Owning one of the best child bike seats is a perfect way to introduce kids to a life long love of cycling.
With a child seat upon your bike they can experience the thrill of zooming around on two wheels before they start their own cycling journey on one of the best balance bikes, and eventually pedalling one of the best kids' bikes of their own.
There are two main styles of child bike seats - those mounted on the front and those on the rear. Rear seats fall into two categories: frame or rack mounted. Similarly there are two main types of front seats; those with lots of support for younger children, and more minimal seats for older children.
Our quick reference table (below) will help you work out what the best bicycle child seat at a glance. We've also included lots of information on differences of mounting systems, as well as helpful hints and tips when making your purchase.
Our pick of the best front and rear child bike seats
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The best child bicycle seat - rear
Bobike GO Maxi
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Dutch brand Bobike has an array of different rack and frame mounted rear seats to suit your budget and colour pallet. We tested the entry level GO frame-mounted seat.
The GO has a reassuringly solid feel with a slight wrap-around structure to offer additional protection for your child’s head, elbows and knees and the double-walled shell is designed to give additional impact protection. One downside of this simplicity there isn’t anywhere obvious to fit a light and no high-visibility colours or reflectors.
The seat has a basic three-point harness which is a bit awkward to adjust and get to sit evenly across your child’s shoulders. We also found we had to loosen and tighten it each time we pulled it over our passenger’s head, even without a helmet on. Fastening the strap’s buckle is easy but it’s quite stiff and awkward to release. Conversely the foot straps are the easiest and most effective to tighten and release compared to any of the other seats we tested.
Maximum child age for this seat is 6 years or a weight of 22kg. However, given our 100cm tall 3 year old already has the shoulder straps on the highest setting then I suspect most kids will be too tall before they get too heavy or old.
Fitting the seat to the bike via the frame clamp was fairly straightforward although the instructions were a little difficult to follow. The one thing we had to pay close attention to was ensuring the seat post safety strap didn’t catch in the wheel. This would be easier with Velcro or clip rather than slide adjuster.
Once on the road the GO was reliable and fuss-free. It felt nice and stable with our 15kg passenger on board and certainly didn’t bounce and flex about like the Hamax Siesta. There were zero complaints from the small commuter so we feel fairly confident in saying it makes for a comfortable ride too. As the bracket arms of a frame-mounted seat inherently provide a lot of suspension into a seat, without separately testing, we can’t say that the rack-mounted version would ride in exactly the same way.
The BoBike GO is a sturdy, smart and well-functioning entry-level seat. There are a few gripes like the fitting instructions and awkward harness straps and buckle, but given the GO retails at about half the price of many other seats there’s really very little to not like.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Topeak Babyseat II comes with its own rack and is a really simple system to fit straight out the box.
The seat is a moulded wraparound structure which provides some side support protecting hips, elbows and head. This is quite different from most other rear seats which tend to be more flat and leave your child a little more exposed.
There are three different shoulder-height positions for the harness to accommodate your growing child and repositioning from time to time has been an easy task. Similarly the foot rests are easily adjustable across seven positions via a large plastic clip.
Under the seat is dual-spring suspension to cushion some of the lumps and bumps of the road, a feature not often found on rack-mounted seats which don't have the inherent suspension of a cantilever mounted rack. Our baby / child tester never complained about rough roads so it seems that this is a pretty effective design.
We found the wraparound seat structure to really effective in protecting our child-tester in a crash. Whilst this experience can’t verify the Babyseat II will always save bumps and bruises, our testers were assured that it had done a better job than if the side protection hadn’t been there.
There are three different racks depending on your bike’s wheel size (29in / 700c, 27.5in /650b, or 26in) and whether you have disc brakes or not. All of the racks and the seat are available as a set or separately which makes future-swaps possible*.
The seat itself attaches to the rack using a sturdy plastic ‘slide lock’ which stores under the seat when not in use. This quick-release system makes it really easy to attach and detach the seat from the rack.
On the downside, the bespoke system does mean that you need Topeak’s specific Babyseat II rack. If you’ve got a rack already this will feel like an unnecessary investment; however, this system makes the seat incredibly easy to mount and unmount, so a real bonus if you regularly switch between riding with and without your child.
*As there are a few rack options available it's worth double-checking before you purchase to make sure you get the right wheel-size and brake option, not all vendors have this clearly listed.
