Our youngest has a birthday coming up, and we’re shopping for a new bike for him. He figured out the two wheel thing at the end of last summer, so it’s time for an upgrade. Just this morning, he told me that he was going to ride his bike on our local MTB trails this summer and be as fast as his brother. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’ll be upgrading from his starter bike to a front suspension with gears and handle bar breaks.
But upgrades mean big changes. Both kids will officially be riding on their own this year, which means dad gets to take a break from hauling an extra 60-65lbs behind him (I’ve been free for more than a year now, and I’m definitely not complaining!). It’s the end of an era in our household, you might say, as we’ll be saying goodbye to one our more important *do not leave home without* summer items – our tow bar.
We always called it our tow bar, but it’s official name is the Trail Gator Tow Bar. Let me tell you, this thing was a game changer for us.
When the boys were smaller we had a bike trailer, and it worked, but as they got older they didn’t want to stay smushed together inside, not to mention the effort it took to pull two of them. We started looking for other options, since they didn’t yet have the speed nor the stamina for family rides on their training wheels. We were considering a tandem bike trailer so they could get out of the trailer and pedal on their own, when we found something even better – a bar that could connect the kids own bikes to the parent’s bike.
Best. Invention. Ever.
With this tow bar connected to the back of my bike, I could attach K’s bike, which lifted his front wheel off the ground and held his handlebars stationary. We then used flip up training wheels that could easily turn upside down while K was connected behind me. Then, if he wanted to ride by himself for a while, we could easily disconnect him, flip down his training wheels and the bar folded up and connected to the side of my bike, without affecting my ride at all.
By the time the boys were 3 and 5, Dave and I each had a bar attached to the back of our bikes. We used them all summer long. And the looks we got! When we first started using the Trail Gator, we had never seen anyone else with one, and it’s still pretty rare that we see another person using it (and we always wonder why we don’t see more of them). Everyone, and I mean everyone, would do a double take as we rode by. We could often hear people commenting and exclaiming over our towing system. If our bikes were parked, we saw people stop to examine the set up. People always asked about it and we always got a good chuckle when we rode by someone and their head whipped back around to see how it worked.
Both our boys started using the tow bar at age 3. It can be a little tippy, but it was never really an issue for us as they learn to hold their balance quickly. They have to be careful not to use the back break, as it can make the bike drag and is a pain for the adult pulling. We would take it on all types of surfaces, including wider dirt/forest trails. It can get pretty bouncy on rougher trails, so be careful with younger kids. By the time ours were 5, they didn’t mind hitting the rocks and roots and thought bouncing around was a blast.
We continued using the Trail Gator as the kids made the transition from training wheels to two wheels, which made for longer and more enjoyable rides. We could go slow and let the boys take the lead for a while, then when they started to tire out, hook them back up to finish the ride.
It’s seriously one of the best outdoor tools we’ve had. It’s been so fantastic that part of me will be a little sad this summer when we pack for our first camping trip and leave it sitting in the garage. But the other part of me is excited for all new new adventures that we’ll be able to get up to with both boys on two wheels. It’s a new stage that I plan to enjoy before both of them are riding fast enough to leave me in the dust.
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