The Spoke January 26, 2012

To trailer or not to trailer.......

Mrs. bikebritain says......

After having our son I made a decision not to go back to work on a full time basis. I said goodbye to my lovely company car and dusted off my old bike which had been neglected for some time. Then we invested in a bike trailer and a shed to store them all in – making Mr bikebritain happy as it contributed to the growth of his shed empire.

First challenge was adjusting all the straps to fit around our boy, sounds easy but it became an art form trying to stop him slouching and support his back correctly. Not forgetting how quickly they grow too the adjustments are needed every few weeks. Then he needed an all in one coat to make sure he stayed warm and dry. After going through various puddles I found out even though it was covered it was not water proof. Bright yellow in colour I was still not happy that it was totally visible to drivers in the UK who are very unused to the concept of a trailer – to be fair even if you are a cyclist you are lucky to be seen by some tunnel vision drivers, so we invested in lots of flashing lights to highlight it from behind. So we were finally ready to go…..

I leave home at 8am which would be late for us if we were driving as the traffic is very busy by then. Drop my son at nursery, leave the trailer in the buggy shed there and cycle along the sea front to work arriving at 8.45am. Luckily we have a shower at work and I am at my desk by 9am. No worries about traffic delays, no grumpy child as he has not been rushed; instead he is delighted to be getting in the trailer with no reliance on a car starting every morning. I walk into work relaxed which is very different to how it used to be.

I love using the bike trailer and more importantly my son loves it too; he chirps away happily in the back and smiles and laughs at everything he sees, unlike when he is in the car and looks bored. We both get some fresh air at a time of the day you don’t usually feel like it. It makes people smile when they see it as it is still a novelty concept in this country. It got me back on my bike and brought back some lovely childhood memories particularly that one of freedom which I now get leaving work. I cycle along the seafront with my son in the back and I like the idea I am not in a car polluting the earth but protecting the beauty I see in front of me, living by the sea. 

and Mr. bikebritain says......

Buying the bike trailer has worked out as well as we had hoped. At the time I wondered if it was going to be something that seemed a good idea at the time but ended up being stuck in the shed, unused. I am happy to report this has not been the case. Although at times we have discussed the need for a second vehicle, we've not gone through with it because of the completely viable alternative at our disposal. Agreed, the trailer has contributed to our shed expansion as Mrs.bikebritain comments, the savings compared to running another car are significant. 

To begin with, the trailer was probably a shade too big for Brendan to be seated comfortably in. He was perfectly safe, as the trailer is fitted with both a lap belt and harness that loops over both shoulders, rendering him secure. He did, however, have a tendency to slump to one side in the seat. To resolve this I made the seat more rigid, thus helping him to keep upright. In the beginning I would take him out and do a 'round the block' loop (over the Steyning Bostal Road) as a method of (a) giving Mummy some peace and quiet for a while and (b) giving me an opportunity for a work out. Despite it being attached to my MTB, dragging the trailer up a 17% incline was quite a challenge. He used to quickly fall asleep to the motion; I'd glance round and see him dozing peacefully, wrapped up in his warm and cozy all-in-ones. 

It's different now as he's gotten older. Sitting up now his legs reach the edge of the footwell and his head is not far off touching the top of the windscreen. It's designed to carry two children, but that as far as I can tell, that would be a real squeeze. He still likes being in there though, chatting away as he watches the world go by at trailer level. Brendan is much more aware of what's going on now and he always pints at any digger and fire engine that goes by. When you're two years old, they are both very exciting. 

I do think to myself sometimes it would be nice to have a second car, especially when it's raining and I need it for work. The trailer is not waterproof and whilst the journey is not too far, it's long enough to become damp. That said, it only happens sporadically and when I'm working locally I cycle to work, leaving Mrs.bikebritain with the option of the car should she want it. 

On the whole, the road using public around Shoreham and Lancing are fairly vigilant regarding the trailer's presence. However, we are both extra cautious when we have Brendan in the back. Even though the trailer is covered with Mars 4.0 rear lights, you can never be too careful. We mainly stick to the back roads or go on the pavement. Crossing roundabouts can be particularly hazardous especially since the combined length of bike and trailer extend way past most traffic islands. It just means you have to be patient and realise that drivers are more intent on getting home than stopping for us. 

The trailer has been a real workhorse. It's been bashed and bumped but incurred just one puncture; as a result it now sports bright yellow, deep tread BMX tyres. Overall build quality is good and if needs be, you can find spare parts on the web. After a prang last year we needed a new hitch assembly that chain reaction was able to supply for less than £10. 

At the rate Brendan is growing I'd guess we have one more Summer left before he's too large for it. However, this year he will be old enough to appreciate the wind in his hair as we ponder along the seafront. Afterall, it really is the only way to travel! We recently discovered a new play park at the far end of Worthing seafront so I can foresee bike rides and picnics being family entertainment during 2012. Soon Brendan will enter a new phase; riding his own bike and the trailer will be committed to storage. It will have done family bikebritain proud though. 

Words, thumbnail and Slider image - Team Bikebritain

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