With durable construction, modern styling, quick and easy adjustments, and the ability to recline, the Hamax Caress child bike seat is a smart choice for many families. The Caress is available in both rack-mounted and frame-mounted styles. This review focuses on both.
BEST FOR: Families who will be carrying kids under 4 years old. One of the few frame-mounted seats that has a mount compatible with wires on the back of the seat tube (doesn’t work with wires on the side).
MOUNT TYPE: Rear frame or rear rack
AGE RANGE: 9 mo. to 40 lb.
ADDITIONAL MOUNTING INFO: Mounts to 1.1″ – 1.6″ diameter seat tube (must be clear of wires), needs 3″ of space on seat tube
- Available in frame or rack mount
- Suspension on both frame and rack-mount
- Shoulder straps are easy to adjust and stay put
- Safety buckle is easy to use with one hand, but kid-proof
- Mounting the seat to the bike is quick and easy
- Foot straps work better than most other seats
- Reclines by turning an easy-to-access knob
- Frame mount can mount on bikes that have brake wires on the seat tube (rare!)
- Narrow shoulder straps can dig into necks of older riders – not as ideal for riders 4+
- Depending on your saddle, recline function may not work properly
- Differences in frame design and saddle placement can make it challenging to properly fit on certain bikes
- No venting on the back
The Hamax Caress child bike seat is one of the best-designed and most luxurious rear-mounted seats on the market. It’s easily one of our favorites… but why do we love it?
Made from high-quality materials, the Caress is incredibly durable and will last for many years. With a focus on ease-of-use, it certainly simplifies the process of getting out for a ride.
And available to mount on either your bikes’ frame or a rack, the Caress fits a wider variety of bikes that most child bike seats. The Caress frame-mounted and Caress rack-mounted seats are exactly the same, except for their mounting systems, so we’ll cover both of them in this review.
Harness – Shoulder Straps and Buckle
Starting at the top, the Hamax Caress seats have a unique harness system that’s incredibly easy to use.
To adjust the shoulder strap height according to the height of your little rider, the entire back of the seat slides up and down. Simply pull the handle on the back of the seat and adjust those straps exactly where you need them. This can even be done while the child is sitting in the seat!
If you’re unfamiliar with child bike seats, this is a HUGE upgrade, and possibly reason alone to get this seat! Most seats have just two or three distinct shoulder strap height settings. Adjusting them is a much more manual process, and of course, 2 or 3 settings won’t get you as precise a fit as a continuously adjustable slider.
As seen below, you can see two shoulder strap height settings on the Thule Yepp Maxi, and three on the Thule RideAlong Lite.
The seat back has a recessed pocket to prevent your child’s helmet from being pushed forward. When the shoulder straps are slid down to the lowest position, the helmet pocket is reduced because of the curvature of the seat. However, it’s still manageable as our 12-month tester had plenty of room.
Shoulder Straps – Tightening and Loosening
The upper portion of the straps straps is encompassed by a thick and slightly tacky rubber to prevent the straps from sliding off the shoulders once they are tightened properly.
The straps are unique because the rubber padding inserts into the back of the seat and cannot slide up or down the straps like other seats. They are also about 1” closer together compared to similar seats, which we’ll discuss further in the “Size and Age of Child” section.
Tightening and loosening of the straps is much easier than most other seats we’ve tested because Hamax has designed a simple and unique solution.
Instead of the standard threaded slider, Hamax has a proprietary slider. To tighten, pull down on the strap. To loosen, (recommended with buckle in place to provide resistance), push the red horizontal button under the strap’s plastic slider, and pull up. This can be done with one hand.
As a comparison, the Burley’s straps need two hands to adjust and require you to pull the excess strap through a threaded slider in the back. It’s a bit confusing and not as intuitive.
As a 3-point harness, the straps form a “V” in the buckle. As a result, you may need to loosen the straps every time you take the harness off your child because helmets are often too bulky for clearance.
