The Hamax Observer is sleek, lightweight, and packed with thoughtful features. There are mounting brackets for both threaded and threadless headsets. This means there’s a good chance you can make this seat work with your bike no matter the style.
Loading the child into the seat can, for the most part, be done with one hand. This allows Mom or Dad to keep their other hand on the bike itself for stability. The seating position is more upright than some other front-mounted seats, like the Thule Yepp Mini. As a result, there is more room for the adult rider.
These reasons and more combine to make the Hamax Observer a great choice to become your “baby’s first bike seat!”
Review In A Nutshell
- Compatible with a wide variety of bikes
- One-handed harness and foot straps make loading the child safe and easy
- Low profile seatback leaves Mom or Dad enough room to pedal
- Washable seating material
- Optional front windscreen
- Should only be installed by confident home mechanics, otherwise, have a shop install
- Seat is physically small compared to the competition
Price and Where To Buy:
- $149 List
- Check price at HamaxUSA.com*
- Price not available at Amazon.com* (Last updated: 2024-02-05 at 03:24) – More info
Why a Front-Mounted Seat?
We love child bikes seats, and have tested a lot of them. In general, we favor front-mounted versus rear mounted seats, for a few reasons.
One, a front-mounted seat doesn’t affect the balance of the bike as much as a rear-mounted seat does. Two, front-mounted seats are generally compatible with a larger variety of bike. This includes many of today’s modern carbon and dual-suspension mountain bike frames.
Finally, having your child in front of you allows for more natural conversation. Your child provide endless entertainment with their running commentary of your latest bike adventure together!
One thing that must be stressed whenever using a child’s bike seat is safety. This begins with the installation.
Unlike the iBert bike seat, for example, the Hamax Observer requires removing the handlebar and stem to access the fork’s steerer tube when being used with a threadless headset, which is the most popular setup with today’s modern bikes.
If installing on a threaded stem, the Observer requires 2” of vertical clearance for the bracket. Due to this and the importance of installing the bracket properly, we recommend having this seat professionally installed by your local bike shop – remember, you can never be too careful when carrying your most precious cargo!
If a confident amateur mechanic, however, Mom or Dad can install the mounting bracket and slide the seat over it in about 10 to 15 minutes. The bracket is lightweight and unobtrusive, and is designed to stay on the bike during and after use.
Swapping Between Bikes
Additional brackets can be installed on an “extra bike,” allowing for quick swaps from Mom’s bike to Dad’s, or back. The Observer seat itself quickly mounts to whichever bracket you’ve chosen, and comes with a lock to keep the seat from wandering off when the bike is parked.
Doesn’t Touch The Frame
One very nice feature of the stem mount is that it prevents the seat from touching the bike frame, allowing the Observer to be used with pricey carbon frames, or whenever a parent doesn’t want the seat touching their bike frame.
The Observer uses a plastic shell covered by soft foam and cloth pads that are removable for washing. The footrests are height-adjustable, however, the shoulder straps are not. In practice, this shouldn’t be an issue, as once a child has a need for the shoulder straps to be adjusted vertically, they’ll be moving on to a larger seat.
Rubber padding on the shoulder straps is another nice touch, providing the child with comfort while assuring Mom or Dad their wiggly little one won’t squirm out of the harness while underway! One-handed operation of the various safety straps (both shoulder/chest and foot) has become one of Hamax’s signature features, and something we really enjoy.
Unlike many rear mounted child seats, the Observer doesn’t have any reflectors for low-light visibility, but since the seat is blocked by the parent’s body, this shouldn’t matter. From a safety standpoint, proper lights and reflectors should always be used by the parent in any low-light situation.
The Hamax Observer in Use
Designed for children ages 9 months and older, with a weight limit of 33 lbs., the Hamax Observer is a great starter seat for babies and small toddlers. Loading the child into the seat couldn’t be easier, thanks to Hamax’s smart one-handed strap and buckle designs, which even extend to the well-designed foot-straps that can also be engaged and tightened with one hand.
The seat itself puts the child in an upright position and provides them with a great view of the road or bike path ahead. Although we didn’t test it, Hamax wisely (or kindly) sells a windscreen which will keep the bugs and wind out of baby’s face if desired.
Mounted to a size small Diamondback hybrid bike, the Observer provided adequate space for both child and rider, however, despite being height adjustable, the footrests limit the steering range of the bike due to frame contact at more extreme turning radii.
