bike helmet problem (and solution!) for travel in a bike trailer

Biking in November

I don’t know if you’ve run into this problem but I know that I wasn’t alone in my frustation when this became an issue for us last fall: when we moved C. from the iBert seat to the bike trailer, her helmet which had never bothered her before, became a constant source of frustration. That’s because the back of the trailer, especially once we were moving, would rub against the helmet and quickly cause it to push forward and down over her eyes. This was never an issue when traveling in the bike seat because there was nothing there for her helmet to rub against. Despite this problem, we had to switch to the enclosed Burley trailer once temperatures dropped because riding up front in an exposed bike seat with no wind protection was no longer feasible.

At our September Kidical Mass ride, other parents expressed the same ennoyance. And I knew from my friend (and fellow cycling mama) Bobbie that she had struggled with the same thing. The reason this became somewhat of an obsession is that C. stopped wanting to ride, crying the moment her vision became obstructed, and protesting the helmet all together. I admit to having taken her helmet off for a few short rides around the neighborhood because it was just easier to have her enjoy the ride than to listen to her frustrated cries. This, of course, was never going to be a viable long-term solution.

So here’s the very simply trick that helmed us fix this problem. Taking a cue from Bobbie,  we switched to a better fitting helmet that sits more snugly on her head. And we propped her forward by placing a folded blanket or towel behind her. Just enough to move her a couple of inches forward and away from the back rest of the trailer. This made for less rubbing while riding and fewer helmet-over-the-eyes occurances. It’s not a perfect fix but it worked well enough.

This Spring, I’ve noticed that C. is big enough that we no longer need that towel. She fits differently into the bike trailer than she did even a couple of months ago. Her helmet stays in the right position without any extra assistance. And I likely would have forgotten that this was ever even an issue had I not come across this photo (above) that shows the intentionally placed towel behind her.

I thought I’d post this in case you’re that parent just starting out with your toddler in a bike trailer and dealing with this same aggravation. This is an obvious fix but one that still bears mentioning since sometimes the most obvious solutions are the one we overlook.

Have you encountered problems in keeping helmets on your kids? What have been your creative problem solving solutions? Please share them in the comments with us!

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{Bikes, a new baby, and the story of us.}
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10 Responses to bike helmet problem (and solution!) for travel in a bike trailer

  1. I think we have also outgrown the stage where it was a big issue, but I’ll keep this in mind to pass on to others who might be having the same problem.

    Also simple, but a trick for making sure I don’t pinch my little guy’s neck when buckling the helmet — find something interesting up high in the garage or sky and ask him to look at that. The head tilted up makes buckling the helmet a cinch!

  2. Mama Bicycle says:

    Ah, rubbing problem in the cargo seems to mess your daughter up. But, it seems to be fixed naturally when your daughter grew. :) I think this is also one of the precious memories of our small children.

  3. Sarah says:

    Just remove the helmet. Seriously.
    Helmets are not designed to offer protection in a traffic collision, but more to stop heads hurting from the same kind of bump to the head if you fall over of fall from a pushchair.
    In fact the evidence is that a helmet is more likely to cause injury (increased risk of c-spine injury) than prevent them in the event of a road traffic collision.

    You wouldn’t put a helmet on your daughter in a pushchair would you? And she’s at far higher risk of a head injury in the car, but who expects parents to helmet their kids before getting in the car?

    If the helmet is creating problems, and your daughter is getting upset with it – get rid of it.

  4. Bobbie says:

    I actually got the idea for the blanket from one of your readers back when we did our trailer/bike seat reviews. I also noticed a few weeks back that we didn’t really need the blanket for T anymore. It seems to have helped stop him from falling to one side as we ride (a problem we ran into when it got colder and he needed to wear a bulky coat). It’s so much better to look back on him and see that he’s comfortable. At least we never went too far in the winter.

    Another helmet related issue we’ve run into over the past few weeks is that I haven’t been able too get his hat to fit under the helmet anymore. Thankfully, we haven’t been going out when it’s too cold, so we’ve been nixing the hat lately. It’d be nice if they’d stop growing and things could stay predictable for a full season, right? :)

  5. Hannie says:

    Love the simple solution. We simply don’t use a helmet. You might know that using helmets is not that common in the Netherlands. Helmets are heavily discussed over here, both in terms of the protection they offer and the reaction of other people. It is suggested that other people on the road are less careful in a situation where they see a kid wearing a helmet compared to a similar situation where the kid does not wear a helmet. I absolutely love our trailer. We have been bike commuting everywhere the past five weeks and we used our trailer every single day (without helmets). However I noticed that other traffic sometimes is annoyed by my trailer. With a trailer I take up more space. At roundabouts some people in cars are annoyed that my bike is followed by another obstacle. Some of them even have been giving me the finger. Because we use our bikes for trips to work and daycare we are traveling in the rush hours that might have something to do with it.

    Great to see that you are enjoying your trailer as well!

  6. grace says:

    oh my goodness we so have this problem! I adjusted our daughter Harriet’s helmet to make sure that it’s fitting snugly but the back of the seat STILL keeps pushing it forward. Harriet doesn’t fuss too much about it anymore, since she generally passes out as soon as we really get moving anyway, but I just couldn’t imagine it was very comfortable. I will most definitely be trying the blanket trick!


  7. Microzen says:

    I wish I’d read this post before this morning.

  8. Jessica says:

    Would you mind sharing what helmet you find to be most comfortable in the trailer?

  9. Tim says:

    I’m going to give this a try for our next ride with the baby in the Burley Bee. Our 1 y/o is ok with the helmet, but it eventually shifts over her eyes and drives her crazy.

  10. Ellen says:

    Thanks for the tip! My husband took my daughter out in our new Burley Bee bike trailer for the first time today. She didn’t like it because of the helmet issue. We will try the blanket idea tomorrow :)

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