Child Bike Seat: A Guide to Buying the Perfect One

Child Bike Seat
It’s the little joys of having a child that makes parenting worthwhile, and one of the activities that parents can share with their toddlers is bike riding. Your little kiddo may be too young to handle pedaling a bike on his own, but he may be able to go on two-wheeled adventures with you by riding on yours. To make this possible, you’re going to need a safe and comfortable child bike seat which you can easily mount on your bicycle. Front mounted child bike seat vs. rear mounted? Here are the answers.

At a Glance

  • A child bike seat is a specially-designed saddle that is mounted on a bicycle. It carries very young kids (generally between ages 1 to 5) who occasionally tag along with their bike-riding parents.
  • Before you embark on your mission to find the perfect ridealong bike seat for your kid, you need to ask these three (3) questions:
    1. Is your child big enough to wear a properly fitting kids helmet?
    2. Can your bike accommodate a child bike seat?
    3. What kind of mount is suitable for your bike?
  • There are two main types of child bike seats: (1) front-mounted seats and (2) rear-mounted seats.  Rear mount seats can be classified further into two subtypes: (1) Rear frame mount seats (attach to the bike’s seat post and mount on the frame) and (2) Rear rack mount seats (mount onto a rack situated over the back tire and connect to the bicycle’s frame).
  • Each type of ridealong seats for kids has their respective safety advantages as well as disadvantages. Ultimately, buying the right one for your kid all boils down to (1) the compatibility of the child carrier with the bike, and (2) the personal preference of the adult rider.

What Is a Child Bike Seat?

A child bike seat is a specially-designed saddle that is mounted on a bicycle. It is meant to carry very young kids (generally between ages 1 to 5) that occasionally tag along with their bike-riding parents. They are small, light, durable, and come in various mounting styles. In addition, they generally fit the specifications of different bikes and matches the preferences of parents. Adult bikers use these carriers when they go cycling with their kids in places where there is no or very light car traffic (e.g., parks with designated bike trails).

Little boy in bike child seat happy laughing

What are the types of child bike seats?

Before you embark on your mission to find the perfect ridealong bike seat for your kid, you must ask these three (questions):

  • Is your child big enough to wear a properly fitting helmet?
  • Can your bike accommodate a child bike seat?
  • What kind of mount is suitable for your bike?

There are two main types of child bike seats: front mounted child bike seat vs. rear mounted.

Types: front mounted child bike seat vs. rear mounted

Front-Mount Seats

Ridealong seats meant to be mounted at the front of the bicycle and attach below the handlebars. They are suitable for kids ages 1 to 5.

Pros: 

  • The child is in view of the cycling adult.
  • The child can look in front and enjoy the surrounding view.
  • The parent can bond with the child because conversations are possible.
  • The adult rider can carry a backpack
  • The luggage carrier behind the rider is available for use.
  • The bike has better weight distribution and handling.
  • Front bike seats are usually much lighter and easier to attach to or remove from the bicycle.
 
Cons:

  • The placement of the bike seat is usually too high for small kids.
  •  Ascent may be difficult because of the limited space between the rider’s seat and the toddler’s saddle.
  •  It is an obstruction that makes pedaling and steering more difficult.
  • The maximum weight limit (usually 45 lbs.) is less than what rear seats can handle.
  • Its limited size and weight limit prolonged use.
  • The child is in more danger in the event of head-on accidents.
  • There is generally not enough cushion against bumps.

Rear Mount Seats

There are two types of rear-mounted seats:

(1) Rear frame mount seats – Child bike seats that mount to the bicycle’s frame and typically attach directly to the bike’s seat post.
(2) Rear rack mount seats – Child bike seats that mount onto a rack situated over the back tire and connect to the bicycle’s frame.

Pros: 

  • The ridealong seat is not an obstruction when pedaling and steering.
  • The seats mounted at the rear are much larger and roomier than front-mounted ones.
  • The child is more protected from dust and the wind.
  • Rear seats are usually equipped with more nifty features like reclining seats, strap or belt systems, and adjustable footrests.
  • They are usually designed with suspension systems to cushion kids against bumps and for a much smoother ride.
  • Rear seats can be used by a growing child for much longer.
 
