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Keeping kids warm and dry on the bike

Posted by Marion Rice on October 30th, 2008 at 11:32 am

Marion Rice and daughter Gleneden

This article was written by our Family Biking columnist Marion Rice. For previous articles in this series, and for links to other articles and photos on family biking, check out the Family Biking Page.


A warm and dry kid is a happy kid.
(Photos © J. Maus)

We may be enjoying an Indian Summer here in Portland, but cold, wet weather isn't far away. I'm here to tell you that even when the weather gets nasty, it's still no problem getting around town on your bike with your kids (even if they're not covered in a trailer or bakfiets).

In addition to making sure your bike lights are working and your fenders are installed, it seems like we are all trying to get creative about how to keep ourselves and our little ones warm and dry.

Here are a few tips and product suggestions that might help your family.

For Babies and Toddlers

Tuffo's Muddy Buddy is a
great outer layer.

Wet Weather Gear:
Last year, I discovered the Tuffo Muddy Buddy (retails for about $30). This is a super, all-weather one-piece suit for children 12 months - 4 years old. Worn alone it�s great for spring and fall wet weather riding. In cold weather, the suit leaves plenty of room for fuzzy fleece pants and a jacket underneath. You can get the Tuffo Muddy Buddy at Clever Cycles (908 SE Hawthorne).

I made this poncho to fit around
my daughter and her seat.

The DIY Route
Since I have a child seat on my bike, I've been looking for something that would keep the seat and my child dry. I decided to retrofit a rain poncho by sewing a placket in the bottom to hold a shock cord which synches up the poncho around the sea. Then I sewed in a reflective triangle on the back. So far it works great and the whole thing cost me about $34.00.

Sunny Cold Days
I always keep our wet weather gear in my Xtracycle bags just in case, but often I just bundle my 2-year-old Gleneden in her jacket and fuzzy pants and then tuck a baby blanket around her into the seat. That gives her a bit of extra warmth and coziness.

All tucked in and toasty.

Keeping Little Hands Warm
Talk about a challenge! Last year, I couldn�t figure out how to deal with keeping the mittens on my daughter. No matter what I tried, they would inevitably get dropped on the road. One morning, I met another mom who gave me a great suggestion; just attach a string to each mitten and pull it through the sleeves of their coat -- brilliant!

Older Kids

Focus on the Face and Neck
My 6-year-old son Griffin hates to get cold. He simply won�t go on the bike unless he is warm. He has rain pants, a good raincoat, rubber boots, warm gloves and a great black facemask made from fleece and lycra (found at REI). He refers to it as his "Ninja Bike Stuff".

Becky Mellinger, a fellow cycling mom, has also purchased a balaclava to keep her daughter's face toasty (we tried a scarf but they were bulky and difficult to manage). Children�s balaclava sizes are hard to find, but the sales person at Bike Gallery told Becky to check out the Descente brand. They run small, and found one that works well for her 6-year-old daughter.


I hope these ideas are helpful. Remember, biking in the wet and cold (and even snow) is not too bad once you're prepared. On the other hand, don't feel like you've got to dress for an ascent up Mt. Everest just for a ride to the store or to school (check out this story on Copenhagenize to see what I mean).

I know there are many more great product and cold weather tips to share. As always, please post your questions, suggestions, and share your experiences in the comments below.

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Comments
  • ayresjk October 30, 2008 at 11:47 am

    I don't have kids but it seems to me that kids ski wear would be very warm on those chilly bike ride days.

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  • A-dub October 30, 2008 at 12:18 pm

    Great article. I took my son out last Saturday morning and by the time we got to our destination 4 miles away his hands were frozen, although he wasn't complaining.

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  • Jason S. October 30, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    Thank you for the article. I recently abandoned the Burley trailer (actually, it was stolen and I do not want to replace it), so I need to figure out a way to protect my daughter on rides.

    I have lots of ideas now!

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  • Zaphod October 30, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    I've outfitted the Xtracycle with a rain canopy made from aluminum tent poles and essentially a rectangle of tent material plus some small hardware bits. This offers some protection. The whole setup weighs nearly nothing and takes about a minute to set up.

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    • Mike December 14, 2010 at 8:43 pm

      Can you tell us more about your Xtracycle rain solution?

