Bicycle Child Carriers – Which Type Will Fit Your Bike?

If you come from a cycling background or you’re just hopping back on a bike for the first time in years, carrying your kiddie round with you on your bike is a great way to spend time together, they get explore, see the sights and sounds while you get some fitness in!

kids-bike-gear
Vaughn

There are so many different shapes and sizes of bike frame, the designs and tube shapes vary significantly and this can make picking out a seat a complex task.

This post mainly covers the frame compatibility of the various seat types, without getting too technical. If you would like to read more including a F.A.Q on each mounting type, see The front mounted child seat guide, and the rear-mounted child bike seat guide.

Below is a guide to help you figure out which type of seat will attach to your bike, things like tube shapes, gear cables, and even frame material can dictate which setup would work on your bike.

Types of Child Seat

 

 Front Mount Child SeatsRear Frame Mount Child SeatsRear Rack Mount Child Seats 
front mount child seat diagramillustration of child bike seat mountingillustration of rack mount child bike seat
Mount typeHandlebar steering column or front mounted frame bracketClamps onto seat tube and extends upwards over rear wheelUses a cycle rack attached to bike to carry seat
Age and weight range9 months* up to 3 or 4, 33 lbs is the average weight limit9 months* upwards, 40 pounds9 months* upwards, 40 - 48 pounds depending on seat model
Mounting limitationsNeeds space on steering column (usually around 3/4" or 20mm at least)Not for carbon frames, check for gear cable guides and drink bottle mountsNeeds rack eyelets drilled into frame
Best ForVisibility and interaction with your childFrames lacking rack mountsBigger kids and sleepy babys

 

*Child age may vary when starting out with a seat, anytime from 9 months to a year or when they can comfortably hold themselves up with the extra weight of the helmet on.

iBert Safe T Seat front mounted child bike seat

Front mounted child bike seats

These seats usually attach to your frame by a bracket around your steering column or a separate bar that clamps to your frame.

Some seats will turn side to side when you steer while others are fixed and don’t move.

They offer good interaction between parent and child, they are right there with you between your arms and you can point out things while you’re moving along and have a conversation, also you don’t have to turn your head to check on them.

They typically have a more limited maximum weight capacity than rear-mounted seats and can impact your leg room and comfort if you have a smaller sized bike.

 

Front Child Bike Seat Bike Compatibility

If your looking to fit a front mounted seat here’s a couple of things to check for

  1. Headset and steerer mounting area
bicycle threadless headset
Available mounting area for a child seat bracket on a threadless headset

 

This is the space needed to mount up a bracket, most need around 3/4”  or 20mm. Some will simply clamp around the spacers you can see in the picture or you may need to remove them and substitute an extra bracket in place of the spacers.

 

threaded-bicycle-headset
The mounting area on a threaded headset

Headset Variations

Threaded Headsets

There are two common type of designs,  Threadless and threaded.

Threaded headsets use a threaded section of steerer tube for the locknuts to screw onto and you can see the big, hexagonal nuts in the picture.

bicycle headset
Location of adjusting bolt may be a hex head screw or exposed nut head

Threaded headsets use and independent Quill stem which is not related to bearing load or adjustment.

To raise or lower the height follow these steps

  • Loosen adjusting screw, 4 to 5 turns
  • The stem is now loose ready to be adjusted, if not either tap the nut firmly with a hammer or hold the front wheel between your legs while firmly turning handlebars side to side. This should crack the stem free.
  • Raise up to desired height watching for the maximum height stamp, do not exceed this, the stem will not grip properly and may cause an accident.
  • Re-tighten bolt and check by pulling handlebars side side side with wheel gripped between your leg.

 

 

Threadless headsets

The stem of a threadless headset combined with the top cap is what holds the bearings under tension instead of a threaded steerer tube with locking nuts.

Common on most bikes nowadays, they are simple to set up, but the adjustment range is more limited than threaded styles and they are easily overtightened causing stiff steering.

There is usually a small amount of adjustment available but it’s limited by the amount of fork steerer tube length.

 

Threadless Adjustment and How The Spacers Work

If you need to adjust the height or re-arrange your stem spacers to get create more space follow these steps, it straightforward but you do have to do it in a certain order.

black bicycle stem
Loosen stem bolts evenly until they are free from pressure and stem is loose

 

bicyle-threadless-stem
Unscrew tension bolt completely and remove the top cap

 

bicycle headset adjustment
Remove stem and re-arrange spacers (different sizes are available to fine-tune stem height)
black bicycle stem
Re-install stem. Note the gap between the top of the steerer tube and top of the stem. Do not exceed 3-4mm in stem height.
adjusting thread less headset
Fit top cap and tighten tension screw while pinching headset cups between your fingers. Rock the bike backward and forwards while holding the front brake, you should feel the bearing movement or knocking, tighten top cap screw until the play is removed.

