Adventure Racing Tow Systems

Written By Paula Waite

If you have spent much time in the adventure racing world, you’ve likely seen teams zipping along on the bike with a tow line running from rider to rider to create a fancy-looking speed train. Maybe you’ve even seen a team running through the woods with one runner tethered to another. This sort of teamwork is the core of adventure racing, in which the pace of the team is determined by the slowest team member. Teams can increase their pace significantly by speeding up that slowest teammate. In fact, it’s been shown that during a 10k run, using a tow system can improve the overall time by up to 15%. Consider how much time your team could shave off by implementing a towing strategy! Convinced, but not sure where to start? Following are a couple of my favorite systems – give them a try!

Latex tubing tow

A single piece of latex tubing is probably the simplest, lightest and most versatile of the AR tow systems. It can work well as a bike tow, running tow, and even canoe tow.

To make your own:

  1. Buy a length of latex tubing. 3/8” outside diameter tubing works well for us. You can find tubing in the plumbing section of your local hardware store or online, in fact, a quick search on Amazon returns large selection.
  2. A 6-foot section is a good starting point for a bike/run tow, but be sure to test it before cutting since the stretch factor varies across tubing types.
  3. Tie a large loop in one end of the tubing to fit around the tower’s waist, and a smaller loop on the other end for the “towee” to hold.


Retractable dog leash tow

While the latex tubing tow works well, it does tend to put a concentrated strain on the tower’s waist body during a hilly ride. I prefer a retractable dog leash tow system. These systems take a little more time to make and cost a bit more than the latex tow, but I think the benefits are worth it. The tow is attached directly to the tower’s seat post, rather than the towers body, so it alleviates that sometimes uncomfortable pull on the waist when towing with tubing. When not in use, the retractable tow is out of the way under the bike seat, but it is still fairly easy for the tower to reach back, grab the tow handle and pass it to the towee.

To make your own, replace the static leash and cord with bungie so the tow system has a little “give”:

  1. Buy a retractable dog leash and 3/16” bungie/shock cord. The leashes come in a variety of sizes. Medium works well – mine are made of a Flexi Standard 2.
  2. Disassemble the dog leash by removing the two screws holding it together.
  3. Remove the retractor button and its assembly. They are not needed for the tow, so you can discard them.Bike Tow Assembly
  4. Remove the original cord/leash from the spool.
  5. If necessary, use a drill to enlarge the holes on the spool so that you can thread the bungie through them.
  6. Thread one end of the bungie through the spool and tie it off.
  7. If necessary, use a drill to enlarge the hole in the plastic housing so the bungie runs through it smoothly.
  8. Tie a loop in the bungie for a handle. Adding a small piece of latex tubing makes the handle a bit more comfortable to hold.
  9. Reassemble the plastic housing with the spool inside and the bungie extending through the housing.
  10. Attach the tow to the seat post using zip ties or velcro cable ties. Velcro cable ties make it easy to remove/transfer the tow system.

A word of caution

Do not attach any tow system to the stem, handlebars or any other part of the “towee’s” bike! It’s far safer for the “towee” to hold the tow line in their hand, so they can easily let go in an emergency.

What’s your favorite?

There are many other tow systems out there, if you’d like to submit an article about making your favorite device, please email us.

Posted in Volume 1.2
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