Baby transport buying guide

Strollers, carriers, car and bicycle seats: we tell you what to look for.
 
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  • Updated:3 Oct 2009
 

08.Bike child seats - what to look for and tips

What to look for

  • Comfortable fit Take your toddler to the shop and put them in the trailers and seats mounted on bikes to be sure they fit safely and comfortably. Check the dimensions and weight rating suit your child now and into the future. If you’re choosing a trailer, check your child is fully contained within the frame (roll-cage), even when sitting upright and wearing a helmet.
  • Loading and unloading It should be easy to load your child into the seat or trailer. Remember you’ll have to stabilise the bike while putting your child into a child seat, and you’ll probably need both hands to manage your child. Trailers are more stable but you need to bend down.
  • Harness One of the most important safety considerations for a child seat or trailer is its harness. Your child will be moving at speed and sitting relatively high off the ground if they’re in a bike-mounted seat, so they must be securely strapped in. Look for models with a five-point harness, adjustable straps and buckles that are easy to use for you, but not your child.

Child seats

  • Type Rear-mounted seats are still the most common, and can often take a larger, heavier child as they’re mounted on a well-braced rack over the rear wheel. Centre- or front-mounted seats generally don’t take as large a child, but have the advantage of keeping the child in your sight and within talking range while riding. Long-legged riders might find a centre-mounted seat gets in the way of their knees, requiring a more splayed pedalling action.
  • Installation Check the seat fitting suits your bike. Some seats have different fitting options to suit different bikes – depending on whether the bike has disc or caliper brakes, for example. If possible, take your bike to the shop and get them to fit the seat mounting, as we found this task difficult for several of the tested seats due to poor instructions and the need for tools such as Allen keys which were not included.
  • Connection The seat should connect securely to its fitting and not wobble about, but still be quick and easy to remove and attach.
  • Mounting and dismounting Check you’re comfortable getting on and off the bike with the seat attached. Rear-mounted seats in particular make it harder to swing your leg over the back wheel. A step-through (“women’s”) bike frame helps eliminate this problem.
  • Standard certification While the standard AS/NZS 4287:1995 is not as up to date as we’d like, it’s still worth looking for certification. The standard only covers rear-mounted seats.

Trailers

  • Installation and connection Trailers generally connect to the bike via a quick-release mechanism that attaches to the bike’s rear wheel hub. The trailer arm should have a back-up strap connecting it to the bike in case the main connection fails.
  • One or two seats We tested two-seat models, but you might find a slightly smaller single-seat model better suits your needs. Two-seaters should ideally be easily adjustable to sit a single child in a central position.
  • Visibility aids Trailers sit low to the ground, so a brightly coloured flag on a mast and a reflector make the trailer more visible. However, even with these aids, avoid using the trailer at night or in low-visibility conditions such as rain.
  • Folding Trailers are fairly bulky, so it’s useful if the frames fold and the wheels are easily removed for storage or transporting in the car.
  • Conversion kits Kits to convert the trailer into a jogger stroller or hiking and skiing kits extend the life of the trailer.
  • Safety: Make sure the trailer roof gives enough room for your child to sit up straight while wearing their helmet.
  • Standard certification There’s no Australian standard for bike trailers, but there is an American standard ASTM F1975. Trailers that convert to strollers should meet the Australian stroller standard AS/NZS 2088:2000 when in stroller configuration.

Tips for riding with children

When riding with a child in a seat or trailer attached to your bike, pay extra attention to safety.

  • Try riding with the seat or trailer empty or with a dummy load, to get used to the bike’s changed handling characteristics.
  • Avoid riding in traffic. Stick to cycle paths in well-lit areas.
  • You and your child must wear helmets.
  • Don’t ride at night or in low visibility conditions such as rain or fog.
  • Be especially careful when cornering. The weight of the child in the bike seat could make the bike unbalanced, and a trailer could tip if you take a tight corner too fast.
  • Allow greater time and distance for braking.
  • Allow extra time for crossing roads and other danger points, especially with the extra length of a trailer.
  • With a child seat attached, your bike’s centre of gravity and handling will change.
  • Keep hold of your bike whenever a child is in the seat.
  • A child in a rear-mounted seat may be able to access your saddle springs, so cover these to prevent little fingers getting caught.
  • If you’re wearing a backpack, make sure it can’t hit a child seated behind you.

Helmets

  • Helmets sold in Australia must meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 2063 or US Snell Standard.
  • Go to a good bike shop and try a few different helmets. Get the shop’s expert advice on fitting; the key points are that the helmet should sit level with the rim just above the eyebrows, with the chinstrap even on both sides and fitting snugly but not too tight. The helmet shouldn’t wobble or move about once the chinstrap is done up; if it does, adjust the padding or straps, or try another model.
  • Don’t buy a second-hand helmet unless you’re absolutely sure it’s undamaged. Damage, such as cracked foam, is often not visible.
  • If possible, give your child a choice of helmets; they’ll be happier wearing a helmet if they choose it themselves.

More information

See our reports:

 

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