Cons:

  • The child is not in the adult rider’s view.
  • It is more difficult to interact or converse with the child while cycling.
  • Your kid may not get automatically acquainted with sitting in the back.
  • The bike is harder to balance when mounting and dismounting.
  • Space for luggage is compromised unless you get an additional carrier.

Child Bike Seat Sizes by Age/Weight

Front-mounted child bike seats are meant for kids between ages one and three years old whose weight limit doesn’t exceed 35 lbs. Rear mount child bike seats, on the other hand, are suitable for one-year-old kids as well as for children who weigh up to 45 lbs. In order to know if a ridealong seat is suitable for your child’s age and weight, you must read the product’s specifications.

Pro Tip: Before going for a ride on your bike with your kid, apply sunscreen even if the first rays of sunshine in the morning are not painfully bright. The UV radiation can still damage your skin and your child’s. Use a sunscreen product that is suitable for kids. 

What Are the Most Important Purchase Criteria for a Child Bike Seat?

Finding the most suitable bike seat for your bicycle and your child can be a much easier task if you know the necessary as well as desirable features you should be looking for in one. Below are several important purchase criteria you need to consider when buying a child bike seat.

  • Durability – The bike seat must be able to carry the full weight of your toddler. Its material must last against environmental conditions such as the heat of the sun.
  • Bike Compatibility – The bike seat should be suitable to your bicycle’s specifications. This means that your chosen ridealong seat can attach easily and securely to the bike.
  • Comfort – The bike seat should be comfortable for both the adult rider and the child. For kids, the bike seat must be equipped with thick, padded seating, closed armrests, and a stirrup. Aside from that, the seat should be breathable or well-ventilated. The bike seat should be designed with a suspension system so that the child doesn’t feel every bump in the road. It is also ideal if the child gets to have a good view of the surroundings. As for the parents, there should be enough space for the adult rider to move around. An unobstructed view of the road ahead is preferable.
  • Ease of Use – Just like in the case of car seats for babies and toddlers, the right bike seat for kids should be easy to install. It should not make it extremely difficult or inconvenient for the adult rider to mount, disembark, or steer while riding. Carrying it around and storing it should be a breeze, which means it is best if it is foldable and has a built-in carrying handle.
  • Size Adjustability – Since your child is growing every day, the bike seat’s footplate should be adjustable to adapt to your kid’s changing size. If possible, it should also come with an adjustable headrest.
  • Safety – A bike seat for kids must come with, at the very least, a 3-point harness that’s padded and adjustable. However, a 5-point harness may be preferable if you want extra security. You would also want your child to be visible at all times to other people while riding along bike trails. As such, child seats should come with reflectors.
  • Protection – A ridealong bike seat should have extra features that protect the child from the bicycle’s spokes. The kid also needs protection from the sun, the wind, the rain, and dust.
  • Color Choice – The child seat’s plastic shell should be light-colored, especially in warm summers. Dark-colored surfaces absorb more heat, which could potentially be harmful for your kid.

Health and Safety of a Child Bike Seat

As with any other product that you buy for your child, the safety and comfort of your kid are paramount when it comes to purchasing and using child bike seats.

What are the Don’ts in Buying and Using a Child Bike Seat?

  • Never buy a bike seat without checking if it’s compatible with your bicycle. Not all bikes are meant to be mounted with ridealong seats, and some bicycles are suitable for only a select number of bike seat models or brands.
  • Never put a baby in a bike seat. Some bike seats are designed for babies as young as nine months old but unless their heads can fit properly in a helmet, it is not wise to bring your child with you while cycling.
  • Never use a child bike seat to bring your kid with you if you’re going to pass through areas with significant car traffic.

