Carrying small babies

This article was published in 2002, in Newsletter 42.

One question for new parents who prefer to keep on cycling is how to carry a small baby on a bike. The problem is that, until they are about nine months old, babies cannot sit up in a conventional bike seat. Here is our experience.

Lorraine and I bought a child trailer (designed for one or two children nine months upwards) and fixed into it a second-hand car baby seat. This carried Seán from when he was about five months old, when we bought it, until he was about 12 months old. It carried Joseph from about two weeks old until Beth was born, when he (age 16 months) had to move to a bike seat on the other parent’s bike whenever practical because he cannot yet be taught not to poke and pull Beth.

There is a neater adapter designed to carry babies (birth to 10 months) in most child trailers. We got ours from Kevin Dunseath at D.TEK (in Little Thetford, near Ely). This adapter is much narrower and rather lighter than the old car seat we used to use, and it means that Seán and Beth can ride in the trailer together. It costs about £55 but Kevin sometimes has a second-hand one (he fits a new fleecy cover) for less. It’s worked very well, although the trailer is rather bulky. If you are certain you’ll stop at one child, get a single-seater trailer and look for a model which converts to a three-wheel stroller. Our two-seater has a kit to add a nose wheel, and it is then a lovely big pushchair but it won’t fit through shop doorways. If you even just might have two or more children, get a two-seater: they can carry lots of shopping as well, there’s a good selection of models around, and apparently they are easier to sell on when out-grown.

Image as described adjacent
The Burley Cub.

Our trailer is a Burley Cub. It fits most bicycles, is quite tough and well made. I think it cost about £300. There are cheaper models around, and somewhat more expensive ones. Good second-hand trailers like ours cost about £200 from a shop, possibly a bit less directly from a previous owner. It folds, but not to a very small package. Although the nylon cover ‘eats up’ new fittings and one critical seam used to leak in heavy rain, the rest of the trailer has given no problems in more than three years of daily use. All child trailers are hard to park and lock securely. Most have poor provision for the back light: we fitted an LED lamp which could replace one of the reflectors.

I’ve seen tiny babies carried in a sling-type carrier across mother’s front on (upright roadster) bicycles occasionally. It doesn’t look very good, but we never tried it.

There was a vintage cycle sidecar, beautifully made from plywood and a light steel frame, at the CTC Birthday Rides a few years ago. I think it was a family heirloom, not available even second-hand, but if you have suitable skills and time, or know someone who does, it might be possible to get a copy made. (It had a 10-day-old baby in it, appearing very contented.)

Finally, there is, or was three years ago when we were looking for our trailer, a Dutch product called the Babybike. This holds the baby in a detachable carrier similar to a car baby seat, but with its own rain cover and suspension, fixed over a rear cycle rack. It was horribly expensive (£400 or so if I remember rightly) so we didn’t do any more than read the brochure.

In Cambridge, H Drake on Hills Road has a selection of trailers and the staff are helpful. D.TEK is a bit far away but stocks more weird brands and second-hand stuff.

Mark Irving