CYCLOCROSS GEAR GUIDE

With cyclocross season officially in full swing, we’ve put together a list of things to consider in order to look the part for the race down at the park, and for equipping you with the right gear to enjoy every race this year.

Tires

If you’re still running last year’s tires, or if you’re riding the stocks that came with your new bike, you should probably think about replacing them with some fresh rubber. Choosing the correct tire is the easiest way to quickly improve the quality of your ride. Things to keep in mind are, the specific tread patterns and the various tire widths. Consider the surface conditions of the courses you’ll be riding. Grass, mud, hard-packed dirt? UCI sanctioned races don’t allow tires wider than 33c, so unless you’re planning on racing UCI events, we suggest you aim for 35mm or larger. Wider tires have been known to provide more control and comfort. Also, don’t hesitate to check and see what your local fast guys are running.

Pedals and Shoes

On the surface, a cyclocross bike may look more like a road bike than a mountain bike, but when it comes to pedals, cross racing adopts the mud-shedding, easy engagement, and overall durability of clipless mountain pedals. These types of pedals, such as Shimano’s mountain SPD pedals and Crank Brother’s Egg Beater style, offer 2-4 sides of engagement which make it easy to remount on the run. Mountain pedal cleats are only compatible with 2-hole SPD mountain bike shoes, which is ideal as they feature hard rubber soles with spikes that allow great off-the-bike traction, which is a must when it comes to obstacles, steep sections and sandpits.

CRANKSETS AND CHAINRINGS

Besides the wider, knobbier tires, the main difference between road bikes and cross bikes is the gearing. Most cyclocross races are short and erratic, meaning you don’t need as wide a gear range as you do for long road rides. From standard 46×36 tooth 10-speed cranksets to SRAM Force CX1 11-speed and even some 1x12-speed groups, there is a plethora of drivetrain options for all racing levels and wallet thicknesses. No, we did not forget about the single-speeders out there.

Wheels

From traditional road wheels to wide disc brake wheels, the sport of cross involves no shortage of wheel preferences. The main deciding factor here depends on what type of brakes your cross bike has. If your bike uses cantilever or v-brakes, you can use nearly any 700c rim wheelset, including most road wheels. If you choose a road wheelset, consider at least a 32 hole spoke option, as higher spoke counts generally equate to more durability. Cross-specific disc wheels are commonly designed more robustly than road rim-brake wheels, and usually offer wider rim options which work better with wider tires.

Product Design and Build Quality

The Kids Ride Shotgun seat is a solid bit of construction built from steel and coated in rubber to keep your frame protected.  The design is basically an adjustable saddle with a U-shaped frame below it that can slide over the top tube and down tube of your bike.  There is a large rubber bumper that carries some of the load on the top tube and the U-shaped frame gently clamps the top tube and bottom tube using a quick release bolt and foot pegs on a threaded rod.  This gives five contact points on the bike and the Shotgun seat’s frame and saddle are adjustable to work with various tube sizes and geometries.  The seat also comes with all the tools you will need to make any adjustments.

Saddles

If you haven’t torn down last season's bike, we recommend taking a look at your saddle alignment, from the rear. There is a good chance it’s been knocked off-center a little bit from all those smooth remounts. Check and possibly replace the saddle itself, too. Look for small cracks, or a creaking sound when you press down on it. Cyclocross isn’t a friendly sport for saddle life. Looking over your saddle before and after each cross race is a pretty good idea. You don’t want to be “That Person,” riding to the pit on a saddle-less bike!! Such a site isn’t all that uncommon in cyclocross racing.

Setting up the Shotgun seat for the very first time was simple and intuitive, but I'd still recommend taking a quick watch of this Kids Ride Shotgun setup video.  It does have some useful tips and tricks and just takes out any guesswork. The first time I setup the Shotgun seat on a bike, it took around 5-7 minutes as I had to make several adjustments to fine tune the fit.  After this, removing and re-installing the seat only took about a minute.  If I want to switch from my MTB to my dirt jumper for the pump track, I do have to readjust it, but I’ve gotten faster at that too.  The seat also doesn’t take up a whole lot of room, even in fully assembled mode, so I just keep it in my van and can quickly set it up whenever Danger Boy wanted to join me for a rip on the trails.

A SMALL CRITIQUE

One small gripe I do have with the setup is the threaded rod used to clamp the seat in place using the foot pegs.  The actual setup is easy and works very well, but I would have like to some sort of included rubber cover to protect my downtube from the threads.  I easily solved this with a bit of rubber I had laying around, and you could use an old tube or foam with the same success. 

Beyond this minor hack, I haven't had any issues with the seat moving or causing any damage to my frame or paint job.  Remember to not over-tighten the quick-release clamp and/or foot pegs.  It requires only a minimal amount of clamping force on your frame to keep the seat from shifting and you can test this by hand before you go for a ride.  If it moves, tighten these 2 points every so slightly and retest.

