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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Nov 2013
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    5

    Commuting with an infant?

    Hi

    I was wondering if anyone had any experience of commuting with their little one on the bike. My journey is 6 miles through SE London so has quite busy sections and is also pretty hilly! I really hate the thought of not getting back on my bike though when I go back to work so would really like some good tips and pointers on how to make it as easy and safe as possible.
    TIA

  2. #2
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Watford
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    25
    Hi Aec. I commute daily in Watford with a toddler in a Hamax bike seat. He loves it to little bits and I wouldn't do anything else. However, I would say that our commute is possibly a bit more straightforward than yours: a couple of miles of shared cycle/footpath with a small residential road either end.

    As far as the hilly bits are concerned, maybe do a dry run and see how you manage. Our journey has some long, shallow hills which really took it out of me the first few times with an extra 17 kg of kid and seat on the back, but it got better as I got fitter. We have done 20 miles together for fun so distance is no problem. I'd be most wary about the prospect of busy sections, but then I'm not a particularly confident cyclist in traffic. I would be inclined to look for alternative routes, even if they are longer. I am shameless about getting off and using pedestrian crossings and pavements if I'm somewhere busy; people seem to be more tolerant of the bike being in pedestrian space when they see a small child on the back.

    I will drive if the weather is forecast to be very bad at the time we will be travelling, as my son hates his rain poncho that covers him and the seat both. I think it's because the hood drops down over his eyes. Cold or a light shower are no problem: in winter he wears an all in one snowsuit, snow boots, mittens and either a fleece balaclava or a fleece neck warmer and a jersey cap under his helmet. I also put a padded fleece car seat cosy on the bike seat for extra warmth. Cold legs are something to watch out for. His mittens are sewn onto a strip of elastic running through his suit after the first few dropped mitten incidents.

    I ride with a bike basket in front full of all the bits he might need, including drinks and snacks, rain poncho, nappies and all the rest. Possibly unstylish but it balances the weight across the bike quite well and means I'm ready for everything, and with the extra weight of child and seat, I don't want to wear a big backpack making me sweat.

    A biggie is the prospect of punctures. I don't like the thought of a roadside repair with a child in tow, so my bike is fitted with the most puncture resistant kevlar tyres I could locate. I carry a kit but given my short distance I would probably push the bike home if it happened rather than try a repair. Plus, it is untested and I can't honestly say whether it would work in practice, but just in case, I carry a walking harness and reins so that I could tie my turbo toddler to a lamp post in the event of a streetside repair.

    I get the feeling this all sounds very discouraging, but when you are ready for anything it is wonderful going out daily on a bike with a little one. We talk all the time about doggies and birdies and the things we can see and hear. For the first couple of months, every time we left he would shout, "On the BIKE!" all the way home.

    Oh, and whatever you do, remember they can hear you. When a car blocked the toucan crossing I use and just sat there, I muttered, "Come on, move the fat wagon." When I picked him up from nursery at the end of the following day, the nursery staff asked me what a fat wagon was.

  3. #3
    Member
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    Aug 2014
    Location
    SW London
    Posts
    69
    You don't say how little your infant is.

    For the last couple of weeks, while staying with my sister, I've been taking/collecting my niece and nephew using a trailabike (5yo niece) and a bike seat (3yo nephew).

    This has been in the quieter Vale of Glamorgan, but I noticed several things, compared to riding a road bike on the same roads:

    - My niece loved it. She even had strops when I couldn't take or collect her. She got an award for cycling to school too. She loved seeing more than she sees from the car, a bit of wet weather didn't bother her, and every now and again she would actually do some pedalling. Going downhill, she went from nervous to shouting 'Faster, faster!' in days.
    - I got a LOT more space. Mostly from other parents when they recognised the uniform. Though even when there wasn't a little one on the back, I found all vehicles were giving me more room.
    - Most of the other parents commented on it positively. (The niece's school run consisted of a steep hill whichever way I went, and some of them couldn't believe I managed to get up it without stopping.)
    - All the other children commented on it. I even had some of them racing me up the hill to the school! A few of them wanted a trailabike themselves.
    - It can be hard work, but as long as you have the gears, it's great. It's worth seeking out quieter roads or ones where you don't have to stop so much to have a nicer trip.
    - You also get much closer to the school gates than a vehicle would, and the extra time taken to cycle there (on lanes) was made up in the time not wasted trying to park, getting out of the car, crossing the road, collecting, negotiating traffic, etc.
    - I was glad to be riding a hybrid with very wide bars. I found the balance changed a lot with the addition of precious (and mobile!) cargo. The trailabike in particular was subject to the vagaries of movement in the fixing mechanism, and my niece rocking from either side. The hybrid also had excellent, reliable brakes. I would never have wanted to ride the narrower-barred road bike with either carriage on the back and poorer brakes.
    - It's great training.
    Twitter: @_dottigirl_ and @Toria_Lyons
    Blog with cycling tips for beginners: http://toriacycling.wordpress.com/
    Blog usually about writing/cycling/rugby as I've just published a novel: www.torialyons.co.uk

  4. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    143
    Agree with Toria, what age is your child? My son started in a trailer at 5 weeks old. We got enormous respect and space from overtaking traffic, but oh boy it was like towing a dead weight up hill. We needed some lower gears.

  5. #5
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
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    5
    Sorry for not responding sooner, I hadn't realised anyone had replied! At the minute she's 8 months. I'll be going back to work when she's 11mths and she'll be in a creche at work so thinking ahead to then really.
    I do love the look of kids riding around in trailers but think realistically I might end up switching to a bike seat to make the load a bit lighter and not getting a great deal of use out of a trailer. But yes, feel the first step is getting a different bike (with better gears) and also reconfiguring my route. I do think it'll be worth it, but can foresee a few attempts getting it all right. I guess I also need to think about bikes that can take panniers for all our stuff as well as the bike seat and baby!
    Thank you all though for your help!

  6. #6
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2015
    Location
    Watford
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    25
    Ooh, that's the other thing. Trailers are awesome until you hit those stupid staggered rails councils like to put in. In my case, literally. I had to nudge the trailer around the corner with my foot on one occasion when we got wedged.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    143
    My Ex had some old slim but longish panniers that we managed to slide under the bike seat, but the seat we had was not of the modern sort that go on special rails (or appear to do) it was a basic seat that fitted by an attachment to the front of the pannier rack, panniers (attached to each other by a nylon bridge sat under the seat and behind the attachment.. then a strap secured rear of the seat to the rear of the pannier rack.... I did add 2 toe straps to either side of the seat as well to increase stability..

    Not sure what is around as rain capes these days (my son is 22 this week) but i got a rain cape that was designed to fit over a folding buggy, it had a hood and then i adapted to fit around the seat so other than his face, he was completely covered. It meant he was well protected from cold, wind and rain.... and i could pad him out with a blanket underneath the cape on cold days.... (we were doing some longish rides) not just commutes.

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    5
    Thanks eileithyia , that's a great idea about the rain hood.

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