I’m a new dad to a baby girl, and I love to bike.
If you’re also a parent and want to get your kid out on a bike ride with you, then at some point you’ll need to consider the following question:
Can you put a child seat on any bike?
Most bikes are compatible with at least one type of child seat. For example, most mountain, road, and cruiser bikes will work with a rear-mounted child seat. On the other hand, a front-mounted seat typically won’t work with road or full-suspension mountain bikes. Some bikes are simply better suited for child seats.
This just scratches the surface of this topic, so let’s dig deeper.
Below we’ll dig into which types of bike seats work (or don’t work) with the most popular styles of bikes.
Let’s get to it!
How to Tell If Your Bike is Compatible with a Child Seat
The most reliable way to tell if a child seat is compatible with your bike, is to check with the child seat manufacturer. In addition to this step, you may also need to check for technical features on your bike.
For example, if your bike has eyelets for a rear-mounted rack, then it’s likely to be compatible with a rear-mounting child seat.
If you want to use a front-mounting child seat, then you can look closely at the size and design of your bikes‘ stem and frame. The video and the 2 subsections below dive deeper into these considerations:
Here are the basic requirements for the two main child seat styles:
Rear Mounted Seats
Rack mounted rear seats require a rack that will attach at two points. Your bike will need screw eyelet holes on the frame near the axle for the vertical strut of the rack as well as an attachment point on the frame, typically under the seat area, for the horizontal rack strut, or support. If there isn’t an attachment point there, often a monostay adapter will solve that problem and the rear seat rack can be accommodated.
Frame mounted rear seats attach to the frame (seat tube) of the bike. The seat tube will need to be either round or oval in shape and fall within the tube diameter and length specs of the child seat manufacturer.
Front Mounted Seats
This type of seat will work with many bike styles, since they attach to either the top tube or the stem.
Stem mounted seats attach at the stem below the handlebars. You need to ensure that there is sufficient space on the stem for the mounting hardware.
Crossbar mounted seats attach to the crossbar portion of the frame. Be sure the crossbar is the right size for the mount and that you have sufficient space to get on and off of the bike with the child seat attached.
Can You Put a Child Seat on a Mountain Bike?
You can attach a child seat to some mountain bikes. There are many style options that work well with mountain bikes. Not all child seats are carbon frame compatible though, so take this into account if you are attaching it to a higher end mountain bike model.
So which style suits mountain bikes best? There are advantages and disadvantages to each mount style for mountain biking.
Rear Mount Seats
The rear mounted seats have the advantage of more safety features such as head support, harnesses, and foot protection. On longer rides, little ones may fall asleep and it is safer and more comfortable for them to have a place to rest their weary little noggins.
Harnesses are important for keeping your tot on the bike and in the proper position for safety and comfort. A barrier to keep the feet away from the wheels is especially important when the child is behind you where you can’t keep an eye on what they’re doing. Your kiddo is also better protected from the wind and debris when sitting in the back.
On the down side, many riders find that the weight distribution with a child seated behind makes off road biking somewhat more difficult. They also feel that the child is missing out on the views and the excitement of mountain biking and are more of a passive passenger than an active participant.
Since the child’s movement is quite restricted in these seats, it is a lot more jarring of a ride because they can’t come up off of their seat over the bumpy bits.
Front Mount Seats
Front mounted seats have the benefit of better parent-child interaction and supervision. The front mounts tend to have less restriction and allow for the child to raise themselves off of the seat when necessary to make the ride smoother and more comfortable. Many riders find this style of seat to be valuable for the child to learn riding skills such as balance and steering.
There are some drawbacks to the front mounted seats. They often have fewer safety features, so kids are more likely to interfere with your riding and possibly injure themselves or you with their ability to grab handlebars and gear shifts and take their feet out of the stirrups. There is less protection from the structure of the seat in the event of a fall. This is especially an issue with off road biking on uneven terrain, as a nasty spill becomes more likely.
Kids are also more exposed to the wind and accompanying airborne debris (mmm, bugs). This can be mitigated with either a windscreen or goggles. But again, the windscreen can come with its own set of challenges.
What if it’s Full Suspension?
