Posted by Marion Rice on October 1st, 2009 at 8:00 am
[Publisher's note: This review is by our Family Biking columnist Marion Rice. Marion's last column explored safety and cultural issues around carrying infants by bike.]
My son Griffin is seven and has begun riding strong on his own bike (see my column about navigating that all-important first bike purchase).
Though he's making great strides with riding independently, Griffin still lacks the experience -- and sometimes the focus -- to ride on busy streets without causing his parents mild heart attacks. And though it's yet to happen, we do at some point expect him to tire out during a longer or hilly ride. We haven't had a foolproof backup plan for getting all of us and our bikes home in case of a meltdown.
The FollowMe is a new product designed to help parents bridge this transition period between when a child needs to be toted around on someone else's bike and when they're able to ride independently anywhere and everywhere. It's a device that attaches to the back of an adult's bike and can be folded out to hitch onto a kid's bike's front wheel -- and both adult and child can ride off together, with or without the kid pedaling along.
My husband and I borrowed a FollowMe from its local purveyor, Clever Cycles, for a five-day road test, from Thursday through Monday, riding with all possible configurations over a variety of city terrain.
Our family does have experience with ride-along bike attachments. For the past year, when he hasn't been on his own bike, Griffin has been riding mostly with his Dad using the Burley Piccolo attachment; prior to that we used the Novara Afterburner.
We have been very happy with the Piccolo (which Burley appears to have begun producing after a hiatus). It can be quickly attached and unattached, is very stable, handles turns well, and allows my son to shift through seven gears. We both like it much better than the Novara Afterburner, which often was a pain to put on, wobbled on the road and frequently shifted out of alignment.
Though it is a bit spendy at $399, we did find that FollowMe offers a perfect solution to our transitional challenges. Griffin can ride his own bike alongside his dad on quiet streets, and then ride attached to dad for trickier stretches. The FollowMe with Griffin’s bike on board feels very much like the Piccolo—very stable, securely connected and about the same weight. Without the kid’s bike, and with the arm and strut folded up onto the rack, my husband's bike felt just like it always does.
There’s a three-step procedure with the Follow Me for putting on or taking off the kid’s bike, which seemed cumbersome the first time but became quick and easy with repetition. Quick hard turns of more than 115 degrees might cause binding with the kid’s bike on board, but the only time my husband experienced this was when maneuvering the two attached bikes out of the garage; the issue did not come into play with actual road use.
Basically, the FollowMe is a great solution for that transitional stage when your child is becoming a sole cyclist but may not be ready to go it alone under all conditions. It's easy to use, lightweight, and does wonders for a parent's peace of mind. And I suspect it may allow a child to progress faster by not being restricted to short, easy rides on his or her bike or always being towed by mom or dad.
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