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Carrying a kid: trailer or seat?

Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Carrying a kid: trailer or seat?

Old 03-24-06, 10:37 PM
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willmeyer
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Carrying a kid: trailer or seat?

Hiya. I have an almost 3 year old and a 2 month old, and am looking for a way to carry the older one with me on some rides. I am having trouble deciding between a trailer (Burley, etc.) and a seat that attaches to the bike (Rhode Gear Taxi). The seat seams like it would be way more fun for the kid, and me, and my dad had one when I was little, but are they safe? The kid would have a helmet of course, but is it generally agreed that a trailer is safer? The trailer actually seems sketchier because it would be harder to maneuver the bike, cars wouldn't see it, etc., whereas the seat would be more of an extension of the bike.

What's a fun-loving yet trying to be responsible dad to do? Appreciate any comments...

Will
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Old 03-24-06, 11:03 PM
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I cannot speak of the seat other that fond childhood memories in one. I can speak about the trailer though. It weighs a ton. I think the child would be more comfortable in it than in the seat because there is a substantial amount of room in them. But once again they are heavy and hard to pull any distance more than a few of miles. Although it would probably be one of the best ways to train for a race.
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Old 03-24-06, 11:26 PM
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Trailer only! Safest way. Bike-Caboose is the best. Great for cargo and touring also.
Has a 150 lb capacity. Seats two kids side by side with cargo space behind for two full grocery bags and 2 gallons of milk. I took mine to the grocery store last weekend.
No kids just 6 bags of groceries, 4 gallons of milk and a 10lb bag of spuds.

Bike Caboose
31460 Highway 200
Sandpoint
ID
83864
Phones: (208) 263-8606
no website
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Old 03-24-06, 11:45 PM
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I don't know if I would want to wheel around a 2 month old though.
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Old 03-25-06, 12:13 AM
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Get a trailer its safer. I 've got a Burley D'Lite and hardly notice it when I was pulling my kids.
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Old 03-25-06, 12:21 AM
  #6  
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Every time I see a parent carrying a kid on a seat, I can't help but think how far they will fall if your bike tips over. I think the trailer is safer, as long as you don't ride on very busy roads. If you ride on busy roads, leave the kids at home.
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Old 03-25-06, 01:18 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by willmeyer
Hiya. I have an almost 3 year old and a 2 month old, and am looking for a way to carry the older one with me on some rides. I am having trouble deciding between a trailer (Burley, etc.) and a seat that attaches to the bike (Rhode Gear Taxi). The seat seams like it would be way more fun for the kid, and me, and my dad had one when I was little, but are they safe? The kid would have a helmet of course, but is it generally agreed that a trailer is safer? The trailer actually seems sketchier because it would be harder to maneuver the bike, cars wouldn't see it, etc., whereas the seat would be more of an extension of the bike.

What's a fun-loving yet trying to be responsible dad to do? Appreciate any comments...

Will
I my opinion, in the whole of bicycling there is no clearer choice than that of the bike trailer over the seat on the back of the bike, Period. Wearing a helmut does not even come close. There are three main points involved. 1. the bike seat throws the balance of the bike off (the weight is high and it is well behind the center of gravity). In addition, kids move around suddenly and throw off your balance (I find even a trailer bike requires a lot of extra effort on the balance side of things because kids lean back and forth). 2. It is a long ways down from the bike seat to the ground with no protection. 3. The bike trailer has "stuff" all around the trailer, it has a "five-point" harness, it has two wheels broadening the base and it makes the bike MORE stable then a ordinary bicycle. In addition to these main reasons, the bike trailer is MUCH more comfortable, it can have pillows to lean against, toys to play with, you can carry lots of stuff there. It is also more visable -- the bike with the trailer shouts out "I have a kid here", where as the ordinary bicycle gets lost more easily. Finally, if you get a good one like a full Trek with the conversion to the FULL third wheel, it makes a great running stroller that, because of its stability, is not much slower than running on your own. People are amazed that the running speed is only a few seconds per mile slower. I have used my trailer now for 1000s, of miles running and several times that riding.

