A Guide to Transporting the Kids

Transporting the kids via bicycle has increased in popularity among DC urbanites. We are taking a look at various various types of carriers and bikes available and the pros and cons of each.

Functions to Consider

  • Adaptability

    Will your bike grow and evolve as your family does? Your child may be in a child seat now, but that will change sooner than you think. Choosing a bike that will grow and adapt with your family will mean avoiding Craigslist to sell your toddler carrier so you can replace it with a young child hauler in the near future. This way, you can easily sell the accessories (e.g. the child bike seat) and keep the bike.

  • Ride-ability

    Whether you are an experienced rider or not, some of the solutions below are far from the typical bicycle experience. For example, while some riders appreciate a cargo bike for the low center of gravity and ability to see kids in front of them, others feel that any hill can feel like pedaling a boat up a mountain.

  • Park-ability

    If you do not have a garage or other accessible bike storage (no carrying these up three flights of stairs), some of the options below may create a challenge. The width and length of the different designs will also be factors in your ability to find parking and secure your bike.

Types and Examples of Kid Haulers

Child Seat

child bike seat bike trailer

If you have a standard bicycle and are looking for a way to carry a child on it, this is an affordable option. Smaller children (up to about 38 lbs) can fit in a front mounted bike seat, while bigger children can remain in a rear seat for a bit longer (until about 48 lbs).

Pros: Fits standard bicycle. Gets younger children on bikes earlier. Can be combined with other types of bikes, such as cargo bikes.

Cons: Child may outgrow before they are ready to ride their own bike in traffic conditions. Also, other gear carrying capacity is limited, such as a backpack on the rider that can encroach on the passenger’s space. When a rear child seat is used on a standard bicycle, the bike can become “back heavy” and throw off the balance and steering. Finally, standard kickstands can be difficult (and potentially dangerous) to load and unload a child.

Bicycle Extensions

Bike trailers, Tandem attachments and Cargo-conversion kits are all designed to use an existing bike, increasing its capacity to carry cargo and/or kids. If you need to use an existing bike, this may be another affordable option. However, as they are designed to adapt to existing bicycles, there can be some performance trade offs compared with bikes designed specifically for this purpose.

Bike Trailer

child bike seat, bike trailer
A Bike Trailer is towed behind the bike with a hitch. Two children can fit in most bike trailers.

Pros: Affords some weather protection for passengers. Children do not need to balance. Fits to standard bicycle. Proponents like the fact that, should the bike fall, the bike trailer is a separate piece (though a roll-over is still possible).

Cons: Trailers are longer, heavier, and harder to maneuver. The additional resistance of two extra wheels makes the pedaling experience sluggish. No additional cargo space.

Some feel that since the bike trailer is lower and behind the bike, it presents safety hazards for the riders, and results in a feeling of separation from the passengers for conversation, observation, etc. Either way, the view for the passengers in the bike trailer is less than ideal, as they are low to the ground and often behind plastic windows (which can become scratched, degrade from UV exposure, and trap heat on summer days.) Combining a bike trailer with helmets can also be an issue of comfort, as the additional bulk behind the head may contact the back of the bike trailer, pushing the child’s head forward to an uncomfortable or unsafe position.

Cargo-bike conversion kits

This is another decent choice if you are on a budget and already have a suitable bike for the conversion.

Pros: Uses an existing bike and extends its capacity to haul kids and gear.

Cons: Two piece frame can feel unstable under load. The parts on the doner bike may be incompatible with the attachment, making for higher project cost than anticipated.

Many people report that the “two-piece frame” (the original bike and the extension) can be a bit wobbly in its handling under heavy load.

Cargo/Utility Bicycles

big dummy
Unlike recreational bikes adapted with accessories, cargo bicycles were designed as utility vehicles and are well suited for carrying children. While just now beginning to gain recognition in North America, cargo bikes have long been popular in Europe, Africa and Asia. Where Cargo Bikes excel beyond the child seat/trailer/tandem equipped configurations above is in their ability to haul your gear in addition to your children. They have even been dubbed “The New Station Wagon” and “The New Mini-Van” by The Wall Street Journal and Outside Magazine, respectively.

I use my cargo bikes as a primary mode of transport — I ride them everywhere. Cargo bikes give me the ability to go about daily business on my bike while providing the flexibility to stop at the store when I’m out and about and pickup (a lot of) groceries or a kid or just about anything as needed.”

Kid’s Bikes

Children’s bikes are measured by their wheel size, not frame size. The best indication of which size is right for your child is how comfortable he or she feels on the bike.

The most common wheel sizes are 12″, 16″, 20″ and 24″. Make sure that your child can stand over the top tube of the bike with both feet planted on the ground. He or she should feel comfortable and in control of the bike at all times.

It is not recommended that you buy a bike that is too large for a child and then have him or her “grow into it.” Doing so can set the child back in terms of riding skills and confidence. A properly sized bike will be easier for kids to handle, less dangerous and a lot more fun. And don’t forget the helmet!

