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  1. #1
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    trail-a-bike: gears???

    I'm about to pick up (probably an Adams) trail-a-bike. My son is 6 (1st grade) and this is a great way for me to ride with him to school vs. driving. Also allows for longer day trips. (we also have a Chariot for the 2 smaller kids - 4 yrs and 2 yrs).

    Question - are gears on a trail-a-bike worth the investment? Do they "get in the way"? I'm assuming the single speed model is a freewheel and allows him to coast on the pedals?

    thanks,

    -gb

  2. #2
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    The shifter models are more of a gimmick. If you are a strong rider, you quickly over power anything the child puts into pedaling a trailercycle. You did assume right, the SS model has a freewheel and no model has a brake, and that is a good thing.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan
    The shifter models are more of a gimmick. If you are a strong rider, you quickly over power anything the child puts into pedaling a trailercycle. You did assume right, the SS model has a freewheel and no model has a brake, and that is a good thing.
    Thanks for confirming. I'll pull him on a commuter style bike. 15mph being being probably top end. Is the trail-a-bike 5th gear a "real" 5th gear? Or a made up kid 5th gear? Meaning, it would be great if I got some kind of benefit from his pedaling...

    -gb

  4. #4
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    I can't tell you specifically for the geared Trail-a-Bike, but we had a non-geared Trail-a-Bike followed by a geared Burley Piccolo (alas out of production). We do ride about 1500-2000 km per year with the trailercycle, which is much more than most people do... Which is why we worn out the articulation of the Trail-a-Bike in about one year.

    In some ways, gearing is a gimmick, especially with a 4-6 year old kid. My older one started using the Piccolo at 5, started to shift at 6 and was really into shifting and using the ideal gears at 7. Her idea was to spin at the same speed as I did and was useful both for stoking on the real tandem and for riding her own bike. And I would add that I appreciate her contribution when we climb hills with the loaded bike.

    On the other hand, my younger one is about to turn 7 and basically shifts – sometimes – when I ask her. So each child gets it differently.

    I also found another issue with the non-geared trailercycle: the gear is way too high. Children have short legs and therefore can spin faster. Yet with the basic gearing, she could spin at 90 rpm on the Trail-a-Bike... when we reached 30 or 40 km/h. Yet it's not when going downhill that I need all the help I can get, it's when I climb a hill or when we struggle at 10-15 km/h with a headwind! So unless you are a fast rider, I would recommend changing the default cog with one that would be anout 2 teeth larger.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  5. #5
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    My son (4 y 9 mo old) rides on the Adams Shifter 7. In my opinion, it is NOT a gimmick. He is learning to shift effectively and efficiently, given the surface (we ride both on and off road) and slope of the road ahead. He shifts to the appropriate gear given the speed we are traveling. He also rests when he needs to. I do know, however, his biking skill is better than most his age. Just after his 4th birthday he asked me to take his training wheels off. He rarely crashes - that day, or since. He has also done hundreds of miles, both on and off road, on a non-pedaling Instep Hitchhiker (similar to Adams). Either way, to say it is a gimmick is like a single-speeder calling your multi-geared bike a gimmick. For some it works, for others it doesn't.

    Technically speaking, it has a 44 t front ring and a 14 - 28 cassette. With a 20" tire, this yields a gear inch range of 31.4 - 62.9. This is roughly equivalent to the range on my Surly CrossCheck from the middle chain ring (36t)/largest cog (32t) to the middle ring/middle cog (16t). In these gears I have an effective cadence from approx. 5 - 20 mph, which is plenty of range for when I'm riding with a trail-a-bike. We've ridden some pretty steep paved hills, as well as technical singletrack (Banner Forest, Capitol Forest, and Lake Sawyer are our favorites).
    Last edited by hopperja; 02-20-07 at 11:56 PM.
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  6. #6
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    a few years ago i was at LBS to pick up a bike post tune up, my 5 yr old son adam was along.
    the LBS had an adams trailer bike hanging in the used bike rack. he thought that was his new
    bike, between the LBS and Adam; felt like i was set up. so the adams trailer came home and
    we mounted it on my mud bike. i don't think the gearing really mattered for the 5 yr old,
    being able to ride a "big bike" with mom and dad was more important. he would pedal when he
    wanted and coast when ever. sometimes on a level smooth surface, dad would say adam
    "pedal for us", adam would pedal and dad wouldn't- adam got a great charge out of being the
    "power". things to watch out for- make sure you have a mirror on your bike so you can watch
    the rear stoker. also put a mirror on the trailer bike so the rear stoker can look around more.
    adam was always cranking his head around to look at something along the road or mom, this would
    shift his weight slightly, the front bike feels that a lot. we never rode very long, 1/2 hr at most,
    as the stoker would get tired and lose interest. make sure the stoker has some eye protection,
    dust and stones seemed to target the back. our stoker will be 8 in a couple weeks, he has his
    own bike, is excited about biking and seems to enjoy riding (during the past couple months
    he has asked to "get his bike out of the shed?, so he can ride in the snow)- i think the adams trailer was a great contribution to this.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by martianone
    make sure the stoker has some eye protection,
    dust and stones seemed to target the back.
    Zefal makes (or used to) a short fender that straps to the downtube. I used one on our Trail-a-bike to deflect anything from the rear tire. It was small enough that I could leave it in place even when folding the bike, but still big enough to keep stuff out of his face.

  8. #8
    Senior Member mlh122's Avatar
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    What if the kid is the only one pedaling? "Come on Timmy! Daddy's not getting any older!" haha just kidding. I don't think the kid would be putting forth any useful power, but learning to shift is good. and if they get bored they will have something to play with. i would consider putting on a light or maybe a bell for them to play with. that way you can teach him to hit the bell when you're turning or when he sees pedestrians.

  9. #9
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    "I don't think the kid would be putting forth any useful power, but learning to shift is good. and if they get bored they will have something to play with."
    respectfully, i disagree with these comments-
    useful power- you can easily feel the "power" from a small stoker. on a flat road the stoker can keep
    you both moving along nicely.
    learning to shift- should come at a later date when the child is fully coordinated to be effective at this.
    bored- if you stoker child get bored, you should stop and let the bored person get off.
    something to play with- better for the stoker to keep both hands on the handlebar, we had a couple
    close calls where the stoker was one handed and started to loose his balance.
    the stoker helped keep track of traffic, a mirror was very helpful, one for each of you. the stoker
    likes to look into your mirror and see your face- it helps keep him/her connected and seemed to
    help with stoker communication

  10. #10
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    + 1 re: feeling the power of my 4 yo son pedaling. In fact, I typically increase 1 - 2 mph when he is pedaling.

    There is so much for him to learn riding a trail-a-bike. Not only is he learning to shift, but he learns when to shift. This is especially helpful on uphills, particularly single-track. Incidentally, while offroad he is also learning to lean forward while going uphill (increases rear wheel traction), pull on his handlebars towards his seat (again, increases rear wheel traction), shift to an "easy gear" to help with pedaling, and pay attention to pedal position (a low pedal is likely to get caught on something).
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