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Towing your kid on their bike can help encourage them to ride for longer and give them an all-important boost when riding on uphill tracks. There are several tow devices out there that can make your family bike ride a little easier.
We’ve put together a guide with some of our favorites to help you find the right one.
Why Tow Your Kid’s Bike?
Towing your child’s bike can mean longer family bike rides that may otherwise be too much for your child’s little legs. One of the main benefits of towing is that it can help your child navigate uphill trails without getting left behind. It can also let you ride at a quicker pace than if your child was riding on their own.
Rigid towing devices may let you feel a little safer knowing your child is directly behind you, which can be useful in busy areas.
Is It Safe To Tow A Bike?
If the connection between the two bikes is secure it can be safe to tow a child’s bike, as long as your child knows how to balance and pedal on their own and they understand not to jump off.
Your child should always wear a helmet.
You should also consider that your child’s bike will essentially become the back of your bike, particularly with rigid tow devices where your child is directly behind you. Lights and reflectors should be installed on the back of your child’s bike or seat.
One thing that can make towing difficult is if your child becomes unbalanced. This can make it awkward to steer. If your child is heavy, this can also affect balance and your ability to ride safely.
What Are The Different Ways To Tow Your Child And How Do They Connect?
Flexible Tow Device
A flexible towing device can be a bungee-style rope, used for towing your child behind you. Being flexible, the rope allows your child to maneuver around rocks and other obstacles, unlike a more rigid device that would simply follow in the path of the leading bicycle.
Flexible tow ropes can be ideal for off-road trails and mountain biking because of the freedom they can give your child. This can also mean it’s more convenient on narrow trails, such as being able to freely turn tight corners or ride over hilly or bumpy terrain.
Video: TowWhee in Use
These types of tow devices can usually be easily attached to your child’s bike, usually on the stem of the handlebars by looping or clipping the connector. The other end can often be looped around your saddle or seat post. However, some types may require additional installation for a semi-permanent attachment.
However, flexible tow ropes are designed more for kids who can confidently ride their own bike. When you squeeze the brakes, your child’s bike will not stop. In this situation, your child will need to apply their own brakes. Similarly, when traveling downhill, your child will also need to apply their own brakes to slow their pace, otherwise they could end up in front of you, which might unhook the connection.
For this reason, it’s best to use tow ropes only on uphill climbs.
On the other hand, you can use the tow device for downhill riding by connecting the rope the opposite way, having it connected to your handlebars and your child’s saddle. This can let you ride downhill together while keeping your child from gaining too much speed. We don’t recommend this option unless both you and your kids are very confident in your abilities.
Because your child will generally have more control over their steering, speed and braking, it’s not advisable to use a flexible tow device on roads with a lot of traffic or areas with a lot of stopping and starting. This is because you may not be able to stop their bike quickly in an emergency.
These types of devices should be used in safe environments away from busy roads and they’re generally designed for mountain biking.
Fixed Tow Device
A fixed tow device is generally a rigid device with a hitch that often secures onto the seat post of the adult bike or a separately installed rack. If it’s a towing bar device, the opposite end can usually be attached to the front tube on your child’s bike.
In many cases, these types of devices will tend to require more in the way of installation compared to a tow rope, for example, and will usually come with hardware to be fixed to the bikes.
Fixed towing devices can sometimes feel safer if you plan to ride on roads, as this can keep your child directly behind you, unlike a rope which could allow them to veer into the road. It can also mean you can hit the brakes more safely, effectively stopping your child’s bike since it is directly attached to yours.
When braking while towing a fixed-arm tow device, it can be safer to hit the brakes gradually to prevent the force of inertia from your child’s bike from forcing yours forward.
However, this can also give your child less freedom, as they have no control over their direction, which may not be as convenient if you’re on a trail with lots of bumps and bends. On the other hand, the reduced freedom can be more suitable for younger children who might not be ready to cycle on their own.
Video: How to Install a Tow Bar to a Kid’s Bike
Some rigid tow devices may let you tow the bike on its own, which can be ideal for after you’ve dropped your child off at school as you can easily tow the bike home.
