Monday, April 2, 2012

Yepp, this is how we ride

As, I promised earlier, this is the year I am going to put Dr J on a bike. But since he is only about a year old and he obviously can't ride by himself, I had to find him a bike seat.

There were two bike seats that immediately caught my attention, both of them from the same manufacturer - Yepp Mini and Yepp Maxi. The front-mounted Mini seemed like a better choice for a 1-year old over the rear-mounted Maxi. Here is why:

+ Better weight distribution. Rear wheel is not loaded that much and the rear rack is free for groceries (or a diaper bag).
+ Front-mounted seats allow my child to see more, not just my back.
+ I have more control over what my son does.
+ I can better protect my son by embracing him with my arms.
+ I can have a normal conversation with him during the ride.
+ He can't suddenly grab the handlebars and throw my balance off. This applies to Yepp, since it is mounted on the stem. Other front-mounted seats, such as WeeRide Kangaroo, are installed on a crossbar above the top tube, not the stem. This means that the seat does not rotate with the front wheel but it also means that child can grab the handlebars.

There are several drawbacks with front-mounted systems and Yepp Mini:
- Lower weight limit. Yepp Mini maximum load is 15kg (33lbs). Heavier babies have to travel in a rear-mounted seat.
- Can obstruct pedaling. A frequent problem with many front-mounted seats is that they require pedaling with legs spread out more to avoid hitting the seat with rider's knees. This could be really uncomfortable. Fortunately, it is not as bad as I thought it would be due to Mini's narrower profile.
- Yepp was designed in Holland and works well with Dutch bikes. This means it can be installed on quill stems but not on threadless type stems. Not an issue with my Schwinn but if you happen to own a mountain bike you are out of luck.
- As child grows, it may start obscuring your view and make riding uncomfortable.
- Riding uphill is difficult since it is not possible to stand on pedals.
- Requires a straight sitting position. Again, not a problem for me since this is how I sit on my Coffee but for more sporty bikes front-mounted seats may not be suitable at all.

In general, it looks like the front-mounted seats provide more fun and comfort for the child, while rear-mounted ones give it more to the parent.
Couple of days ago we took a few mile long ride to Wilson Farm in Lexington. Dr J loved the ride and apparently the only thing other that the views that was distracting him, was the brass bell on my handlebars. Yepp Mini proved to be a good product and we were both happy with it. 

However, then I started to think that Mini may not be the best choice in the long run. I realized that we will probably use it only this year as the next spring Dr J may be just too tall and heavy to ride in it. This made me replace it with the Maxi.

Maxi is a classic rear-mounted seat. With the weight limit of 22kg (48lbs) it allows transporting children up to 6 years old. This means it will last us longer. I really like how it mounts on the bike. Unlike many similar seats, it doesn't use the rear rack, but a clever frame-mounted bracket. The bracket attaches to the seat tube and gets positioned above the rear rack. When the seat is removed, the bracket stays so much forward that I can still easily use the rack. Installing the seat takes only a few seconds. Simply slide it into the bracket all way in. Removing it is equally easy but (just like in the Mini) requires pushing two separate buttons (a security feature). Both Mini and Maxi come with a key lock to prevent theft.
Yesterday, we decided to test the new seat and we took a family ride to Alewife. Our fridge was quite empty as usual, so our destination was the Whole Foods Market. Again, the seat worked well and as I expected, it is much more comfortable for the parent than the Mini. I didn't even feel that I had my son riding with me. And I could pedal normally without my knees hitting the seat in front of me. Everything went well... up to the last couple of hundred meters/feet from the house. Dr J got tired of all his morning activities and fell asleep. And then I realized the major flaw of most (all?) rear-mounted seats. Kids can't nap in them since they sit too upright and their heads have no support. I guess I would have to find (build?) a napping pad mounted to the seatpost - something similar to those at front-mounted seats. But yesterday I had no choice - I ended up carrying my son in one hand and pushing the heavy-loaded bike in the other.
The only last wish I would have is if I could get the Maxi in orange. But since I got a 20% discount on a black one, I can't complain.

8 comments:

  1. Did you ever find a napping pad for the rear seat?

    Also if you have a thread less stem you can buy an adapter to make the front one work.

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  2. The same thing happened to my son and I have him in the Maxi just a few weeks after his first birthday. He fell asleep and his head came forward and lolled a bit but because the straps were on securely he actually stayed asleep for most of the latter part of the trip. It's on a road bike as well and after looking through the internet realized I may be the only person with a baby on the back on a racing bike at a year old...

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  3. hamax rear seats can be reclined so that baby can sleep comfortably

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  4. Too bad I didn't know about those when I was shopping for a seat.

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  5. Hello, do panniers fit under the Yepp Maxi? Did you have to do anything special to make this setup work?

    Thanks!

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  6. It gets really tight with panniers. I was only able to use roughly half of the capacity of my panniers. As you can see in the pictures above, the front of the panniers gets blocked by footrests of Yepp Maxi. Now when my son is a bit older, I wish footrests were fully removable, in order to make space for panniers.

    I think the best trick would be to get a rear rack that sits far behind the rear axle. Some of the rear racks can be shifted to the rear using additional brackets. This way you would be able to install panniers towards the rear end of the rack, while you should still try to move the Maxi as close to the saddle as possible.

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  7. Do you have any further thoughts about napping with the rear Yepp maxi? My daughter finds it impossible to nap at home but always naps on the road, whether in a stroller, car, or bike. So no matter what time I bike if we're out longer than 20 minutes she falls asleep. This has been a major issue for biking more, and we don't have the budget to invest in something more than the seat we already have.

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  8. @kaitlinw123
    Unfortunately, the only solution that I know would work is a trailer but they are not cheap. Maybe you could look at Craigslist in your area and find a used one?
    Child seats such as Yepp do not recline and even if they did, they are not going to provide the same level of comfort for your child as a trailer. You may have to wait until the next year for your daughter to grow up and nap less. That's what I had to do with my son.

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