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FollowMe tandem review: an easy ride
Regular readers of this blog will know that we've received a FollowMe tandem for review. Up to now, Chris has been using it to take our 3 year old, T, around town but we haven't had the opportunity to test it off road, or for me to have a go. I was getting desperate to know if it was worth the £210 price tag, and more importantly if it would allow us the freedom to get out riding more challenging routes again - something we've had to put on hold for 7 years now.
I was so excited therefore to have the opportunity on Sunday to have my first ride. We had an hour and a half between packing our eldest off to swimming lessons and setting off for a family lunch. Just enough time for T and I to head out with the FollowMe for a quick circular route.
Firstly, I had to assemble it. Now, Chris is the mechanically minded one in our marriage, and he'd fitted the component parts to his mountain bike and the bike T will one day be riding (when he's mastered the technique). All I had to do was follow the instructions to fit the two together!
cycle sprog helpful hint #1: If you're using the FollowMe for the first time, make sure the person who fitted it is there. Otherwise you really need to flick through all of the instruction manual to familiarise yourself with the names of parts and their location, and not just jump in at the 'attaching and detaching en route' section. Also, the manual has been translated from another language so care needs to be taken when reading it through, but take your time and it goes together fine. You have been warned!
Thankfully Chris was on hand to demonstrate how to hook the child's bike to the FollowMe, which wasn't as complicated as the instructions made out. I then went for a quick ride to get used to any changes to balance and braking. I'm currently used to riding with T on an Oxford Leco Top Tube front seat whilst pulling N on a Trek Mountain Train tagalong, and before that had various trailers, so for me the FollowMe was an easy transition.
cycle sprog helpful hint #2: If you haven't towed anything before it would be worth spending some time getting used to braking and turning with the child's bike behind you.
The route started with canal tow-path which is quite rough at points. It then follows a tarmac track with one steep ascent, and we also did a slight detour to ride along a grass bridleway, ending with an on-road stretch back home.
how did the FollowMe perform?
To be honest, I couldn't quite believe how good it felt. The quality of the ride was superb - it didn't feel like I was towing a child and bike at all. Even over slightly rougher terrain I was confident to ride much faster than I would with the tagalong. The hill was challenging, but that is part due to my current level of fitness. I did make it to the top, and there was no adverse effect when I stood up on the pedals towards the top of the slope. It's got a small turning circle, and with more experience I'd be confident to negotiate the barriers I pushed around this time.
T loved being able to pedal - he's used to sitting in a front or rear seat, so I was impressed to see that he was pedalling all the time. Hopefully this will help strengthen his little legs for when he's able to go solo.
The only difficult moment came when T decided to apply his brakes, and I suddenly found myself slowing right down. A quick test proved that it's almost impossible to start from a stationery position when the child's brakes are applied (though he was riding an Islabike, which has serious braking capabilities).
Cycle Sprog Helpful Hint #3: speak to your child about the use of brakes before you set off. They may think they are helping by applying the brakes at a junction, but not being able to pull away as you'd intended could cause problems.
I've yet to test it on serious off-road terrain, or with an older child who rides independently but tires and needs towing at the end of a long day, so my initial assessment is limited to use with a 3 year old over varied, but unchallenging, terrain. The FollowMe is definitely a quality piece of kit that makes cycling with a child easy and enjoyable. I predict that over the next couple of years the FollowMe will become a standard investment for parents who have a passion for cycling.
so is the FollowMe worth the money?
On the face of it, £210 is eyewateringly expensive for a piece of metal to connect two bikes together. But it's no more expensive than many people now spend on accessories for a bike worth thousands. If it means they can continuing cycling whilst bringing up a young family, I'm sure it's an investment many will make. For regular commuting, it costs less than 5 tanks of petrol.
The sense of freedom to ride much more freely than I've been able to with the kids in tow has been amazing. As I was riding along I was starting to plan the logistics of future trips out - suddenly the difficult period between T being too big for a bike seat but too small to complete a decent length ride has disappeared. The future is looking bright!
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