One of the most popular and affordable child bike seats on Amazon, what makes the Bellelli Pepe such a great bang for your buck? After testing over 30 different child bicycle seats, we finally got a chance to test out the Bellelli Pepe to see how it compared to other child bike seats on the market.
At a fraction of the price of other rear child bike seats we’ve tested, I was expecting to be underwhelmed by the Bellelli Pepe. But truth be told, the Pepe is a pretty sweet little seat for under $100. More basic and not quite as refined or easy to use as a Thule or Hamax child bike seat, it’s still a solid-quality option for families on a budget. Read the review below for all the reasons we love this rear-mounted child bike seat! (Available in frame or rack mount.)
Bellelli Pepe Review
BEST FOR: Budget-minded families who need a bike seat to fit a child for several years
MOUNT TYPE: Rear Frame-mounted, Rear Rack-mounted
QUICK RELEASE: Yes
AGE RANGE: 9 mo. to 48.5 lb.
- Affordable, but solid-quality
- Great ventilation
- Easy to mount and use
- Three shoulder strap height slots for a more accurate fit for growing kids
- Easy to take on and off
- Long foot straps can interfere with the spokes
- Leg shields can rest on brake levers
- Seat padding is thin and low-quality
- You may have to take off the child’s helmet to put on the shoulder straps
Bellelli Pepe Bicycle Seat Video Review
Want to see the Bellelli Pepe in action? Check out our video review which also covers the four main features you need to know before buy the Bellelli Pepe, including age requirements for the child and the different mounting options for your bike.
Bellelli Pepe Review – Results of our Test Rides
The Bellelli Pepe comes in two different versions, both mounting to the rear of the bike. One version mounts to a rack, while the other mounts to the frame. (For this review we used the rack-mounted version.)
Two things to be aware of: (1) Not all bikes will be compatible with both or even either of these mounting styles. Check your bike for compatibility before you buy! So many reviews on Amazon bash this seat because the buyer couldn’t use it with their bike. That’s not Bellelli’s fault – that’s standard for any child bike seat.
(2) If you go with the rack-mounted version, the rack is not included (which is normal). However, be aware that buying a rack will add about $40 to $50 to the price of getting a child bike seat. So usually a frame-mounted version is cheaper if it’s compatible with your bike.
If you have no idea if your bike is compatible or not, check out our article: Child Bike Seats – How to Choose.
While riding, the Bellelli Pepe felt like the high-end child bike seats I’ve reviewed. It sits low on the bike and is very lightweight, so it performs in line with the Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi. Because it’s low and light, it has minimal effect on your balance and ability to maneuver the bike. In short, I loved riding with it!
Size and Age of Child
Like most European-made rear child bike seats, the Bellelli Pepe is rated for up to 48.5 lbs. While you’ll find many comments on Amazon about how this is the only seat someone could find that was rated to almost 50 lbs., that’s just not accurate. The Hamax Caress is also rated to 48.5 lbs., and all of the Thule rear seats are rated to 48.5 lbs. in Europe, but 40 lbs. in the U.S. due to differences in safety regulations.
While in many states a child can legally ride in a child bike seat at 9 months, we recommend waiting until 12 months. This particular seat is better equipped to hold younger riders (12 months) than other seats, though.
With three shoulder strap height adjustments, there’s plenty of room for adjusting as your child grows. The Pepe is unique because not all child bike seats have shoulder straps that can be moved low enough to securely accommodate a 12-month old.
The Pepe’s lowest placement is low enough for an average 12-month-old, while higher-end seats like the Thule Yepp Maxi and Yepp Nexxt Maxi don’t have a third, lower slot. Those seats are better suited for toddlers at least 18-months-old.
Shoulder Strap Height: Bellelli Pepe vs. Thule Yepp
That said, the Pepe’s three height slots are a little oddly spaced, as you can see in the image above. The lowest setting was good (but soon too low) for our 15-month-old tester. The middle slot was perfect for our petite 2.5-year-old tester. The highest slot isn’t much higher, but fits our petite 4-year-old. Realistically, if you’re trying to get a 48 lb., 5-year-old in this seat, it’s not going to be the best fit (which is true for most child bike seats).
The top two slots are 1.25″ apart, while the second and third are 2.5″ apart. For comparison, the slots on the Thule Yepp seats are 2.25″ apart.
The shoulder straps on the Pepe are very basic and have no padding like you’ll find on higher-end seats. They loosen or tighten by moving the plastic slider up or down. Because there’s not a loose end to pull to do this, it’s a bit awkward to do.
Additionally, you can only pull down to tighten until you hit the buckle. This limited tightening may be an issue for young or petite riders. Our “sturdy” 23-month-old tester used the straps pulled to their tightest, so a young, petite child would most likely not be able to tighten the straps enough for a truly secure fit. Our very petite 2.5-year-old rider fit well with the straps pulled to their tightest, but I would have hesitated to use this seat with her when she was younger.
Unlike most child bike seats, the shoulder straps are permanently connected at the bottom into the top buckle, forming a V. To strap your child in, you have to raise or lower this V over their head. When the straps are tightened to their shortest length, this can cause an issue with helmet clearance.
With a small-profile helmet (like the Giro Scamp) we were able to fit those straps over our tester’s head while she was wearing the helmet. She had to tilt her head awkwardly, but we managed. However, if your child has a bulkier helmet, you may have to remove the helmet to get the shoulder straps over their head. As your child gets older and the straps are adjusted longer, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Despite all of this, the harness is pretty solid, and significantly better than the flimsy harness found on the budget-friendly Bell Shell rear child bike seat.
