biking with kids: the bike trailer vs the ibert seat

IMG_8095 This is how we roll.

We’ve been biking with the bike trailer (pictured left) for the past couple of weeks and I now feel comfortable writing a post comparing the trailer with the the iBert seat (pictured right). We initially switched from the bike seat to the trailer because it offered more wind and cold weather protection. But even on days when the weather rose to unexpected highs (we had 70F in November last week!), I still found myself using the trailer. Do I prefer the trailer to the bike seat altogether? Nope, I still think the bike seat has a lot of advantages to offer but there is also a surprising ease and comfort to using the Burley. For instance:

The Burley Bike Trailer:

I expected it to feel more cumbersome to pull the trailer behind me but it took me much less time to get used to it than I thought. We have a Burley Solo, which also has a smaller footprint than a two-child trailer and it is much narrower than the double trailer.

The extra weight is noticeble compared to the child seat but I can pull it up even the steepest hills in our town using a three-grear bike with moderate effort. Not having the child seat in front of me also allows me to stand up and pump my legs extra hard when needed.

The things I love best about this set-up is that I don’t have to worry about the weather too much and that I can carry so much more stuff with me. The Burley trailer comes with a little “trunk space” and I have also put a grocery bag or two inside the trailer at C’s feet. As much as our bike seat and crate system worked for this past summer, I do love the extra cargo space that I have now. In fact, I’ve gotten so excited about being able to grocery shop or run errands by bike that I added a Jandd grocery pannier and the Po Campo Loop pannier to my set-up. How much can I carry by bike? I’m excited to keep pushing and testing those limits!

(For some excellent tips on carrying groceries, kids, and even furniture by bike, see Elly Blue’s Everyday Bicycling!)

Bike trailer nap

I also love that C. can nap really well in her little pod and that she can also have access to snacks, books, toys, or whatever else she might want to take with her for our trip. Although she would fall asleep in the bike seat, the naps she takes in the trailer are much deeper and easier to settle into. In fact, she naps too well in there and has been preferring trailer naps to crib naps lately, much to mama’s dismay.

Fall cycling with my daughter

Lastly, the Burley unhooks from my bike in a matter of minutes and with no special tools. The other day, I biked C. to our childcare coop, dropped her off, unhooked the trailer from my bike, and biked to my next destination without any of the child carrying extras that I need when having my daughter along. When I would drop her off using the child seat, I would continue on with an empty child seat on my bike that is not my favorite thing to have between me and the handlebars when there isn’t a cute little baby to make up for it.

The iBert Bike Seat:

I miss our interractions! I used to narrate everything along our route and watch C. take in so much and learn so quickly. I miss seeing that little finger point to the crossing light sensor, imitating my actions and learning the rules of the road. I miss seeing her point to birds or squirrels or construction sights. Her experience in the trailer is much more introverted with her focus being on her books, toys, or snacks and much less on the things passing us by along our route. While there is a certain level of ease and comfort to riding in a cushioned trailer stocked with goodies, it also lacks a bit of the openness that makes travel by bike so wonderful and different from riding in a car.

IMG_6700

High Trestle Trail Ride in Iowa

Wiht the bike seat, my bike is decidedly lighter. It also feels safer seeing her up there with me than constantly looking back and checking on her behind me and worrying about drivers noticing the trailer. We added a flag to the trailer for added visibility and I added a mirror on my handlebars because I found myself looking back at the traffic coming up behind me all.the.time.

But other than that…

Overall:

Both systems have their pros and cons! The bike seat is perfect for having little ones be so much more involved in the biking experience but the bike trailer is more amenable to a commuter lifestyle (picking up groceries, dropping off library books, venturing out by bike even in less than perfect weather, etc.) For now, I like having the option of both systems and since space and storage is not an issue, I have my mountain bike with the iBert still attached as well as my Peugeot for pulling the trailer all ready to go in our garage. Just call them my summer and my winter “cars.”

**

What about you? Do you use a bike seat, a bike trailer, a bucket bike, or an Xtracycle? What do you love or not love about your current system and what upgrades would you make if you had the option? 

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About simplybike

{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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15 Responses to biking with kids: the bike trailer vs the ibert seat

  1. anniebikes says:

    My children are now 10 and 13 years old, but I used both systems.

    With only one child, (and thinking we’d have only one child) I bought the same Burley as you now have. Coming from a touring background, the additional weight was not a big deal at all. Burleys are extremely well designed. My boy used to sleep his naps in there also, which allowed this anxious mamma time out to exercise. Fresh air is really good for naps so that never bothered me. Often I would leave him in our driveway and would occasionally check on him. I did feel constrained to our bike path, however, because having him so far behind and low was unnerving. Also it didn’t ultimately fill our lifestyle for a transportable option. We’d often do driving vacations and the trailer is not an easy thing to break down or store in a car. And while it allowed me more cargo space, I also became concerned that he would grow bored. I wished I’d purchased the double trailer to have the ability to haul a friend along with us. The final straw was that even with the screen protector, the road dust used to collect all over my son. After 3 years I got rid of the trailer. Fortunately, Burleys are easily resold because of their quality and reputation.

    About that time along comes son number two. I got a seat that slides onto the back rack (Rhode Gear, I think). This proved to be much better for our three year old. there was more interaction: he could still nap; and I could easily manage to ride through traffic, do errands, shop and not be restricted to the bike path. The shifting weight is more an issue though and I had to compensate, even pleading with him to stay still at times. Ultimately this was a better option for us and we bought another seat for the back of my husband’s bike to haul the younger guy when he was old enough. This allowed us to go camping, bring bikes, and to go on vacations and explore rail trails.

    We are lucky to have numerous options available. What works for some lifestyles, obviously does not work for everyone.

