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  1. #1
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Tandem for Short Captain + Child Stoker

    Hi everyone!

    I am thinking about getting a tandem to help haul my kids (5yo stoker, 3yo &1yo in trailer). I am thinking of a tandem instead of a TAB because it would be more stable towing and I can use it with all 3 of my kids as they go from trailer to independent riding. I will also need to park it in town, and I think 1 unit would be easier to secure than 2. I am looking for entry level. Under $2k. (I would prefer closer to $1k).

    1. What tandems might work well for a 5'2" captain? (My mountain bike has a 14" frame.)
    2. I can't rent a tandem locally - how important is it to try first (aka should I drive 120+ miles to try to rent one in other cities)?
    3. If a tandem has the right measurements, would you buy without riding it? I ask because the Trek T900 looks nice (aluminum, I like the sloped top bar) but the Trek shop in my town doesn't stock tandems, so I would have to buy sight unseen.
    4. What questions should I ask when I look for tandems at a bike shop?
    5. My 5yo is very active (he will love this), will I notice when he actively pedals?
    6. How much longer is a tandem than an adult single bike? (AKA Can I park the thing anywhere?)
    7. Is anyone the only tandem rider team around? If so how are you treated?


    Sorry for the long list and thanks for your help!

    AJ

  2. #2
    Senior Member JTGraphics's Avatar
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    You should have no problem with a Trek T900
    If you replace the suspension rear seat post with a non suspension post and replace the seat with one with no springs in it your 5 yr old will most likely reach the pedals with no problem the stokers seat tub is only 14" center crank to top of seat post.
    My wife at 4' 11" can stand over the captains top tube and my grandson is 3' 9" just reaches the pedals with the swapped out stoker seat and post.
    If needed I guess you could also add some crank shorteners but most likely not needed.
    Over all length is 93" on a Trek T900 wheel to wheel.
    I also pull a trailer a Schwinn Mark II but made a bracket for it this can be seen on my website http://www.jtgraphics.net/trek_t900.htm


    It may not be fancy but it gets me were I need to go.
    http://www.jtgraphics.net/cyclist_bicycles.htm

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Hi AJ!
    1. Bike Friday builds a tandem with 20" wheels with extremely low standover height, front and rear. At 5'2it will fit. Their least expensive new one could fit your $2K figure. A small size tandem with 26" wheels (NOT 700c sheels) also could fit.
    2. Try to find local tandem owner/rider to clue you in. Call a shop that has a tandem in stock and explain your size requirements then go and test ride.
    3. If this is your first time around for a tandem would NOT suggest to buy without testing/riding.
    4. Will it fit me as pilot at 5'2"? Do you have one in stock that I can test ride (don't talk 'rent' . . . test rides are free). Tell them what your budget is. Do you have a used one or a demo in my size?
    5. Your 5 year old may not fit the back of the tandem, which would require installation of crank shorteners or a kidde crank set (more $$). Yes, kids that pedal are worth their weight in gold . . .
    6. The average tandem is about 3 feet longer than an average single bike.
    7. With curiosity . . . you definitely get noticed.
    Shop/look around for a used one rather than buying new . . . much cheaper and less of a loss when/if you/kids decide 'we don't like it'.
    Hope this helps and good luck!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatem.

  4. #4
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Thanks for the help!

    It looks like a 480 mi round trip to ride a tandem ($100 in gas). Two Wheel Transit in Spokane Washington. They have the T900 in stock normally. When I called they said that they could not find a child stoker kit to buy through their dealers (I'm sure I can find one online). A T900 is $980 there. I can have it ordered through my local shop (I have to buy it though - I can't try it first) and it would be $920. The other local shop that sells tandems does not stock them eighter, and said the only type they would have that might fit would be the CoMotion. I don't want to spend that much on a first tandem (but I don't want to buy it on ebay eigther )

    So is it worth a full day driving and over $100 to ride one? Mainly is any other tandem around the T900's price likely to fit?

    Quote Originally Posted by jtgraphics
    My wife at 4' 11" can stand over the captains top tube and my grandson is 3' 9" just reaches the pedals with the swapped out stoker seat and post.
    Thats great to hear about the captain's seat! I just measured my son though and he is 3'6", so he may need a stoker kit or something.

    Thanks for the link to your pictures - that is what I would have to do to get my old trailer (soon to be cargo hauler) hooked up.

  5. #5
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    Yes, you should spend the $100 in gas to try the bike. I'm 5'9", and at first I felt the T900 was too tall for me. It's the slanted top bar, it's a bit deceptive. I did as advised above, removing the suspension post for the stoker (but I left the original seat as I sometimes have an adult stoker). I also put crank shorteners on the back and consider it a good investment. It really helped when I raised the seat 2 inches to install the trailer bike. At the moment DD is just a bit too short to peddle as stoker, but DS is fine (5-yo twins, both a bit tall for their age group).

