years with my two kids since they were infants, and I’ve learned a lot about how to ride safely and comfortably together with kids.
In this article, we will outline three important factors to consider before deciding which option is right for your family:
Bike trailer vs child seat: which is better when riding with a child?
A bike trailer is safer than a child seat in the event of a crash because it has a protective cage, is lower to the ground, and has a five-point harness. Additionally, it is easier to handle the bike with bike trailers than with child seats.
To find out if a child seat or a bike trailer might be better for you, keep reading!
Three different ways to ride with a child
Here are the three most common and safest ways to ride together with a child:
Method 1: front-mount child seat
The front-mount seat attaches to the top tube of the bike and is placed in front of the rider. The child seat typically has a safety pad to rest their head or soften the blow in the event of a crash. Front-mount seats are ideal for smaller children under 3 years old.
Pros of front-mount seat
- Some parents prefer the front-mount because they are able to have conversations with their child and keep them engaged.
- Parents also feel a sense of security to have them close to their body.
Cons of front-mount seat
- The main drawback of the front-mount child seat is that your knees will most likely hit the seat while pedaling, which makes it uncomfortable and difficult to pedal, especially when pedaling uphill.
- In addition, the front-mount seat does not offer much protection to the child in the event of a crash or your bike falls over.
Method 2: back-mount child seat
The back-mount seat attaches to the rear of the bike frame, usually around the rear wheel axle and the bike’s seat post. Back-mount seats are ideal for children up to 5 years old.
Pros of back-mount seat
- Parents who like to have their child on the bike with them but have a large child enjoy the back-mount child seat.
- It’s is much easier to handle the bike and pedal with than the front-mount seat.
Cons of back-mount seat
- One of the main drawbacks of the back-mount child seat is the inability to see your child and communicate clearly.
- It is also more difficult to handle the bike and pedal than using a bike trailer. Similar to the front-mount seat, the back-mount also seat does not offer much protection to the child in the event of a crash or your bike falls over.
Method 3: The bike trailer
The bike trailer is my recommended and preferred method to ride with a child. After years of riding with two children on my bike using a front and back-mount child seat, I finally gave bike trailers a chance and I was instantly surprised at how much easier it was to ride with the kids.
Not only does it allow me to comfortably ride with two growing children, but it also is much easier to handle the bike, pedal up hills, and stand out of the saddle.
Pros of bike trailers
- Bike trailers can hold an impressive amount of weight, usually up to 100 lbs on double-seated trailers.
- They also offer substantially more protection to the child in the event of a crash.
- Many bike trailers can be converted to an excellent stroller
Cons of bike trailers
- Bike trailers are considerably wider than other options, so you just have to ride around and get used to it. It is comparable to learning to drive while towing a trailer.
- It is more difficult to have conversations or engage with a child in a bike trailer.
- If riding near cars, bike trailers are not as visible. If possible, it is always better to avoid riding near cars, but if it’s unavoidable, you can always use a flag and flashing lights to help with visibility.
3 reasons bike trailers are better than child seats
Let’s dive into the three main reasons bike trailers are the best choice of the different ways to ride with a child.
1. Safety: Bike trailers are safer than child seats
At first glance, it would seem that the bike-mounted child seat is the easiest and safest way to ride with a child due to the fact that they are kept close to you and bike trailers seem cumbersome to pull behind your bike. However, bike trailers are far safer than child seats in the event of a crash.
In the event that your bike crashes or falls over, the crash will have a much lower impact (if any) on the child who is enclosed inside the protective bike trailer. Bike trailers either come with cage-like protection or a canopy cover that separates them from any harm. I should mention that I have never crashed with the bike trailer or with a child seat, so it shouldn’t be too much of a concern for you if you follow basic safety precautions.
With child seats, on the other hand, if you crash or fall over, your child will almost definitely get hurt. I have personally been in situations where one of my kids was sitting in the child seat and then it toppled over while I was trying to get on. As always, they wear helmets and were fine.
2. Usability: Bike trailers are easier to handle than child seats
With a child seat, it becomes substantially more difficult to ride your bike because the weight of the child is mounted to your bike frame. For example, it is extremely difficult to attempt to stand up out of the saddle with child seats due to the fact that the weight of the child seat will sway from side to side.
In addition, it is more difficult to hop on and off your bike with a child seat mounted to the frame. There is a good chance the bike will topple while trying to mount the bike.
With bike trailers, you are able to handle the bike more easily and pedal out of the saddle (stand up), which gives you significantly more strength in your legs, which you will need when pulling a bike trailer uphill. With child seats, there is not much room left on your bike to stand up and maneuver the bike, which does not allow for optimized strength from your legs.
The difference in usability between bike trailers and child seats becomes very apparent when you are climbing small hills or going on long rides. Although bike trailers are heavier than child seats, the added strength that is transferred to your legs with the bike trailer more than makes up for the added weight.
With bike trailers, on the other hand, you can freely stand up out of the saddle and handle the bike as you would any normal bike. In the event that your bike falls over, it will not affect the bike trailer at all due to the attachment system that comes with the bike trailer.
On top of that, many bike trailers can be re-purposed and converted seamlessly to an excellent stroller or jogger, which makes the bike trailer the winner of the usability contest.
3. Comfort: Bike trailers are more comfortable for the child
While riding in a child seat, the child has a very limited range of motion with their legs and arms. In fact, if they extend their legs or arms, they would potentially hit you or the bike pedals or spokes, which could be disastrous. The bottom line is that child seats are not very comfortable for children when going on longer rides.
Bike trailers, on the other hand, are designed with more interior space to let kids extend their legs, play with toys, or have a snack. In addition, bike trailers can hold up to two children comfortably.
Considering the three important factors mentioned above, bike trailers are the clear winners for safety, comfort, and usability. I fully understand the desire to use a bike-mount child seat.
I used them for years in America and in Japan, but after falling over a few too many times (no injuries), I decided to make bike trailers our family’s weapon of choice–and I’m glad I did! Bike trailers are just more fun and easier for everyone involved, especially for growing children.
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, check out the Ultimate Guide to Buying a Bike Trailer. I also have compiled a list of the top current bike trailers for every common situation, which you can check out here.
Though rear child bike seats are generally considered safe, it really comes down to your confidence and comfort level while riding a bike. It’s a good idea to practice riding with extra weight before buckling your child into the seat and always ask for help if you need it. And don’t forget, always wear a helmet!
My Recommended Child Bike Seats
Affordable and sturdy, I recommend getting the following child bike seats for anyone looking for a seat to ride together with your child. I’ve been using these two seats for more than 6 years for both of my kids and they’re still holding up great. If you want to see all the gear I recommend, check out my Gear page.
Recommended Front Child Seat: WeeRide
Recommended Rear Child Seat: Schwinn Deluxe