Washington D.C. Bunch Ambassador explores the Whys, Whethers, and Hows
Bunching with Babies
By: Lelac Almagor August 5th, 2020
One of my favorite things about being a Bunch ambassador is that I get to meet a lot of families with kids around the same age as mine -- big enough to get shuttled around to daycare or soccer or school, little enough to need parent transportation to get there.
Often those families are also still growing; lots of folks choose a Bunch Bike when they’ve got one or two kids because they figure they’ll eventually be seating two or three (or four, or more!) So, what’s the scoop on biking before, during, and after that new baby arrives?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or an expert on anything (well, anything other than middle-grades literacy instruction.) I’m a mom sharing my own preferences and experiences. You should definitely also ask your doctor and do your own research before making the decisions that feel right for your family.
Bunching While Pregnant
The standard warnings for pregnancy tell you to avoid skiing, horseback riding, and bicycling because you might fall and get hurt. Late pregnancy changes your center of balance, making a fall more likely than it would be for non-pregnant people.
BUT! A tricycle is a totally different proposition, at least for me. While it’s possible to dump the Bunch Bike if you’re riding super aggressively, it’s extremely unlikely that you’ll lose your balance and tip over during normal riding. Once in a while, I hit a big pothole or an unexpected slippery patch and lose control for a couple of feet, but I never get that “might crash” feeling like I do on a normal bike. (Or on a horse, for that matter.)
I started shopping for a cargo bike when I was pregnant with #2, and part of the Bunch Bike's draw for me was being able to trust its stability. My OB put an approving and hilarious note in my chart (“Rides a tricycle!”), marking the first time in my adult life that I’ve avoided the dreaded “Rec get more exercise.”
I’m not sure how I would feel about biking in the third trimester when I’m really huge… but for me, Bunching during pregnancy is a great way to stay active and energized.
Bunching With A Newborn
Ok. This is tougher.
Another strategy is to install a specially designed car seat base with extra suspension and then carry the baby in a Maxi Cosi car seat (The Coupe has a built in add-on for this here). I've also seen some people DIY a solution by bolting a traditional car seat base into your Bunch box. You’ll find folks in the Bunch Bike owners’ group on Facebook who can show you how they did it. People in Amsterdam bike with newborns all the time!
But I don’t live in Amsterdam, and I don’t have access to a robust network of smooth, well-maintained cycle tracks. Riding around on American roads or even bike trails involves a fair amount of bumping and bouncing, even at slow speeds. It may be comparable to riding in a jogging stroller, which is officially considered unsafe for infants who don’t have head and neck control yet. It’s not like riding in a car, because modern automobiles have way more shock absorption between the passengers and the roadway.
There isn't much research on the safety of cargo biking specifically, and neither could our pediatrician. I know that some people do it and their babies turn out fine. But my personal opinion is that it’s too much shaking for a tiny baby (at least on bad D.C. roads)
If we had another baby, we would be very reluctantly not Bunching with them until they got a little bigger (or the bike lanes got way better!)
Six To Ten-ish Months
We finally scored our Bunch Bike when #2 was about six months old. We tried him in the Melia toddler seat and it secured him safely but wasn’t reclined enough for his (lack of) muscle tone and still didn’t offer enough shock absorption. In hindsight, we should have gone for the infant seat!
We were lucky enough to get our local bike wizard, Kyle Waller, to install a custom mount that addressed those issues. When I took the baby for a first ride on our favorite local trail, though, the bouncing and shaking still felt like a lot to me.
In those early months, when baby can hold his head up or even sit up but isn’t crawling vigorously or walking yet, we stuck to short, slow rides in our immediate neighborhood, aiming for an experience that was more like a stroller than a bike.
Bunching With Toddlers
Finally -- freedom!!! Babies who are old enough to walk (at least in theory -- mine are late walkers!) are old enough to manage a little bouncing. Around ten months, I noticed that #2 could control his body and move with the bike instead of flopping helplessly. This was also the age at which little bumps started making him laugh instead of making him cry.
So, around ten months I felt like we could start including him in most of our Bunching life, running errands and visiting friends, though I would still ride more conservatively with him than when commuting with only my older son.
My baby LOVES these bike rides. When he sees us getting our helmets, he hollers and waves his arms until he knows for sure he’s coming along too. Or if he’s having an extra fussy day, we’ll strap him into the bike and ride around the block to calm him down -- he’ll settle as soon as we are moving.
In the bike, he can see the world around him much better than in the car. More importantly, he’s facing me and we can see each other. I can talk to him, sing to him, and rock the box from side to side if he gets impatient when we’re stopped at a red light. No doubt about it, the Bunch Bike is the number one easiest and happiest form of transportation for babies and toddlers.
At 18 months old, Kid #2 is still a super avid Buncher. “Bike” was one of his very first words -- accompanied by urgent pointing at the back door when he wants to go out. He sometimes gets stuck in nap-refusal mode, and then the bike is the only way to get him down without a huge fuss. He’s still riding in the toddler seat, but we’re looking forward to moving him to the bench when he’s a little taller and stronger.
Big kids can climb in and out of the bike themselves, choose if they want to sit facing forward or backward, secure their own seatbelts and helmets, and insist that the teddy bear needs his own seatbelt as well. Bunching with big kids is suuuuuper easy, and it helps that we can throw in all the soccer balls, frisbees, backpacks, outfit changes, and special sticks that we need for the day. We’ve also carried a box full of playdate friends for a special (pre-coronavirus) treat.
The best part about Bunching with a big kid is that we can see the same things, and we can talk to each other -- except when we’re passing by noisy construction. We’ve had a lot of our most important conversations on the way to and from school.
One logistical element to consider is your big kid’s own bike. When we first got our Bunch, we would frequently toss our then-four-year-old’s 14” bike into the box so he could ride at the park or the playground.
At five, Kid #1 now frequently wants to ride his own bike on errands as well as at the park or on the trail. We’ve taught him to bike immediately to my right and to pay close attention to traffic. It still makes me nervous, but I know he’s learning lessons that will serve him well as he gets older and more independent.
I love that he can ride his own bike for as long as he feels inspired, then hop into the box whenever he gets tired or the hills get steep or when we’ve got to negotiate a stretch of busy traffic. We’re building his capacity in a low-stress way, so that by the time he’s seven or eight he may be ready to ride on his own all the time.
Have questions about biking with little ones? Give us a call at 800-730-9497
If you live in the D.C. area, you can contact Lelac for a test ride at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you are a Bunch Bike owner and want to become a Bunch Ambassador, let us know!