April 26, 2009 in Outdoors

Along for the ride

Versatile child trailers let parents stay active all year long
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Rich Spokesman-revie photo

Back in Spokane, Zola Barnwell relaxes in her Chariot trailer, set up in the bike mode, as her dad gets ready to set out for a tour. The Chariot, which also can be pushed as a stroller for running, is one of several brands of bike trailers that allow the wheels to be swapped for skis so it can be pulled on nordic trails.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Parenting 3-year-old twin boys hasn’t tamed Teri Tucker’s endurance-sports lifestyle. A versatile baby buggy has given the Spokane mom freedom to keep her fitness edge with her kids in tow.

During winter, you’ll find her and husband Paul Ainsworth wearing their Mt. Spokane Nordic Ski Patrol gear and hauling the boys along while they cruise the mountain’s 25-kilometers of ski trails.

The family is having no couch-potato lulls in the transition from skiing to summer sports.

This spring, Teri has maintained her triathlon training by pulling the same trailer with the precious cargo – now 80 pounds and growing! – behind her bicycle.

Before the twins were born, the couple’s friends pooled more than $500 for a baby shower gift for all seasons. They chose a Chariot brand bike trailer (www.chariotcarriers.com), which has kits that convert the core unit into different modes for cycling, jogging-strolling or skiing.

Burley, a pioneer in bicycle trailers (www.burley.com), also has a model adaptable with ski and wheel conversion kits. Burley and Croozer Designs (www.croozerdesigns.com) make bike trailer models designed especially for transporting pets.

Tucker likes the hand-brake option for her trailer in the baby-jogger mode so she can go Rollerblading without a hitch even on the downhill sections of the Centennial Trail.

Parents who pulled their kids in the original bike baby trailers a couple of decades ago will marvel at the advances in harnesses – no more minimally effective lap belts.

The trailers also have nifty shock absorbers, cargo compartments, conversion options and more.

Eric and Amy Anderson of Spokane were skating on the Mount Spokane State Park nordic trails in January with their infant child, Kate, snug in the trailer behind them even when the outside temperature was in the teens.

An infant harness held Kate securely in place, bundled against the cold, while a clear cover was snapped shut to seal out the weather.

During summer, the better trailers provide good ventilation inside the child compartment even while a mesh screen covers the opening to keep bugs out of the kids’ teeth and eyes.

Other features to look for include:

•Enough space behind the child seat so the child’s head isn’t forced forward while wearing a helmet.

•Bright color options for visibility on the road.

•Fold-down capability for ease in transport and storage.

The trailers come in single- and double-passenger models.

“There’s a bit of a learning curve with the singles,” said Ted Barnwell of Spokane. “You can tip them over,” he added, noting that his kids, Zola and Zane, are living testimonials to the performance of the Chariot’s protected child cockpit. The kids have remained enthusiastic about climbing aboard the trailer even though they are veterans of unplanned crash tests on snow and on pavement.

“The doubles are very stable, but you quickly get a feel for the singles and it isn’t a problem,” he added, noting that all trailer manufacturers recommend that young passengers should be wearing helmets and harnesses. “You have to watch your speed.”

The hitch systems are well designed nowadays, Tucker said.

“I went down on my bike last summer when I hit a patch of gravel, but the trailer stayed upright, no problem,” she said.

With the twins getting heavier, she pulls them exclusively with a hybrid bike that has a disk brake. “I don’t use my road bike with the trailer,” she said.

The Tucker twins got their first trailer ride when they were less than 4 months old.

“The first two times, I was a nervous wreck about it, fussing with them all the time,” Teri said. “Looking back, I don’t think I’d recommend taking them that young, or at least not taking them out fast.

“They cried at first, then they went to sleep. Pretty soon we realized it was very comforting to them. They always went to sleep, where they were on skis or wheels.”

With the boys beyond toddler stage, Tucker has two universal points of advice:

•“Have a destination like a park so the kids know they’re going to have a place to get out and play.

•“Have plenty of snacks and water. Oh, my gosh, that’s so important.

“I can’t think of any negatives about having this trailer,” she said. “It fits our lifestyle perfectly.”


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