The buckle of the Bellelli Pepe is also very basic and does make me a bit nervous at times. It clicks into a hole in the bottom of the seat, which clearly works, but isn’t the most secure system I’ve used. Be sure to pull on the buckle after you insert it to ensure it’s locked in place.
One interesting feature the Pepe has is that there are two possible insertion points for the buckle. Our 23-month-old toddler uses the hole closer to her, which keeps her snuggly in place. As kids grow and get thicker, you can pop out the red plastic piece and change which insertion point you’re using. The buckle insertion farther away allows for larger children to be strapped in securely, but also comfortably.
The Pepe seat is made from thick, durable plastic, and lined with a thin fabric cushioning. The cushioning is attached via small points of velcro and can be removed and hand-washed if needed. The cushioning is pulled off easily, so be careful not to show your toddler that it’s possible! :-).
While we haven’t used this seat long-term yet, the fabric is pretty thin. Given that it’s also not secured tightly in place, I would anticipate wear and tear over time.
The venting of the Pepe is excellent. With a very “airy” seat back, it’s one of the best-ventilated seats on the market. If you live in a hot climate, the Pepe is definitely a seat you should consider.
Seat Height and Helmet Recess
With a swooped-back top, the Bellelli Pepe carves out plenty of room for toddlers’ helmets. As kids grow and get taller, this is no longer an issue, but is a necessary comfort feature for younger, shorter kids.
Helmet Recess: 2.5-Year-Old and 4-Year-Old
As Bellelli’s most budget-friendly option, the Pepe doesn’t not recline. While this may be important to some families, I’ve never had my kid need to take a nap while we were riding! I’ve you’re interested in a Bellelli seat that does have a reclining version, most of their rear-frame models offer this option (but are not currently sold in the US).
Footrests and Leg Shields
The Pepe’s footrests work just like the higher-end child bike seats. The foot rests easily slide up and down to accommodate different leg lengths. A plastic strap wraps around the foot to keep them in place. The foot strap is a little strange because it hooks behind the footrest, instead of on the side. It’s slightly more difficult to access, but not a reason not to buy the seat.
The foot strap also tends to wrap more around a child’s ankle than the foot, so be aware that this could bother your little one if they aren’t wearing socks or pants.
One thing to note about the foot strap is that the end of it can stick into the spokes and make a bunch of noise. (See above.) Did you ever stick a playing card in your spokes when you were little? Hahaha, kinda like that. My solve was to move the strap end on the outside of one of the rack arms so it can’t interfere with the spokes.
Leg shields protect little legs and feet from possible contact with the rear wheel, and the Pepe’s leg shields definitely do their job. There is a potential issue with this feature, however. The shields point inwards instead of sticking straight forward.
On my bike, they actually rest on the rear brake levers (see above). While I have not had any issues, I did read one Amazon review where this actually interfered with the rider’s brake functionality. That’s the only case I’ve heard of, but no other seat we’ve tested has leg shields that bend in this way. Just be aware and make sure that your brakes are not affected by the placement of those leg shields before you ride.
From a sizing perspective with the foot rests, taller and older kids will be less comfortable as they grow, but still more comfortable than cheaper seats like the Bell Cocoon 300.
In the images below, you can see the footrest height set for a 2.5-year-old (left) and a 4-year-old (right). The 4-year-old has the footrest adjusted to its lowest point, so kids with longer legs are going to have their knees raised higher than is optimal for comfort. This is a pretty standard issue, even with higher-end seats like Thule.
We tested the rack-mounted version of the Bellelli Pepe, so we’ll only cover that mounting system here. The Pepe’s mount is very similar to the other rack-mounting systems we’ve tested. Once you have the rack installed on the bike, getting the seat on is pretty easy.
Simply set the seat on the rack, turn the side knob, and tighten and clamp the plastic tabs under the seat onto the rack. Compared to higher-end rear-rack seats, the mounting system is similar, but doesn’t instill quite as much confidence in being secure.
Don’t get me wrong, I made sure the seat is secure on that rack. However, the way the tightening knob is designed makes it hard to tell when the clamps have been tightened enough. The resistance changes, but it continues to turn. Does this mean it’s tight enough? I assumed so, but there was nothing in the instructions to verify this fact.
The tabs on the high-end Thule seats are also plastic, but they have a rubber covering so there’s no chance of the plastic tabs slipping on the metal of the rack. Also, the tabs have more of a curve to them so they seem to cradle the rack better than the Pepe.
Mounting Tabs: Bellelli Pepe vs. Thule Yepp Nexxt
To be clear, we had no issues with the security of the Pepe on the rack, but as an admittedly over-paranoid parent, Thule’s more refined system just instills more confidence.
Part of that confidence probably also lies in the back-up safety strap, which to be honest, it totally useless on the Pepe. A nylon strap in a plastic slider like you’d find on a backpack, it comes loose if you pull on it. That leads me to believe it would also come loose if it suddenly had to keep your child bike seat in place if the rack or clamping system failed.
Clearly that’s unlikely, but Thule’s system is a very durable plastic ratcheting strap that I do believe would actually be helpful if you needed it.
As an FYI, the Pepe seat does not have a locking mechanism to lock the seat to the rack to prevent theft. These locks are standard on high-end seats, but not on budget seats.
Bellelli Pepe Bicycle Baby Carrier Bottom Line
For under $100, the Bellelli Pepe is a solid-quality bang for your buck. While not as refined or user-friendly as more expensive seats like the Hamax Caress or the Thule Yepp Maxi, it gets the job done for budget-minded families.