As soon as your child is old enough to support his or her own neck and wear a helmet, you can start enjoying bicycle rides together. Usually this is when the child is about one year old (sometimes younger, with a pediatrician’s approval). With a young child, there are two primary methods of bike child transportation, which include bike child seats and bike child trailers (which are generally considered to be a safer overall solution).
The risk factor of bike child seats basically come down to the fact that if the cyclist crashes, the child will crash as well. Crashing on a bicycle with child in a bike child seat can cause the child to hit the ground with quite a bit of force because the position of the seat is high off of the ground. The added weight on the bike itself alters the handling, which means a cyclists with weak abilities is more likely to crash. Most bike child seats offer plenty of impact resistance in the form of partial wrap-around side and head protection protection. This page focuses on bike child seats. Click here for information on Bike Child Trailers.
The primary safety advantages of bike child seats are that they do not increase the “target” size of the bike and passengers, and (unlike a trailer) a bike child seat will never clip a curb or other object on the ground during tight maneuvering. If you want to maximize the time you can spend cycling with your child, you will start with a front-mounted seat and then buy a rear-mounted seat sometime after your child is two-and-a-half years old, and perhaps another seat after the child turns five. That’s three seats over the course of five or so years, as opposed to one quality bike trailer. Do the math. Bike child seats mount to either the front or rear of the bicycle with a variety of different mounting systems. In both cases the child faces forward so that he or she is looking the same direction as the adult rider. Bike child seats offer a number of convenience factors. First off, a bike child seat is a more compact unit relative to a bike child trailer. This makes storage easier as well as maneuvering a bicycle into small apartments or workplaces or other places where space is at a premium. The same goes for maneuverability while riding on the streets in crowded and twisty or otherwise difficult to maneuver areas. Front or Rear Mounted Bike Child Seats
Front Mounted : Child seats that mount to the front of the bike lets you ride with a child as young as nine months (if they are able to sit up by themselves) until they weigh 30 to 40 pounds (depending on the model), or about three to four years old. So the use life is slightly more limited than a rear seat — particularly for singletons. The child is more exposed to wind and bugs up front, which is why some brands such as Yepp offer a windshield option for their front-mounted seats. The weight of the child is closer to the natural center of gravity for cycling, so handling is easier. Typically, the seat is mounted to the frame, not to the handlebars (which would affect steering and balance). One advantage that many parents appreciate is the interactivity with the child up front. It’s much easier to communicate with the child (“Look! It’s a kitty!”), and to gauge the quality of their experience during the ride. Is the kid as happy to be cycling as you are? Some front-mounted child seats can be finicky about which bikes they will mount, so read the specifications carefully before buying.
Rear Mounted : With the ability to carry heavier children, rear-mounted seats can provide more years of use per child, but typically the child must be about two-and-a-half years old. Most rear seats hold a child up to 40 or even 48 pounds, and will require a rear rack rated for that much or more weight — not to mention stronger stronger cycling skills. For older children, there are seats that can carry up to 77 pounds, such as those made by Bobike. Bobike Maxi Bike Child Seat (If you want to carry more human weight than that on a bike, lucky you, you are in the market for a longtail bike, such as an Xtracycle, which has many available accessories for carrying passengers of all sizes.) The more weight you put on the rear of your bike, the more difficult the handling becomes — especially when the majority of the weight is above platform of the rear rack. We only carry rear seats that meet or exceed the ASTM International safety standard F1625. (There is no standard for front-mounted seats.) Standards-compliant rear seats have more back support than front seats.
Harness System: Any bike child seat made for child younger than five should a padded, adjustable five-point harness to securely restrain your child. Seats made for children five to ten years usually only have a simple seatbelt. Grab Bar / Lap Bar: Not strictly necessary, a seat with a grab bar gives the child something to hold onto and may contribute to the child’s sense of security. Foot Rests & Straps: Holding and shielding your child’s feet is not just about comfort; it protects their feet from being caught in the wheel or brake of the bike. Double Kickstand: This is not a safety feature of any child seat; it’s just something you should have. ESGE Double Kickstand Your bike is much less likely to tip over with a double kickstand — a kickstand with two legs that will hold your bike upright when you are loading and unloading your child to or from the seat. A standard one-legged kickstand always has your bike leaning, which is fine until your bike becomes top heavy with a child. A two-legged kickstand, such as the ESGE Double Kickstand gives you much more stability. You spend less of your effort holding the bike up. Although you should never leave the bike and child unattended in the child seat. A squirmy kid, a gust of wind, or other factors can cause the bike and child to tip over. (And you don’t want that.)
