Trail Gator Review
Small and compact, the Trail Gator tow arm is easy to bring along for the ride “just in case”, but is really wobbly when in use. Read the full review below for more details from our test rides.
BEST FOR: Families needing a temporary fix to motivating their child during bike rides.
|Suggested Age Range||
4 to 8
|Trailer Cycle Type||
Pros & Cons
- Small and easy to store - great option for the “just in case” scenario
- Child can easily be removed or reattached to the adult bike at any point during the ride
- Child feels like they are riding along with their parent
- Installation is straightforward but time-consuming
- Not recommended for kids' bikes with hand brakes
- Wobbly compared to traditional trailer cycles
- Kids can engage their coaster brakes and produce drag
Trail Gator Review – Why It’s the Most Popular Bike Tow Arm
The Trail Gator is a unique alternative to a traditional trailer cycle. It consists of a metal arm that connects an adult bike to a regular kids’ bike that has tires between 12″-20″ in diameter.
This opens up all sorts of interesting possibilities, such as towing a child too small to fit on a traditional trailer cycle, or doing rides where a child rides solo part of the way but is towed by an adult through challenging or less-safe sections.
The adult bike attachment is similar to many other trailer cycles. Installation involves removing the seat post, sliding the Trail Gator hitch onto the seat post, reinstalling the seat post, and tightening two bolts on the Trail Gator hitch.
The child bike attachment takes a little more time to set up. It consists of a metal plate that connects via four bolts to two metal arms that reach around the head tube of the bike.
A small arm swings down and connects to a bolt on the front fork, to keep the child’s handlebars steady during the ride. Here’s a close-up of the connection.
The installation is fairly straightforward, but time consuming, particularly the installation of the child bike’s receiver kit. I’ve done it twice now and it’s taken me about an hour each time. If you want to use a single Trail Gator with different child bikes, you’ll definitely want to look into purchasing additional receiver kits — although they are hard to find in the USA.
The metal plate does tend to snag hand brake cables, so this setup works best on a bike with coaster brakes only. Also, after riding with the Trail Gator for a few weeks, I found that the metal plate left some small scratches in the paint on the head tube of the child’s bike. If you’re picky about the paint on your child’s bike, you might want to put something underneath the arms to prevent scratches.
I was able to mount the Trail Gator over an Axiom adjustable rack on my bike with 26″ wheels, but I had to lower the rack almost all the way down.
The Trail Gator has some unique options for unmounting, allowing for a fairly quick conversion from towing a child to having the child ride solo. The Trail Gator arm detaches from the child bike receiver via a quick release.
I did find that in order to prevent wobble, I really had to tighten up this quick release, which sometimes made it difficult to loosen/remove without tools. With the arm removed, the child bike receiver is out of the way enough that the child can comfortably ride the bike with the receiver still installed.
If you unmount the child bike mid-ride, you can pull out a pin to allow the Trail Gator arm to collapse down to about half its length, then swing it down to the left side of the adult bike. The Trail Gator includes a small bracket that attaches to the skewer for the rear wheel of the adult bike, keeping the arm in place.
Note: I was unable to fit the arm into the bracket with a rear rack installed. The rack got in the way. Since I always have a rear rack installed, I put the collapsed arm in a pannier instead. You could even bring along a bungee cord to attach it to the rack.
If you’re going for a ride without your child passenger, you can also remove the Trail Gator arm entirely via a quick release. Once the arm is removed, the hitch is small enough to remain attached unobtrusively while you ride alone.
The removed arm is very small and easy to store. This makes the Trail Gator a great option if you want the functionality of both a child bike and a trailer cycle, but you don’t have enough storage space for both. We recently took it on a vacation where we knew our kids would be doing a lot of riding on their own, but we still wanted the option to tow them if needed.
Riding with the Trail Gator
I found the Trail Gator to be noticeably more wobbly than traditional trailer cycles. This is probably due to the telescoping arm design and the connection to the child bike, both of which are unique to the Trail Gator and introduce some additional instability. The wobble was much worse when towing my 48-pound 6-year-old. It was better with my 35-pound 4-year-old.
The Trail Gator does not affect the child bike’s brakes in any way, so the rider can brake unexpectedly while riding. As the adult rider, you’ll feel the “drag” when this occurs. My kids are used to being able to pedal backwards on a regular trailer cycle and will often do it just for fun, so I had to remind them not to try it when riding the Trail Gator. They caught on quickly, although my 4-year-old still thinks it’s funny to lock up his rear wheel every so often.
You cannot use training wheels when riding with the Trail Gator. If your child needs training wheels when riding solo, you can purchase flip-up training wheels that you can move up when towing the child bike and move down when the child is riding alone.
The Trail Gator is comparable in price to a lower-end trailer cycle, such as the WeeRide Co-Pilot. Its wobbliness makes me hesitant to recommend it, particularly for older and heavier kids. A traditional trailer cycle will be a better bet for most families.
Still, the Trail Gator does ride acceptably well. I’ve found myself almost always bringing it along on our rides, because it’s so portable and it’s saved the day on multiple occasions with tuckered-out kids towards the end of a ride. If its small storage size or its ability to switch between towing and riding solo appeals to you, give it a shot!