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  1. #1
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    Considering a tandem for riding with my 6yo son

    I've been riding with my boy for 3 years, now. He started in a Burley. Last year, we got an Adams TrailABike. He loved it. I hated the upper-body workout I got from the damn thing wobbling all over god's creation. I pulled him clear across Michigan on that thing. It was fun but exhausting (moreso than doing it with the Burley the year before). I keep hearing people suggest a tandem. I have questions and concerns that I hope someone can help me out with...

    My son's a good kid and generally listens. He can't really ride a 2-wheeler, yet. He's fine rolling down hills but hasn't mastered this whole balancing-and-pedaling concept. Will that be a problem with him stoking?

    As the captain, I keep reading that I should ride stoker with an experienced captain.. then captain with an experienced stoker. Do I need to get my boy up on a bike with an experienced captain before we set out on our first adventures?

    Any recommendations on a bike, itself. I'm on a bit of a budget being a young, single dad. While I'm not looking at some of the $300 "walmart tandems" out there, I certainly don't have $5K for an uber race machine, either. Looking in the 1-1.5K area, most likely. Should I be looking at a kid-specific-stoker bike or do you folks recommend a normal bike with a kid-stoker kit on the back? Can a bike with drop-bars be had in this price range? I'd much prefer a roadie-style than a big, fat, mountain-type tandem. I'd also like the option for fenders and at least rear panniers (i already own the bags). It's awfully hard to make a day of adventuring when you don't have anywhere to put bathing suits, towels, lunch, etc.

    I have a Saturn SL1. Little car. How would I transport such a thing? If I didn't pop for a collapsable bike, would I pretty-much have to go with a big ol' roof-rack to move the bike around?

    What other suggestions do parents have for doing this with a kid?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    My son's a good kid and generally listens. He can't really ride a 2-wheeler, yet. He's fine rolling down hills but hasn't mastered this whole balancing-and-pedaling concept. Will that be a problem with him stoking?

    As the captain, I keep reading that I should ride stoker with an experienced captain.. then captain with an experienced stoker. Do I need to get my boy up on a bike with an experienced captain before we set out on our first adventures?

    Any recommendations on a bike, itself. I'm on a bit of a budget being a young, single dad. While I'm not looking at some of the $300 "walmart tandems" out there, I certainly don't have $5K for an uber race machine, either. Looking in the 1-1.5K area, most likely. Should I be looking at a kid-specific-stoker bike or do you folks recommend a normal bike with a kid-stoker kit on the back? Can a bike with drop-bars be had in this price range? I'd much prefer a roadie-style than a big, fat, mountain-type tandem. I'd also like the option for fenders and at least rear panniers (i already own the bags). It's awfully hard to make a day of adventuring when you don't have anywhere to put bathing suits, towels, lunch, etc.

    I have a Saturn SL1. Little car. How would I transport such a thing? If I didn't pop for a collapsable bike, would I pretty-much have to go with a big ol' roof-rack to move the bike around?

    What other suggestions do parents have for doing this with a kid?
    Anecdotally:

    - Was not a problem for my 4 year old to pick it up. 5 1/2 now, still does not ride without training wheels. Does not ride very much at all except as a stoker. Very much enjoys being stoker. This was my first year on a tandem. I have not been out with an experienced stoker or captain. It would be nice but I have not found it necessary.
    - I think a major reason that inexperience has not affected us as much is due to our tandem. It has independent coasting, i.e. the captain and stoker can pedal together or independently. This works out great with kids and otherwise widely mismatched teams. Downfalls are stokers keeping inside pedals down during turns, providing power when you would like to slow or stop. Pros far outweigh cons for us. DaVinci is only tandem maker I know of with an independent coasting system. There is another add on system but I forget the name. Cost ~3.5-6k. They do not come on the used market very often. You can try calling DaVinci direct and they may be able to point you to someone that can fit your budget. In fact, I don't think I have heard of any good tandem maker that is not extremely helpful in getting people onto tandems.
    - For "traditional" tandems, the child fit can be a non-issue. If the stoker position does not have wide enough size range, then you only need to ensure that you can fit a stoker kit. If the stoker position can be adjusted to fit your child, you may need to consider changing to shorter crankarms for their shorter legs. Ensure those are available if needed. There are a few wide range tandems out there. Co-motion makes one as does Bike Friday. Bilenky too(?). Of these I think Bike Fridays are the most reasonable in cost, but I am not positive. Not sure on their cost.
    - Since it would be your first tandem, almost all here will recommend used and doing as you are leaning, not spending alot of money on something you are unsure of. Hopefully you will have a shop near you where you can test and even rent tandems to kick the tires.
    - Roof racks work fine. They can be expensive. You'll probably need a basic foot and rail system ~100-150. A rack cheaper to plush, ~100-300. Some also use trunk mounted carriers, not sure of their cost but almost certainly cheaper than a roof rack.

