Once your toddler turns 1 you can buy a bicycle helmet and a safety seat that will enable you to bring him along on your bike rides. The safest way to tow your toddler, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, is in a bicycle-towed child trailer. If you do not want to tow a trailer, you can choose between front-mounted bicycle seats and rear-mounted ones, each of which have their own advantages and disadvantages. The safest seat for your toddler is the one that best suits your type of bike, your needs and your bicycling abilities.
Front-Mounted Seat Advantages
Center-mounted seats attach to the front of the bicycle and position the child facing forward between the parent’s legs. Although commonly used in Asia and Europe, front-mounted seats are not as popular in North America, according to the International Bicycle Fund. Novice bikers often prefer front-mounted seats since mass over the front wheel makes the bike more stable and easier to handle than mass over the rear wheel. Many users also find it easier to get a child on and off a front-mounted seat. You can also keep an eye on your child and interact with him more easily when using a front-mounted seat.
Front-Mounted Seat Disadvantages
If your child drops something from a front-mounted seat, it can potentially catch in the front spokes, which can cause a head-first catch. An adult is more likely to land on top of a child during a fall involving a front-mounted seat. Depending upon the design of the bike and the size of the child, you might have a hard time reaching around the child to steer and control the bike. A child seated in front can also make it more difficult to pedal the bike, which can lead to knee injuries and sore legs on long bike rides.
Rear-Mounted Seat Advantages
Riders with longer legs or shorter arms often prefer rear-mounted seats since they are less likely to interfere with the ability to operate the bicycle. Rear-mounted seats can also help protect children from debris, such as flying dirt or rocks, on bike rides. In some collisions or falls, they might also help protect the child from injury since the adult in front will take the brunt of the impact.
Rear-Mounted Seat Disadvantages
Getting on and off the bike can be especially tricky with a rear-mounted seat. The Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute urges parents to take care when dismounting since as many as one third of all injuries to children in safety carriers occur when loading and unloading. To protect toddlers from getting their feet caught in the bike’s spokes when in a rear-mounted seat, the AAP recommends buying a carrier with spoke guards.