Sunday, January 27, 2013

Baby Steps

My first adventure into strapping a child to my bike involved the Topeak Co-Pilot II (now marketed as the BabySeat II).  This model of child seat jumped out to me as it was immediately familiar.  I recall watching adults carry children on bikes with similar devices, ever since I was a child.  It must be the best option, right?  I couldn't wait to install her on the back on my bike.  I'd never installed a child's seat on a bike, before.  I found the directions to be clear and was able to complete the install after about forty minutes of mild cursing. 

Wish I'd known how to properly fit a helmet, back then!
The first ride was magical.  We were free!  We live atop a large hill.  In order to reach the day's destination, a playground, we headed straight down it.  I rode the brakes a bit.  It took me a few rides before I felt confident enough to coast down the hill with my baby on board at full speed.  My daughter loved the ride.  She let go quite a few gleeful shouts of  "Wheeeeeeee!".  From that day on, we've been able to get around the city, for the most part, car free.  Common destinations for us include playgrounds along the the Southwest Corridor Bike Path, the Franklin Park Zoo, and JP Licks.

Pros for the Topeak Co-Pilot II:
  • It got us out of the car.
  • It enabled me to share my love of cycling with my child.
  • It enabled us to experience the world from the same vantage point.
  • It is sturdy.
  • It secures and protects the passenger.
Cons for the Topeak Co-Pilot II:
  • It was awkward for me to mount and dismount my bike with this carrier.  I found I would strike the seat with my foot, occassionally.  My bike has a top tube.  I think these types of seats lend themselves to be easier mounted from step-through or mixte framed bikes.
  • It was awkard to add/remove my child from the seat in wide open spaces.  Since my kid was behind me, I had to get off the bike before I was able to unstrap her.  This was best accomplished by leaning the bike against a wall or fence.  In wide open spaces, such as parks and fields, I would ask friendly looking strangers to hold my bike for me while I loaded or unloaded my daughter.
  • As you may see in the picture, above, the neck strap was uncomortable and my little girl would pull it from her neck.  I recommend adding a pad.
  • It was difficult carrying supplies.  This seat precludes the use of rear panniers. I carried goods in a backpack or in a messenger bag.  The bag would strike the seat and was uncomfortable.  I recommend installing a front rack and/or a basket for hauling goods with this type of seat.
I like this child seat.  It worked for us and the price was right.  I was unaware of front-mounted options like the ibert or the bobike, at the time.  Knowing what I know now, I've no regrets.

PS.
Here's a link on how to properly fit a helmet to a child's head:
http://www.nhtsa.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/bike/easystepsweb/