    Not a very flatterring picture, but here we are:

    http://homepage.mac.com/ladelfe/Twin...CycleTrain.jpg

    When we need cargo space, I hang our trailer on the trailer bike, making quite a train.

    Catherine

  6. #6
    Senior Member JTGraphics's Avatar
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    I wouldn't get a stroker kit if I were you just pick up some Child Crank Shorteners would be better choice like the ones here
    http://www.tandemseast.com/parts/cranks.html
    It may not be fancy but it gets me were I need to go.
    http://www.jtgraphics.net/cyclist_bicycles.htm

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcougar832
    So is it worth a full day driving and over $100 to ride one? Mainly is any other tandem around the T900's price likely to fit?
    Sounds like Seattle and Portland are too far? Some good shops there.

    Fit will be the major factor. You can for the most part upgrade or change components. Not as cost effective as starting out with the components but relatively cheap. A poorly fitted frame or one that just does not feel right can end the whole exercise. However you can't go too far wrong with Cannondales or Trek.

  8. #8
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    @Catherine+2 - Those are great pictures thanks for posting them. I might end up with 2 pedaling as well - my oldest are 18mos apart.

    @JTGraphics - I'm definately going to get the crank shorteners (and blocks for the pedals) if possible. My life will be easier if my stoker is closer to the ground. I had to look up the difference between shortners and kiddie cranks .

    @masiman - Seattle is 515 miles. If you can recommend a good bike shop there, I can ask DH about going that far. We did plan to take the family to the Seattle Zoo this year anyway, so Seattle isn't out of the question.

    I have DH talked into Spokane at least.

    Edit - Seattle is 515 miles ONE way - 1030 miles round trip. I am in Kalispell, MT if that helps anyone.
    Last edited by mtcougar832; 06-23-07 at 08:08 AM.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcougar832
    @masiman - Seattle is 515 miles. If you can recommend a good bike shop there, I can ask DH about going that far. We did plan to take the family to the Seattle Zoo this year anyway, so Seattle isn't out of the question.

    I have DH talked into Spokane at least.
    R+E Cycles is a great shop. They are up in the U-District, or at least they used to be . It has been awhile since we lived there. Gregg's Greenlake is also good. As were Elliot Bay and Montlake. R+E is where Dave(?) Bushnell of Bushnell custom frames works out of. They do sometimes have used frames for sale, but I think the majority of their stock is Rodriguez, Erickson (R+E) and Bushnell. Hopefully others will be able to weigh in with tandem friendly shops in Seattle. We were not into tandems when we lived there so this is just passing knowledge. Cascade BC is the largest club and had decent info on their website.

    Do call ahead to the shops. It may give you a feel for who will better accommodate your needs.

  10. #10
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    I see that Bike Friday's fit a wide variety as well, but it appears you can't ride it first. Also it has 20" wheels - is that a towing issue with a trailer? Family Tandem Traveler(16sp,stock) $1,350.00 should work stock for us, and isn't to bad on cost. Thoughts?

  11. #11
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    The Family Tandem Traveler is a good low standover starter tandem. Made in Eugene, OR . . . and they at times have refurbished ones in stock. As it indicates, it's a family tandem . . . not a racer. All kinds of upgrade$$$ are possible on a new one. The 20" wheels are not an issue and they actually can pull a trailer too!
    Have test ridden several Bike Friday tandems . . . excellent buy for the buck$!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  12. #12
    Senior Member Bruce Rosar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcougar832
    I see that Bike Friday's fit a wide variety as well, but it appears you can't ride it first... Thoughts?
    Bike Friday has a 30-day money-back guarantee.

  13. #13
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    I think someone said that they felt more frame flex in Bike Fridays than most other tandems. They are great family tandems due to their wide adjustability. Someone had a photo of a BF towing a trailer, it might have even been a triple. I think most all would say they are great family tandems, i.e. easy trails, about town, parks, recreational rides and longer distances if desired. But if your goal were more serious miles and riding, then a more traditional tandem would be a better fit.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Bruce Rosar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman
    I think someone said that they felt more frame flex in Bike Fridays than most other tandems.
    A BF tandem owner has reported that the flex isn't a negative:

    ... This year we revisited the Tetons and again took the Bike Two's Day... Although my wife and I have ridden approx. 10,000 miles on Santana tandems, we were far from being disappointed with the BTD... There is more flex in the BTD frame... but we didn't find it to be a negative (and we're somewhat performance-minded).

  15. #15
    Ride more, eat less cat0020's Avatar
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    My GF (4'11") and I (5'9"), swap captn' and stoker on our tandem sometimes. Even though it requires different length timing chain. On a long ride (+60 mi.) we get to take turns to recover.




