We’ve always loved the original Thule RideAlong child bike seat, and now Thule’s designed a more affordable option with the Thule RideAlong Lite. Read the review below to see how these two rear-mounted seats compare, and what features have been simplified to keep costs down!
Thule RideAlong Lite
RATING: Highly Recommended
BEST FOR: Parents who want a good-quality seat without paying for extra features like a reclinable seat or sliding height adjustable shoulder straps.
MOUNT TYPE: Rear frame
AGE RANGE: 1 year to 48.5 lbs.
- High-quality, durable build and components
- Installation is simple
- Quick-release mount allows you to mount/dismount the seat in seconds
- Padded shoulder straps are easy to adjust
- Budget-friendly price
- Footstraps don’t stay adjusted
- Seat “padding” is hard rubber
Thule RideAlong Lite Review – Results of our Test Rides
The Thule RideAlong Lite is a more basic and budget-friendly version of Thule’s wildly popular RideAlong child bike seat. In a nutshell, the Lite doesn’t recline, has standard style shoulder straps, three shoulder height options instead of a continuously adjustable slide, and lacks the original RideAlong’s soft, breathable padding.
That said, let’s not focus on the glass being half-empty when really, it’s definitely half-full. The RideAlong Lite is a fantastic option for budget-conscious families who can forgo some of the higher-end features in exchange for a lower price tag from a very reputable brand.
Thule makes seven different child bike seats, four of which are rear frame-mounted. The names can be a bit confusing, as can the differences between them. Here’s a quick summary comparison of their rear-mounted seats.
Thule Ridealong: (Frame-mounted) With backpack-style shoulder straps that don’t slip off shoulders, continuously adjustable shoulder height settings, and a reclining seat, the Ridealong is our favorite choice if you don’t mind its lack of ventilation.
Thule Ridealong Lite: (Frame-mounted) A “budget” version of the original RideAlong, the Lite is perfect for budget-minded families.
Thule Yepp Maxi: (Rack or frame-mounted) With best-in-class ventilation, the Yepp Maxi is ideal for hot climates, or families who will do a lot of summer riding. It’s also the easiest material to keep clean.
Thule RideAlong Lite Comparison
|Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi||Thule Yepp Maxi||Thule RideAlong||Thule RideAlong Lite|
|Mounting Style||Rear Rack||Rear Frame or Rack||Rear Frame||Rear Frame|
|Round Frame Dimensions||N/A||28 - 40 mm||27.2 - 40 mm||27.2 - 40 mm|
|Oval Frame Dimensions||N/A||Max 40 mm||Max 40x55 mm||Max 40x55 mm|
|Space Needed to Mount||Mounts to rack||Not published||4 3/4"||4 3/4"|
|Age||1 - 6 years||1 - 6 years||1 - 6 years||1 - 6 years|
|Weight Capacity||20 - 40 lbs.||20 - 40 lbs.||20 - 40 lbs.||20 - 40 lbs.|
|Harness||5 point||5 point||3 point||3 point|
|Weight||6.6 lb||8.4 lb./10 lb.||10.2 lb||9.5 lb|
|Suspension||No, but shock absorbing seat||No, but shock absorbing seat||DualBeam||DualBeam|
|Shoulder Straps||2 height slots||2 height slots||Continuously adjustable height||3 height slots|
|Quick Release Bracket||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Read Full Review||Thule Yepp Nexxt Maxi||Thule Yepp Maxi||Thule RideAlong||You're reading it!|
The initial set-up for the mount of the RideAlong Lite is straightforward and simple, requiring about 10 minutes of set-up. Thereafter, by pulling out on the bottom blue portion of the universal quick-release bracket, the seat can be mounted/dismounted quite easily from the adult bike. Pulling the blue part releases the lock on the metal bars, and the bike seat (attached to the metal bars) is pulled up and out the bracket.
While this really is simple, I’ve almost dropped the bike seat a few times because you have to keep one hand holding the bike as you pull the bike seat out of the mounting bracket. Not a big deal, but if there’s someone else around, it wouldn’t hurt to ask for them to hold the bike. 🙂
The Lite’s mounting bracket should fit most round bike frames with a 27.2 – 40mm diameter, and oval frames with a maximum dimension of 40 x 55mm. This will be most standard road, mountain, and hybrid style bicycles, unless you have brake cables that get in the way. As a test, we attempted to mount the Lite on an adult bike with a brake cable (and metal brake cable bracket) on the seat tube, and we were unable to do so.
You also need at least 4.75″ of vertical clearance on the seat tube to install the mounting bracket. Thule offers a pretty specific bike fit guide for the RideAlong and RideAlong Lite, which we recommend you check out before purchase.
Thule RideAlong Lite’s Mount and Seat Locking System
Proximity to Adult Saddle
While the end of the metal suspension beams attach the bike seat to the bike, the rounded portion at the other end allows you to adjust your proximity to the child rider. This is a feature that’s common on high-end bike seats. By turning and unlocking the blue tabbed bar in the image above, you can slide the seat forward or backward to give yourself more or less room between you and your child. This can be done while seat is mounted to the bike.
While you can slide the entire seat closer or farther away from the adult rider to allow for additional space as kids grow, the farther back it gets from being centered over the rear tire, the more you notice the weight and the harder it is to ride. (This is standard with rear-mounted seats.)
