You know the scene. You’ve decided to take junior on a trail ride, and things are going great. She’s ripping all the downhills, you’re laughing together, it’s a beautiful afternoon and you’re out riding with your kid. But then, half-way up a big climb, she slows waaaay down and then stops suddenly in the middle of the trail. She slumps over the handlebars and dramatically announces that she can’t go on.
Enter the Tow-Whee. The Tow-Whee is an ingenious little bicycle tow rope that allows you to haul your child up big hills (or little hills for that matter), making real trail rides possible with young riders. And while the Tow-Whee seems to be heavily marketed at the mountain bike community, it also works equally well on long rides around town. In fact, for parents who live in cities with lots of hills, the Tow-Whee is a must.
Review in a Nutshell
- Makes long, hard rides possible with a young child
- Multi-sport applications
- Can be used with any seatpost
- Requires frequent hooking and unhooking
- No self-storage
Price & Where to Buy:
- $39.99 at TowWhee.com
Tow-Whee Detailed Review
The Tow-Whee in Use
One end of the Tow-whee connects to the adult’s saddle, the other connects to the child’s handlebars or stem. With the optional quick loop and caribiner, you can leave one of the two ends attached which decreases the the amount of time that it takes to connect and disconnect. The process of hooking and unhooking is quick — it takes less than a minute once you have the hang of it.
Once we’re hooked up, we like to count down (“1, 2, 3”) and then start pedaling. The Tow-Whee will stretch surprisingly far and does an excellent job of absorbing the load in a way that isn’t jarring. Not surprisingly, you can definitely feel the weight of your little passenger, but it requires significantly less work than a trailer-cycle and maneuvers much better.
The Tow-Whee performs best on sustained climbs where it is easy to maintain a steady load and distance between bikes. It works less well on undulating single track, and in these circumstances, we find ourselves hooking and unhooking frequently. The other minor issue is where to store the Tow-Whee when not in use since it doesn’t come with any kind of storage solution. I stuff mine in my hydration pack, but it takes up the space I would normally use for a jacket. Fortunately, it weighs almost nothing and doesn’t add any extra effort to sometimes-challenging family bike rides.
Allows child to develop skills
Compared to a trailer-cycle, the Tow-Whee is far superior in terms of building your child’s endurance and bike handling skills. Even when towing your child uphill, they have the opportunity to put in real work and maneuver obstacles. Once at the top of the hill, you can unhook your child and let them cruise solo — something you can’t do with a more traditional towing solution.
We’ve always enjoyed doing big trail rides with our son. Around his first birthday we started taking him mountain biking in the iBert seat. Then came the Weehoo. Eventually, however, he began to ask more and more often to ride his own bike and wanted to ride it for longer distances. At five, he’s gotten really good at downhills and flats, but still struggles on the uphills with his single-speed 16″ bikes.
The Tow-Whee performs incredibly well on singletrack. There is no big turning radius so you can easily make uphill switchbacks and other tight spots. On technical sections, it helps “pull” your child up and over obstacles but doesn’t do the steering for them — they are still able to learn how to maneuver challenging trail and pick their own line.
I’ve directed my son to yell “stopping” if he ends up dabbing or otherwise can’t make it over an obstacle.
Ability to use with any seatpost
One of the things we were most excited about with the Tow-Whee is our ability to use it with any of our bicycles. So many kid-haulers (trailer-cycles, bike seats, bicycle trailers, etc) are not compatible with a carbon seatpost or dropper post — which precludes almost all of our bikes.
That said, we’re not 100% convinced that we won’t eventually do some sort of damage to a seatpost or saddle. Tow-Whee recommends looping one end around the saddle. I didnt find this particularly comfortable or confidence-inspiring, so I’ve been looping mine around the rails which might not be the smartest choice. At the end of the day, though, the Tow-Whee is awesome enough that I’m willing to replace a saddle or seatpost if it ever came to that. They do sell an optional belt to use instead if you are really worried about it….
For riders just learning to ride steep or long downhills, the Tow-whee can actually be used in reverse. Simply, attach the bungee to the parent’s handlebar and the child’s saddle to help control their speed on big descents.
We haven’t tried it for anything other than bicycling yet, but am excited to know we have that option. The Tow-Whee also works for downhill skiing or cross country skiing. Compared to rigid leashes we’ve used in the past with our son, I can see the Tow-Whee performing incredibly well.
Compared to a trailer-cycle, the Tow-Whee is a killer deal. You can’t even find a trailer-cycle on Craigslist for $40. As I’ll mention again in the next section, there are a couple of other comparable products on the market, but none are as affordable as the Tow-Whee.
The closest competitors to the Tow-Whee are the BicycleBungee and the TrailGator. All things considered, I like the Tow-Whee best.
In terms of ease of use, the BicycleBungee has the Tow-Whee beat. The bungee easily retracts into a mount on the adult’s seatpost. This makes attaching and detatching REALLY easy, and solves the storage issue for you. No need to stuff anything in your hydration pack. Unfortunately, the BicycleBungee is also REALLY expensive ($200), and it can’t be used with a carbon or dropper post. For this reason, the Tow-Whee is the more logical choice for most families.
Compared to the TrailGator, the Tow-Whee wins easily. If you’re not familiar, the TrailGator is a tow bar that connects two bicycles – a sort of detachable trailer-cycle. Unfortunately, it creates a wide turning radius that makes it difficult to use on singletrack, and because it is a bar, it is awkward to carry on long rides. It also happens to be more expensive than the Tow-Whee.
Bungee cord with two end loops
Retractable bungee cord with mount and hook
Detachable tow bar
For families who taking cycling seriously, the Tow-Whee is a vital accessory. It makes long rides and big hills possible with minimal whining and minimal frustration. Unlike a trailer-cycle, the Tow-Whee gives kids the opportunity to practice their bike handling skills and improve their endurance. Due to its affordable price, featherlight weight, and ease of use, the Tow-Whee becomes the clear winner in the category for most families. If I had an extra thumb, I’d give the Tow-Whee three big thumbs up.
- $39.99 at TowWhee.com