I've just got our son, who will be four at the end of December, on the tandem for the first time. We only went to the local park and back, a total of 4 km, but he enjoyed it and wants to go out with me again. How far could I reasonably expect him to ride with me, without getting tired/bored? I'm thinking of doing some of the local fun rides in the next month or so, which have 25-30 km options - a couple of the rides are laps, so I could enter the longer distances, do one lap with the tandem and then swap to my single bike for the other(s).
As an aside we did ride up to 100 km with him when he was in his bike seat.
In my experience, 40 minutes is about the limit for my oldest son (now 5-1/2). My 4-year-old daughter prefers to ride solo (off training wheels since 3rd b-day), and she's up to about a 40 minute ride under her own power, with help up hills.
As long as it is 'fun' and no 'got to do this' . . . any distance is fine.
Rode with father/daughter (5 year old) duo. As she was pedaling she was riding no handed playing with a doll. She looked over her shoulder, saw us on our tandem coming up and she prompty stuffed doll in the rack trunck and stood up pedaling. She did not want us to pass them!
She did complete a full 100 mile century!
Chatting with the dad, found out mom was out on the 50 mile route on a tandem with the 6 year old son.
These kids may be an exception, but depends on child's interest/ability.
Kids are amazing and there's great power-to weight-ratio to boot!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kau/zonatandem
Don't have kids, can't directly answer your question, but I can relate a story.
What got me interested in tandems to start with? I was riding the Houston to Austin MS150 in 2004. Day 2 going through "The Park" (Bastrop?) beautiful ride, lots of short steep hills. A man and his 5-6 year old son (I am not a good judge of kids age but the kid was small) were hammering, standing, up-hill, passing EVERYBODY. I thought it was cool, came home and talked it over with Kelly and we took the plunge.
My point being, it depends on the child and the parent. The father and son I saw that day were just out having fun, I'll bet they did the whole 175. I feel sure that young man started at a very early age.
My daughter isn't aloud a lot of sweets and never any kind of soda. However when we are doing longer rides, candy and Mountain-Dew at rest stops keeps her awake. She's 9 now and been riding with me since she was 4. She's loged 1000 miles this year, including 7 time trials, a week long tour and a century. For whatever reason, she's always been able to sit back there, pedaling along and just fall right to sleep.
Just thought I'd throw that out there so you can watch for it.
My advice, based on experience hiking with kids...do a short run specifically for the kid, go someplace neat for him, then do a separate run for you without the kid. Kids get tired or cranky too easily, you need to be willing to turn around or stop and rest or play at any point without ruining your own trip. Once the novely wears off, he may be less interested in it as well.
As others have said, it undoubtedly depends on the child. Our daughter did 40 miles (64 km) with us on our triple when she was not quite four. The key, I think, was riding with other cyclists, who kept her entertained. Occasional stops for snacks and play also helped, I'm sure.
Cannondale Road Tandem, Rodbikes Belt Drive Fixed Gear
I would suspect that the local rides would be fine for him, particularly if he can interact with other riders.
My daughter just turned 6, but has been on our triplet since she was 3. We began with 10 mile rides and increased rather quickly. She rode the local MS 150 when she was 4 and again this year at 5 years old. Our longest day is 89 miles. We've also done a couple tours (Bike Across Kansas and Great Ohio Bicycle Adventure). She definetly gets bored after an hour.
1. as already mentioned, always have some kind of reward (such as playground ice cream)
2. try to interact, sing songs, etc.
3. try to ride with other people who will interact. We ride a group ride often. One of the riders is an older lady who is just awesome. Everytime we see her on the ride, Jamie (my daughter) cheers up a lot and starts talking to her.
4. give him some snacks while riding. Jamie has a small cup that always has dum-dums or oreos in it. (I figure with the amount of calories she's burning, she should probably eat some.
Here's a funny story from yesterday. We were riding with a friend of mine on the back of the triplet. We were cruising along at great speed (22-23 with some headwind). I couldn't believe we were going so fast on the tandem. After a while, Jamie says "I can't push any longer," and we immediately dropped to 18-19. This is really cool for me, because she usually after I thank her for doing such a great job on any given day, she will respond with "I wasn't even pushing." Maybe she was showing off for my friend.
Another time she pushes is when we need to catch somebody or want to pass someone. I ask her to put it into passing gear, and she stands up and pedals hard.
On the other hand, she admits that she doesn't think bike riding is fun. A little 30 minute ride would probably be fun, but she doesn't really enjoy longer rides unless she is significantly distracted.
OK, one last short story. This year's MS150 was hard for us. the first day we rode 83 miles. Perfect weather, great pace, even Jamie seemed to be doing fine. the second day was 83 miles back, warmer weather, significant cross wind, and tired stokers. We were much slower. At about 60 miles, my partner (rear stoker), was seriously considering us sagging in. Jamie was dead tired and struggled at every SAG to get back on the bike, but when I asked her about stopping, she wanted to finish the ride. She said that we could do it, but that it would be really hard. We did finish, and she was very tired, but she was clearly proud of finishing such a long ride...We then took over 2 weeks off the tandem to giver the stokers a break. Instead, we've been swimming (not laps) at the YMCA and going on a few walks.
Have fun out there. It is always a blast to see other kids on tandems.