Balance Bikes

Balance bikes are bikes in their simplest form – no pedals or chain, just wheels and a frame. As children walk or coast along on their balance bikes, their feet act as their brakes. A balance bike helps teach two to five-year-olds how to coordinate steering and balance. The better they get, the easier their transition to pedaling.

Training Wheel Bikes

Bikes with training wheels can give children the confidence boost needed so kids can start riding on their own. Once the confidence is there, the training wheels can be removed. These are single-speed bicycles with coaster brakes (the kind you simply peddle backward to engage), though some models have an additional rear brake controlled by a hand lever.

Trailer Bikes

A trailer bike allows your child to pedal and feel independent, though he or she is still relying on you for balance and control. This single-wheel bike attaches either to your seat post or on a rear rack so it can pivot for turning. A trailer bike is generally good for four to seven-year-olds. It also allows you to cycle farther than your child’s stamina might otherwise allow.

Kids’ Road Bikes

Once your child is ready for their own 2-wheeler, make sure to avoid the common mistake of buying a road bike that they will “grow into.” Doing so can set your child back a few years.

Kids’ road bikes range from bikes with flat bars and upright riding positions to small versions of adult road bikes that put your child in a more aerodynamic riding position. If your child will be cruising around the neighborhood or riding to school, a flat-bar road bike is a good choice. If you have a budding racer on your hands and you want to go on fast family rides, consider a drop-bar style road bike.

Kids’ Mountain Bikes

To accommodate the shorter legs of children, kids’ mountain bikes typically have 24″ wheels, compared to the larger 26″, 27.5″ and 29″ wheels found on adult bikes. Most are less-expensive versions of adult bikes with simpler components and only front suspension forks rather than full suspension. Suspension forks absorb bumps in the trail, which helps reduce hand and arm fatigue when riding. Generally speaking, kids’ mountain bikes suit children ages 10 to 13, but this depends more on the size of the child than the age. Younger/smaller children can get started biking with 20″ wheels.

If your curious about child carriers and bikes, stop by either of our locations and talk with a sales rep!

Tips to Avoid for the Beginner Cyclist

As a beginner cyclist, you will find that you cannot learn too much about riding as a commuter or riding for fun. In addition to learning rules of the road, basic handling skills and cycling etiquette, there are several traps that every cyclist needs to know…and to avoid.

Saddle Height

JPOV_20140522_18896At the optimal saddle height, you should have a slight bend in your knee at the bottom of your pedal stroke. Too much bend or a locked out knee will result in knee pain on the bike.

Gear Up!

140808_bike212A common pitfall that cyclists make is thinking that they need all the right gear before their first ride. The truth is that you can accumulate gear as you learn to ride and define your riding style. The important things to start with are a helmet, a floor pump and a flat kit. Apparel and a pedal/shoe combination can come later.

How Does it Fit?

Our Brookland shop is stocked and ready for professional bike fits.If the bike is not the right fit for you, your riding experience will be miserable. Have a bike professional at your local shop size you on the bike that you are interested in. All models come in various sizes to fit most people. Then take the bike for a test ride to make sure the fit is comfortable. With comfort comes efficiency and power, without comfort you get neither. Once you decide on the right size and the bike feels good, spend a few weeks on it. If there are any areas of discomfort you may need a professional bike fit. You will be surprised how small adjustments can make a huge difference.

Basic Bike Maintenance

jpov_20130513_09254This is the stuff that you can do to keep your bike out of the shop more often and to save you money. Learning how to clean your drivetrain and lube your chain will keep your bike riding smooth, quietly and efficiently. In addition, learning to change your own flats is invaluable. Flats happen and usually in inconvenient places. Carry a flat kit with tire levers, a spare tube and an inflation device and you will never be stuck with a flat tire. For best results, take a basic maintenance clinic at your local bike shop, the information will be useful for as long as you ride a bike.

Too Much Too Soon

Defy Disc Avail Disc MY16 2New cyclists are often eager to ride and end up with over-use injuries. Ease into riding and build up the distance as you develop your cycling skills. If you are on a distance ride do not risk burning out in the first half of the ride and having nothing left for the second half.

Basic Handling Skills

Beginner RideLearning how to properly shift, how to approach a hill, how to corner, how to brake. You may think these all sound easy, but there is a right way and a wrong way. many local bike shops offer basic handling clinics, take advantage of them. Another way to learn is by joining a beginner group ride and observing others or getting advice from more advanced cyclists/group ride leaders. Refueling Bonking is a common and dangerous phenomenon in cycling. Know your hydration and calorie intake needs based on distance and conditions. Make sure you know where there are places to stop for food and drink along your route if you need it. Remember to drink your hydration and eat your calories!

Want to be a more confident cyclist? Join us for a beginner road ride, every Saturday at 10am.

Why a Professional Bike Fit Matters

Bike in stand
During a professional bike fit cyclists ride on a trainer so the fitter can see how their body reacts to the bike.

In my more than 20 years as a cyclist and multisport athlete, I discovered that there is a common belief among cyclists: if nothing hurts, their bike fit is just fine. In my more than 4 years as a certified bike fitter, 99% of the people that come to me for a bike fit will report some type of pain or discomfort. So, this number seems to corroborate the belief that if nothing hurts, your bike fit is fine.

