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  1. #1
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    Looking for tips on riding with a trailer bike.

    Yesterday was my son's 3rd birthday and my dad got him (us?) a Gary Fischer Freeloader trailer bike. My son is plenty developed to ride the trailer bike and currently rides a 2 wheeler with training wheels and goes almost faster than I can run (which is one reason I thought the trailer bike was a good idea).

    So anyway I plan on going on my first ride with my son this afternoon but wonder if there is anything I need to know before we go out.

    Thanks for any insight.
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  2. #2
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    I have a comfort bike that I use to take my daughter out with. A hard tail old mountain bike works well too. These are good options because you are riding with your hands out wider than a road bike and therefore can offer more stability when riding with a child that is not used to riding without training wheels. A road bike works fine after your child has learned to balance with you and not work against you. You can still use a road bike, but it is just harder work on the hands, wrists and forearms when first starting out. Plus, once you get that big heavy connector on your seat tube on a mountain or hybrid bike, it is easier to just leave it on. They will look or lean the opposite way and it will pull at your bike. You might feel like the first few trips that you are sore in your upper arms wrists and hands.


    Words of advice, don't go too far to start with, gradually increase your distances and stop frequently to allow your child to drink or take a potty break. Remind your son, before you start, to look to look at you or through you while riding. This will help prevent that sudden jerk from them quickly leaning over to look at something. Then gently remind them when you notice them tugging at the balance of the bike to look at you.

    Personally, I think the trail-a-bike is a great way to properly teach your children how to ride. As I am riding with my daughter, I point out potential errors or mistakes I see other children doing, like riding the wrong way down the sidewalk rather than riding in the direction of traffic or not stopping at intersections when on the sidewalk and the pitfalls of riding on the sidewalk. I point out how I am riding in or with traffic and as my daughter has become more knowledgable, I will ask her to signal and tell me what I should do or point out what I should do before we get to an intersection, etc. She will now call out when there is traffic behind me.

    Last, but not least, it is a good healthy way to spend a little quality time together. My daughter and I will now ride to the store as often as possible to go grocery shopping or to pick up a few staples when needed. My son is almost ready to start the trail-a-bike too as I expect him to say he is ready to try it with daddy any month now.

    Good Luck and Keep It Fun.

  3. #3
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Keep rides close to home or to the car. Make sure the little guy isn't sleepy before the ride. I carry a spare tube and a 15mm wrench to fix a flat on the trailercycle. Once he gets big enough to go on longer rides, you may want to invest in a small hydration pack like a Camelback Skeeter. Little hands have tendency to drop water bottles on the go.

    Make sure he wears a HELMET. A brightly colored one helps with visablilty. Watch fo gawkers, as I have had problems caused by people wanting me to stop and motorists causing accidents to see what I'm riding.

    Whenever you stop anywhere you need to lock your bike, always lock the frame of the trailercycle.

    Carry a cell phone.

    Wear a helmet yourself to set a good example.

    I tried a trailercycle with my road bike with bad results.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  4. #4
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    Well we did it. First off due to the size of my bike the trailer bike wouldn't work (classic geometry and very little seat tube sticking out), so I hooked it up to my wife's Specialized Sirrus Sport. Wife and I have the same inseam so I can ride her bike fine just more upright which is fine for this. Mounting was a breeze and after lowering the seat and adjusting the handle bars daddy and son were off. We went about 5 (down to tthe end of our road and back then the other way and back) miles before mom got home and wanted to ride as well. So I let her ride it but was worried she couldn't deal with the hills with the extra 70+ lbs of child and bike (can't believe that thing is heavier than her whole bike), but she did fine and I rode along on my roadie. What a great time, this thing is really going to give us some good times for the next several years. Love it.