Toxic Substances in Child Bike Seat

Parents have grown worried over the possibility that the products they buy for their children contain harmful chemicals. And with so many studies being published in recent years about children’s products like car seats which turn out to be not completely free of toxic chemicals, the threat has become all too real. As such, it has become necessary for parents to be vigilant consumers. Therefore, before you buy a specific child bike seat, you must make sure that it is certified by and up to the established standards of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Arm Rests and Stirrups

Whether you plan on purchasing a rear mount or front mount seat, make sure that you are buying one with a stirrup or a footrest. They prevent your child’s feet from getting caught in your bike’s wheel or its brakes. A child bike seat with closed armrests is also ideal since it provides extra comfort and protection for your kid’s arms.

Belt System

A strap or belt system that secures the child’s shoulders and waist is a must in any child bike seat [Source: Consumer Reports]. The standard is a 3-point harness although some models come with a 5-point harness instead as an additional security measure.  The belt and buckle should be adjustable.

Reflector

For the child’s safety, the child seat must be visible to other cyclists and everyone else treading along the recreational bike path. This means you should only purchase a ridealong seat that has reflective strips or reflectors.

Spoke Protection

The child seat should have adjustable footpegs that prevents the kid’s feet from moving around too much. This will serve as the child’s protection from the moving bike wheel and its spokes.

Care and Cleaning Tips for a Child Bike Seat

  • #1: Protect the seat padding from the elements like dust and rain by utilizing the rain cover when the bicycle is not being used.
  • #2: Wash the upholstery carefully by using a damp cloth and a bowl of warm water with a bit of gentle detergent.
  • #3: Refrain from cleaning your child’s bike seat using sharp bleaches or abrasives as they may damage the product’s material.
  • Tip #4: Regularly check for signs of wear and tear to ensure that the bike seat is always safe to use.

Useful Accessories and Additional Products

  • Two-legged Stand – Putting a heavy load on your bike like a child seat requires you to buy a two-legged stand to prevent your bicycle from tilting.
  • Steering Damper – A steering damper prevents uncontrolled or undesirable side-to-side movement of the bike’s front end.
  • Helmet – A helmet is a must every time you take your child to go for a bicycle ride.
  • Rain Cover – A rain cover keeps the child seat dry in times of drizzle or a downpour and free of dirt on sunny days.

Popular Brands for a Child Bike Seat

It is best to buy from the most reputable brands to ensure the quality and safety of the bike seat you will buy for your kid. Here are several popular brands for you to check out:

Thule Yepp Topeak Trail-a-Bike WeeRide iBert Peg-Perego Bellelli Tyke Totter Bobike

Where to Buy a Child Bike Seat in the US

Walmart – This multinational retail chain was heralded as the world’s largest grocery retailer in the country in 2016. Among the many items they sell are numerous models of child bike seats from various well-known brands.

TargetThis U.S.-based discount store retailer is Walmart’s main rival and operates more than 1,800 stores in the United States as of 2017. Like its main competitor, Target sells different types of child bike seats from popular brands.

Amazon – This is the world’s biggest Internet retailer by revenue today. From its humble beginnings as an online bookstore, Amazon has later expanded its market by selling various consumer goods, from food and apparel to electronics. Hence, it is no surprise that this e-commerce company is selling ridealong seats as well.

Q&A About Child Bike Seats

How safe are child bike seats?

Parents and experts have different opinions about riding bicycles with toddlers and young kids. Some say it’s okay; others frown upon it. Right now, what we do know is that the American Academy of Pediatrics prohibits parents from putting their child in a bike seat if they are less than a year old.  States like New York also prohibit the same. This is because the physical strain of traveling on a bike may have a negative effect on the baby’s brain development. At the very least, you have to wait until the child’s head can fit in a helmet. Meanwhile, you can visit parks with your little one while he rests on a baby stroller or a baby carrier. But even then, the safety of the child is not 100% guaranteed when bike riding. Parents themselves must exercise caution to avoid encountering accidents while cycling.

Which child bike seat is the safest?

Each type of ridealong seats for kids has their respective safety advantages along with their disadvantages as well. There is no lone winner when deciding which is the safest child bike seat. In the end, your choice all boils down to the compatibility of the child carrier with the bike as well as your personal preference.

That being said, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents should only purchase child seats that meet the safety standards established by ASTM International [Source: Consumer Reports].

Up to what age/weight can my kid use child bike seats?

