Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

How old do kids need to be to go in one? What types of ride can you do with them? Here's our guide to heading out in the best conditions

They're the most common transport solution for family bike rides. Bike trailers are versatile, comfortable and reassuring, enabling you to satisfy your wanderlust accompanied by your little one. How old do kids need to be to go in one? What types of ride can you do with these cosy accessories? Here's everything you need to know about taking your toddler in a trailer. 

In short:
Age: 9 months to around 6 years
Use: from short rides near home to world tours
Advantages: a cosy cocoon that's sheltered from the weather
Disadvantages: passive transport mode, weight and resistance when cycling uphill

How old do kids need to be to go in a bike trailer?

It's recommended that you wait until your child is at least nine months old before taking them on family rides in a trailer. At this age, young passengers will have enough muscle tone to hold their head upright and stay in a seated position where there's no risk of injury, particularly to their neck.

Accessories such as slings and supports can be used for younger babies. But most bike trailer manufacturers recommend only using this additional equipment with your trailer in pushchair mode. If you still decide to use them in cycling mode, just make sure your child is wearing a helmet, even though they're in a trailer. That said, be aware that there are currently no helmets available that are approved for use by infants. The minimum available head size is 44 cm – the size of a 6- to 8-month-old's head. 

Which bike trailer is best for touring? 

With a bike trailer, your baby or young child will be able to join you on all of your cycling escapades, from rides lasting just a few hours to longer expeditions spread over several months…  So it goes without saying that you'll need to choose a model that suits your needs. The most basic trailers, with no suspension or sophisticated padding, will do for short, easy rides near to home. Top-of-the-range models, designed for long distances, will let you rack up the miles without your young passenger being uncomfortable. With their effective shock absorbers and comfortable seats, little ones can enjoy a peaceful nap just like they would in their buggy. When you're touring, having a boot and storage space will make it so much easier to carry your things and lighten the load in your pannier bags. 

Child trailers are particularly versatile, being perfect for long tours, slow tourism holidays and weekends, as well as just everyday rides. When you get back home, your trailer can continue to be used for short rides: popping to the shops, dropping the kids at nursery or school, etc. To make it quick and easy to get everyone out of the house, it's often best to have somewhere you can store your trailer without folding it up, or even to leave it attached to your bike the whole time. 

Do kids need to wear a helmet when they're in a trailer? 

As mentioned above, since 2017, it has been compulsory for kids under the age of 12 in France to wear a helmet. This applies regardless of whether they're the rider or a passenger – even though the word "trailer" isn't specifically mentioned in the law. But the spirit of the law is clear. 

Aside from the purely legal side of things, wearing a helmet is strongly recommended in the interests of safety.
Can you get helmets for babies? As we said earlier, you can't get helmets smaller than 44 cm. This means that very young babies (less than 6 months) are legally unable to travel by bike in France. It's up to everyone to just act sensibly with regards to kids and bikes. 

Before buying a helmet, measure around your child's head with a tape measure and try to find a model that's neither too big nor too small. The helmet should comply with the current European standard (EN 1078, or EN 1077 if it's also approved for skiing). Pay particular attention to how it adjusts (dials and straps). They should be intuitive and easy to use. Another essential point is that the main stakeholder – your child – needs to be happy with their helmet, otherwise they'll throw a tantrum whenever you try to put it on! 

Are bike trailers safe and comfortable for babies?

Yes, which is exactly what sets kids' bike trailers apart from other, more open means of transport. They'll be protected from the rain, wind, sun, splashes, and even insects thanks to the built-in insect net that you'll find on most models. Rest assured that, when you're absolutely sodden, your little one will be snoozing peacefully in their lovely dry trailer! 

As well as that, the seat will generally be nicely padded and might even tilt, keeping them far more comfortable than you'll be in your saddle!
What if you have a fall or it flips over? The steel frame complies with standard EN 15918, acting as a roll cage to protect your young passenger. Likewise, the seat belt (preferably 5 point) will hold them securely in their seat.  

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

Can you ride off-road with a bike trailer?

Yes, you can take most trailers off the beaten track. But only up to a certain point. Routes that are suitable for vehicles, farm tracks (in good condition) and well-maintained gravel trails can all be part of your itinerary. But things won't go so smoothly on technical terrain, such as mountain biking trails. Tight, twisty singletracks and damaged, rocky and slippery surfaces should all be avoided. Especially when going downhill.

Can you carry lots of belongings on board a child bike trailer? 

Another benefit of trailers is that you can carry loads of stuff with you. While most other options limit you to carrying just a single child, trailers can take up to two passengers as well as a not insignificant amount of equipment. Some models – with a spacious boot and several built-in storage compartments inside the passenger area – can take loads of up to 45 kg (including your passengers). All this space is particularly handy when you're travelling as a family and the logistics are that much harder!

How do you get your trailer to the start of your ride?

Can you take a bike trailer on the train? In France, trailers aren't technically allowed on trains. But in reality, everyone tends to turn a blind eye as long as they aren't blocking the aisle. At any rate, the ticket inspector has the final say.

