If you’re a mountain bike parent, you’ll probably already know that training wheels suck, and that balance bikes are the best pathway to raising a mountain bike kid.
But you’ll also know that hitting the trails with your runner bike kid isn’t always a piece of cake. After all, your little one is still just that – little. They’re going to ride slowly, struggle with slight hills or technical terrain, and have limited energy.
So how do you introduce your kid to proper singletrack, whilst minimising the risks of getting caught too far from home?
In today’s article, we share how to carry a balance bike when riding, allowing your little one to ride shotgun when the going gets tough.
5 ways to carry a balance bike:
In this article, we share 5 ways to carry your little one's balance bike, and all of which have varying degrees of:
- Comfort (handlebar in the back, anyone?)
- Stability (dude, where's my bike?)
- Maneuverability (what turning circle?)
- Simplicity (I’ll be with you in a minute, or 5...)
Let’s take a look into the different options, and their suitability for hitting the trails.
1. Just carry it
You might be tempted to ride one-handed, and simply carry your kids bike, but truth be told – it’s pretty awkward. It means you don’t have both hands on the handlebars, and you increase your chance of having a spill, which obviously isn’t ideal when you already have a kid onboard.
2. Tow a kids trailer
If you already have a kids bike trailer – you can put the balance bike in your trailer whenever needed. The down side to trailers is that unless you own a MTB specific model, they’re not really designed for hitting the singletrack.
3. Use a bike rack
Bike racks are pretty common for commuting and bike packing, and they allow you to attach pannier bags or equipment to your bike. There’s no reason they can’t be used to carry a little bike. The only challenge is, securing a bike to them can be a bit of a pain, and they can end up scratching your bike.
4. Use carry straps
If you haven’t seen one before, balance bike straps are essentially bag straps, which attach to the rear wheel and stem of a balance bike, allowing you to carry the bike over your shoulder – like a duffel bag. Carry straps are a cheap and simple solution, but they’re more designed for walking with a bike, as opposed to riding. You’ll quickly see why, as the strap digs into your shoulder and the bike tends to move around whilst you ride.
5. Use a backpack
Our personal favourite for carrying a balance bike, is strapping it to your backpack. Backpacks are a great option, because you probably own one already, they’re comfortable to wear whilst riding, don't limit the trails you can access, and best of all – require no modification to your bike.
The results are in – backpack wins!
Hopefully we've convinced you that a backpack is the best option, if so – read on to learn more about attaching your little one’s balance bike to it.
How to carry a balance bike with a backpack
There are lots of different styles of backpack, and just as many different ways to attach your balance bike - but they are all based around the same approach.
If you have a sports backpack, then your bag will already have straps that run from one side to the other. If not, then you can create them using straps or bungees. As a general rule, the more straps or fixing points your bag already has, the easier it will be.1. Lay your backpack on its back and undo the straps.
2. Place your balance bike onto the backpack crossways, in the center. Note: If the bike has disc brakes, keep them facing out.
3. Weave your straps through the frame in such a way that the bike cannot slide left or right.
4. Attach the top strap to the bottom clip on the opposite side, and visa versa.
5. Put the backpack on and check that the balance bike is secure and is at the right height for when you’re sitting on your bike.
How to create straps if your bag doesn’t have them:
- You’ll need some adjustable length bungee cords
- Create a strap by looping the bungee through any available point on each side of the bag. This might be a handle, or a clip, as in the photos below.
- Go from a high point to a low point on the other side of the bag, and then visa versa. You’ll be left with two straps crossed over the bag in an X.
- To attach your bike, simply follow the instructions above.
Pro tips for carrying a bike with a backpack
Once you've got the basics sorted, here are a few other suggestions, to elevate you to pro level balance bike wearing parent!
Choose a light balance bike
If you’re carrying the weight of a balance bike on your back, it makes sense to ensure that bike is nice and light – plus a light bike is a key factor in helping your kid be stoked on riding.
Secure the front wheel
The front wheel and handlebar of the balance bike can move around whilst you’re riding on rougher terrain. Our solution here is to use an additional bungee or tie-down and strap the front wheel to the shoulder strap of your backpack, firmly locking it in place.
Stuff your bag
Even if you’re not carrying anything in the backpack, we’d recommend you add a spare jersey or some soft padding. This means the bike doesn’t sit directly against your back and will make for a far more comfortable ride.
Take a tow rope
For short climbs and changeable terrain, you might find it easier to bust out a tow rope quickly, rather than stopping to attach the balance bike to your backpack. We wrote about this in our toddlers and tow ropes article.
Now you’re ready to ride!
Being able to carry your kid and their balance bike has a tonne of advantages, no matter how you do it. You can venture further together, find those great learner trails, or just the quiet spots where your kid is more confident to practise.
If we’ve missed out your favourite way to carry a balance bike, or if you have any other tips to share, let us know in the comments below. Enjoy the trails!