Biking has been a huge part of my life- I spent much of my youth riding the trails of Park City, and continue to ride as much as life will allow. Accordingly, I have been (im)patiently awaiting introducing my sons to riding so they too can take part. Our three year old has really taken to his strider, and rips around the neighborhood and on pump tracks. But, he has not yet adjusted to his pedal machine, and while his little legs can power him around at a pretty good clip, there is a real limit on distance and on actual trail riding. I have been eyeing the Shotgun Kids Mountain Bike Seat for a while now as a tool to incorporate my son into longer rides and begin to teach him bike skills, and was thrilled when we were offered the chance to test and review the Shotgun seat. I decided to set the seat up on our second mountain bike, a full suspension Salsa Horsethief.
The seat arrived in a small box along with the handlebar. I had previously watched videos regarding install, so I had some idea of what to do, but reviewed the instructions before launching into getting it set up. The seat includes some actual useable tools (two wrenches and an allen key) for install, which was greatly appreciated, as most of my tools were stashed somewhere by my kids. The instructions are straight forward- loosen a few bolts, set the seat on the frame, and re-tighten everything.
Advice For Setting Up The Shotgun Kids MTB Seat
After the seat is mostly set-up, gently tighten the bolts and put the rider on to adjust the distance between the seat and the handlebar. I took a guess at how far back the seat should be and went ahead and tightened everything down, only to find I needed to move back a few cm so my son wasn’t too close to the bar.
Loosen all the bolts before you start set-up, as it is much easier to move everything around with all the bolts loose (including the two small bolts that set seat post angle. The seat went on easily- the hardest part of getting the seat on the bike was trying to recover the wrenches, which kept walking away with my two kids! I then moved onto the handlebar, which comes with several inserts for differing bar sizes. Again, this went on easily. Getting everything on was uneventful, which is exactly how it should be.
Install Video And Ride Video From Kids Ride Shotgun
Riding With The Shotgun Kids Seat
We took a short spin around the neighborhood to make sure everything was where it should be- my son was stoked! A few days later we took the kids out for a longer ride to a nearby farmers market. Riding with my 40lb three year old on the bike was super easy- no change in steering or ride characteristics. He absolutely loved it – front facing so he was right in the action; his own set of handlebars to feel like he was involved, and we could talk and interact. We rode home on dirt roads, which again was a blast. That afternoon we took the bike to a nearby school with a big parking lot so I could play around with tight turns, curb drops, and hard braking to really explore how the seat worked before taking to the trails. While you are certainly aware there is a child in front of you, the seat didn’t change how my bike rode, and I was only limited in really tight turns due to the bars hitting my son. The seat didn’t alter suspension whatsoever, and the bike was really only limited by what I was willing to undertake. After this, it was time to take the bike to some actual rough road and trail riding!
Over the 4th of July we took the caravan up to Sun Valley, Idaho for a weekend of parades, fireworks, and of course riding. My son and I took the bike out for several long rides into town (about an hour of riding each way on mixed gravel and pavement), a few forays on rough washboard dirt roads, and some mellow-ish single track. The rig performed so well every time. The only limitation was in how long my son was interested in riding. Note that I like all-day mountain bike suffer-fests. My son apparently does not! On local singletrack, the bike was a blast, and my son was giggling and laughing the whole way.
Shotgun Kids Seat – A Few Observations
First – there is a kid in front of you, and you will have to splay your knees a bit to rub on said kid every pedal stroke. This isn’t a major issue at all, but I could imagine if you were trying to ride on a very small frame, the effect could be more pronounced as the child would be closer to the seat.
Second – pedaling standing up is harder with a child on the bike. It is still possible, but is just different than without a child in front of you. For the most part I just geared down and chugged in the saddle, but on one occasion came into a steeper rocky section slower than ideal, and with my son in front of me getting over the top was tough. As the trail was steep, standing meant that I was pushed against my son and couldn’t comfortably get out of the saddle.
Third – this should be obvious, but I failed to actually take this into account – you will need to adjust suspension settings. With my son coming in around 40 lbs, the added weight meant I was pretty deep into the rear suspension, and the front fork dove more on braking. Once I increased air pressure in both front and rear suspension, we were back to normal.
Fourth – your child will be holding on to your bars – either directly, or through the really nice accessory bars from Shotgun. They can provide steering input and my son is a bit of a wild animal. He made it clear when he was done riding by shaking the bar. He isn’t strong enough to actually cause issue when both of my hands were on the bars – but it does mean you need to pay attention, as he is strong enough to cause problems if you only have one hand on the bar. On our first outings, I was using a water bottle. And on one occasion when I had one hand on the bar while reaching for the bottle, my son decided to pilot us toward a canal. He likes ducks. What can I say? Lesson learned. Use a hydration pack!
The Final Lap
Overall, the Shotgun Kids Mountain Bike Seat is phenomenal, and I wish that I had pulled the trigger on one last year. Of the options out there for getting your kid involved in riding, this is hands down the best. We have tried pretty much everything else, and this is as close to perfect as it comes. I think this is a great tool to teach riding, and to get out there and enjoy our bikes with our kids. As soon as your child is capable of holding on and paying attention – I would guess two years, depending on child. And until they take off on their own or grow too big to manage (for my son, I would say 4 or 5), look no further than the Shotgun Kids Mountain Bike Seat.