It's also worth being aware that most bike trailers can be easily folded up. Which is handy for slipping them inside a car boot or taking the train. Plus it makes them easier to store at home. 

Can you use a trailer as a pushchair? 

Bike trailers are nothing if not versatile. Many of them can be converted into pushchairs so that you can still transport your child when you're no longer in the saddle. There are also kits that will enable you to go running and even cross-country skiing with your trailer. It's a real multi-sports solution. 

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

Are child trailers compatible with all bikes? 

Most trailers can be easily hitched onto the rear axle of most bikes, including electric ones. But certain models with a thru axle or internally geared hub will need an adapter. 

Some less common types of trailer are mounted onto the seat post of the towing bike.

Is it easy to tow a trailer? 

We won't lie: despite their two wheels making them really stable, bike trailers are relatively heavy and this significantly alters how your bike feels to ride. When going downhill or doing emergency stops, remember that your braking distance will be longer. You'll also need to get used to how much longer and wider your bike is so that you don't get it caught on any items you ride past. On certain bike paths, the bollards and barriers might force you to dismount briefly.

Of course, hills are where you'll notice the extra weight the most. If you're determined not to walk, you'll need to drop into a gear where you can spin your legs and just accept that you'll be moving (very) slowly! But it's nothing you can't cope with. A few practice rides, and you'll soon get the hang of it. Pick relatively flat routes without much traffic until you're feeling more confident. 

Up to what age can kids travel in a trailer? 

As well as their age, you'll need to take your passenger's size into account. Kids over 1.15 m tall and weighing more than about 20 kilos are likely to feel a bit cramped in most trailers. From the age of 5 or 6, they'll probably be keen to join in with family rides more actively. This is your chance to switch to a more active transport solution.

Case study: Jeanne and Xavier travel with a baby trailer

"The cocooning nature of the trailer lived up to all its promises"

Child's name and age: Zoé, 10 months
Route: 4500 km tour of France
Average daily distance: 50 km
Instagram: @jeannelepoix

Iceland, Scotland, Cuba, and more Jeanne and her partner Xavier are old hands when it comes to bike touring. When their daughter, Zoé, was born, they didn't want to have to give up their passion for cycling. In fact, their new arrival inspired them to plot a major new expedition. The plan was simple: travel 4500 km around France to spend quality time as a family and discover their own country from an entirely different angle. This local, family adventure would never have been possible without their bike trailer. Blown away by how versatile it was, the couple have since begun using it for all of their everyday journeys and their traditional Wednesday afternoon outing. Here's what Jeanne had to say.

-When you were getting ready for your tour of france, was using a trailer a no-brainer? 

Yes, it just made the most sense, given our family make-up. Zoé was 10 months old. She needed to be comfortable enough to nap peacefully. We also wanted her to be sheltered from the weather at all times. And in this respect, the cocooning nature of the trailer lived up to all its promises. On the rare occasions when it bucketed it down, Zoé stayed completely dry. We were really surprised by how waterproof the trailer was. 

-How did she get on with this little house on wheels? 

She always seemed happy to be on board. Even when, from time to time, the ride dragged on longer than expected. For example, she stayed in her seat for 4 hours without objecting in a downpour in the absolute middle of nowhere. Her only demand was: go! As soon as we stopped riding, she'd remind us who was boss and make us set off again. 

-Did you set yourselves any limits in terms of the route?

We didn't shy away from hills or from taking shortcuts. On gravel, the trailer generally behaved very well. Even on climbs. The only problem we had was going downhill on rough ground. To keep Zoé comfortable, we'd have to squeeze the brakes hard. But the impacts weren't kind on our equipment. To stop anything getting broken, we ended up avoiding a few hilly gravel sections. 

-Another benefit of the trailer is how much luggage it can carry. did you take advantage of this? 

There's a big boot at the back where we'd put all of Zoé's things, such as her baby changing bag. We'd also put our little drone in there. This was great for lightening the load in our pannier bags. And on short bikepacking trips lasting two or three days, we tended to attach the tent to the trailer. This meant we could take just our front pannier bags and a saddle bag, which made us more mobile.

-But the trailer isn't all about adventures for you. you also use it for everyday trips, don't you? 

Yes, I take Zoé to nursery every day in the trailer. Eight kilometres there and back! The trailer is the perfect way to get around. We also use it for going to the market where we fill it up with vegetables so we don't have to wear a backpack. On Wednesdays, we use it for our traditional outing in the forest. Sometimes we ride and sometimes we jog, because it's set up for running as well. I'll slip a picnic into the boot, and off we go!

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

Olivier Godin

A fan of cycling in all its forms. Particularly enjoys taking the scenic route. Has equally fond memories of the Great Divide, Paris-Cape Town and Scandinavia as he does of crossing the Pyrenees, cycling the Millevaches plateau and riding around Picardy! Loves a good climb, because it's a natural high - both figuratively and literally. Rides alone, as a couple and as a family. Endeavours to convey the call of the road in his books. Author of "A vélo, 50 itinéraires pour pédaler le nez au vent" published by Gallimard.

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