Trailers, Child Seats, Trail-Gators, Tag-a-Longs &
Read my review on cycling with all 5
From 6 weeks old I've tagged our young daughter behind me using all 5 of the above methods. I'm no expert by any means but both my daughter and myself can now boast in excess of 3,000 miles together. Not always a smile for each mile I can assure you, but she has enjoyed her overall riding experiences to date.
How did it all start then? In 2006, I had just completed the C2C for charity, about 5 weeks prior to Summers birth. I had already cycled for many years and was very reluctant to loose the fitness I had built up that year for the C2C so I began my search for a way to continue once Summer arrived.
I recalled quite a few years earlier cycling with my older daughter Sam in a trailer, and how much she enjoyed the experience. This being the obvious route I started looking at kiddie trailers to tow along behind us. We found a trailer at a great price on Ebay, the journey begins.
This trailer imported from Germany has seen so much use including shopping, family visits to Burnley & Darwen, a taxi for the many teddies that came along and even at one stage was shared at the same time by Summer and our new Puppy, Jake.
Our first outing in this was a trip along Blackpool's promenade when she was just 6 weeks old. Vicky, and Myself experimented with a few ways of securing her in the trailer before opting for the easiest way of a car child seat strapped inside and secured at all four corners. Best thing about this was the gentle rocking motion, Summer would be fast asleep within minutes.
As I've mentioned, we travelled all over with the trailer, and it was still highly in use well after Summers 4th birthday, money very well spent. Huge benefits of the trailer, are obviuosly the storage behind the seat, we've taken an entire family of teddies out on picnics, we would do a regular shopping trip and even more regular was the cake and juice runs.
Trailers, once you've towed them a few times are surprisingly easy to pull along, obviously on the hills we were much slower but we weren't in a rush so if you just take your time and plod on you can go anywhere. I often think there was more weight in the baggage Summer took on every trip than in the trailer and Summer put together.
Safety's always an issue and no less important when travelling with your little loved ones. I've thought now for quite some time that travelling with Summer has vastly improved my all round awareness. Whenever I would tow Summer, I would raise my level of awareness of what was going on at all times around me. It didn't take long before riding like this just became second nature to me, regardless of riding solo or towing, it just made sense.
So as well as being aware of traffic all around, I used a big orange flag sticking out at the back of the trailer, I would sit up as tall as I could when riding and also use lights wherever possible. We can never erase the risks altogether, but we can reduce them. All things we do in life carry a risk, being aware of those risks is the 1st step to being ahead of the game.
The next step on the way was the child seat. The seat I went for attached to my bike via a Blackburn pannier rack and secured clicking into place and using safety straps. We bought this seat when Summer was about 18 months old, and used this for almost 3 years until she was just too tall to fit into the straps safely.
A fantastic way of travelling, it's light, super fast to place on the bike and keeps your little one close enough to have constant questioning from them, although there is a downside in that anything you carry must be carried on your back. The pannier rack is occupied by the child seat so there's no room for pannier bags at all.
Next step along is the Trail-Gator, this coupled with the Tag-a-Long was my least favourite way of travelling with Summer.
This combination pictured above took us all over the place, and most often with Summer leaning either to the right or the left. Our longest journey on this was over to Townley Park in Burnley then to see family before riding back, just short of 30 miles in total, all done when Summer was a ripe old age of 5.
The main benefit with this combination is the connecting bar which you can collapse in the middle and if you have flip up stabilisers you can unconnect the two of you and your child can ride for a while on their own. Leaving your pannier rack free also allows you to carry bags on the rack. The only down side I found was the constant lean to one side or the other, this took a while to get used to but after a while it became a normal thing. It wasn't until riding through the Blackpool Ride the Lights that I realised how badly the bike leaned, I followed somebody with the same unit as we had and I got chance to look at how far over they lean.
Next enters the Tag-a-Long. Strangeley enough, we have no pictures of Summer on the Tag-a-Long. We only had this for a short time. Still long enough to get some quite big rides in though, our longest ride on this was just a tad under 40 miles, ridden when Summer was just 6 years old.
Very similar to the Trail-Gator, the Tag-a-Long differed in that it only had a rear wheel. A bigger front crank and a smaller rear cog allows the rider to not only pedal, but make a difference to the whole drive effort being put in. Words of encouragement make your child believe they are making a massive difference, I used to ask Summer to press on the pedals, and then immediately step up the pace making her think we was going faster due to her efforts.
The biggest downside to our Tag-a-Long was the weight, it was so heavy that again, hills left us wallowing but, slowly does it and we still got up there. They still lean albeit not quite as bad.
As we progressed and decided a Tandem was the way forward, I contacted Ruth from JD Tandems and was very kindly offered a test ride on a new Dawes Duet kiddyback Tandem. Vicky, Summer and myself headed off and made a day of it in the Yorkshire Dales, having a really enjoyable first ever ride on a Tandem. We headed out from Gargrave and rode a little short ride of about 10 miles in which Vicky rode the tandem as well. Totally hooked we knew which way our cycling was now heading.
I can't thank JD Tandems enough, their service, advice and friendliness is as good as you could ever wish to recieve.
The Yellow Peril, our Kiddyback Tandem
Bought again off Ebay, this was last years absolute bargain buy. We paid £304.00 for this tandem plus a Pendle Roof Carrier, valued at almost £200 on it's own.
So we came back from Spain and travelled to Leeds to pick up the Yellow Peril. Not really aware of what to expect as the photos on Ebay wasn't doing it any justice. When we arrived we saw a dull, uncared for looking Tandem, but still better than I had hoped for, a few hours of TLC brought it up to a better than average standard.
We had a couple of short rides first of all, just getting the feel before we headed off on our first group ride late August last year. A poorly chosen ride down through Old Langho and back via Painter Wood - it was as bad as any of my worst nightmares.
The main problem at the start was being totally unaccustomed to the added weight. As we slogged our way up that hill and every sinew in my legs screamed abuse at me, I was thinking of nothing else but how I would word the article when I placed Yellow Peril back on Ebay for sale that evening.
Now, 7 months on and having spent a little money on a much needed service at On Yer Bike, we now ride regulary and ride as a team. That's the secret of making it work for both of you, it's a team effort that requires practice and patience to get it right.
I've wrote an article about what it's like up front and from the rear, have a read here
This now takes us to this very proud and long awaited stage, Summers 1st solo ride. Since this 1st ride she has now ridden under her own steam on quite a few of the shorter rides, the longest being just over 20 miles last September.
Very proud, and very keen to continue encouraging this as a way forward for her, Vicky and myself haven't had an easy ride all the time, but perservering has been worth it.
We have a family holiday booked this year to the South of France bikes and all. We will be cycling for half the holiday and on one of our days we will be having a go at Mont Ventoux, it would be rude not to wouldn't it?
Rather than horrify Summer, she's actually quite excited to be travelling with our bikes and riding up a mountain that has been used by Tour de Francers, as Summer calls them - We haven't the heart to tell her just what to expect.
So that's our story of where we've come from and how we've arrived at where we are now. As I've said it's not an easy journey but it's a worthwhile one, and if we can be of any help in either offering advice or encouragement you can contact either Vicky or myself on the emails below