When I was pregnant with my daughter Josephine, I used my baby shower as an excuse to get new outdoor gear. One of the things I was most excited about was a Thule bike seat from my cousin. It was the same design as the one I’d rode in as a kid—a bucket seat mounted behind the adult’s saddle—and it would be perfect for biking around town, like to the park or library on a summer afternoon. What more could we possibly need, I wondered?
I was so naive.
When Jo was six months old, we found a used Chariot trailer in a local buy/sell group and picked it up, figuring she’d be able to ride in it sooner and that it would be good for bike packing trips when she was older. Then we started noticing yet another type of bike seat, one where the kid rode at the front of their parents’ bike rather than the rear, so they could see where they were going. I began coveting one of those too, but stopped short of buying one. We definitely did not need a third way to haul our child around by bike. …Right?
I was again wrong. Just after Jo’s second birthday, my husband ordered a front-mounted bike seat without telling me. After I got over my initial shock, I realized that every other bike seat and carrier would collect dust in the shed forevermore, because once we tried the MacRide ($199), we would never use another bike seat again.
MacRide is unlike anything else on the market—a minimalist seat that’s specifically designed to take toddlers mountain biking on singletrack. It’s compatible with any adult bike (including e-bikes, carbon frames, full suspension, and ones with dropper posts), switches between bikes in less than a minute, and weighs just three pounds, compared to the 10-pound Thule seat I’d gotten as a gift. It’s basically just a kid-sized saddle that sits in front of your own saddle, with grips that go over your handlebars and two footrests with rubber straps.
Still, it wasn’t love at first sight. When the MacRide first arrived in the mail, I had to actively work to keep from freaking out. Unlike traditional child bike seats, the MacRide has no harness to hold kids in place—just the two rubber stirrups over their feet. Otherwise, the kid balances on her own saddle and holds onto your handlebars. How on earth, I wondered, was my 22-pound daughter going to keep herself upright on a bike saddle while cruising down singletrack?
It turned out she did it on her own, with hardly any instruction, and loved it. This is normal, according to MacRide co-founder Glen Dobson. “Many people are skeptical at first,” he told me. But then they try it, and both kids and parents become converts.
Dobson, an engineer, began designing the MacRide in 2013, when his two kids were toddlers—an age when they were “ready for adventure, but not able to go very far themselves,” as MacRide’s website explains. The prototype was funded through a Kickstarter, and MacRide began selling to the public in 2017. Since then, the company has sold thousands of seats and amassed something of a cult following among mountain biking parents, including pro riders like Matt Hunter.
It’s easy to see why. Even after kids are capable of riding their own bikes, MacRide—which is designed for kids up to 60 pounds, or roughly ages 2 to 5—lets you go faster and farther as a family. Sometimes, we’ll head to our local trails, let Jo ride for a while on her Strider pushbike, then throw the Strider in a backpack and put her on the MacRide. Then we crush ten miles of flowy singletrack together, with Jo as an active participant rather than just a passenger, stopping on the way to have snacks and play. It’s made parenting way more fun, and has helped us get outside together more often and explore new places as a family.
There are a couple caveats to be aware of. First, before you should use a MacRide you have to be a fairly confident rider yourself. As with all front-mounted bike seats, it’s somewhat unavoidable that your knees will be spread a bit wider than normal, to make room for the kid sitting in front of you. That means you need extra coordination and leg strength, especially for hills. Second, some kids love it so much that they lose interest in learning to bike on their own—why toddle around on a pushbike when you can fly through the forest with mom or dad?
Apart from these minor inconveniences, the MacRide is my favorite piece of outdoor kid gear, and I can’t imagine the next few years of toddlerhood without one.
Photos courtesy of the author