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Siesta is one of Hamax’s range of six frame-mounted seats. It’s also available with three other models in a rack version too.
The Siesta's construction appears understated. This is by no way a criticism, there’s nothing unnecessary on the seat that will add to the weight and everything that’s there – support, straps and buckles – does its job simply and well. There are small arm rests with handles for hanging onto and a little side protection for legs. The top of the seat is more flat-backed and open; good for visibility but less good for extra protection.
As the name tells you the Siesta is designed for comfort and snoozing with its relaxed position and adjustable recline. As with other frame mounted seats, the majority of the comfort comes through the suspension of the mounting arms so it’s likely that the rack-mounted version isn’t quite as plush. With our 15kg passenger aboard there felt a little too much spring in the system which could make the bike feel unstable at times.
Of all the seats we tested the Siesta was by far the easiest seat to adjust and fasten / unfasten straps which made it popular with its adult testers. It uses a three point harness but with two buckles which means that you don't have to pull over your child's head and helmet which getting on and off the bike loads easier. There is a fair amount of footrest adjustment but as with the other seats our 100cm 3 1/2 -year old was getting towards the upper limits of the seat size. As with most rear seats, maximum weight is 22kg.
Even in its most upright position the Siesta was far more reclined than the other seats we had on test so we were never tempted to tilt it back any further. Other parents who tested with younger kids made use of the 20 degree recline to give them a more comfortable position and better head support for naps on the road. A bit more side support could be useful to help support your child's head when they slept.
The Hamax Siesta offers a lot of comfort for your child with plenty of in-built suspension and a recline function. From an adult point of view, the straps and buckles were the easiest to operate of all the seats we tested. On the downside the nature of the seat’s suspension can make it feel like your child is bouncing round a little too much.
The best child bicycle seat - front
Shotgun Pro MTB seat and bars combo
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Shotgun Pro is a mountain bike for kids 2-5 years old. It’s a front mounted seat open seat with footrests and an optional handlebar. It fits to your bike via a bar which spans between your seat post and stem meaning there’s no frame contact which makes it suitable for carbon frames and wider ebikes.
Similarly to the Mac Ride (see below), the stem fixing point uses a specialised spacer under your stem and quick release clamps on both the stem and seat post. Once the spacer is in place then fitting and removing the seat is quick and tool free. Bonus points go to Shotgun for including the requisite tools needed for setup and a spare spacer with the seat so you can set up two bikes at once.
There are a few limitations with bike compatibility, you can’t fit to a drop bar bike and need a standard stem/steerer and enough room to fit the clamp. This is likely only to be an issue if you ride a higher-end MTB or have a particularly race-orientated position.
Foot rests and the saddle are fully adjustable to get your child in a comfortable position up front whilst allowing you room to pedal. To help us get the position right we roughly replicated our tester’s scoot bike set up. This range of adjustability is unique to the Shotgun. On the downside it means the seat is slightly higher than the simpler Mac Ride so your passenger’s head is more likely to get in the way of you seeing.
The whole family has absolutely loved using the Shotgun seat and it’s been a completely different experience to any of the rear mounted ones. I actually feel like I’m riding with my son, seeing what he sees and knowing what he’s doing and able to react to his whoops and enjoyment. With a rear seat I didn’t ever know what he was doing and interaction was limited to half-heard shouts between us.
Noticing his growing ability to position himself and react to riding has been so rewarding. The commute to nursery is a lot more fun on this too. As with the Mac Ride, your child can get in the way of seeing and pedalling a bit but in all honesty this has added to the fun and interaction for us both.
The Shotgun’s handlebar made all the difference for our 3 year old tester. Firstly, it looks cool. This is of the utmost importance when you’re three. More prosaically, he had something he could comfortably hold onto with reassuring grips and a more natural riding position. It also gave him the chance to really interact with the riding and give him a sense of control as he could contribute to the steering.
Similarly priced the Mac Ride this is one of the more expensive seats available but the value of sharing a love of riding with your child makes it worth every penny.
Mac Ride Child Bike Seat
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
The Mac Ride is by far the most minimal of all of the best child bicycle seats even when up against the really comparable Shotgun, but this time just a saddle and foot supports straddling the seat post and steerer tube.