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  • Todd B October 30, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    One word - 'Bakfiets' with a bubble canopy or bed cover 1/2 rolled up (like a sleigh).

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  • Marion October 30, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    Hey, Zaphod I HEARD about you from a bunch of people... That is so cool. Is it floppy in the wind?

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  • Matt M October 30, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    You can find kids (and adult) balaclavas at REI.

    I'm with Todd B, Bakfiets with the tent is the way to go in the keeping kids happy and dry in the rain.

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  • Marion October 30, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Maybe Matt.. but still they are $3000 and I can't afford that.. and then the canopy. Also my son is 6 and he wants to ride his own bike or on the Tag a long.

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  • tinderguy October 30, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Bakfiets are also impractical for those of us without a garage. Ever try hauling one of those up the front stairs a few times a day? I'll stick to my xtra. It's a bit more portable.

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  • Marion October 30, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Ha Ha, Lol that's so funny, I hadn't thought of that. I do have a garage and I do have dreams of putting on a nice dress in the spring and going off to the the garden store in a Bakfiets but it's a pretty expensive fantasy. I do love my Xtra
    and my kids really do stay warm and dry in their outer wear. Can't wait to see how the rain poncho works.. my daughter is a bit freaked about it now.. but I think she will get used to it. Am already thinking about modifications for it to give her a bit more room around the head.

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  • velo October 30, 2008 at 4:54 pm

    This rocks! I don't have kids, but every day when I see kids being bike transported around town it makes me so happy. It's the future on Portlands streets with lights and bright colors!

    To all the parents out there with kids who ride - you have my eternal respect.

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  • jj October 30, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Marion, what's a shock cord and where do you get one? I bought a poncho made by Kettler to fit over their bike seat, figuring it'd have extra room in the hood for a helmet and would fit over the Bobike just fine, and it does, but I'd love modify to cinch it up at the bottom so it doesn't flap all over the place.

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  • Racer X October 30, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    Yes the bakfeits is pretty heavy to carry into a condo...though just park it outside (well locked) they are well made for this type of abuse.

    Or ride it up the condo elevator and use it as the crib or playpen. ;-)

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  • Marion October 30, 2008 at 6:36 pm

    JJ, I get elastic shock cord at REI. You can find it next to the rock climbing stuff. They also have cord locks too.

    I think you can also get it at Oregon Mountain Community but I am not sure.

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  • Liz October 30, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Having 2 pair of gloves is nice, so there is a reasonably dry pair from one day to the next. We carry babylegs for extra warmth on legs or arms, or when the gloves are forgotten. Showercaps over helmets are nice too.

    We are considering getting goggles, which I think will be a big help for the kids on the super rainy days.

    We are in the midst of making a rain cover for our tandem, that will cover the older child in the stoker position, and the younger child in the child seat on back. Making it with tent poles, brightly colored ripstop nylon, and clear vinyl windows. Hopefully it will be completed, finally, in the next few days. It will cover the kids from head to knees. We'll post some links to pictures in the family forum when it is done, and maybe even some in progress first, depending.

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  • Kathleen McDade October 30, 2008 at 8:51 pm

    Thanks for the tips -- great to see that there are AFFORDABLE ways to stay dry!

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  • JayS. October 30, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Clear shop glasses to help keep the rain and cold wind out of the eyes are another option besides goggles.

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  • Anne October 30, 2008 at 9:28 pm

    Marion

    Great tips. I like the modified poncho idea.

    I usually pack a thermos of hot chocolate to warm them up when we get to our destination.

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  • ahr November 13, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Hamax makes a poncho to go over a rear mounted bike seat. (Photo halfway down the page on the above link - this is the only place I could find these covers for sale). I have a CoPilot seat rather than a Hamax, but I find the cover still works really well. I especially like that it goes around the feet too. My daughter arrives warm and dry, although her face does still get wet in a driving rain. She doesn't seem to mind too terribly though - she once announced proudly, "Mommy, I eating rain!"

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  • Jennifer December 4, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    Zaphod-

    I would love to see pictures of your rain canopy and hear more about the project (same goes for anyone else who's done something similar!) Feel free to email me. Thank you!

    Also, I realize this is an old thread, so if there is another way I should go about trying to contact this person I'd appreciate the enlightenment. :)
    ~Jennifer
    domestikitty@gmail.com

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