When I was about five months pregnant, my cycling days ended for a few years. I was feeling off-balance and worried I’d fall down and hurt the baby. When she was born, I skipped bicycle baby seats for her because I was too busy and exhausted to pedal her around. Driving her to daycare and going to work was tiring enough.
But when she turned three years old, I was ready to start cycling again. At first, I skipped work and took rides while she was at daycare. Of course, you don’t forget how to ride a bicycle, but it took me a little while to feel confident enough to bring my precious little girl along. Finally I started shopping for something she could ride along on.
Front-Mounted Child Seats vs Bike Trailers and Rear-Mounted Seats
First I thought of child bike trailers, but I thought a trailer might be a bit lonely for my only child. Also I worry about having her behind my rear tire, where I could kick up pebbles and dust onto her.
Then I looked at rear-mounted child bike seats. They seemed OK, but I wasn’t sure my daughter would appreciate just staring at my back while I pedaled — I wanted her to be able to enjoy the view! Plus I wouldn’t be able to see her face.
When I found front-mounted seats for 3-5 year olds, I was a little incredulous. If these actually work, why aren’t they more popular in the US? Shopping around, I realized most of the ones I read about were being used in other countries. It turns out that is partially because of safety guidelines. Rear mounted seats are subject to American safety guidelines, but none exist for front-mounted seats. I assume American companies shy away from making front-mounted seats for this reason.
So before buying a front-mounted seat, I spent a long time researching whether they’re safe. I found a few reports of people whose front-mounted seats broke while they were in use, but a lot of evidence that front-mounted seats are possibly even safer than other seats, because the child sits between your legs and you can protect them when you fall sideways on your bike. That said, if you fall forward, you could squish your kid against the front of the seat, so that risk should be taken into account.
And ultimately, bike accidents can hurt you and your kid no matter what. Rear-mounted seats have their own drawbacks. A child strapped into a seat on the back of your bicycle will fall if your bike falls, and you can’t see or touch them while you’re riding (or falling). Also, if you’re concerned about space efficiency (which, living in a small space and using a community bike room, I always am), a big child seat is harder to store than a compact front-mounted one.
In the end, I decided to try the front-mounted seat for my 3-year-old. I liked the idea that my daughter and I would sit in a cuddly position where we could talk and she’d have a good view of the road.
Because the safety of a front-mounted seats has pros and cons, I bought one to try, but wanted to keep an open mind about whether it would work.
UrRider Child Bike Seat
The first front-mounted child seat I bought was a UrRider bicycle seat, which I attached to my Trek hybrid bicycle. The UrRider has a lot of postives. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and folds up into a bag that you can put in a backpack. (The bag UrRider stuffs into is actually it’s own little backpack, but I always end up putting that into my bigger backpack.)
Putting the UrRider on the bike is pretty easy, it really doesn’t take more than a minute or two and can be done with no tools.
My first issue with the UrRider was having a suspension seatpost. This front-mounted seat contacts the bicycle on the seatpost and the top of the bike frame. The grip was adequate but less than perfect on the seatpost. I tightened the UrRider well enough, but the rubber part of the seatpost made it difficult. I made it work, but I don’t recommend using any child carrier that connects to your seatpost if you have a suspension seatpost.
Secondly, if you have cables at the top of your bike frame (along the tubes at the top), which many bikes have, the lower support will not be as stable. UrRider doesn’t recommend you use the seat in that situation with good reason. This is another thing I did wrong with UrRider — my hybrid bike had the cables and the seat was more slidey.
One thing I like about UrRider is it will work best with kids up to 6 years old. The foot pegs adjust to larger or smaller, but the longest length is still a bit short. UrRider recommends this seat for kids 2-6 and up to about 4 feet (120 cm) tall, and my 5-year-old still fits it well.
There are two models of UrRider. To be really simplistic (and in American terms), one is for “men’s bikes” (with a high bar, for “sports”) and the other is for “women’s bikes” (bikes with a low bar, for “cruising”). You need to be sure to order the right one. My hybrid bike used the “sports” bike version, as seen in these pictures, but my new folding bike, and the shared bikes in my city, require the “cruiser” bike version. (Update: UrRider has a model now that works with both styles of bicycles!)