    Of course everyone wore their helmets (no one in the family gets on a bike without one) and son even wanted my flashing tail light for the trailer so we put it on there, probably not a bad idea even with the flag. We sure did turn some heads in the neighborhood.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Ah-so Grasschopper, many miles of fun await you and your wife.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  6. #6
    suppercomutter scott L R's Avatar
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    Way to go! I have a generic one for my daughter, made by KENT. Avoid this brand, I got $30.00 in this thing, I bought it used even thought I have rented a Trek, Burley and Gary Fischer. My daughter loves it. I started her on rentals when she was 3, doing 5 miles at a time. Now she's 6 and does 50 miles at a time.
    Park your car, pedal to work.

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    I test road a trailer bike with my daughter last month. The combination seemed very twitchy and unstable. Is that normal?

    Paul

  8. #8
    He drop me Grasschopper's Avatar
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    I am not sure if it matters on the model but the Gary Fisher did seem a little unstable but it may just be the different feeling of the extra bike. IMO you have to remember a couple of things, they are a bit heavy (this one anyway) and the child, at first anyway, wont be on the same page as you as far as balance is concerned.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PaulH
    I test road a trailer bike with my daughter last month. The combination seemed very twitchy and unstable. Is that normal?

    Paul
    No, it's not normal. Something needed to be tightened, be it the universal joint, the hitch pin, or the hitch/post interface. I've had to shim Adams' hitches with drink cans to get them from wobbling. Trek/Fisher hitches have tendency to come loose at the hitch/post and the pivot point.

    Just as with any other mechanical device where metal rubs metal, a little lube very now and then doesn't hurt. The parts will wear on each other after time and replacement may be needed for the hitch. Rental companies should keep a stock of replacment hitches onhand anyway.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by DieselDan
    No, it's not normal. Something needed to be tightened, be it the universal joint, the hitch pin, or the hitch/post interface. I've had to shim Adams' hitches with drink cans to get them from wobbling. Trek/Fisher hitches have tendency to come loose at the hitch/post and the pivot point.

    Just as with any other mechanical device where metal rubs metal, a little lube very now and then doesn't hurt. The parts will wear on each other after time and replacement may be needed for the hitch. Rental companies should keep a stock of replacment hitches onhand anyway.
    Well, I think pulling a trailer bike can feel twitchy and unstable even if everything is adjusted perfectly - especially if this is your first time pulling your child. Granted, if some part of the hitch is loose or not adjusted right, it can be worse, but you make it sound as if as long as you have everything adjusted right, the first time you pull your child on a trailer bike it should feel perfectly smooth.

    I have ridden with my 6 year old daughter on a trailer bike quite a bit - we have done several 20 - 30 mile rallies together. It can definately feel unstable at times, it takes significantly more effort to keep you and a trailer bike upright than you just riding by yourself. After a while it becomes easier, but if your kid doesn't have the balance to ride a bicycle by themselves (mine doesn't yet) you will feel a little unstable at times and feel as if you have to manhandle the bike to keep it upright.

    Just wanted to provide another view and encourage you that I think it is normal for it to feel a little unstable especially if this is the first time you ever pulled your kid on a trailer bike. Don't give up and keep both hands firmly on the handlebars!

  11. #11
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    From experence: a wide 26" tire works best. The best handle with a trailercycle I have experenced is with 26" x 1.95" slicks on my Diamondback Sorrento MTB. I have used a Specilized Crossroads with 700c x 35mm slicks, and it is faster, but doesn't handle as well. I experimented with my Cannondale R500 with 700c x 23mm tires, and it was almost a disaster. I had to stop and walk back with my son and the bike/trailer.

    The twitchiness has more to do with the child not sitting still and not pedaling. Also, don't go so slow. I'm not saying go all out fast, but not so slow a jogger passes you. A good medium speed helps.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  12. #12
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    I am trying to decide on the Chariot vs. the Burley Solo with the jogger conversion kit. What features should I look at when comparing the two trailers?
    kj

  13. #13
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kjvaljean
    I am trying to decide on the Chariot vs. the Burley Solo with the jogger conversion kit. What features should I look at when comparing the two trailers?
    kj
    Wrong thread.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  14. #14
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by alanbikehouston
    I took my nephew, age eight, on a ride today using the Trek Mt. Train with 24 inch wheels. The dealer attached the Train to my bike, putting a plastic insert around the seatpost, and attaching the metal hitch clamp around the plastic insert.

