The Bike List

Trail-Gator Bicycle Tow Bar £75

Tested by Matt Swaine, tester for The Bike List

What do you do after the initial heady excitement of watching your kids pedalling without stabilisers? It's going to be a good ten years before you can race against them flat out over a 40-mile road route. Or manically tear round a section of single track and expect them to keep up. Or consider teaming up with them to challenge Mark Beaumont's round the world record. 
In the interim you need a few tricks up your sleeves if you want to put cycling firmly on the family agenda.

My two boys (age five and four) love their cycling and can pedal happily for hours, but you can never quite judge when emotional melt down is going to occur and that means we tend to keep our ambitions pretty low. One of them absolutely hates cycling up hills while the other always seems to come a cropper at the bottom of them. Neither of them are encumbered by any suggestion of road sense (and their mum teaches bike safety at the local schools!) so there's no way we'd risk taking them anywhere with traffic at the moment.

But on holiday in Cornwall this year we met a couple using the Trail-Gator with their kids. "It's brilliant," they told us. "The kids ride as far as they can and if we get to a section of road, or if they decide they've had enough we hook their bikes onto the Trail Gator and we can pedal together for as long as they like." They'd just come back from a 15 mile day out, via a great pub and the kids bikes had only been hooked up on the short sections of busy main roads. It was exactly what I was looking for…

Fitting the  Trail  Gator

A month later I found myself in the garage late at night struggling to get my head round the fitting instructions. If you're naturally very practical - or possibly psychic - you probably won't find this stage quite as frustrating as I did. It took me over an hour and I was disappointed to find the U-bracket that fits onto the boys bike actually cut into the paint work. This is a design fault that could easily be avoided with a bit of padding.

The main bar fits onto the adults seat post and can be collapsed and stored neatly to one side until it's needed. A smaller bracket fits onto the kid's bike which allows you to hook the two together when required and there is another attachment to lock the kid's handlebar in place. Attaching the two bikes requires a little bit of practice, but when you've got the hang of it, it's easy to do this quickly and safely.

We decided to fit the Trail Gator to my wife's Ridgeback bike. I didn't want to test this with my road bike and as the main bar attaches to the seat post of the adult's bike, I would have had to take the rear lights off my main commuting bike to accommodate it.

On the road

It took a full day of refusal before Charlie, my youngest was prepared to suffer the indignity of losing control of his steering and it was only when he realised he'd be whizzing through the traffic in town to get to nursery in the mornings that he warmed up to the idea. 

The initial problem was working out how to get started at the same time and how to come to a halt together, without Charlie falling off his bike. Charlie's front wheel was raised off the ground which meant that his feet no longer touched the ground and his saddle was tipped back at an angle, but he assured me he was comfortable and he worked out how to get on and off pretty confidently.
Once on the road, it takes a bit of time to get cycling with confidence but we were soon racing up and down our road and felt we were ready for something more ambitious. Once out among traffic, we found turning to be the biggest worry but once again that was soon overcome. 

My main worry was that Charlie would lose concentration and fall off the bike under a passing juggernaut (I'm a parent... It's how we're hardwired to think!), so I kept chatting away to make sure he was avoiding that kind of mishap.

"Are you doing alright Charlie?"
"Yes Daddy!"
"Are you holding on tight?"
"Of course I am Daddy!"

Full road confidence came after just a few hours and I was impressed to see that Charlie was doing his bit as stoker at the back of our makeshift tandem, pedalling extra hard to make sure we crested the hills in style.

I have read complaints online from people who've found a bit of lateral wobble when pedalling, which I can imagine is slightly disconcerting. We've not experienced that at all and I've been pretty impressed with performance all round.

Verdict

Shop around and you can pick the Trail Gator up at very competitive prices. My feeling is that it will last you longer than a tag-along bike and because it uses your child's bike it will prove to be far more flexible. That adds up to great value for money. It's a pain to fit initially but once on it's easy to use and feels very safe. 

Buy from www.halfords.com

Trail-Gator says:

The  Trail-Gator Bicycle Tow Bar converts an ordinary child's bike into a safe, towable trailer bike, whenever desired. To ride attached, simply unclip the tow bar from the stored position on the adult bike, extend it, and connect it to the receiver, which is mounted on the child's bike. When the child's bike is connected, the front wheel is lifted off the ground and a stabilizing bar prevents the handlebars from turning, leaving the adult in control of steering. Children can choose to coast or pedal while they are being towed, making the ride much easier for them.

  • Ride attached or seperately on same ride
  • Attaches and detaches in seconds without tools
  • Child can pedal or coast whilst being towed
  • Telescopes and folds for easy storage
  • Adult rider controls steering
  • Stabilises childs handlebars whilst in use
  • High strength steel frame
  • No parts need to be removed from either bike
  • Fits most 14-20" child bikes
  • Rider weight limit 70lbs

Find out more www.trail-gator.com

At a glance

Verdict A brilliant alternative to tag-along bikes that gives you more flexibility and allows your kids to take far more control of their own cycling.
Value
Performance