Child Bike Seats: What to Look For

Riding along with your toddler can be rewarding for both parties, but to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone onboard, choosing the seat that fits your bike, your child and your lifestyle is essential.  From the type of bike you have to the type of rides you are planning, here’s what you need to know before your purchase any bike seat.

Already know what type of seat you want/need?  Check out our Bike Seat Comparison Guide.

Bobike on trails

1.  Safety

The safety of bike seats is still up for debate in many people’s eyes.  While widely used Europe and in some parts of Asia for regular transportation, they are mainly used in the US for recreational purposes.  As a result, several differences between regulatory safety standards exist between the two.  In Europe, the English Standard (BE EN 14344) is required on all seats and is used to certify front and rear-mounted seats from a child 9 months and up.  In the US, the ASTM standard will only certify rear-mounted seats for a child age one and up.  While the ASTM does not certify front-mounted seats, they are legally allowed to be sold in the US and all front-mounted seats available are certified by English Standards.

The difference between the 9 months and 1 year is also a notable difference.  While front-mounted seats sold in the US are certified by the English Standard for ages 9 months and up, in the state of New York it is illegal to transport any child under 12 months of age in a bike seat.  Other states, cities or counties many implement similar laws, so be sure to check local laws before riding with a child under a year.  In most states, it is also illegal for any aged child to ride a bike without wearing a helmet (click here to see our recommendations for helmets), but regardless of your local laws, if your child isn’t ready to wear a helmet (and keep it on!), they aren’t ready to ride a bike.

2.  Type of Bike

One of the main frustrations parents have with child bike seats is getting them properly mounted.  With countless different types of bike frames and sizes, as well as numerous different bike seat mounting systems, it’s easy to see how challenging obtaining a perfect mount can be.  As a general, standard city bikes or commuter bikes (mountain bike style frames without suspension) are the most versatile, while specialty bikes, such as road or full-suspension mountain bikes, are not recommended.  Prior to purchasing a seat, you will want to ensure your bike is compatible with your seat of choice.  While I cannot guarantee a specific seat will specific bike, here are some basic guidelines to follow based on typical front and rear-mounted seats.

Required Bike Specs for front-mounted seats:

  • Type of Headset:  While there are various types of headsets, you essentially just need to know if yours in threaded or not.  Luckily, you can easily determine your type of headset by looking where the handlebars attach to the frame of your bike.  With a threaded headset you will see a locknut circumferencing the frame, while with a threadless set, there is no locknut, but two bolts will be visible higher up on the stem (the bar that connects the handlebars to the fork).   Threaded headsets do not need adapters, while with threadless headsets require a special adapter with the Yepp.  BoBike front mounting system is adaptable to threaded and threadless and comes standard with every seat.

head set types

    • Available Space on Quill Stem (Threaded) or Steer Tubes (Threadless):  All front-mounted bike seats mount to either the quill stem (threaded headsets) or the steering tube, the tube that runs through the frame and connects the handlebars to the front fork (threadless).  Various distances between the stem (bar that attaches handlebar to steering tube) and head tube (portion of the frame that the steering tube travels through) are required for all front-mounting brackets, ranging from 3/4″ and up.


        • Available Space on Frame:  Front-mounted bike seats take up about 10″ of space between the stem and saddle of the bike.  If your top tube or the distance between your handlebars and seat tube, is less than 20″ you may have difficulty riding with a front-mounted seat.

the larger dutch style bike's crossbar is ~24 inches long

Photo Source: Dutch Trading Company (Brighton UK)

Specs for Rear-Mounted Bike Seats:

      • Rack-mounted Rear Seats: The majority of rear-mounted seats on the market mount to a bike rack, thereby requiring bike rack eyelet mounts on your bike.  Without these eyelets, a rack substantial enough to hold a child’s weight cannot be mounted to the bike and a frame-mounted rear seat must be used (explained below).  Four eyelets are on the frame, two on the seat stay (below the seat post) and two on the frame where the rear brake is attached (shown below).  If your bike does have eyelets, you will also need to determine whether it has disc-brakes.  Disc brakes are easy to spot as you can see the small braking disc around the hub of each tire.  Due to the extra width required for the caliper on disc brakes, a bike rack specifically designed for disc-brakes will be needed, such as the Topeak BabySeat Rack with Disc Mount.

Back Rack Eyelets

          •  Frame-mounted Rear Seats:  If your bike does not have mounting eyelets or even if it does, the location of braking and derailleur cables can be problematic.  If any cables are on the seat stay, versus the chain stay, the mount for the rear-mounted seats may prevent the cables from functioning properly.

