Kid's trailer vs. bike seat

This topic contains 16 replies, has 14 voices, and was last updated by  paulheckbert 1 yr, 1 mo.

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Feb 14 2013 at 3:21pm #

I have a 5 month old and I want to start taking him out on rides in another month or two when it’s warmer. I’m looking for advice on whether to get a trailer or bike seat to tote him around, and whether the rear-mounted or front-mounted bike seats are better. My uninformed thoughts are that the seat would be better and more convenient for short rides (less than 1 hour) around town, but a trailer would be better for longer rides on the rail trails. I have no garage, so I carry my bike up about 10 steps from the basement and then down about 10 steps from outside my house to the street. Adding a trailer and child to that process seems daunting. Also, if anybody can dig me a tunnel for free, that would be awesome.


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Feb 14 2013 at 4:19pm #

I don’t have kids, and I’m not a safety expert, but I seem to remember when my BIL was asking the same question, our bike guru friend suggested the trailer.

I think the reasoning was that if you wreck, the trailer stays upright – or even if it doesn’t, the kid only turns over from say 2′ in the air instead of 4′ up.

Lou M.

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Feb 14 2013 at 5:03pm #

I don’t believe a child can be in a bike seat until the age of 1. We waited until that point just to be safe.


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Feb 14 2013 at 5:08pm #

a trailer is more comfortable for a child than a bike seat. a decent trailer will have a 5 point harness system, roll cage, and usually comes with a wind/rain screen. you can probably pick one up for around $200 or so. plus when your child outgrows it it makes a great grocery getter.

helen s

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Feb 14 2013 at 5:29pm #

Don’t trailers also seat at least two? That way they could bring a date , even if that might be a non-human. Seems a trailer has more flexiblilty for uses, and you can ride your bike without it if you want to.


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Feb 14 2013 at 8:01pm #

+1 to the 1 year old to ride in a trailer and/or seat. Been a while, but that’s what we were told, too. I think it has something to do with the child being able to support its head.

That said, a trailer seems like it would have more utility. Bike camping, groceries, hauling stuff.


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Feb 14 2013 at 8:31pm #

We had a lightweight, easily foldable trailer, and it was still a hassle to get in and out of our mudroom, while juggling children (and I didn’t have to deal with steps). So, I think a child seat might make more sense, even if it’s less versatile. Just be careful about the bike toppling over when you strap in/out–the seat makes it very top-heavy.

Then when he’s older, these look pretty cool:

(We were also told to wait until 1, for what it’s worth…)


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Feb 14 2013 at 8:47pm #

this may be just a bad idea, but can you have the 3rd wheel attachment for a kid who can pedal and a double trailer behind that?

my eldest can ride, but isn’t a strong rider yet.


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Feb 14 2013 at 9:18pm #

I saw a group once at Pedal Pittsburgh on a tandem, trailing a third wheel, pulling a trailer. I never understood how they managed to corner, but it seemed to work for them.

Edit: at least I think that was the set-up. That, or something equally outlandish!


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Feb 15 2013 at 8:59am #

I’ve done both with My Kids. Each are good for different purposes. As far as comfort, my kids never complained about the seat – in fact I think they liked it more because they were up higher and could see better. Another poster made a good point about age limitations – which I think is less about the age per se, than the child’s ability to keep their chin up, so to speak. The seat I had/have had a full harness and a huge plastic thing between the legs, so I never worried about them falling out, etc. In fact, my son had a habit of falling asleep on rides in that seat. Only important caveat I have regarding the seat is to always remember the weight back there – when you get off and on, it can make the bike unwieldy as the tyke gets bigger. I might have my old seat if you want it. (Gonna hold onto the trailer, though, but I see them on Craigslist from time to time).


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Feb 15 2013 at 10:18am #

I’ve done the bike-trailabike-trailer thing frequently; works fine.

Starting up, especially on a hill, can a little interesting, and I’d shy away from any significant descents for fear of hard braking leading to jackknifing.


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Feb 15 2013 at 10:32am #

I just want to comment on trailers if you decide to go that route. My trailer is very well made and I can haul a lot with it – but I hate it. It uses a mechanism that incorporates a spring to attach it to the bike. It’s a very secure connection, but you can feel the trailer yo-yo behind you. The trailer Nick rigged up with the stereo for Flock does the same thing. So if you come on the Flock ride tonight maybe you can try it and see what I mean. There are other systems though that don’t incorporate a spring which works much better. There was a trailer at last year’s try-a-bike that was awesome to pull – no yo-yo-ing at all.

the beast

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Feb 15 2013 at 12:14pm #

I used a trailer extensively while my kids were growing up (they are both finally out of it, and basicaly off the trail a bike).
As stated above, I think the first thing to make sure is that the child can hold their head up with a helmet on.

Some issues I have had over the years using a trailer:
1. For some reason the rail trails seem to purposely space those barriers to keep cars out at just the right distance for you to squeeze the trailer through, however if you say, try going through it with a bit of speed in near dark conditions with two cranky kids, it will not go well ;)
2. The first trailer we had was a nashbar trailer that clamped to the chainstay, as the boys got older (heavier) that clamp often slipped off no matter what I tried. I then swithced to a burley with a hitch that went into the rear triangle of the chain and seat stays and never failed me.
3. since the trailers usually connect to one side of the bike, they can tweak your rear wheel when you take off. It took me a few years and a bunch of wheel truings to figure this out for some reason. Im also a big guy and think that contributed to it.
4. If you put two kids in there, be mindful of who sits where. I had a few times where my older son was on the left (facing forward) side and making a sharp turn did cause the trailer tip once. The kids thought it was fun, however passing motorists where quite horrified.
5. even though I see people do it all the time. I would highly encourage you to put a helmet on the kid and keep the screen or plastic window down. Your back tire can kick up some nasty stuff back there.


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Feb 19 2013 at 8:34am #

Thanks to all for the information and personal experiences. Here’s a link with some more solid information and opinions, for those who are interested.

However, I’m still confused about the general rule that kids shouldn’t be in a bike seat or trailer until they are 1 year old. Most babies can sit up and have head and neck control at 5 or 6 months of age. I can’t imagine that wearing a bike helmet would make a 6 month difference.

the beast

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Feb 19 2013 at 12:50pm #

Having the ability to lift and hold your head for a short period can be one thing, but having to do it for a longer period on a bike that is constantly jostling you would be another. Im guessing the average is about 12 months and maybe reccomend getting a helmet and letting your child wear it around the house for a period to see how they hold up.


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Feb 20 2013 at 3:44pm #

I have 2009 Burley D’Lite ST trailer that I am going to try to sell this spring. It is in amazing condition. Paid $500-600 range new. PM me if you are interested. My twins are just too big for it now.


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Jun 4 2015 at 11:10am #

An alternative to the bike seat or trailer: a side car

from Scandinavian Side Car:

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