Public Note; re: researching bike seats for kids

Here is another cycling-related topic, and I hope that it’s useful to other people who want to ride with small humans. For the record I have one small human so all of my research comes from the need to move a single child, not two or more (and we’re leaving the dogs at home).

This entire post is all about the cycling options I found when I wanted to ride with my toddler – who is too young to independently ride his own bike, but he loves the wind in his hair so I found an option for all the stages. I don’t know how many of these we’ll actually buy, but I’ll certainly share as we go and he grows.

If you have any specific questions, comment below!

Finding the right bike seat for your kid is tough - and I spent a lot of time finding the right products for us. Here's what I found, and some of what we've used! #LadyJupiter #PublicNote #ResearchNotes #RidingWithKids #KidsOnBikes

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Public Note; re: researching bike seats for kids

I’m bringing back our friend “who, what, when, where, why” because it makes sense.
Your job is to keep the information that is relevant to you and disregard the rest.

WHO
The who is primarily me and my toddler. I’ve never been much of a cyclist, but I got interested in biking for recreation when COVID-19 started changing the world. Mister Jupiter and I bought our first set of ebikes in 2020, and I’ve been riding when we can – especially since Kid Jupiter loves it. Mister Jupiter rides with the kid too, so our ideal products need to suit two different adults and our different ebikes.

  • Healthy adults “30 somethings”
    • 5’3″ mom with minimal biking experience (primary kid-hauler)
    • 6′ dad experienced with road bikes and motorcycles (secondary kid-hauler)
  • Singleton toddler, super loves bike rides

WHAT
I knew that Kid Jupiter’s first bike seat wasn’t going to last forever.

We started with a popular rear-rack-mounted seat, but the high center of gravity got bad for me (yet remained okay for Mister Jupiter (the heavier and taller parent)).

Since I’m the primary kid-hauler, I bought a trailer instead to change the weight distribution entirely – this was perfect. The larger footprint, and slower speed recommendations were a worthy exchange because I haven’t dropped my bike at all since the kid’s weight is behind me. I wrote more about that bike and accessories in So I Bought…an Electric Bike. The trailer is excellent, but only rated for 40lbs of Kid. He’s already maxing out the height limit, and soon his weight will exceed the safe 40lbs. What will we use next?

WHEN
Now and later? I’m arranging my findings in mostly chronological order; starting with the seat he outgrew and ending with near-independent-riding accessories for the future. Our experience is limited, but we’re all learning something new almost daily – it’s a good thing.

WHERE
We are in the USA, so our consumer restrictions are different from our friends in Canada, or the EU and UK. Our child seat options are more conservative than others, and our electric bikes have more power (overall; there will always be exceptions).

Regarding geography we live in a hilly area. Our town has zero bike lanes, a lot of hills, and a lot of unsafe drivers. So when we ride in the neighborhood, Kid Jupiter and I stick to the sidewalks. I know that sidewalks are generally not for cyclists, but ours are often vacant (so we’re not bothering any pedestrians), and the sidewalks are safer than the street. For the record, this is exactly why I bought a more portable ebike; so Kid Jupiter and I can drive to safer neighborhoods to ride on protected bike trails.

WHY
Why research bike seats? It’s because my kid loves bike rides, and I don’t want our adventures to end when he exceeds 40lbs. Allonsy!


Kid-safe bike accessories are about the same for little kids, then get more varied as the kid gets larger, heavier, and more capable of biking independently. For the toddler range (too large for an infant seat, too young to just “hang on!”) I found two immediate options; trailer or sidecar.
I learned that

  • axle-mounted trailers are the most common trailer available
  • axle-mounted trailer use is discouraged by ebike makers
  • seat post-mounted trailers for humans are rare, despite consumer wants
  • seat post-mounted trailers are mostly for cargo like golf clubs
  • sidecars are rare and expensive

Axle-mounted trailers
Like I said, axle-mounted trailers are discouraged by ebike makers, however axle-mounted trailers are widely available and affordable. I understand the bike company’s need to make sales, and reduce liability. That said, I also trust trailer producers to make safe products (when used within their parameters). It’s a fine line, and only you can choose the best option for you and your family.