Cable clearance for rear

Once knowledgeable of your bike’s mounting options, ensuring a proper fit is much more likely.

3. Front Mount vs. Rear Mount

Front- mount versus rear mount?  While the safety of the seats is often debated (click here to read a great article on the issue), it really is up to the rider.  First off, front-mounted seats should not be used for kids over the age of three or even on larger two-year-olds.  As a child grows, they can block your field of vision making it unsafe.  Front-mounted seats can also force you bow your legs out as you pedal to prevent from hitting the seat.  Being 5’10” with a 35″ inseam, I was able to lower my seat to prevent hitting both the iBert and BoBike without any problems.  On a side note, as a mom I admit that I did not allow my first two babies to ride in the front-mounted seats for safety reasons, but after watching our third throughly and safely enjoy the ride, I wish I would have allowed my younger two to experience it.  Having tested and used several front and rear-mounted seats, I can also say that I feel much more comfortable and safe using front-mounted seats with kids under three verses rear.

4.  Size and Age of Child

Front-mounted seats should not be used for babies under 9 months (12 months in some areas) and kids over the age of three and/or over 33 lbs.  In addition, any child that is not willing to wear a helmet should not be on a bike seat.  The weight recommendations for rear-mounted seats vary greatly, they generally max out at 40 lbs. but can go up to 70 lbs.

5.  Place for Hands/Sleep Bar

Keeping your kids comfortable during rides is an added bonus for everyone.  Happy kids make for happier rides.  While testing, we found that front-mounted seats with handlebars made for a more comfortable ride for child and adult.  The kids felt more secure having something to hold on to while adults found less “grabbing” of the their handlebars from the kids.  Padded handlebars and “sleep rolls” are also as added bonus as they provide a soft place for kids to lay their heads when they inevitably fall asleep.

seat handlebars

Bike seats with rubberized upper straps and higher backs, such as the Yepp Mini and BoBike Mini City, can also help keep your child upright and supported upon falling asleep.

Bike seat sleeping

If long rides are in order with your rear-mounted seat, handlebars are “sleep rolls” are not available, but wrap around head rest found on the BoBike tour exclusive and the Britax provide a soft resting place for their head.

6. Adjustable Buckling Systems and Foot Straps

Making sure your child is safely buckles into their seat is essential.  While all models have a three-point harness system, we found the bucking systems on some models far superior to others.  Some were easier to adjust compared, but we found the ability for the straps to stay in place the most telling of the buckling systems.  Falling off the shoulder was our biggest complaint and found the higher-end models, with a rubber component on the top of the strap, kept the straps securely in place.  The rubber straps also preventing a child from slumping over when falling asleep.  Our hands down favorite buckling system was the BoBike mini City and BoBike Maxi Tour, as they were easy to adjust and always stayed in place.

buckle systems

The ability to strap down your child’s feet on front-mounted bike seats is an often overlooked safety concern.  While keeping their feet out-of-the-way of the front tire is a minimal concern since their legs are simply too short to reach the spokes, the main problem is their ability to reach the shifters with their feet.  While all front-mounted bike seats, except the iBert, come with foot straps (see the yellow straps in Yepp mini picture above), we found them to be ineffective on one-year-olds as they can easily slide their feet out of the straps.  Older kids or kids with larger feet however, were unable to remove their foot from the straps.

For rear-mounted seats, straps and plastic shields are essential as they prevent a child’s foot from entering the wheel.  Once again, we found the straps to be ineffective on smaller children.  If you are considering purchasing a rear-mounted seat for a one-year-old, be sure to purchase one with plastic shields such as the Britax Bike Seat or Yepp Maxi.

7.  Weight of Seat

The lighter the additional load on your bike, the easier your ride will be, so the lighter the better.  Front-mounted do not vary as much as rear-mounted seats.  Rack-mounted rear seats however, is where the rider should be of most concern.  The maximum load of bike racks can range from 25lb. to over 150 lb., so considering the rack has to support the bike seat and your child, be sure to calculate the weight of the seat when determining the total load on a rack.

8.  Family Lifestyle

A family that occasionally goes for a family bike ride, versus a family that commutes on their bike will be in the market for different seats.  The size of the mounting bracket, the ease of mounting an un-mounting and the level of comfort of a child experiences during a ride should all be considered when selecting the best bike seat for your family.

