How To Start Cycling with A Toddler



Jul 16, 2021

Share your joy of cycling with your toddler by bringing them along! Road cycling can be safe, as long as you have the right equipment and take the necessary precautions you and your toddler will have a great time out! My toddlers love it!

In this article you will find the gear needed to cycle with your toddler and the options available and what I personally use. I also go through some common questions and suggestions for how to make it exciting for your toddler.

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. Rest assured all products I suggest are products I have bought or would buy based on personal experience or through my network of other mothers!

Toddler on bike with back bike carrier
Cycling with a Toddler: Back Seat Carrier

When Can a Baby Go On the Back of a Bike?

Before taking your child on your bike you want to ensure no damage will be done. The American Academy of Pediatrics has the following to say:

Infants younger than 12 months are too young to sit in a rear bike seat and should not be carried on a bicycle. Do not carry infants in backpacks or frontpacks on a bike.  Baby On Board: Keeping Safe on a Bike Article

It is important that your child have the proper neck control before going on a bicycle ride. Please speak to your pediatrician if you have any concerns.

I started taking both my boys right after their first birthday and didn't have any issues.

Gear you will Need to Cycle with a Toddler

Bike Helmet for Your Toddler

Safety first you will want to make sure you have a properly fitting bike helmet for your child. For a toddler an adjustable helmet works great. Some brands even give you the option to add on additional foam supports to ensure the right fit.

I use the Ouwoer's Kids Bike Helmet and think it is a great helmet for my toddlers. The chin strap is adjustable and there is an adjuster in the back to tighten the helmet once it is in place. The helmet came with additional foam supports that used for my second son. He has an elongated shaped head and the additional foam pieces allowed us to adjust the fit of the helmet to his head.

Cycling Bib Shorts

An important word of advice for road cycling mommas, wear cycling bib shorts! This makes all the difference for your rear end and makes for a much more comfortable ride for you.

I prefer to wear the shorts option rather than the bib overalls. The shorts make it easier if you stop and use the restroom. In a cycling bib, as a female, you first have to take your shirt off before you could use the restroom.

Cycling bib shorts have padding built into the shorts in the right spots and you DO NOT wear underwear with.

Toddler Bike Seat Options For You Bike

The biggest question you probably have is how are you going to be towing your little one around. There are three main choices a rear seat, a front seat or a bike trailer. You can read my full article on baby and child bike seats.

Toddler Boy on bike carrier at the park
My two boys love to ride to the park on our bikes

Front Mount Toddler Bicycle Seat

A toddler front mounted bicycle seat is a great option for a toddler and provides the best view. Your toddler can look around and be close enough to you to engage in conversations. The seat normally attached to the top tube underneath the handlebars.

A downside is that a front mounted bicycle seat can normally only be used until your child is 3 years old. A back mounted bicycle seat normally lasts a couple extra years. Also as the rider your arms will be going around the front seat which changes your riding position. This is better for an upright handle bar bike configuration, but less attractive option for a road bike with drop handlebars.

With the front mounted bicycle seat the weight of your child is in front, which most find a better balance than the weight in the back. I find it easier to get on and off the bike than a back mounted bicycle seat however the front seat changes my riding form.

The Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini Child Bike Seat is a great front mounted bike seat for baby. It has a 5 point harness, shock-absorbing seat, lightweight and soft seat padding.

Back Mounted Toddler Bicycle Seat

A toddler back mounted bicycle seat attaches to either the seat tube or onto a rear carrier rack. The toddler sits behind you and the closer you can position the seat to you the better the balance you will have on the bike.

back mounted toddler bike seats
My two toddlers on Hamax rack mounts

My two toddlers on Hamax rack mounts

This is a great option that lasts longer than a front mounted bicycle seat, normally age range is 1-5 years. Back mounted seats often are more comfortable for a toddler and mine have known to fall asleep in them. Although your toddler is looking at your back they have an unobstructed view if they look out left and right.

Bicycle Trailer for Toddler

A bicycle trailer gives you the most options with the choice of a 1 or 2 seater. A bicycle trailer normally will attach to the rear axle of your bike or the seat post. A trailer commonly has a canopy over the trailer keeping your passengers less exposed to the elements.

Most bicycle trailers also double as a stroller, such as the Burley Encore X. When removed from your bike a front wheel can go on and you can use as a stroller. Each trailer will have a weight limit which you should consider, but normally will hold up a child as long if not longer than a rear mounted bicycle seat.

A bicycle trailer will be the wider and longer option, especially when you use a double seater. For this reason I find this option not ideal for road riding, but very practical for tow paths, bike paths, beach boardwalk and less populated areas.

My Preference as a Road Cyclist

I primarily like to ride on the road with relatively small tires and drop down handlebars. For me the best option is the rear mounted bicycle seat for my toddlers, although I can only carry one at a time.

best toddler bike seat

If I ride on a tow path or out in the country the bicycle trailer works great, especially since I can transport 2 children.