Seat Padding: Seat padding should soften the bumps for the child, but also be durable, washable, and tear resistant. Yepp Child Seats are made a comfortable perforated EVA polymer which cannot tear, and there is no stuffing to absorb and moisture or come out. Headrest: Children younger than five need a headrest on a rear seat. Even children who can hold their heads up while wearing a helmet can get tired. Arm Rests: Some models offer arm rests, which are not required for safety. Arm rests may make it more difficult to load the child into the seat. Adjustability: As your child grows, you will need to adjust the footrests and arm rests. Most models have a reasonable range of adjustability. Suspension: Having suspension on a bike child seat is a marketing add-on, but with minimal benefit for the child and added weight for the adult to carry (plus added cost). Some brands, such as Kettler and Topeak offer child seats with suspension, which compromise on quality in other areas.
Mounting to Your Bike
Yepp Bike Child Seats on an Xtracycle Radish Mounting System: Most child seats (front or rear) have a bracket that mounts semi-permanently to the bike frame or bike rack, and allow the seat to be removed and reattached relatively easily. Some seats come with a mounting bracket that does not require a rear rack. With any seat, you should read the specifications carefully to make sure that it will be compatible with your bike and bike rear rack.
Switching Between Bikes: Your bike child seat will come with the mounting hardware for one bike. If you wish to switch the seat between bikes, you will need to buy an additional adapter that is compatible with the both the seat and the second bike. In rare cases it may not be possible possible because the two bikes are are not compatible with the same seat. (An example of this are the Yepp Maxi Bike Child Seat and the Yepp Maxi Easyfit / Xtracycle Peapod III Bike Child Seat; nearly identical in appearance but the former is for most standard bikes, and the latter is for longtail cargo bikes.)
Stretch that bike out!
Longtail bikes are an essential piece of the ever-evolving utility cycling movement. If you’re looking for the hauling capabilities and overall utility of a bike trailer, but you don’t want to deal with a trailer hitch and changes in bike handling that are part of owning a bike trailer, then a longtail bike may be just what you’re after. Longtails, which are usually based on Xtracycle‘s open-source design standard, bridge the gap between trailer and bike by extending the rear wheel of your bicycle and incorporating cargo capacity onto each side of the rear wheel. Longtails are available as both conversion kits for your existing bike, as well as complete bikes. Most importantly, longtails accept a wide range of fun and useful accessories such as blenders, electric assists, and cargo add-ons, and they are ready to haul loads as diverse as groceries, ladders, surfboards, people, and more!
If you are ready to begin hauling more cargo by bicycle, you may be trying to decide between a bike trailer or a longtail bike. There are advantages and disadvantages to each setup. Longtail bikes are always cargo-ready and available to carrying your gear. There is no need to think ahead, as your longtail is always ready for groceries, passengers, and whatever other cargo you need to move. At the same time, longtail kits are not easy to remove and reinstall from a bicycle; whereas a bicycle trailer can be removed in seconds. However, something to keep in mind is that longtails are fully compatible with most two-wheel bike trailers. So if you have an insatiable appetite for cargo capacity, don’t fear, just hitch up a trailer and take along whatever you want. This is also very handy when you need to transport your child and cargo.
Longtail bikes also handle more like your bicycle normally would, as they are simply an extension of your bicycle, not something hitched to it. Although longtails, single-wheel bike trailers, and two-wheel bike trailers all change the feel of your bicycle slightly, the longtail feels the most like a normal bike. So if you are looking for great maneuverability and always-ready cargo capacity, a longtail might be just the choice for you.
A longtail kit is like a blank canvas, and its options and accessories are the paint you use to create your masterpiece. When setting up your first longtail bike, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want a complete longtail bike or a conversion kit for your existing bike. Xtracycle’s kit for converting your bike comes with everything you need to make your regular bike a longtail bike. There are also a number of complete longtail bikes on the market such as the Xtracycle Radish, Surly Big Dummy, Kona Ute, Trek Transport, and the Madsen kg271. If you plan to convert an existing bicycle, you can convert both 26″ and 700c bikes with the Xtracycle FreeRadical conversion kit.
