Family bike rides with a child seat

Family bike rides with a child seat

Child seats are commonly used for everyday journeys and are one of the many solutions for riding with your kids.

They are without doubt the easiest, most affordable way to discover the joy of family bike rides. Although they're most often used in cities for everyday rides, there's nothing to stop you heading out for a day or a whole weekend with your child seat. Or why not set out for an even longer bike-touring trip by pairing your child seat with a trailer? Here are our tips for hitting the road as a family with a child seat. 

In short:
Age: 9 months to 5-6 years
Use: short rides and tours
Advantages: inexpensive, takes up little space, easy to use
Disadvantages: child not covered, passive mode of transport, hard to attach pannier bags

How can you transport kids by bike? the child seat

Why should you use a child seat? There are two benefits. Firstly, it's much more affordable than other child transport options. And secondly, it's easy to use. Once you've installed the bracket, the seat can be clipped onto and taken off mum's or dad's bike in seconds. So there's no need to hitch or balance anything! If you're going to be using it regularly, you can even leave it attached to your bike after your ride. Because that's another benefit of this system: it doesn't take up much space. Even with it mounted on your bike, it's easy to put away and, if you live in a flat, move between floors. The simple, minimalist child seat is your best bet for a quick, spontaneous departure. 

Can you go touring with a child seat? 

In principle, the child seat system is more intended for urban use, so that you can do very short journeys as a family. But there's nothing stopping you from using it for short country rides or ones lasting a day or a whole weekend. Planning a longer ride? Then you're probably better off with a trailer. Trailers keep your kids more comfortable and also protect them from the weather. But with a child seat, kids are completely exposed to the elements. That said, it's totally possible to go for a hybrid solution that pairs a trailer with a child seat. When they're awake and keen to chat or watch the world go by, they can ride in their seat. And when it's nap time or the weather's no good, their covered trailer is the perfect place to be. 

What age do kids have to be to use a child seat? 

It's recommended that you wait until your little one is able to hold themselves up. So somewhere around 9 months. If you have very young children, a front seat can be more reassuring. This type of seat sits on your bike's head tube and means that you can see your child at all times. It makes communication easier. With this set-up, you'll have no trouble chatting to them and comforting them if necessary. Plus, with you sitting just behind them, you form a protective cocoon with your arms, giving them a feeling of security.

With a front child seat, your child also gets a much better view of what's going on around them. You'll enjoy a cosier shared experience together.
So what are the downsides of this type of seat? When sitting in front of you, your young passenger is very exposed to the wind (unless you install a windshield). Another limiting factor is that these types of seat only take children weighing up to 15 kg (around the age of 3). After that, you'll need to opt for a rear seat, otherwise you'll really struggle to ride your bike (hard to balance, hard to control the handlebar). Rear child seats can be used by kids weighing up to 22 kg – around the age of 5 or 6.

Generally, both front and rear seats come with a padded seat and a shell that's shaped to fit their body, keeping kids nice and comfy. If your child gets drowsy, they'll be properly supported, which means they can always travel under the best conditions, even if your ride lasts a little longer than expected. 

Family bike rides with a child seat

Do you need to have a pannier rack to use a child seat?

Not necessarily. There are two mounting systems for rear child seats: on the pannier rack, and on the bike's frame (on the seat tube). But be aware that this is something to avoid if you have a carbon bike. If your child is under the age of three, you can also go for a front seat which, as we've already mentioned, attaches to the head tube of the parent's bike.
Does your bike have a pannier rack? Just make sure that it's strong enough before you mount a child seat on top of it.

Can you carry two children on child seats at the same time? 

It's certainly possible to have a front child seat and a rear child seat on the same bike, provided that your children don't weigh more than the limit for each seat (15 kg at the front, 22 kg at the back). But all this extra weight isn't something to be overlooked. You'll find it much harder to balance when stopping and pushing off! It's OK for short trips on flat ground – enough to enjoy a little family picnic, for example. For longer rides, it's best to use a different transport solution. 

Can you carry a child in a child carrier backpack or sling when riding a bike?

This is a particularly dangerous thing to do. Up to the age of five, young passengers on a bike should always ride in an approved seat (standard EN 14344) with a seat belt (3 or 5 points) and footrests that prevent any contact with the spokes. These seats are designed to suit kids' bodies and have been carefully thought out to keep them comfortable during rides lasting several hours, with removable cushions, padding, and even tilting backrests ready for nap time.

