One of the greatest joys in parenthood is introducing children to the wonders of the world, as we’ve personally ranked them. Camping under the stars, eating chocolate doughnuts with rainbow sprinkles, playing in the ocean, rooting for a hopeless sports team.
For most parents, the first year of a new baby’s life is a period of intense adjustment. It’s a blur of sleep deprivation, spit-up, and only brief hiatus from anything that doesn’t actively contribute to keeping a young family alive. Dreams of sharing a hot dog at the baseball stadium are put on hold while you learn to change a diaper in the dark, swaddle a screaming baby, and do laundry with one hand.
The one-year milestone is a major marker. It’s a mix of celebration and sentimentality. When the warm little loaf that used to sleep on your chest stands up and starts toddling out the door, “We made it!” becomes “Someone stop time!”
For cycling parents, the rush of time is softened by a milestone of a different sort. One year is the age at which the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) gives its official nod to biking with baby.
After that first birthday, cycling parents no longer have to wonder, “Are those bountiful baby thighs the mark of a stoker in the making? Will she even like biking? She has to like it more than the car seat, right?”
My older son’s first ride was brief and exhilarating. We propped him up with blankets inside a trailer hitched to my husband’s bike. I stood on the curb with a camera, an insane smile, and a brain that flip-flopped between “Look at him go!” and “Are those straps tight enough?”
One of the biggest decisions cycling parents make is how to bring their children along. The AAP recommends trailers rather than baby seats, saying, “a young passenger on an adult’s bike makes the bike unstable and increases braking time.” However, trailers have the disadvantage of being closer to traffic, and farther from mom or dad.
Noleta resident Karen Field spent a considerable amount of time researching options for her baby, finally settling on a rear-mounted seat. “The details of the set-up were overwhelming at first, but once I actually got the seat it was easy.”
Field has been a competent cyclist for years, but she carefully considers destinations before setting off with 16-month-old Alexander, “We stay away from high traffic areas and bike on sidewalks when necessary.”
For Joanna Tse, a Santa Barbara mother of three, it was a given that her newest child would join in the family’s two-wheeled fun. “We bike as transportation, to be healthy, and nice to the environment all the time, so we bike with baby, too.”
Tse’s one-year-old, Oliver, is an enthusiastic participant in the rides around town. “He loves being close to me and seeing things along the way. He squeals with delight on hills. He loves the bike and asks to go on it.”
As for our own son, we kept his first ride short, building distance, endurance, and confidence over time. Between the rear-mount seat and the trailer, he has spent well over a thousand miles biking with us. Today, at 4 years old, he often cruises the driveway on his own two wheels.
This summer we hit the one year marker once again, as our second son celebrated his first birthday. After watching his older brother from the wings, he was more than ready for a ride.
I snugged his helmet straps, clipped him into the seat, and pedaled off. During our brief roll up and down the road, he put his hands in the air like a kid on a rollercoaster, then he leaned back and smiled.
I know the feeling, and I’m so glad to have the chance to share it.