Seat-post mounted trailers
Like I also said above, seat-post mounted trailers seem like the perfect solution, but this is usually only an option if you’re hauling golf clubs or a deer carcass. Seat post mounts for child trailers are not common, and the few are not affordable for most people. The one I liked best is out of stock (as of September 2021), but would cost 1,300 Euros…and my kid would outgrow it.


⇢ T I M E L I N E
So here is the product timeline of what I found for Kid Jupiter.
If I missed an obvious option, please comment below so I can look it up and add it to this list.

We’ll start with two front-mounted seats; where the child sits in front of the adult.

The Thule Yepp Mini is for adventure-seeking babies. When we bought our bikes, the Kid was already 18 months old and ready for the larger Thule Yepp Maxi, so we never tried the Mini. It looks comfy and secure – I probably would have bought one if he was smaller, or if we started biking when he was younger.

While we’re here I wanted to show you this front-mounted child seat with handle. It’s made for parents who like their child in front of them, and smaller kids that can be trusted to hang on. This is another no-go for us partially because I am a petite lady, and my kid is already tall for his age – I just wanted to point out that front-mounted seats don’t have to end after 33lbs.


Kid Jupiter started with a Thule Yepp Maxi. We loved it, and it fit him well! The problem was weight distribution because Kid Jupiter was gaining weight at the rate I was losing weight. We got unstable, so I paused riding while I waited on a trailer to arrive. Meanwhile, Mister Jupiter is taller and heavier, so he was able to safely ride with our kid.


Buying a trailer for the kid made the most sense to me. I chose Schwinn out of brand familiarity and positive reviews on Amazon. I liked the air tires and regular spokes, versus all-plastic alternatives. We did need to buy one new hub nut (the original hub nut was flanged and takes up unnecessary space on the axle bolt), but that was the only modification needed. Our trailer is made for one child, but doubles are available. To reflect the single-passenger intent, our trailer recommends no more than 40lbs of kid, and 12lbs of cargo. The cargo space behind the child seat is small, but handy. It’s perfect for jackets, umbrellas, pool accessories, and such.


Tout-Trailer is perfect for the next size up. The seat-post mount is especially attractive, and it just screams adventure…but it’s out of stock online. Dealers may have stock, so it’s not a dead-end. Besides, you may otherwise get lucky and find a used one in good condition.

I bought a sidecar to replace the trailer when Kid Jupiter exceeds the trailer’s safe parameters. Sidecars are not cheap, and there are few options. I wrote about this purchase in-depth in Public Note; re: shopping for a sidecar. This one is fiberglass, weighing 29 lbs itself, and designed to carry up to 100lbs. The plan is that Kid Jupiter will ride in the sidecar until he’s big enough to ride on the passenger deck of Mister Jupiter’s RadRunner+. These sidecars start at $1,950 [when I purchased in July 2021], but after adding all of the accessories like the seat and mounting brackets, my total was closer to $3,000. For clarity the sidecar is made in Denmark by Scandinavian Side Bike, and sold by their USA dealer Mad Dogs and Englishmen.


If I didn’t invest in a sidecar, I would have purchased another trailer. Either a Burley D’Lite x1 (for single rider), maximum weight 75lbs -OR- a double trailer. I’ve never used any Burley products, but I’ve heard good things from Burley-buyin’ friends.

Since double trailers are made for two children there is no single center seat option for a single rider. Most of these max out at 40lbs per child, but Thule can handle a bit more, and this Chariot is rated to 50lbs per kid, so that’s 100lbs of child/children. Chances are that my kid would exceed height limitations before weight (another reason why I bought a sidecar; the open top gives us literal headspace).


But if I wanted the coverage of a trailer for a tall kid, I would definitely consider a Canadian-made Wike trailer. This Premium Single Bike Trailer is rated for 100lbs of human passenger, but limited to rider hight of 132cm, which is about 4’3″ in Imperial measurements.

If Kid Jupiter grows up to be a special needs adult, Wike is ready! They have a trailer that is sized for special needs riders – I could fit in this one. The Wike XSpecial Needs Trailer fits a single rider up to 5’10” and 150lbs. Wike makes a smaller special needs trailer, so if your passenger is under 4′ tall, their smaller Special Needs Trailer may be a better fit. Check their website for dealers and availability. This is a really cool product overall and I’m happy that it’s an option for our special needs friends and family who enjoy biking.


