I am living in Bhutan for one year as my wife is working as a volunteer teacher through the Bhutan Canada Foundation. I have taken a year off work to spend more time looking after my two sons, a 5 year old (who attends school here) and a 3 year old that I look after on a daily basis. [For further information on our story, refer to my wife’s blog here http://downundertothetopoftheworld.blogspot.com/].
However, we don’t have a car, and it’s good to get away from the same 200 metre stretch of road through our village where we tend to spend a lot of time. I also wanted a way to get around with my 3 year old son, that’s faster than walking. So I decided I needed a child’s bike seat that could attach to my mountain bike. It also had to be removable so I could use my bike on my own for longer rides (Bhutan is an amazing place for cycling).
As there was no commercial product available here in Bhutan, and difficult to buy one and have it posted here, I made the child’s bike seat out of timber. So now I can easily and quickly take my son to the child care centre about 4 km away, where he has lots of fun playing with kids his own age and doing craft activities. It’s also fun riding there, as I get to talk to my son along the way.
Following are instructions for how I made this bike seat, which is based on the concept of a Wee Ride bike seat. I recognise that it may be open to improvements, depending on how much you ride and how old your child is. I have thought of ways to improve it but I only have 4 months left here in Bhutan so I think that it is good enough for us the way it is. You may wish to add a head rest to give your child a place to rest his/her head when he/she falls asleep, which will ensure they don’t fall off the bike. I also make no claims as to the safety of this bike seat. I am comfortable that mine is made sturdy enough to keep junior on the seat whilst I am riding but if you make one of your own, you may wish to add some side supports or other safety improvements.
The first photo is the child’s bike seat minus the foot rest, which was installed later.
The second photo is of our first test ride with the child’s seat.
Step 1: DESIGN DRAWINGS AND SEAT POST TEMPLATES
Prepare some design drawings of your bike seat, showing dimensions of the seat post, seat, seat back, handlebar upright, and handlebars. For my seat, I used dimensions of 155 mm wide x 165 mm long, which is based on the size of my 3 year old boy. It is just wide enough to fit on most of his bottom, and not so wide that it makes it difficult to pedal. If you make it too wide, you have to pedal with your legs sticking out at an angle, which gets quite tiring when pedalling long distances.
Make a template of the seat post upright using stiff cardboard or other suitable material. I used some wire to wrap around my bike frame to try to capture its shape. I then used the wire to mark on to the cardboard the section that was to be cut away. I had to make two different templates, one for the rear and one for the front of the seat post, as the bottom frame meets the seat post at a different height towards the front of the timber post. I found it useful to mark on to my templates, front left, front right, rear left, and rear right.
I found this task to be quite tricky to get right and in the end the seat post does not fit perfectly on to the frame. However, it is close enough that it fits tightly without moving, once bolted together. I am lucky in that my bike has a frame with a triangular shaped cross-section. I’m not sure how snug the seat post will attach to frames of a circular cross-section. Note that you may also have to cut away sections to allow your brake and gear cables to operate without being hindered by the seat post. Ensure that there is enough surface area of the seat post touching the frame so that it won’t slide along the frame.
The photo shows my early design drawing, seat post templates, seat post, and tools used. Note that the design changed over time, with a bit of trial and error methodology. The main change is that the seat post had to extend to the bottom frame to ensure that it wouldn’t rotate - the template on the right is the one I made before I realised I needed to lengthen the seat post.