Towing Kids Bikes
22 May 2020 - Learning to Ride
Towing Kids Bikes: How to Ride Longer Distances with Children
For those of you who have been lucky enough to be enjoying regular family rides recently you may be finding that everyone is ready and excited to ride a little further. Maybe you’ve started to plan a ride to a local park or forest to enjoy a picnic? But what do you do if the way there was enough and tired legs don’t have the energy or inclination to pedal back again?
Luckily there are lots of different options available that allow you to connect your childs bike to the back of yours and simply tow them home!
For those who are not yet strong enough to self propel long distances, we’ve looked into seated options too. Our Tadpole Balance Bikes are super lightweight and easily attached to a backpack, so your toddler can sit down and enjoy the ride with you, but still enjoy a bit of two-wheeled action and not feel left out!
Things to Consider When Towing Kids on Bikes
Single Wheel Tag-a-Long
You may have seen the single wheel tag-a-long options but these only work when attached to your bike. They are not suitable if your child wants the option to cycle on their own for some of the way. If you would like to attach your child’s pedal bike then you will need to look at a towbar option.
Type of Riding
If you are riding in a particularly hilly area it would be wise to check the weight of the towing device, it will not be a fun time for you if you are having to pedal with a heavy towbar, bike and child on a hilly ride!
What type of terrain will you be using the towing device on? If you are planning on hitting the trails together then you will need to look at something less rigid. It will need to allow the bike to move around so that your child is able to have some control over their bike too.
For this reason, we have decided to discuss 2 rigid and 2 flexible options for towing.
You may want to invest in a mirror for your handlebars. Not only will this be useful if you are towing in built-up areas but allows you to keep an eye back there and make sure everything is OK.
Toe clips can be a handy trick to keep a child’s feet on their pedals, allowing them to fast pedal and increase their balance when connected to your bike. This will also reduce the risk of their legs being hit by the pedals.
Once you have attached your child’s bike, they are now the back end of your bike. Always make sure you have a rear light on their seat post too so that they can be seen easily if you are towing them on busy roads.
Towing a Kids Bike
Rigid Towbars for Children’s Bikes
The Trail-Gator Bicycle Tow Bar converts an ordinary child's bike into a towable trailer bike. When you want to use it you simply unclip the tow bar from the stored position on the adult's bike, extend it, and connect it to the receiver, which is mounted on the child's bike.
Once your child's bike is connected, the front wheel is lifted off the ground and a stabilizing bar prevents the handlebars from turning, leaving you in control of steering. Your child can decide if they want to coast or pedal whilst they are being towed.
If you don’t like the idea of a flexible rope then the Trail-Gator is one of your options. However, we have found it has received mixed reviews. One parent, Emma, had the following to say on her Trail-Gator:
I don’t like the flexibility of the trail gator as it never seems secure enough, it wobbles and can give the bike a lean. So for me, I’d love something that was a bit more secure and kept the bike straight but that you can disconnect and store on the bike still. Also, the heaviness of the front bracket makes even a Frog Bike heavy and we have found it marks the kids’ bikes frames.
However, when we asked Dominic what he thought of the Trail-Gator he had a more positive opinion:
It’s very easy to tow with and doesn’t really feel like there is much extra weight. It’s sturdy (but do remember to check everything is tight) and easy to take off both bikes if needed. You do need to be careful mounting it as it has scratched the bike a bit, but we love it and it means we can carry on if our little boy finds the ride too much by himself.
We would absolutely recommend the FollowMe Tandem, it has impressed us with its design and the quality of its components and we understand that it works well with our smaller bikes. It is a fantastic option for cycling in busy streets and towns as it keeps your child close behind, not allowing them to swing out into the road.
It works by lifting the child’s front wheel off the ground when they are attached. For this reason, they can not steer and practice their bike handling skills but they are safe and stable. It will also work with a pannier rack or rear child’s seat installed at the same time.
Although it takes a little longer than some other devices to install, once the parts are in place on both bikes they can stay in place and be tucked out of the way. It is suitable for kids bikes with 12” to 20” wheels.
At £225 it is not a cheap piece of equipment but it is quick and easy to use once installed, sturdy, safe, lightweight and durable and comes with a 2-year warranty. Click here for an in-depth review of the Followme Tandem.
