By Andrew Crumpler
PHOTO: JUSTIN STEINER
Most moms and dads in the U.S. are familiar with the U.K-based Britax name due their high-quality child car seats. Since I have a Britax car seat for my little man Oliver, I was eager to give him his first ride using their seat. Although Britax just started selling bike seats in the U.S. this year, they have been producing bike seats for over 30 years in Europe, and they are the number-one selling brand in Germany.
The $170 seat is designed to be easy to install and use, and is very adjustable to provide maximum comfort for the child. Adjustments include a 15-position footrest, a two-postion recline, a nine-position headrest, and reversible, breathable padding. For safety, it has a spoke guard and a high back and sides. This seat does not attach to a rear rack — instead, it simply attaches to the seat tube and cantilevers over the back wheel. It fits kids up to 40lbs.
Installing the seat
The Britax seat consists of two parts: a clamp for the seat tube, and the seat/frame assembly that slides into the clamp. It takes a bit of trial and error to determine the height of the clamp; if it is too low, your foot will hit the seat, and if it is too high, the weight might make your bike hard to handle. The seat has a forward/backward adjustment so you can center the weight properly over the rear wheel. Britax sells additional clamps for $40.
Installation is a breeze as long as your bike is compatible. A conventional men’s steel or aluminum frame works best. The seat will work on women’s frames, but the smaller sizes may not have enough seat tube for the clamp to attach. It will not work on pedal-forward bikes (like some from Electra) due to the extreme angle of the seat tube, and carbon frames are problematic due to the risk of damaging your frame.
Installing the child
I was amazed by how easy it was to load Oliver. I knew I had about a minute before he would turn into a squirm monster. After placing him in the seat, I used one hand to steady him while I adjusted the backrest with the other. Then I slipped the seat belt easily over Oliver’s helmet. Next, I adjusted the footrest, once again very easy and fast. Within a minute, we were off on our ride. (One tip: I installed a two-legged kickstand on my bike, which made for easy loading.)
Oliver seemed happy during all our rides. We even got ambitious and took him on a few sections of trail. The built-in suspension provided by the support arms cushioned him nicely.
My wife unintentionally tested the safety of the seat when she took my son for a quick spin around the yard. The rear wheel slid out on a gravel uphill, and my wife could not keep the bike upright due to added high weight in the rear. She had no choice but to slowly allow the bike to rest on its side. Oliver remained calm and was completely unharmed. He was so well protected that he didn’t even come into contact with the ground.
This is a great seat. It is super-adjustable and easy to use. If you’re considering getting one, be sure you do a little homework ensure the seat will work on your bike. Made in Germany. www.britaxusa.com