Buying a bike to use with a child who is riding their own bike but may need some assistance is a great idea and there are a lot of bikes on the market that will work really well for this purpose. You just need to have an understanding of attachment points for the type of tow you want to use, as not all bikes will work. It is about finding a solution to fit your situation and where you would like to ride, now and in the future.
For information on buying an E-Bike to use with a Tow see this story Buying an E-Bike to Tow a 4yr+ Child. If an E-Bike interests you and is in your budget ($2-3000+, retail pricing) we highly recommend considering this option. The assistance an E-Bike gives you removes barriers around weight & fitness to ride with your child.
What Design Features does your Bike need?
Your bike purchase needs to be really focused on a bike that makes you feel comfortable and safe. Once you have this feeling of confidence about riding a bike you will really enjoy adding a child/children/grandchildren to the experience.
Key design features your bike must have to work with Kids Tows
- strong frame or strength where a seat will be clamped for attachment – seat post tube. It should be made from steel or reinforced aluminium. No carbon for clamping.
- a good gear range. Adding weight means it will be harder to push your bike along, or get going from stopped, so you need gears
- good brakes. Choose disc brakes if possible especially if you want to ride with a bike tow or ride down hills
- space where you want to attach your tow – seat post tube
Bike Types & Matching Kids Tows
To follow are some suggestions for bikes that work well with tows. Pay particular attention to where you would ride these types of bikes – the environments they are designed for – are they a good match to the type of riding you want to do with your child? You have a limited time to enjoy riding as a family with kids towed by your bike
- Bike Tow Frame 3-9yrs
- Bike Tow Bar 4-9yrs
- Bike Tow Rope 4yrs to adult
Step Through Frame:
A city or commute type of bike with good options for towing kids. This bike is designed for around town riding and enjoying paved bike paths and cycleways.
Step through frames make handling the bike so much easier – getting on/off, easier to straddle while stopping/starting. Just easier to manage. This is especially true if you want to ride with the weight of an older child.
Bike Tow Frame. A city type of bike is a good match to the secure towing provided by a Bike Tow Frame. Ideally the rear wheel of the bike should have a Quick Release Axel (alternative axels are available, please check).
Bike Tow Bar. Again this bike is a good match you just need the frame to be big enough. Will the bar clear the rear wheel?
Bike Tow Rope. Completely compatible but not a good match function wise. These bikes are city or town bikes used in urban environments… the tow rope is best used in off road settings.
Find out more about Step Through Frames
A city or commute type of bike with good options for towing kids. This bike is designed for around town riding and enjoying paved bike paths and cycleways. it is also a tour style bike.
Triangle frames have high top tubes – getting on/off, straddling while stopping/starting can be a bit awkward. Shorter people will struggle with this. They are designed to travel fast and generally will come with good gear & brake options but please check this.
Bike Tow Frame. Frames ideally attach to rear wheel axels that have a quick release skewer so if buying a triangle frame check the rear wheel axel for compatibility. A great frame type for towing a child.
Bike Tow Bar. Great match to use with a tow bar but please check rear wheel clearance, small frames may struggle to achieve this.
Bike Tow Rope. Usually a city or easy trail bike so a tow rope can be used but is not the best match in these environments. Good to have if your bike is a tour bike and your family is doing this regularly.
Find out more about Triangle Frames
Trail (Squashed Triangle) Frame:
A off road trail type of bike with good options for towing kids. This bike is designed for mountain biking, recreation riding but often used in all environments.
Squashed triangle frames often have front suspension to give you a smoother off road ride as well as wider, knobbly tyres for better grip. They are a very popular style of bike in NZ to get out and explore the huge range of bike trails we have.
Bike Tow Frame. Another good frame design for towing using a tow frame. Attachment is to the rear wheel axel which should be a quick release skewer.
Bike Tow Bar. Attachment can be an issue for tow bars so please check especially if your frame is small.
Bike Tow Rope. Great match to all your off road riding with your child.
Find out more about Trail Bike Frames
Full Suspension Mountain Bike:
An off road trail bikes are great for towing kids. This bike is designed for mountain biking but often used in other environments.
These frames have both front & rear suspension with squashed triangle, unusual frame shapes. They are a very popular style of bike in NZ to get out and explore the huge number of mountain bike parks & trails we have.
Bike Tow Frame. The rear wheel of any new full suspension mountain bike is likely to be a through axel. Please check availability as parts arrive late in 2022. If the bike you want to buy has a quick release skewer (hollow axel) you will be able to attach. Can be a bit fiddly tacking the full frame off to go for your own rides but you will get used to it.
Bike Tow Bar. As with all the other frame types please check clearance especially if you have a small frame. There will always be a clamp on your seat post making use of a dropper post difficult. Not compatible with carbon seat posts.
Bike Tow Rope. Designed for use with this frame. So no problems just years of family fun!
Find out more about Full Suspension Frames
Test Before You Buy
Test ride the bike over a decent distance with variations in road surface and hills, etc. At least a 30min test ride, and longer if your bike shop will provide it. You have to be very comfortable and confident on the bike in order for you to carry/tow your most precious cargo. And compare different models, by riding them. You should not have to pay or commit to buying the bike before test riding it.
What to look for during the test ride. Mainly your comfort and safety on the bike. You must feel confident in the way it handles and steers. This is especially important for any downhill decent with the added weight of a child. When you have found a bike or two that you feel good about riding…(exciting!) now consider the kids or grandkids… where could you go… what will work??
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