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I have a Weeride child seat, mounted atop my top tube. from manual

I am concerned that if my handlebars turn abruptly, they will stab my child (please do say if there's a better term for this than stab). How do I manage this risk? I'm interested in both types of safety measures:

  • active safety: to reduce the risk of handlebars turning abruptly;
  • passive safety: to reduce the harm it the handlebars do turn abruptly.

Why it's a concern on some bikes only

With the shapes and sizes of my frame and parts, the handlebars happen to have just the right position and length to do that - please see the video and photos below.

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I see many reasons why the handlebars could turn abruptly. The obvious ones are falls and crashes.

But I'm also concerned about that situation when they sometimes turn when I am stationary: perhaps while I'm seating my child in the seat, or adjusting the straps. While I have both my hands off the handlebars, the bike leans slightly, and the handlebars suddenly turn, perhaps because the front wheel turns rather than leans because of friction etc. I don't like quora but it's the best record I could find for this phenomenon: When the bike leans, what causes the front wheel to turn?. It's something that happens quite a bit and it's not really a problem if it wasn't for the relative position of my handlebars and the weeride.

My bike is fairly standard, it's a Giant Rock from probably around 2005. An entry-level hardtail MTB.

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Ideas which I considered so far

Move the seat

I cannot move the seat, by design it is at a fixed distance from the head tube (the bar it sits on is telescopic, but it's the rear part that moves).

Replace stem/handlebars

Naturally I could replace the stem and/or handlebars. For example, longer handlebars would stop against the side of the seat. And shorter ones would just swing well clear of the child altogether.

Flanged BMX grips

I do need to get some new grips anyway, so it crossed my mind to get some flanged ones, also known as BMX grips. My logic is that they would both blunt an impact (larger object) and soften it (softer object). I think it's the best option, but I still think there may be a downside I haven't considered.

Turn limiters

Some kids bikes have turn limiters and I bet it's possible to install one on an adults bike. However, this wouldn't work for me. I do want to keep the ability to turn the handlebars 180°, because it allows me to easily put my bike in my car with just the wheels off (bike wheels, not car wheels).

Always keep one hand on the handlebars, even if stationary

It's free and simple, but not always possible.

Recap

How do I deal with this risk? Are my ideas any good? Are there any other options?

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    I don't think "stab" is the right word, as it refers to thrust along the line of the (sword or) handlbars. The bars can't go parallel to the toptube with that front bit they call a pedestal, so even if the child slid forwards due to an impact, they wouldn't hit the very end of the bar. It sounds far more like the grip coming round and hitting them - or while riding two-handed, your hand/forearm would make contact first.
    – Chris H
    Jul 23, 2023 at 11:52
  • To minimize risk while installing/removing the child, stand at the front of the bike with the front wheel between your legs. You become the brace that keeps the wheel from turning while getting the kid seated & buckled in. As far as accidents when riding, well, do what you can to avoid them, but remember, they're accidents - you're not doing things to intentionally endanger your child, right?
    – FreeMan
    Dec 13, 2023 at 18:27

2 Answers 2

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I used rear seats, but found a double kickstand made lifting my daughter on much easier. I could steady her or the bike, rather than needing to do both. That reduces the chances of the bars getting knocked while getting on.

As for crashes, with a child seat, you really don't want to crash. The sort of crash that would be most likely to hit a child with the bars is the sort that's most under your control - a head-on impact, or clipping the bars going through a narrow gap. So don't ride up kerbs (not that you'd want to with a child on there), and be more willing to put a foot down if there's a squeeze

You certainly could change your bars, to ones that, in the worst case, hit the seat or the rest in front of it. A shorter stem may have the same effect with less effort, and may even be good as you'll need to sit more upright. A wider hand position may also be required with a child between your arms.

I'd be very wary of going to narrower bars, not just because the gap between your arms would shrink, but because steering with a child seat at low speed is easier with longer bars.

Changing the grips is certainly a good idea. A lot of the ones used on kids' bikes and scooters are up there with the best BMX grips for cushioning on the ends.

I've never used one, but steering dampers don't (all) limit total travel. They increase the force needed to turn the bars a long way (so for loading in the car, you might need to strap the bars to the toptube). That should be comparable to keeping a hand lightly on the bars. Some bike seat manufacturers recommended them. Some are also quick-release. I suspect those do limit the total travel, but are designed for your use case.

A hard stop on handlebar movement significantly short of hitting the seat would be a bad idea as it would affect low speed handling (and I found I did more riding at very low speed with a child seat than without). Damping or progressive limiting with a spring is better for handling

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If you consider this from a risk perspective risk, alongside all the other risks of cycling with a child, the likely hood is moderate, dropping to low with experience. The level of injury is low. Risk management is about looking at all the risks. Eliminating is not always an option (as I suspect is the case here), mitigating where you can and accepting those that cannot be eliminated or mitigated. Acknowledging the risk does not mean you have to eliminate it.

In this case, most people have probably not thought about it, and those that have will have accepted it. In reality, the legal framework means the manufacturers are expected to do this for the consumer. In a pure business sense, ignoring ethics, how many seats would they need to sell to offset the cost of losing one lawsuit.

If you decide to do something, think about the accident scenarios and make sure you are not making the situation worse, especially in worst case accidents. Bars swinging while loading the bike might result in a minor injury, if solving that exposes your child to increase risk of major injury in a fall, you are probably better to accept the risk of minor injury.

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