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  1. #1
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    Tandem commuting to pre-school and office?

    I started bicycling to work a few weeks ago and really enjoy it. I'm already feeling more fit, and it's nice being car-lite if not totally car-free. However, in September, I'll need to take my almost-5-year old to preschool every weekday morning. I really don't want to go back to the car five days a week. I thought about continuing to bike with a kid trailer or a tag-along bike, but those don't seem that safe to me for riding in traffic. Tonight my wife gave me the idea of a tandem bike, so I've been doing some research in this forum on riding tandems with kids.

    Is it just a bad idea to ride with a child in traffic, tandem or not? I didn't see any threads on this topic. It's 7 miles to the preschool, and I can string together a bunch of mostly residential streets with lighter traffic for the route, but stretches of car-heavy streets are unavoidable.

    If the basic idea isn't a non-starter, then what kind of pace can you ride with a child stoker? For my commute, I try to spin at 100 and maintain a decent speed. I don't expect my child to do that, though. With a child on a tandem, should I resign myself to a more leisurely ride for the preschool leg, or would something like the Davinci independent coasting system let me hammer if I want to?

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    If your 5 year old is a good stoker (non-fidgety, calm, etc.) then riding in traffic would depend on your comfort to ride in traffic. I'd prefer them on a tandem over a trailer if the roads were traffic'd. Your 5 year old will most likely adjust to the traffic and queue off your attitude. Maybe get a flag, extra lights and reflectors to make yourselves standout.

    I would have no more problems with a tagalong in traffic than a tandem. In some ways they are safer in that the child can get a foot down far easier than from the height of a traditional tandem (the Bike Fridays and Periscope being exceptions). If you can find a used Burley Piccolo, I'd highly recommend them. I have only tried a Kent besides the Piccolo. The Piccolo is a far better design over the seat post clamp style TAB's. With the TAB, the same as with the tandem, how fidgety the rider is would be the biggest factor that you have control over. Everything else is pretty much the behavior of the cars. Just being an odd bike, tandem or TAB, will get you extra notice and probably a wider berth.

    Yes the DaVinci will let you hammer when you want to. I'd suggest and you would probably find that a little slow down of cadence to let them contribute will pay bigger dividends in the long run. I have approached it with more the expectation that they are an "equal" partner on the bike. Equal in that I expect them to contribute what they can, the same way that I contribute what I can. I give them every opportunity to contribute by keeping the cadence at 60-80.

    Of course the solo part of the commute will be different as a solo rider on the tandem vs. your single. If you had a TAB you might be able to find a storage location at the pre-school.

    I doubt you will be able to find a DaVinci to rent but definitely rent a tandem a time or two in the coming weeks to see what you think of them.

    Good Luck. It's a great way to spend time with your kid.

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Either a Co-Motion Periscope or Bike Friday tandem for fit with youngster.
    The daVinci for independent pedaling if that's your main issue.
    No problem riding a tandem solo . . . have done somany times.

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    masiman, can you move at a spirited pace with a TAB, or does the little wheel become unsteady? My initial impression was that a quality tandem would travel faster more comfortably, everything else being equal, but I don't have firsthand experience with a TAB, whereas I've rented a tandem on vacation a couple times.

    I looked on the internet for the Piccolo. Apparently Burley has sold the TAB part of its business! I hope another company picks up the line.

  5. #5
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Most TABs, except the Piccolo, do not track single bike 100% and can clip a curb on a corner; tandem is superior to TAB in most ways.

  6. #6
    Double Secret Probation R900's Avatar
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    I haul the kids all over the place on our tandem with a tag-a-long. We have a Burley Piccolo, and they are wonderful tag alongs.

    Just picked our daughter up from school, notice the packback. I need to get some panniers for this fall.

    Time to Ride...

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    Quote Originally Posted by Owner View Post
    masiman, can you move at a spirited pace with a TAB, or does the little wheel become unsteady? My initial impression was that a quality tandem would travel faster more comfortably, everything else being equal, but I don't have firsthand experience with a TAB, whereas I've rented a tandem on vacation a couple times.

    I looked on the internet for the Piccolo. Apparently Burley has sold the TAB part of its business! I hope another company picks up the line.
    I think we have gone ~30 but at least 25 with the same setup that R900 has (except our tandem is a DaVinci). I think we have taken our train (add a trailer to the TAB) up to about 20, although you need clear sightline, road and good braking distance with all that weight. Point is, you can get going a good clip with the TAB's, maybe faster than you or your child would be comfortable with for them (the what if I fall speed limit .

