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Review: Bridging the independence gap with the FollowMe

Posted by 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.]

On test- Follow-me Tandem-2

Griffin and dad test riding the FollowMe.
(Photos © J. Maus)

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.

On test- Follow-me Tandem-5

The attachment is light weight
and snaps on securely.

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.

On test- Follow-me Tandem-3

Enjoying the ride!

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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  • Nick V October 1, 2009 at 8:29 am

    My first thought was that tight turns might be tricky.
    No kids here, but I could put it on my wife’s bike so she won’t keep stopping to take pics?

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  • Mr. C October 1, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Yeah definitely need one for the girlfriend. What’s the range of tire size that the FollowMe will handle? I’ve got a giant of a niece that took a long time to learn and mostly because of her size and how long she waited before learning. Can you get a 26″ tire on there?

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  • todd October 1, 2009 at 9:03 am

    no, 20″ wheels on towed bike max, and towing rider needs to be substantially heavier than towed. not a cheap path to a grown-up tandem setup.

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  • Julian October 1, 2009 at 9:25 am

    Glad you liked it, Marion! I’ve been excited about the FollowMe since seeing pictures of it on JJ’s bike.

    Call me a contrarian or Euro-fetish family cyclist, but the default/available-in-LBS ways to carry kids in this country are inferior at every stage. I’d take front seats (Bobike Mini) over plastic bucket rear seats, family cargo bikes (xtra, madsen, bakfiets) over trailers, and FollowMe over trail-a-bike any day.

    I think the shops and manufacturers here think people want something inexpensive that they can bolt onto their recreational bike for Saturdays on the bike trail, and remove easily leaving no trace on the adult bike for that Sunday MTB ride. And if you’re not using your bike as a practical tool for getting around, that low cost and modularity may win out. At the high-end of the US market, trailers and trail-a-bikes can cost as much as my preferred options, but still end up less practical/enjoyable because of their recreational cycling DNA.

    But as “everyday cycling” takes hold here in the US, I hope we’ll see more like-minded products here in the US without the euro-markup.

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  • John Lascurettes October 1, 2009 at 9:48 am

    We started using a FollowMe to get our kid from the Colombia side of the NE Alameda ridge down to his new school in SE.

    The joy of it is that I get him there and then lock the followme and his bike together so that my wife can pick him up in the afternoon with her bike. When we get closer to our neighborhood, she takes him off the follow me and allows him to ride on his own.

    This setup is definitely heavier than the tagalong style trailers, but it’s been working out so far. I imagine it could be manufactured lighter – it seems built to be bomb-proof and because of it seems heavier in its design than it needs to be.

    As stated, it was awkward to get it on and off at first, but it become rote after a few days. It is harder to get on and off of my frame because of my wider frame and wheel with internal hub and roller brakes. That reminds me, definitely make sure your brakes are tuned! I have excellent stopping power with my roller brakes, but with the extra added weight, I can see how poorly tuned rim brakes would be a big problem.

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  • mike October 1, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I am wondering how long we would be able to use it for. What is the weight limit?

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  • ME 2 October 1, 2009 at 11:32 am

    John #5, Do you go westbound on NE Skidmore for your morning trip to your son’s school? I think I’ve seen you a few times with the FollowMe. It looks like a cool device. Too bad it is out of my budget range.

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  • John Lascurettes October 1, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    @ME 2, yup, that’s where our journey begins.

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  • John Lascurettes October 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Regarding weight limits, according to the manufacturers’ site:

    Weight: 4 kg

    Max. towing weight: 45 kg (incl. the child‘s cycle).

    Or 8.82 lbs and 99.20 lbs respectively.

    As somone else already stated, the max wheel size on the child’s bike is 20″

    It also states “Additional load: a child‘s seat, carrier and side pannier bags are possible without limit.”

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  • Cliff October 1, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    I manage pretty much the same thing with the extracycle. When my son gets tired or the traffic gets too bad, I strap the front tire into the bag and he rides on the back. The extracycle attachment is in the same ballpark price as the follow me with loads more usability otherwise.

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  • Zaphod October 1, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Very cool design but the Xtra (as per Cliff #10) solves the issue and also has epic cargo capabilities. If your *only* need is to carry and disconnect then the FollowMe looks good.

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    • Sarah May 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      I know you wrote this years ago, but I’m wondering how you accomplish the same thing with the xtracycle? I can’t picture it. I have a Kona Ute with bags. Wondering if I could try it.

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      • Duncan January 4, 2014 at 12:01 pm

        I think what Zaphod and Cliff mean is that their child can ride their own bike completely unattached, but if they get tired or the roads are busy, then they get them to sit on the back of the xtracycle and tow their child’s bike along by strapping the front wheel into the xtracycle’s bag.

        That’s fine, but we use our FollowMe primarily for our five year old daughter to get to/from school and there’s no way we’d let her ride unattached on those roads at that time of day. With the FollowMe she can still be on her bike and get a decent amount of exercise. Indeed she often tells my wife to stop pedalling and she powers herself and my wife on her bike most of the way home! You can’t do that with an Xtracycle (much as I’d love one anyway!).

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  • John Lascurettes October 1, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Difference between the FollowMe and an XtraCycle is that the FollowMe can go on either my wife’s or my bike (or our alternate bikes if we buy additional axle nuts). With an XtraCycle (trust me, I’d love one), I’d take it the rest of the way to work with me and my wife would have not way to pick up our son and cross Burnside, Sandy, Weidler, Broadway and Femont safely with him.

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  • Gram October 2, 2009 at 1:21 am

    I saw one of these speed past me on a perpendicular street and it made it look like the kid was following the parent doing a totally rad wheelie.

    I have no opinion on the followme’s function or alternatives but I will say that it’s pretty sweet to have kids zooming around behind Mom or Dad in a pseudo wheelie.

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  • Robyn April 27, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    thanks for the review! Does anyone know if it is compatible with the Electra Amsterdam original 3i (3 speed)?

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  • Colleen September 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Does anyone know if you can bike with kid’s bike attached via FollowMe but no kid on the bike? My kid is dropped off at school by car and I’d like to pick him up and take him back home (with baby brother on rear child seat) on my bike.

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    • Duncan January 4, 2014 at 11:53 am

      Yes, it’s no problem to do that – we do it all the time.

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  • Kalinka February 23, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Does anyone knows if it fits my Betty electra bike so can attach to my sons bike

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  • Aaron March 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I have not tried this product yet, but one thing I like about this is that it looks like I can keep the elevated child safety seat on my bike (and haul the 2-year old in it) while hitching up my 5-year old on her bike using the FollowMe, without spending a huge chunk of cash on a new cargo bike or an xtracycle extension (hauling two kids safely on that would involve spending bigger $ on accessories to make it work).

    Does anybody know how a kid sitting on the trailing bike affects stability when loading a child onto a rear child seat on the towing bike?

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