gravel can be comfortable both for you and your kid
I like to feel comfortable on my gravel bike but since I started to ride with my son, I also needed to make sure that he is comfortable. That is why I have bought a Britax Romer Jockey Comfort child seat that uses steel tubes that works as a simple suspension. But then I have changed the bike and I needed something to mount on the rear rack. So I have bought Hamax Caress that offers a unique, spring-based suspension. How well it works and how it compares to something like Jockey Comfort that you mount on the seat tube? This article will answer those questions!
Child, especially below 2 years old is a very delicate and fragile bike companion. You have to be sure that you do everything in your power to make the ride as comfortable as possible. For many, this is the main reason for buying a bike trailer with a proper suspension. But it was not a good solution for me, mainly because I like to ride in the forest and on narrow paths where even the narrowest bike trailer could become problematic (apart from the very expensive solutions like Tout Terrain with one wheel and Fox Float X Shock suspension). But I was also not a fan of bike trailer because I like to talk with my kid on the ride – keep him entertained and this is much harder when he is 2 meters behind me. That is why I looked for a child seat instead. It had to be safe and yes, very comfortable for my son. After long research, I decided to buy the Britax Romer Jockey Comfort child seat. Why?
Firstly because it uses steel tubes that work like a spring suspension making the ride for my kid much more comfortable. I had a steel bike so mounting the seat onto the seat tube was not a problem for me. The other thing that convinced me was the notion of security that this seat creates. It looks very sturdy, has a very secure three-point belt mounting mechanism and, which proved to be very beneficial indeed, additional plastic surrounding the child’s head. Why this is very important? Because in the event of a crash, the helmet on the child’s head is first hits this protruding plastic safety cover and not directly the ground. Also, when the child falls asleep, the same additional plastic parts are holding the helmet very nicely making the head move much less than on a normal child seat.
Yes, Britax Romer child seat does not look that cool, but after 18 months of using it, I can confidently say that it is a very well thought out, very safe and comfortable child seat that I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone. Of course, it has some flaws like the folding back that in theory should allow the child to sleep more comfortably but in practice, 20 degrees is not enough to really achieve that and folding only the back, without changing the seat position itself are not the most beneficial solution in the first place. Truth be told, I do not recommend riding with a sleeping child on any child seat but sometimes you simply do not have much of a choice and then every little thing could make a change for the better.
Britax Romer Jockey Comfort also weighs a lot but other than that I really enjoyed this child seat and most importantly, my son really enjoyed the rides with me too. So I was sad when I had to change the child seat after changing the bike. Why I had to change it? Because only steel and aluminum bikes are truly designed to work with a child seat that is mounted to the seat tube. Titanium can be too thin and brittle to withstand all the forces that this kind of mounts generates and carbon is absolutely no go in that regard. So although Enigma said that is should be OK to mount the child seat on the seat tube, I did not want to take any risk and decided to go with a child seat mounted on the rear rack. But finding a comfortable seat that can be mounted on rear rack proved to be quite a challenge!
Rear rack mounted child seat
Majority of child seat that can be mounted on the rear rack do not provide any real suspension apart from damping inserts on which child seats. In reality, they can’t do much so there is no surprise that this kind of child seat are considered to be very harsh and usually usable only on a short, city rides. But I like to ride in the forest, on gravel, on every road I like and I did not want to resign from all of that. So I needed something with a real suspension. Hamax Caress offers just that. It uses two springs below the seat to make the ride much more comfortable. So I bought it. And I am happy that I did that! Why?
Comfort is superb
Yes, I thought that it will be OK, but worse than with Britax Romer, but my son told me that Hamax is better. I think the main reason for this is the responsiveness of the suspension. Long steel tubes of a seat tube mounted child seat results in long up and down movements and usually, there is not enough time for them to fully rebound between series of shocks. Hamax Caress uses two solid springs that can rebound much quicker making the ride more smooth. But, at the same time, you can clearly see that child on Caress is constantly moving up and down whereas on Jockey Comfort, because of the movement amplitude, the child seems to be more relaxed. And this can be very misleading and for sure, I also was thinking that because of this perceived movement, my son was more comfortable on Britax Romer than Hamax. But he says, that Hamax is better and who am I to say otherwise. Especially because I also enjoy riding with Hamax more…
How about the rider’s perspective?
Many bike riders think that riding on a drop-bar bike with a child seat is not fun, or even, not safe. I have to respectfully disagree. The main argument against the drop bar is the handlebar width. People usually say that you need a wide handlebar to feel secure and confident while riding with a child seat. From my experience, this is not the case. What is more, for a long time I was riding with a 44 cm wide handlebar and I recently switched to 42 cm because my bike fitter told me to do so. I feared that I will lose some confidence when riding but in reality, I did not lose anything and I can definitely say that you can ride safe and fast with child seat even on a road bike with a 42 cm wide handlebar. Of course, you feel the additional weight at the rear. No question about it. Especially when using a child seat like Britax Romer with seat tube mount. You definitely feel the additional forces that are trying to bend your bike’s frame and you have to grip the handlebar more tidily to counter those forces. I felt this the most when I was riding with my son when using Lauf Grit SL suspension fork. My child seat, especially when riding out of the saddle, was inducing a lot of bounciness in the fork itself. And this is why I also prefer to ride with something like Hamax Caress. Thanks to the rear rack mount and much shorter spring travel, this kind of child seat is making my rides much more enjoyable. I feel fewer forces trying to bend the bike and I can put less force into directing the bike itself. To be honest, it can be surprisingly close to the feeling of riding alone so there are times that I forget and ride may be too fast for a ride with a child at the rear… But this is how good Hamax Cares feels, both for me and my son.
How does Hamax Caress compares to Britax Romer child seat?
In terms of overall comfort, it is better but the lack of additional protective plastic around the child’s head is very disappointing. Forget riding with a sleeping child even despite the fact, that Caress allows you to fold back the whole seat (you simply need to turn the knob a few times to achieve that). Why? Precisely because there is nothing that child’s helmet can lean on and as a result, the head is freely moving from side to side on every bump. Which is a pity because the overall constant suspension movement can induce sleepiness in the child, especially a younger one. The seat-belt clamping mechanism also looks slightly less secure (although I did not encounter any problem with it) and the rubber over the belts (on the shoulder levels) is definitely too thick and not flexible enough which can cause abrasions on the child’s neck. Other than that, I perceive Hamax Caress as a very comfortable, well made, and very nice looking child seat that I can recommend.
Just ride with our kids!
I think that this is clear by now that I really enjoy riding with my son and I am glad that he enjoys our rides too. Much of that comes from the fact that he does not feel beaten even after really long rides and I have to thanks Hamax Caress for that. But even if you have something like Jockey Comfort, do not be afraid of longer, more adventurous bike rides with your kids. Just make sure to plan a lot of attractions along the way and do make a lot of stops so kids can burn some energy on their own. Otherwise, after a long ride, you will be exhausted and your child still will be full of energy. Which is not a great situation to be in, especially when all of that energy is targeted at you…