ETC Tow Buddy Review
As your young cycling companion grows, one inevitably reaches the point where you want to start cycling with them, on your own bike.
No more running after them, then waiting, then carrying a bike, then carrying a bike and a child!
The issue during this transition phase is that they probably can't cycle for long distances, and if they can, you may find yourself stuck, with a tired child and two bikes to juggle.
One solution for this problem comes in the shape of a removable tow bar.
Rather than a full-blown tag-a-long bike (which is a single wheel that attaches to the back of your bike), or a FollowMe Tandem (which attached to your child's front wheel) a tow bar converts an existing bike by lifting the front wheel and allowing it to be pulled along.
When required, the tow bar can be disconnected and the child can ride independently from the adult.
Disclosure: Cycle Sprog were sent the ETC Tow Buddy to review by Moore Large. We were not paid to write this review and all opinions are our own.
How does the ETC Tow Buddy work?
Essentially it is a metal bar that links the big bike to the little bike, but it's marginally more complex than that!
Firstly an attachment point is clamped onto the head tube (the front) of the child's bike.
Another attachment point to fixed onto the seat post (below the saddle) of the adult bike. These points are where the tow bar attaches.
Further to these, there is a small bar that holds the child's front wheel to stop the handlebars from turning. This is in the form of a small clip-on rod that links the tow bar to the fork of the kid's bike.
The next clever part is that when not in use the tow bar can be shortened and folded round to be stashed on the adult bike with the aid of a small clip.
ETC Tow Buddy Review
The Towbuddy is made by ETC and is based on a design that has been around for a while now, but theirs is a more refined version than I have seen before.
It is designed for adult bikes with 26-inch or bigger wheels and it will work with kids' bikes from 12 to 20-inch wheels with a maximum weight of 32kg.
It costs £69.00 and is available here.
Out of the box, it can feel like a lot of pieces to puzzle together, but it is relatively straightforward.
The main piece of the puzzle is attaching the clamp to the front of the child's bike. This job needs only be done once, as it stays on the child's bike but it does need to be clamped up tight with four bolts.
At this point, you need to decide how much you care about the paintwork on the bike, as it's going to put some scratches in.
I would suggest taping up the headtube considerably before installing as you need to make this clamp tight and the paint will not be happy!
The adult bike simply needs a clamp attached to the seat post, and this is easily done, the only trick is making sure it's at the right height.
I found ideally you want it as low as possible without the tow bar touching your wheel. This keeps the 'wobble factor' (technical term I know) down when you're pedalling along.
Then it's simply a case of attaching the handlebar stabiliser to the fork of the kid's bike and the stowaway attachment to the adult's bike.
Once this is all done, the bar can be slid into place to the kid's bike and a quick release tightened up. The adult bike needs a screw tightened through the seat post mount and you're ready to go.
The ETC Tow Buddy in use
Despite the Tow Buddy being useable up to 20inch wheeled kids bikes, I soon found out that pushing the limits was not a pleasant experience.
I have a tall 6 yr old on a 20-inch bike and found that the whole system leaned and listed alarmingly.
Further to this the front clamp on the little bike twisted under the load, further damaging the paint and it was all fairly alarming! However, with the clamp tightened it was better, but the whole towbar and bike seemed to lean constantly.
Fortunately, I have a smaller version of the child and a 14-inch bike which suited the ETC Tow Buddy much better and dropping down a size of bike and child made a lot more sense.
The lower weight and lower height helped to keep everything straight and felt much more secure.
Removing and installing the tow bar each time is easy, the quick release is a little fiddly but it is all very secure.
Although the Towbuddy and products like this have been around for a while, this is the best one I have used, with good clamps and attachments.
Stowing the towbar on the adult bike is fine if you have a quick-release rear wheel. Simply loosen it and slide the little plate underneath which holds the stowing clip for the tow bar.
However... If you have a 'bolt through axle' then you have a problem. Fortunately, I have a bike with an alternative bolt that I can mount it on (sliding dropout bolts) but it's worth noting that the design is meant for quick-release wheels.
In use, with a small bike and rider, the whole system works well.
We used it to good effect getting from home to the park, or travelling to get to safe areas to pedal unaccompanied.
If you really need to cover the distance with a child attached, then a full tag-a-long bike is the way to go, but the Tow Buddy is a versatile tool to have in the garage for shorter rides out.
Finally, a major win for the ETC Tow Buddy is the price. At £69.00 it's a cheap way of getting out and about by bike when your child isn't ready to cycle the entire distance.
Overall verdict on the ETC Tow Buddy
For small bikes, small kids, and a small budget, the Tow Buddy hits the mark and solves the problem of getting kids on longer rides.
Larger kids are better with a proper tag-along or FollowMe Tandem, and I felt that 20-inch bikes were too much for the ETC Tow Buddy to cope with.
Other articles you might be interested in:
- 6 ways to cycle with a young child, toddler or baby
- How do I pull a child's bike behind my bike?
- Shotgun launch tow rope for mountain bike families!
- The best Tagalongs for pulling a child behind your bike
- Trailgator child bike tow bars
- The best kids bike trailers; 2022
- Kids bike trailers that cost less than 2 tanks of fuel
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