How To Tow Someone On A Mountain Bike

How To Tow Someone On A Mountain Bike

Got an ebike and want to tow a mate up the hill for some runs? Want to tow the kids up the climb so you can focus on enjoying the downhills, rather than spending all your energy coaxing them up the fireroad?

Michael's put together a handy guide on how you can tow someone up a hill, using a few bits and pieces you might already have in the garage!

Equipment:

  • Ocky strap. The one in my demonstration is about 1200mm long, with closed loops at the end. These work much better than the typical hook style ones - as they connect quickly and securely on your seatpost rails. Plus they are a lot more protected if it does happen to disconnect (rather than risking a hook into someone’s eye!). The ocky strap provides some stretch which smooths out the pull for both riders on takeoff and over varying terrain.
  • Length of rope. I used a 3m length of basic rope. This is a good length, as it is not so long that the passenger ends up too far away (a challenge if you are navigating corners), while not being so close that they are constantly running into your back wheel.

If you're not totally sold on the "DIY ocky strap" version in this article, check out the TowWhee cord!

Connecting the ocky strap and the rope

Simply run the rope back on itself, and tie a basic granny knot.

Granny Knot

Then hook one end of the ocky strap to the loop, and the other to the seat rail of the lead bike.

Attach to the loop
Attach to the loop

Attach to the seat rail
Attach to the seat rail

Connecting the rope to the passenger’s bike

I like to leave this loose rather than attach it to the bike, as it allows the passenger to let go of the rope at any time - they are in control of disconnecting themselves from the lead bike, which is important if they get scared, out of control, or encounter an obstacle. So it’s a lot safer and gives the passenger more confidence and comfort.

To attach, I wrap the rope around the handlebars twice, then get the passenger to hold it over the grip.

Granny Knot

So if the passenger lets go, the rope will simple detach and unwind. But because we’ve gone around the bars twice, there’s still enough friction there that the passenger is not constantly fighting to hold onto the rope or stop it pulling through their hands.

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Just don’t be tempted to ride with the rope dangling, otherwise you risk getting it tangled in your back wheel and causing all sorts of bike destruction.

Tangled ocky strap

How to get started on the trail

Here are two simple tips to take off and start riding, that I find make the process out on the trail a lot smoother:

  • Lead bike starts on an angle: I like to start with the rope taught, but the 90 degrees to the person being towed. This means the lead bike can get forward momentum and their balance and then straighten up, rather than pulling forward straight away and giving the passenger a jerky start!
  • Passenger calls “go”: I always ask the passenger to call ‘go’ once they are totally ready (balanced, holding the rope, comfortable). This is particularly important if your passenger is a kid or less confident rider, it gives them more control over the process and helps prevent false starts!

Towing 2

Tips for successfully towing a passenger

Once you’re all set up, here are a few tips to make towing a passenger go smoothly:

  • Instruct the passenger to keep the rope tight at all times. If the rope keeps slackening off, then tightening again, this can lead to challenges for both riders!
  • Unless both the lead rider and passenger are fairly experienced riders, stick to sustained gradient climbs for towing. If you have to go up and down hills, both riders need to be fairly experienced. The tail rider needs to hold the brakes on when descending so that the rope length stays constant, otherwise you risk the rope getting caught in their front wheel.

Towing 1

A tow set up like this is a great way to get your kids up the hill for a fun riding session, or for an ebiker to tow a mate up the hill to quickly gain elevation so we can smash out some runs together.

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