  16. #16
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Thats a sweet ride (looks comfy), but the town I live in isn't ready

    We are planning to go check out the bike in Spokane tomorrow - I'm really hoping it works out. They were willing to answer all my questions when I called, and they have a T900 in stock.

    Assuming the bike fits, are there any "must have" accessories / changes I should have them do (as opposed to having the LBS do them)? Should I have them fit the bike to my son as well (they don't have crank shortners in stock though)? I ask because the LBS hasn't worked on tandems, I don't know how tandems differ from regular bikes in that regard.

    Also, I will be driving a Ford Explorer, the shop in Spokane thought putting it on a hitch rack after removing the wheels would be ok ($150 for the rack). Is it likely to fit on a hitch rack?

    Thanks, I really hope to have a tandem for me and DS tomorrow!

    EDIT: the bike frame is 69.7" long (http://www2.trekbikes.com/bikes/bike...d=1244000&f=10) and the rear bumper on the explorer is ~67", so I assume that it will fit ok?
    Last edited by mtcougar832; 06-27-07 at 04:35 PM.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtcougar832
    Should I have them fit the bike to my son as well (they don't have crank shortners in stock though)? I ask because the LBS hasn't worked on tandems, I don't know how tandems differ from regular bikes in that regard.

    Also, I will be driving a Ford Explorer, the shop in Spokane thought putting it on a hitch rack after removing the wheels would be ok ($150 for the rack). Is it likely to fit on a hitch rack?

    EDIT: the bike frame is 69.7" long (http://www2.trekbikes.com/bikes/bike...d=1244000&f=10) and the rear bumper on the explorer is ~67", so I assume that it will fit ok?
    Chances are that the bike will not fit your 5 year old. However you'll be able to confirm if that is true quick enough when you try the bike. If close then you can use crank shorteners, otherwise you'll need the child stoker kit. Any of the tandem specialty shops at tandemlink should be able to get you what you need with a phone call. They may know just by the year make and model what will fit if a stoker kit is needed. If not, I think all they will need is a stoker seat tube diameter. If you think crank shorteners will work and you get them only to find out your son does not quite fit, don't worry. You can use them when he grows that little bit more and can transition to them from a stoker kit.

    You should be fine with the hitch rack. There are some here who travel with theirs in just that mode. I think most remove both wheels, but at least the front. You can probably find a few threads with the search function that talk about this.

  18. #18
    The Zookeeper mtcougar832's Avatar
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    Got the T900

    Well I got the T900 yesterday!

    I took it and got my half set up (handlebars lower / back and used the unsprung seat from my mtn bike). Stock it was a long reach to the handlebars and pedals, but it feels pretty good now ... just like a skinny boat .

    I am going to order the crank shorteners, and tomorrow I'll go to the LBS and get a seat post & seat for DS (actually 2 seats, one for each of us, so they match). At the Spokane shop (they were very helpful too) he measured that my son needed ~4" after lowering the seat, so if the crank shortners aren't enough (3") I will put blocks on the pedals for this summer.

  19. #19
    Senior Member JTGraphics's Avatar
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    I'm sure you'll have many great rides on your new tandem!
    It may not be fancy but it gets me were I need to go.
    http://www.jtgraphics.net/cyclist_bicycles.htm

  20. #20
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    We had a Bike Friday Tandem Traveler XL, that I road with my daughter, and occassionallywith my wife on trips.

    It has a lot of advantages. It's almost infinitly adjustable size wise. IT packs in 2 small cases for airline travel. It's lighter than most comparably priced tandems.

    The 20" wheels make it handle very quick (you get used to it.)

    they hold there value very well. We sold it for more than we paid for it, after 8 years of use.

    The one disadvantage is that it's a bit flexible with an adult stoker. However witha child stoker, it's plenty stiff.

    I did several MS 150's with my daughter on the bike, we've ridden it in 27mph+ pacelines, and some long mountain rides with 50 mph descents on it with my wife. A better equipped BF tandem can take whatever you throw at it.


  21. #21
    Senior Member CaptDon's Avatar
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    Here is our modified Trek T900:



    My wife is short, and it's worked very well for us!

    Don

  22. #22
    jas
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    family tandems

    New to this forum, but have a bit of experience.

    We have two tandems: one is a Sterling (Bilenky) with a child stoker kit that I ride with our 4 y/o. The second is a Bike Friday Family Tandem that we bought used this season for about $950. My wife captains this with our 7 y/o. Both bikes are great. The Bike Friday is just barely more flexible than the Sterling, but rides extremely well. It's light for a steel bike (less tubing than the Sterling). It pulls a Burley trailer without a problem. I wouldn't hesitate to take both bikes on the same ride, short or long.

    The big upside of the Bike Friday is that the low standover made my wife very comfortable learning to captain a tandem.

    Hope this helps.
    Joel

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