Mountain biking with baby?

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A Controversial Activity!

When my husband and I used to mountain bike the Bonneville Shoreline trail with my 1-year-old son strapped on the back, people had two reactions. They’d either say, “Wow, that’s cool!” or they’d frown disapprovingly as if they were about to call the Division of Family Services and report us for child abuse. If you are in the second camp, maybe you should not read this post.

When I saw people riding through NYC traffic with toddlers strapped on the back of their bikes I nearly had a heart attack. Maybe that’s the same way other people felt when they saw us riding the mountain bike trails with our son. Everyone is different, try not to judge, just know thyself.

It can be hard for parents of young children to find time to keep up active lifestyles. When my son was born, my husband and I did tag-team parenting so we could continue to pursue recreational and athletic activities. Then we discovered that Ogden has a number of bike trails that we could ride together with our son in a rear-mounted seat.

If you are an expert mountain biker you might be able to safely ride mountain bike trails with a toddler in tow. But even experts must choose non-technical trails with gradual ascents and minimal switchbacks. Unfortunately when bikes and horses tromp on muddy trails, even the smoothest trail can turn into a rutted nightmare. So the consistency of dirt trails is not always the same. (Please keep the trails smooth and don’t ride when they are muddy.)

Before I delve into the details of riding with children, let’s talk about safety. Is mountain biking safe? No! Is road biking safe? Of course not! In my humble opinion, biking off the road is safer than road riding, but I have not done an extensive statistical analysis. When I ride on the road, I’m overcome by fear of idiotic and inattentive drivers. I’ll take the rocks, drop-offs, and occasional rattle snakes over teenage texters any day.

Some people reading this may ask, “Hey you loony, if you admit mountain biking is dangerous why would you even think about doing it with a baby strapped on board?” Listen, don’t send me hate mail. Anyone thinking of doing this, proceed at your own risk. Before riding with a baby seat mounted on your bike begin on the Ogden River trail, which you can pick up at Rainbow Gardens or in Riverdale. This is a paved trail that will let you get the feeling of riding with a kid on board without traffic or the kind of obstacles you face on dirt single track.

Unfortunately, life itself is dangerous; it inevitably ends in death. Our goal is to try and reduce risks, take care of ourselves, and live long, healthy lives. As parents we need to protect babies and children and help them learn to make good decisions. Lots of people may think strapping toddlers on to bikes is dangerous. Yet hardly anyone hesitates to strap their children into car seats.

Many people live around Ogden for the great outdoor recreational opportunities. Sharing recreational experiences with young children can be enjoyable, and for those without access to babysitting or an extended family, bringing children along may be a necessity.

Our child enjoyed going for mountain bike rides on the back of my husband’s bike. We’d ride for 1-2 hours on scenic trails. He often fell asleep. If you are interested in bike riding with a young child, consider the risks and choose an appropriate option for your skill and comfort level.

A Burley or pull behind trailer is probably the most stable and safest way to ride with a child on a non-motorized paved or wide jeep trail. This is also a good option if you have two children. But because they are too wide and cumbersome, pull behind trailers don’t work on single track.

For our family, the Burley was too big and burley. Since we enjoy single track, we decided on a rear mounted seat. These only work with hard tail mountain bikes. Seats that mount on the front are also an option, but I have no experience with those. Before children can ride in bike seats they must have neck strength and be able to wear a helmet. Only ride with a child on a trail you know very well and go downhill slowly.

Talk to your favorite bike shop about seats. Check out for trail info. Mountain Bike Project is a sister site of the Mountain Project. An awesome site for climbing route info in Utah and worldwide.

Some local trails we enjoyed:
• Green Pond
• The Overlook
• Easier Sections of the Bonneville Shoreline

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Alison McLennan recently graduated from the Solstice MFA Program of Pine Manor College where she was awarded the first Dennis Lehane Fellowship for Fiction. Her first novel, Falling for Johnny, won an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Utah Original Writing Competition. She is currently working on a historical novel set in Ogden. She loves rock-climbing, mountain biking and most anything involving snow, especially fluffy powder.

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  1. I’m happy you wrote this! It’s so true that we don’t even think about putting our children in the car, which is the most likely cause of death for young kids. We need to stop worrying about rare possibilities and just live.

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  2. I love this post! I love biking with the kids and used to wear Hunter in the ergo while biking to the beach in santa cruz.

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  3. I used to ride with my daughter when she was age 1-4 (she is now 16) and I got a similar mix of comments (“yeah, that’s cool” vs “you’re an idiot”). The key is to choose trails that are slow with good sight-lines to avoid speeding bikers coming toward you. Rocks and bumps were ok at slow speed, but definitely avoid the switch backs. Just like with cars, speed is the issue, and going up-hill is inherently slow..

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