One of the things I love about UrRider is it’s easy to tote along to use with bikeshare bikes. You will want to get the “women’s bike” / low bar bike style for bikeshare bikes (Capital Bikeshare, Citi Bikes, etc), and the seat is relatively lightweight and folds up into a little duffle backpack, so it’s the most compact and easy to carry of all the child bike seats I’ve seen.
Overall, this bike carrier was immensely fun, compact, and easy to use. It feels pretty safe. My kid loved it and we happily used it dozens of time. Unfortunately someone stole my Trek bike in 2020 with my first UrRider attached, or I would still have it!
Update: I later bought an inexpensive Jetson Bolt Pro e-bike and a second UrRider child seat. They fit together nicely for us, and having a motor on the e-bike made it much easier to carry my growing girl! We are just aging out of this at 6 years old.
Different designs for front-mounted seats
I was heartbroken when my hybrid bike got stolen early in the 2020 pandemic lockdown, especially because it had my child seat (and most of my other accessories) attached. But I thought, perhaps I’ll try something I’ve always wanted to try: an adult tricycle. Why?? Well, besides the fact that I have always thought riding a giant tricycle would be super cool, I had felt a bit wobbly carrying my kid in the UrRider. I discovered later that I needed to adjust my seat better, as well as pay more attention to having the right seat for my bike.
So I bought myself a shiny red folding tricycle and a new UrRider seat, only to discover that the UrRider was a bit too small to fit the oversized dimensions of an adult tricycle. (Specifically, the bottom support bar of the UrRider didn’t reach the frame.) I had to shop around some more. That’s when I found the TykeToter.
TykeToter Child Bike Seat
I next settled on the TykeToter child bicycle seat, which has a different design from the UrRider. TykeToter only connects to the bicycle in one point around the seat post. That seems a little less secure, to be honest, because the seat has a single point of failure. That said, when you’re actually handling and using a TykeToter, it is a very heavy and sturdy device. The foot pegs attach to the bicycle frame with elastic, and as long everything is sufficiently tightened, it’s a genius setup that will fit just about any bicycle, provided the seatpost is circular and the seatpost diameter is 1 to 1.25 inches (27.2 to 32mm).
I find it a bit reassuring that TykeToter is designed and marketing by an American company, which means that, in spite of there being no safety guidelines required for this style of device, the company made a point of complying with most standards set for rear-mounted carriers established by ASTM (American Standards for Testing & Manufacturing).
I was able to easily fit the TykeToter on my adult tricycle, and my kid had lots of room to stretch out. Because you attach the foot pegs for the TykeToter separately, I could easily put them on the frame where she could still use them without being constrained to a specific position. Because the foot pegs don’t support the weight of the child seat, there’s no issue with having cables running along the top tube of your back (as with the UrRider), so the TykeToter should be compatible with many bicycles that the UrRider is not.
Although you can mount the foot pegs in different positions, there are some cases where you’d have to mount them a little high up, so your kid’s position on the bike might have their feet a bit high relative to their bottom. But I think TykeToter will work on almost any bike.
TykeToter says it works for kids 2-5 years old. My 5 year old still fits, but she’s getting a little big for the foot pegs, given where they’re positioned on the frame of my bike. On a larger bicycle frame she might fit for another year.
The TykeToter is awesome, sturdy, and seems like it will work with almost any kind of bicycle, provided the seat post is compatible. I think it would be a lot of fun for adults with mobility issues to use a tricycle and carry child relatives (thinking grandparents!).
Ultimately I gave up on the tricycle (I needed more gears in my hilly city) and moved on to a Citizen Miami Folding Bike. With 20″ wheels, I’m delighted to be able to sit low enough to easily balance my child on this bike, and if we topple over (which we haven’t), we don’t have as far to fall. One thing that attracted me to the folding bike I bought was that the seatpost is a steel alloy and just the right diameter to safely hold the TykeToter. The steel is appealing because I have confidence it will support my kid’s weight better. I’m not really concerned the TykeToter will break, but since it’s carrying such precious cargo, I definitely think about it!