    The plastic insert was slightly loose on the seatpost, allowing the Train to rock slightly from side to side. The dealer said that freeplay between the plastic shim and the seatpost was "part of the design", as the Train pivots when the "lead" bike goes around a corner.

    However, as I look at on the hitch pivots, it seems to me that the plastic shim should fit tightly on the seatpost, perhaps using a rubber "wrap" on the seatpost, under the plastic shim. Then, the metal clamp would rotate on the plastic shim, instead of the shim rotating on the seatpost.

    The rocking side to side made my nephew VERY nervous for the first few minutes we were riding. In fact, after five minutes, he insisted I stop and asked if he could ride his regular bike. I convinced him to give it a try, and we rode for about thirty minutes. We practiced turning at moderate speeds in a large and empty parking lot.

    After he began to relax, it was clear that my nephew was beginning to balance on the Train, and not simply sitting on it. After he began balancing, the side to side wobbling was gone after we got up to a moderate speed.

    So, perhaps there MIGHT be merit to allowing the Train a bit of side to side freeplay. Within that small "zone", my nephew can lean and balance without putting any stress on the "lead" bike. If there was zero "side to side" freeplay, his slightest shift of weight would pull the lead bike left or right.

    Anyway, a question to the folks who have used the Trek hitch that attaches over a plastic insert around the seatpost: do you perfer tightly fitting the plastic shim to the seatpost, so that the shim can NOT rock or rotate, or do you leave so "freeplay" between the shim and the seatpost?
    See your PM. I anserwed that before screening the threads.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

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    I bought a Trek Mt. Train 241 last Saturday, during the LBS's "Spring Sale". The shop was swarming with people snapping up "bargains". The folks running the shop were swamped. They could not locate the owner's manual for the 241, and the available "tech" who attached the 241 to my bike appeared to be about 14 years old.

    Out on the road, the 241 had a side to side wobble that scared the heck out of my eight year old nephew until he began to "balance" his half of the "tandem" independently of my half. I suspected the LBS had failed to attached the 241 correctly, and I returned to the store to suggest they put a rubber shim between the seat post and the plastic insert that sits inside the metal clamp. The LBS thought a shim would prevent the "trailer" from pivoting properly and said the wobble was "part of the design".

    Anyway, on Sunday, I sent an e-mail to Trek. At 10 a.m. Monday, I got a helpful reply. THAT high level of customer support is why I prefer Trek products over most brands. Two hours into a new business week, they sent exactly the information I needed.

    Trek said the plastic insert must fit tightly to the seatpost, using rubber shims, to eliminate wobble, and to enable the metal mount to pivot smoothly around the insert. Trek also said "extra" mounting heads are available as Part 71584, to quickly switch the trailer between bikes.

    With proper installation, the Mt. Train 241 (with 24 inch wheels) will suit kids with a good sense of balance between about age six and age ten who weigh less than 80 pounds. Both the seat and handlebars have a wide range of adjustments to "dial" in a good fit. The short crank is much more comfortable for pedaling for eight year old legs than the longer cranks used on many kid's bikes.

    Although the weight limit is rated at 80 pounds, you could probably pull about 90 pounds or a 100 pounds IF the lead bike has a beefy steel seatpost, not a light alloy seatpost. The fact that the weight of the trailer is on the seatpost is the weakest point of this design. Placing the clamp right where the seatpost enters the seat tube reduces the stress, but it still might be more stress than "ultra-light" allow seatposts can handle.

