Riding a motorcycle is not the safest form of transportation. Having a passenger is even more dangerous and having a passenger who is a child may even be illegal. It is not recommended that a child ever ride on the back of a motorcycle. If the child is young enough that they need a harness, they are too young to be on the back of a bike.
Check Local Laws
Some states have outlawed children under a certain age being passengers on motorcycles. Before considering a child harness for a motorcycle, check local laws first as it may not even be possible. Taking a child on a motorcycle where it is prohibited to do so may result in not only a traffic violation but possible criminal charges for child endangerment. The bike may also be impounded and extreme cases the child may be put in protective custody. There also may be local laws on the types of harnesses that can be used. For example, some states do not consider a safety belt sufficient and require a full harness.
Before considering a safety harness, ensure that the child has the right protective gear. Popular motorcycle equipment manufacturers offer equipment for children. Any seasoned rider knows the importance of equipment that fits properly, especially a helmet. Purchase a helmet, gloves, jacket, boots and leathers for the child. In the event of an accident, the equipment will go a long way in preventing injury. A full equipped child should be able to ride in comfort in the safety harness and keep this in mind when purchasing a safety harness; allow for extra room.
Riding Position and Harness Functionality
Most riders know that it is unsafe for the child (or any other passenger) to ride in front of the driver; however, when the child is behind the rider, the rider may not be fully aware of what the child is doing. The biker must take it as a given that the child will fall asleep, let go, fall to the side or fall backwards. The riding harness must take these factors into account. When purchasing a harness or safety belt make sure the straps are adjustable. The harness should last for many years and as the child grows the harness should be adjustable to accommodate the child's growth. Similarly the reverse is true, the harness should not be too big as this can result in the child not being secured properly. The harness should also allow the child some breathing room. Some harnesses pin the child right against the back of the driver which can result in an uncomfortable ride for the child. If possible test out several harnesses to see which one feels right for both the driver and the child.
Riding belts are the cheapest safety harness that is available to secure a child safely to the back of the bike. Little-riders.com offers a basic belt that securely harnesses the child to the driver of the motorcycle. Their system costs £48 and is basically two belts that are attached, one going around the rider and the other around the child. This system is recommended for older riders over the age of 10 who have some idea what it takes to be a responsible passenger.
Riding harnesses are the safest way to transport a child on the back of a motorcycle. Riding harnesses strap the child's whole body to the driver rather than just their waist. Riding harnesses cost more than riding belts and range in price from £97 to £260. Some of the leading manufacturers can be found at childridingbelt.com, ultimateplusonline.com and riderzragz.com. The "Back Rider Belt" offered by riderzragz.com is likely the safest belt as it offers the most protection and comprehensive harness system.
Home Made Harnesses and Seat Belts
It can be tempting to make a harness at home but be careful as a home made harness may actually be illegal. If it is legal to use a home made harness then select the appropriate materials. The harness should be constructed from strong, durable materials, similar to those found in motorcycle jackets such as treated leather or a textile such as nylon. Never put a seat belt on the bike, even if the motorcycle is a cruiser that has a rear seat with back rest; do not use a seat belt. In the event of an accident the child will be strapped to the bike which much more dangerous than falling to the ground.