On smooth trails, with lower speeds, I wouldn't have a problem with it. My daughter is still to small to ride hers for long, but we've done a few dirt paths, and quite a bit of paved riding. Once she's older, I'll take her out on some of the easy local trails. She loves riding, and always wants to join me when I go out.
Regarding two wheeled trailers, I agree they are not well suited to offroad riding, especially singletrack.
However, the single wheeled trailer bikes work great offroad. I have two children and ride single track regularly pulling my 6 year old son on an Adams trail-a-bike. It is perfect and the times we share are priceless. Absolutely no hesitation assuming the child is capable and knows how to hang on. We've gone on rides as long as 17 miles on XC trails.
Change the tire to something high volume (20x2.125+) and run ~10 psi. That takes the edge off the ride. I put a slime innertube on it to not have to worry about flats as much. It actually rolls really well and the increase in rolling resistance is tiny. The ~70 lbs of added weight up hills is another story, but it makes for a great workout!
He has his own camelbak, and we make plenty of stops for snacks. When the camelback was a novelty, he would suck all the water down and then we'd have to make potty stops every 5 minutes, so be prepared...
Keep the pace down, be aware over bumps and obstacles. Also remember the extra length and width of the handlebars back there as you pass trees etc.
The pedals they come with are slick plastic. His feet would slip off easily. I wound up putting pinned BMX platforms on it. He's learned to time the pedals over obstacles, but still has occasional pedal strikes. Those pedals are pretty rough on the shins, so now he wears shin guards.
We also put a BMX type pad kit on the top tube, stem and handlebars. So far, they haven't been tested.
Pace is much slower. What normally takes me 70 minutes to ride takes 110 min with child.
We have our kids out on the easier trails here in Phoenix with the trail-a-bikes. Like someone else said, we got a much fatter tire for each one and run it nearly flat - 10 psi or less.
You need to be prepared for them to not lean with you, to wobble back and forth while lollygagging and it will try to throw you off your line. I also had to train my kids to stand up when I do and follow some directions like that so they don't get bucked too hard on rocks and ledges.
Here's a vid of my wife pulling the little guy (2.5 years) by the water tank on Desert Classic. Yeah, she's pulling him on a singlespeed. They LOVE the fast rollers.
I have ridden hundreds of miles with two different trail-a-bikes. My now 7 year old son started riding with me when he was 4 years old, a week after his birthday. Our first ride together was an 11-mile loop that took about 1.5 hours in the pouring rain (Capitol Forest, from Fall Creek Campground, green line #6 to trail 20). It was cold, but he was hooked!
After that we started riding regularly together. For the first two years, we used an old In-step trail-a-bike that was given to us. It didn't pedal and was great learning for him. We rode hundreds of miles on it, much of it trail, the rest on the road. We rode easy, smooth trails as well as tight, technical twisty single track.
After that, we moved on to the 7 speed Adams trail-a-bike. We get less back tire rub with that, and because it's geared he actually helps. On it, we've ridden tons of difficult trails. If you're from the Northwest, we've ridden: Banner Forest, Capitol Forest, Lake Sawyer, Middle Fork Snoqualmie, Tahuya, and Skookum Flats. We've got just under 500 miles on it (I put a cyclo-computer on for him). I pulled him on the Middle Fork trail with my Surly Crosscheck - that was amazingly difficult!
Though riding is much more difficult with him behind, we didn't find any trails we couldn't ride together.
Early on, I taught him two rules, which were essential for his safety: 1) keep your feet on the pedals; 2) keep your hands on the handlebars. They seem simple and obvious, but on a crash, they're not so easy. However, I don't want him trying to stop the weight of our fall with his little arms or legs. Yes, we've crashed, and he has never been injured. One time, we crashed in a puddle riding at Tahuya. He lay there on his side, butt on the seat, feet on the pedals, hands on the bars, with his face half-submerged!
For balance, I taught him the old canoeing adage: keep your head over center. This helped me immensely with balance, particularly in the slow-going, tight single track.
Other posters who say, "I would not do it" or, "on the easier trails" ... well, I don't know them or their children, so I won't stoop to judging them. What I know is that my 7 year old loves his trail-a-bike and we have hundreds of miles of shared experience with it on some of the most difficult trails I've ever ridden. The bumpier it was and/or the faster we went, the more he loved it!