    • simplybike says:

      I don’t know what we’ll do once we have another child because our current system will likely have to change. But as you said, Burleys are so easy to resell on Craigslist (where we got our to begin with) that it was a worthwhile purchase even if we don’t end up using much after a second child comes along. Although I was thinking that the iBert + Burley Solo would work well for at first…

  2. Ann Wyse says:

    Interesting! I think – should you ever move to a double trailer – you’ll find it not much wider of a footprint. I’m always surprised where I can squeeze through with mine.

    Another thing to consider is safety. A few years ago, my friend was in a biking accident while carrying her three kids with her. One was in a bike seat, and the other in two in a trailer. The two in the trailer faired far better (although the trailer tipped they were scratchless) than the one in the bike seat (he broke his arm). I suppose it depends on the type of accident. Not that we want to think about these things.

    • simplybike says:

      I think there’s a perceived safety of having the child up front in a seat but the truth is that they are more protected within a trailer. It just feels like the opposite. I feel more condfident with her up in front of me than back behind me where I can’t see her as well and where I have to worry about cars seeing her. But you’re totally right – the trailer does offer an extra layer of protection which is nice.

  3. I was just thinking about doing a similar post!

    So far we just have a Chariot two-seater trailer. It makes the bike a lot heavier, yes, but I don’t mind that at all. I do worry about cars not seeing her, though we’ve had a flag on it from day one. The main problem is that my daughter (now 8 months old) doesn’t really like it. She spends most of her time back there crying. Each time we’ve used it we’ve had to stop multiple times to calm her down before putting her back in. Repetition doesn’t seem to be helping in any way.

    On a recent trip to Holland, we tried out one of those front-riding seats, and she was totally happy. I haven’t gotten one of my own yet (and getting it is going to require me getting another bike as the one I want won’t attach to my racing bike), but am dying to. Her hatred for the trailer is keeping me home far too often.

    • S. says:

      Nikki,
      that’s the exact reaction our daughter had to the trailer when we first started her in it. She was 10 months old and she HATED it. We couldn’t even buckle her in because she was screaming. That’s what inspired us to try the front of the bike seat. That she loved instantly. No tears, just smiles. So that’s what we used all summer long.

      This fall though, because of the cold, we decided to give the trailer another try. I think because she’s bigger now (at 15 months) and fills out the seat differently, it’s a different experience for her. She no longer cries at all. We also use a folded up towel behind her to sort of boost her forward a little. Something she won’t need when she’s a little bigger still.

      I guess I would say that if you like the trailer option, don’t write it off yet. She might come to like it when she’s just a bit bigger and the fit is different. But a seat was a definite success from the start, so if you could have the option of both, I bet that would really make getting out by bike easier!

      S.

  4. Katrina says:

    Hi S! I have a panniers/carrying stuff question. I’m a student who would like to commute to campus on my bike – about 3 miles each way – but I have to carry my laptop and a few heavy books, etc. back and forth every day. Now that you’ve had both a crate and panniers, which do you think would be better for that use? And if you think the panniers would be better – is there a style you’d recommend? I’m a little overwhelmed by all the options! Thanks so much – and those overalls on C are unbelievably cute :).

    • simplybike says:

      Hi Katrina,

      I have carried my laptop in my bike basket (both front and back), in a crate, and lately, in my two new panniers. I would say that any of those options work just fine, I’ve never had a problem with them. The only thing I like about a pannier is that you can take it along with the laptop, books, etc inside when you arrive whereas with the crate or bike basket, you need another bag to make the transport between bike and library. I got the PoCampo Loop pannier (linked to in this post) because it works as both a briefcase/computer bag and a pannier. It has a shoulder strap and the mounting mechanist that goes on the bike is very minimal. That means that it is easily popped off the bike and hoisted over my shoulder and used as a bag. It’s a little pricier of an option than a milk crate but I like the versatility so it was worth the investment in the end.

      Hope that helps!
      S.

    • Rachel says:

      Hi Katrina, just jumping in here as I’m a grad student who commutes to campus by bike and carry a laptop daily and frequently books as well. I actually put my laptop in a backpack with special cushioning for laptops. I have a front basket but no panniers, and put files/books in my front basket, but wouldn’t put a laptop there because of the bouncing around – not very good for fragile electronics, IMO, but it may depend on your daily commute. Unfortunately the roads are not very even here so there is a lot of movement which I’m not comfortable with for my most prized possession! I would be hesitant to use panniers for the laptop either because of the jarring motions as well.

      • Katrina says:

        Thanks so much S & Rachel – terrible roads here too, so maybe I need a crate for books and a backpack for just the laptop. Thank you!

  5. Mama Bicycle says:

    Hi. Honestly, I have not used such a trailer. Let’s see, Mama Bicycles ( family mamacharis ) has a big front passenger seat on the handle. I think this front seat has both functions of the trailer and the i Bert Bike seat. We can seat a child whose weight is under 33lb (15 kg ) in the front passenger seat. In fact, my youngest daughter is 4 years old and I always seat her in it. I started to seat her when she was one and nine month years old. Yes, we can seat a child in the front basket over two years. I like to talk with her while biking. This is mainly because I always want to let people outside Japan try this. :) Ah, a bit too long? Sorry.

  6. Christina says:

    I think you summed up the majority of reasons I loved using the trailer (although I never tried a seat like iBert). I just simply loved the ability to cart more items around, a grocery bag, snacks for the kiddo, etc. My daughter also enjoyed putting the dog in with her. Now she is too big for the trailer and I can use the entire thing for grocery runs. I found we are no where near ready to get rid of our trailer … so many additional uses :) Looking forward to seeing how your winter-cycling will go!

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