It is good to be aware that many tag-along attachments require a specific fitting kit for use on what are known as hollow axles. All our small bikes have hollow axles. For example, Followme has a specific version/kit that must be used, so please ensure that you buy the correct fitting kit or version. We always recommend that you have these sort of devices fitted/installed and checked by a qualified cycle mechanic.
Flexible Towing Devices for Kids Bikes
The Tow-Whee is a fantastic budget option, offering a flexible tow rope a bit like a long bungee cord that works brilliantly on trails and cycle paths.
If you regularly hit the trails with your kids and find your rides are filled with giggles on the downhills and tantrums on the uphills then this could be the solution! Because they are still riding when attached it can really help to build your child’s off-road bike handling skills as they still have the opportunity to pedal and manoeuvre around obstacles.
The Tow-Whee's main purpose is to allow you to tether to a 2nd rider, without having the threat of the cord dangling into your wheels when they get closer to you. It adds a soft progressive pull as they get further behind and will bottom out gently and safely at its max.
The tension and length have been customised to fit adventure sports; so they are far enough back to see the trail but close enough to deal with technical terrain. It is for uphill only and needs to be disconnected before going down.
We have seen it used in a chain too! Florian Wiemeyer has ingeniously used 2 cords to join 3 bikes together to spread the towing load and keep everyone together!
If you’re a serious mountain biker it is worth noting it can be used with carbon seat posts and dropper posts. It can even double as a dog lead! Click here for an in-depth review of the TowWhee.
The TRAX MTB is similar to the Tow-Whee in that it attaches a child's bike to yours using a cord. However this time it is a thin, retractable Kevlar cord. At only 95g you won’t even notice this is attached to your bike and you can carry it in a bag or jersey pocket if needed.
It can be installed quickly (in less than 1 minute) without tools and is simply designed to be attached to the adults’ seat post using just 3 zip ties. A simple knot at the end of the cable allows for quick hooking and unhooking on all standard bicycle handlebar/stems.
It’s worth noting that it is super simple to detach and can even be detached by your child whilst riding! So if you have a feisty riding partner do keep an eye out back there to ensure they are still attached!!
|Towing Device||Towing Device Weight||Maximum Rider Weight||Price|
|Trail-Gator||1kg||31kg rider weight||£65 plus shipping|
|Followme Tandem||4kg||45kg including bike||£225 plus shipping|
|TowWhee||142kg||225kg!!||£40 plus shipping|
Kids Bike Seats
The style of bike seats we are looking at here will be ‘Front’ bike seats. Common in Holland and Scandinavia they have been increasing in popularity in the UK over recent years.
There are lots of rear child’s bike seat options too, which are perfect for shorter trips to the shops and swimming pool, but you can not easily chat together, point out things you see or keep an eye on them when riding when they are sat behind you. If you want to really give your child a true riding experience and instil a love of cycling then front seats are perfect.
Mac Ride was designed by a Scottish engineer, Glen Dobson and is for children aged 2 to 5. Some child front seats actively discourage the use on trails and MTB riding but that was the whole point of the Mac Ride being produced - to keep an active family riding when their kids came along!
It has a simple design which can be easily and quickly unclipped from your bike when you no longer need it and stored flat in a rucksack. The seat is attached to a clip on the top tube and can be adjusted as your child grows.
Your child can even stand up on the stirrups on the Mac Ride, sharing the handlebars with you to help guide toward the right path or the line of an upcoming berm. Your child learns to absorb the bumps in the path by bending legs and arms, just as you do, teaching those all-important MTB skills from a really early age!
Our parent tester, Richard, had this to say about his Mac Ride:
it is a more expensive option, but it works so well compared to a rear seat. I can speak to James and he can 'speak' back (he's still babbling with a few words like SHEEP!! 😂). Plus the weight is central to the bike, rather than being uneven and high up out the back.
I'm hoping that as he gets more comfortable with the Mac-ride that he will get used to positioning the bike and leaning around corners. I'm trying to encourage this by talking him through the trail "Left corner, lean over" "bump, hold on" etc. Which will all hopefully transfer through to more off-road riding on the Tadpole Mini when he's a little bigger and stronger.
I'd recommend the Mac ride, but I haven't tried any of the other brands. Our local bike shop is a supplier for the shotgun seat, but the design meant it didn't fit on my bike, another feature of the Mac-ride that, in my opinion, makes it more versatile.