    You pretty much have the performance options. You know how a trail-a-bike works. There is a system called a "gator"(?). Basically a bar is hooked from the lead bike seat post to the childs head tube. I don't recall the exact configuration but the trail-a-bikes seemed to be a more technically robust solution. Your child is getting too large for trailers. The performance gain from these options to a tandem will be noticeable to you. Your child will likely enjoy the attention they get from others. You will likely find their friends will want to give it a try. This is a good time of year to do your search as people are looking to get rid of tandems that have been sitting unridden. The buyers start to come out as the riding weather gets warmer.

    Tandems can be loads of fun. I took 4 of my wife's teenage girl cousins on a spin around our neighborhood over the holidays. They were all city girls and had not been on a bike in 10 years or so. They did not know what a tandem was but they were lining up for second rides.

    Best of luck.

  3. #3
    WebFoot on Wheels pctpaul's Avatar
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    Our '06 Co-Motion Periscope 700 handles all sizes of riders. It ran us about $6K, but if one forgoes the Rolf wheelset and carbon fiber forks the prices drops significantly. I can send you a pic of the bike if you send me your e-mail address. I tried to upload my pic, but at 1.43MB the server didn't like it.
    The bikes:

    Co-Motion Periscope 700CP (Tandem)
    Burley Rhumba (Tandem)
    Jamis Coda Elite (Commuter)

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    an Adams TrailABike. He loved it. I hated the upper-body workout I got from the damn thing wobbling all over god's creation. I pulled him clear across Michigan on that thing.
    Burley's Piccolo is (was...) the only reasonable trailer cycle, due to its much more robust and stable mount. Any proper tandem will be loads better than your Adams in this regard.



    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    He can't really ride a 2-wheeler, yet. He's fine rolling down hills but hasn't mastered this whole balancing-and-pedaling concept. Will that be a problem with him stoking?

    As the captain, I keep reading that I should ride stoker with an experienced captain.. then captain with an experienced stoker. Do I need to get my boy up on a bike with an experienced captain before we set out on our first adventures?
    Definitely give yourself and your son LOADS more credit for the experience with the trailer cycle. The tandem is a little bit different (you have to coordinate pedaling), but you've already got plenty of experience riding together on the bike + trailer cycle rig. The tandem will be just a variation on the theme for you.



    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    Any recommendations on a bike, itself. I'm on a bit of a budget being a young, single dad. While I'm not looking at some of the $300 "walmart tandems" out there, I certainly don't have $5K for an uber race machine, either. Looking in the 1-1.5K area, most likely.
    Definitely shop used. Many tandems are sold with very low mileage. With some patient looking, you should eventually find some good choices along the lines of a Burley, Trek, or 'dale. For new bikes, KHS is a quite reasonable option for many folks.



    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    Should I be looking at a kid-specific-stoker bike or do you folks recommend a normal bike with a kid-stoker kit on the back? Can a bike with drop-bars be had in this price range? I'd much prefer a roadie-style than a big, fat, mountain-type tandem.
    This may depend a little on your height, too. If you are shorter, you may find a small/small or medium/small that nearly fits him as-is or with just crank shorteners. Also, depending on the price of the bike and what parts you may already have, it's not so tough to convert some bikes from straight bars to drop bars.



    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    I have a Saturn SL1. Little car. How would I transport such a thing?
    Well, I always favor the idea of transporting a tandem by pedaling it.

    Good luck! Sounds like you're on the right track.

    -Greg

  5. #5
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    In the new market, KHS offers good value for the money. But your best bet would be to shop used. I went for a Co-Motion 23/18. When we got it, my oldest daughter, who was then 7.5 years old, could barely touch the pedals with crank shorteners. Now 3 years later, my youngest one, 6.5 can use it without shorteners. So 6 or 7 is about the minimum age you'll be able to use a standard tandem without a kidback adaptor (i.e. secondary cranks that attach on the stoker seattube... and scratch it).

    Anyway, you should nonetheless get crank shorteners so your kid won't have his knees in his face. But these may be bought afterwards from a different merchant.

