Inner Tube Towing System

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.

Kid Ride
At the Trailhead

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.

Kid Ride
ITTS – Inner Tube Towing System

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.

Kid Ride
Free climbing without the aid of the ITTS

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.

Kid Ride
Break Time

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.

Kid Ride
We made it to the top!

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.

Kid Ride
Yeah! Singletrack!

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.

Kid Ride
And there he goes…

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.

9 thoughts on “Inner Tube Towing System

  1. Great article and pics!! Are you guys going to be around over the weekend? Would love to try it with Jared and see you guys.

  2. That’s okay, I guess. But we all know that the cool kids have gone tubeless and are using “Stan’s Tubeless Innertube Towing System”.

  3. Looks great, I rigged my own system last night for my 7 year old daughter and it worked great! the only problem I had was she would pedal hard on some of the fltas and casue a bit much slack…I’m now trying to figure out how I use a retracting system with more slack….my quest continues.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s