What most people do not realize is almost all cyclists ride asymmetrically. Most everyone favors one side of their body. They may hang over the saddle on one side more than the other, which creates an uneven pedal stroke favoring one side on the down pedal stroke. Most people do not have limbs that are equal in length, even a centimeter can make a difference in your bike fit. Lack of flexibility in one side can also play a part in unevenness on a bike.

Along with the natural inclination to favor one side over the other, as the human body ages certain changes are inevitable. You will lose flexibility, change your posture and even change how your body responds to your bike. Changes in your body mean changes in how your bike fits. If at one time you were used to an aggressive road bike for competitive purposes and your riding style has changed to more of a recreational style, changes need to be made to your bike to accommodate the changes in your body. It is important to remember that a properly fit bike is only as good as your biomechanics, flexibility and fitness level and as those change, so must your bike fit.

The 10 Percenters

Yes, cyclists do get bike fits even when nothing hurts. They are obviously the minority because why bother if everything feels good. Consider our discussion about changes in the bio-mechanics of the body and the changes in your personal style of riding. If you know that change is inevitable, it only makes sense to adapt over time. Translated into bike fit speak, this means that the way you fit on your bike needs to be checked and re-checked over time regardless of how your body is responding. By following this simple strategy you will mitigate future discomfort, pain and even injury.

Comfort = Fast

The three components of proper bike fit are

  • Power
  • Efficiency
  • Comfort

All three are not necessary for a proper fit, but all three are optimal. Sometimes two will suffice if the situation calls for it. If you have power but not efficiency, then you are working harder than you have to. Your power is at a deficit. Likewise, if you have power but you also have discomfort or pain, your power will also be at a deficit. Being comfortable on your bike and having the most efficient set-up possible will help you to maximize your power and maintain it for longer.

What Makes a Great Bike Fit

Any bike fit studio can be loaded with the latest and greatest technology but if the fitter, the actual human in charge of your bike fit, does not have the experience or the “eye” for a good bike fit, then you might as well do your own fit by following a You Tube video. While technology helps us notice pieces of the fit that we may not normally see, nothing can replace the knowledge of a well-trained and experienced bike fitter.

For example we use the Dartfish system of motion analysis to track pedal stroke, angles of the body and symmetry between both sides of the body, however it takes a knowledgeable and experienced bike fitter to know what to do with that information.  Before your next bike fit do yourself a favor and learn as much as you can about the individual performing your fit just as the bike fitter interviews you to learn as much as they can about you, you will be glad you did.

fit studio 2
Our bike fit studio is stocked with saddles, handle bars and more to make sure you have the best equipment for your fit.

Visit our new bike fit studio in Brookland! Matt will work with you to make sure your bike fit is just right

Join us in Brookland!

On Saturday April 18 The Bike Rack and Filter Coffeehouse will open the doors to a partnership that is a first of a kind in DC, Bikes and Coffee together under one roof.

We are proud to reveal a beautifully designed space where you can grab a coffee while browsing through bicycles, accessories and apparel or waiting for your bike to be serviced.

Filter espresso
Filter Coffehouse’s espresso machine is ready for customers!


In conjunction with our grand opening, the Brookland Farmer’s market will open it’s 2015 season beginning at 9:00 am. To celebrate our opening, our neighbor and friends at Brookland Pint have been busy collecting several coffee flavored beers for you to enjoy throughout the day.

Bikes, Coffee, Beer and a fully stocked Farmer’s Market. The question is not “why join us for our grand opening”, the question is “why wouldn’t you join us?”

Our team puts the final touches on The Bike Rack's service area.
Our team puts the final touches on The Bike Rack’s service area.

Brookland Opens April 18

Join us for the Grand Opening DC’s first bike/coffee shop brought to you by The Bike Rack and Filter Coffeehouse!

The grand opening coincides with the first Brookland Farmer’s Market of 2015. Along with opening our doors for the first time, we’ll join the many farm stands on the Arts Walk to offer free basic maintenance.


Entering a vibrant neighborhood

The concept of the bike/coffee shop began in bike-centric cities such as Portland and San Francisco, and we knew was a concept that both DC and the Brookland neighborhood would embrace.

Bikes and coffee just go together, ask any cyclist. We feel that a bike shop should be a community gathering spot for the local community and for cyclists. A coffee bar helps to create that feel year round.

We’ll share space under one roof with Filter Coffeehouse at 716 Monroe St. NE. Filter will inhabit the street facing part of the store, and we’ll inhabit the rest. We’ll be offering everything you’ve come to expect from our Logan Circle location: the highest quality products and service!

Filter Coffeehouse will offer the same range of menu items available at its Dupont Circle and Foggy Bottom Locations. Customers will be able to enjoy various espresso beverages, pour over coffee, and loose leaf tea. All coffee offered at Filter will be roasted by Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis.

We’ll continue to be the first bike shop open in DC, with hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Filter Coffeehouse will be open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

We hope to see you all April 18 to help us celebrate our Grand Opening!