All that said, I am not sure about having a two-month old riding in either conveyance because the neck strength is not good enough, and a helmut is too much weight for the neck. Another advantage of the trailer is that both kids can go in at once, not just one. Take good care of it and you can sell it many years later. I have had mine for almost 10 years now and it will last me a few more years as my younger kid is only 3. Also, do not worry overmuch about how heavy the bike is; yes you will go slower by about one-third, although I did make the "Paoli" loop (a well-known Madison loop of about 25 miles with a few hills) at over 19mph once. I used the trailer for much longer than most people before switching over to a trailer bike.

In truth, I cannot see how riders with modest skills can be safetly riding that bike-seat setup if I would not feel safe doing it and I am sure that my riding skills are MUCH higher than 99% of those riding with those things.
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Old 03-25-06, 01:29 AM
  #8  
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I have asked the same question in Recreational and Family forum. Do a search there and you will find tons of trailer vs seat threads.

cheers.
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Old 03-25-06, 01:31 AM
  #9  
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I have a 2 1/2 year old and during last summer took her in abiek seat attached to my mountain bike. We rode in a number of wider roads just fine, and on occasion I have taken her up some of the longer 4-5 mile climbs in the area. The biggest issue with the seat attached is that when you are stopped, there is a large amount of weight to support etc, however once you are moving I find the bike stable and fun to ride with her.

I stayed away from the trailors because I did not like the idea that the trailor cannot be seen with the cars etc as they are too low, so I wanted to the keep her close to me.
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Old 03-25-06, 05:13 AM
  #10  
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I used a bike seat for my daughter for a while. By the time she was three she was too big for the seat and I got trial-a-bike we were using up till she was about 7. Then she graduated to the stoker position on a tandem with crank shorteners. She's 11 now and we just lost the shorteners.

I'd go with a trailer if you want to have both kids with you. Another option is a tandem trail-a-bike with a child seat in one of the positions. I remember seeing it on the web but can't find a link right now.
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Old 03-25-06, 06:13 AM
  #11  
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Thanks for all the feedback everyone, I'll also check out the other thread mentioned. It seems that my hunch was right -- I really wanted the seat but was nervous about the safety angle, seems like there are some strong safety views against the seat. The throwing off of the balance is one I can appreciate as contributing to the safety factor, though still I am a little sketched out about cars not being able to see the trailer. I guess the ticket here is just to not go on the road if it's a busy one, which makes sense. Thanks again.
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Old 03-25-06, 07:28 AM
  #12  
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Definitely a trailor. They are low to the ground, so they don't roll. They all come with big bright orange flags for visability and they are much more comfortable for the child. With a burley (can't speak for the other brands as I haven't used them...) you can crash hard, and the trailer isn't going to come off those two wheels. They aren't recommended however for children under 1 year old.

My son has outgrown our trailer (he's four) and now I am moving up to a piccalo.
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Old 03-25-06, 07:29 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by willmeyer
Thanks for all the feedback everyone, I'll also check out the other thread mentioned. It seems that my hunch was right -- I really wanted the seat but was nervous about the safety angle, seems like there are some strong safety views against the seat. The throwing off of the balance is one I can appreciate as contributing to the safety factor, though still I am a little sketched out about cars not being able to see the trailer. I guess the ticket here is just to not go on the road if it's a busy one, which makes sense. Thanks again.


I don't ride on very busy roads, but in my experience when cars see that trailer behind you, they tend to give you much more room than normal. Nobody cares about cyclists, but nobody wants to kill a kid either.
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Old 03-25-06, 08:18 PM
  #14  
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Originally Posted by gm1230126
Trailer only! Safest way. Bike-Caboose is the best. Great for cargo and touring also.
Has a 150 lb capacity. <snip>

Bike Caboose
31460 Highway 200
Sandpoint
ID
83864
Phones: (208) 263-8606
no website

Can you post some pics of it? I'm really interested.
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Old 03-25-06, 08:39 PM
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I use a trailer to haul around my 3yo and the only issue I have is that I can't use clipless, because I have 180 cranks and size 13 shoes. So if you do use clipless check and make sure they will work. I have the two sided pedals (platform/clipless)
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Old 03-25-06, 08:55 PM
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I'm in the exact same position (looking to take my almost 3 yr old on rides down the bike trail) and when I asked the LBS for a recommendation, I found out that they had a code name for toddler bike seats...."baby killers". That's all I needed to hear, so I'll be getting the trailer soon. One piece of advice I'd like to get is wheter I can hook the trailer to my road bike (Allez Comp). The lbs also recommended that most road bikes are not designed well for lugging a trailer (too light, not enough traction, etc.), so my plan is to get an affordably hardtail with platforms. Any excuse to get another bike!
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Old 03-27-06, 08:51 AM
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Any time you start to make declarations about what's right and wrong in how you raise your kids, you're bound get some heated responses - or at least some responses warmed by parental passion.