    In my limited experience (Kent and Burley), Owners comments are correct. I think the Kent was really the bottom of the barrel.

    Zona's comments about corners are correct but not much of an issue IMO. You can't turn as sharply but I have not found that to be an issue. Trailers are much more restrictive on cutting corners. The tandem will be more efficient for longer distances but you are only going a few miles each day. If you wanted to save money and give yourself time to figure out exactly what you want in the way of tandem, the TAB is the way to go.

    Zona's other comment about riding a tandem solo is correct. It is very doable. I do it almost everyday after I drop my kids off. However, I do find it an odd feeling with all that weight behind me. It just handles oddly, much different from a solo.

    You are in luck wrt to the Burleys no longer being available. There is a company in England that by specs makes a great line of kids bikes and they apparently have a TAB that looks very similar to the Burley mount. I have to run quickly here but the company is Isla Bikes. Maybe islabikes.com. You will probably be able to get some hits in the Recreational forum on Isla. Someone just posted a pic of their TAB today or yesterday. Unfortunately you may be hard pressed to find reviews, especially in comparison to Burley, Trek, Giant, etc.

    I don't want to discourage you from a tandem. I only wanted to let you know that a good TAB can be a very good option, especially in terms of money. They become even more attractive if you have multiple kids. They are great for transitions from trailers/seats to independent riding. They have a better sense of indepedence on the TAB than on the tandem. Keep searching with "craigslist piccolo" in google to find them in other markets. Google will have some lag in their crawling but you should see them pop up. There also is apparently a tool "snarfware" that can help you monitor craigslist feeds. I have not tried, only read about it. The google option is how I found the one we bought.

  8. #8
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    I live 2 blocks from a grade school and was inspired to get our tandem by seeing a father taking his kids to that school, first on a tandem with trailer bike behind, and now with a triple. His ride to work is then gradually uphill all the way (he works in the same building I work in), and he seems to have no trouble.

    I'm not in good enough shape yet to take my kids to pre-school (on a mountain side) and then ride to work, but I do go home about once a week, pick up the bike, ride to the pre-school, and then ride home with the kids.

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

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    It sounds like riding a tandem solo is no problem. How about riding with an empty TAB? The Piccolo and Isla look pretty long and hard to put in a car, in which case I'd have to leave it attached after dropping off my son in the morning.

    masiman, thanks for the Isla tip. That looks exactly like the Piccolo! I wonder if they bought the business from Burley.

    R900 and Cahterine+2, great "train" pictures! I can see my younger one wanting to do this, since he already wants to copy the older one in everything.

  10. #10
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    ^^^^
    just drop the TAB with the kid

    Never had a problem with the stability of a TAB, until our daughter started getting above 70lbs or so.

    We rode with our tandem, attached to a TAB, pulling a burley trailer in a paceline at 23mph+ with no problem.

    As long as you outweigh the kid enough to put the bike where you want it, regardless of how they lean,I don't think commuting with a tab is a problem.

  11. #11
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    No real problem riding an empty trailercycle at all. There is just one issue: if you ride on rough roads, the trailercycle might jump on those bumps. One suggestion if you ride on rough roads: install a rear rack on the trailercycle too and put a pannier there after you've dropped the kid.

    As for riding in traffic? I would do 1-2 rides with the child on quieter streets at first, to make sure he doesn't step down at intersections or when crawling up a hill. But once you have cleared those issues, use the tandem or the trailercycle on any kind of street or road you are comfortable with.

    As for riding with empty seat(s): I have ridden the road train (tandem + trailercycle + cargo trailer, or single bike + trailercycle + child trailer) with 3, 2 or 1 persons. And I even did half of a tour riding solo the tandem + cargo trailer + trailercycle on top of it. And my top speed has been around 60 km/h. Usually, all it takes is 10 seconds to adapt to the new weight distribution. As for curves, you need a bit more space, but I found this is a problem only in bike-specific "installations". Even with the whole road train, I'm still more flexible than a single car.

    So should you go for a trailercycle or a real tandem? A tandem handles better and will last forever, but you'll need more cash. Questions to help you decide:
    – What about parking at pre-school and at your office? If your office parking is vulnerable, you might be better with the single. And if there is parking at pre-school, you might leave a trailercycle there.
    – What distance will you need to ride solo?
    – Will you need to bring the son in years afterwards or will the elementary school be close to home (or with school buses). A trailercycle will not work once the child is older than 8 to 10 years old.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon View Post
    No real problem riding an empty trailercycle at all. There is just one issue: if you ride on rough roads, the trailercycle might jump on those bumps. One suggestion if you ride on rough roads: install a rear rack on the trailercycle too and put a pannier there after you've dropped the kid.

