Some of us, through no fault of our own, are now deep into research on something called an infant sling.
Then we’re seeking consultations on the neurological fragility of 5-month-olds and checking the compatibly of trailers with disc brakes.
We are new parents, or, ahem, new grandparents, addressing the increasingly complex questions about when and how to haul little kid-lets, even pre-toddlers, around on our bikes in an age of mechanical enchantment that seems, at times, to flirt with overthought protectionism.
We are, some of us, reliving the entrance of the kid car seat in our lives. Some of us grew up at a time when we were allowed to crawl free-range throughout the family station wagon. And dads were considered “fun” if they propped tiny, barefoot kids up on the handlebars of their Schwinn for rides around the block. It was a crazy, nutty, simpler time; life without padding, harnesses or restraints.
Then, with our own kids, we quizzically adopted the flimsy plastic buckets that were the first car seats. Then we installed similarly flimsy, rear-mounted plastic bike seats, in which our toddlers rode with the wind rustling through the locks of hair on their cute little unprotected heads.
Now, any one of those acts can get you cited or at the very least publicly shunned as abusive parents and guardians. We all now, under federal mandates, strap steel-reinforced Barcaloungers into our back seats before kids are allowed near a car.
And, well … what are we to do now about tiny kids and bikes?
If you are new to the whole kid business, or re-entering from the obliviousness of an empty nest, welcome to a time of great opportunity, fraught with danger, as regards infants and toddlers and bicycles. It is a time of never-before-dreamed-of opportunities to do apparently crazy things with tiny kids in what are apparently semi-safe ways.
Meet, for example, the Yepp Mini, a tiny thronelike contraption from Thule that bolts to the headset on your bike, putting the strapped-in kid between your arms, facing forward, seemingly aloft, behind the handlebars. If that’s not exciting enough, look for the amusing discussions online about using this thing, with your kid in it, on a full suspension mountain bike. A little windshield attachment for the kid is extra.
More than ever, we are all clearly antsy to get on bikes with these wee kids. And an enthusiastic bike accessory industry is more than willing to enable us with an enormous and structurally impressive array of trailers, baskets, sidecars, and seats. The trailers range in price from about $100 to more than $1,000, in weight from 20 to more than 40 pounds and with varying levels of suspension systems, ventilation, stroller convertibility and flexibility for different bikes (disc brakes can in fact be a problem). They are, from the retro-parental perspective, quite beautiful and even inspiring.
Unless, of course, you are on the staff of the American Association of Pediatrics, which is fixated on such non-fun subjects as neurodevelopment, micro-traumas and the general fragility of the human brain in its earlier stages, etc., etc.
But the association is part of clear unanimity about medical guidelines about tiny children and bikes. The consensus seems to be: No kids on bikes in their first year or at least until the kid’s neck is strong enough to support a head that can wear a helmet. Some kids are said to be ready for a ride in a trailer at 9 months. Fine.
Oh — the infant sling: It’s a hammock-like affair that secures, in suspension, to the inside of bike trailer/strollers to safely cuddle true infants, 1 to 10 months, while in motion. The manufacturer’s accompanying literature is clear: The sling is for strolling only. So certainly no one has ever attached an infant sling-mounted trailer to a bike, right?
Clarification: In a recent report on construction of 13.5 miles of the Minnesota Valley State Trail, from the Bloomington Ferry Bridge to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, the project was described as “fully funded” with $2.164 million from the state Legislature. In fact, the project was thought to be fully funded in 2014 when the Legislature approved the money. However, with the trail’s construction now scheduled for the next two summers, the city of Bloomington is still seeking more money to complete the work.
Tony Brown is a freelance writer from Minneapolis. Reach him at email@example.com. See an archive of his columns at startribune.com/bikeguy.