Finish off by re-tightening the main two stem bolts evenly, torque is around 5nm for most stems, this is not super tight, just firm but always check they are even.

Heres a video just in-case you get stuck.

Rear Frame Mounted Child Bike Seats

To see the F.A.Q about rear mounted seats click HERE, or view the buyers guide HERE

These types of seats offer a good alternative to the front mounted style if your a shorter rider or you’re not keen on having extra weight around your steering area.

Weight capacity is usually higher than the front mount seats and a lot are bigger in size so the age range is longer.

Usually, they mount with a bracket which attaches to the seat tube of your bike, it clamps around and contains a quick release in most cases so you can remove the seat without tools.

The seats commonly use long support arms, these also give them some suspension and takes the jarring away, they flex and some seats even have built-in suspension.

Rear Frame Mounts Seats and Frame Compatibility

Since these seats use a clamp on style bracket you should make sure your bikes seat tube has enough mounting area or space for it.

The brackets range anywhere from 3 to 4 1/2″ or 120mm. Front gear cable guides, offset tube junction or extremely small frames can make fitting tricky.

Check the pictures below then have a look at your bike to see if your frame will work.

silver-aluminum-bike-frame
Mounting Area free space needed to fit a bracket, clear and free from obstruction.
black bike frame cable guide placement
Common front derailleur cable guide location. Interferes with seat tube clamps.

 

The front cable guide for the derailleur is sometimes placed on the seat tube.’

In this case, fitting the bracket wouldn’t work as the guide and cable will prevent the clamp from seating properly.

If your bike has the guide, next step is to see if your frame has rack mounts.

 

 

 

 

If your bike is small, or your saddle is at it’s lowest position, the frame mount seats may not be the best fit. Some brands make extensions and adapters to help with the fit on small bikes, but a better option for you would be a Rack Mount seat set up.

 

Rear Rack Mount Child Bike Seats

To see the F.A.Q about rear mounted seats click HERE, or view the buyers guide HERE

Among the most common, they work in a similar way to the frame mount seats, the major difference is they use a cycle rack to rest on, not using a bracket and an arm.

These weight of the seat is transferred directly to the bicycle frame, and the maximum load capacity is higher and they will carry older children as well.

Some seats can recline if you have a sleepy baby and some have inbuilt springs in the base.

The rack mount seats require frame eyelets to mount to if your bike doesn’t have these the rear frame mount seats are a better option.

 

Rack Mount Child Seats and Frame Compatibility

When ordering your seat, check to see if a rack is included, or which option to choose if your bike has disk brakes.

The screws and holes you see on a bike frame are where the rack screw onto. Some frames may have drop-out only holes and none up by the seat post.  In this case, you can mount the rack extensions to the seat clamp, this usually requires a bit of modification and it could easier to just pop into your local bike shop.

 

blue-bike-frame-close-up
Common location for upper rack mount eyelet

Frames With Disc Brakes

bicycle-disc-brake
Rackmount on a disk brake equipped bike

When your bike has disc brakes attached, the caliper usually sits in the way and stops you fitting a regular rack.

Disc brake racks have a recess or clearance built in to account for this and they bolt on normally much the same as non-disc racks.

Standard racks do not fit on rear suspension bikes, the distance of the rear wheel changes and moves, not allowing a fixed rack to be attached.

Front mount seats are a better fit, frame mount seats may interfere with the rear tire as the bike moves into its rear travel.

 

Tips on Rear Rack Fitting

  • Always aim to fit the rack level, this distributes even load directly to the bicycle frame, also your child seat will be level and more comfortable.
  • Additional rack extensions can be purchased to extend reach towards rear seat area mounting eyelet.

Below is an excellent video to help .guide you through fitting your rack.

So have you decided yet, or maybe your bikes decided for you?

Check out the front mounted seat buyers guide, or the rear mounted buyers guide, there’s an excellent list of options to help you out picking the right one.

Do you have any questions or comments? maybe your stuck and not sure what will fit your bike? drop me a comment below and I will be glad to help out.

kids-bike-gear
Vaughn

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Bicycle Child Carriers – Which Type Will Fit Your Bike?

  • August 17, 2018 at 5:18 pm
    Permalink

    Hi Vaughn

    I am a grandmother now and wishing had this type of information when I was younger to get the best for my child out of the bike seat I had.
    The step by step installation is very helpful to those of us less handy in doing DIY projects.

    Thanks,
    Susan

    Reply
    • August 17, 2018 at 8:06 pm
      Permalink

      Hi Susan

      I agree, it can be challenging when picking one and some are easier than others to fit. 

      Reply

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