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.

Here's a link on how to properly fit a helmet to a child's head:

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Where do I start?

If you're like me, then you love your bikes.  You whiz around Boston never worrying about being stuck in a traffic jam or allowing for extra time in your commute to account for finding an elusive parking space.  You've discovered Boston in a way that is not possible by any other means of transportation.  Biking has become your lifestyle.

Then one day...

You are blessed with a tiny, wailing human being.  It's January.  Relatives buy you a car seat. You're stuck, back in the drivers seat, enviously watching others pedal past.  The good thing about being stuck in a traffic jam is that it allows plenty of time for one to contemplate and establish goals.  When I found myself in this predicament, my first and foremost goal was to discover a means to extract my child and myself from relying on automobiles.

We experimented with public transit, for awhile.  There is a bus stop at the end of my street and an extensive subway system three miles away.  It wasn't for me.  Seemed to me that people were reluctant to give up their seat for a father carrying a baby.  Buses sway a bit and I found keeping us upright on a moving bus to be a dealbreaker.  We went back to the car. 

I'd researched ways to strap my little girl to my bike, but she was too small, at the time, for most of the available options I'd found.  Beginning a bit past the age of one, I'd found a way for my daughter and I to ride together.  She's going to be five years old in a week and we ride together year round.  She loves it.  An effective discipline method is suggesting she shape up quick, else she'll have to ride in the car.  Our family has grown.  There are now two little girls.  We've bought and tried many products to enable us to ride together: a Topeak Co-Pilot II, a front mounted BoBike seat with a wind screen, a WeeHoo Trailer, a Burley Piccolo, a Strider bike, a 16" bike with training wheels, and most recently, a Cetma Largo.

In this blog, I'll share stories about what products and setups have worked and didn't work for us.  I'll also share some of our adventures.