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  1. #1
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
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    Flathead Valley, Montana
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    2007 Trek 4300 MTB, 2007 Trek T900 Tandem, 1980 Schwinn Le Tour (soon)
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    Bike train vs. a geared bike for my eldest

    I have 4 kids: almost 9 yo son, 7 yo son, 5 yo son and a 1 1/2 yo daughter. We were using a tandom (Trek T900, eldest as stroker) and a kid trailer (also a Trek). My kids are all on the lighter side (Dad's genes). My older two can ride without training wheels, but I wouldn't trust my 7 yo on his own. Both have single speed Trek bikes with coaster brakes (one is 20", the other 16").

    I'd like to take trips up to 10 miles (total) - maybe more eventually. I'd also like to use the truck a LOT less (we are a one-car family, and my husband will have the truck most days this summer). I can get to anything I want within 5 miles of my home but that requires biking a steep hill, bridges and/or a 4 lane road. Most of the roads near my home are 2 lanes with no shoulders, ~35mph. Most drivers are nice (when I have the trailer anyway) but some are not.

    We did a short test ride with my 7yo stroking and eldest on his bike. It went okay other than telling eldest to get back on the side of the road a few times and making drivers nervous. I also can't see my eldest when he is behind me, I assume a mirror will cure that? (My eldest is a good kid, but still gets distracted and doesn't always look to consequences.)

    Sorry this is so long. Here is what I'm thinking of doing:

    Option 1: buy a [good brand, used] geared bike for my eldest, work on safety skills and endurance.

    Option 2: make a train by adding a trail-a-bike. I see the WeeRide one starts at $70 and my LBS has new Trek Mountain Trains around $200. I've been unable to find anything on the Burley. My concerns are brakes (v-brakes on tandem, coordinating braking with the TAB) and that the boys will probably outgrow the trailer soon (I could switch the younger 2 sons between the TAB and the trailer though - they are both light). I'd hope that having my eldest as stroker would get me a slight net gain on power. Also how do I lock something that big up?

    Option 3: have my eldest stick with his current bike. It's been a long time since I've ridden a single speed, is that even fair to him? I'd want it to have a professional tune-up before we got far from the house (I bought it used).

    I was planning to upgrade my eldest son's bike next year anyway, and I'll probably get a TAB eventually - either for my youngest son or when my daughter is old enough. I just can't afford much this year - but I need to do something so we can get out of the house sometimes!

    Thoughts? Other options I haven't considered?
    2007 Trek 4300 ~ 2007 Trek T900 Tandem ~ 1980 Schwinn Le Tour ~ older Gary Fisher Xtracycle

  2. #2
    Born Again Pagan irclean's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
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    Southwestern Ontario
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    Schwinn hybrid, Raleigh MTB
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    Adams makes a line of Trail-a-Bikes that are quite impressive. I really like the way it interfaces with my bike, and with a second hitch on my wife's bike it's easy to switch between them. They're not cheap, but I looked at some cheap ones and with these it really does seem that you get what you pay for. I use the Original Folder Compact.

    HPIM3468.jpgHPIM3478.jpg
    Gettin' my Fred on.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    I bike with my 4 kids and my mom bikes with 4 minor kids/handicapped kids. What she does is to keep her 7 year old in front of her, instead of behind. It helps her be able to maintain more control over the situation. So I would give that a try, Especially since the length of your tandem bike, plus the trailer will make communicating with him at the very back too difficult. In front you will be able to ride beside or just behind him and call out directions pretty easily.

    If it were me personally, I would put your oldest on a bike in front of you, move your 7 year old to a stoker position, move the 5 year old to an Adam's or Weehoo trailer bike and move the 1.5 year old to a front mounted bike seat. I just think the tandem, trail a bike, and trailer is far too long and too heavy for 1 adult. Plus at 5 years old you should be able to get some serious peddle power out of that kid. No way you should waste all that energy.

    My kids are on the short side too and we find that the compact sized trail a bike from Adam's works far better than the standard sized ones. Adam's is the only one with a compact sized, everyone else offers the same size as Adam's standard sized one. I have tried many different brands and some of them are just not worth it. AlleyCat and Instep are both cheaply made and may not hold up to multiple kids usage. Plus my kids found them to be uncomfortable. Burley no longer produces a trail a bike, so you would have to find one on ebay or Craigslist. But they are nice because you can have panniers, which would probably be important.

    The Weehoo peddle trailer has the ability to accommodate legs shorter than even the Adam's compact, but you will not be able to hook a trailer to the back of it. It is easy to put a backpack on it for carrying stuff. I have test driven the weehoo and it is very cool. It would be my choice if money were not an issue.

    For a front mounted bike seat I like Yepp's seat. I have honestly tried all that are currently on the market and this one wins hands down.

    Here is a link to Clever Cycles. I have ordered from them and they are super nice. They really specialize in helping families bike together and make have additional options.

  4. #4
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  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    I often find it easier to control them when they are in front. I can see mistakes in handling much quicker than having to check back. The downside is that they are at the front of potential cross traffic and stopping situations. It has not been an issue for us but we keep to mostly tame streets with short stints on busier roads.

    Mine are small also, but your nine year old is probably ready for a 24" bike. He can probably handle gears but you will likely have to direct him when to shift. The good thing about the bike is that he has 2 brothers and maybe 1 sister that can inherit the bike.

    We just bought a 2nd 24" bike because my 2nd (9, average to below average height and weight), was really too big for the 20" and the 11 year old (same size, slightly heavier than 9 year old) has not grown enough to be on a 26" or 700c bike.

    The only other option I can think of is adding a Ibert type seat for the 1.5yo instead of a TAB. All the TABs I know of do not have brakes that I know of. Our TAB is geared, but I thought I was certain that the single speeds did not have coaster brakes, I could be wrong though. Unless you have steep hills that empty to danger zones you should be okay as long as you start braking earlier. You can jackknife the train with all that weight but I have only done that trying to stop very quickly.

    If you go the 24" route, you will likely be locking the 9yo into riding since I assume the 7yo won't be able to fit the 24" even with the seat lowered. If you get a TAB, you may be able to swap the 7 and 9yo on the 20" with a seat height change.

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