    As for riding in traffic? I would do 1-2 rides with the child on quieter streets at first, to make sure he doesn't step down at intersections or when crawling up a hill. But once you have cleared those issues, use the tandem or the trailercycle on any kind of street or road you are comfortable with.

    As for riding with empty seat(s): I have ridden the road train (tandem + trailercycle + cargo trailer, or single bike + trailercycle + child trailer) with 3, 2 or 1 persons. And I even did half of a tour riding solo the tandem + cargo trailer + trailercycle on top of it. And my top speed has been around 60 km/h. Usually, all it takes is 10 seconds to adapt to the new weight distribution. As for curves, you need a bit more space, but I found this is a problem only in bike-specific "installations". Even with the whole road train, I'm still more flexible than a single car.

    So should you go for a trailercycle or a real tandem? A tandem handles better and will last forever, but you'll need more cash. Questions to help you decide:
    – What about parking at pre-school and at your office? If your office parking is vulnerable, you might be better with the single. And if there is parking at pre-school, you might leave a trailercycle there.
    – What distance will you need to ride solo?
    – Will you need to bring the son in years afterwards or will the elementary school be close to home (or with school buses). A trailercycle will not work once the child is older than 8 to 10 years old.

    I think Michael has the most experience on here of anyone with kids and trains.

    I think all are pretty much saying that a TAB is a very good option. A tandem is too. Hopefully one of them will fit your situation better and hopefully that one will be the cheaper option . In the recreation thread about the Isla, someone posted back that with shipping the cost came out to ~$800. If that cost holds true, I think you would be better off spending that money on a tandem. For $800, I think I would want at least 4 years of use and a solid resale market. Resale would not currently be a problem with the Burley, but Isla is just not known here. I really hope they can get a distributor here if there products are as solid as they look.

    The TAB's are about the size of a single, however, wheel removal to shorten them is not very convenient. Would it be possible for you to ride by the school on your way home to pick up the TAB? I assume you are saying that your child will be picked up from school by car and getting the TAB home that way could be an issue.

  13. #13
    Dances With Cars TRaffic Jammer's Avatar
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    My sister-in-law...TAB'd the nephew along until he started riding his own bike and he rode to school with her. With the TAB kids seem to learn their own balance really well, I only pushed him once with a couple steps and he was riding perfectly. Easiest transition to two wheels I've EVER seen.

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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman View Post
    ...The TAB's are about the size of a single, however, wheel removal to shorten them is not very convenient.

    Not exactly, but some trailercycle like some models of the Addams Trail-a-Bike are foldeable. Basically, they fold just in front of the handlebars and fit in the trunk of a car. No experience with that, however; I've always cycled from home and to home.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon View Post
    Not exactly, but some trailercycle like some models of the Addams Trail-a-Bike are foldeable. Basically, they fold just in front of the handlebars and fit in the trunk of a car. No experience with that, however; I've always cycled from home and to home.
    Our Piccolo is ~58" stem to stern, ~48" with wheel off. Wifes 26" mtb/trail bike is ~64", ~54" front wheel off. Is yours much different? In all singles I have (8), the TAB is longer than a single w/ wheel off. I thought my "about" statement was good enough to give an idea of size.

    Yes, some do fold, but the Piccolo style does not (Piccolo and Isla). The Kent did. I don't think the Trek, Giant or Adams do, but I am only going from memory on that.

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    Owner:

    To your original post: Tandem versus TAB

    Biggest advantage of tandem over TAB is if you intend to ride with a larger stoker (teenager - 5 year old grow up / adult). Second is the ability of the stoker to recant their day at school (although with an intercom system the difference is minimal). Last in my list of 3 is the ability to tell if the stoker is assisting or not.

    Biggest disadvantage: Cost

    Biggest advantage of the TAB is the ability to drop the TAB at school / daycare and then hammer on the regular bike. Second is the stoker does have to pedal at your rate (I mandate clipless shoes for my kids on the tandem as if their feet come out while turning 120 rpm, it is hard on stokers ankles). Last is it is easier for a small child to get on / off a TAB.

    Biggest Disadvantage: Kids out grow it. 2nd is braking on single...bias is different and the extra 50 to 100 lbs takes more time to halt. (tandem + TAB is no different than tandem alone).

