Safety is often the first concern parents have when considering taking their most precious cargo around in a bike trailer. When a child is especially young, parents ask the question of how early a child can start riding in a bike trailer.
But at what age is it safe for a child to ride in a bike trailer?
This is one of the most common questions cyclists of young children ask—understandably!
How old should a child be to ride in a bike trailer? At what age is it safe?
The industry-wide recommendation is to wait until the child is at least 1 year old before riding in a bike trailer. However, children under 1 year of age can also ride in a bike trailer with the help of a special insert for infants or a car seat.
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 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.”
Is it safe for an infant to ride in a bike trailer?
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.
How can an infant ride in a bike trailer?
Note: I’m not a doctor. I’m just a fun dad that enjoys adventures with my kids. Please ride at your own risk or consult a pediatrician if needed.
There are some cyclists who start bringing their child along for the ride at around 6 months old or even earlier. Depending on the physical development of the child, it is entirely possible to ride together with an infant by using either a special infant insert designed or an infant car seat.
An infant can safely ride in a bike trailer under these circumstances:
- The infant is in a car seat or infant insert while inside the bike trailer
- Traveling at low speeds under 10 mph (16 kph)
- Riding on smooth surfaces
The infant insert and car seat help keep the child secure and comfortable while inside the bike trailer.
The recommended travel speed of under 10 mph is due to the fact that riding at high speeds may result in an uncomfortably bumpy ride or losing control of the bike trailer.
And finally, riding on smooth surfaces will help ensure that the ride is not unnecessarily bumpy for the child.
I wrote an entire article on how to ride together with an infant, which you can check out here.
When in doubt, you can check with a pediatrician. Ride at your own risk.
Infant insert vs car seat for bike trailers
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 old is too old to ride in a bike trailer?
The great thing about a bike trailer is that it is an investment that will last you for years to come.
Typically, a child becomes too big for a bike trailer when he/she turns around 6 years old, or they become too tall for the bike trailer, or they surpass the weight limit issued by the company (around 40-80 pounds usually). Every kid grows differently, so it’s good to check your bike trailer’s weight limit.
While following simple bicycle safety tips, which you can find here, biking with a child as young as 1 year old is a very safe and healthy way to get around.
Need help finding the right bike trailer?
If you need help finding the right bike trailer for you, my recommended trailer for most people is the Swhinn Joyrider, which is an affordable double-seater that converts beautifully to a stroller. Check out my full review with photos here.
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.