It's important to ask yourself a few questions before you even step into the shop to ensure you are looking for the right type of bike seat.
- What type of bike do you have?
- How sturdy is it and what is the suspension like?
- How old is your child?
- Where are you going to be cycling (rough country lanes or smooth paths)?
The two main options for child bike seats are rear-mounted and front-mounted. As the name suggests, rear seats sit behind the cyclist, while front seats are positioned between you and the handlebars. To complicate things just a little further, there are also multiple ways to attach both type of seat to your bike, too. We’ve put together a summary of the different kinds available, to help you choose the child bike seat that’s right for you and your child.
Rear-mounted child bike seats
Rear-mounted seats are suitable from nine months and can generally last up to 5 years. Their price ranges anywhere from £35 (for example the Avenir Snug, £38.99) to £120 (for example the Thule RideAlong).
There are three main types of rear seat attachment, and your choice will probably depend on the type of bike you have. If you’re riding a bike with rear suspension, you’ll need to go for the first kind, which attaches to the seat stem and cantilevers out over the wheel, like the Hamax Siesta. If your bike has a rear carrier rack, you might be better off with a seat that is designed to attach there, such as Polisport's Guppy Maxi. If your bike has neither of these things, you could go for the third option, which attaches both to the seat stem and the bike’s stays for added security.
Rear-mounted seats are generally thought to be more secure for the child, as there’s more room on the back for extra padding and protective layers. In addition, many rear-mounted models can be reclined to provide a relaxing environment for your child to snooze in.
However, the position can make the bike feel slightly unbalanced depending on how far backwards on the frame it is placed, and this may make it harder to control the bike itself. There’s also the downside that you have your back to your child, who spends the whole journey looking at your bottom.
Front-mounted child bike seats
Front-mounted seats are generally suitable for children aged between nine months and three years. Most attach to the handlebar stem (like Polisport's Guppy Mini), but some require an extra bar to be fitted between the handlebar and your seat tube (such as the Weeride Classic).
There are obvious benefits to a front-mounted seat: it allows easy interaction between you and your child, they get a nicer view (not that your behind isn’t lovely) and you get the fun of watching them ‘steer’ the bike. Front mounted seats also put the child’s weight in the center of the bike rather than on the end, making the bike more stable and therefore easier to manoeuvre. This may therefore be a good option for less confident parent bikers.
While there’s no room for a recline feature, many front-mounted seats (such as the Weeride Classic) include a sleeping rest for your child to lean on during naps. This means that even when their head inevitably falls forwards, there’s somewhere for them to rest it without being uncomfortable and without doing any damage. The Yepp Mini also has a handlebar, and as an extra you can add a soft cover to this so it’s slightly more comfy for a quick on-the-go nap.
However, because your child sits in front of you, they will be more exposed to the elements than if your body was offering some protection. You may also find that as they get older your passenger or their helmet may reduce your visibility. Some models may also get in the way of pedalling, requiring a slightly bow-legged position which can affect your speed and comfort.
Final child bike seat checklist
Whichever type of seat you go for, make sure that it’s compatible with your bike before handing over the cash.
For the safety of your child, it’s important that the seat keeps them away from the spokes of your bike. Almost half of all accidents involving a child bike seat are due to small hands and feet getting caught in the spokes. Most seats will have a plastic shield to prevent this, but it’s still worth choosing a seat with foot straps to make sure this doesn’t happen.
If you’re planning to switch the seat between your bike and your partner’s, it may be worth considering how easy it is to remove and attach. Some seats, like the Thule RideAlong, are designed to be easily moved from one bike to another (once you’ve bought an extra attachment fixture, which would set you back an additional £25).
With both a front- and rear-mounted seat, it is possible for one adult to cycle with more than one child. However, as the extra weight makes the bike difficult to control, you may want to consider a trailer instead.
Although these trailers are a more pricey option (for Halfords' own make of the double trailer you’re starting from £99), they are a cosy way to transport your little passengers and also a whole host of other bits and bobs. However, with your children so close to the road, it’s important to bear in mind you will not be able to hear what they’re saying to you, and it will also be tricky to keep an eye on them. In the same way, it may also be tricky for other road users to spot them down there, which is why most trailers will be brightly coloured and will come with a tall flag or other indicator attached to the top. On top of all that, you will need to be just that little bit fitter to drag this fairly hefty piece of kit behind you, especially when heading uphill.
Bike seat extras
Small fingers and heavy bike springs don’t mix, so if you’re going for a rear-mounted seat and you have a sprung saddle, you’ll need to buy or make a fingerguard. Bobike have some options, or if you’re feeling crafty, you can do it yourself with a plastic sheet and some zip ties.
If you’re cycling in the early morning or evening, you should invest in some bright, reflective gear. Sticking a Baby on Board sticker on the back of a rear seat, or on your back, will make it easier for traffic to spot you and encourage them to take more care.
Some front-mounted seats include the option to buy a windshield to shelter your child from the elements – just make sure you can still see where you’re going! Here's one option to pop on a Thule RideAlong seat.
If your child likes to snooze while on the move, a neck rest can provide extra support and prevent their head from being bounced around, but this is unlikely to be provided with the seat, and can cost around £20 extra for a product from a well-known brand, such as Hamax.
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