More back support & restraints on a front-mounted child bike seat
For 2-4 year olds, a few models with back support and restraints are available now, such as this FORTOP Bicycle Baby/Kids Seat or other varieties. I haven’t tried these, but it definitely seems to address some safety concerns. The seats have the same basic concept, but the added protections seem to mean the child would be less likely to be crushed by the rider’s body, or to fall off the bike. Because I’ve ridden so much without these safeguards and had no issues, they are unimportant to me — but for a parent (especially a parent of a young 2 or 3 year old), I believe these safeguards can help you feel (and probably even be) safer riding with your toddler.
Unfortunately these seats will be outgrown a few years before the UrRider or TykeToter, but all the seats are reasonably affordable at around $100 or less, and they seem durable enough to use for pass down to younger children.
Another drawback to this style against a UrRider (or to a lesser extent, a TykeToter) is this seat won’t be as easily carried around or stored — which might be important if you’re travelling or living in a small space.
iBert and front-mounted child bike seats that sit farther forward near the handlebars
I haven’t tried a front-mounted child carrier with back support like the iBert Child Bicycle Safe T-Seat, but I gave it some consideration and liked the idea. The pros appear to be the child is not in danger of being crushed by your body, and you are able to use the space directly in front of your seat a little more. This may be a bit safer.
On the downside, you won’t be able to easily put the child on and off of the bicycle. With the child mounted higher up, your center of gravity will be less natural.
And speaking of gravity, these carriers are only suitable for kids up to 38 pounds, so this is a seat for a large baby (capable of sitting up) up to 3-4 years old, that can start younger but not be used on children up to 4-5 years like the UrRider and TykeToter seats.
Is your kid the right age for a front-mounted bike seat?
The front-mounted seats that attach to your seatpost are for kids between 2 and 6 years old. (TykeToter says it’s for kids 2-5 years old, and UrRider says 2-6 years.) Younger kids may be able to use something like the iBert (see above) until they are 4 or so. Depending on your child’s size, they will age out of this style of seat altogether before they’re 7 years old.
I think putting a kid on a seat like this before they are 2 years old is too soon for almost any kid. A kid needs to be able to easily sit up on their own and support themselves for as long as they’re on the bicycle. You should be able to ride without supporting the child. The kid shouldn’t have to lean on you when riding between your legs.
The best things about front-mounted seats
I’m going to miss when my kid is too big for our front-mounted seat. TykeToter says it’s for kids 2-5 years old, and UrRider says 2-6 years, so we don’t have much time left. My 5-year-old is old enough to ride her own bike now, even though she still loves riding on mine. These are best things I’ll miss the most when we move on:
- I have her between my arms and legs and it feels safe and cuddly.
- She and I can talk and sing songs while we’re riding.
- She sees the road and gets a great view.
- She loves riding with me and feels safe and secure.
- She’s not strapped in, so she can easily get on or off.
- I can easily put other cargo on the rear rack, or even tow a trailer.
- Carrying my kid around like this, I feel like I have a fancy family cargo bike without actually having one.
- Bonus: I only have one kid, but some parents use the front-mounted seat used in conjunction with a rear child seat or child trailer, which I think would be an awesome way to carry all your kids! You could even use a front-mount, rear-mount, and a trailer all at once if you wanted.
Riding safely with a front-mounted child seat
I think riding with a kid between your legs is a new challenge. It’s not difficult, but you have to bike differently. Personally, I’m always aware of the dangers. Especially:
- You have to be able to easily touch the ground with your feet. If you can’t touch the ground with your feet, you won’t be able to stop without falling over. Normally, when you’re bicycling, you can have your seat too high, and when you stop, you slide your body into the space in front of the seat so you can put your feet down. When you have a child in front of you, you can’t do that — your kid is taking up that space. So in order to balance, you need to be sure you can touch the ground and balance the bike with your body on the seat.
- If you have to stop suddenly, your body might push into your kids body and press them against the harness in front of them. That’s going to be uncomfortable — and if it’s really serious, it could truly hurt them. For that reason, my suggestion is just don’t bike fast, give yourself a lot of braking distance, slow down well in advance of intersections, etc. Generally, avoid and minimize any situations where you’ll need to brake suddenly.
- Remember your kid is heavy! This is yet another reason you’ll need more space to stop.
- You need to make sure your kid always has their feet on the foot pegs. If they remove their feet from the foot pegs, they could touch your bike tire or wheel. Touching the tire or wheel could cause friction burns or a more serious injury, and could crash your bike too.