While this may seem to be an issue, we found it less concerning than it may appear at first glance, as the Observer is designed for very mellow rides on smooth, paved surfaces. Make no mistake, this seat is NOT designed for rough trails and should never be used for mountain biking!
If mountain biking on singletrack is the desire, a shotgun seat like the Mac Ride should be used, and the child should be at least two years old and able to comprehend instructions and communicate with their parent. If the goal is riding on the local rail trails, pedaling around the neighborhood, or running errands in a bike-friendly town, however, the Observer proved comfortable and competent.
Our two year old daughter weighs 27 pounds, and fit nicely in the Observer. A veteran of the aforementioned Shotgun seat, she was initially confused as how to sit in the seat; she kept trying to reach for the handlebars! Once we explained to her that this style seat is more about sitting back and enjoying the ride, she seemed to settle in, with her arms casually draped over the molded armrests.
One of the nicest features of a front-mounted child bike seat is the limited affect it has on the ride itself. Unlike a rear-mounted seat, where the weight is out over or beyond the rear axle, a front-mounted seat keeps the weight centered between the rider’s arms, and doesn’t have nearly the same influence on the bike’s center of gravity when turning. For confident intermediate cyclists, riding with a child up to the max weight of 33 pounds should not be an issue.
It should be noted that smaller bikes will leave less room for the rider when the Observer is mounted. Our size XS (13”) Diamondback women’s bike has an effective top-tube length of 22”, and our 5’ tall test rider said that while it was comfortable, our two-year old daughter (she stands 34” tall) would not fit in the Observer on that particular bike much longer. Your mileage will vary depending on the size of the parent, the size of the child, and the size of the bike.
Is the Observer Missing Anything?
One enjoyable aspect of some other front-mounted children’s seats we’ve tried, such as the iBert, is a slight amount of recline to the seat itself. This comes in handy when a child inevitably falls asleep on the bike. The Observer has a more upright seating position, so be aware the child may not be perfectly comfortable if they fall asleep.
Unlike the Thule Yepp Mini, the Observer does not have any type of handlebar for the child to hold. However, it does have armrests that our daughter delighted in holding on to.
Kiddo sleeping in the iBert (left). The handlebar of the Thule Yepp Mini (right).
The lack of a visual indicator to confirm the seat is mounted properly on the bracket was disconcerting. Hamax includes this feature on the Caress, their rear-mounted seat.
In this case, without visual confirmation, it’s imperative to make sure you feel and hear a solid click when installing the seat on the mounting bracket. As with any child seat, it’s always best to install using a torque wrench, and check the bolts for proper tightness prior to each ride.
Safety You Can Trust
Being a European company, Hamax certifies their child bike seat products to the ASTM and TUV standards. At just six pounds, the seat and the child don’t overwhelm the cyclist’s balance. It is easy to mount or dismount the bike while holding the seat with one hand for extra safety.
The Bottom Line
A front-mounted bike seat is a great way to get the youngest riders in a family out on a bike ride. In fact, it can set the tone for a lifelong love of cycling!
The Hamax Observer is a great choice for that first bike seat. It’s light weight, easy installation, comfortable seat and straps, and smart features make Mom and Dad’s life just a little easier.
The dual mounting options (for both threaded and threadless stems) and contactless nature of the seat allow for nearly any bike to accommodate the Observer. And if you want to swap it between bikes, buying and installing an extra mounting bracket is both quick and affordable.
At $129, the Hamax Observer is priced right in the middle of the competition. It comes in nearly $70 lower than the Thule Yepp Mini ($199), and priced slightly above the iBert Safe-T-Seat. It’s thoughtfully designed, well built, and will provide years of enjoyment on family bike adventures!
Learn More About Bike Seats & Child Bike Carriers
About The Reviewer
Chris Del Sole has been an avid cyclist for over 20 years. He is now sharing his love of the sport with his wife and three children. A Marketing Director by day, in his free time he can be found riding, working on, looking at, talking about, and generally geeking out over bikes. In the winter, he spends his weekends teaching skiing and encouraging his kids to “send it” off every jump in sight.
Since the writing of this article Chris has left his track down the trail and passed on. He will be forever missed and thought of often. Chris, thank you for the indelible mark you left on this world.