    I will probably "upgrade" the nuts and bolts on the mounting head as well. Inspecting the mounting system before each ride, and every couple of hours during day-long rides is advisable, to keep everything adjusted tightly.

    The "set-up" hassles are well worth the end result: a way for an adult and kid to enjoy long rides together, at the same speed...something that is difficult to achieve when an adult is on a road bike, and the kid is riding a kid's bike. And, it is nice to know EXACTLY where the kid is located when you hear a truck or car approaching from behind you.

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    Great post from Alanbike- I too hooked up our new/used Mt. train this weekend and took my 4 yo for a ride. He loved it, I was impressed with the hardware (soild, not unnecessarily elaborate), and psyched to have him along for the ride while I felt I was getting something done for my fitness. We also have a 2 seater trailer, and I prefer hauling him on the Trek. For rides with his sister (15 months), we'll of course resort to the trailer. But it sure is nice to have the trailer bike option.

    My tentative advice- get a mirror for riding with the trailer bike. He is so close behind me on the trailer bike that I cannot see his face (to judge how tired he is) by glancing over my shoulder or under my arm. I'd really like to be able to see him periodically. I've ridden a lot with handlebar mirrors, but am not sure how close behind I can see with one, as I need a new mirror. Anyone have experience with this?

    Thanx- Steve

  17. #17
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    Placing the clamp right where the seatpost enters the seat tube reduces the stress, but it still might be more stress than "ultra-light" allow seatposts can handle.

    That is where you should put the hitch for best results.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

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

  18. #18
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    After more than a week of "fine-tuning", my Trek Mountain Trail 24 Trail-A-Bike is finally running smoothly with NO side to side wobble, and with smooth pivoting around turns and over bumps. My nephew and I had two long, enjoyable rides on Saturday.

    The original set-up, on a tall road-bike, had considerable side to side wobble until a shim was placed under the "sizing" insert that fits inside the metal mounting clamp. But, there was still a tiny bit of wobble, even with a rubber shim.

    Saturday, I bought a second mounting kit to fit the Mt. Trail on a mountain bike. The second kit including a slender, smooth plastic insert to fit inside the sizing insert. That black plastic pivot insert was NOT included in the first mounting kit. I discovered that the CORRECT way to mount the trailer is to place the black plastic "pivot" insert on the seatpost, select one of three grey plastic sizing inserts (whichever fits tightest on that seatpost, place the sizing insert over the pivot insert, and attach the clamp.

    Correctly attaching the second "kit" to the mountain bike took less than five minutes. On the moutain bike, the Mt. Trail rides smoothly, with No side to side wobble. My nephew got so confident (over-confident) in the stability of the Mt. Trail that when I turned my head to see how he was doing, I discovered he was riding with his feet up on his handlebars. Eight year olds.

    Mounting the Mt. Trail on a compact frame, instead of a tall road bike frame, lowered the bottom of the mounting bracket from being 34 inches off the ground, to just 28 inches of the ground. That brings the "pull" of the trailer six inches closer to the center of balance of the "lead" bike, and makes the lead bike less sensitive to the kid moving around on his bike. Also, the "fat" tires of the mountain bike provide a good deal of extra stability, compared with the 25mm tires on the road bike.

    So, bottom line: if the Trek Mt. Trail is installed on a mountain bike, using all THREE pieces of mounting gear: the pivot insert, the sizing insert, and the metal clamp, the result is a smooth stable ride, with no side to side wobble, and smooth pivoting around corners.

    All of the "wobble" was caused by the black pivot insert being omitted from the first mounting kit. And, neither the first, nor the second mounting kit including instructions (although a label on the attaching arm warns "Don't ride until you have read and followed the instructions".

    So, if you buy the Trek unit, insist the dealer provide the written mounting instructions, and make sure the mounting kit includes the black plastic pivot insert, plus the three grey sizing inserts. The slight hassle of getting the trailer attached correctly will result in excellent performance, at a reasonable price.

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