If this activity is cycling, there are a number of options that make it easy for you to bring the littles along. For a compact solution that offers lightweight maneuverability, nothing beats a child bike seat.
When shopping for a child bike seat, what features are important? How do you ensure that you find the best bike seat for you and your family?
Here’s a 7-point guide to features you will want to look for:
1. How Does the Seat Mount to the Bicycle?
Child bike seats are designed for either the front of your bike or rear of your bike.
Front position bike seats place the child in front of you, just behind the handlebars.
This placement is typically suitable for a child up to 33 lb*, and gives the child a whole new way to view the world during your journey. There are different mounting bracket options to fit multiple bike styles so be sure you know which style headset your bike has before making your purchase. The ‘Standard’ fit Hamax Observer, for example, fits most threaded headsets that have 2 inches of clearance on the bike stem. The alternative option includes an A-Head style stem adapter.
Rear position bike seats place the child behind you, just behind your seat. This placement is typically suitable for a child up to 48.5 lbs*, and offers optimal comfort with shock-absorbing suspension. There are different mounting options to fit the needs of your bike: Frame Mount and Rack Mount.
Frame Mount options attach the seat directly to the frame of the bike via a locking bracket. It is easy to install on the seat tube and only requires a few inches of space. However, this style is not compatible with most e-bikes or carbon frames. For some models, including the Hamax brand, you can purchase an additional locking bracket that allows for easy transfer of the bike seat between bikes.
Rack mount options attach the seat to a cargo or luggage rack previously installed on your bike. This allows the seat a tool free installation and dismount for easy transfers between compatible bikes. The rack mount style can also accommodate e-bikes, carbon, or other non-standard frames that have a compatible rack carrier. Racks usually must be rated for at least 55 lbs. in order to accommodate the weight of the child and the seat.
2. Does the Seat Recline?
A bike seat that has a reclining ability will not only make it more comfortable for your child, but safer as well. Many children find the movement of a bicycle soothing, and similar to what happens while traveling in the car, they will fall asleep. The reclining feature allows the child to lay back safely and contentedly, instead of slumping forward in an uncomfortable posture.
3. Are there Footrests and Footstraps?
Footrests for your child are incredibly important. The footrests protect the child’s feet and toes from entering the wheel space as well as give them a comfortable place to rest their feet. The straps that come with many models of child bike seats also play an important role in protecting your child. They keep a restless or curious kiddo out of trouble by making sure those little feet stay where they are supposed to.
4. How Easy is it to Buckle Your Child?
The ease of buckling in your precious cargo is one of the most central considerations when looking at what type of child bike seat to purchase. Every parent has at one point struggled to buckle their child into a car seat – now imagine doing that same process on a bike. All Hamax seats offer quick, single-handed adjustments for every adjustable feature including the safety buckle. This allows you to always keep one hand on your bike while using the other to make adjustments and connect the safety buckle.
5. Are Springs or Shock Absorbers Included?
Your child should be able to enjoy the bike ride as much as you, and not have to just endure it. Make sure your child bike seat is designed with adequate shock-absorbing features to provide a smooth ride for your little one.
6. Is the Seat Adjustable?
Just like a car seat, you want your child’s bike seat to grow with them so that you are not purchasing a new one every time they have a growth spurt. Many child bike seats have adjustable back rests, straps, and footrests that will accommodate your child up to 45 lbs, or about 5-6 years old*. The Hamax Caress, for example, is unique in its sliding backrest that accommodates varied heights.
7. Are There Other Safety and Use Considerations?
While cycling is still primarily a recreational pastime in the U.S, the use of bike seats is very popular in Europe for both recreation and normal transportation and their safety standards are more highly regulated. Look for child bike seats approved and marked by the stringent European standard EN14344 and well as the U.S. ASTM standard (applies currently to rear mounted seats only).
Hopefully these tips will help with your child bike seat search! Once you get started, be sure to follow all bicycle safety laws in your state, including wearing helmets for both parent and child. Happy riding!
* Age range is estimated based on rated product weight limits. Be sure to follow safety guidelines for your specific seat.