A center-mounted child bike seat lets you pedal with your kid essentially cradled between your arms. These seats, which are new to the U.S., allow mom or dad to be right there, always with an eye on the little one.
I find it to be more fun, too, to have a kid right in front of you. They grab the handlebar and pretend to steer. You can easily talk to them, show them where you’re going, and so on.
Unlike a rear-mounted child bike seat, your overall center of gravity is close to the middle of the bike with center-mounted setups, making it easy to control.
This summer I’ve been testing two child bike seats, the iBert Safe-T-Seat and the Kangaroo, both of which mount on the top bar of the bike. They’re similar in principle, though the designs are pretty different.
There are some big cons with a center-mounted bike seat, so let’s start there: The No. 1 complaint I have is with the bike’s performance once a center-mounted seat has been added. Since the seat sits between your legs, you have to pedal slightly bow-legged, which cuts much of the power from your pedaling. It’s also difficult with either of these models to pedal while standing up.
Indeed, I have to get off the bike and push on steep hills, as my bow-legged pedaling while not power us up.
This is a major flaw to the center-mounted concept. If you want performance, look elsewhere.
But for tootleing around, for cruising on relatively flat trails or down the sidewalk, these seats work well. I’ve come to really love the kid-between-the-arms setup, and my daughter does too.
Of the two center-mounted seats I tested, the iBert safe-T-seat was preferred. It’s slightly more expensive than the Kangaroo WeeRide — at about $90 for the iBert, versus $50 for the WeeRide — but its design is cleaner and its bulk less in the way.
It mounts via a single prong of metal, which attaches to your bike’s stem under the handlebars. The seat slips on and off easily with the release of a single keeper pin. A minimum of 3/4 inch is needed on the handle bar stem to accommodate the stinger mount assembly.
The safe-T-seat is designed for children age 4 and under; the minimum age is 12 months, as the child needs to be able to sit up and hold the weight of a helmet. The maximum height of the child that can use the safe-T-seat is 42 inches. Kids taller than that will be uncomfortable. The recommended max weight is 38 lbs.
My one complaint with this model is its plastic seat arm, which folds on a hinge to let the child sit down, then (supposedly) snaps shut for safety. There is a webbing harness as the main safety attachment. But the plastic seat arm on my test model would not properly snap shut. It came that way, kind of ill fitting.
Otherwise, this is a great seat for parents and kids alike.
Contact: iBert Inc., www.ibertinc.com
Center-mounted seat No. 2 in my test was the Kangaroo WeeRide Seat, a model distributed by Kent International Inc. in the United States. It is bulkier than the iBert, but does have a couple advantages.
Attaching this model to your bike takes about four times as long as with the iBert. The bar assembly is much bulkier, too, as it spans the whole width of your top bar, connecting onto the bike’s stem and then the seat post in back.
After taking the WeeRide’s mount bar on and off a couple bikes, I began to get frustrated with its shoddy hardware. The hex-head bolts became manky and started to shows signs of superficial rust. I’d suggest the company to invest in higher-quality bolts.
This seat also gets in the way more while pedaling, as its kid foot areas extend down further than with the iBert.
One plus to this model: There’s a built-in handle/platform for the kid. My daughter, who often gets sleepy on long bike rides, could lay her head down on this platform and snooze. (Her head just flopped around if she fell asleep on the iBert.)
This model is also a fair deal, at $49.95.
Overall, the WeeRide will do the job fine for biking around town with your kid, as long as there aren’t large hills.
It fits about the same size/age kids as the iBert.
Contact: Kent International Inc., www.kentbicycles.com