Biking With Kids

Toby, Anton and I bike everywhere — from the Dumbo carousel to the children’s museum to school to the grocery store. Since the last time I wrote about bikes was when Toby was a toddler, I’d love to share what we’ve learned about biking with two little dudes…

Biking With Kids

Back in my early twenties, I got my first bike in the city. It was a vintage Schwinn, and I remember feeling wobbly and nervous as I set out in the East Village. I felt like all eyes were on me! (Of course, no one cared.) But within a couple days, I felt strong and confident. You pick it back up so quickly.

Nowadays the bike makes the city feel small and navigable, and we all love the feeling of flying down the path with the wind in our hair. We have the SWEETEST conversations on the bike because we’re all so relaxed and chilled out. Anton is forever pointing out “ice geam gucks!” and, somewhat inexplicably, Toby often belts out songs from The Sound of Music.

Biking With Kids

In New York, you can ride with a child once they turn one, so we gave bike seats to the boys for their first birthdays.

If you have one young child, I would definitely recommend a front seat. You feel close and connected, since you can easily chat and point at things and see what they’re looking at. Plus, I find that having that extra weight in the front versus the back of the bike is easier for balancing. (Here’s a trick: Lean slightly forward and see how comfortable and in control you feel, and then lean slightly backward. It feels better to have that weight in the front, right?)

Once we had two kids on the bike, we put Anton in the front and moved Toby to the back. We chose the Yepp Maxi, which is comfortable and shock-absorbing. We also bought the seats at a bike shop, versus online, so that the expert bike guys could install them.

Biking With Kids

A few tips:

  • Make sure your own seat is high enough. It makes riding a million times easier. Your leg should be almost straight when the pedal is at the bottom. I often notice people with low seats, and I wish there were some way to tell them, “You would love biking so much more if you raised your seat two inches!” Another way to tell if your seat is the optimal height: You should be able to reach the ground on tiptoe with both feet at the same time.
  • Ease into it. If you’re new-ish to biking in New York City, you could start out riding in parks (Central Park and Prospect Park both have great loops that are regularly closed to cars) or on separate bike paths (like along the Hudson River Greenway) on your own; then move on to riding in the street; then move on to biking with kids. And you can always choose relaxed, not-too-crowded streets: Brooklyn riding feels a million times easier to me than midtown Manhattan!
  • Choose a chill route. Ride the City is a great app that tells you which streets have bike lanes. You can plug in your destination, and choose the “direct,” “safe” or “safer” route.
  • Accessorize. NYC law says you must have a bell, plus a white headlight and a red tail light if you’re riding at night. (We used to have this hamburger bell, which the boys loved!)
  • Protect your brain. Toby and I wear Bern helmets (adult and child) and Anton has a Lazer. It’s very important to make sure your helmets fit correctly; they should cover your child’s forehead and not slip back easily (for example, Anton’s is actually too far back in the photo above). Here’s a helpful video.
  • Take a class. If you’d like to learn to ride, you can take free classes all around the city. Most people learn to ride within two hours!

Biking With Kids

We also have a double kick stand, which helps keep the bike balanced when I’m lifting the kids on and off.

Biking With Kids

Biking together is our happy place, and Anton often begs to the point of tears to take a ride. It feels invigorating and breezy and magical, and it opens up the city in a wonderful way. After work, we can make it to the waterfront or a rooftop ice cream shop or Prospect Park. And apart from riding with kids, Alex and I often ride to dinner, down lovely winding streets; and I’ll ride to work and get to stretch my legs and feel energized before starting the day.

What about you? Do you ride with kids? Biking is so near and dear to my heart, so please leave any questions you have — about biking on your own or with little ones — in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer as best I can!

Update: To answer a few FAQs: I ride this Public bike; it’s a lightweight, seven-speed city bike. My dress is from the Sezane Madewell collection, although sadly I think it’s sold out!

P.S. Three great NYC bike rides, and Toby’s first “ride.”

(Photos by Christine Han for Cup of Jo)