    Experience? If you haven't done so already, you can train your kid fairly well on your Trail-a-bike by telling him to try to pedal at about the same cadence as you do (i.e. shifting accordingly). With 1-2 such rides, he'll be able to spin regularly. That's for him.

    For you, I would suggest that you do a few rides by yourself on the tandem. Be slow on hills because you can't hardly brake with the rear wheel (no weight there). Once you are used to the way it feels and turns, do a few short rides (3-5 km at most) with your kid, so that you both learn the way it feels.

    Be warned: your arms will be more sore than with the Trail-a-bike... but that feeling will quickly go away after 2-3 rides. (I must say that my first rides were in heavy stop and go traffic.)

    P.S. Use SPD or other quick-engaging and quick-releasing pedals for you. And use toeclips for your child, because contrary to the Trail-a-Bike, his feet must follow at all times.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  6. #6
    triplet tandem djembob02's Avatar
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    I ride a triplet with my wife and 5 yo daughter. Half the time it’s just the little one and me. The bike is set up road style and we also sometimes use it on well maintained gravel paths. My stokette cannot ride her own bike yet either (without training wheels), and has had no problem. Congratulations for going across MI with the TrailABike. I haven’t ridden with a trailercycle, but tandem riding has not been difficult for us at all in terms of balance. I do notice when Jamie stands up to pedal, but as long as I have my hands on the bars (of course), it’s easy to control.

    I would suggest riding it by yourself some just to get used to handling, long-wheel base, etc., but I don’t think you must be a stoker first or think that your stoker needs to first experience an experienced captain. It seems that you are an experienced cyclist. As long as you communicate well, I doubt you will any major problems. It took Jamie about 5 pedal strokes to “get it”. She has never complained about cadence, even if were spinning 120 rpm.

    Jamie has a child stoker kit. She could actually now fit on the rear of the triplet, but because she rides in the middle, she needs a child stoker kit. We originally had some problems with her feet slipping even with custom 2 strap toe/heel clips. The solution was clipless pedals for all. She uses eggbeaters with a size 32 shoe (smallest we’ve ever found).

    Roof Rack? Not a problem. There was a recent discussion about this on the forum with lots of pictures. Our triplet sometimes rides on top of our CRV.

    For more information on some of these things, www.precisiontandems.com as well as www.sheldonbrown.com have a lot of good pics, stories, and suggestions. Good luck with everything.
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    Bobby

  7. #7
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    Thanks, all, for the recommendations...

    Yes, i'm an experienced cyclist. I've logged about 13K miles in the last 3 years. About half of those were with a kid dragging behind me. We've done the Pedal Across Lower Michigan the last two summers. I'm simply waiting for registration to open up for this summer's ride. I even pulled the kid's trail-a-bike on the century they had mid-ride last year. (Big mistake)

    The biggest problem I think I'm going to run into is the price. While I"d love to have $3+ grand to drop on a bike, I'm a single parent that just, finally, bought a home. The tax refund will be buying the tandem.

    I'd read that I should get out and ride the bike a few times, solo, before I ever strap the boy on. I was entirely prepared to do that when the time came.

    Co-Motion, CDale, Trek, KLH. Any other recommendations out there for brands I should sbe keeping an eye on? What about features? This all, somehow, seems so foreign to me.

  8. #8
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    simoriah,

    I picked up our first tandem this year in July. This is after doing the trail-a-bike thing for 3 and a half years and 1800 miles. Wow, what an upgrade. We love it. My daughter is now 8 and I only needed the crank shorteners. It only took about 1 ride to get used to the pedals being attached with the timing chain.

    I get on first and squeeze the brakes and hold the bike steady. Then she climbs on and gets her feet into the straps. When she is all ready, she presents me with my left pedal at 10 o'clock. I then know she is ready and I clip in and take off. We do this now without even thinking about it and with now talking.

    I'll try and post a pic of our Co-motion and the crank shorteners. It's a shot my wife took while we made our first ride in front of the house in our street clothes. I'd say the only downside is the cost. Our bike is the Premera and it was a left over 05 that we paid $2500 for. Then I had to drop another $100 on the shorteners.

