Why a trailer ?
Many bike-trailers exist on the market, some brands are better than others, some are more expensive than others.
My aim was to choose a cheap one but good enough (I didn't want to invest 500€ in it !), which fulfilled the following conditions :
- Big in space, to be able to store extra gear, and possibly (!) a second child ;)
- With a third removeable front wheel to make it like a push-chair
- With suspension on wheels for not-so-flat trails
While looking at the Polish auctions portal Allegro I found what I needed. The brand is not very known. It is Infantastic, a german product (I'm not superstitious but many say it is a quality pledge, which was verified). It is called "Fahrradanhänger" in German and "Przyczepka rowerowa" in Polish.
However the aim of this article is not to advertise this very product, but bike trails in general, to help people deciding if they need it or not, and encourage those who do to buy it.
We did many rides (see the list on the left) and I am absolutely satisfied with the product. I could see so far just 3 little defects:
- The scratches to put the plastic rain-window are kind of weak, and too short, but we fixed it with stretchers (which help for a couple of other purposes, like attaching some extra gear on top, or some clothe to protect from the sun).
- The inner tubes are from the Hutchinson standard, not very common. I couldn't use them with my pump so I had to buy a pair of 20' standard inner tubes.
- The plastic endings on the wheel axis are kind of difficult to remove which make the dismounting a time-consuming task each time you need to pack it in the car. Pity because the rest is very quick to pack.
- The back-zip is not of very good quality and derailed lately.
As we ride, the trailer is located asymmetrically, slightly more on the left of the bike than the exact middle, but this does not disturb the way of riding, and more convenient if we want to stick on the border of a road. The net is not useful only against flies or mosquitoes, but also to avoid pieces of sand to land in it (unavoidable with any kind of brand...)
Behind the chair where the child sits is located a little space where we can store additional stuff, like clothes, a little rucksack, the usual gear to change the diapers, etc etc.
- Automatic pedals are a plus when cycling with a trail. They help having a more circular and homogeneous pedaling movement. A jerky pedaling movement is very uncomfortable for the baby as it tends to shake him to front and back. This phenomenon is even increased when the pedaling rhythm is synchronized with the frequency of vibration of the trailer (the trailer always tends to have a slight pitching movement, partly due to the spring near the attach, which is there to allow turns and soften shocks). The worse shaking occur when pedaling out of the saddle on a slope, which is absolutely to ban. On the contrary, it is recommended to always choose a slightly-too-long sprockets ratio, and pedal "strong and long" as much as possible.
- For the same reason, hardtails are better than suspended bikes, or if you have the possibility to lock the rear suspension, lock it.
- I would also strongly encourage to have disk brakes, or if normal brakes having them always in very good state: breaking suddenly involves an increased effort on them and they must work well to avoid accidents: with a sit or a trail, a collision is much more dangerous for the baby than for you. Also more advised on hilly routes with steep descents.
- The derailleur and the chain in good state are must-be conditions. Starting with a fully loaded trailer involves a terrible torque, an used chain that jumps will turn your ride into a nightmare. You will be also using much more willingly the low sprocket ratios when re-accelerating so make sure all is OK.
- Slick tires are better than MB tires with grip, because the later tend to throw more small pieces of sand and all kind of small debris backwards, that land into the trailer, and on clothes of the baby not to say sometimes directly in his face.
Trailer vs baby-sit
One might also ask whether a sit or a trailer is more convenient for cycling with a child. By coincidence, in the same moment I bought the trail, I was given a baby-bike sit, to attach on the bike itself, so I used both and am then able to provide some comparison.
The sit is best in the city where there is often no space for a wide and long trail, and in a countryside with narrow hilly roads, while the trailer is better on dedicated cycling tracks, and flat land. There is no predefined answer and each may decide according to the terrain. People living in Germanic countries might be more likely to buy the trail, while southern people the sit...
Be also aware that a baby can sleep in the trailer, while he can't on a sit and tends to fall head forward when it occurs unexpectedly, which isn't the best for the quality of the nap as well as safety...
Apart from this aspect, the sit is also more unstable, and less safe if we fall. The trail, on the contrary, it is absolutely stable, and much more comfortable to ride since the cycler is not supporting the total weight, but only his own weight. The ease is then much better, despite the constraint that we must turn widely and carefully to avoid touching occasional obstacles. The rear wheel is also relieved, with less chances to get flat while passing a step.
