A little background here: Many moms carry their babies around by bicycle here in the Netherlands. It’s pretty much a necessity when families live in densely packed cities where driving an automobile is neither practical, pleasant or affordable. At WorkCycles we’ve always recommended that this be done by putting the child in a Maxi-Cosi (by far the most popular make of car seat for infants), secured in the box of a bakfiets. We mostly do this in the Bakfiets.nl Cargobike but a number of others are good as well. We have a lot of experience with this system and haven’t seen any problems. Customers have even told us stories of accidents that their babies SLEPT through. In short a baby appears to be fairly safe in a protective car seat, in a sturdy wooden box, only several centimeters from the ground.
But not everybody wants to ride a Bakfiets and we customers regularly ask us to mount the Maxi Cosi on the front or rear carrier of a standard format bike… which we’ve steadfastly refused. Colleagues of ours do this regularly and quite a few customers have left one of our shops and gone straight to “brand X” where they’ve bought a bike equipped this way. We haven’t really helped the customer in such a case and we’ve lost a sale as well. I wanted to research the matter further.
Photo: Example of a bike equipped to carry a baby in a Maxi Cosi over the front wheel, NOT from WorkCycles.
Setting the Maxi-Cosi on a front carrier seemed like a BAD idea but perhaps acceptable with our new, super heavy duty and stable Fr8 bike. So I built a test rig and experimented with Pascal, then 2 mo old. Kyoko and I each rode the bike for an afternoon on a variety of (quiet) roads and smooth paths in Amsterdam.
One of our complaints with carrying babies on standard type bikes is that the parking stands are inadequate to hold the “load” stably. This is particularly true since the baby is set high over the front wheel while most bikes have their parking stand beneath the crank axle. That’s just not stable. The Fr8 is built differently: The rack is mounted with just enough clearance over the front tire and a very wide and stiff stand is integrated into the “Massive Rack”. This rack and stand are actually rated for over 150kg of cargo so a few kg of baby, Maxi-Cosi and the overbuilt system were not going to tax it. Test one passed with flying colors.
The system holding the Maxi-Cosi looks cheesy but it’s actually extremely solid and secure. I wouldn’t have put my 2 month old son in there otherwise! I bolted a board to the carrier and strong tie-down straps secure the Maxi-Cosi. In the bag below the Maxi Cosi are a stack of blankets and cushions for shock damping. It’s not visible in the photos but Pascal IS strapped into the Maxi Cosi under the blankets.
Riding the bike with baby aboard was obviously no problem, but wasn’t nearly as confidence inspiring as having the baby low in the wooden box of the bakfiets. There remained something unnerving about having the baby so high and in your sight line.
While riding we discovered the real problem with such a system: damping of large amplitude vibrations from the road surface… shaking the baby in other words. On perfectly smooth surfaces it was fine, but even the smallest irregularities in the road caused Pacal’s head to shake up and down. Even with the giant 54mm tires of the Fr8 so soft that they almost rolled on the rims, a small pothole or root pushing through the road caused unacceptable shaking.
Project over thus:
The shocks transmitted through the bike in such a format are simply unacceptable for a small baby, and short of an elaborate suspension system there is no way to counter it. An adequate suspension would require much more vertical distance between the baby carrier and front wheel and this setup was already as high as I would consider acceptable. Thus any further work in this direction would require a bike with a much smaller front wheel.
We maintain our position that carrying a baby on the front of a “normal” format bike is not acceptable and will not offer this until we’ve found a better approach.