What if Kid Jupiter wanted to be a more active passenger? WeeHoo is definitely an option. It may still be an option for us, it just depend’s on my kid’s willingness to participate. WeeHoo is seat-post-mounted carrier, and I like the mono-wheel design. It comes in one or two-seater options, canopy accessories are available, but WeeHoo is otherwise open to the elements.

I wanted to bring up cargo bikes for just a minute. They aren’t “child seats” like this post focuses on, but I wanted to acknowledge that they are out there, and are an option. Cargo bikes as people carriers are a passing curiosity in the USA right now – our Car Culture mentality often ignores practical biker’s needs, and our urban planning make cars necessary for most parents. If we lived in a cycle-friendly village I would definitely consider one, but until then I’ll just wait and rent one in California next time I’m on the coast with my kid. Mad Dogs and Englishmen is a small chain of bike shops on the California coast (and they are the USA dealer for Scandinavian Side Bike that I mentioned earlier) that offers sales and rentals!


Similar to “not a bike seat, but a way to bike with a kid” I want to point out two bicycles with (non-tandem) passenger capacity. Both examples here are Rad Power Bikes because I am biased as a happy customer.

Let’s look at the RadWagon. This was actually the first ebike that I wanted to buy, but I was also honest with myself about the Wagon being a bad match now; it might be perfect for future kindergarten drop offs…but that’s at least two moves away (if you’re new here, we’re a military family and we move often). The Wagon is great for other families though – I often see photos of older kids on the passenger deck, or in multiple Thule seats. The RadWagon is just too much bike for me to comfortably manage, besides – I like a bike that fits in my car, and the RadWagon4 will not fit in a Prius.

But we bought our ebikes with the future in mind! Mister Jupiter bought a RadRunner Plus with the idea of letting Kid Jupiter ride on the back when he’s bigger. It comes with a passenger seat, passenger foot pegs, and transparent fender skirts to protect curious toes from rear-wheel spokes. This bike has a payload capacity of 300lbs, so Mister Jupiter can ride with me -or- the boy safely.


When Kid Jupiter is big enough to ride on the back of his dad’s RadRunner+, then he should also be getting ready for longer rides powered by his own legs. This is called a bike trailer, and I love the seat-post mount that turns any bike into a tandem bike. Personally I would only get one of these if my kid wants to go on rides that actually exhaust his legs; I want him to piggyback on my ebike’s range, not the speed.

Some folks on the internet use a backrest to somewhat secure their child to their bike trailer. The back rest mounts to the kid’s bike, and straps under the arms to keep them upright. This might be great for my kid later, maybe not. Interesting product overall.


Going up the scale to near-independent juvenile biking, there are two accessories that I can close with. Both require the kid to have their own bike – yay!

First is a tow bar. It’s just that; a bar that enables one bike to tow another bike.

Second is a tandem coupling that seems to accommodate larger bikes, but I am not certain because that math is irrelevant right now. Both tow bar and tandem coupling can give tired kid legs a rest, or give a friend a boost (depending on the bike of course).


That’s it from me for today!

If I missed a great product, please comment below and tell me about it. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this long read.


Week № 35 - I want to talk about an excellent resource for military families (especially any new military spouses reading this), also my preferred sun protection, the only vitamin delivery system that I actually use regularly, a shout out to my daily jewelry, and one of my favorite cats on the internet. #LadyJupiter #PicksoftheWeek #favorites  Here's a quick post about how we manage foreign currency. It's just a little bit of practical organization, enjoy! #LadyJupiter #foreigncurrency #worldcurrencies #worldtravels  What I wish I knew about the first trimester! From overnight curves to an accidental salad diet, here's a quick read about what I wish I knew, but also what I got right. #LadyJupiter #WhatIWishIKnew #pregnancy #firsttrimester



Author: Tracey

Tracey has a bachelor’s degree in Technical Writing from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. She loves editing, riding bikes, and cooking for her family.

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