And the trailer can be put on all sorts of bikes, including full suspension, while a sit often can only be installed on hardtail bikes, because of the space the support takes on the vertical tube.
The only little minuses of a trailer is that it takes longer to install, and also there is a bigger air-resistance when cycling against the wind. This resistance is however reduced when putting the rain-window. The same rain-window is also a feature that can't exist on a bike-sit...
Finally let's mention that some children may have preferences for one or for the other. Some may dislike being placed on a low level and may prefer sit closer and as high as their parents, despite the lack of visibility. Some may find more fun the fact to be placed into something which is more like a vehicle, and that belongs more to them.
Our son so far has preferences to both, depending on the context. He enjoys the sit for short rides like to the kindergarten, but gets all excited when it's all about mounting the trailer, which suggests a longer ride in more unknown and adventurous environment.
Used as a push-chair, the trailer is also extremely practical, for several reasons:
- When dismounted, it is very flat and takes no space in the boot of the car. Which is not a neglictible detail when we have a large normal puschair.
- The large wheels are much more comfortable if we want for example to visit a touristic city on foot, pass over pedestrian walksides, steps, etc (see for example our visits of Graz or Berlin).
- There is extra space to store stuff that we would normally carry in a rucksack.. It really makes tourism more relieving and free when it's about walking outside.
- With the low position, the kid sits in it whenever he feels tired, or can get out of it in any moment
- He/she can keep nearby some stuff like the favourite teddy bear, the bottle of juice, a pillow to make a little siest, etc etc.
Winter use !
During the two last winters, I also bought for nothing a pair of used skis and built a support with wooden parts, in order to fix it under the bike trail. This funny idea came through my mind while watching some expensive trailer models manufactured in Scandinavia, and also compatible with ski for people who train on cross-country skiing. However my invention was used mostly on foot, and only once by bike (it requires a consistent snow, and studded tires...). However Nicolas was very glad to ride on the snow, laughing loud to see me running out of breath ahead of him, and no doubt he waits impatiently for next winter !
How and where to ride
Is is a section just meant to provide few ideas and show the kind of places where it is usually fun to ride with a trailer.
First, the most important is to keep in mind that it is not a functional tool for getting rid temporarily of the baby in order to ride quietly. The trailer is a great entertaining invention, for you but above all for him/her.
He or she should not take part in it passively, otherwise the risk is to discourage from using it and make them allergic to this activity. There must be regularly spots to stop and with something new to watch, they must participate in the expedition. Usually, when he/she got her bit of running and playing, the pleasure of sitting again inside, with new adventures awaiting, is doubled.
The above doesn't apply with a very young baby that can't walk. Contrary to what some excessively thoughtful parents may think, riding with a very small baby is not risky, as long as we stick to few rules: 6 monthes old at least; the trailer must be comfortable enough with a position that allows sleeping decently in it (not like our Infantastic but rather like the model above); the temperature must be reasonably warm, and the ground flat enough.
In order to fully enjoy riding a trailer, it is advised to find places :
- With a track reserved only for bicycles, or unfrequented secondary roads, ideally asphalted, paved, or flat clay; as flat as possible or with a steady gradient.
- With as few intersections as possible. Pulling a trailer reduces the speed, but what slows down the most is stopping and restarting again too often. Besides, the whole length of the bike and trailer might be delicate to handle safely in places with traffic.
- With a beautiful natural or artificial environment that regularly varies and offers possibilities of sightseeing (mountains, rivers), and/or even better, with playgrounds along the way (sandboxes, swings, slides)
Consequently, the kind of places where you have the most chances to find these features are, taking Poland and surrounding countries as an example :
* Along rivers, like :
- The Spree radweg
- The Elbe radweg (official page)
- The Bóbr river track
- The Odra banks
- The Vistula banks
- The track of the Pieniny gorges
- The path of the Poprad valley
- The French Canal du Midi
* Seasides, or even better, islands with no cars like :
- Thiessow and Reddewitz peninsulas
- Putbus & South Rügen
- Cape Arkona
- Hiddensee Island
- The French seaside of the Médoc
* Mountainous areas with steady tracks :
- Góry Izerskie
- Rejvíz region
- Marianna's road
- Marianna's road
- Autostrada Sudecka
* Around artificial lakes featured with paths :
* Combining large parks in cities :
- Wrocław south parks