Saturday, June 14, 2008

Child Carryin' Bike Perfected

Please note that the new blog and webstore are now at I consistently get questions about the Bobike seats generated by the two posts about them here. You can purchase Bobike seats and small parts at the new webstore.

As I noted in a post many moons ago, I was pleased with the Bobike Maxi/Xtracycle combination I built to ride with my son. But the girth of the bike hurt the grab-it-and-go-ness of the machine, which was the whole reason I ditched trailers and decided to build a dedicated two-seater.

If you're looking to grab a week's worth of groceries and take the kid along, the Xtracycle with child seat is the best thing going. And even if you don't have children, the cargo capacity, handling, and value of the Xtracycle is impressive. I served as a mobile mechanic for a group ride a couple of weeks ago, and the Xtracycle hauled all my tools and one not-very-portable workstand with ease.

But the majority of trips don't require that kind of cargo capacity, and I wanted something a little less cumbersome. I started looking around at front mounted child seats and wanted to test the Bobike Mini, which mounts to an adapter on a quill stem (there is an aftermarket adapter for 1 1/8" threadless steerers) and holds children up to 33 pounds.

After a quick check with the wife (she's the child development expert) "How long 'till Silas is over 33 pounds?" "A year at least." I started cobbling together another bike from spare parts.

Because of the position of the Mini I selected high, swept back bars and a wide, sprung saddle. Though I have not tried it out, I suspect a European style city bike with a very slack seattube angle and high stem would be ideal to minimize interference with the knees of the "driver" and the seat.
When I originally set up the bike as pictured I had to bow my legs slightly to keep my knees from smacking the seat. Besides using a bike with very different geometry as mentioned above I thought of a couple of solutions.

One would be a frame with a longer toptube--with the swept back bars a rider can use a frame with a longer than usual toptube.

Two is a higher stem, which I tried first because it was much less expensive. I ordered this beast and stuck it on the bike. Thankfully, this eliminated the knee strike on the seat.

There are many things I like about the seat. It mounts easily--the seat has a fork which slides into and adapter on the stem of the bike and is secured by a clip, it is extremely easy to take off the bike or transfer from bike to bike. Once the adapter clamp is on the bike installing the seat is a seven second job (I timed it--this includes picking up the seat) and removing the seat takes five seconds (includes putting the seat down). By buying an extra adapter the seat can easily be switched back and forth between bikes.

Common sense would say that most children will appreciate riding shotgun more than a seat in the rear. Our experience confirms this. Silas loved his old seat in the rear. But he's ecstatic about this one. The first few blocks of the ride are often accompanied by squealing delight. I enjoy it more as well. Silas is closer to me, I can see when he points at things, I can talk to him, adjust his helmet, hug him, etc. His weight is still between the wheels and the bike handles very well.

Since the picture we've added a rear rack and basket for running errands. I highly recommend the Bobike Mini. Do keep in mind the knee strike issue if you plan to get one. You'll need a longer than normal top-tube or a very high stem relative to your saddle height to eliminate this problem. If this required getting of building another bike, do it. You won't be sorry. I've gone through several options for carrying my son around, and the Mini is by far the best. Enjoyable for driver and passenger, fun, and easy to use.

The Bobike Mini is $134.


kate said...

hhmm, getting my townie fitted with xtracycle and can't decide on maxi vs. mini (front vs. back) bobike. I have a 4 year old who will ride in back on xtracycle snapdeck and a 9 month old son who will ride in bobike. I just can't decide where to place him. Anyplace to get pros/cons or feedback?

Longleaf Bicycles said...


I think the Mini is the best choice for any child who is under the weight limit (33lbs). In addition, I think a Maxi or other rear mount seat is going to cramp your four year old on the snapdeck. If your four year old is going to ride on the snapdeck I'd recommed and tandem stoker stem and handlebar attached to your seatpost so the child has something to hold onto.

But even without that consideration, I'd recommend the front mount seat. The child will enjoy it more and so will you.

JeffS said...

I agree. The mini is definitely the route to go. My daughter has been riding in one since about 10 months. While she only tolerates the Burley trailer my wife tows her in, she loves to ride in the Bobike.

The optional windshield also helped for those cooler months and when it rains.

I think we'll both be sad when she outgrows it and has to go to the back.

Longleaf Bicycles said...

Yes. I know trailers have good qualities, but I find them alienating. You're there riding your bike and your child(ren) are in a pod behind you.

I have some friends who use a trailer and rear seat combination to carry around two children and they've made the trailer open-top. It seems like an improvement.

Julian said...

Hey! So nice to find your blog. I'm a fellow biking-fool father that grew up in North Carolina, now in Seattle. I just came across your blog and the Cycle9 gang as well. NC feels chock of family/utility cycling from here ...

Anyway, we have Bobike Mini and love it - it absolutely is a seat worth converting your bike for. How we did it is here ... my 8 inch shorter wife makes it work too, but not as clever as your frankencycle.

Another seat you might consider carrying (no other American shop does that I know of, got mine from a Canadian ebay seller) is the British Bike-Tutor. I actually like it even more than the Bobike Mini, if that's possible. Doesn't go on or come off easily, but it's narrow enough that knee clearance isn't an issue for me, at least. And takes bigger kids than the bobike mini, for those parents addicted to having their kids up front.

More on this seat in my rundown of front seats here:

Best of luck with your new site!