    Over the past 10 years, my kids have moved from trailer to TAB to tandem as they grew up. I have had no issues riding with any of them in light traffic (only the trailer in moderate traffic as it took up more room).

    My stokers on the tandem can easily turn 120 (limit is somewhere over 150), so speed on the cranks is a function of what I want to turn... Just be aware that the power burst is limited in duration (say 5 seconds per year of age for afterburner). Just make sure pedal length is appropriate (crank shorteners or equivalent)

    I replaced the tire on my TAB (it was basically a ATB tire) with a road tire (>90% of TAB riding is on the street). My younger brother and I hammered on the tandem for an hour with my 4 year old on the TAB and the TAB was never unstable (average 35 km/h, max over 60 - mom might read this so official numbers are kept under wraps).

    Empty TAB is a little more exciting than the empty tandem (TAB tends to bounce if you clip a pothole, but nothing more than letting you know it was there).

    The Adams TAB which I have comes in 4 models: single speed (mine), multispeed, folding and suspension, all with 20" wheels. Trek TABs come in 3 flavours: 20" wheels in single and multi speed and 24" in single speed (which seems counter intuitive...bigger bike should have gears...). Giant 2: single and multi speed (20" wheels). Piccolos did come in multi speeds.

    In any case make sure that appropriate safety gear is used - helmet and SHOES (little ones can put their feet down at wrong times...), gloves optional (my tykes love them as it makes them just like dad and it make me worry less).

    Prairie*boy

    Tsunami tandem (road)
    KHS tandem (ATB)
    Devinci Tosca (cyclocross)
    Devinci Moonracer (under reconstruction)
    Norco Fireball (hardtail)
    Gary Fisher (winter)
    Adams (TAB)

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by prairie*boy View Post
    Owner:

    To your original post: Tandem versus TAB

    Biggest advantage of tandem over TAB is if you intend to ride with a larger stoker (teenager - 5 year old grow up / adult). Second is the ability of the stoker to recant their day at school (although with an intercom system the difference is minimal). Last in my list of 3 is the ability to tell if the stoker is assisting or not.

    Biggest disadvantage: Cost

    Biggest advantage of the TAB is the ability to drop the TAB at school / daycare and then hammer on the regular bike. Second is the stoker does have to pedal at your rate (I mandate clipless shoes for my kids on the tandem as if their feet come out while turning 120 rpm, it is hard on stokers ankles). Last is it is easier for a small child to get on / off a TAB.
    Recanting can sometimes be easier with the TAB as they can stop pedaling and talk. However they will soon learn to softpedal. The captain stoker distance is greater with a TAB. The ability for kid stokers to determine when and how hard to pedal is mostly a blessing but can also be a curse. Especially when you are grunting up a hill and hear them happily talking, laughing and even backpedaling.

    The DaVinci or any other tandem that employs the DaVinci jack gear (they do license it), lets the stoker pick and choose when they pedal. Of course they will have to match your cadence to provide any power, but they are not locked to pedal when you do. However, you will likely pay an even higher price for a DaVinci than a comparable traditional tandem.

    I have not gone the clipless route but I think I would be of the same mind as prairie if we were do a regular 120 on a traditional tandem. We are mostly around a relaxed 80. Lower for hills, higher for moving along faster. Traditional toe clips have done fine for us. Clipless and shoes will require your child to change in and out of shoes at school.

    You pretty much have all aspects of your choices down to some finer points. The TAB would be a stop gap until your kid is too big, moves onto a single or you get a tandem.
    Last edited by masiman; 07-22-07 at 08:11 AM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman View Post
    Our Piccolo is ~58" stem to stern, ~48" with wheel off.
    I haven't measured mine, but it should be the same, since it's a Piccolo. However, the Addams Trail-a-Bike is about 14 inches longer, so the hinge comes in handy.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  19. #19
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    Hmm, the TAB sounds like the better first step for me. Perhaps we'll graduate from that to a tandem eventually. I'll start looking for a Burley Piccolo or that Isla model. Thanks for all the very helpful input!

  20. #20
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    I have a Trek trailer bike, 20" wheel, single speed (I should have sprung for the 7-speed!). It does fold.

    I suggest you go for the multi-speed. DD gets to just sit and ride most of the time, she can't keep up peddling as soon as we reach any real speed. At 5 your DS may not get it at first, but kids are really quick to pick these things up. A year from now you will really appreciate it!

    Catherine

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