Front vs Rear Mount Child Bike Seats

by - Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Child bike seats are an affordable option for biking with your baby once she is 12 months old. Front mount and rear mount child bike seats are available, and each has different pros and cons to consider. Whichever child bike seat you choose, always wear a helmet and follow installation instructions and age/height/weight limits for the child bike seat.

Disclosure: This article contains Amazon Affiliate links. I earn a tiny commission on purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!


Front Mount Child Bike Seats

Front mount child bikes seats have long been used in Europe and are becoming more popular in North America. The main benefit is better passenger experience, and the main drawback of some models is awkward riding stance (riding bow legged to accommodate the seat) and awkward steering (particularly for shorter riders).

Special note re bike compatibility and installation: If the seat mounts on your stem (below the handlebars), you must have enough space for the mount. If the seat sits on your frame (on the cross bar), you need to ensure the frame is large enough frame to accommodate the child seat and allow you to safely get on and off your bike. We were not able to use a front mount seat with my XS bike. Try before you buy!



For the reasons above, I would recommend this type of seat to taller cyclists who want to easily converse with their little ones and keep an eye on them.

Front Mount Pros
  • Your child has an unobstructed view.
  • You can see and talk to your child more easily, and ensure she's not unbuckling herself (not a concern with babies, but could be with older children).
  • Your child has a safety hand/head rest pillow to learn forward on when she wants to sleep.

The WeeRide Kangaroo is a super comfortable, economical front carrier with pretty good reviews.
Works best if you have a bike with a large frame; not advised for small bikes.
Available at Amazon (affiliate link) , but cheaper at Walmart.
Front Mount Seat Cons
  • Most front mount seats can only be used safely until your child is around 2 years old (vs 5-7 yrs old with some rear mounted seats).
  • It is difficult to get on and off your bike with a front child seat on it.
  • Steering can be a challenge with your child in front of you if you are on the short side, or your child is quite tall (because it's hard to reach around the child). 
  • Your child is more exposed to wind.
  • Your child cannot recline to sleep (but may be able to lean forward on a hand/head rest depending on the model you choose).
  • Larger children may grab your handlebars or change gears at inopportune times.
  • Some higher seat backs can hit you in the chest on bumpy terrain or when leaning forward to go up hills.
Pro Tip: If you choose to get a front mounted seat, borrow/rent one first and test it out to ensure a) it can be installed on your bike, b) your legs, chest, arms, and vision are unobstructed, and c) you can turn properly. If buying online, be sure to confirm with the manufacturer that the seat is compatible with your bike.

We were unable to find an affordable front mount seat on Kijiji, so we bought a rear mount seat.

My friend, Coldbike, recommends the bobike Maxi and bobike Mini front mount seats. Available at Urkai.

Bobike Maxi

Rear Mount Child Bike Seats

For rear mounted seats, there are two kinds: rear frame mount and rear rack mount. Not all bike seats work with all bikes, so you will have to confirm whether the seat attaches to your seat post or bike rack.
    • For rear rack mount seats, your bike must have eyelets for a bike rack. You will also need to purchase a bike rack for the seat to attach to if you don't already have one, or if the seat does not come with one. *If you have disc brakes, you will require a different kind of rack.*
    • Rear frame mount seats typically attach to your seat post and need a few inches of clearance. Since my bike seat is as low as it can go, I was not able to attach a child bike seat to my bike. We ended up putting a rear frame mount seat on my husband's bike, while I towed our other child in a Chariot. **With some seats (like Thule RideAlong), you can purchase a low seat adapter to use the seat with minimal clearance.
Rear Mount Pros
  • It is easier to pedal and get on/off your bike with the child seat behind you than in front of you (especially if you're on the petite side). Petite riders will find it easier to steer with the seat behind them too (they don't have to reach around the child and seat).
  • Many rear mount seats recline to allow baby a more comfortable sleep.
  • Your child is less exposed to wind.
  • Most rear mount seats can be used a few years longer than front mount seats.


The Thule Ride Along Child Bike Seat is the Cadillac of Bike Seats
Good from 1 year to 21.8 kg. Available on Amazon (affiliate link)

Rear Mount Cons
  • It's harder to chat with your child when it's windy/noisy.
  • You cannot look at your child without turning around.
  • You child does not have a pillow to lean forward on (but if you get a reclining seat, you can lean her back).
  • Some people find it harder to balance with a rear mount seat (but my husband had no issue with ours). Again, try before you buy! 

The top rated hamax frame mount carrier can be attached to your bike rack or seat post.
Available on Amazon (affiliate link).

A less expensive option to the Thule or hamax is the Dieffe GP Baby Carrier with Rear Rack Mount (available at Walmart). 

We had the ubiquitous, inexpensive Bell Classic Cocoon Bicycle Child Carrier Seat. We bought it second hand and found it ok for short rides, but not for longer rides when our little one wanted to nap as the seat did not recline. 

What to Look For in a Child Bike Seat

Easy installation and compatibility with your bike is important. Other important features include a lock to prevent theft of the seat, and quick-release bracket for those times you're cycling kid free and don't want the additional weight.

While vents are nice to have on a hot day, the trade off is safety. If you fall, a seat with covered vents or fewer vents will provide more protection than an airy seat.

Other safety considerations... A 5-point harness is preferable to a 3-point harness that tiny kids could slide out of. Check reviews to ensure straps stay in place and make sure straps are done up properly every time! Many models also have child-proof buckles.

Height and weight maximums will affect how long you may use your bike seat. Most front or rear mount carriers are good until your child is 40 pounds, but there is variation between manufacturers. Adjustable footbeds that grow as your child grows will keep your child comfortable by preventing her feet from dangling.

Weight of the seat itself is also a consideration. The less the seat weighs, the less you have carry, but a really light seat may be less comfortable or have less impact resistance. Check what materials are used in the seat and ensure the cushions are comfy for your child.

Front Mount Seats Features/Accessories to Consider
  • hand rests on front mount seats will provide something for your child to hold other than your handlebars and shifters. Bonus points for padded hand rests that can double as a pillow when little one wants to sleep!
  • wind screen
  • rain cover
Rear Mount Seats Features/Accessories to Consider
  • A reclining rear mount seat makes for comfy nap time (otherwise little one's head will flop forward when she naps).
  • rain cover

Safety Moment

Child bike seats do not provide as much protection as a bike trailer, and falls from 3 feet can cause severe injury or death. If you choose to use a child bike seat, bike on designated bike paths and stay below the speed limit (20 km/hr in Calgary). And always wear a helmet!

Not comfortable putting your toddler in a bike seat? Consider a bike trailer. They provide protection from the elements, insects, and have a built in roll bar (the frame).

Conclusion

In the end, you have to choose a bike seat you can afford, that meets your needs, and and is compatible with your bike. Although we owned a bike trailer, we liked the child bike seat for short rides around the neighborhood. It made for one less thing to lock up and the seat was a lot lighter than our trailer! If we hadn't bought a bike trailer, we would've spent more on seats that recline since the kids always fell asleep on longer bike rides. Try before you buy to make your the seat fits your bike and that your child is comfortable. Not all seats are equal.

More information on bike trailers and tandem bike attachments coming soon!

What is your preferred way to bring the kids biking?

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