It is possible to install a child seat on a full suspension bike, though it’s generally not recommended. You are limited to front mounting seats, however, with all the suspension framework and parts prohibiting the attachment of a seat at the back of the bike.
Can You Put a Child Seat on a Road Bike?
Most road bikes can support a child seat. Some road bikes have screw eyelet holes to allow for a rear rack mount. If these aren’t present on your road bike, a seat tube rear mount child seat is an option as long as your seat tube is either round or oval.
Front mount seats are a poor option for road bikes as the rider sits in a more forward position, leaving little to no room for the rider’s chest to clear the seat. And again, most child seats are not carbon compatible, so keep that in mind if you’re looking for one to install on a high end road bike.
Riding a road bike with a child seat can be challenging due to the thinner tires having to support a different weight distribution. Be sure to practice balancing on a quiet road to get the feel of it.
Many parent cyclists suggest strapping in a stand-in sack of potatoes for a few rides to get used to having the extra weight on the back of the bike.
Attaching a rear view mirror can allow you to keep an eye on your little one in a rear mount seat, giving you warning if they are moving around and possibly upsetting your balance. A bike bell can help warn pedestrians you’re coming so that you can avoid weaving around them, making it easier to keep your balance in a more congested biking environment.
Can You Put a Child Seat on a Cruiser Bike?
Cruiser bikes are a good choice for child seats. The design of cruiser bikes gives the option of front or rear mount seats.
That being said, for rear rack mount seats the cruiser bike may require the monostay adapter mentioned at the beginning of the article, as the horizontal rack strut may not be long enough to reach the seat post without it. In most cases, the adapter should allow the seat rack to be safely secured.
With a more upright seating position for the rider, there is adequate space if you would prefer a front mount seat. The extra room makes for minimal interference from the seat for pedaling and reaching the handlebars.
Can You Put a Child Seat on a Folding Bike?
It’s possible to put a child seat on a folding bike, but there are definitely some special considerations. Since folding bikes are lighter and more compact, not all child seats are an option. A heavier model folding bike may work better if you will be using a child seat.
For rear mount seats, the only choice is a rack mount. Cantilevered or anchor point mounted seats aren’t compatible with folding bikes because their smaller dimensions aren’t suited for the mounting requirements of the child seat. You’ll need to determine if your folding bike has eyelets to mount the rack struts. If not, a clip system can be used as an alternative.
Keep in mind that you’ll want to purchase a seat with a quick release system so that you can easily remove it to fold the bike for storage.
Can You Put a Child Seat on an Electric Bike?
Most e-bikes are compatible with child seats. The extra boost the battery provides may even make it easier for many to bike with the additional weight of a child, especially for uphill grades and longer trips.
A major consideration here that isn’t an issue on manual bikes is how the position of the battery will affect the type of seat that can be used. If the battery is on the rack, you obviously can’t put a rear mount child seat there. If the battery is on the downtube, a front mount seat will still be the better option. This is one of those times when you might want to consult with a specialist to figure out the logistics of selecting a seat for your particular e-bike.
Also consider your level of experience riding an e-bike. You want to be very comfortable with the handling, especially if the e-bike is considerably faster than you are able to pedal normally, as they generally travel at speeds up to 15 mph.
What Type of Bike is Best for a Child Seat?
While you can attach child bike seats to most styles of bikes mentioned here, some are better options than others.
The cruiser is the winner on this list due to its heavier frame, wider tires, and more upright rider position. The weight and strength of the frame with the benefit of more substantial tires makes it easier to balance and support the additional weight of your kid, and the more upright rider position makes the front mount seat a more viable option if that’s where you want your child to sit.
While not covered in this article, touring bikes and cargo bikes are also good options for child bike seats. These styles of bikes are made to carry heavy loads and are built more for comfort than speed, which will make biking more fun for rider and passenger.
Many of the bike styles we noted here can accommodate a child seat, but again, they may not be optimal candidates.
Road bikes are built with light frames and narrow tires for speed, features that aren’t best suited to riding with your tot. Mountain bikes have suspension for the uneven surfaces they’re meant for, which is not so comfy for a strapped in passenger, and possibly even harmful for small children if you’re riding off-road.
When it comes down to it, think about what your bike is made to handle best and what kind of riding conditions you encounter most often when you decide if riding with the little one on board makes sense for you.