Small enough to forget you’re even carrying it, yet strong enough to pull 200+ pounds up a mountain, TRAX MTB tow ropes are smaller and more lightweight than any other tow rope on the market. But what makes them truly stand out from other towing options?
The self-contained unit is easily mounted and stored on the lead bike’s seat post or saddle rails, and the cable retracts back into the unit when not it use. No bulky rope to store in your hydration pack! And as a huge added bonus, once mounted, you can’t accidentally leave it behind at your house or on the trail. It’s always there when you need it and out of the way when you don’t!
Whether your 8-year-old needs a little assistance to the top of a trail or you’re tag-teaming your way through an adult distance race, the TRAX MTB is your perfect companion.
TRAX MTB Overview
MSRP: ~ $45 (Original) $55 (Pro)
BEST FOR: Advanced child riders or adults pulling adults
MOUNT LOCATION: Seat post or saddle rails of lead bike, or headset of towed bike
MAX TOW WEIGHT: 200 lb (Original), 265 lb (Pro)
MAX TWO SPEED: 6 mph (10 km/h)
MAX ROPE LENGTH: 1.9 m (Original), 2.2 m (Pro)
PRODUCT WEIGHT: 95g (Original), 130g (Pro)
- Lightweight, small, and unobtrusive
- Rope quickly and easily unwinds to use and rewinds when done
- Quickly mounts to almost all seat posts or saddles
- Unit is stored on seat post or saddle, no need to worry about forgetting it or putting it in your pack
- Attaches via zip-ties or vinyl strap
- Pro version compatible with more bikes with dropper posts
- Rope can quickly jerk rider forward once the end of the line is reached (child must have good control of the bike)
- Can be tricky for kids to mount and unmount while wearing biking gloves (our rider couldn’t detach the rope while riding)
TRAX MTB Bike Tow Rope – Results of Our Testing
It’s amazing how quickly “Mom, let’s go mountain biking!” turns into, “How much farther?”. We love getting out and riding as a family but some of us love the drive to the top more than others :-).
Tow ropes are the perfect solution. Allowing you to easily pull your child (or even an adult!), up to the top of the trail, tow ropes are a must-have in any mountain biking parent’s arsenal.
We tested out the TRAXmtb and Trax Pro on several different rides with our 4, 8, and 11-year-old riders and it delivered on every one of its promises… strong, durable, easy to use, easy to store, and easy to mount.
TRAX MTB vs. TRAX PRO
TRAX MTB is the original version of the retractable tow rope by Trax Bike. TRAX PRO is an upgraded version released in 2022. They are both currently available for sale.
We cover both ropes in this review as the towing experience is nearly identical, but there are a few key differences that may make the extra $10 for the PRO worth it for you.
|TRAX MTB||TRAX PRO|
|Length of rope||6.2 ft (1.9 m)||7.2 ft (2.2 m)|
|Max towable weight||200 lb||265 lb|
|Max towing speed||6 mph||6 mph|
|Lead bike mount location||Seat post||Seat post or saddle rails|
|Tow rider mount location||Headset||Headset|
So which differences really matter?
Length of Rope: Compared to traditional tow ropes like TowWhee or Kids Ride Shotgun, both of the Trax retractable ropes are very short. This means the tow rider will be much closer to the lead bike. While the Pro is only a foot longer than the original, that alone merits an extra $10 in our book.
Max Towable Weight: If you’re only towing kids, being able to tow 265 pounds instead of just 200 won’t matter to you. But if you’ll be towing heavier adults, you may need the Pro.
Lead Bike Mount Location: Mounting location is really where the TRAX PRO shines. With the original TRAX MTB only mounting to the seat post, you can’t use it with some dropper posts.
The TRAX (MTB and PRO) needs a couple of inches of non-moving seat post below the dropper portion, to which mount the unit. A few bikes in our fleet don’t have enough space to mount it there. (Like the bike on the right below.)