The next thing you need to decide is how much you want to carry with your longtail bike. Xtracycle offers a wide range of decks, racks, bags, accessories, and more for the Xtracycle FreeRadical cargo bike kit, which allow you to customize the longtail to your specific cargo hauling needs. For example you can carry long, awkward loads with a LongLoader or big, wide loads with a WideLoader. But don’t stop at cargo! You can carry people on your longtail with some Footsies, a Stoker Bar, and a nice, cushy Magic Carpet. Many of these accessories and add-on’s also work with the complete longtails like the Radish or Big Dummy, as well.
Longtail Features to Consider:
- Wheels and Brakes: Longtail kits are available for both 700c and 26″ wheeled bicycles and support both disc and v-brakes. Longtail kits attach to your bike’s rear dropouts and to the chainstays, just behind the bottom bracket, extending your wheelbase by about 14 1/2″ and creating all kinds of opportunity for expansion. Two vertical and two horizontal ports on either side of the kits form the foundation of the system, accepting a variety of racks, and creating a whole rainbow of cargo carrying configurations.
- Horizontal Ports: The horizontal ports on an Xtracycle kit are meant for WideLoaders, LongLoaders, the KickBack, or everyone’s favorite, Footsies. WideLoaders support cargo that doesn’t fit well into the FreeLoader saddlebags. LongLoaders piggyback onto the WideLoaders, allowing you to carry longer items, like ladders, without interfering with your pedal stroke. The KickBack is a motorcycle-style kickstand strong enough to hold up your whole cargo rig. The TrayBien is a convenient way to carry another bike on your bike, ‘cuz you never know when you need a spare. And Footsies, of course, are the most comfortable way to haul your human cargo.
- Vertical Ports: The vertical ports are meant for installing the different rack systems with which you can customize your longtail kit. Using the vertical ports, you can install the venerable V-Racks, which form the foundation of the system. Or you can plug in a set of P-Racks and take advantage of those panniers.
Customize Your Longtail
- Racks: Whether you plan to haul around passengers and groceries or whether you plan to take your cargo rig touring, you will need racks to go with your Xtracycle FreeRadical. Choose from the versatile V-Racks for daily hauling and commuting or the P-Racks for your next extended bicycling adventure.
- Decks: The icing on the Xtracycle cargo cake comes in four flavors: SnapDeck, TekDeck, FlightDeck, and MagicCarpet. The SnapDeck is the jack of all decks, allowing you to carry passengers, boxes, or whatever. The TekDeck is more minimal, designed to hold the system together without adding a lot of weight and is great for touring. The FlightDeck is an environmentally-friendly option to keep your conscience clean. And the MagicCarpet is meant to protect your most precious cargo: friends and family.
- Bags: Bags are the method of choice for storing everything from small, loose items to bigger, bulky items and everything in between. Xtracycle offers two bag systems to suit your needs. The FreeLoader Saddlebags are easily adjustable to carry a wide range of gear. Meanwhile, the Hoodie offers a sleek, integrated bag system that keeps your gear in check and your style-points high when you are cruising through town.
- Chain: If you are converting an existing bike to a longtail, you will be extending the bicycle’s drivetrain farther back, so you will need an extended chain. The Xtracycle chain can accommodate 6/7/8 speed drivetrains, as well as 9 speed drivetrains.
Don’t Forget to Accessorize
- Kickstands: Cow tipping might be cool, but longtail tipping isn’t! Keep your Xtracycle upright when you are loading and unloading with the KickBack kickstand.
- Stoker Bar & Footsies: Bring your girlfriend, boyfriend, or even your mom! The Stoker Bar, which is a handlebar that attaches to the seatpost of your bike, and Footsies, which are installed on the horizontal ports, paired with a Magic Carpet for comfort, make a longtail bike a great way to bring your family and friends along.
- Lights: Hey! You’ve got a sweet longtail kit. Make sure everyone sees it and you with a nice light kit. Rock The Bike-Down Low Glow is probably one of the most fun and visible ways to light your bike and draw a crowd.
- Storage: Keep your longtail squeaky-clean with a storage bag such as the ShowerCap, which keeps your bike, racks, and bags safe from the elements.
- Child Accessories: Don’t leave your little ones out of the fun; bring them along! Xtracycle offers some great child accessories to make your longtail kid-friendly. You can pair up a Stoker Bar, Footsies, and Magic Carpet for older children.