          • Windscreen and Storage Options: If you are planning to use a front-mounted seat in cooler weather, consider purchasing the Yepp or the BoBike as they both offer a windscreen to help protect your child from the cold.  If you need additional storage on board, BoBike also offers a front mounted BoBox that attaches the BoBike mounting bracket.  For rear storage BoBike’s BoBag pannier bags are available for their rear-mounted seats.

bobike accessoriees

          • Size of Mounting Bracket:  If you plan on riding your bike regularly without the bike seat, then a small mounting bracket, that does not inhibit your ride will be very beneficial.  For example, the iBert, BoBike mini and the Yepp mini front-mounted seats are all able to be removed quickly, but only the BoBike and Yepp mounting brackets are small and compact.  A similar compact system is available for frame-mouted rear seats in the Britax child bike seat (also branded Romer) as shown below.

mounting brackets

          • Ease of Mounting and Un-mounting:  European seats, such as the BoBike and Yepp, can be more challenging to mount as compared to US rack-mounted seats, such as the ToPeak and iBert.  If you are looking to take the seat on and off often, stick to a rack-mounted rear seat or one with a small mounting bracket shown above.  If however, you plan on mounting it on a bike and leaving it there, ease of um-mounting should not be of concern.
          • Level of Comfort of Child: A child should not have to endure a bike ride rather than enjoy it.  If you plan on doing longer rides, you will want to consider the comfort level of your child.  Shocks, padded seats, the ability to recline, sleep rolls and wrap around head frame, all provide additional comforts to children.  A suspension system is available on the ToPeak, a reclining seat on the Britax, sleep rolls on front-mounted Yepp and BoBike seats and a wrap-around head frame on the Britax and Bobike Maxi Tour.

bike seat comfort features

  • Lisa

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU for this buying guide. I first read it about 6 months ago. I was a diehard trailer user, had never heard of front mounted seats, and thought rear mounted seats were unsafe. This article encouraged me to take another look, because you made seats sound safe and FUN! I found a Bobike Mini on craigslist, and then used the pictures on compatible vs. incompatible headsets to find a new hybrid bike on craigslist as well, since my road bike wasn’t compatible. I didn’t want to spend a ton of money if I ended up not liking the setup…
    Well, since I got it all set up, my baby has been in the trailer exactly twice. Once for school drop-offs on a rainy day, and once when I got a flat on my hybrid and had to ride my road bike to the bike shop for a new tube. The rest of the time (many many many rides, many many miles), she’s been happily perched up front in the Bobike. She loves the view, I love that I can keep an eye on her and interact with her. When the seat is unmounted from my bike, she’ll find it in the garage and insist, “Bike! Bike! Bike!”
    We still have the trailer for the inevitable cold/rainy days in the fall and winter. I used to tell people that if I had to choose one or the other, I’d choose the trailer, since it’s good in good weather and great in bad weather, while a seat is great in good weather but almost unusable in bad weather. But as of late, I’ve started saying that I’d choose the front-mounted seat, and just not ride in the cold/rain 🙂
    On safety, ironically, one of those two times I had my baby in the trailer, I managed to tip it. We were going around a corner and my own bike cleared it with no problem (so it would have been a non-issue had my baby been in a seat), but the trailer hit it and tipped. My baby was fine, just a little shaken up, but it was a good reminder that trailers are not completely free from safety concerns, too (or, more accurately, that seats and trailers are equally safe).
    So anyway, just wanted to say thanks again, you totally changed the way our family bikes, for the better! And, I encourage other skeptical parents to give seats a try!

    • Thanks and you’re welcome! I to had a very similar experience to you in that I first only stuck to trailers and then, once I gave front-mounted seats a try, I loved them! As you said, I love being able to talk to my little one while on the road as well as see and hear him get excited about seeing new things, “Look, a truck!”. I’ve also loved using the seat along with our Weehoo. I can put either one of my two older kids in the back and have the little guy in the front. It works great for going to and from preschool as well as running errands around town. You also make a good point about trailers. While in some respects they are “safer”, they can and do tip over, plus, a lot of parents don’t take the time to properly buckle their kids in, which really limits the amount of protection they can provide. Thank again for sharing!

  • Lauryn

    Natalie, can you offer any advice or video instruction (lol) for getting baby in and out of a bike seat? Or do I just need to buy a double kickstand?