If you're picking an off-road capable trail-a-bike, the most important consideration for me was the adult's bike rear wheel clearance. For that, the trail-a-bike needs a significant arch in the connecting arm. The In-step had a relatively straight connector arm and it frequently hit my rear wheel. It didn't really ever cause any problems, but was definitely an irritant for me. I have not had any problems with the Adams' connector arm hitting the rear wheel. I also wanted one that was geared so that my son could learn shifting. Learning pedaling techniques has it's merits as well. I put a rim brake on it for him to help me with braking, as well as to learn about braking. I attached a water bottle cage to the handlebar.
Others have said to air down the tire. I have never done this. I'm sure it would marginally smooth out the ride for him, but I never did it, and he loved riding nonetheless.
My son's riding his own MTB now, but we logged many miles on our singlespeeds, me towing and he pedaling along on singletrack trails. The key advice is contained above and bears repeating: air-down the trailabike tire and keep an eye on speed -- especially over lips and descending.
Other than that, the trailabike opens up trails you can't fit on with a wider trailer and opens up your child's eyes to the adventures waiting for them.
I, too, have used a trail-a-bike for years w/my son. Everything from smooth buff singletrack to rocky, technical trails. Heck, the rocky stuff I pulled him with my hybrid bike since I didn't want to attempt it with the singlespeed (there was a lot of climbing). He loves it. The other posters' advice and tips on doing it are spot on.
I can't figure out how to post pics, but I've got some great shots of my 5 yr old and I on the slickrock @ Bar-M just north of Moab. This area has plenty of doubletrack, singletrack, and slickrock, and we had a great day there last fall. He's ridden road and offroad on the trail-a-bike, and each day i get a "Dad, that was the best ride ever!!"
He rides his 2wheeler on pavement and dirt 2track, but for longer rides, the trail-a-bike is awesome!! (We got a 5 speed Adams on Craigslist a couple years ago for $50).
On another note, he's been trailing along behind me MTB since 5 months old, when I pulled him up the Flume Trail at Tahoe- (in a Chariot Carrier, which he just outgrew) to the beginning of the singletrack!!
Not much to add to what's been said as I also highly recommend the trail-a-bike. It is especially fun from about ages 6 to 11 or so. I added a suspension setpost to take a little edge off. We've done tons of rocky trails, log crossing, small drops, etc.
I pulled both of our kids on single wheel tag-a-long type trailers for many, many off road miles.
We had two different models. One was an inexpensive folding version we got from a discount store for about $75 US. The second was the Burley Piccolo pictured below, which we picked up at a yard sale for $75 US.
The difference between the cheap one and the Burley was very noticeable. The Burley was lighter (aluminum seat post, hub, rim, bars), more adjustable, had gears, and handled much better. The biggest drawback to the Burley is the dedicated rack that must be installed to pull the trailer. However, this is also what made it handle better. The cheaper trailer attached to the seatpost and the slightest weight shift from the kid was amplified to the towing bike.
For resale, I broke even on the cheap one after about 6 years, but I made my money back 3x with the Burley after 4 years.
One big word of caution is to allow extra stopping distance. I found that rim brakes are barely sufficient on a 1200' descent when towing a kid. The kid finds it exciting, however!
I miss those days. Daughter is old enough now that she just wants to drive the car all of the time.
The Weehoo does look interesting. However, I see more benefits than just taking him along with me. He has learned:
1- to balance on a bike while perched on a seat
2- apply the brake when needed
3- shift gears up or down depending on what is needed
4- take one hand off the bars to drink from his water bottle
5- stand up when I stand, sit down when I sit
6- keep his head over center
I'm sure there are others I'm not thinking of...
Much of these lessons are because he rode a trail-a-bike that rode like a real bike. I'm sure there are some that have taken their trail-a-bike on more miles of singletrack than I have. But I'm also certain there aren't many. I am speaking from hundreds of miles of first hand experience. I found the Adams and another similar one I was reasearching that was very similar (I can't remember the name) to be ideal.
Just to add another 'yes' vote, I've gone out with my cousin and his two oldest girls, both on tag-a-longs. We ride single track, but it's not overly hard. There are a number of small structures that you ride up and over, a see-saw too, and they all work fine with the trailer. In fact, having that weight at the back removes the chances of me going over my bars.
My comment would be take corners wide, as the trailer takes a shorter line, so if you hub the inside edge the trailer will cut the corner.
We were doing about 10 mile rides, all at a cruising pace though, a good chance to have a chat and take the kids and dog out.
PS I use my single speed with the trailer, my cousin a geared hardtail. Both work fine.
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