If you want to share the riding stoke with your toddler, there’s no better solution than a front-mounted kids seat. Our youngest ENDURO testers have put the leading seats to the test to tell you which is best.
Front-mounted child’s mountain bike seats are the best thing to happen to mountain bike loving parents. Not only can you connect as a family, share the stoke of a trail with the one you love safely between your arms, but you can also help your child learn skills and balance, whilst also covering far more ground. Gone are the days of rattly, uncomfortable moulded seats that spoil your kids’ enjoyment and eat into your knee room. The latest front mount seats are compatible with most modern mountain bikes, are safe, and allow you to ride mellow singletrack together.
Front-mounted vs rear-mounted child seats
Traditionally, kids have sat behind their parents when using child’s mountain bike seats. While the market is still awash with rear-mounted child’s mountain bike seats and they can be useful for commuting, most are no fun off-road and are not compatible with full-suspension bikes. If you want to really encourage a love for cycling and enjoy family recreation time, you cannot beat a front-mounted seat. Moving the child into the safety between your arms allows you to interact, talk and encourage. Also, sitting centrally, the additional weight of the child and their seat is better distributed with less impact on the bike’s handling. Lastly and importantly, a front-mounted kids seat allows you to wear a back-pack, as all parents will know there’s always one more thing to carry.
However, the main selling point, and one that will strike a chord hardest with bike mad parents, is that a front-mounted seat is far more FUN! Now able to interact safely with your handlebar, stand-up and lean with you into corners, your toddler will love the dynamic riding position. Your child will howl with laughter, getting the same buzz as you do when you ride. Yes, rear-mounted child seats are a good way of transporting your child, a front-mounted child seat makes transporting your child fun.
When can I start using a front-mounted MTB child seat?
If, like us, you were planning your child’s first bike while they were still in the womb, you will also be keen to find a way for them to join you on bike rides as soon as possible. Specific baby carriers allow you to transport children from as young as three months, and we have a full review of the best bike trailers online, however, if you want to enjoy the freedom of a front-mounted child seat, you will have to wait a little longer until your child has the strength to sit dynamically. Most child seat brands recommend a minimum age of 12 months, with the more capable Mac Ride and Shotgun seats recommending 2-5 years. Most seats have an upper limit of 15 kg, with the Mac Ride and Shotgun suggesting 25 and 22 kg respectively.
Are front-mounted child’s mountain bike seats safe?
To the uninitiated, it can be quite alarming when first looking at the Mac Ride and Shotgun kids seats. Where are the straps and seat belts? It’s true, aside from the footstraps there are no straps to hold your kid in. But have no fear, just like when they ride their own bikes, once on, straddling the top tube and in the footstraps, your kid feels really secure. After a couple of minutes of car park testing, our team felt 100% confident on mellow trails, with toddlers from 2 years old. As soon as your kid jumps on it all makes sense and feels very safe.
Will a front-mounted MTB kids seat fit my bike?
Anyone who has borrowed a kids seat from a friend will understand that compatibility can be a bit of a minefield. Many older seat designs were built with commuter bikes in mind, and are incompatible with short stems, long dropper posts and chunky carbon fibre frames. Luckily, the latest batch of child’s mountain bike seats are fully compatible with modern MTBs and can be quickly removed if you want to go for a quick solo shred. However, there are still a few things to check before hitting buy now. To make sure your chosen seat fits your bike, follow our compatibility checklists under each seat before purchasing
A note on eMTBs. With so many different eMTB designs on the market, seat compatibility can be tricky. If in doubt, it would be best to speak to the seat manufacturer before purchasing. We found we could fit the Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini to most eMTB’s we tried, assuming that they had enough room for the adapter in the spacer stack. The Shotgun child seat can fit top tubes that are 30 – 68mm wide, and down tubes from 30 – 100mm wide which is incompatible with some eMTBs as the foot peg legs are not wide enough to clear the wider eMTB frame tubes – Shotgun do however have an eMTB seat in development. Mac Ride now sells an extender opening up the two foot-peg legs to accommodate top and down tubes up to 90 mm making it suitable for many eMTBs.
What makes a good front-mounted MTB child seat?
Ease of fitting
Unless you want to dedicate a bike to the MTB child seat, being able to easily fit and remove the seat is a massive advantage. The easier to fit and the less obtrusive the fitting bracket, the more you will use it! Extra fitting brackets can be a good idea so you and your partner can swap during the ride, ideally these would be cheap to buy.
The MTB child seat should be as light as possible as you will have to move that extra 15 kg + of seat and baby up each hill! Don’t forget to put extra pressure in your suspension or dial in more low-speed-compression to compensate or your bike will handle poorly.
You need to have enough knee room to be able to pedal comfortably, some of the seats we tested were good and some were terrible. Even with long top tubes, tall riders will have to make do with some knee rub, even on the best MTB child seats.
Your child will get tired, some models will be suitable for your child sleeping in the MTB child seat, some won’t be as there will be less or no support for their head, so this factor will affect your ride time.
Unfortunately, riding up front, your kiddie is exposed to increased windchill and crap in the face while sat upfront. Some MTB child seats have optional windscreens that add to the expense and size of your MTB child seat. We found that reducing spray by fitting a fender and using glasses or goggles worked well and looks much more enduro.