I use the Hamax Caress Child Bike Seat, Rack mount. I based my research on reliability and price points. The carrier had to be safe, but also reasonably priced and last for many years.

The Hamax fit my criteria and for 3 years we have been happy with it. The seat has ultra shock absorption and when I go over a rocky section of the road my boys aren't bounced up and down; their ride remains smooth.

The bike seat has a non-slip shoulder strap that goes over the toddlers head and connects in-between their legs keeping them in place, as well as straps to keep their feet locked in place. It also has a reclining seat for sleep positions from 0-20 degrees. Both my boys have fallen asleep on rides.

My husband and I liked the seat so much we now have two of them, one for each of our bikes. We can now take both our toddler boys on a bike ride together.

two road bikes with bike carriers attached
My husband and I's bikes parked at the park

The Hamax bike seat can either fit onto a bike rack or frame. I already had a back rack for cycle touring set up on one of my bikes. This was a great back rack for the Hamax bike seat.

Hamax Bike Carrier with toddler
My second sons first ride on the bike, he loved it!

Funny story, when we started taking my oldest on the bike he only knew a couple of words; he was only one! This boy loved going on the bike, and when we got home he would go through all the words he knew that were associated with the bike. "Bike, Momma, Puddle, Hat", he would say these on repeat for hours!

"Puddle" because the route I took him on had a lake overlook, and he called all bodies of water a puddle. "Hat" because we had him wear a helmet and he it a hat.

I would put him down for a nap and hear him saying these 4 words over and over again on the baby monitor until he fell asleep. Thinking about it melts my heart!

How to Pick a Route when Cycling with a Toddler

The stability of your bike changes with a toddler on it. When you stand up on your bike to go uphill you will feel like your bike is more unsteady. I prefer to sit and change to lower gears than stand up and power through a hill. Do not stand unless you feel comfortable.

I plan routes with, it's free, and allows you to monitor the steepness of the route. Anything above 8% gets too difficult for me and I avoid it. I then can download the route on to my Garmin device, which clips onto my bike. The Garmin allows me to see my route and get play by play directions.

Garmin device also records my rides and provides all my stats (speed, distance, route, etc.). I enjoy reviewing my workouts after they are complete.

If you continue to cycle with your toddler I would highly recommend a Garmin for your bike. You can download pre planned routes and save all your exercise activity, I have owned one since 2014 when I started commuting to work in London.

Riding with a toddler on the back is HARDER than without. When I started cycling with my toddler he weighed about 25lbs and going uphill was a tremendous amount of work. However, I love challenges and the extra weight meant a better workout! And sharing something I love to do with my kids is 100% worth it! Don’t give up!

How to Dress A Toddler for Cycling

Remember your toddler will not be cycling, whichever way they are on your bike. They will not be generating heat and will feel the elements, unless zippered into a bike trailer.

Dress your toddler warmer than yourself. Add at least an additional layer if not two. A windbreaker as the top layer on my toddler is my go to if not sunny and warm.

Overall Tips for Road Cycling with a Toddler:

  • Make sure you are familiar with the bike before taking your toddler
  • Pick non-busy roads to ride on, or bike paths if you prefer
  • Always bring a spare tube, pump or gas and bike lever
  • Water water water!
  • Wear cycling bib shorts, your butt will thank me later
  • Start off slow, don’t anticipate an hour-long ride for your toddlers first time, wait till both you and your toddler are comfortable on the bike
  • Ensure your toddler's helmet fits properly
  • Sunscreen your toddler before the ride

How to Make A Toddler Excited about Cycling on your Bike

  • Find routes where you can stop off at a park or café and let them off to play
  • Read books about bikes, find my top 9 favorite toddler books
  • Let them chose where they want to go sometimes
  • Let them pick out a special cycling outfit they only wear when on the bike
  • Get them their own bike

Once you start riding with your toddler, he/she will be eager to get a bike of their own. Read my article on different toddler bikes and which type is best. Also check out my Strider Bike review; both my toddlers ride a Strider bike.

How Cycling has Changed My Life

Cycling has been a big part of my adult life. I moved to London when I was 24 and at the time never really cycled except as a kid riding my bike down the neighborhood street. Then came Alex, this tall 6' 7" British guy, whom I met playing Ultimate Frisbee. He was an amateur bike racer in England and, thanks to him, I fell in love with cycling and him!

Back in the day I used to cycle to work, a 22-mile ONE WAY trip. This took me 1.5 hours one way and a 3 hours a day commute! Was I a little over the top crazy when I was younger? ABSOLUTELY! But aren’t we all?

Fast forward a couple years, Alex and I quit our jobs to cycle-tour Asia before ultimately moving to the States. In 4 months, we cycled about 5,000 km (3,200 miles) covering China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand. And yes, ALL BY BIKE! I could go on and on about stories (please message me if you are interested).

But now I mostly cycle with my toddler or when I have a babysitter :-)

Hope this helps and your toddler loves riding with you as much as mine do! Let me know if you have any questions.