If you want to take your little one on your bike rides, you will need a child bike seat. This detailed guide will help you choose the right seat for your bike and keep your child safe, happy, and comfortable.
Remember, child bike seats are recommended to be used only with a child who can sit up on their own- not propped up with pillows.
Here are the three steps to follow:
1. Decide on the type of seat you want
There are three different types of child bike seats.
Rear mounted-these are the most spacious and are thus suitable for a wider age range from 12 months to 5 years. They have the most desirable features such as suspension, recline ability, and high adjustability. The downside is that your little passenger does not get to enjoy great views of the road ahead. And, you also can’t see them unless you buy a handlebar mirror. Your balance is also affected by a heavy child and their every movement.
Front mounted-these seats are smaller than the rear mounted seats hence ideal for young children from about 9months and above. With the child in front and between the adult’s rider’s arms, they feel so snuggled and secure, without a worry in the world. Parents are also at peace because they can see the child in front of them at all times. There are some downsides with this style, however. One is that your child is coming full face with the wind unless the seat has a windshield. The second is that the child seat takes space between you and the handlebars forcing you to ride with your knees wider than your ideal riding position.
Mid mount/Mtb seat- These seats are usually seen on mountain bikes as they allow the rider to maintain their center of balance. They are suitable for ages 2 to 5, who can maintain a firm grip as they don’t usually have a harness. The child is placed between the handlebars and the adult rider. This position allows closeness and is the safest for aggressive riding. The downside is that the child must be able to hold on.
2. Check to see if your bike is compatible with the child bike seat
Adult bike designs vary widely, as do the child bike seat styles, so you will need to check if your bike is compatible with the seat you have selected.
Rear Mounted Child Bike Seats
Rear seats have two options:
- Frame mounting
- Rack mounting
For frame mounting, the following is required
- Your bike’s seat tube must be round and have at least 4 to 6 inches of clearance for the mounting bracket to attach. The seat tube is the vertical tube that runs from under the saddle and seat post, if you didn’t know. It should not have wires or studs for mounting water bottles.
- Your bike should have about 2 inches of open space below the saddle for the seat and mounting poles. This means it’s not possible for those who ride with the saddle on the lowest setting.
This is the option for those bikes without 4 to 6 inches of clearance on the seat tube. It is also for those who want to ride with a saddle on the lowest setting.
The only downside to this method is that you will need to buy the rack separately.
So long as your bike can accept a rack, it can accept any rack for child bike seat.
For rack mounting, the following is required:
- Your bike must have two sets of eyelets.
Two near the rear wheel axle and the other two at the top of the rear triangle. You can easily see the ones near the rear wheel axle.
- Your bike has disc brakes.
Ensure that the rack you purchase is designed to work with disc brakes.
Front Frame Child Bike Seat
To see if your bike is compatible with front mount bike the check the following:
- Your bike has not less than 20 inches of space from the handlebars and seat tube. This ensures that you will enough room to ride comfortably without your chest and knees touching the seat when the child seat is mounted.
- The type of headset your bike has- threaded/ threadless (ahead) headsets
- Threaded headsets- have a locknut around the stem and are easily compatible with bike seat mounts. Mounting bracket range from 0.5 to 1.5 inches long so, you will need about 1.5 inch clearance on the stem.
- Threadless- these have no lock nut around the stem but are often more difficult to fit with a front mounted bike seat using standard adapter brackets. Threadless adapters mount between the spacers on the steer tube, so they require removing handlebars to mount. However, not all bikes with threadless headsets are compatible with threadless adapters. It’s usually those that have riser handlebars and flat spacers on the steer tube that allows mounting with threadless adapters. Understandably, bikes with flat handlebars do not allow front mounting.
Mid Mount/ Mountain Child Bike Seat
These types of mount fit a wide range of bikes than both the rear and normal front mounted seats. They attach by squeezing the top tube and bottom tube on a bike.
3. Select the seat with the most features that you need
Once you have decided on the child bike seat design that is compatible with your bike, select the seat with your most desired features. Here is a list of the most common features.
There are two types of harnesses; three point and five point harness. A three point harness has just shoulder straps that secure between the legs, while a five point harness has shoulder straps and a waist strap. The latter is more secure as shoulder straps sometimes slip off shoulders when the child is asleep.
All seats have shoulder straps, but they vary in design and functionality. For example, straps that are slide up and down to tighten or loosen are easier and faster to adjust than those that need rethreading.
Here are some seat aspects you need to consider.
- Helmet pockets
Recessed helmet pockets help to keep the child’s head upright and the helmet from being pushed forward that it falls over their eyes. This ensures your child is comfortable in the helmet and during rides.
High end seats have padded bumpers to prevent little fingers from being squished against walls, poles, or any other object for additional protection.
- Seat back Height for front mounted seat
Seats with a high back are more comfortable as they keep the child upright and well supported even when they snooze during rides. They also help to keep shoulder straps in place. In contrast, a seat with a low back causes the shoulder straps to slip off the shoulders, so they won’t keep the child well supported if they fall asleep.
Footrest help to keep your child’s feet and legs safely in place. On rear mounted seats, footrests also prevent the feet from the rear wheel. While on front mounted seats, they prevent feet from interfering with handlebars and gears, which happens if the child pushes on the shifters with their legs.
High quality footrests usually have tool free adjustments to keep the child’s legs secure as they grow. Cheap footrests may not be adjustable, forcing the child to have their knees high as they get taller.
Suspensions are mostly found in rear-mounted seats. They help cushion your child when riding on bumpy terrains, making the ride smooth and comfortable.
Recline seat supports your child’s head and neck during rides and when they fall asleep. You can find the feature on most high end rear seats (both frame and rack mounted).
Extra useful features (front mounted seat)
Handlebar– it gives your child a place to hold on to, which makes them feel secure during rides.
Windscreen– it helps keep wind chill and rain from hitting your child’s face during rides.
Reflector or mounting lights- Some rear seats come with reflector light or mounting points for light. These help to keep your child visible to other motorists in low lighting for extra safety.
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Mary Stephens is our infant development and baby fun activities specialist here at Motherhood HQ. She has over 10 years of experience dealing with kids, previously as a K3 teacher and now as a K9-12 teacher specializing in physical education and Social Studies. She is certified to teach in New York and Massachusetts and when not teaching trampoline jump tricks or giving toddler safety guides, she enjoys writing and providing helpful guides to parents on baby fun activities from infancy to toddlerhood. Mary is also an independent consultant providing parents with fun activities at home and appropriate toys and baby gear for infants and toddler development. She can be reached at her email, mary.s(at)motherhoodhq.com.