Generally, using stable bike seat models are appropriate for children up to seven years old. The maximum weight limit for sturdier carriers is usually 45 lbs.

Can I buy a second-hand child bike seat?

It is not advisable for parents to buy secondhand bike seats since there is a chance that they might be purchasing either a dangerous or recalled model. Nevertheless, if you really want to buy a pre-owned carrier, then you should verify with the CPSC first if they already recalled the old model you’re buying in the past. Additionally, the secondhand bike seat should also come with an owner’s manual. Otherwise, check the brand’s website if there are instructions on how to attach or remove the seat.  You should scrutinize the item thoroughly, making sure that it is not missing any crucial pieces. Look for signs of significant wear and tear as well [Source: Consumer Reports].

Is my bike suitable for a child bike seat?

Child bike seats are supposedly versatile because they are mountable on most generic bikes. However, realistically speaking, there is no such thing as a child carrier that is universally compatible with every bicycle model ever made. Some bikes cannot accommodate a child rider at the front while others don’t have much space at the rear. Hence, most of the time, bikes fit better with only a single child seat type.

As such, the best way to know if the child seat is suitable for your bike is by testing it for yourself. Visit a reputable bicycle store and bring your bike with you. They usually allow you to try out the carrier to see if it is compatible with the bike and if you’re comfortable with using it. However, if you don’t have the time to do that, and you chose to order online instead, then make sure you keep your receipts. When it comes to online purchases, you have to embrace the possibility that you might have to return the item you bought.

Bicycle trailer or child bike seat?

Between a child bike seat and a bicycle trailer, experts will most likely tell you that a bicycle trailer is perhaps the better choice. In comparing the two, the bike seats turned out to be more suitable for recreational excursions at the park. As for the bike trailers, they are better for cycling longer distances as they provide more comfort to the child and the parent as well.

There are several reasons why the trailer is preferable. First of all, it’s position is much closer to the ground, which means you won’t have to worry about your kid falling in times of accidents. Secondly, the bike is also much easier to steer or maneuver because the trailer doesn’t obstruct the view of the rider or unbalance the bicycle with its weight. And finally, using it is less risky since the child is comfortably seated and strapped inside an enclosed compartment with a rigid frame and protective cover [Source: Consumer Reports].

Our Top 3 Recommended Child Bike Seats

Budget Choice: WeeRide Kangaroo

This front mount bike seat from WeeRide is intended for kids whose ages range from 1 to 4 years old. Its maximum weight capacity is 33 lbs.

Pros: 

  • Easy to attach
  • The padded front bumper works as a handle but also doubles as a resting platform for the kid
  • Mounted in the center which helps the bike stay stable
  • Provides the child a front-row view
  • 5-point safety harness
  • Adjustable foot cups
Cons:  

  • Low backrest
  • Shoulder straps tend to slip down

Best Choice: Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini Seat

Just like WeeRide’s Kangaroo seat, this front mount bike seat from Thule and Yepp is intended for kids whose ages range from 9 months old to 3 years old. Its maximum weight capacity is 33 lbs.

Also see its predecessor: Thule Yepp Mini

Pros: 

• Easy to attach

• Compatible with most bikes

• Lightweight and durable outer shell

• Shock-absorbing seat ensures a comfortable ride for your child

• Adjustable footrests and foot straps

• Padded front bumper works as a handle and as a resting platform for the kid

• Provides the child a front-row view

• 5-point safety harness

Cons: 

• The child is more at risk in the event of a head-on crash accident

• Not enough coverage for the leg area (as extra protection) 


Premium Choice: Thule RideAlong

Also a product of Thule, this is a rear mount bike seat for kids whose ages range from 9 months old to 6 years old. Its maximum capacity is 48.5 lbs.

Pros: 

• Compatible with most bike frames

• Durable

• Easy to mount/remove

• Dual beam suspension system to absorb shock from road bumps

• 3-point safety harness

• Childproof safety buckle

• Adjustable footrests and foot straps

• Built-in reflector

• Five different reclining options

Cons: 

• Blocked front view (for the kid)

• More expensive

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