Riding with a child from a young age is one of the best ways to introduce them to a life long love of cycling, but until they’re up to speed and pedalling under their own steam, having them on board with you is a great way to get you all on your bike. A child bike seat or trailer will allow you to do just that.
There are three main options: a rear bike seat, a front mounted seat or a bike trailer. These are all suitable for carrying a child from around six months, when they can sit up unaided, up to between four and six years old.
Rear child bike seats
The most common choice for many is a rear carrying bike seat.
There are roughly three designs to choose from: seats that are cantilevered from the seat tube, mounted on to a rear rack or fixed to the seat tube and seat stays by long legs. Rear seats come in lots of shapes and sizes – they can be minimal in design or provide good back, side and even front support.
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 at worst make the front end too light making it a battle to keep the bike under control. The key thing is to ensure you select the right seat for the rider, child and bike and ensure it’s mounted in the correct position.
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 it can make your bike’s front end lift up and be difficult to control, two 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.
Rack mounted rear child 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.
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.
Anchor point rear child seat
The final rear bike seat mount option uses two anchor points, the seat tube and seat stays, and is a bit of mix of the first two bike seat options, offering more support than just the cantilever option. It doesn’t require rack mount eyelets, but you will need to check cable routing on your seat tube. Again, most seats which use this system will come with a quick release mount, allowing the bike seat to be removed with ease when solo riding.
Front child bike 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.
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.
There are a variety of designs on the market, from fully structured with lots of support to just the minimal additional child saddle, but 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).
The front child seat gives your riding companion great views of the road ahead, but does mean they are in full face of the wind, unless your chosen seat comes with a visor or you buy an after market one.
The one real down side of front child bike seats 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.
|Front||Rear cantilevered||Rear Rack||Rear seat and stay tube mounted|
|Mounted to||Steerer tube/ top tube/ seat tube/ seat post||Seat tube||On top or rear bike rack||Seat tube and seat stays|
|Best for||Toddlers up to 5yrs||9months and above||9months and above||9months and above|
|Pros||Limited impact on bike handling.
Closeness to child
Options for most bikes
Varity of support
|Range of ages, esp very young or older children
Quick to remove
|Cons||Child in wind
Lack of leg room for rider
No recline option
Unlikely to be suitable for pure road bikes
|Bike handling impacted
Not appropriate for all bikes
Can be too flexible
Child out of sight
|Bike handling impacted
Not appropriate for all bikes
Unable to use panniers at same time
Low position for child
Child out of sight
|Bike handling impacted.
Not appropriate for all bikes
Child out of sight
Our pick of the best front and rear chid bike seats
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Cantilevered mounted rear seat: Thule RideAlong £120.00
The Cantilevered bike seat mounts to your seat post, but is easily removed thanks to a quick release system. Designed and tested for children from nine months to six years, the Thule RideAlong has easy to adjust foot rests and straps, as well as an adjustable 3-point harness. Weighing a claimed 5kg, the RideAlong comes with water repellent, removable and machine washable padding, as well as five recline settings, perfect for on-the-go naps.
Rack and cantilevered mounted rear seat: Bobike Exclusive Tour £109.95
The Bobike Exclusive Tour rear bike seat comes with either rack or cantilever mounting options making it versatile and simple to swap between two bikes thanks to a click and go attaching system. Suitable for children aged between nine months and six years, the Bobike Exclusive Tour is full of top to toe adjustability to make it comfortable for an ever growing pillion, and comes with a a specially designed harness to keep your child upright should they nod off mid ride. Nice touches such as waterproof padding, a built in combination lock to prevent it being stolen and four colour options make the Bobike Exclusive Tour a really viable option for many.
Rack mounted rear seat: Topeak Babyseat II £149.99
Coming with it’s own suspension system the Topeak Babyseat II should offer your riding buddy a comfortable ride. The wraparound seat also comes with a front roll bar that doubles up as a handle for carrying the seat and somewhere for little hands to hold on to. Suitable for children aged one to four, the Topeak Babyseat II weighs a claimed 3.9kg (excluding rack) and features tool free fitting, meaning once the rack is attached to your bike, attaching or removing the bike is a very simple procedure.
