This post and video provide a complete guide to choosing the best child bike seat or trailer for your baby, toddler, or small child. A quality child bike seat makes it easy and safe for you to take your child with you on bike rides. But the choices can be overwhelming. This post lays out the choices simply and clearly. We explain the differences between – and the pros and cons of – the following: rear-mounted child bike seats; front-mounted child bike seats; and bike trailers.
Video showing Various Kinds of Child Bike Seats
Related Post: 7 of the Best Child Bike Seats
Rear-Mounted Child Bike Seats
Rear-mounted child bike seats are suitable for children aged 18 months and older. There are two kinds:
- Rear-mounted bike seats that attach to the bike frame (usually the seat tube). These are by far the most common, and are more comfortable as they utilize whatever shock absorbing system your bike has.
- Rear-mounted bike seats that attach to the bike rack. These require your bike to have a suitable rack, or eyelets that are intended for mounting a rack.
Some of these rear-mounted child bikes seats have springs for comfort, and some even have a reclining option, or multiple reclining options. Such as the Thule Ride-Along below, which has no less than five reclining options. The reclining option can come in handy, as these seats are very comfortable for children, and they are likely to fall asleep.
Things to Consider with a Rear-Mounted Child Bike Seat
Using a rear-mounted child bike seat requires you to adjust your balance because you have a weight on the back on the bike. Also, depending on how agile you are, you may find getting on the bike to be a bit of a learning curve. There is quite a leg swing required!
Safety Note regarding Rear-mounted Child Bike Seats
If your child is relatively heavy (over 30 pounds) and extremely active, they could upset your balance by making sudden large movements while in the rear-mounted bike seat. This happened to Maggie when her oldest son was a child, and almost caused her to fall over.
If this is the case with your child, it might be safer to use a bike trailer such as the much-loved Burley Bee Trailer, which is rated for up to one hundred pounds. Trailers have the advantage of being very stable.
Front-Mounted or Rear-Mounted Bike Seat?
The video at the beginning of this post makes much of the advantages of a front-mounted seat compared to a rear-mounted seat. While there certainly are some advantages, the reality is that the choice of rear or front mounting usually comes down to the age and size of the child. Once your child is about two years old, you are probably both going to be more comfortable having her or him in a rear-mounted bike seat or a bike trailer.
Front-Mounted Bike Seats: First Choice for Babies
Front-mounted bike seats are ideal for very young kids, up to the age of about two years old (unless your child is large for his or her age). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you wait until your child is at least 12 months old before putting them in a bike seat. They also note that bike trailers are associated with fewer injuries (source: AAP).
However, you will often see younger children (from around the age of 9=nine months) being transported in bike seats. If your child can comfortably hold his or her head up for long periods of time, then you can consider using front-mounted bike seats from about the age of nine months.
Related Post: 7 Easy Steps to Teach a Child to Ride a Bike
Advantages of Front-Mounted Child Bike Seats
You can see a front-mounted bike seat at the beginning of the video above, from minute 0:30, and also in the photo below. These seats enable you to keep a constant eye on your child, and communicate with each other. You can keep your arms protectively circled around your child, and gauge if they become distressed.
They also provide an optimal view for your child, so that they can share the experience of the ride more fully with you.
Disadvantages of Front-Mounted Child Bike Seats
You may find you have to splay your knees a bit, so this option is not super comfortable. Personally, I find the weight on the handlebars can be a bit difficult to adjust to. You definitely do have to cycle with more care.
Mounting tip for front-mounted child bike seats
You need to have space on your bike’s headset to attach the seat. If your headset is threaded, it will have a locknut which you can adjust to make more space available to attach the bike seat, as shown in the photo below.
Bike Trailers to Transport Your Child
A very common way to transport small kids on bikes is with a bike trailer, as in the photo below. You can also see this kind of device from minute 3:20 in the video at the beginning of this post.
Advantages of Bike Trailers
Bike trailers have several important advantages:
- You can transport more than one child, as shown in the photo above.
- You can transport kids of varying ages. As most people tend to have kids who are NOT the same ages, this can be handy!
- There is no load on your bike, so the balance of your bike is not affected. Some people are more bothered by this aspect than others. Maggie always likes a basket on the front of her bikes, but that front-weighted feeling makes me feel less in control of the bike, and I really don’t like it. This tends to be a personal thing. However, it is the reason that I only ever use a bike trailer, not a front or rear child bike seat, to transport kids.
- There is a frame around your kids, which should help to protect them in the event of a fall.
- Your kids are protected from the rain and the wind far more than if they are in a seat.
- You can also use the bike trailer for your groceries, OR you can transport one child and a dog. I tried this once and my child was outraged – especially when the dog in question threw up! However, you may have a child who is more willing to share space with a dog (and a dog that does not get motion sickness!)
- Most have an additional cargo area, so they are very handy for picnics or for shopping expeditions.
Safety Considerations for Carrying Children in Bike Trailers
Of course, you are pulling a trailer, so you have to remember that and ride accordingly. You will take up more space, and you will need more space for maneuvers such as overtaking. Also, if you like to have your eyes on your child at all times, it can be unnerving.
Video Showing How to Carry a Child Safely in a Child Bike Seat
This video is a general guide to carry children and babies safely in bike seats:
Try a Rear-View Mirror
I have always combined a bike trailer with a rear view mirror, so I can keep an eye on my kids. These are cheap, and I always install them on all my bikes, as I like to know what is happening behind me. I believe that rear view mirrors are an excellent (and strangely under-rated) safety feature.
Bottom Line on Child Bike Seats and Trailers
If your child can comfortably hold us his or her head for extended periods of time, you can start to think about enjoying the fun of cycling with him or her. We hope you find our post useful for the purpose of figuring out which bike seat or trailer would be the best for your family.
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