Remember that everyone, kids included, should always wear a helmet. To be as safe as possible, you should put their helmet on before you put them in their seat, and only take it off once they're back on the ground. This is because it's very easy to knock the bike over when it's propped up with its stand on the pavement.

Family bike rides with a child seat

Can you have both a child seat and pannier racks?

This is one of the limits of a child seat when you want to go bike touring. Most designs mean that you can no longer use your pannier rack. So you can't take any rear pannier bags with you. You'll have to make do with front pannier bags to carry your equipment, or a bikepacking-style frame bag. Unless you go for an emergency option: a pannier rack with extra rails or a pannier rack extender.

Are child seats compatible with all bikes? 

You might find that your bike isn't compatible, particularly with models that fix to part of the frame (seat tube, head tube). Measure the corresponding parts on your bike and be sure to check before buying!

Case study: camille and giorgio go touring with a front seat and a trailer

"The child seat means we can enjoy the entire ride together."

Child's name and age: Raphaëlle age 2
Route: 300 km loop in Cantal, France
Average daily distance: 45-50 km
Instagram: @sopampastic

For Camille and Giorgio, bike touring is all about spending time together as a family. To transport young Raphaëlle, they opted for a front child seat as well as a trailer. They tried out this hybrid solution for the first time during a 300 km ride around Cantal, France. Here's what they had to say about it. 

-Why did you go for a front seat rather than a rear one?

Initially, it was what we did for commuting around town. But installing a child seat meant we couldn't use the pannier rack. As we never go anywhere without our pannier bags, we decided to invest in a front child seat that wouldn't stop us using the pannier rack. And when we're touring, it makes even more sense.

-Are there benefits for the child when you put their seat on the front? 

Yes, and for the rest of the family too. When they're in the trailer, you can't really interact with them. You can't point out things for them to look at. We found this really frustrating, especially because Raphaëlle is a very chatty child. The front seat means we can now enjoy the entire ride together. Raphaëlle uses it like her own little crow's nest. She points out animals in the fields, moos or clucks, has a sing-song, and laughs her head off. You can chat about everything that she sees. You're in tune with each other, physically and emotionally. And she never gets bored for a second! 

-Exactly how much time did she spend in the child seat during each leg of your journey?

She can easily stay there for an hour or an hour and a half. But as soon as she feels like it, she'll go back in her trailer. This is generally what happens in the early afternoon when she needs a nap. In Cantal, we managed to ride about 45 km per day in spite of all the hills. 

 -Is it annoying or dangerous to ride with a front child seat? 

It takes a little bit of getting used to. You notice the weight of the seat and the child a little bit when steering, and the centre of gravity is different. But it's very doable and you soon get used to it. Personally, I was never worried. I actually preferred it to a rear seat. It meant I could constantly keep an eye on her. I could see everything that was going on. 

-Do you think you'll carry on cycling like this?

Yes, especially since Raphaëlle now has a little sister. We're going to use a two-seater trailer, but we'll keep the front seat as well. It means we can enjoy quality time with the eldest while giving the youngest more space for a nap.

Family bike rides with a child seat

Olivier Godin

A fan of cycling in all its forms. Particularly enjoys taking the scenic route. Has equally fond memories of the Great Divide, Paris-Cape Town and Scandinavia as he does of crossing the Pyrenees, cycling the Millevaches plateau and riding around Picardy! Loves a good climb, because it's a natural high - both figuratively and literally. Rides alone, as a couple and as a family. Endeavours to convey the call of the road in his books. Author of "A vélo, 50 itinéraires pour pédaler le nez au vent" published by Gallimard.

These contents may interest you

family bike ride


Going for a weekend bike ride, taking little trails with happy, glowing children, coming home with your cheeks red with laughter and good fresh air… Sure, in theory, that's what a weekend outing should look like.


Family bike rides: where and how?

If you want to switch off from the daily grind and recharge everyone's batteries, a family mountain bike ride is just the ticket. Here are a few tips and ideas to help you get ready and make it a real success…

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

Bike trailers for family rides with the kids

How old do kids need to be to go in one? What types of ride can you do with them? Here's our guide to heading out in the best conditions

Your first bike ride with your child: everything you need to know

Your first bike ride with your child: everything you need to know

Around the age of 6, your child is ready for their first family bike ride! Here's a reminder of some bits and bobs to check before setting off.