Suitable for even carbon bikes, the Mac Ride is popular with mountain bikers, and weighs less than 2kg, with little impact on the bike's balance meaning it's the best child bicycle seat for technical terrain and hills.
Fitting it is a breeze, just requiring basic tools and the addition of a headset spacer, which can then be left on as it’s not noticeable. This makes taking the seat on and off, or swapping between bikes take a couple of minutes.
There isn’t a lot of terrain that can’t be ridden on the Mac Ride. The scoop-like saddle and low down position allows the mini shredder to be nestled and anchored in position, allowing our passenger to learn how to absorb bumps in the road or trail, providing a feeling as close to riding a bike as is possible for your passenger.
With your passenger positioned lower down than when on the Shotgun bike seat, our ride buddy was happy to hold the bike handlebars in a natural position. It was clearly very comfortable as in the few years of use, covering off-road terrain, at times for a few hours, we never had so much as a murmur of hand fatigue or discomfort.
This low down position does also mean that there is a lot of growing room, we were still using ours with a tall five year old, although this does eventually mean a sacrifice of rider position. When the passenger is younger with shorter legs and slimmer body it’s not too bad, but as they grow, and the foot rests extend it requires rider knees to poke out slightly. As they get taller you’ll eventually be looking round the passenger rather than over, but potentially a little later than you would with the higher seat of the Shotgun.
As a cycling family, we found the Mac Ride was a fantastic child bicycle seat, revolutionising our rides as it was only road rides with dropped bars that the seat wasn't compatible with.
We loved the closeness between rider and passenger, and found every ride with it incredibly rewarding, giving our daughter a great understanding for how to take corners, position yourself on the road and even tackle flights of steps on a mountain bike.
It is one of the more expensive options on the market, but a wonderful child bicycle seat that will get a lot of use so the value is priceless.
Quick reference table
|Row 0 - Cell 0||Front||Rear cantilevered||Rear Rack|
|Fixing||Steerer tube/ top tube/ seat tube/ seat post||Seat tube||On top or rear bike rack|
|Suitable for||Either smaller / young children (supported seats) or older children with more strength (minimal support seats)||9months and above||9months and above|
|Pros||Limited impact on bike handling, Closeness to child, Lightweight, Options for most bikes, Varity of support, adds extra seat capabilities, Exposure to riding skills||Range of ages (esp very young or older children), Reclining positions, Support options, Quick to remove||Capable of taking heavier weight, Less bounce, Option to extend for multiple seat platforms|
|Cons||Child in wind, Lack of leg room for rider, No recline option, Difficult seeing / reaching round the child||Bike handling impacted, Heavy, Can be too flexible, Child out of sight||Bike handling impacted, Heavy, Unable to use panniers at same time, Child out of sight|
|Bike / rider type limitations||Flat bar bike only. Some seats attach straight to the frame so not appropriate for carbon frames or ebikes. Smaller adult riders may struggle to use.||Not appropriate for all frame materials, not compatible with external cabling or ebikes. Weight and forces through parts of frame not designed for the purpose||Only possible to fit to bikes with rear rack mounts|
What age can a child go in a bike seat?
Or is it size that matters most?
The exact age depends on the child and their ability to sit unaided holding their head up, remember that it ideally they will also be wearing a helmet, so that can make them a little more top heavy.
Most experts in the field of injury would recommend taking an infant younger than a year on a bicycle child seat or trailer more due to the risks associated with excess vibration / shaking and neurodevelopment than that of a crash.
There is still a huge lack of information and research around brain development and injury, so it's down to individual choice. It worth noting that in some countries and US states it's illegal for a person/ child under 16 to ride without a helmet, this will prevent very young babies being on board a bike as there won't be a helmet small enough to fit.
In some US states, notably New York, children under 1 are prohibited from being transported by bike.
The UK has no helmet or age related cycling laws.
However, whatever the law or guidance, it's vital to ensure that your choice of carrier meets the minimum safety standard for your country. In the USA it's ASTM F1625 - 00(2018) and the UK it's BS EN 14344:2004, the British Standard for “Child Seats for Cycles”. Always check for the relevant standard certification before parting with your money,
Which bike seat is the safest?
Is a front or rear child bike seat safer?
As the quick glance table above shows, there are lots and pros and cons to each of the best child bicycle seat positions. What is safer really depends of a variety of things, but mostly what do you feel confident about riding with and how old or heavy is your child.
