One of the joys (and sources of exhaustion) of parenting is the constant change as your kidlet grows. So they slept for 6 hours straight three nights in a row? Ho, ho, ho, good luck for the next 1.5 years when you’ll be up to them four times every night between the hours of 1-4am. Cute outfit! Hope they enjoy it the one and only time it will fit them. One minute they have a vocabulary of 4 words (one of which is “moo”), and the next moment they’re telling you “Gazpa came over yesterday, but he’s gone now, bye bye Gazpa!” (Actual quote from biker baby, age 21 months).
Just like sleep, clothes and words, the way we bike with small people has already gone through many revolutions. We started out with our fabulous Thule Chariot, in which biker baby, from the age of 4 months, was nestled in a hammock-like infant sling and swayed all over the countryside as we ventured as near as the local supermarket and as far as 65km in one day riding between wineries on the gorgeous Hawkes Bay Trails. The trailer was perfectly suited to this as it held not only the baby, but also about 10 bottles of delicious wine by the end of the day. We even bought a mid-range hard tail bike with the specific purpose of towing the trailer, and it’s absolutely ideal.
While still using the trailer frequently, when biker baby was about 9 months old we bought a second hand front-mounted ibert seat from friends, which felt like a huge pedal forwards in terms of both agility for whichever mum was riding, as well as the rider experience for the wee one. Bundled in a ski suit, merino mittens and bonnet (with helmet on top of course), we could cruise some of the narrower trails in our spectacular Whakarewarewa backyard, climb some steeper hills, and go much faster. It was a couple of months after the arrival of the front seat that baby biker started yelling “Happy!” at top volume and with no warning as we rode (she still does this a lot and it still provides much joy to all who hear it).
Most recently, we have graduated to a Shotgun seat which is another level of fun, flexibility and baby gnar. It seemed like a huge leap from the moulded, slightly reclined ibert seat where baby essentially sat passive on the ride, to this very minimal setup where she was responsible for her own balance and hang-onability. I thought perhaps at 19 months she wouldn’t quite be ready, but from the first ride it was pure delight, and we now regularly do rides of 20km or more. We mounted the seat on one of our full-suss bikes, too, so now we get to enjoy more Grade 3s (Yellow Brick Road, Creek, Challenge Roadside and New Exit are particular favourites). Baby biker holds on to the same handlebars as the mama riding and so gets to feel the steering, balance, and camber for herself. There is much “Happy!”
Unsurprisingly, the increased vocabulary of baby biker has coincided with each new ride setup, to the point where we now have a running commentary throughout any given ride as we careen (safely and responsibly) through the forest. There will be few forest users by now who haven’t had “Hi Biker!”, “Hi Runner!” or even “Hi Doggy!” yelled at them as we whizz past on Hemo Gorge or across the broad plains of the Waipa carpark. We have in depth conversations about ornithology (“birds singing!”), flora (“Lots of trees!”) and of course, physics (“go fast, not slow!”). Baby biker already has her favourite spots in the forest, mainly the Mill because of the chance of diggers, and Puarenga for the high likelihood of being able to get herself wet. Our next plan is to ride with her ‘up the top’ via Apumoana, and it is wonderful to think of all the trails she has yet to discover, either with us, or under her own steam as she gets older.
And so what’s next? Well, at 13kg and counting it is definitely an additional bit of resistance to either mum’s ride, but there’s a good year of Shotgunning left for us at least, we reckon. Baby biker is a whizz on her Wishbone trike (I have seen her fang it out of our driveway on two wheels) and we have a lightweight Cruzee bike in the garage for as soon as she’s ready to balance on just two wheels. She still loves the trailer which is ideal for naptime rides and bikepacking adventures. I imagine before too long she’ll be leaving us in her dust, and I can’t help but think she’ll be chatting up a storm the whole way.
FROM NATALIE RIDLER