    Good luck
    Shayne



  9. #9
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    I am also a single parent, and bought my first tandem this past summer. I went with a combo bike, flat bars and fat tires, as we live in a mountain community and will be off-road some of the time. The Trek T900 cost $900, another $60 for the crank shorteners and $170 for a Trek trailer-bike (our Target cheapy trailer bike wouldn't work because the neck needed more curve to get over the back wheel when the stoker seat is low enough for DS to peddle). I'm riding with 5 yo twins. DD is almost ready to ride solo without training wheels, but DS is not interested. He wants to watch the world go by, not concentrate on balance or steering or anything. Anyway, for our longer rides DD rides the trailer bike (her legs need to be another 2 inches longer to ride stoker on the tandem).

    I've just about talked myself into a Bike Friday triple as our next bike.

    Catherine, riding with Patsy and Ricky

  10. #10
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    I went with the Co-Motion Primera.

    Three reasons I went for it rather than a Cannondale:

    – steel frame (a personal preference, as it means slender tubes) ;
    – no disc brakes ;
    – The large-small tandem was better sized for us than the large-small from Cannondale.

    The last point may not be relevant for you, but I have a 90-cm inseam, so I was better with Co-Motion's 23/18 sizing than with Cannondale 22/18 or 23/19 sizing. Their sizing may have changed in the last 3 years.
    Michel Gagnon
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  11. #11
    On a mission from God svt4cam's Avatar
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    I basically did the trailer to trailer bike to tandem transition that you speak of. Both my daughters had no problem in the stoker seat. because of kids light weight they don't influence bike handling as badly as an adult would. If you've ridden any distance with a trailer bike than a tandem will be refreshingly easy. None of the crack the whip stuff the trailer bike does and you can stand to climb which is really difficult with a trailer bike, in fact about 5 years ago we rode a fair amount of TOSRV with the tandem with a trailer bike on it with both daughters. I chose a Cannondale RT1000 and have been extremely happy with it. Has room for fenders racks etc but is still extemely light and not obscenely expensive. I have a pair of crank shortners I'm not using any more if your interested in them let me know by private mail

  12. #12
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    You should take a look at Bike Friday, they are small and very child friendly, plus I think they have very good pricing and if you find something used better. I think they are easier to ride than big wheel tandem since the wheelbase is shorter. I have a Twosday and I am getting ready to fit it for my 4 years old. They have the independent pedaling system and crank shorteners. Sometime on their website they have used bikes too. Also very easy to tranport since they fold and fit in 2 suitcases.
    Good luck
    Ciao
    Paolo

  13. #13
    ES&D t4mv's Avatar
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    I started both our kids out when they were pretty young (3 & 4 YOs) with a kiddie adapter set up on the back. The range of ages those devices (there are the crank adapter and crank shorteners if you go the whole nine yards)are able to handle to handle is pretty amazing. With young kids you always worry if they're going to get bored, fall asleep and fall off, but, it never did happen, although for young kids they sit so (relatively) high up that any speed over ~10 mph down a hill is uncomfortably fast for them. If you can afford it it's a good way to go. My kids are old enough to ride on the back "normally" now, so I have an adapter set sitting around somewhere. PM me if interested, or if you have add'l questions about setting it up.

  14. #14
    Junior Member thalver's Avatar
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    I recently went through a similar exersize in finding a used tandem for my brother and his children, albiet on a somewhat more limited budget.

    26" wheel ATB tandems don't seem as much in vogue right now as road tandems. If the bike isn't designed for aggressive off-roading, adapting it to road use isn't too pricey. (skinnier tires, drop bars and brifters) In our case, the best values in late model used bikes seemed to be the 26" wheel bikes. The lower straddle height, and shorter seat tube on this type of bike does make fit without a child stoker a bit easier.

    I have seen a handful of reasonably good prices offered on carry-over Burley tandems. Some shops seem eager to liquidate them. While Burley ceased production last fall, that decision does not appear to have had anything to do with the quality of the product.

    For those who use crank arm shorteners, at about what age were you able to abandon them?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by thalver
    For those who use crank arm shorteners, at about what age were you able to abandon them?
    This will depend a bit on why you're using them in the first place.

    What they most directly do is shorten the effective length of the cranks, of course. This will often make sense for shorter legs, especially if they don't like turning adult-length cranks.

    However, in practice, if you have a taller stoker compartment and a shorter kid, crank shorteners can mean that the lowest swing of the pedals is not quite so low -- in other words, with the seat all the way down, the growing child may fit the somewhat-tall tandem sooner with the shorteners.

    My daughter does just fine turning 170mm cranks, but we used shorteners at first just so that she could fit onto the bike at all, even with the seat all the way down. The shorteners were the good solution for us.

