Taking your newborn on a bike is possible, if you’ve got the nerve.

For cycle-mad London-living families like ours, one of the main concerns during my pregnancy was “how are we going to survive nine months without being able to take our baby on a bike?” Nine hours without being on a bike was alien to us, let alone nine months – the recommended age to start an infant in a bike seat. The only way we could tolerate London life was to cycle everywhere, especially living in the public-transport desert of east London.

I cycled all through my pregnancy, but as I neared the end I became increasingly twitchy about being knocked off. Perhaps due to my size and thus snail’s pace, or maybe because the reality of carrying a baby inside you really hits home when you can see a foot protruding. Luckily, my partner designs and builds bikes for a living and had been talking about making a cargo bike for some time (the fact we’d been given a car as a ‘baby’ gift by his very generous parents only made him more determined not to drive in London).

So one weekend he disappeared into the workshop, surfacing 48 hours later, blinking and blackened like a miner coming out of the mine, with what has been dubbed ‘The Frankenstein Bike’. Made from a mixture of tubing salvaged from broken frames, The Frankenstein has a long wheelbase with a strong, integrated rear rack over the back wheel, enabling it to carry big, heavy objects. Like the dining table he brought home on it (yes, we had the car at the time).

We strapped a salvaged scooter seat to the top of it and that’s how I travelled for the following six weeks. We even bought the Christmas tree home on it.

Now, it’s all very well in theory putting your precious newborn baby on the back of a bike, in London, but when that fragile thing arrives and the overwhelming protective instinct kicks in, it’s a whole different story. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my partner – he can cycle better than he can walk – it was the unpredictable London loons behind wheels that I didn’t trust. We attached a Britax infant car seat to the rack with ratchet straps, using a foam camping mat as a shock absorber between the rack and the seat. On sunny days we would tie an umbrella to the handle of the seat for shade, and bought a car seat rain cover (John Lewis) for wet weather days. We debuted in the park and along the towpaths then built up to a ride from east London to Hampstead Heath (very stressful for me – buses! – and not great for our relationship).

I will add at this point that I have never ridden The Frankenstein, I found it too heavy and couldn’t get it down from our first floor flat by myself.

As the baby grew more robust and spring sprung (and I relaxed a little), the joy and freedom of being able to go for a ride as a family, pre nine months, over-rode any remaining fears. My partner argued at what age would I not worry? 10, 15, 21? And I guess the answer to that is that a mother never stops worrying about the safety of her child. My concern was his ability to survive an accident, and that would increase with age I reasoned.

I am not sure about the legal implications of this kind of set-up, but we were never apprehended. And boy did we attract a lot of attention, our travelling circus.

At 8 months we bought the lightest helmet we could find (Abus Smiley) and put our baby in a bike seat (Co-Pilot) on the back of my mountain bike. We continued to use the cargo bike and car seat for longer journeys when he would want to sleep, swapping him between bikes for his viewing/sleeping pleasure. The cargo bike also came with the added bonus of being able to tie the endless amount of crap you carry when you have a baby to the rack. You could also strap a small buggy to the side of the rack, we only procured one of these recently so never did it, the Bugaboo Chameleon was a bit too much of a beast.

I am now pregnant again and looking forward to riding on the back of the Frankenstein once again. My partner is cooking up ideas for carrying both a heavily pregnant girlfriend and toddler on the back. Let’s hope he’s had his Weetabix.

If you would like to commission Ted to build a cargo bike, or indeed any other type of custom bike, visit tedjamesdesign.com or email him info@tedjamesdesign.com

Black and white cover photo by Mikey Merkenshlager http://mikeymerk.tumblr.com/