By Billy Mitchell
I can't believe I haven't written about this before, but I guess it's just been such a part of my life for so long that I 've taken it for granted.
It got dragged to the forefront of my attention twice in the last couple of weeks when I was approached by total strangers asking, "Excuse me, how do you like the baby carrier on your bike?"
The conversation starts this way, then we get into a discussion of the relative merits of child-seat versus trailer ( I have both). On this particular day, the trailer was full of groceries while youngest son happily babbled in the child-seat. On other days, I 've been known to stuff two five-year-olds into the trailer, baby in carrier, like some kind of pedal-powered school bus. ( I f I get one more seat on this set-up I 'll need a chauffeur's license.)
Still other times, the trailer has been a backup when one of the aforementioned five-year-olds tired of a long uphill climb. Two boys in the trailer, one child's bike stuffed into the baby seat and a backpack full of snacks and diapers on my back; my quads squealed with delight for the next few kilometers.
You see, we've been trying to stay a one-car family and our recent move makes it necessary for my wife to take the car to work. I feel I need to explain that as some observers reckon that I 've lost my license - and my common sense - as I pedal through all weather burdened with my brood.
But I digress. I was talking about the relative merits of the on-bike baby seat versus the trailer. Here's the give and take.
The bike seat keeps your child within easy reach so you can hand a bottle back, pat their hand or tickle their feet to keep them happy. You can still access narrow trails and gates that would be a problem with a trailer, and once it's installed, you can forget about it.
The downside is that they'll only take up to 40 pounds and really, when your babe is over 30 pounds the balance on your bike starts to get weird. They weight is mostly behind your rear axle, so the front end gets really light. I f your front wheel comes off the ground, it tends to keep going up unless you throw your weight over the handlebars.
Now the trailer. I thought I was going to hate it, but it's really grown on me. Half the time it's a cargo carrier for toys, picnics, groceries, driftwood (have I mentioned my innate scavenger nature?), or library books. When the boys outgrow it I 'm going to see if I can't carry a canoe on it!
Unlike the carrier, you don't have to constantly find somewhere to lean the bike while you extract or implant the toddler, but it does take some getting used to. The extra width and length limits your maneuverability and restricts your access to some treasured shortcuts. The first time we had it out I managed to flip it onto its side by catching one wheel on a curb. I mportant note: try it out with non-living cargo before entrusting your beloved baby to its care!
So, there are good points and bad points to both. I still haven't tried out the "tag-a-long" half bike that attaches to the back of the grown-up's bike turning it into a glorified tandem, but I suspect that'll be the next thing.
As always, remember to wear your helmet as it sets a good example for the young-uns. Double check all safety harnesses, brackets and all the other gobbledygook that these devices entail. Get out there in the fresh air with your children, burn some calories and establish a healthy lifestyle that's a whole hoot-o-fun!
Next month: how young is too young for BMX?
Bill Mitchell is a father, actor, writer and comedian from BC. He'd like to do more fishing, canoeing, white-water rafting, hot-air ballooning and mountain biking, and probably will, once his youngest kids get a little bigger. You can find him on the web at www.blixner.com