Below is a lot more detail on each of the bike seat mounting options, including what they do well, and don't do so well at.
Rear child bicycle seat
The most common choice for many is a rear carrying bike seat.
There are two main designs to choose from: seats that are cantilevered from the seat tube (frame mounted) or those that are mounted on to a rear rack. Rear seats come in lots of shapes and sizes - they can be minimal in design or provide good back, side and even front support. Many seats come in both frame and rack mounted versions.
The universal downside to all rear child seats is how the additional weight impacts on your bike's handling, which at best can make the bike feel extremely heavy and have a high centre of gravity at the rear of your bike. If your child is older/heavier and moves around a lot then this effect is more pronounced. It's also much harder to interact with your child when they're straight behind you.
Whilst unlike a front mounted seat you can run a rear seat on a drop bar bike this change of weight and balanced is more pronounced on this type of bike than with flat bars.
Cantilevered rear child seat
A cantilevered bike seat uses a plastic mount clamp which sandwiches your seat tube, with two prongs from the child's seat being clipped in to position on the mount. Once the mount is attached (normally via four bolts) the child seat can often be removed by a quick release system which allows the prongs to unclip, allowing the seat to be swiftly removed.
The cantilevered child seat has the benefit of acting like a mini suspension for the child passenger, but positioning the mount is key; too high up and your centre of gravity shifts more than necessary, too low and there's a risk that the springy suspension fouls the rear wheel.
While cantilevered systems are probably the easiest to fit, not all bikes are suitable, for example if you have an external cable on your seat tube, then it won't be possible to camp the mount round. Also, not all frames will be strong enough for a cantilever system, e.g. an open frame without a top tube could suffer with significant seat post flex, and a carbon frame won't do as you'll be putting weight and forces through your frame in directions it wasn't designed for.
We also found on testing that having the clamp fitted made it hard to change the height of the saddle as the clamp squeezed the seat tube tightly onto the seat post within. This is awkward if more than one adult rider uses the same bike.
Rack mounted child bicycle seat
With a rack mounted system, the child seat slides on to the top rails of the rack and is usually anchored in place with a safety strap that attaches to the seat tube. Again this allows for swift removal of the seat when not in use, and panniers can be attached to the rack instead. Often you need a seat-specific rack so your current one may become redundant.
The great advantage of this type of seat is that the weight is taken through parts of the bike that are designed for the job.
The rack mount does mean the child is positioned lower down. If you've ever ridden with panniers you'll know it can take a while to get used to riding with this weight over your rear wheel.
Again, you need to consider if your bike can accept the child seat mounting system before investing, so check your bike rack mounting capabilities first.
Front mounted seats
Having your young riding buddy up front opens up a new world for both of you, with the closeness between you and them at the top of the list. It also allows you to ride with two kids at once with one on the front and the other on the back.
There are a few mounting options, with either a cantilever off the front steerer tube or seat tube (then projecting forwards), a direct top tube mount, or a straddled bar mount which clamps to seat post and steerer tube, or a combination of the above. Most don't fit traditional road bikes as there isn't sufficient room for the bars, your hands and your passenger.
There are a variety of designs on the market which broadly divide into two. There's fully structured seats with lots of support which are great for the smaller / younger kids but room is limited for older kids so their use is more limited. On the other end of the spectrum are more minimal setups of a saddle like the Shotgun and Mac Ride we tested.
Whatever model you opt for it's generally accepted that not only is a front child seat much lighter than a rear one, but it will have less impact on the bike's handling too (although some steer tube options will make steering heavier).
A big up side of a front child bike seat is the ability to gives your riding companion great views of the road ahead, and the opportunity to learn to read the road or trail which can help how to teach your child to ride a bike.
The down sides to front child bike seat however is the fact that your passenger is having to squeeze in to the space between you and the handlebars which will inevitably mean having to ride with your knees slightly wider than your ideal riding position. It's also also worth bearing in mind that they will be in full face the wind, unless your chosen seat comes with a visor or you buy an after market one, so ensure you dress accordingly and invest in sunglasses/ riding goggles to protect little eyes from the wind and airborne partials. One of our small testers got caught out a few times by his parents not appreciating the degree of wind chill when he rode up front.
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