It’s no secret that balance bikes have changed how kids learn to ride.
They’re a tonne of fun, help develop key biking skills – plus make the transition to pedal biking much smoother when the time comes.
But if you ask any MTB parent, they’ll tell you the major downside of the balance bike comes when your kid reaches a hill, or runs out of energy half way through their ride.
And it’s not just because we want our kids to have the best experience that we tirelessly search out the lightest balance bikes on the market, it’s also because we end up carrying them as much as our kids ride them!
Trev (our European market lead, and all-round rad MTB dad) reckons that he would carry his son Brook's balance bike around 70% of the time on their rides together.
“We live in Glentress, and there are some amazing family trails, but they’re all connected by hills. It became this thing where we’d do one trail, and then he’d get frustrated going up the hill, and that would be it. ”
Brook is a little over 2.5 years old, and weighs around 15kg – but a top end balance bike still comes in at around 5kg, so it’s easy to see how pushing something a third your weight up a hill (flintstone style) can quickly turn to tears.
So as a MTB parent, you’ve got a few options when the little legs get tired. You can bend down and push your kid up the hill (how’s that sore back?), carry the balance bike whilst you all walk, or do the one armed ride – which still leaves your little one trailing behind.
But in our opinion, there’s another solution which is often overlooked. The humble but ever useful tow rope.
If your little shredder is already in control of their speed and direction when riding, then a tow rope could be your saviour.
“The tow rope has been an absolute game-changer for us, it was crazy. Brook loves it, and it’s become a really fun thing for us” says Trev.
Using the tow rope on the flat and gentle inclines with your toddler, allows them to stay riding their balance bike for the entire ride, not just the downs. It introduces new skills to the ride, and the uphills become a fun part of the ride, as your kid learns to glide behind your bike.
Trev says his discovery has totally changed the way he rides with Brook.
“We’ve gone from 20 minutes balance biking, to now doing a full morning together riding the green trails – all at an age where I thought it wouldn’t be possible to do this. Range anxiety has become a thing of the past. And everyone’s so much happier.”
Brook took to towing straight away. Balance bikes are obviously low and stable, and his weight (plus the weight of the bike) was enough to engage the soft flex of the tow rope, giving a gentle introduction to towing. With the tow rope looped around the steerer, there’s also no interference to your kids steering and they can glide and steer themselves as they’re towed.
Trev’s top 5 tips for balance bike towing:
Start with family walks. Hold one end of the tow rope and tow your balance bike kid as you walk along a flat path. This allows you to take it very gently and see how they find towing, before hooking it on to your bike.
Make it fun. As with all aspects of kids learning, they’ll have a far better experience if it’s enjoyable. Trev and Brook have specific sayings for using the tow rope. Brook will shout ‘tow rope deploy’ when he needs a tow and ‘tow rope release’ when he takes it off his bike.
Make it theirs. Kids will be more receptive to something new if it’s presented as their toy. Let them look after it, and if they’re keen – they can carry it in their shotgun hip pack or their own bag.
Keep up the comms. When it’s time to graduate to towing them behind your bike, stick to gentle inclines, and ride slowly and in an easy gear. Always keep in constant communication with your kid as you tow.
- Be careful on undulating terrain. On a decline, your kid can end up running alongside you if they aren’t controlling their speed. You should only use the tow rope when there’s tension on the line.
“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” – Trev
Have you tried towing a balance bike kid?
Let us know by leaving a comment below, or learn more about the shotgun tow rope.