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Bike Seats for Bigger Kids, part 3: the Bobike Junior+

Bike Seats for Bigger Kids, part 3: the Bobike Junior+

Trudy Phillips, before upgradesTrudy, a 1972 Raleigh-built Phillips 3-speed, as found.

Trudy, right after her upgrades. New tires & tubes, a big bell, a new saddle, a double kickstand, a front basket with a basket support, and a Bobike Junior+ professionally installed using the universal seat tube bracket. The only things added since this are a Hebie steering damper, which holds the front wheel in place to make the bike as stable as possible when parked while getting a child into or out of the seat, and Bobike’s saddle spring protector.
Trudy, after her upgrades, after the first summer of use. Notice that the angle of the child seat has shifted a bit, with the seat post attachment up higher than in the previous photo. The clamp on the back of the seat was used to carry the insulated lunch bag, and can be used to help secure light loads when the seat is closed.

For the last two years, we have been using a Bobike Junior+ child seat on the back of Trudy (a ’72 Phillips 3-speed) to carry my son Dominic on longer rides. It has worked wonderfully for us, allowed us to take longer rides we otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, and Dom (ages 5 to 7) has been thrilled with it, but we don’t have many photos of it in use – when I’m riding with a passenger, I feel less able to take a panda shot, and it never occurred to me to ask my husband to take some photos.

Closest we've gotten to a panda shot: our shadows.
Closest we’ve gotten to a panda shot: our shadows while parked.
A beauty shot of the Hebie steering damper, which is essentially there to stop the front wheel flopping around while you load and unload your kid. I ordered mine from Dutch Bike Bits.

Until yesterday. We took a short family ride – our last one before we remove the seat. Dom is now able and independent enough to take longer rides under his own pedal power on his new-to-him bike, or as stoker on a trailer-bike. In fact, we hardly used the seat last summer. He is also is tall and heavy enough that when he is in the seat, it rests on top of our fender and moves the fender to one side, which it never used to do. (Also, he’s heavy enough that I’m starting to struggle to get him and a heavy old steel bike uphill. Oy vey.)

Hmm, looks like the back tire needs more air, too. Another reason for no photos: Dom hates to have his picture taken.
Hmm, the seat post attachment has definitely crept upward, and it looks like the back tire needs more air, too. Another reason for no photos: Dom hates having his picture taken.

Looking over all these photos, I can see now that the seat stays have moved a bit over time, and the seat post attachment point has gradually crept up the seat tube by a couple of inches (which may only be possible because old 3-speeds use different diameter seat tubes than modern bikes). So, that is my only point of caution with this seat – to make sure it’s in the correct position and the screws  are tightened up frequently, as part of your regular maintenance routine, especially if you’re installing it on a vintage bicycle. Maybe comparing with a photo taken right after installation would help you catch it instantly if the seat shifts position like it did on my bike. [Update: I just uninstalled the seat from the bicycle, and the hex-screws holding the seat stay attachment in place were indeed a bit loose, causing the whole seat and the seat stay attachments to change angle. If I had been more vigilant about checking the hex screws, I think the seat might never have moved.]

If we still needed the seat for Dom, I think we would have it re-installed on a lighter modern bicycle, to make it more secure and make it easier for me to get uphill. There’s a reason those Japanese mamachari come standard with pedal assist!

It would also be preferable to install this on a bike that has skirtguards/coat protectors. Bobike sells these as part of the Maxi’s assembly, but not the Junior’s. This wouldn’t be a problem in the European market, but it’s more of a challenge here in North America. Dom has been conscientious, and I’ve always ridden slowly with him on board, but it’s too easy for a foot to slip off a footrest into the spokes. If we’d been able to find solid skirtguards to install on the 3-speed, we would have – but we couldn’t, and we felt that crocheted ones wouldn’t have provided enough of a barrier.

My only other quibble with the Bobike seat has been that I couldn’t figure out how to carry anything on a rack underneath it, if I had been able to install a rack (which the geometry of my vintage bike plus the child seat forbade). That limited me to what could be carried in the front basket, a crossbody satchel, and a little lunch bag attached to the clamp – which meant, only little errands and no grocery runs for this bike. Hum has that issue all sussed out: Basil panniers on the rack of a newer bicycle are the answer! She discusses the options for both a regular bike and a mid-to-long-tail.

So. I hope this review of my experience with the Junior+ child seat helps those of you who are weighing your options, and I hope it helps Miss Sarah figure out which bike it will go on for rides with her little guy. It’s a great seat that fills an important niche in family biking – the ability to carry an older kid on the back of a bike is a huge thing for expanding how often you can use your bike. But it’s not optimal for installation on a vintage bicycle. A modern bicycle that’s not so heavy, isn’t undergeared, and has an integral rack (for panniers) and skirtguards – like, you know, a standard-issue city bike from Europe – would be the ideal ride to install this on.

Bike seats for bigger kids? Part 2

Bike seats for bigger kids? Part 2

Now that school has started for the year, my search for ways to bring the kids along without shelling out $3K for a cargo bike has resumed. 7-year-old Audrey can ride her bike, and 4-year-old Dom could ride in a trailer – but I have a feeling he wouldn’t be happy being separated from the action. So a child bike seat seems like the way to go.

I’m sure you have all seen the post on Cycle Mumbreeze that shows bicycle child seats in the wild in Kawasaki, Japan. No? Go look right now. They’re so. dang. cute!

See? Super cute. Via “Nemo’s great uncle” on Flikr
under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license.

I have found a source that ships internationally for the white metal basket seat in the Cycle Mumbreeze post: Bicycle Hero. They also sell through their eBay store. The cost is about C$70 (including free shipping), and it comes with a three-point harness instead of just a lap belt – both wins over the Bobike option I was considering, IF it works. I also really like the big mesh leg protectors. We’ll see how well it works for Dom when it arrives… it may get quickly inherited by Angel’s toddler if he won’t fit. =)

Meanwhile, here are some more Flikr photos of it in use, mostly showing only lap belts attached. It looks like it attaches to any rear rack, and like it ought to be big enough for my little guy… cross your fingers for me!