Learning to ride a bike is a joyful rite of passage for most kindergarten children but if you’re a parent who’s an enthusiastic cyclist, figuring out how you carry your little ones between the ages of six months and approximately four years on your bicycle is all about safety and pragmatism.
There are several options to choose from; mainly front-fitting seats, rear-fitting seats, and trailers. But as with all things related to parenting, it’s very much a personal decision as to which option is the best for you.
Most seats are suitable for children between the ages of nine months and four years. The lower age limit is dependent on the ability of your child to sit up unsupported, while the upper limit is dependent on weight more than the age itself, as the handling of your bike gets progressively worse with a heavier passenger. Seats are typically adjusted to passengers weighing up to 20 kg (44 pounds).
Is your bike compatible with a child seat?
How a seat is mounted to a bike is one of the key considerations in choosing the right solution for you and your family. Not all bikes are compatible with bike seats while other bikes are only compatible with certain types of seats or a handful of brands. Standard city bikes, hybrids or commuter bikes are the most versatile, while specialty bikes are not recommended.
Eyelets for a mounting rack
Cables that can interfere with mounting
Rear bike racks mounting systems as some are brake specific
See if your bike has a space for a front-mounted seat
Rear-fitting seats come in three basic designs: cantilevered from the seat tube, fixed to a rear carrier rack, and fixed directly to the seat tube and seat stays.
Best for: Taller children aged nine months upwards, as well as longer rides where the child may sleep.
1. Most seats fit best on medium- or large-sized bikes with a conventional top tube.
2. The simplest and most commonly available option.
3. Most seats can also be detached from the bracket that is fitted to the host bike.
4. An extra bracket also means the seat can be swapped between bikes if necessary.
1. Larger children and/or long-term use may flex the seat too far.
2. Small frames and those with a dropped top tube can cause fitting difficulties for any seat that uses a seat tube bracket.
3. The child is out of sight making conversations difficult.
4. The addition of the seat and child moves the bike’s centre of gravity backwards, which can (at least initially) make movement feel strange and limit the parent’s enjoyment of the cycling experience.
Recommended brands: Hamax, CoPilot, Bobike.
Front seats usually attach to the top tube, a bar fixed above it, or a bracket on the head tube. Some are moulded plastic seats, while others are little saddles and footrests designed for older children.
Best for: Young toddlers with an average to tall adult rider.
1. Allows for easy conversation and close proximity to the child.
2. The child can see more along the journey.
3. Balance is better.
4. It tends to be easier to get on and off.
1. Limits the space for the adult rider and you may end up pedalling awkwardly with your knees out.
2. In the event of a fall, or if you brake suddenly, your child can end up acting as your airbag.
3. Your child is slightly more exposed to wind chill.
4. The small saddle style option is only recommended for short journeys as a tired child could slip sideways or let a foot dangle into the front wheel.
Recommended brands: Bobike, Kangaroo, Weeride, Thule.
More than one child?
While it is possible to have both front and rear seats fitted to the same bike, doing this makes the bike extremely difficult to ride, so if you have more than one young child with you then a child trailer is a better solution.
The other key benefit of a child-carrying cycle trailer is that while seats can only be used once children can support their own necks, most trailers can be used with much younger children, providing a more comfortable space as well as convenient capacity to carry everything you need for them.
1. Trailers offer a huge amount of extra carrying capacity.
2. They are more comfortable for children.
3. Babies can be placed in many infant bike trailers from birth (check specific models for age restrictions).
4. Children can sleep happily.
5. Many trailers fit two children side by side so they can chat to each other.
6. There are no balance or control issues that having the weight of child and seat attached to your bike can cause.
7. Children are confined underneath a canopy where they are dry and can’t stick they arms out to the side into the road.
8. They provide greater weight-carrying capacity than child bike seats.
9. You can keep using them as a trailer when children are more grown up.
10. Quite a few modern child trailers easily convert to a buggy or a pushchair so you don’t have to disturb a sleeping child when you get to your destination.
1. There are weight restrictions on all trailers (as well as seats).
2. Children are inside the trailer behind you, so you will not be able to hear them as clearly or check on them as often as if they were sitting in a seat right next to you – a bike mirror may help with this.
3. You need to be strong and fit enough to tow a trailer.
4. You will need to think more about your road position to help drivers to see you and the trailer.