Developing the Shotgun Pro child seat
Back in 2019, we launched our frame mounted shotgun seat to the world.
And for most of the globe, it was a relatively new concept at the time. Designed for kids 2-5 years old, and with no harness or restraint in sight, the original shotgun seat was designed to put your little one at the front of the action, giving them a great riding experience, whilst allowing MTB parents to share their love of singletrack.
And as most product designers will tell you, the moment you put your product out into the world, you start thinking about the next version – and that’s certainly been the case with the Shotgun Pro. We’ve been thinking about it and working on it for over 2 years now.
So with the above in mind, we thought we’d share a behind-the-scenes look at the last 24 months of the Shotgun Pro seat development – thanks to our product manager Stu (right) and co-founder and part-time product guy Tom (left).
Starting development of the Shotgun Pro
As with all of our products, we began with our purpose. The original shotgun seat has been amazing in helping to raise thousands of mini mountain bikers all over the world, which is what we're all about – but we also knew that there were a few things that could be improved upon.
“There are lots of things I would have liked to have done differently on the original shotgun seat, but I simply couldn’t due to time, resources and costs for our start-up business.” - Tom
The Shotgun Pro presented an opportunity to make a new product that addressed the shortcomings of the original shotgun seat, an opportunity to make the ultimate kids MTB seat.
So, with years of feedback on the original shotgun seat from the best testers out there (our customers!), we had a pretty clear idea of the key features we wanted to see in the Shotgun Pro.
First and foremost, the Shotgun Pro had to be compatible with electric bikes
- E-bikes have been growing in popularity year on year, and we can all appreciate the benefit of a little extra power when you’ve got your kid on board. Long story short, we needed a solution for e-mtb families.
Secondly, we wanted the Shotgun Pro to have zero frame contact
- Although customers have been using the original shotgun seat on carbon bikes the world over with no issues, we know there are still parents out there who don’t want to attach anything to the frame of their bike. For the Shotgun Pro, zero frame contact was an absolute must.
Last of all, we wanted a seat that was fast to attach and remove, and looked epic!
- The original shotgun seat is on and off in a minute or two, but every second counts when you’ve got a toddler in tow, or a tantrum on the horizon.
- We also wanted to elevate the new product by adding in far more adjustability – whilst creating a product that looks like it belongs on your modern high-end mountain bike.
Defining the design direction for the Shotgun Pro
Armed with the guiding principles above, we put together a brief to dictate the features we wanted to include, so that we could start to ring-fence our design options.
“With the Shotgun Pro, we thought – if we throw everything at it, and try to design the perfect product, what would that look like?” - Stu
The need for zero frame contact drove the biggest design decision – which led to the question, if you can’t touch the frame of the bike, what can you touch? How will it attach to the bike?
In terms of mounting, we looked at a huge range of options. Down the stem, around the headset, from the seat post, attaching to the saddle and many more. We looked at all the prior art for kids bike seats – right back to the first child seat design in 1876, through to the present day, and all the variations along the way.
It was some heavy bed-time reading, but it had to be done.
After what seemed like a mountain of research, we concluded (like others before us have) that the most logical mounting was between the seatpost and the stem, as these are the two load points on the majority of bikes. Also, these two mounting locations are fairly consistent across bikes, which was important for compatibility. Whilst a lot of bike components have a huge range of variance between brands, the seatpost and stem are fairly common – and can accommodate third party accessories.
“We know we’re not the first brand to design a seat that mounts between the stem and the seatpost, in fact the first designs date back to the 90’s. We did look at a few other options around the headset, but at the end of the day, the steering column turns, and we didn’t want the Shotgun Pro to turn with the bars.” – Stu
With the mounting method established, the second part of the brief (that heavily affected the design), was the need for the Shotgun Pro to fit e-mtb’s. E-bikes have wide downtubes to accommodate batteries, they have computers on the bars, buttons on the top tubes and various unique features to consider when designing a child seat.
Understanding e-mtb’s helped us to establish the design envelope of features and adjustability. And once the design limitations had been fleshed out, Tom and Stu started to map out the feature stack. Fast forward to today, and we’re really stoked with what we’ve managed to pack into a small and sleek design – things like:
- Fast fitting and removal
- Adjustable saddle, angle & rail
- Telescopic legs with two width settings
- Integrated rubber leg protection
- MTB style grippy foot-pegs
Challenges with developing the Shotgun Pro
Despite all the positives – the development process wasn’t without its challenges. There have been 12 full versions of the Shotgun Pro to date, all of which have been through the prototyping and testing process.
One feature that caused a lot of trouble was making sure the seat legs sat entirely behind the kids legs, ergonomics has been a focus point, we didn’t want the passengers legs to hit any part of the seat when they rode. That one decision drove a lot of technical headaches, and ultimately resulted in the development of a part affectionately referred to as the ‘brain’ – all the working bits underneath the saddle.
“Integrating all of the features we wanted into a small package was the real challenge for this product. The most complex bit is the brain, there’s a lot of technical design work in there.” - Stu
Testing the Shotgun Pro
Next came the testing. We went out to the major testing companies in the US and Europe to get their view of what they deemed appropriate for this category, and then we’ve also integrated our own information from what we've learned over the last couple of years.
The Shotgun Pro has gone through cyclic testing (thousands of repetitions of simulated use), load testing to the point of failure so we can set weight limits well within safe ranges, and environmental testing. That’s not to mention the hours of trail time that our in-house testers have put into the product.
Looking to the future, Tom and Stu say development is always ongoing on existing products.
“We certainly didn’t hold anything back, but there are a few things that we would have loved to get into the product, but it wasn’t possible at this stage. We’ve already started making a bit of a list – as any product designer knows, you can always make improvements, and the product is never really finished.” - Tom
Our favourite design features
When it comes to the final product, Stu and Tom have a couple of personal favourites in terms of features.
“For me, it’s the brain mechanism under the seat. I spent a long time on it, and although it looks simple – it’s taken 10-12 evolutions of design to get finished. There’s a huge amount of time in there. It’s a unique bit of kit, and I’m really proud I’ve what we’ve pulled together” – Stu
For Tom, it was a little harder to narrow down...
“I don’t think there are many other child seat products that have the range of adjustment and design complexity that this product has. For me, the highlights are a combination of key aspects, like the way the saddle can be levelled, the way the legs fold up flat so you can hang it on the wall – the shape of the top tube, and how that mimics the shape of a MTB top tube. Also, I really like some of the details that everyday customers might not notice, the fact that every sliding mechanism is bushed and has a nice feel to it, the black on black brand aesthetic and little design details like the printed torque settings. It’s hard to pull it down to a single feature, as it’s how it’s all come together that I’m most proud of. The product team have really smashed it out of the park with this product, it's going to create a lot of smiles for a lot of kids!” – Tom
The Shotgun Pro seat is now available in-store and online. Learn more about the Shotgun Pro.