As two very active people, my wife and I planned to continue our activities and outdoor adventures when our boy came along. We loved biking—whether as an activity in and of itself or as a means to get to the local farmer’s market. Since the day I found out my wife was pregnant, I’ve been dreaming of the day when our child could joins us on our tours, and I was thrilled when the Thule RideAlong Mini finally made that dream happen.
Like its bigger brother, the RideAlong, the RideAlong Mini is a molded seat for your child that attaches to your bike. It is recommended for children from 9 months up to 3 years, or 33 pounds, but your mileage may vary. Installation of the RideAlong Mini was fairly simple, and Thule provided all the necessary tools and clear instructions.
First, a bracket is attached to the stem of the bike (the part that holds your handlebars). Then, the seat simply clicks into the bracket. Being able to easily and quickly attach or remove the seat is wonderful, as it lets me and my boy get going quickly without a lot of noodling with the equipment. Yet, when I ride alone, I can effortlessly take off the seat, so it is not needlessly in the way.
It took a little effort to get the harness fit just right. A sternum strap to keep the shoulder harness together would have been helpful, but I felt our child was secure. Once I got everything set up (and fitted the smallest of helmets on his head), riding with my boy was a pure joy.
Having the Mini in front of the rider has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, being positioned at the front of the bike, our child had an unobstructed view of the entire outing. With the wind in his hair, he was happy as a clam (though I would recommend a pair of sunglasses to prevent any bugs or debris from flying into his eyes). Plus, I can easily see that he is safe in front of me.
On the other hand, the seat can become a little intrusive. As the biker, I was essentially leaning over my child, which allowed me to easily interact with and check on him. However, the RideAlong Mini can get in the way of your knees while pedaling. Further, when coming to a stop, I could not come in front of the bike seat to put my feet down, as there is no room between it and the Mini. Instead, I had to lower my seat some to put my feet down when stopping.
There are two main differences between the Mini and the regular RideAlong: 1) The Mini is slightly smaller. (The RideAlong is a bit larger and can accommodate children up to 6 years old.), and 2) The Mini goes in front of the rider while the RideAlong goes behind. So although the Mini lets you more easily access and interact with the child, the normal RideAlong does not interfere with your riding style.
The child is secured in the Mini by an adjustable, padded 5-point harness. The locking mechanisms seemed sturdy to me and would not release without effort. Similarly, the seat has footrests that can be adjusted in height depending on the size of your child to provide a more comfortable ride and prevent pain from hanging legs. Thule was also smart about giving your child their own rubberized handlebar, which allows him or her to adjust or brace themselves a little better during the ride (and provides a good place to attach light toys!).
The padding in the seat seemed comfortable for my son. So comfortable, in fact, he’s fallen asleep while riding! (Due to the nature of the Mini, it does not accommodate a sleeping child very well. Without head rests or a reclined position, my boy’s helmeted head had nowhere to go but forward, to rest on the rubberized handlebars of the Mini. The position didn’t seem to look altogether comfortable, though he never seemed to mind. From now on, we’ll try to get a nap in before we go on our bike outings!)
In addition to being easily cleaned, water-repellent, and machine-washable, it is also reversible, sporting, in our case, a dark grey side and a purple side, for your individual fashion needs.
Since riding with the Mini, I have since tried a bike trailer as well. I tend to like the Mini more, as it keeps me close to my boy and I don’t have to contend with a large contraption trailing behind me. I love the RideAlong Mini and all of the adventures and outings it has allowed my family to go on. Being able to include our son in the activities we loved make them that much more special, and the Mini is responsible for letting us have those great memories.
To buy: thule.com