My son is almost 10 years old now, and I’ve been wanting to get him up on the singletrack. A good portion of our local trails aren’t too technical, and are easy enough for kids; however, there is still is still quite a bit of steep climbing in sandy conditions. I thought of driving halfway up the mountain, but then he’d be missing some of the best downhill. What to do? I remembered something I had seen a couple years ago, and decided to give it a try.
A couple years ago, I saw a lady towing her son up the hill using inner tubes as a flexible tow strap. I couldn’t remember exactly how she had it setup, so I experimented at home in the drive way. Here’s what I came up with. We’ll call it the Inner Tube Towing System, or ITTS for short.
I have a hoard of “to-be-patched” inner tubes sitting in my garage. I took two of these old tubes from the pile to make my ITTS. The first tube was simply placed over my seat and held by tension to the seatpost. When stretched, it clears the rear tire with plenty of space. The second tube was folded over the inside of the first tube like a taco. Each end of the second tube was placed around a side of the handlebars, and moved towards the center near the stem. Done. Easy to install and take off.
I thought my geared bike would be great for towing, but grabbed one of my single speeds since it was ready to go. I was surprised how smooth the towing was, even with the tall gearing of the single speed! There was no complaint from my son either, and he was able to pedal without being jerked all around the trail. We had difficulty in a couple of the big dips, as there was a little too much accordion action happening as I climbed out while he was dropping in. For the most part though, we powered right up the steeper spots as easy as we would on our tandem.
Like I mentioned earlier, the ITTS uninstalls quickly, and is easily stowed in a pack. This turned out to be great for my budding mountain biker, as I wanted to give my son a crack at some of the easier hills. We both had more fun this way, and I wasn’t stuck pedaling the dead weight of the tandem bike either.
It wasn’t long before we got to the top of the trail, and I was surprised how easy we got up there. My son was having fun, and wasn’t burned out from too much climbing. He got to practice his shifting and climbing skills all on his own too.
Once at the top, the ITTS never came out of the pack again. My son got to ride all the way back down the hill on his own, and he was having a blast! He was actually going a little too fast for my comfort level, so I got up in front of him and set the pace. This seemed to work out good, since I knew where the tricky sections were, and could get the speed down to a safe level to better negotiate the trail when needed.
We only had one wipe-out on the way down, but he jumped to safety instead of hitting the dirt. He seemed to think this was pretty cool though, and talked about the crash for quite some time after! I would definitely use the ITTS again, and it really has me thinking of all the trails we can do now. Flume Trail? I bet we could.
The ITTS worked out pretty well for slow gentle climbing, but as I mentioned, it was pretty jerky in the big dips. I recommend only using this method for smooth climbs and for speeds up to 5mph. Anything else would probably be too dangerous. This method would probably work pretty well for towing a buddy with a broken drive train as well. If you had some flat miles to cover, it would be much easier than walking.