rear bike seats - a great way to cycle with a toddler
Rear bike seats are the most common way to transport small children via bicycle, offering a relatively cheap and easy way to introduce your little ones to the sensation of being transported by bike.
what is a rear bike seat?
Generally made from plastic, they tend to be fitted over the rear wheel of the bicycle on either a dedicated mounting system or pannier rack. A harness is used to secure your child into position and the seat will often incorporate a number of safety features such as leg guards and a high back and sides.
what age child can use a rear bike seat?
Before using a rear bike seat it is very important that your child can sit independently and hold their head upright for the entire duration of your journey. Children aged 12 months are usually capable of this, however each child is different and so if you’re in any doubt please consult your Heath Visitor or GP before setting out.
Weight limit is something else to be aware of. Manufacturers will stipulate a maximum weight to be carried in their products, with some seats having a limit of 18kg. In theory, this could equate to a child of four years of age. However, each child is different and limits vary by seat model, do make sure you check the suitability of the seat as your child grows.
In reality it is likely that you will find your child outgrows the rear bike seat before reaching the weight limit. A good indicator is when you feel their feet knocking into your legs as you pedal. Another sign is related to weight rather than limb length, with increasing weight being felt in the stability of the bike, especially when stationary or getting the child in or out of the seat. They will also probably start to get bored in the seat and demand a more active role – time to consider a tag along, or a balance bike.
what is so great about rear bike seats?
A basic model can be bought for around £30, so rear bike seats are a popular way to start cycling with your little one.
Being high up on the back of the bike, your child or toddler can see much more than when they are in a pushchair, and they love the feeling of being grown up enough to go on your bike with you.
The more expensive models are very comfortable, and you may well find you have a sleeper on board if you venture out at nap time.
Being lightweight in comparison to a trailer, a rear seat needs less physical effort, making it ideal if you are new to cycling or looking to regain your fitness levels post pregnancy.
It is also easier to manoeuvre than a child bike trailer, which is worth considering if you’re cycling in areas with lots of parked cars or on cycle path with barriers to get past.
Being so much smaller to store than a trailer, a childs bike seat may be the only option if your storage space is limited.
A number of high end rear child bike seats use a Blackburn rack for attaching to the bike. This is a standard type of rack for attaching panniers, so can be ideal if you think you’ll need them at any point in the future (note you can’t use panniers and the rear seat at the same time).
If you don’t have mudguards fitted on your bike you will get a soggy bottom in wet weather. With a seat fitted this is a thing of the past as the seat takes the brunt of any water. Plus due to the design, the child is perfectly protected from rear wheel water splashes.
is a rear bike seat right for you?
There are some things that it's worth considering before deciding to use a child's rear bike seat. We'd rather you were fully informed and safe before setting out - do please ensure you're a confident and well trained cyclist before setting out with your child.
As the seat is attached to your bike, if your bike falls, so will your child. Whilst most seats have head and side protection, the elevated position of your child on the bike does means there is a risk they could be hurt if the seat lands on the ground. For this reason, some parents prefer the safety features of a trailer.
With the seat positioned at the front, your child is not protected from the elements. In cold weather make sure they are wrapped up very warm, and don’t forget gloves. Remember you are keeping warm from the effort of cycling – they get very cold very quickly. If you are commuting throughout the winter, it may be worth considering a trailer. For wet weather, you can buy a decent Cycle Cape by Raleigh for less than £20.
Your child is behind you, so if you’re cycling past interesting wildlife or construction vehicles it’s much harder to have an “Ooh look at Scoop working hard digging that hole” conversation than if your child is on a front seat.
You’re limited to the size of rucksack you can wear, as you’ve got a face right behind you.
If your child is happy to sit still and watch the world go by, you’re in for many happy miles. If however, they have ants in their pants and wriggle around a lot, you’ll have problems with stability and a hoarse voice from shouting at them to sit still.
The rear bike seat is the most difficult to get your child in and out of, and can be extra tricky if your attention is also focused on an elder sibling on their own bike. A front bike seat or a child bike trailer may be preferable.
To get the child in and out of the rear bike seat, you need to make sure the bike is standing up against something. This can be an issue if you’re out in the countryside and you’d usually lay your bike down once off it. It is possible to do it free standing, but you need to practice it, and have strong knees/thighs!
You may need to take your child out of the rear bike seat before you can safely lock the bike up. This can be stressful if you’re in a very busy place, and your darling is intent on running away before you’ve finished locking everything up. Containing them in a trailer could be a less stressful alternative.
We've included the above points so you are aware of some of the pitfalls of a rear bike seat, but in general they are fantastic, especially when used during the summer months. You are your little one can enjoy getting out and about in the fresh air, and they love being up high seeing everything.
Where can I find more information on children's rear bike seats?
If you're ready to get going, see our other articles on things to consider when buying a rear seat or our post about what makes and models are on the market.
Choosing a single seat trailer to transport your baby or child can be confusing. We look at all the options.
Tag-alongs or trail-a-bikes are a great way to get around with a 4 to 9 year old - check out some of the best on the market
The Cycle Sprog pick of rear bike seats - there's one for every budget
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