Top 5 Best Devices For Towing Your Kid On Their Bike
1. Shotgun Kids MTB Tow Rope (best overall)
This Shotgun MTB Tow Rope is a strong and durable bungee cord that is designed to be used for mountain biking and off-road trails. It has a huge 500-pound load capacity, so it can even be used to tow weary adults.
It features a shock-absorbing design for rugged trails and it’s built to be easy to attach. You can attach it by connecting one end of it to the adult’s seat and the other end can either go over or around the handlebar stem on your child’s bike (depending on your preference), with loops and carabiner included.
This extends from 5.5 feet to 10.8 feet.
- Strong – high load capacity for towing kids and adults
- Easy to attach – loops around seat and handlebars
- Built for mountain trails – bungee moves easily around tight bends
2. Trail Gator Tow Bar (best tow bar)
This Trail Gator Tow Bar can be a good idea if you want to keep your child a little closer behind you, for example, if you’re on roads with traffic. This bar can be attached to your seat post, with the other end attaching to the head tube on your child’s bike. It can also be detached from the child’s bike while staying attached to the adult bike.
It’s designed to work with kids’ bikes between 12 and 20 inches. It’s also recommended that the towing adult weighs at least twice as much as the child being towed.
- Tows directly behind the adult bike – ideal for roads and straight paths
- Can be stowed on the adult bike – when not towing
- Can tow an empty bike – ideal for school pick up and drop off
3. Burley Piccolo Trailer Bike (best tow bike)
The Burley Piccolo Trailer Bike is a bike with one 20 inch wheel that is designed to be attached to most adult bikes. However, you may encounter installation issues if your bike has mechanical disc brakes, as the attachment frame may get in the way.
This is designed to be sturdy and comfortable for kids to ride. It features adjustable handlebars and an adjustable seat, with a lightweight aluminum frame. It also benefits from having an over-axle pivot attachment plus ball-bearing guided pivots in the hitch system that are built to maximize stability and reduce wobbling.
There is also a mudguard to prevent your child from being splashed by your rear wheel.
- Stable frame – reduces wobbling/swaying for straighter cycling
- Adjustable seat and handlebars – for different sizes of kids
- Bike with 20-inch wheel – kids can pedal and change gears as if on their own bike
4. Weehoo Thrill Bicycle Trailer (best for younger kids)
This Weehoo Thrill Bicycle Trailer can be a great option for towing younger or smaller kids who aren’t quite ready to pedal on their own two wheels.
It features a single 20-inch wheel and a curved tow bar for added clearance over the adult bike’s wheels. The comfortable seat benefits from having two built-in cup holders, a sun canopy, and a five-point safety harness to keep your child secure.
There are handles at the sides for your child to grab hold of and they can pedal along with you. There’s also a rain canopy included.
- Comfortable seat – kids can nap if they get tired
- Trailer-style – great for younger kids who aren’t ready for their own two wheels
- Rain canopy included – keeps your child dry
5. TowWhee Original Bike Bungee Tow Rope (best budget tow rope)
The TowWhee Original Bike Bungee is an all-weather bungee tow rope that is designed to be used for a variety of activities, including skiing, biking, and kayaking. It offers great value and can be a good quality device despite being at a lower price point.
This can be a simple device to install, connecting to the adult’s saddle and the child’s handlebars. There are optional extras (sold separately here and here) that can make it quicker and easier to attach.
This can be a good option for mountain biking, letting you handle corners and uneven uphill ground more easily while towing. It extends from 4.5 feet to 12 feet and can haul 500 pounds.
- All-weather durability – can be great for other outdoor sports too
- Easy to attach – can be looped around points on the bikes
- Extends to 12 feet – bungee rope is ideal for towing uphill
The best tow device for kids’ bikes is the Shotgun MTB Tow Rope because it is strong and easy to use, giving your child the freedom of navigating obstacles on mountain trails.
A great runner-up is the Trail Gator Tow Bar which can be great for taking kids to school and bringing the bike back on its own. Remember to think about where and why you plan to tow your child, as this can help narrow down your options.
Not all of these towing devices will work for everyone, so it can be important to make sure they’ll fit your needs first.
Read more: How to attach a trailer to a bike