My daughter and me: Catherine’s introduction to bike riding with kids

I’ve loved cycling ever since I can remember. Over the years, the reasons I cycle have changed; sometimes commuting, at other times adrenaline seeking, and lately it’s been a lot less long distance in Lycra and more getting to as many places as possible powered by pedals. I recently made a pledge to cycle (or walk) all sub-5 mile journeys, including in my job as a community physiotherapist.

Growing up, we lived and breathed bikes all year round. My dad is disabled and cycling was always an activity that we could enjoy together and still do; cycling keeps me connected to my roots. It was this love of bikes that he instilled in me that meant when I had my daughter two years ago I did not hesitate to introduce her to cycling. That’s not to say I didn’t consider the implications of carrying my most precious cargo on two wheels, I think it would cross the mind of any bike user with any amount of experience. But it’s important to me that she sees active travel as the norm and carries this into adulthood. I’m also passionate about cycling being accessible to everyone, it should not be an exclusive choice.

I’ve always admired the Dutch style of cycling with infants, so after some research I purchased a front mounted bike seat, with a windshield to stay protected from the elements. It soon became clear why this is such a popular option on the continent; we share the same view of the scenery, talk about what we see, sing songs (even uphill), and it’s the perfect position to meet the constant stream of demands for snacks. Stability and turning is not affected, and I can still carry a set of fully loaded panniers on the back. One of the best things is being able to exercise and entertain a small person at the same time, sometimes managing to fit in the shopping and a trip to the park as well. It’s also a great excuse to eat cake! It’s worth pointing out that the height of the rider does have an effect on longevity of use; this will be our last summer using this seat as with the next growth spurt I simply won’t be able to see over her head anymore!

Given this is Britain, I should probably mention rain here. Not one to be deterred by a bit of water, we manage this by using any adult rain coat turned upside down so that arm holes become leg holes, and also cover shoes, and zipped up at the back of the seat (see picture). We keep it up during the winter using the usual winter clothing we’d use for a walk, as the wind shield provides a lot of protection from the wind chill factor.

I also have a child trailer that I sometimes use in torrential rain or for longer journeys where a nap might be had more comfortably in there. This option also offers greater versatility in carrying more than one child, or carrying infants from a much younger age with the right set up; front or back mounted seats require them to have a certain amount of head control before use.

My top tips would be to carry a child carrier for non mobile infants in a bike bag for the other end, and to have panniers with a shoulder strap or back pack inside to keep hands as free as possible once off the bike. Otherwise, it’s really no different to a trip out with the pushchair, it just has the added option of travelling a bit further and exploring new places. So whether you’re an old hand, a budding enthusiast or considering having a go, there are so many blogs and websites dedicated to cycling with children, with a wealth of information to help find solutions for every rider. I’m still learning new things with every ride, and can highly recommend taking the plunge.

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