Biking is a wonderful form of exercise and can be improved even more with the addition of family members. Biking as a family can be a simple and enjoyable activity, and utilizing child bike seats is just one way to improve your biking experience.
Rear child bike seats are the better option over front child seats due to the higher weight limit and versatility. However, choosing between front or rear child bike seats can be daunting, with things like weight limits, price range, and safety to consider. With a few basic guidelines, you can make the best decision for your child’s safety and comfort.
Read on to discover whether a front or rear child bike seat is best for your situation.
Pros and cons of front child seats
Front child bike seats are mounted between the handlebars and the seat so that your arms are around the child in the seat while riding. This creates a few specific benefits and also difficulties.
There are a few pros to consider when looking at investing in this type of seat, including:
- The ability to see your child at all times since they are right in front of you
- Your child’s forward view is unobstructed, and they have a better view of their surroundings.
- These come in “shotgun style” for older children, which is like a tinier version of a regular seat, and the child holds onto the handlebars with you. This is common for mountain bikes.
On the reverse side of things, there are also some cons to front child bike seats. These include:
- The child’s helmet may obstruct your view.
- Your child will likely be able to reach the handlebars as you ride, with either their feet or hands (or both).
- The size of the seat and the child may interfere with your ability to steer as quickly and can make for a more awkward riding and pedaling position.
Adults may find they (and the child) feel more comfort and closeness with a front seat.
Pros and cons of rear child seats
Rear child seats sit behind the bicycle seat in front of the rear tire. There are pros and cons to this design as well. The best seat choice will depend on what you are looking for in a child bike seat.
The rear child bike seat is the most common, and for good reason. Some pros of this design include:
- The ability of the seat to recline or provide more space and comfort for your little one
- Some rear bike seats offer suspension, and there are more shoulder strap options.
- More supports: larger side and back supports are possible. There’s additional space without the worry of obstructing the driver’s view.
However, this particular design also has some flaws, including:
- You cannot see your child at all times, making conversation and supervision more difficult.
- Your child’s front view is blocked, which may affect their enjoyment of the ride.
- Lifting your leg over the installed seat (with or without the child in it) can take some practice and is tougher to balance.
Adults may find that the rear bike seat provides more freedom and control of the bike, providing a safer feeling.
Weight limits of front vs. rear child seats
The majority of front child bike seats are made for very young children and toddlers. As they get older, it is common to transfer to a rear bike seat before they venture onto their own bike or a shotgun seat.
Below is a size comparison for front and rear bike seats. Keep in mind, these are averages, and each specific brand will have its own guidelines for safety.
|Front Mounted Bike Seat||Rear Mounted Bike Seat|
|Age Range||9 months- 2.5 years||12 months- 5 years|
|Weight Limit||Up to 30 pounds||Up to 50 pounds|
These can vary dramatically with the specific seat chosen, but generally, babies and young toddlers do well in front seats, and older children do well in rear seats until they weigh too much for the seat to support.
Price range of front vs. rear child seats
The price points for both of these seats are similar. There are different specs, upgrades, and features that increase the price of each, but most hover around $100.
This popular front seat is around $100 and has several excellent features, including:
- Back foam pads for comfort and additional support
- Full-length leg stirrups for safety and to avoid feet on the wheels
- Shoulder harness for safety and comfort
This popular rear seat is around $90 and has some additional features, including:
- Handlebars for the child to grip
- Extended head/neck rest for comfort and increased support
- Leg stirrup straps for safety to prevent kicking the rear tire
It’s safe to say that a quality bike seat, front or rear, will run anywhere from $80-$150.
There are high-end models available in the $500+ range with advanced features such as:
- Ergonomic handles and seat
- Pedals and leg support
- Padded grips and cushioned neck/back supports
Alternatively, there are budget-friendly options like this one that is around $60, which resembles a car seat. These options still provide safety and comfort with the following features:
- Head and neck support
- Safety harness
- Foot stirrups
As long as safety features are utilized and requirements are met, most bike seats in the “average” range are sufficient, and there is no need for a $500 seat unless that is your preference.
Safety of frnot vs. rear child seats
Bicycle safety is a huge part of taking your little one on a bike with you. Most adults wouldn’t willingly put their children at risk of harm, so it’s important to assess safety features and have the proper knowledge to keep them safe.
Whether you are looking at a front or rear child bike seat, several non-negotiable safety measures must be taken:
- Wear a properly fitting helmet at all times; some states even have laws for children to wear helmets if under a certain age.
- The child must be able to sit up on and support their head entirely on their own before utilizing a bike seat of any kind.
- Make sure your bike is compatible with the style of child bike seat you choose. Not all seats fit on all bikes, and this can be a safety hazard if not correctly installed.
- Stick to bike paths when possible, reducing the risk of collisions with motorized vehicles.
- Ensure the adult with the child seat is a comfortable and experienced biker, as adding a child seat and extra weight can drastically alter the feel.
Front and rear seat-specific safety concerns
Both seats have specific safety differences and, depending on the routes and road conditions you take, one may end up being superior in safety and comfort for both you and the child.
The front-mounted seat can be more dangerous in an endo situation, where you and the child go over the handlebars during a wreck. They are more exposed to the elements with a front seat than one in the rear.
Front seats can make it harder to steer quickly and efficiently, possibly leading to more safety concerns when trying to avoid obstacles.
However, this can be balanced out by the fact that you are also closer to the child in case of an accident, whereas in the rear seat, it is more difficult to reach out and protect the child on time.
Rear bike seats cause more concern with balance issues than front seats, particularly for the larger toddlers that carry more weight. This can also make it tough to steer and avoid obstacles.
Learn more about biking safely with children
Many local bike shops or sports retailers have professionals who can provide individual training and safety tips for each bike and seat setup. Take advantage of their knowledge to increase your confidence and the safety of the child riding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has an in-depth look at biking with children and several other safety recommendations on their page.
Choosing between a front or rear bike seat can be difficult, but hopefully, this information has helped make an exciting decision a little bit easier. Providing a safe and comfortable ride is the most important thing to consider when purchasing a child’s bike seat.
Though rear child bike seats are generally considered safe, it really comes down to your confidence and comfort level while riding a bike. It’s a good idea to practice riding with extra weight before buckling your child into the seat and always ask for help if you need it. And don’t forget, always wear a helmet!
My Recommended Child Bike Seats
Affordable and sturdy, I recommend getting the following child bike seats for anyone looking for a seat to ride together with your child. I’ve been using these two seats for more than 6 years for both of my kids and they’re still holding up great. If you want to see all the gear I recommend, check out my Gear page.
Recommended Front Child Seat: WeeRide
Recommended Rear Child Seat: Schwinn Deluxe