Dropper Post Compatibility with TRAX MTB
The TRAX PRO can mount to the seat post OR the saddle rails, giving you much more flexibility with potential dropper post variations. The PRO can even be mounted to the tow rider’s headset, in which case the end of the rope would be looped over the lead rider’s saddle, just like a TowWhee.
TRAX PRO Mounted to Saddle and Seat Post
Even if you can mount the TRAX MTB or PRO to the bottom of your dropper, modern mountain bike geometry might now allow for sufficient clearance between the rear tire and the extended rope, especially if you’re towing small kids’ bikes. In the image below, the lead bike is attached to a small 20″ mountain bike. If this is the case for you, just mount it to the saddle rails for considerably more clearance.
Potential Tire Clearance with Seat Post Mount
One other issue we had with attaching the PRO to the seat post is that you can’t tighten the strap enough so that it doesn’t move from side to side on the post. The TRAX MTB secures via zip ties and we were able to get it much tighter. If this bothers you, just attach the PRO to the saddle.
Towing with the TRAX MTB – How it Works
The TRAX MTB consists of a Kevlar towing wire wrapped around a plastic spool encased in a durable plastic housing. (The PRO model is high-density polyethylene cable.) Like a tape-measure, the spool inside the TRAX MTB is self-tensioning, so the wire always remains taut.
When you are ready to tow with the TRAX MTB, simply pull the thin Kevlar wire out of the body of the TRAX and hook it over the headset of the bike to be towed. No tools or special adapters needed. Since the lead bike needs to stay upright in order to hook the wire to the bike being towed, we found it easiest for the adult rider to pull out the cable and hand it the rider being towed to attach it to their bike.
Our little guy did have some trouble with his gloves getting in the way of of the wire when hooking it to the headset, but it wasn’t a big deal and he got better at hooking it with every ride.
Between the tension of the wire and the black rubber coating around a portion of the loop, we had no problems or concerns with the wire coming out of place. The wire stayed firm and never slipped.
TRAXmtb in Action
Having used the TowWhee tow rope, as well as the no-longer available Bicycle Bungee, I’ve found that all tow ropes, including the TRAX ropes, create minimal resistance from the trailing bike. With all ropes, towing is surprisingly easier than one would anticipate and doesn’t even require changing gears!
The smoothness of which they pull, however, does vary. I found the self-correcting tension of the TRAX MTB to create the smoothest ride once you get going. With the wire always taut, there’s never any slack in the cable to cause any “bounciness”.
Ironically, when using the TRAX MTB I found myself wanting to pull little dude up the mountain farther than he often wanted to be pulled. Knowing how much we both love the downhill (and certainly due to the annoyance of having the stop earlier than I wanted to before we had the TRAX MTB), the minimal drag from the rope re-excited my drive to the top!
The quick and easy nature of hooking up the TRAX MTB made me fall in love with it even more. With the TRAX MTB mounted to my seat post, I didn’t have to check and double check my pack to make sure I had my tow rope with me before we left the house.
Stopping to mount and unmount the TRAX MTB was also a breeze as I didn’t have to remove my hydration pack to get a tow rope out. Little dude just pulled up next to me, grabbed the wire, hooked it on, and off we went.
During our rides, we did come across one downside to the TRAX MTB. The tension on the cable allows it to be pulled out smoothly, but upon reaching the end of the cable you can sometimes feel it come to an abrupt end.
While the TRAX MTB is plenty long to tow at 6.2 ft or 1.9 m, (7.2 ft or 2.2 m for the PRO) those feet go by quite quickly if the rider on the tow bike doesn’t start pedaling the same time as the lead rider.
As a result, our 8-year-old tester was often jolted forward when getting started as he wasn’t as quite on the draw as I was. While this quick jolt never caused him to crash, it did make him uncomfortable and forced him to quickly self correct and regain control of his bike.
The shorter length, as well as the tension behind the wire, also made starting to ride with the TRAX MTB a bit more challenging while on a steeper incline. The steeper the incline, the quicker the rider being towed needs to be ready to react. In addition, you’ll want to take caution while stopping on a steeper incline as the tension on the wire is enough to pull the front wheel of the lead bike off the ground when stopped.