Compatibility

The seat is compatible with most every mountain bike, dirt jump bikes, and even some beach cruisers with more traditional geometry.  It doesn’t work with drop bar bikes, but that wouldn’t be ideal for the main rider’s body position anyway.  There are a few fit limitations to be aware of:

  • The shotgun seat has a range of adjustment to fit top tubes from 30 – 68mm wide, and down tubes from 30 – 100mm wide.
  • Some electric mountain bikes (due to battery width and position)
  • Some bikes without front suspension (due to the lack of clearance between the front wheel and down tube)
  • Some older style mountain bikes with gear or brake cables that run along the top of the frame

Performance and Ride Impressions:

This setup is like riding your normal bike, but just a tad harder due to the extra weight.  One of the biggest benefits for me was the centered weight of having my kid in this spot versus over my rear or front wheel.  Adding 30-45lbs to your bike in various positions can significantly affect how your bike performs.  I’ve found that the seats that push that weight farther over either wheel makes the bike less predictable and harder to handle, which is precisely what I hope to avoid when carrying my most important cargo. 

With the added weight centered, I didn’t really notice any negative effect on climbing, descending, or cornering beyond just having to push additional watts.  This doesn’t mean you’re going to send it or set any PR’s while rocking this setup but it’s surprisingly confident and controlled.  It even seemed that my cornering grip improved slightly with the additional weight centered in the cockpit.

There are a few concessions that you will have to adjust for when riding with your mini-me, so let’s consider those for a minute.

  • Added weight – you will have to pedal harder, brake earlier, and “earn it” a bit more.  You may also find it beneficial to add air pressure to your suspension or ramp up your low speed compression.
  • Working around your kid – their body and head/helmet are going to be in front of you.  Normally, you can freely move in this area but now you will need to stay somewhat static.
  • Wider Pedaling – You will need to adjust your pedal stroke to accommodate your kid and move your knees out slightly.  I highly recommend flat pedals due to this.
  • Consider their strength – bumps and jumps can cause their arms to buckle if not strong enough.  I recommend slowing things down and riding with a full face for your kid and/or padding up your handle bar to avoid any tears.

What Does My Kid Think

This question is probably summed up best by his words from our very first ride at the pump track.  He just kept happily screaming, “THIS IS AWESOME! SO AWESOME! IT’S REALLY, REALLY AWESOME!”  He and I both love that we can easily talk to each other while riding which allows me to coach him on techniques and features and he can communicate any wants or worries he may have while we ride.  I have seen a notable improvement in his own skills on his bikes after riding with me.  I firmly believe this is due to his first-person experience while riding with me.  Often, I'll ride with him in his Shotgun seat on a section of trail that is challenging his skills or confidence then, I'll put him back on his pedal bike to put to practice the techniques we went over together.  This approach has worked fantastically to help him progress.

How Does It Stack Up to the Competition

If you’re considering this setup versus a rear mounted seat, I’d choose this all day long for mountain biking.  My experience with rear seats has been that they work great for a cruiser, commuter, and road bikes but are not ideal for mountain biking.  Rear mounted seats are not compatible with full suspension bikes, negatively affect ride performance due to the added weight over the rear wheel, and limit the ride experience and interaction with your kid.  As I mentioned before, the in-bike position of the Shotgun seat addresses these issues and is ideal for a fun and confident mountain bike ride for both parent and child.

There are a few competitors to the Kids Ride Shotgun seat.  One of the more popular options comes from Mac Ride which uses a bar suspended between your steerer tube and seatpost to hold the saddle.  I don’t personally own a Mac Ride but have spent a fair bit of time using a friend’s setup.  Each seat has pros and cons, and it is important to evaluate which would work best with your specific bike(s). 

After spending a fair bit of time with the Shotgun, I feel that it works best for the mix of bikes in my garage for a few reasons.  The Shotgun is easier to setup the first time, while the Mac Ride is easier to move from bike to bike if you purchase extra adaptors. The Shotgun isn’t exactly difficult, but it takes just a few more minutes to dial it in perfectly.  I like the wide range of foot peg adjustability on the Mac Ride, but I find that I prefer the soft saddle feel and adjustability of the Shotgun and can still easily adjust the foot pegs enough for plenty of tire clearance.

Some Things We Like Better about the Shotgun

  • Accommodates a wider variety of MTB frames and sizes
    • Slammed stems or dropper posts is a non-issue
  • Padded, adjustable and moveable saddle
    • Allows you to comfortably setup your kid for long rides
  • Mini handlebars attachment available
    • These could be useful for certain bike setups and kid sizes
  • More affordable price
    • The Shotgun is about $50 cheaper than the Mac Ride

Some Things We Like Better about the Mac Ride

  • Bike-to-Bike swap is super easy after initial setup
    • It really is just a quick release process if you have the adaptors on each bike
  • Footrest is height adjustable to ensure no toe overlap under suspension compression
    • Still doable with the Shotgun, but not as easy or quite as big of a range
  • Accommodates a wider variety of cruisers and e-bikes with proper adapters
    • So long as you have enough steerer tube and seatpost exposed and a narrow enough top tube, it should work.

The Final Spin

The Shotgun Seat is perfect for parents with a kid in the 2-5-year age range and under 48lbs (22kg), who own a mountain bike and want to share a first-hand experience of the joys of mountain biking with their child.  While there are some minor updates that could perfect this product further, there is very little that I found to gripe about, and my kid absolutely loved being able to ride with dad.  His ability to progress in a confident manner and learn skills from a front row seat has been massively beneficial.  Plus, the shared ride memories are priceless.  I suspect that Danger Boy will outgrow this seat by next summer but his little brother, Baby Bravery, won’t be far behind in taking the Shotgun Seat for a spin with mom or dad.