Carrying my toddler on my bike means we can ride trails together – but most tag-along style seats don’t fit my mountain bike’s frame and can’t be used on anything rougher than a gravel pathway. The Kids Ride Shotgun version fits onto top tubes of all sizes and shapes, and hardly affects the handling at all. Plus, a bolt-on set of handlebars means your passenger gets a feel for off-road cornering too.
• Seat can carry children from 2-5 years old up to 22kg, tow rope is rated to 225kg
How did this product make your life easier?
First an admission – I love riding my mountain bike and want to share this passion with my kids as much as possible, so we tried all sorts of ride-along seats with my son when he was little. They were a huge compromise at best, and absolute rubbish at worst.
I had one that hung off the back of my bike, but even the smallest of obstacles would cause it to bounce around and scrape my rear tyre, plus my son’s view was restricted to whatever rucksack I was wearing. Then we tried a bulky unit that sat in front of me, clamped onto my seat and steerer tubes, but this meant pedalling in an awkwardly opened-kneed position and it also made the steering feel weird. After that, he graduated to a rigid tow bar that connected the front of his bike to the back of mine, but this a total pain to hook up and unhook and meant we couldn’t get through gates or over obstacles without one of us falling off.
Also – I say I tried these things on my bike, but what I mean is I tried them on my ancient alloy hardtail because there was no way I was clamping anything that turned his weight into a damaging lever to my carbon framed, full suspension trail bike, for fear of damaging it. So I couldn’t ride the bike I wanted to on the terrain I wanted to, and decided the whole thing was a waste of time. My son is now old enough to come riding with me (with a bit of encouragement/a tow up the hill, more on that to follow) so we can finally enjoy this together, but what about his little sister?
The Kids Ride Shotgun Seat is an altogether more encouraging solution – for a start the pictures on the box and on its website show mountain bikes like mine being ridden by people who look a bit like me on terrain I recognise – with steep corners and exposed roots and maybe even a small drop or two.
It is essentially a saddle that clamps to your frame that your child sits on. I won’t lie, I was nervous about the idea of attaching anything onto my top tube, particularly something that would carry my daughter’s weight, but the Shotgun Seat has more grippy rubber on it than an off-road tyre. This helps protect your frame from scrapes and also means it doesn’t need to be done up too tightly in order to stay in place.
I was also really impressed to find the kit includes all the tools you need for installation – mountain bikers are world-renowned botchers (swapping hydraulic brake fluid for baby oil in a pinch, for example) and seeing as this is a product designed to keep your child safe while you’re bombing around, it needs to be installed correctly. As opposed to doing all the bolts up with pliers. But as the kit includes all the spanners and allen keys you’ll need, there’s no excuse for doing it properly.
There’s a metal leggy thing that expands to the width of your top tube and then bolts in place, which you attach two footpegs (with straps) to at the bottom and finally a quick release clamp in the middle to tension everything up. The large and squashy seat attaches to the top of this item, and a small set of handlebars with grips bolts onto your own handlebars to give the passenger something to hold onto. You get a load of rubber shims to cater for bar widths up to 35mm. I’ve just left these attached because they don’t get in the way, I’m too lazy to take them off, and sometimes I like to try and steer my bike with them for a laugh.
We got on with the Shotgun seat from the very first ride – there was no learning curve like with other ride-alongs I’ve tried because my toddler’s weight was balanced right in the centre of my bike and I was completely aware of how much she was getting bounced around or if she was having fun or not. I also think being able to see where she is going helps her get ready for features like corners or small drops and the small set of passenger handlebars makes her feel like she’s part of the process. She love it – my bike is now her primary choice of transport because “Daddy goes fast”, which in fairness, I do, largely because I’m so confident in her ability to stay on the Shotgun seat.
I’ve taken her out half a dozen times now and we’ve both had so much fun – more so than when I go by myself. The only adjustment you have to make in your riding is to compensate for the extra weight, and to bear in mind that the bike’s suspension doesn’t cushion things as well for her as it does for me because of where she’s sat. That said, we’ve taken on some pretty gnarly features together and while I wouldn’t feel confident in the air (jumps are probably a no) we can happily ride over blue-graded trail features like roots and rocks and bermed corners with no drama at all.
The second Kids Ride Shotgun product in this test is the excellent bungee tow rope – I’ve got another brand's version of this already and have used it regularly for the past couple of years with my older son. It hooks up much quicker than a solid linkage like a Trail Gator and also has the benefit of keeping both his wheels on the ground so he learns how to ride himself. You simply hook one end around the nose of your saddle and clip the other to your child’s bars and you’re away. It takes a bit of practice to get used to the elastic nature of the rope (basically you both have to start off at the same time) and of course there’s no overtaking or riding side by side otherwise you’ll clothesline any passing pedestrians.
Where the Shotgun tow rope differs is the fact it’s rated to 225kg (which means I can also easily tow my wife with it!) while my existing one only claims 50kg. However, the thing I like best is the fact the Shotgun version comes in its own bumbag that my son can wear, ready for deployment at a moment’s notice. Less stuff to carry for me, a greater sense of responsibility (and a place to stash biscuits) for him. Plus, the blue and purple colours match my bike, so it’s a winner.
Would you recommend this to other parents?
I can be pretty brief in this section – the tow rope I whole-heartedly recommended, as it means you can take older kids on longer rides with steeper hills and let them enjoy the descent without blowing themselves up on the climb. It’s a bit more effort from you of course, but not as much as you’d imagine, and besides it’s good training for your legs.
I’d also recommend the Shotgun seat but with a slight caveat because it’s not particularly cheap, so you’d need to get a lot of use from it in the relatively short time you child will fit on it - Kids Ride Shotgun say from 2-5 years old. Cheaper versions exist but personally, given that my bike and my child are two of the most valuable things in my life, I think it’s worth investing.
There are also quite a few surprising additions when you open the box – not just the fact that all the tools are included, but also a sheet of stickers, a “Shred til Bed” topcap and a plastic front mudguard. The latter is useful if you don’t have one already because your child will be right in the firing line of anything flung off your front wheel. I know none of these things are deal-breakers but it gives you the sense that this product was designed by people who love riding bikes as much as you do, which is nice.
Would you choose this product above all others on the market?
The two main rivals for the Shotgun seat are the Mac Ride seat, and from in-house rival Shotgun Pro Child Seat, both of which clamp to your steerer and seat tubes and claim to be quick and easy to take off when not in use, something that sets them apart from the seat being reviewed here, which requires a couple of minutes to disassemble.
Initial installation of those two takes a bit longer though as you need to put a special spacer below your handlebar stem. This isn’t a huge job in reality, and the flipside is being able to decouple the seat with ease when you don’t need it anymore. Worth the extra £40-£50? That’s for you to decide, but also bear in mind the Shotgun Pro seat has zero frame contact and can hold an extra five kilograms and it starts to add up, particularly if you have an e-bike.
What changes would you make to this product?
With that last point in mind there are a few areas that would make the Shotgun seat easier to get on and off, namely some sort of quick-release mechanism for the footpegs, which currently have to be threaded onto a long bar. It’s not the end of the world but it is a reasonably long process that stands in the way of going for a ride. Maybe a grippier material for the seat cover to help stop little ones sliding around too? Otherwise, there’s no need to mess with a winning formula.
The combination of Shotgun seat and tow rope means my whole family can go out for a ride together on challenging terrain, rather than having to pick a route based on the least capable rider. No more complaints from my son about boring forest tracks and no more tired legs struggling up the last climb of the day. Just lots of fun for everyone involved.