The one-handed safety buckle release allows you one free hand to hold the bike. To release the buckle, you must press down exactly on the center of the button – not too high, too low, or on one side or the other. It can be a little tricky at first, but after a couple days, we quickly got used to it. Our child testers never came close and gave up trying.
Size and Age of Child
What size child fits in the Hamax Caress? The “best fit” is very dependent on a child bike seat’s harness system. Based on the shoulder strap height adjustments, the Caress is one of the best seats for riders as young as 12 months old.
Its lowest setting is about 10.5” above the seat bottom, while the Thule RideAlong, which we also like for 12 month olds, is slightly taller at 11”. If you have a 12 month old or a petite toddler, the Hamax is a great choice.
On the tall end, the Caress’ max shoulder height is about the same as the Thule seats. While all seats are safety rated to 40 lbs in the US (48.5 in EU), they usually reach the limits of a great fit during a child’s fourth year. Below you can see how the Caress fits on our tall 2.5 year old (35 lbs.) and average 4 year old (38 lbs.) testers. The 4-year-old is maxed out at the shoulder strap height, while the 2.5-year-old has a bit of growth left.
Many child bike seats can certainly be used on taller riders within the weight limit, but with the Caress seats, the rubber tops of the shoulder straps don’t flex enough to comfortably accommodate taller riders as well as other seats do (like the Thule RideAlong as seen below).
Additionally, the shoulder straps of the Hamax Caress are just about 3” apart, while most other straps are 4” apart (Thule RideAlong can be see below). This narrower spacing makes the harness less ideal for bigger and older riders because the tops of the shoulder straps can dig into a child’s neck.
When the straps were pulled to a safe tightness, the rubber shoulder pads dug into our 4 and 5 year old testers’ necks (both about 38 lbs.) In order to avoid this, we had to loosen the straps more than we were truly comfortable with.
As a result, the Hamax Caress is a fantastic fit for babies as young as 12 months old, maxing out at the size of an average 3.5 year old. While your child can certainly ride in the Caress after they are 3.5, the fit won’t be as comfortable as with other child bike seats like the Thule RideAlong.
The back and bottom of the seat are lined with a thin, felt-like fabric material. It’s not so much padding as it is softer point of contact than the hard plastic of the seat.
Foot Rests and Foot Straps
Like most features on the Hamax Caress, the foot straps are also unique.
The foot straps are some of the easiest we’ve used because of their “pull to tighten” design. Once your child is loaded into the seat and the foot rests are set at the appropriate height, you insert the end of the foot strap between the two plastic tabs on the side of the foot rest. You then pull the strap and ratchet it down to tighten.
This is the only footstrap that works in this particular way. We appreciate that you only need one hand to execute, and also that the soft rubber strap molds well to your child’s foot to keep it more securely in place.
The footrests slide up and down for simple and exact placement, which is standard for higher-end child bike seats.
Recline is a luxurious “nice to have” feature available on only a few child bike seats. Its best use is for kids that will be falling asleep on the ride, and leaning them back prevents their head from resting awkwardly on their chest.
That said, we have not found a perfect reclining seat. Depending on your bike’s saddle shape and height, as well as the Caress’ placement in relation to that saddle, it is quite possible that you will not be able to use the full range of recline.
On three different bikes we tested the Caress with, we were unable to recline the seat all the way back because the adult saddle got in the way. This is also an issue on the popular Thule RideAlong.
If it does work with your saddle, the Caress is easier to recline that any other seat we’ve used. Most other seats require you to reach under the saddle to engage the recline. On the Caress, you simply turn the large gray knob in front of the buckle.
Suspension – Standard on Both Frame and Rack Mount!
All frame mounted child bike seats have a small amount of suspension through the dual mounting bars.
Rack mounted seats almost never have suspension, but the Hamax Caress is one of the very few seats that does! The proprietary rack adapter has two large spring shocks to absorb the impact from bumpy terrain.
