KIDS RIDE SHOTGUN: A LONG TERM REVIEW

I feel like I can confidently speak for all riders who have become parents when I say that it’s a parent’s dream to share their stoke for bikes and instill the calling of the trails (or road, if you’re into that kind of thing) into the next generation.  Luckily, the world of bikes and the accessories that allow for this shared journey to occur is growing.  So, let’s take a quick tour of the products I’ve used with my kid and take a deeper look of at the latest accessory, the Kids Ride Shotgun seat, that is spreading riding stoke to my little ripper.

Baby's First Ride

Ever since my wife and I found out that she was (we were?) pregnant with our first child, I began planning the ‘when’ and ‘how’ I was going to get Baby Danger out on a bike (Danger is his middle name).  Since babies are pretty floppy for quite a while, you can’t just put them in a kid's bike seat and go.  So, the first bit of family riding was simple bike path rides with his pumpkin seat strapped securely in a bike trailer.  This setup was great for family bonding and helping us to get out on our bikes in the early months of parenthood but didn’t scratch the itch that I had to share the love I have for mountain biking.  Luckily, we can now use our trailer for kiddo #2 and it's great for trips to the grocery store or using to haul tools out for trailwork days.

The Thule Yepp Years

As Danger Boy got a bit older, we opted for a front-mounted kid seat like the Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini.  We had tried some rear seats that mounted over the rear wheel, but we found that we much preferred the interaction, security, and in-cockpit feel of having our kiddo upfront.  This setup uses stem spacers and quick release clamp to mount the seat and requires a minimum amount of steerer tube length.  It doesn’t work for every style of bike, but for my mountain bikes and cruiser it was great.  Pro Tip 1: I highly recommend this setup in combination with a bike that has a dropper post.  It makes everything easier. 

Kid Danger absolutely loved his Yepp Mini setup and it allowed him to get a rider’s perspective to the trails we were riding.  We kept the trails and riding rather subdued since he was still developing his neck and arm strength, but I did find that bringing along his favorite stuffed animal, Blue, or a sweatshirt worked  great as an “airbag” when stuffed between him and his handle bar.  I also loved this setup because it gave him a glimpse of the trails that continually call out to me and, while a far cry from how I prefer to ride, it did challenge my endurance and strength, and we often put down some serious mileage together. Pro Tip 2: remember to always bring snacks for your kiddo.

Strider Bike

Unfortunately, kids grow out of things and we eventually knew we had to move onto the next phase of our plan.  Enter Strider Bikes… well, actually they were always their since we had already bought one for his first Christmas, long before he was even walking.  Balance bikes are seriously one of the best things you can purchase for your upcoming ripper.  They build so many good bike skills and have low consequences while learning.  Danger can fully ride a pedal bike now, but still loves to grab his Strider for the pump track.  Pro Tip 3: introduce your kid to full face helmets early. They improve confidence and can save you from some bumps and bruises along the way.

The biggest downside to your kid being on their own bike, whether balance or pedal, is the challenge for them to keep up on the trails. That brings me to our latest kid contraption, the Kids Ride Shotgun seat.  This thing is much like the Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini that we loved but taken to the next level.  I know it has been a bit of a journey to get to meat of this review, but I feel that it was necessary to set the table for this feast of a review (definitely overselling my writing skills).  Let’s dig in!

KIDS RIDE SHOTGUN SEAT

The biggest downside to your kid being on their own bike, whether balance or pedal, is the challenge for them to keep up on the trails. That brings me to our latest kid contraption, the Kids Ride Shotgun seat.  This thing is much like the Thule Yepp Nexxt Mini that we loved so much but taken to the next level.  It has allowed us to continue the progession of riding skills and knowledge of trail riding for my son and has given him a taste of that joyous freedom that we've all experienced while riding.  I know it has been a bit of a journey to get to meat of this review, but I feel that it was necessary to set the table for this feast of a review (definitely overselling my writing skills).  Let’s dig in!

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.

SETUP

I have a mix of steel, aluminum, and carbon bikes, all with varying tube sizes and geometries.  I wasn’t too worried about mounting this to the metal bikes but was a bit hesitant about damaging the tubes on my carbon bike.  After confirming that it was safe with Kids Ride Shotgun and getting my hands on the actual product, my fears were quelled.  The seat requires only minimal clamping force to remain in position even through rough terrain.  However, I do make sure to clean my bike frame and the rubber pads of the Shotgun seat, so I don’t scuff my bike’s paint.

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.