Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

06 October 2013


When I was very young--which, believe it or not, I once was--bicycles with small-diameter (usually 20 inches) wheels and "banana" seats were popular.

The models oriented for girls were usually white or pink or lavender and had flowers, rainbows and such painted on them. But the ones for boys sported racing stripes and other things meant to evoke racing. 

One example of a girls' bike was the Schwinn Lil' Chik.  For boys, Schwinn made the "Krate" series (apple, orange and pea picker) while Raleigh offered the "Chopper".

Schwinn, Raleigh and other companies seem to have stopped making those bikes some time in the late 1970's.  If I recall correctly, the Consumer Products Safety Commission published a warning about them, or banned them outright.  I also heard that Schwinn, Raleigh and other companies that made such bikes were facing lawsuits from the families of kids who were injured when the bike toppled or, more commonly, when the struts of the banana seat broke.

It seems that nobody was even making those bikes or seats until a few years ago.  I don't know whether the government changed its regulations or whether the struts are better-designed or made with stronger materials than the old ones.  But, somehow, they are recapturing a part of the market and showing up in what would have been the most unlikely places:

I'm guessing that the banana seat on the back of this Trek hybrid is intended for a passenger.  I've ridden bikes with 15 to 25 kilos--about the weight of a young child-- loaded on the rear.  However, my loads--which usually consisted of clothing, camping and hiking equipment, notebooks and such--were packed into pannier bags attached to the sides of a rear rack.  Weight carried in that position is more stable than the same amount of weight fastened to the top of a rack--or on a banana seat.

I wonder what the safety record is for today's "banana" seats, especially given that increasing numbers of them are being attached to bicycles like the one in the photo.


  1. I think that this may be a hack as opposed to a mass produced product and as such is at the risk of the user.
    However with that said, I personally have given a ride to my cousin (180lb man) for about 2 miles once. Once I was accustomed to the balance it was no problem at all.

  2. My brother and I learned to ride after my dad brought home a second-hand bike with 20-inch wheels. When banana seat bikes hit the market a couple years later, we lusted after them. Our attempt at converting the bike to a banana seater fell woefully short. We managed to remove the fenders, and turned the handlebars to where they stuck straight up. For the seat, we carved a length of two by four into a rough banana shape, and we even scrounged up a piece of conduit that could pass for a sissy bar. But that's where the process ended. We never figured out a way to attach the "seat" to the bike. Probably a good thing because riding on a two by four would have been a real pain in the arse.

  3. zwordz--Interesting.

    MT--You and your brother seem very ambitious and creative, even if your attempt at converting the bike fell "woefully short." I never tried anything like that. In fact, I never owned a banana seat bike myself, although my two youngest brothers had them.