Let’s be honest. The hardest part about mountain biking with kids isn’t rationing the snacks (although that comes close!), it’s actually managing the uphills.
Pedalling up an incline is hard work for little legs, and can often end in them pushing their bike, or worse, you pushing them.
So to make the ups as fun as the downs for the whole family, we love a good tow rope.
If you’re new to using a tow rope when mountain biking, we’ve put together some key pointers to get you started, so you can spend less time pushing your kids’ bikes and more time shredding as a family.
To tow or not to tow. That is the question.
Tow ropes are pretty universal when it comes to different ages and sizes of MTB kids who can benefit from them.
You can start using a tow rope right from when your kids are in the balance bike phase. As long as they have steering sorted and are controlling their speed on the flats, they are tow rope ready.
One of our MTB parents, Trev, wrote a blog for us about his experiences and tips after using the top rope with his 2.5 year old:
“I’d urge any parent with kids on a balance bike to give towing a go – for us the tow rope has become an indispensable tool in the kit, it goes everywhere with us”.
If your kids have passed balance bike age and are pedalling on their own, a tow rope is equally as handy. The tow rope is essentially for anyone who needs a bit of a hand on hill climbs, no matter their age.
The advantage of using a tow rope.
Whether you use it once on a ride, or on every single hill, it’s nice to give your kids the option of a helping hand on the trails.
Knowing there might be hills on your ride which your kids can’t quite tackle can create anxiety for both parties, and having the tow rope in your back pocket can save those ride-ending tantrums and the dreaded words ‘I want to go home’.
Being able to make the ride easier for them gets the whole family more stoked on biking, thanks to making longer distances, new terrain, and faster uphills possible, which all lead to levelling up your kids' riding skills faster.
But for most MTB parents, the biggest highlight of using a tow rope is how much more fun their kids have when they’re less disheartened by the tougher parts of a ride.
Fitting your tow rope on the go is simple.
You can either flick the paracord over the stem of your kids bike, or use the carabiner to loop it around the stem.
For most standard stems, the pink paracord on the end of the tow rope loops over perfectly, fitting in behind the stem bolts to keep it in place. On some kids’ bikes, these bolts aren’t in the right place, which is where the carabiner comes in.
Some parents also prefer to use the carabiner when they know there’s a long uphill coming up, for extra security and peace of mind.
The other end of the tow rope simply loops around your bike seat, laying flat for you to sit on as you ride. Easy as! We’ve popped together an instruction video here to help you out too.
To make your ride as rad as possible, there are a few key things to remember when using your tow rope:
- Keep your rope for the flats and inclines. Tow ropes are great for inclines but shouldn’t be used downhill as you run the risk of your little one catching up to you and the rope getting caught up in your rear wheel. Stick to using your rope for inclines and slower paced flats, you want gentle but constant tension.
- Hip packs are cool again. When it’s not in use you can carry your tow rope over your shoulder, chuck it in your bag, or get your kid one of our MTB hip packs to keep it in. The bonus of the bag is it also gives them ownership of the tow rope which makes them even keener to use it!
- Keep up the chat. While you’re towing your MTB kid, communication is key. Check in on them and make sure they’re aware when you’re starting and stopping.
- No free rides. Your kid should still be pedalling whilst being towed, not just sitting back with a free taxi ride to the top. This way you’ll both still have plenty of energy for the downs.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. Your mini shredder might not ask for the tow rope until their legs are done, but you’ll be able to ride longer and further if you break out the tow rope earlier in the ride.
Want to see how other MTB parents are using their tow ropes to level up their adventures?
Join our Shred Til Bed community on facebook here, or leave a comment below with your top tips for towing.