Especially with younger kids who can’t be told “no”, kids can grab at your back with their hands and kick you in the bum because the footstraps don’t really work. (More on that later!) This didn’t bother me that much, but our daughter was constantly tugging at my husband’s belt, which he found really annoying. I guess… don’t wear a belt with a rear-mounted seat?? 🙂
Size and Age of Child
Rear-mounted seats are larger than front-mounted seats because there’s more room in the back of the bike. As a result, they also fit bigger kids. All of Thule’s rear-mounted seats are designed for babies, toddlers, and kids up to 40 lbs, or 1 to 6-years-old.
We tested the seat on a 12-month-old (22.5 lbs) and a 2.5-year-old (30 lbs), both of whom fit easily and comfortably in the the seat.
Thule RideAlong Lite a Great Fit for 12-Month-Old and 2.5-Year-Old
Be aware that many seats (including all of Thule’s seats) say they can fit children as young as 9 months old. Many states actually have laws prohibiting the use of a child bike seat until a child is a year old, and many physicians also advise against use before a child turns one. We prefer to err on the side of caution and don’t test child bike seats with children under one year of age.
The Thule RideAlong Lite’s shoulder straps are a major difference between the Lite and the original RideAlong. They both feature a 3 point harness system with non-slip shoulder straps. The Lite’s straps are a good-quality nylon, padded, and feature the easy-to-use blue tightening/loosening buttons.
The shoulder straps on the original Thule Ridealong are a pretty nice upgrade though – they’re backpack-style, thickly padded from shoulder to chest for maximum comfort. And because the two straps are attached to one another, they can’t slip off the shoulders.
Shoulder Straps of Thule RideAlong Lite vs. RideAlong
The other significant way that the original RideAlong is superior to the Lite is in shoulder height adjustability. The Lite has three vertical slots for different height adjustments. The original RideAlong has a continuous sliding system to dial in the perfect fit for your child.
For the price, however, the Lite’s system is excellent. While it offers three height adjustments, many other seats, including Thule’s Yepp Maxi and Yepp Nexxt Maxi, only feature two height adjustments.
Interestingly though, we used the lowest setting for both our 12-month-old and 2.5-year-old testers on the Lite. The likelihood that you’ll need to even use the top setting is low, unless you’re really planning on riding until your child turns 6.
Shoulder Strap Height Adjustment of Thule RideAlong Lite and RideAlong
The RideAlong Lite has a standard, child-proof safety buckle. At first I was mama bear nervous because it’s only a 3 point harness and not a 5 point, but the sides of the Lite come up high and cocoon your little ones with its protective plastic sides.
The Thule RideAlong Lite’s seat is made of hard plastic lined on the back and bottom with hard rubber. It doesn’t look particularly comfortable, but it’s hard to get a clear opinion from our baby testers. 🙂 The RideAlong, on the other hand, has softer, more padded cushioning.
The Lite doesn’t have any venting (neither does the original RideAlong, but it does features a breathable pad to prevent sweating), so if you live in the South or Arizona, your baby might end up with a swack (sweaty back). If airflow is important to you, take a look at the very vented Thule Yepp Maxi.
The seat height of the Lite is tall to allow for proper back support as your child grows from 1 year to 6 years. For younger children this means that the seat back is directly behind their helmet. To prevent the seat back from pushing a child’s head forward, the top of the seat angles backwards to create a pocket of space for the back of a helmet. We still recommend that you buy a helmet with a flat back for babies and toddlers – the Giro Scamp is our top pick in that department.
Helmet “Pocket”, Side Wing, and Suspension Bars of RideAlong Lite
Suspension is a super nice feature to have for added comfort for your child. Suspension isn’t available on front-mounted seats, but is available on some rear-mounted seats. Both the Thule RideAlong and the RideAlong Lite have dual beam suspension which relies on the metal mounting bars that attach the seat to the bike frame to flex under stress.
Side wings or bumpers on a child bike seat protect little hands from getting pinched when a parent leans the bike against a wall. Both the RideAlong and the RideAlong Lite feature wings, but the Lite’s are solid, while the original’s are carved out and more like handles. We’re not sure why the difference between the models, but the only advantage we can think of for the original RideAlong is that it would provide a bit of side air flow.
These high sides also help surround your little one with a plastic barrier that would be an added layer of protection in the event of a crash or fall.
This is an additional major area where the RideAlong Lite differs from the original. The Lite does not recline, while the original RideAlong has 5 different reclining positions that can quickly be adjusted with just one hand. If your child often falls asleep in the bike seat, a reclining seat is a life saver.
Besides the semi-hard seat padding, the footrests are the other feature of the RideAlong Lite that I don’t really love. They’re great in that the height of the footrests are continuously adjustable for a perfect fit for your child, and the foot straps are easy to secure. But adjusting the length of the foot straps is confusing to figure out and their length setting doesn’t really stay in place. They’re actually the same on the original RideAlong – we didn’t like them years ago when we reviewed the RideAlong, and unfortunately they haven’t been improved for the launch of the new Lite.
That said, kids usually find a way to wiggle their feet out of the foot straps anyways, so this isn’t really a deal breaker.
With the Lite, Thule’s done a solid job of designing a more affordable option to their RideAlong child bike seat. For families that want the best of the best, the original RideAlong will still be the better bet, but for those who don’t mind missing out on a few upgrades, the Thule RideAlong Lite won’t let you down.