The Shotgun seat is also designed for children aged 2 to 5 years (and up to 22kg in weight). The seat is fully adjustable to cover most mountain bikes and even some e-mountain bikes.
It has moulded rubber padding to protect your bike frame, and swaps between bikes easily with no special adaptors or clamps required. There are even mini handlebars available to fit on top of yours for your mini shredder to hold onto. Click here for a review on the Shotgun from Cyclesprog.
Frog parent, Nicola Kipling told us all about her experience with the Shotgun seat and why she loves it!
We started Leo off with the WeeRide, so he had a year of being upfront on a bike but safely fastened in. I think it's great that there are seats now where the kids can ride up front, as it seems so much more of an adventure for them looking ahead rather than just at your back for the whole ride. He loved being on Mum and Dads bike.
We made the move onto the shotgun just before Leo turned 2, he loved it from the start. I really do believe that it has helped him with his balance on his Frog Tadpole, which he got on his 2nd birthday. Since having him I've made the move onto an eBike as not as fit as I used to be, but still have my old mountain bike and I can easily transfer the shotgun seat from one bike to another, even though they're completely different frame sizes. Although Leo isn't fastened in, I have never worried about his safety as his feet fit securely on the footsteps with the straps and he holds onto my bars. He giggles and shouts weeee as we ride around so I know he's happy upfront!
I highly recommend the shotgun seat. If we go for rides as a family he can start out on his bike and then hop onto my bike with the shotgun seat attached when he gets tired, or too much uphill for him. I just strap his Frog bike onto my camelback. When he's not on my bike I barely even notice the shotgun seat there, it doesn't get in my way at all.
The WeeRide is another frame-mounted front seat option. The Safe Front is one of WeeRides front seat offerings and comes in two models - the standard, and the deluxe. The deluxe has additional seat and strap padding. This may prove more comfortable on longer rides or if your child is smaller and needs the extra padding.
There is no handlebar attachment with this seat and it is possible to use with younger children, it’s recommended for ages from 1-4 years. Though it can be used as soon as a child's neck muscles are strong enough ie. 6-9 months.
The SafeFront Child seat has movable enclosed footrests to ensure no dangling legs or feet and a 5 point safety strap. It claims to fit 99% of bikes as long as they are 16” frame or above. As well as footrests, the SafeFront comes with a headrest to support your child's head and neck if they fall asleep when you're riding. Very useful if you're out all day on your bike, or if your child has a tendency to fall asleep when you start moving!
Fitting takes just 20 minutes, but once installed, the seat can be removed in seconds for solo riding.
|Seat Name||Seat Weight||Recommended Age||Max. Weight Limit||Price|
|Mac Ride||2.4kg||2 - 5||27kg||£189 plus shipping|
|Shotgun||2kg||2 - 5||27kg||£120 plus shipping|
|WeeRide||3.7kg||1 - 4||18kg||£110 - £130 plus shipping|
Safety Hints and Tips When Towing a Child
Always ensure your child is wearing a bike helmet, whether they are in a front seat or attached to your bike. Safety on the bike is so important and it’s a great habit to get them accustomed to from an early age.
We mentioned earlier that it is important to add a rear light to their seat post now they are at the back. You can even pop a High-Vis jacket or rucksack on for extra visibility when being towed on busy roads.
Always ask your co-rider to stay seated (unless on the Shotgun seat). This is particularly important for when you are towing them with a rigid bar, the unbalance of them pedalling whilst standing will affect your ability to steer safely.
You may find they are happy to just sit and enjoy the ride but when they do decide to pedal like mad you will feel the difference! Don’t forget to boost morale and let them know how much you appreciate their pedal power. You can even get them to save their energy and just join in on the hills for a boost if you’re tiring!
Check-in regularly with your co-pilot, how are their energy levels? If they are getting tired and grumpy make sure you talk and engage with them, maybe make a pit stop and have a quick snack and a drink. We can tell when we’re getting tired, but for children, they can hit the wall with little or no warning!
It’s not unusual for young children to conk out completely and fall asleep as they’re being towed along. So do check regularly, if they fall asleep there’s always a risk they’ll fall off!
We hope there are enough options here to give you a good idea on which seat or kids bike towing device is best for your family bike rides. If you have any comments or recommendations on this subject get in contact with us on social media and share your knowledge!