Biking with kids when they are young is (relatively) easy. Put them in a trailer or bike seat and ride away. A bigger challenge happens when your children are old enough to want — or insist upon — riding their own bike, but still too slow or weak to ride long distances quickly.
In these instances, we like using a tow rope or tow bar to help assist our little riders. Here are some of the best options for bike towing.
The Tow Whee offers the best bang for your buck. This bicycle tow rope lacks the ease of use of a retractable rope like the BicycleBungee (you have to connect and disconnect the rope each time and figure out a way to carry it), but for the price, it can’t be beaten.
It works well for mountain biking and for bike path riding. Thanks to the Tow Whee we’ve been able to tackle big mountain bike rides with our son that would have been impossible without it.
We also like the fact that it can be used with carbon seatposts and dropper posts.
Read Our Review: Tow Whee
Price: $39.99 (Last updated: 2023-11-30 at 13:15 – More Info)
Kids Ride Shotgun Tow Rope
The Kids Ride Shotgun tow rope is very similar to the Tow Whee (listed above), but has a flatter profile making it a bit easier to roll and store. They also offer a kids fanny pack that works well for transporting the tow rope when it’s not in use.
It’s compatible with carbon seat posts and droppers, and works great for mountain biking as well as city riding.
Read Our Review: Kids Ride Shotgun Tow Rope
Price: $60 (tow rope only), $90 (tow rope/hip pack combo)
Ideal for families who are looking for a way to safely tow their children in heavy traffic, the Follow-Me-Tandem actually lifts the child’s front wheel off the ground to pull them behind.
It does not allow the child to steer and gain bike handling skills in the same way that the BicycleBungee and Tow Whee do, but has the added benefit of keeping young children stable and safely tucked behind you.
It is also the only option we know of that will work with a rear child seat or a long-tail cargo bike.
Read Our Review: FollowMe Tandem
Price: $339.00 (Last updated: 2023-12-02 at 00:14 – More Info)
The BicycleBungee is an easy-to-use bungee cord that attaches to the adult’s seatpost and quickly hooks onto your child’s handlebars or stem. When not in use, the cord retracts back into its case that bolts onto the adult’s seatpost for easy transportation and storage.
This is the first tow setup that our family used with our son when he was young, and we highly recommend it to other families–both for around town and trail riding. The only things we don’t like about the BicycleBungee is the high price, and the fact that you can’t use it with a carbon fiber or dropper seatpost.
Read Our Review: BicycleBungee
Trail Gator Child Bike Tow Bar
While the Trail Gator isn’t our favorite system, we are including it here as one of the only viable child bike tow bar options. If you prefer the idea of a bar to a tow rope, then you might want to take a look.
Price: $78.38 (Last updated: 2023-12-02 at 00:14 – More Info)
Trax (Trax MTB, Trax Pro, & Trax Flex)
Trax offers three different tow rope options: the Trax MTB, Trax Pro, and Trax Flex.
The Trax MTB and Trax Pro are retractable Kevlar tow ropes that attach to the adult’s bike. Because they stow on the bike, they are super easy to use. You don’t have to worry about carrying or storing the tow rope when not in use, and it’s incredibly fast to pull out and attach to your child.
The Trax Flex is more similar to the Tow Whee or Kids Ride Shotgun ropes with one very noteable exception: it’s tiny! It can fit easily fit in a jersey pocket, for example.
Because it’s not as stretchy and doesn’t have as high of a weight rating, it’s not the rope I would use for frequent towing. But as a tow rope that you pull out for the occasional tow, it’s incredibly convenient.
Read Our Review: Trax
Price: 29.95 € – 49.95 €
If you don’t want to spend the money on a ready-made product, or just prefer to DIY stuff, we’ve seen a couple of creative solutions. We can’t vouch for the safety of using any of thse setups, but thought we’d share them as well.
Julie from Young Riders in Park City, UT recommends using a retractable dog leash* for hauling kids. She shared this idea with us:
I have created an excellent and cheap design. I bought a retractable dog leash for 40-50lbs and then cut the rope down to a little smaller length and then tied a bungee cord on the end to create a loop (taped it on to secure a little more). This loop fits around the kids top stem. The retractable unit gets zip tied underneath the adults seat and seat post. The pros: it retracts when the kid pops it off with one hand from his stem, so neither parent or child needs to stop biking to unhook. I made a few of these to have on each parents bike so who ever is close can hook up very fast. We leave the leash on the parents bike all summer and doesn’t interfere with our riding. But zip ties are cheap if anyone wants it off for adult rides.
Another option is to repurpose old bike tubes. We found this idea on an MTBR forum thread. Writes @benjaminj:
Comparison Chart: Bike Towing Systems
Bungee cord with two end loops
|Kids Ride Shotgun||9 oz||Bungee cord with two end loops|
|Trax Flex||1.8 oz||Bungee cord with two end loops|
|FollowMe Tandem||12 lbs||Coupling device that attaches to the adult’s rear axle|
Retractable bungee cord with mount and hook
|Trax MTB / Trax Pro||3.5 oz / 5 oz||Retractable bungee cord with mount and loop|
Detachable tow bar
More Options For Hauling Kids
Not sure a tow rope or tow bar is the best option for your family? Here are plenty of other ways you can haul your kiddos by bike.
The Rascals are a family of three. Kristen (mom), Blair (dad), and Parker (kiddo). We started Rascal Rides when Parker was born and we didn’t want to give up our passion for biking. As we learned, we shared. Over the years, we’ve tested hundreds of kids bikes, helmets, bike trailers, and more.
Kristen is a USA Cycling certified coach and loves to share her passion for biking with other families. Blair is a bike geek, mechanic, and mountain bike junkie. Parker is our resident tester and inspiration.
If you see us out on the trail, make sure to say hi!