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Old 07-21-12, 11:55 AM   #1
Sarahsdawn
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Tandem cycling, fishtail, visually impaired (no idea what to title this...)

Hi! I'm a newb.
This is my intro and my question.
I'm a mom, 29, on a weight loss journey. (20 lbs down, a little less than 20 to go.)
My husband is Mike, 32, and 6'6". Meanwhile my height is 5'1". (This is all relevant, I promise.)
My kids are Emily, almost 7, legally blind in one eye, patching 10 hrs/day with limited vision. Charlie is almost 3, and is a hyperactive chimpanzee.

So, I bought a used beach cruiser on CL last year. At some point I attempted to ride with my son in a rear baby seat...I didn't even ride to the end of the block. It was majorly fish-tailing, didn't feel secure, major wobble. I did some research and found that it's harder for smaller individuals to ride with bigger kids. So I haven't used it, gave it to a friend, didn't think much of it.

Recently I bought a bike tagalong (the bike that hitches to a grownup bike...makes it like a tandem) so that I can ride with my daughter, without worrying so much about how well she is/isn't seeing. We took it for a test drive around the block, and there's a little wobble...not too much, but some.

My question...Could this be my bike? Could it need an alignment or something? (Do bikes need those?) Or is it just getting used to the tagalong bike? Or maybe Emily's balance is a little off, and it's making the bike wobble?

Any advice welcome.
-Sarah
PS. Is there a FB group? I'm on there more.
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Old 07-21-12, 02:00 PM   #2
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Generally the only alignment on a bike is trueing wheels. But I can't see how an out of true wheel would lead to a wobble like you describe.

I had a 'Trail-a-bike' when my boy was very young and small. I'm a pretty experienced rider and while I never had a 'wobbling' problem I could feel him throwing his weight around back there sometimes.

If you could find someone with a little bike knowledge to actually watch you and your daughter ride maybe they could spot the problem.

Or try a solo ride and pay a bit of attention to your track as you ride along by observing how well you can maintain a constant distance from the edge of the road or path you're on. I've seen riders that can't seem to ride in an area less than 2 feet wide.
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Old 07-21-12, 06:33 PM   #3
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Welcome, mommy!

First thing, while your bike is just standing there and you're ready to get on it, stop and grab the rear wheel; see if it feels loose or wobbly from side-to-side. Do the same with the front wheel, also the crank/pedals. (It will feel "rattle-ly" if it IS loose.) Anything that feels that way needs attention.

Tell you what, though -- almost 3 needs a trailer, not a frame-mounted child seat! That'll make things easier. Not having ever used the trail-a-bike with my kids, I can't advise you on that one. I'm not fond of them, though, personally; my opinion is, any child big enough to do their part on that bike is ready to ride their own. (My nephew, at age 7, rode 25 miles with me and my daughter one day; it took six hours, with all the stops -- errands, lunch, playground -- but he did it!)
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Old 07-21-12, 08:14 PM   #4
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While I've never towed a tagalong (they came about after my own kids were riding on their own), I do have a lot of experience on a tandem.

I rode at different times with all three of my children on both an old Schwinn Twinn 5 spd. and a new Burley 18 spd with a child crank. Here comes the pertinent part....two of my kids rode that tandem like pros. I only knew they were back there through their conversation and the extra power when needed.

The other child was a different story. Talk about wobble!! Even though I was a relatively strong cyclist with years of experience, every ride with her on-board was a major challange.

So there may or may not be a problem with your equipment or it may simply be a skillset problem. As sugested earlier, take a ride with the trail-a-bike empty and see how it handles. Have a competent mechanic check over the bike and the tagalong. If all is well with the equipment I would sugest continueing to ride with your daughter.

I assume there will always be some wobble due to the fact that there is no way your cranks will ever be in phase with each other. Add to that the potential that your daughter may be shifting her weight around as she rides. I imagine that you can ask the mechanic at your bike shop for a more insightful explaination about how a tagalong should handle.

I hope it all works out well so you and your daughter can enjoy many fun days riding about town.

Last edited by cranky old dude; 07-21-12 at 08:28 PM.
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Old 07-22-12, 04:45 AM   #5
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My daughter can cause my bike to rock and weave on the tagalong (not really a tagalong, but similar). As I understand it some brands are better than others. She likes to turn around and see things or try to see around me, and that's when I really feel it.

I can't tighten it down so it doesn't do that, but then it won't pivot and turning is an issue.
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Old 07-22-12, 07:46 AM   #6
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Sorry, youngest is almost 4. (In October.) Very tall, too. (And energetic, hence the biking. )
It's not in budget to buy anything extravagant at this point, so we're trying to work with what we do have. (A double seat trailer, a tandem, a bike for each kid and grownup.) The trailer we started with first....we'd get them ready for bed, put them in the trailer, and by the time we got home they'd be asleep.
They still fit (weight limit is 100lbs....their combined weight is under 80 still.) but they've been given a taste of freedom with the tandem, so now they don't want to ride in the trailer very much.
Riding it is getting a little easier. (Not that it was difficult, it just made me nervous, with the wobble.)
We're considering watching CL for another tandem for hubby's bike, since they both want to ride, and that would probably be the cheapest option. (To get our foot in the door, anyways.)
@DX, Emily cannot ride independently, as she's blind in one eye....something I've gone around and around about, internally. (Independence vs. Safety.) Ultimately at this point, safety wins....maybe when she's older, if we can somehow teach her to compensate. Maybe.
The brand of the tandem is Schwinn.
I'll check the wheel wobble, thanks!
Lastly, pics.
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Old 07-22-12, 05:51 PM   #7
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General rule with tag-alongs is the child rider should weigh less then 50% of the adult rider.
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Old 07-22-12, 06:14 PM   #8
Sarahsdawn
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I'm 125, Em is 41, Charlie is 34. So we're good there. (So far, at least. )
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