First, to the original poster - how do you see yourself using your child trailer or seat? Where are you going to ride it? How many miles do you plan on riding it, per ride? How many rides per year?

Personally, I don't feel safe sharing road traffic with my 2.7-year-old. But I have a paved bike trail within a mile from my home. To get there, I have to ride a short stretch on a road with a fair amount of traffic. I don't really like it, but it's short enough that I deal with it.

If you plan on riding only on bike paths, and you are going to carry your bike to the path on a car, you will find that you have to detach and fold the trailer - the bike seat will save you this step.

Regarding safety - there is one bike safety study out there that looked at seats and trailers, but didn't find enough incidents to stastically say much. Maybe that's because they're so safe, or maybe it's because nobody ever uses them. I think that modern bike seats offer substantial safety advances over the old designs. Many of the modern seats are enclosed on the sides, so that if the rider falls sideways, the child won't get hurt. Modern seats also offer improved foot-in-the-spokes protection for the child. I don't think you are a bad parent if you use one.

Regarding speed - I have a Burley Encore trailer. It's like the popular D-lite flagship model, but with a bit more spartan interior. Trailer weight is 20 lbs. Some of the cheaper imported trailers use more steel and less aluminum and are probably substantially heavier. I pull my trailer on a flat paved bike path, so the weight is really no issue. But it's not the weight that slows you down, or even the rolling resistance on the 30-psi, 20-in inverted tread tires, it's the aerodynamic drag.

I find the wind drag of my trailer is just about right. I can ride as hard as I want on the local bike path, and the trailer slows me down enough to keep the speed reasonable for a MUP. If path traffic is light, I can average 16 mph over an hour, cruising at 18 or so on the flats. This is enough to pass unfit roadies. It's a good equalizer - it drops my speed down to my wife's (almost) and I can get a good workout on a family outing.

One advantage to the trailer is that you can stick a lot of stuff in it - tools, cell phone, toys, food and drink for the passenger. And the passenger can slump over and snooze in safety. But the disadvantage is that it's harder to communicate with a fellow way back there and down there, and the view for the passenger isn't as good.

This year, I have something I didn't have last year - a newborn. I think he's too young for the trailer (although I have heard of people putting an infant in a car seat and carrying the seat in a trailer). Next year, I'm thinking about getting a tandem with the kid stoker setup for the older child (then 3.7 years old) and pulling the one-year-old in the trailer. So is a kid stoker on a tandem safer or more dangerous than a kid in a bike seat? A tandem isn't likely to flip, but otherwise, I don't see you it (or a trail-a-bike setup) would be that much better than a bike seat.
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Old 03-27-06, 09:05 AM
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they don't wait long in the netherlands...






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Old 03-27-06, 09:20 AM
  #19  
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I used to use a trailer to pull my kids around (Costco brand I think). I stuffed pillows around my kids until they were old enough to support their heads and sit up. It became a real drag when I was pulling 40 pounds around. Bonked a few times on hills and it is no fun walking with that weight either. My son is now riding a 2 wheeler and my daughter should be good to go soon. She was close at the end of last year. We just need the mud to dry up on the roads and I can get her practicing. I never thought about the baby carrier in the back. Kind of scary if you go down but going down is always scary. You can't beat a ride with your kids!!
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Old 03-27-06, 09:45 AM
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Originally Posted by botto
they don't wait long in the netherlands...


Neither of those kids is wearing a helmet --- time to invade the Netherlands.
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Old 03-27-06, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by celticfrost
Neither of those kids is wearing a helmet --- time to invade the Netherlands.
nobody wears helmets here, apart from a small minority of serious cyclists

feel free to invade, i'm just a guest worker here
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Old 03-27-06, 10:10 AM
  #22  
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I went both routes, seat first and then trailer. I much prefer the trailer. Seats on the back of the bike make it tail heavy and really adversely affect handling, esp once the little guy gets close to max seat capacity. The trailer allows you to carry him, some toys, his water bottle, whatever. You can even buy a trailer that converts to stroller, jogger, etc.
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