Removing the TRAX MTB and TRAX PRO
Upon reaching the top of the hill, removing the TRAX MTB or TRAX PRO is quick and easy. To release the cable, simply pull up on the wire loop and slightly pull back to unhook the wire. Upon release from the bike being towed, the wire quickly retracts back into the housing and without any concerns of whiplash to the lead rider (we tested several times to make sure :-).
For those planning on using the TRAXmtb for races or with adults, this is where the TRAX really shines! Unlike other towing devices, the TRAX can be quickly and safely removed without either of the riders needing to stop.
For the TRAX PRO, if you have it attached to your saddle rails (right under your bum), after removing the end of the rope from the towed bike, it is possible for it to smack the lead rider’s bum. We recommend scooting forward slightly when the rope is retracting back into its housing.
TRAX MTB vs. TowWhee
To get a better feel for the TRAX MTB, we did a head-to-head test with the TowWhee tow rope system. While the two tow ropes are essentially identical in their purpose, we found their respective designs make them better suited for different types of riders and riding situations.
|Length of rope||6.2 ft (1.9m)||14.2 ft|
|Weight of rope||3.3 oz. (95 g)||5 oz. (142 g)|
|Max towable weight||200 lb (90kg)||500 lb|
|Max towing speed||6 mph||8 mph|
|Lead bike mount location||Seat post||Looped over saddle|
|Tow rider mount location||Headset||Headset or headtube|
Due to its shorter cable and less “give” upon reaching the end of the cable, we would recommend the TRAX MTB or TRAX PRO for more advanced riders. While it gets easier with time, the initial jolt when being pulled by the TRAX ropes was much less preferred by our less confident kid testers than the gradual pull of the elastic TowWhee.
Extending out to almost 15 feet, the TowWhee also allowed the tow rider to ride much farther behind the lead rider. We found this longer distance to be beneficial to younger riders. In addition to providing more time to start, it also provided them more time to stop!
If the child rider is not paying attention while being pulled, they can easily run into the adult rider if the adult quickly slows down or stops. With kids easily being distracted, we found these few milliseconds the longer rope provided to be a big benefit for younger riders.
TRAX FLEX Elastic Tow Rope
Trax Bike also released their version of a more traditional tow rope in 2022. The style is the same concept as the TowWhee, but is shorter, more compact, and less elastic.
With an extended length of 2.5 m (8.2 ft), it’s longer than the retractable TRAX ropes, but significantly shorter than the TowWhee at 14.2 ft. After testing all options, in our opinion the TRAX FLEX rope is ideal for keeping stashed in your bag for those just-in-case situations.
Tow Ropes vs. Tow Bars
With all tow ropes, it is essential to note their maximum tow speeds are relatively low at between 6 and 8 mph. Tow ropes are designed to tow kids up hills (mainly on trails), not around town. They are not a good choice for those who want to help their younger kids extend their ride distance with their family.
Unlike other “towing” mechanisms, such as the Trail Gator or FollowMe Tandem, tow ropes require kids to balance and maintain control of their bike. They need to be aware enough to know when to slow down (so they don’t run into the adult rider) as well as when and how to maneuver the bike around any obstacles on the trail. If a child were to fall while on a tow rope, they can also be dragged by the adult rider!
TRAX MTB and TRAX PRO Bottom Line
The TRAX MTB and TRAX PRO are game-changers for mountain biking families. Whether you’re riding with young groms who don’t quite have the strength (or the desire) to tackle the next hill, or older kids who need some extra encouragement, the TRAX MTB is just what you need. Handy when you need it and out of the way when you don’t, the TRAX MTB and PRO are the most convenient tow ropes for intermediate to advanced riders.
Due to its shorter length of rope and tendency to “tug” riders from the get-go, we don’t recommend the TRAX retractable ropes for beginning riders who aren’t fully capable and confident in balancing, maneuvering, and braking their bike in a wide variety of circumstances.