By Josh Wrigley
Top tube mounted kiddie seats have been a feature on the trails for a few years now, the concept having proven itself to have an edge over other methods of hauling kids around with you on proper mountain bike tracks.
Full suspension bikes and rear seats just don't get along, and trying to get a trailer through tight single-track on a busy weekend is no fun anymore. The kiwi-designed shotgun seat is a recent arrival on the scene, adding another option to a market that's pretty slim on choices. It is recommended for children aged between two and five years old.
I have two-year-old twin boys who are nuts about bikes. They have their own balance bikes but are just as fascinated by mum and dad's ones, so when the shotgun seat arrived they just about lost their minds when I suggested we all head out together and try it out. We had just borrowed a Do Little seat from our friends, which was ideal for making a direct comparison with another very popular model and allowing us all to head out at once.
The shotgun seat is well made and uncomplicated. Installing it required the use of a spanner and allen key, but only the first time you set it up on the bike. Subsequent installation and removal only takes about a minute and simply involves threading on or off the foot-pegs and securing or removing the quick release.
The beauty of this installation system lies not only in its speed and ease, but also the secure fit that is achieved with a minimum clamping force on all of the tubes involved - something that is harder to achieve with confidence on other seats and will provide peace of mind to riders who have invested funds earmarked for their child's higher education in an exotic, lightweight carbon frame.
Using the seat was a blast for everyone involved, with the boys placed right in the middle of the action, facing the oncoming trail and clearly having fun. We would get scolded for riding too slowly and hear shrieks of laughter and delight when riding over rooty sections and cornering at speed. We mainly stuck to grade two trails in the Whakarewarewa forest, but I know of older kids that accompany their mum or dad down much more technical trails - depending on everyone's confidence levels, there is a huge range of potential for where you could venture together.
The downside to using this type of seat is that you will need to be prepared to comprise your usual riding position, to a degree. Regardless of how far forward you position the seat, be prepared to ride slightly bowlegged and have a helmeted child's head fairly close to your face.
The test seat included a mini handlebar that will be available for sale as an optional extra at around the time this issue goes to print. The seat works perfectly fine without it (the child just holds the middle of your bars), but I did find it helped the smaller of our boys have his hands positioned more comfortably - without it he had a habit of scooting forward off the nose of his saddle.
The Shotgun is a quality piece of year. It is more expensive than its competition, but it justifies its position at a high-end option. It should easily fit just about any kind of bike, is quick to whip off for those rides where you're heading out for a break from the kids, and it kind to thin-walled tubes - and as far as kid's seats go, it looks good to boot.
I highly recommend it, especially if you've been toying with the idea of taking your preschooler out with you - both of you will come home buzzing.