Mounting and Centering – Frame Mount
Mounting the frame-mounted bracket of the Hamax Caress is quick and easy. The mounting block has two rubber side wings that wrap around the seat tube of the bike, which protect your frame from being scratched. The rear mounting plate lays on top of the rubber on the back of the seat tube, and the entire contraption is clamped together with four hex bolts.
One HUGE benefit of the Hamax’s mounting system is that it is designed to mount behind any wires on the back of the seat tube as shown in the user manual screenshot below. This is the only frame-mounted seat that we know of that can be mounted on a frame with exterior wires.
That said, there is not a 100% guarantee that it will work with the placement of your wires, but there’s a high chance. Additionally, this only applies if your wires are behind the seat tube. We have a bike that has wires that are on the side of the seat tube, which is not compatible with this mounting system.
Once the mounting bracket is attached to your bike, to mount the seat, simply place the end of the mounting arms into the holes in the top of the mounting bracket. When properly inserted, two green safety tabs will protrude through the bracket. To release, simply push on a group of eight circles on the face of the mount, and lift the seat up and out.
Proper Placement of Mounting Bracket – Frame Mount
Placement of the mounting bracket on the seat tube is also important to ensure the proper height of the seat in relation to the rear tire. The base of the seat should be 10-12 cm above the highest point of the rear tire (its center, directly above the rear axle) when mounted. The entire mounting bar will angle slightly upward, to help provide suspension during the ride.
Centering the Seat – Frame Mount
Centering the seat along the rear axle of the bike is also important. For optimal weight distribution while riding and for easy handling and balancing, the center mark on the seat should be no more than 10 cm behind the rear axle of the bike.
To center the seat, simply adjust it forward or back by unlocking and removing the black shaft below the seat and then slide the seat along the mounting bracket.
While simple in concept, with two of the bikes we tested the Caress with, we had challenges getting within 10 cm of the rear axle. With both bikes (Specialized Ariel hybrid and Priority Bicycles Large frame) the saddles of the bikes got in the way, preventing the Hamax Caress from moving forward enough on the mounting rails.
In both cases, however, we were able to get the Caress centered by moving the bike’s saddle forward on its rails or by moving the saddle higher. But upon doing so, the Caress became too close to the saddle to allow the seat to recline fully.
This problem is not unique to the Hamax Caress and has occurred with several other seats we’ve tested. Every bike is different, so this may or may not be a problem for you.
Mounting and Centering – Rack Version
The rack-mounted version of the Hamax Caress mounts to your rack quick and easy. You simply place the seat over your rack and twist the side knob until you can’t turn it anymore and the four side clamps (2 on each side) securely pinch the rack.
The Hamax is unique in that the same seat can be used as a frame or rack-mounted seat. While this won’t apply to most parents, you can actually swap back and forth between mounting styles if you have two different bikes. You can purchase the frame-mounted seat and a rack adapter, or the rack-mounted seat plus the frame mounting bars and mounting bracket.
If you are switching from a frame-mounted seat to a rack-mounted, you simply remove the mounting bars by completely removing the black shaft and pulling the mounting bars out from the base of the seat. Then place the rack adapter along the base of the seat and attach it via the same black shaft. No tools needed!
Like the frame-mounted Caress shown above, the rack-mounted seat also needs to be positioned within 10 cm of the bike’s rear axle. Like almost every other seat we’ve tested, this does places the child much closer to the adult rider than preferred.
Once mounted on the rack, the saddle of the bike can prevent the seat from reclining all the way back. But once again, this is more an issue with bike seats in general than with the Caress specifically. We were able to solve this issue by sliding the saddle on one bike further up on its rails, and by raising the seat on another bike.
The Hamax Caress boasts impeccable quality, is easy to use, and easy to mount. The Caress is easily one of best bike seats we’ve used. Based on more narrow shoulder strap spacing, the Caress is best suited for kids under 4 years old.