    So, shorteners can provide a smaller crank circle (if desired) and/or help to fit a smaller kid on a bigger bike. At some point, the child will likely have legs long enough to not need the shorteners for either condition, so off they go.

    -Greg

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    Quote Originally Posted by simoriah
    I have a Saturn SL1. Little car. How would I transport such a thing? If I didn't pop for a collapsable bike, would I pretty-much have to go with a big ol' roof-rack to move the bike around?
    You can get just about any tandem to fit on a standard rear hitch mount bike rack. We have an SL Saturn and take both wheels off the tandem, hang the frame on the rack, and toss the wheels in the trunk. This is probably the most cost effective option.

    Definitely look used. You'll save a good deal and this will put some quality tandems into your price range. We love our Burley, and they offered some less expensive tandem models so you should be able to find them priced well used.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by thalver
    I have seen a handful of reasonably good prices offered on carry-over Burley tandems. Some shops seem eager to liquidate them. While Burley ceased production last fall, that decision does not appear to have had anything to do with the quality of the product.

    For those who use crank arm shorteners, at about what age were you able to abandon them?
    I echo other comments... Burley Piccolo is/was the most awesome trail-a-bike. I used to pull it behind our Santana with a kid stoker. I also used an Adams tandem trail-a-bike (yikes) which I don't think is made any more (maybe cause it can be too dangerous). Our daughter quit using crank shorteners when she was 9. Our Santana had the kid stoker attachment and we also have a Bike Friday Tandem Traveler XL. The Friday is awesome for what it is -- versatile. My 5'10" wife stokes it (me, captain, only 5'7"); both of our kids have stoked it, and now our almost 14-yr-old captained it with our 11-yr-old daughter stoking it!! Yes, a Bike Friday would cost much less than a new "regular" tandem, but it is a darn flexy bike. My wife loves the comfort (no suspension seatpost) but I hate the flex.

    Bottom line -- keep the kids involved! Last year my son and I did a metric century. The training time together was precious.

    Don

  18. #18
    ES&D t4mv's Avatar
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    Don which ride did you and your son do the metric century on? We're aiming for Delta '07 for our first, same age (as your son). It's flat, so it doesn't get any easier than that, unless anyone on here knows of a 100k downhill ride.

    thalver, I seem to recall the kiddie adapter and crankarm shorteners came off 3 and ~5 years ago, respectively, so the youngest kid would have been ~8 and 6. The crankarm shorteners only stay on long enough for your kid to reach the pedals comfortably. I never really much cared for them because they really messed up the Q factor, but I guess kids don't really think about stuff like that.

  19. #19
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    Crank shorteners.

    I removed them when my child was 9. She wanted to have them removed a year sooner to be a "big girl", but her own 20" bike had 140-mm cranks, so I wanted the tandem to feel fairly similar.

    When she moved to the larger single bike with 170-mm cranks, I removed the crank shorteners on the tandem, so both bikes have similar cranks.
    Michel Gagnon
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  20. #20
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    RT3000 Tandem with less than 500 miles (2002) M/S

    Would love to hear from you here in Dallas Texas.

    FOR SALE>>>2002 Cannondale RT3000 with Ultegra, XTR components, plus dual computers and Mavic/Edco wheels. Frame size is Medium/Small. Captain should be 5'10 and stoker no taller than 5'5.

    Purchased for $3,200 and selling for $1,700. LESS THAN 500 miles and well taken care of.

    For serious inquires email for pictures and questions at precab@aol.com

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dabbo
    You should take a look at Bike Friday, they are small and very child friendly, plus I think they have very good pricing and if you find something used better. I think they are easier to ride than big wheel tandem since the wheelbase is shorter. I have a Twosday and I am getting ready to fit it for my 4 years old. They have the independent pedaling system and crank shorteners. Sometime on their website they have used bikes too. Also very easy to tranport since they fold and fit in 2 suitcases.
    Good luck
    Ciao
    Paolo
    +1 on the Bike Friday. Nice bike, rides surprising well, and extremely adjustable from small children to adults. So you can use it for a long time. And it packs to travel.

    I had one that I road with my daughter, and with my wife occassionally on trips.

    I'm not sure buying a Bike Friday used it the best deal though because they hold their value incredibly well. We sold ours after 8 years for more than we paid for it originally.

  22. #22
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    +2 on the bike friday bit, my sister has one and has been riding with her daughter for 3 years now, the daughter is 6 years old now...Good bike.

    Benjamin

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