“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST USE A BUGGY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE?”
Yup, this was shouted to me by some random guy from his car as he passed me one morning. As I continued in the adjacent cycle lane, he went on to declare that I was a “completely irresponsible parent”. And there it is, a motorists view from his vehicular cocoon, feeling threatened by the reminder that motorists have responsibilities too.
It took my good friends Stephen at the Bike Station and Roksan to not only provide the opportunity to have a trailer, but also show by example that using one could be safe and convenient for a 2 child, 2 working parent family. I’ve only ever had my Burley Cub 2005 model, but I’d always choose the convenience of a separate detachable trailer over e.g. a Bakfiets (though they are beautiful). In the morning O hitches on the trailer with 1 or 2 children, does the nursery run and leaves the trailer locked to the nearest bike hoop, then cycles off to his workshop. Meanwhile I, having cycled in to work after the school run and probably used my bike (Specialized Sirrus 07 in case you’re wondering) to get to meetings etc during the day, then in the evening attach the trailer to my bike for the nursery pick up. Easy to share, quick and free!
So, if you’re considering getting one, here are a few tips to help you get started:
1. Check your brakes
You could potentially be towing up to 50kg behind you, and the inertia you feel going off at the lights will also be evident in the momentum you feel when you’re coming to a halt. Make sure your brakes are in good nick, as well as being conservative with your stopping distances!
2. Get used to manoeuvring
As an articulated vehicle, it’ll take a while to get used to leaving more room at bends and corners. Usually the children actually enjoy the odd clipped kerb though, so don’t be too put off. I’ve also got into reverse manoeuvring at bike racks by lifting my saddle (and rear wheel) so that the central pivot point is hovering between my front wheel and the trailer wheels, but I’m quite a nerd about things like this. If you feel at all unsafe on the road, needless to say, just get off and WHEEL YOUR BIKE AND TRAILER ON THE PAVEMENT – it doesn’t take up any more width than a double buggy.
3. Get covered
If you’re storing your trailer outdoors, I recommend getting (or making) a waterproof storage cover for extra protection. Our trailer has got quite battered sitting outside in the front garden, as well as having been left forlorn on the Royal Mile every now and then. The main covers of the trailer seem quite costly to replace, so the more you can prolong their life, the better.
4. Light up
I don’t bother with a flag on a pole as I have to leave my trailer in public spaces too often (and think it would be too easy to pilfer) but I do like to cover it in lights, particular the motion sensitive LEDs on the valve caps, reflective tape and any other free ones I can get hold of at bike safety cafes.
5. Pass it on
One day, your children will grow up, and although I persist with the trailer by offering lifts for the friends of my youngest, they too are getting pretty darn heavy. Just like buggies and high chairs, a well looked after trailer will be an excellent hand-me-down. Likewise, a good risk-free borrow for anyone you know who might be considering getting one themselves, whether it be for children or other touring gear. Pass on the bike trailer love! Don’t let having kids stop you from enjoying the freedom of a bikeable city.