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 TowWhee. The TowWhee 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 TowWhee 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 TowWhee 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:
TowWhee Detailed Review
The TowWhee in Use
One end of the TowWhee 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 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.
We’ ve also recently discovered the TowWhee fast stem hook accessory* that we really like. This makes hooking and unhooking even faster, and older kids can do it on their own. Watch the little video below, if you’re curious.
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 TowWhee 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 or hip 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 TowWhee 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.
Eventually, however, he began to ask more and more often to ride his own bike and wanted to ride it for longer distances. By age five, when we first got the TowWhee, he had gotten really good at downhills and flats, but still struggled on the uphills with his single-speed 16″ bikes.
At age 7, he uses the TowWhee less frequently but we still bring it along on nearly every ride. It’s good insurance in case he tires out, and lets us do bigger climbs that we would be able to do otherwise.
The TowWhee 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 TowWhee 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.
When we first got the TowWhee, I was concerned that it could eventually damage our saddles (since it connects to the adult’s saddle). After several years of LOTS of use, however, I can confirm that this is not an issue.
For riders just learning to ride steep or long downhills, the TowWhee 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 I’ve seen plenty of other families use the TowWhee for multi-spot applications. The TowWhee 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 TowWhee performing incredibly well.
Compared to a trailer-cycle, the TowWhee 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.
TowWhee Versus The Competition
The closest competitors to the TowWhee are the BicycleBungee and the TraxMTB. All things considered, I like the TowWhee best.
The competition includes the BicycleBungee (left) and the TraxMTB (right).
In terms of ease of use, the BicycleBungee has the TowWhee 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 TowWhee is the more logical choice for most families.
Another newer option is the TraxMTB. Like the BicycleBungee, it uses a retractable design which is the one real big plus. And unlike the BicycleBungee, you can use it on a dropper post.
That said, we found that the TraxMTB doesn’t tow quite as smoothly as the TowWhee, and despite the ease of use of the TraxMTB, my son would still prefer to be towed by the TowWhee.
Bottom-Line: A Vital Accessory For Bike Families
For families who taking cycling seriously, the TowWhee is a vital accessory. It makes long rides and big hills possible with minimal whining and minimal frustration.
Unlike a trailer-cycle, the TowWhee 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 TowWhee becomes the clear winner in the category for most families.
If I had an extra thumb, I’d give the TowWhee three big thumbs up.
More Options For Towing Kids
Like to do your research? So do we. Here are a couple of other guides and reviews you should check out.