Thursday, October 7, 2010


People often ask me about the child seat I use for my daughter MMVII.

Your bog standard child seat is a huge plastic structure on the back like this:

But how are you supposed to talk to them? Or keep an eye on them if they're playing up? And of course they spend the whole journey with your sweaty bum front and centre. Niiiice.

Those sort of thoughts led me to the idea of a front-mounted seat. These seem to be a fairly new development, but I like the idea because you can talk to your child, and they can see out the front. In the event of an accident, your arms are already round them. It all made sense, so for a long time I was going to go for a Weeride:

I like the idea of the sleeping platform, so it was definitely part of my master plan when I first bought a bike. But then I saw one of these:

It's a top tube seat from a company called Leco. I first saw it on a bike parked outside a trendy Bloomsbury bike shop (Bikefix on Lambs Conduit Street). It didn't have the backrest, so it was just this neat little extra saddle sprouting out of the top tube, like Zaphod Beeblebrox's second head. The neatness and minimalism of the thing appealed to me immediately.

Is it enough? Don't you really need a big plastic armchair? Well I think it depends on your child - and your attitude. MMVII was already at the stage where she was physically capable of sitting on the saddle; and I've always been pretty good at coaxing her into trying things that are slightly adventurous (often by just outwardly being confident and making out it's perfectly ordinary, while in reality hovering and watching like a hawk). Given that she's inside my arms, I don't see how a plastic chair could add much on the safety front. And the killer point for me is that it's so much more like actually riding a bike herself: she's sitting on a saddle and holding the handlebars. She even has her own bike horn, shaped liked Tinky Winky.

Another point in the Leco's favour is that it's extremely good value at just £20. Amazon did the honours. It all seems a bit daunting when you first get it out of the box: there's lots of steel brackets and bits, but try putting them together and they do all make sense. In fact it's quite simple. There's a clamp to go round the top tube - actually several different sized clamps to fit all sorts of bikes - with a bit of rubber inside to grip. On top of that is a standard saddle mount and the little saddle itself.

Then there's another clamp with a footbar, which goes on the lower frame tube (higher up it than you think, but probably not as high as in this picture!). Just make sure you've got the right size clamps for your bike, use your child to measure it all up, then bolt it all on as tight as you can.

Talking of which, there is one problem. The nuts that come with it are special 'locking' ones that contain some sort of sticky substance. Clearly they're designed to be done up once and then the stickiness helps hold them tight. Mine weren't quite right when I first did them, and now I've adjusted them they won't stay tight. I'm going to have to get new bolts. Ho hum.

It also comes with the backrest and the strap, and I did include them when I put it together. But to be honest - given MMVII isn't likely to fall asleep or try to climb off in transit - I'm not entirely sure what good they do. If anything that backrest seems likely to hurt one or the other of us in the event of an accident. So next time I'm spannering it might well go for a Burton.

MMVII totally loves it. We commute to nursery on it, and at the weekend, no matter what mood she's in, the offer of a ride on Daddy's bike is guaranteed to cheer her up. And therefore Daddy, too.

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