Straddled front seat – WeeRide Classic £89.99
WeeRide were one of the first brands to develop front child seats that straddles seat post and head tube. Suitable for children aged one to four years, the seat is fully adjustable, easy to remove and even comes with a front nap pad! Weighing a claimed 4kg, due to the WeeRide’s position, the weight feels less on the bike than other bike seat and doesn’t effect the bikes handling.
Straddled front seat – Mac Ride £142.00
The Mac Ride is by far the most minimal of child bike seats with just a saddle and foot supports straddling the seat post and steerer tube, thanks to a modified head set spacer. With no plastic molding support, the Mac Ride is as close to riding a bike as possible for your passenger, so they will gain the full riding experience, and learn how to absorb bumps in the road or trail by standing up and using their arms and legs (as well as benefiting from any suspension your bike may have). Suitable for even carbon bikes, the Mac Ride is popular with mountain bikers, and weighing less than 2kg and taking less than a minute to install it’s easy to see why
If you have more than one child, extra luggage or just want an alternative to a bike seat, then bike trailers could be for you, with some having the capacity for two children along with storage room at the back.
Trailers come in various sizes and the majority will attach near your rear wheel dropout, via a pivot bracket threaded on to your skewer. This bracket allows the trailer to snake behind the bike, much like a lorry trailer, so corners can be easily navigated with a little extra swinging room.
Most, if not all bikes, will accommodate towing a trailer, although with the extra weight and drag it’s worth investing in some slightly larger sprockets to ensure your legs can cope.
Depending on what model you opt for, many easily convert in to a push buggy, which thanks to its extra big wheels can be an ideal running buggy if the riding wasn’t enough, with some brands also converting to ski options too!
As with bike seats, it’s recommended that a child is able to sit unaided before using a trailer, but the upper age limit variable, up to around 45/50kg making it a really versatile and usable piece of kit.
The downside to trailers is that as well as being much more expensive than a bike seat you are much more removed from your passengers, making communication difficult, as well as them being much lower to the ground. Most trailers will come with mesh front and a clear plastic window should it rain, but it’s a good idea to fit full length mud guards to limit any road spray on the trailer and it’s occupants.
Our Pick of the best bike trailers
Burley Cub Trailer £725
Rugged enough for heavy duty and harsh conditions, the Burley Cub trailer even comes with its own adjustable suspension to cushion the ride for the passengers. Suitable for up to two children with storage, the cushioned seat reclines and the outer offers full water protection. The best thing about the Cub trailers is it’s ability to convert in to a stroller, running buggy or sledge!
Halfords Double Buggy Child bike trailer £220
Offering space for two children, up to 20kg each, the Halfords double buggy child bike trailer is one of the more affordable trailer options. Swift to attach to any bike, the trailer requires no tools in it’s assembly and folds down neatly after use. A bug screen provides good shade in sunny weather while a rain screen should keep out the wetter conditions.
Thule Chariot Lite £624.99
Another multi service trailer, the Thule Chariot Lite can be turned in to stroller, jogging buggy, ski sledge and of course a bike trailer. Designed for one child, the Chariote Lite weighs less than 12kg and is suitable for a child from one month old thanks to an infant sling (an optional extra). It takes up to 34kg, giving it a super long life span and making it excellent value for money.
Weehoo iGo Two bike Trailer £499.00
An alternative option to the standard trailer set up as the Weehoo trailer system attaches to your seat tube (although this does mean you will need a round seat tube for the mount to attach). The seated trailer is a mix between a traditional bike seat and trailer, with the added benifit of it being all terrain and lighter, with a child pedaling option included. There are several of iGo’s to choose from, ranging from one to two passengers, or passenger with cargo, and multiple accessories to ensure the perfect ride for you all.