When can you and your child ride together on a bike?

When can you and your child ride together on a bike?

Note - You should always consult your pediatrician before riding with your child on a bike or in a trailer. Bring your child’s helmet to the appointment and have them assess your child’s development and muscle strength. Please practice safe riding when biking with your child. 

A question that comes up often is “when can I ride with my child on a bike?” While the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that a child should be at least 1 year old, beyond this, there is not a clear and definitive answer. And how is it that bike seat manufacturers can state that children as young as 9 months old are able to safely ride in a bike seat? We’ll help you figure this out and guide you through the decision process to feel safe when riding with your child.

There are many factors that determine when your child is ready for their first bike adventure with you and we have a few guidelines to help you make an informed decision. We’ll cover helmet fit, developmental markers, age markers, state/regional laws and your own comfort level to help you decide when the right time is to ride with your child on a bike. 

For the purpose of this article we’re focusing on the “ride along bike seat” category. These are front-mounted seats where the seat is attached to the bike in a way that positions your child in front of you. There are a number of options ranging from the Thule Yepp Mini or the iBert seat to the Mac Ride bike seat (for older riders). If you’d like to know more about front-mounted seats, check out our write up. There are other options available, like trailers or cargo bikes that are great for riding with your child, but we’ll get into those later on.


Helmet Fit:

Our number 1 rule at Bambino Bikes is ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET! If your child is too small for a helmet, then you need to wait till they are bigger. No helmet means no go in our book! There are a number of options for a smaller helmet like the Nutcase Baby Nutty or the Kali Chakra Child XS helmet. Typically these helmets are certified for ages 1-3 years old, but can be worn by a younger child if approved by a pediatrician (see developmental markers below).

It’s important to get a proper helmet fit; one that is too loose will not be effective in an accident so it’s important to get a snug fit. Don’t shop for a helmet with the mindset of “I can get it a little big and they will grow into it…” NO! That’s not a good decision, helmets should be snug and well fitted to your child’s head. We have a writeup all abouthelmet sizing and fit if you have any questions. We also go into detail about CPSC certifications to make sure you’re purchasing a safe helmet. 

Developmental Markers:

So your child can wear a helmet, great! If your child is under 18 months old keep in mind that their bodies are still developing and they don’t have the same level of muscle control as an adult. A baby’s head is ¼ to ⅓ the total weight of their body. That’s a lot of weight to support and their neck muscles need time to develop the strength required to support their head. When riding a bike you’re going to encounter bumps and vibrations so it’s important that your baby is developed enough for this. And, do keep in mind that the added weight of a helmet affects their head control.

When considering developmental markers, it’s best to consult your pediatrician. Before we started riding with our son we took his helmet with us to the 9 month checkup. We asked our pediatrician to observe our son wearing the helmet, asked about vibrations and bumps on the bike, and their opinion of the helmet fit. Our pediatrician confirmed that our son was ready and really helped ensure us that he was developmentally ready to ride! 

Age Markers:

We feel that “age recommendations” are good guidelines, but they are not all that accurate. You’ve probably found this to be true when purchasing baby clothing, we certainly have. Since our son was 6 months old, he has been consistently wearing clothes that are 2-3 sizes beyond his “suggested age range”. On the flip side, his little sister who is 7 months old is still swimming in what is supposed to be 6 month clothing!

Because of this we don’t really like to use age as an indicator when it comes to readiness to ride a bike, or bike or helmet sizing. We will always suggest reference to actual weights and measurements of your child to get the most accurate assessment.

That said, as an example, our son was on a bike with us at 9 months old (as approved by our pediatrician), but with our daughter we fully expect that she will not be able to ride with us until around 12 months.

Age Restrictions by State:

Before you jump on a bike with your child, check your state laws. Each state and region has a different set of laws when it comes to bicycle riding and riding with a child. For example, New York state prohibits children under the age of 1 to be transported on a bike. Please follow all state and local laws where applicable.

Here’s a great summary of laws by state: https://bikeleague.org/StateBikeLaws

Parent’s Comfort Level: 

It can be intimidating riding a bike with your child, so it’s best to ease into this. We recommend that you install your seat of choice and ride around a bit BEFORE placing your child in it. Get used to how it feels with the seat attached, take note of any ride position changes that you need to make. Think about how you will dismount the bike since that’s probably one of the biggest changes to adding a bike seat. When you’re ready for your child to join you for the ride, start small! Little rides around the block are perfect to get them, and you used to riding. Before you know it you’ll both be riding off into the sunset with smiles of joy on your faces!

If you need help determining if you and your child are ready to ride bikes together contact a Bambino Gear Expert to give you guidance, but remember they are always going to recommend you consult your pediatrician for the final say! If you have a question or comment, please leave it below, we’re happy to hear from you.

Remember, always wear a helmet, and Let’s Adventure Together!

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