    • I found the best approach is to put your child at the very last minute. So get jackets, helmets (on both you and your childs), backpacks, sunglasses, etc. ready and then walk to the front of the bike and hold the front wheel between your legs, making sure to grip the front fork as well as the tire. Pick up your child and then buckle them in, then, while holding onto the handlebars, turn around and get on the bike. Then main problem with this method is having your little one cooperate and not run away from you before you can pick them up! For that reason, I found, when possible, it is a lot easier to lean the bike up against a wall or a tree before you pick up your child as the bike is already upright. If that is not an option and your toddler runs off, I then get everything ready, pick up my toddler and then walk to the front of the bike and while holding my kid with one hard, pull up the bike with the other hand while placing my foot next to the front tire to prevent it from slipping out. It sounds complicated, but I promise it’s not too hard. A double kickstand would also be really useful, but I don’t find them to be necessary.

      Hopefully that helps, but from reading this over, I agree that a video might be helpful!

      • Lauryn

        Thank you, Natalie! It did help. I’ve been practicing on our new setup. I have an Electra Townie 21D and added an Easyfit Carrier XL w/ Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers and a Yepp Maxi Easyfit in Lime to it, recently. My 1-year old LOVES it. And we got the Specialized Small Fry helmet per your recommendation. I’m awaiting the arrival of my new double kickstand and am hoping it works out because with the panniers I was struggling. It was between these two: and , and I chose the former. They look the same and maybe they are? Thank you again for all your help and this wonderful resource.

        • I didn’t think about panniers as I have never used them with my Yepp, but I agree that they would add an additional level of difficulty, but I’m glad to hear that you are having success and that your 1-year-old loves it. Fun times!

      • Claire

        I’d love a video. I’m kind of nervous about this!

        • Good idea! I’ll see if I can get one this summer. I agree that it does sound a little daunting, but I promise, it isn’t as bad as it sounds!

  • Mae

    Hi! I am just wondering how people get on and off their bikes with a front mounted seat? There isn’t a lot of room for a body between the baby seat and the bike seat … I am used to riding my bike with the seat fairly high (legs properly extended with only a slight bend in the knee) and I step forward off my bike when I stop. Now with the baby seat in front, there is no room for me to stand between the handle bars and the seat when I need to stop and my seat is too high for my feet to touch the ground. I would imagine lowering my seat might make pedaling less comfortable?

    • Sounds like your seat might be a little too high. When riding, you should be able to touch the ground with your tippy toes while seated on the saddle. That being said, getting on and off the bike with a baby seat on certainly does take some adjustment For me, I would swing my right leg over the seat and then stand on my tippy toes to get started. Having a saddle with a narrower profile does help as it allows you more room for your legs when standing over your bike. If you happen to have a really wide seat (saddle) on the bike, that is going to make it more challenging. The geometry of your bike can also make a difference (which of course you can’t change, but it could make your bike more challenging that others. Some bikes have shorter top tubes, which decreases the distance between the child seat and the saddle of the bike. In the end, hang in there, I promise it gets easier!

  • Hi Natalie, I’ve read this article several times, as well as the bike seat comparison. We ended up finding a like-new Peg Perego Orion on Craigslist. Now I’m trying to find a bike (I only have a road bike). I’m 5’8″, and finding a bike where I can get reasonable leg extension, not bump my knees on the seat, and also feel safe mounting/dismounting seems like a pipe dream. Do I just get a bike I like and adapt to the wide knee riding? Or get something where my seat is low enough that my knees don’t hit his seat, but not be able to extend my legs? It’s especially tricky because I can’t really test-ride with the bike seat mounted. Do you have any feedback or suggestions on this?

    • Well the good news is that the Peg Perego Orion is pretty adaptable and should be able to fit on most bikes. What bike is best really depends on what you plan on using it for. If you only want a bike to ride around with your family, I would go for a bike with a more upright position, a cruiser-style per say. These bikes will prevent you from having the seat too close to your chest, but won’t necessarily fix the knee issue. How close your knees are the seat is directly related to the frame size. A larger frame will provide more room for your legs, but will require you to stretch out further to reach the handlebars, providing less room for your upper body. I would test out a cruiser style bike first to see how you like riding it. Cruisers also come in a drop-down frame, which will make getting on and off much easier, especially with a seat up front. One cruiser style bike that I know will fit with the Peg Perego is the Priority Classic,, as they actually sell the Orion on their site since they know it will fit. If you don’t like the way a cruiser rides, I would pick a bike that is comfortable for you and just make it work, especially since you will only be riding with the seat for a short time period.