- You also need to make sure your kid doesn’t touch your handlebars. These bike seats have their own handles for your child. It’s fun for a kid to hold onto your handlebars but can cause an accident, so just make it a rule that your kid can’t touch the handlebars you use to steer the bike.
- Your kid needs to learn not to lean far in either direction. It could turn your bike into traffic or off the trail, and can even knock your bike down.
- A kid can’t sit on the seat alone on the bike (without an adult holding it up). It may be possible with a really solid stand (like a double stand) holding up your bike, but on every typical bike I’ve tried, the bike would topple over and hurt the kid.
- The best way to get on the bike is to get on the seat, then lift the kid on. You can also teach the kid how to climb on themselves.
- The best way to get off the bike is to lift the kid down, then dismount yourself.
- If you wobble or topple over to one side, you put your body around the kid. If you don’t fall, this is still necessary so your kid doesn’t fall off the bike while you stay on.
- If you do fall, you get to be your kid’s human bubble wrap and take the blow. This happened to me twice. Both time were low-speed — my kid wasn’t hurt, and I got a few scratches. The first time, she bumped her helmet on a railing and I felt terrible, but she had a helmet on and her head wasn’t hurt at all. Since I’ve gained more experience and lowered my seat to prioritize balance over anything else, we haven’t fallen again, even if we’ve wobbled a few times.
- Is your kid going to smack the handlebars if you brake suddenly? When my kid was the height where this could happen, I put padding on my bike handlebars.
- I can’t say this enough: You have to be extremely cautious with your kid on the bike. I bike much differently than I would as a lone adult. I ride on sidewalks a lot, dismount and walk across intersections on the crosswalks, go really slow, brake early. It’s all worth it to make sure the ride is safe and fun for everyone!
A note on handlebar protection
It never actually happened, but I was a little worried my kid would bump her head on my bike’s steel handlebars. I made my own handlebar protection from foam I recycled from computer packaging, which I covered with orange fabric and attached with packing tape, then velcro. You can easily use a hollow pool noodle — cut it open and attach it with tape or velco leg bands. I’m not sure it’s necessary but if you’re worried too, it made us feel safer!
Choosing your front-mounted bike seat
If you’re ready to get one, here are some questions you should ask:
- Is my seatpost compatible with the seat?
- Is the frame of my bicycle compatible?
- Is it a sport “men’s” style top tube, or a cruiser “women’s” style top tube? (Many seats are not compatible with both.)
- Is there a cable running along the top tube, and if so, can I use this seat? (UrRider says no, TykeToter says yes.)
- Is my child the right height, weight, and age?
- Keep in mind that your kid needs to be old enough to sit up.
- Also your kid needs to be able to follow safety instructions so you don’t crash the bicycle!
- Is my bike too tall? (I literally prefer my smallest bicycle for carrying my child, because I need to be able to lower the seat enough to be able to touch my feet to the ground without sliding forward, and I’m not tall so it’s easy to balance on a small bike.)
- Does it look dependable? I’ve noticed there are a lot of child bike seats on Amazon that don’t look especially high quality. Remember to consider quality, especially if the seat only attaches to your bike in one place.
Overall these bike seats are pure magic ✨
In general I adore front-mounted cycling with my kid. Not only do we go places together we couldn’t otherwise go, but we have treasured conversations and even sing songs together while we’re cycling. It’s a magical experience that any moms or dads who love to bicycle should absolutely try!
TykeToter: Sturdy, flexible, works for kids 2-5, best for larger bikes & adult tricycles
TykeToter comes with everything you need, but keep in mind this seat is supported entirely by the seatpost, so make sure your seatpost is compatible (no suspension, circular diameter no larger than 1 to 1.25 inches or 27.2 to 32mm).
UrRider: Compact, works for kids 2-6, best for portability
With UrRider you will need to choose the mountain bike version (“men’s bike” style) for most sports bikes, or the cruiser bike version (“women’s bike” style) for most low-bar, folding, or shared bikes.
Update: UrRider has a model now that works with both styles of bicycles! Horray!
Updates: I wrote this post in 2021 and made some light updates in 2023. I hope it’s useful!