Now that spring is here and the snow has melted from the trails, Elliott and I have been getting out on bike rides a couple times each week. Both of us love it! I used to roll out and bike around town after work before I had Elliott, and now that he’s able to join me on my bike rides and I’m home with him all day I’ve been choosing to bike with him as much as I can.
In general, biking with a kid is pretty easy. You just strap them into the bike seat and go, right? Not really! Like any activity with a toddler there’s a lot of prep work and planning that needs to go into taking a trip outdoors. It can feel overwhelming sometimes! So after making lots of mistakes (why do I always forget something at home?) and figuring out a system that works for me, here are some of my tips for taking a bike ride with a toddler.
Have the right gear to bring your toddler along for the ride. For your bike, you’ll want to figure out what type of bike attachment works best for you and your child. There are front mounted seats (read my review of the Thule Yepp Mini here), rear mounted seats, and bike trailers that are all safe to bring young toddlers on bikes. There are pros and cons to each type of attachment. Also toddlers (and honestly everyone!) need to wear a properly sized helmet while riding.
Plan your route/destination. I like to pick trails that are on the easier side because I’m carrying 25 extra pounds, are safe (which for me means no technical sections and minimal road crossings), and lead to cool destinations. Maybe you are within biking distance of your child’s favorite playground, a cool lake, or an ice cream shop? That’s a perfect turnaround point!
Pack the biking essentials. I always start by packing the things I would normally bring on every bike ride. Pro tip: do this while your toddler is engaged in something fun so they don’t follow you around unpacking everything that you just packed (Does that happen to anyone else? Just me?). My list includes:
- A spare tube and a way to pump up a tire in case of flats (and an understanding of how to change your tube!)
- A bike multitool for making adjustments along the way
- A bear bell
- Bear spray
- An extra layer (I use a Patagonia Houdini because it’s wind/rain resistant and packs up small enough to fit into a fanny pack)
- Gloves (optional)
- First Aid Kit. I’ve had to use this on bike rides before!
Pack the toddler essentials. While you’re riding your toddler won’t need anything because they will be riding along having a blast! But think about what you want them to wear and what they might need during the course of your ride. Before the ride I always dress Elliott in a windproof and waterproof layer and Stonz boots because he’s exposed to the elements on the front of my bike. My Alaska specific list includes:
- Layers like a fleece or rain jacket
- A warm hat and gloves
- Diapers and wipes
- A snack
- An outdoor blanket
- A favorite book/toy/item that they might want during break times
Have a backup plan and a safety plan. Sometimes outdoor adventures don’t go as planned. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve planed a bike ride and had to reroute or turn around because of a moose! Just keep in mind that plans can change and have a backup plan in case the route is impassable, things aren’t safe along the trail/at the destination, the weather changes, or something happens to the bike. I only bike with Elliott in places that have cell service, but if you’re out of service range consider bringing a satellite communication device like an inReach.
Have fun! Some days you’re just not feeling it and that’s okay. Some days your toddler just isn’t feeling it and that’s okay too! If your child is fighting getting on the bike or doesn’t stop crying within the first 30 seconds of riding, it’s probably time to call it a day and try again later when everyone is into it. Sometimes Elliott would rather look at the bike wheels than actually sit on the bike which is cool with me.
What are your tips for getting on a bike with a toddler? Does your toddler love a front seat or do they bring up the rear in a rear seat or trailer?