The 5 rules of front-mounted child’s mountain bike seats
- Put a helmet on your kid – with a kid on the front you are 100% responsible and you don’t crash. You just don’t. But a helmet will help them get used to riding with a helmet on and encourage good practice.
- Take it easy – a top-mounted kids seat really unlocks family trail riding potential and green and blue trails are now your playground, but keep it easy. Take your time and work up to trails that get you both stoked.
- Keep them warm – you are pedalling, they are not. Don’t disregard wind chill and plan your rides and their clothing accordingly, especially gloves.
- Pack gold-standard snacks – if you have a pre-ride meltdown, you need some bargaining chips in your favour.
- Don’t get too far from the car or home – it’s easy to get carried away with a tailwind behind you, but remember if your kid gets tired or upset, you have to get them home.
Which child’s mountain bike seat is best?
There are a lot of kids seat options on the market, but frankly, a lot of them are now old-fashioned, clumsy or poorly designed. We have a lot of enduro mums and dads on the ENDURO test team and combined we have tried all the main options on the market to save you a costly mistake. Rather than expand on every seat on the market and waste time, ultimately, if you want to have maximum fun with the minimum of tantrums there are just three products we would recommend.
Best Childs Mountain Bike Seat For Kids Under 2 years – Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini
If you want to get your kid up front as soon as possible, from 12 months – 24 months the Thule Yepp Mini is in a league of its own, quick to attach, versatile and great fun. We used this seat for over a year on commutes, gentle trails and our one-year-old test rider loved every second. You can read the full Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini review here.
Age range 9 months – 15 kg
Weight 1.7 kg
Price € 124
Fitting Slim fit adaptor requires 25 mm of steerer tube to fit.
More info thule.com
The Best Childs Mountain Bike Seat For Kids Over Two Years Old – Mac Ride
From two years old onwards, both Mac Ride and Shotgun are game changers, introducing your toddler to MTB in the best way possible – safe between your arms. Both offer almost unlimited potential for fun and enjoyment with your wee shredder, and both are quick to remove if you want to do a hot lap of the trails while the other half of the family stops for ice cream. The Mac Ride is the better choice if you want to swap the seat quickly between bikes, and the innovative design takes our Best In Test Award. However, for those looking for a more affordable option, and who do not need to frequently swap the seat between bikes, the €155 Shotgun Front Mounted Child Bike Seat is a bargain, taking our Best Buy Award.
Once the single spacers have been installed, it takes just seconds to swap the Mac Ride between bikes allowing you to share the load. Safe and secure, the Mac Ride is the perfect way to introduce your toddler to fun trail riding, helping you build some amazing memories. The Mac Ride is expensive, but when it comes to family fun it’s worth its weight in gold. Check out the full Mac Ride Review here.
Age range 2-5 years or 27 kg
Weight 2.4 kg
Price € 230
Fitting Requires a minimum of 25 mm of free steerer to clear the bottom of the stem.
More info mac-ride.com
Best Buy – Shotgun Front Mounted Child Bike Seat
Retailing for €75 less than the Mac Ride, the Shotgun child’s seat is another great way to introduce your toddler to the trails, encouraging fun, confidence and teaching valuable skills in a safe riding position. It’s not so quick to swap between bikes, but once fitted the Shotgun is secure and comfortable. In terms of smiles for your money, we can think of few better investments than the Shotgun seat, taking our Best Buy award. You can read the full Shotgun child’s seat review here.
Age range 2-5 years or 22 kg
Weight 2.4 kg
Price €155 for the seat, Shotgun Handlebars are an additional €40
Fitting The Shotgun kids seat mounts to the frame tubes and can accommodate tops tubes from 30 – 68mm wide, and down tubes from 30 – 100mm wide.
More info kidsrideshotgun.com
The rest of the competition
We tested most of the seats on the market, but most riders asked us about the following two seats, the Wee Ride Deluxe and the I-Bert. We have summarised their reviews below.
Wee Ride Deluxe in review
The WeeRide clamps directly onto the headtube, meaning that if you have a modern, zero stack head tube you need to buy an adaptor in order to attach the mounting bar. Fitting the bar is a pain due to the multiple fiddly bolts and takes 10-20 minutes, which limits how much you want to use it or swap it between bikes. Overall, the Weeride’s outdated design is better suited to a dedicated older bike and leisure cycling, rather than mountain biking.
Weight 4 kg
Cost € 110
Age range 1-4
Fitting requires 20 mm + of Headtube above the toptube to fit.
I-Bert Safe-T-Seat in review
Unless you have a very long steerer, you will need to swap out your short stem for a 60 mm + one, so the bars clear the seat. At 60 mm the gap under the bars is tight and we found it difficult to get the child in or out with shoes on until the stem was much longer. The 3 point harness felt much less positive than the other 5 point harnesses on test and, with no padding on the straps, it could slip over the shoulders and rub when the child was only wearing a light top. The wide plastic bar does add an additional layer of security and, although quite low, also seemed fairly comfy for when your child goes night nights.
Cost € 103
Age range 1-4 years or 17.5 kgs
Fitting requires 20 mm + of steerer to fit
Words & Photos: Trev Worsey