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Thread: Kids & tandems

  1. #1
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    I know nothing. I am completely untechnical, I would like to recieve some advice.

    My daughter is six, we have a trail-a-bike. I think I'd like to get a tandem - I have no idea where to start.

    Thanks!

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    Allirah, I did a bit of searching, maybe this is what your looking for? Im a wee bit confused on your term "trail-a-bike"... What is this? Anyways, Click Here

    Hope this helps, if not, theres tons of cool tandem links at the top of this page under "Related Links"

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    I bought a fairly low-end KHS Tandemania Comp
    and a child stoker kit for about $1,200. The stoker kit is necessary so that my daughter can reach the pedals. The stoker kit consists of a "third" crankset that bolts onto the rear seat tube and a chain that connects the "third" crankset to the rear or "stoker" crankset. It may sound confusing, but it is simple and a great design. I selected this bike because of the price. It was "cheap" relative to other tandems & I wasn't too worried about a loss on our investment if my daughter did not like it. It turned out that this has been a great purchase & the bike gets used by my nine year old daughter and me fairly often. In addition, the stoker kit can be removed fairly quickly so my wife and I also ride it together. There are probably many used tandems on the market too, but I can't really offer any suggestions. Good luck!!!

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    Kids and tandems

    I just got a Family Tandem Traveler from Bike Friday (http://www.bikefriday.com). It comes apart and fits in 2 suitcases for travel. My granddaughter, almost 5, will be the stoker, of course. I got pedal adjusters to raise the height of the pedals, and child handlebar add ons. She's 42" tall, and we have a perfect fit for her. Bike Friday makes bikes to fit the riders, so we have one beautiful machine. I just have to get my kiddle past training wheel stage so she won't give me too much wobble when we're riding. I got a stationary trainer stand, and we "ride" our bike several times a week in the living room. She's almost ready for the real thing now. I have ridden the bike without her, and it's very light and easy, which was a pleasant surprise.

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    FYI - for those wondering about the trail-a-bike in the previous post, here's a picture: http://www.burley.com/html/trlcycl/index.html

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    Sources of info

    I got a Santana Tandem publication at a local shop called "Tandems and Tandeming." It's got some technical bits, but it also has some non-techie parts.

    You can also find all the info in it (without any pictures whatsoever at http://www.santanainc.com--a disappointing site, but the info's okay). I also just spent much of the day (home sick from work and pining for a tandem!) looking around on the web for info.

    What I'm hoping to do is find a couple of dealers who're within visiting distance and I've found there is one club in Utah, so I've e-mailed the folks in charge of that.

    Hope that helps!

    Ciao for now,
    J

    Here's a few sites I found that you might want to check out (incidently, our daughter loves her trail-a-bike too!):

    http://www.lynxview.com/tandembike.html
    (page of links)

    http://www.****************/
    http://www.tandemseast.com/show.html
    http://www.tandemsltd.com/
    http://www.meridianbike.com/
    http://www.rans.com/Bikes/screamer.htm
    (these are recumbents--pretty cool)
    http://www.tandemmag.com/tmban.shtml
    (magazine no longer published but the site's still active)
    http://www.rodcycle.com/

    http://www.burley.com/html/fmtandm/index.html


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    I found this thread, and thought I’d resurrect it to pass on our experiences with tandems and a child stoker. Maybe they will act an encouragement and inspiration to go for it.

    “How we came to buy a tandem and outfit it for loaded touring with a child stoker”

    When our daughter was two years old, we bought a bike trailer, a Cannondale “clamshell” style. That is about all that was available in 1983.

    To keep her comfy on the hard plastic seat, we bought a car, bucket seat cover (made out of a real sheepskin) and took off the straps. Sheepskin is recommended for bed bound people to prevent bed sores. It worked fine for our daughter to sit on and lean against in the hard plastic trailer. It also doubled as a sleeping pad when we were camping on a tour. We DID have to make sure we kept it dry. I had made a rain canopy for the trailer out of coated pack fabric and some fiberglass tent poles.

    We outfitted both bikes (MY wife’s and mine) with front and rear panniers and made a short trip into the interior of Alaska around Fairbanks. The next summer we spent 6 weeks in Canadian Rockies & eastern British Columbia bike touring, camping out each night. A wonderful trip. Vagabonds on wheels. An endless summer. We were well hooked on family bike touring

    The next Spring, our daughter’s fourth year, it was clear she had outgrown the safety strapping system in the Cannondale trailer. She was learning to ride a bike, but it would be years before she could come close to keeping up with two adult riders. A tandem with a child stoker set up seemed the only solution if we were going to keep cycling as a family.

    There were not many readily available tandems or child stoker conversion kits available in 1985. We settled on a Santana tandem. They had no dealer in Alaska, so agreed to sell to us directly. Since my wife is taller than me by 2 inches and longer legged by 3 inches, we had to decide who would be the captain of the tandem -- we could not swap the tandem back and forth like we did the bike trailer. Since I had the stronger upper body, we ordered the tandem to fit me. My wife would continue to ride her single.

    As for how to set-up the rear for a child stoker, there were two options in 1983, a Phil Wood set up and one made by Santana. We settled on the Santana arrangement which included a clamp on bottom bracket (designed to attach to the stoker’s seat tube), long stem for the stoker and an additional timing chain with a removable link.

    Our daughter was just 4 years old when everything arrived, costing $1500 counting shipping from the “lower 48” as Alaskan call, well, the lower 48.

    I soon discovered that the long stem and normal drop handlebars meant that a four year old child stoker had to lean w-a-y forward to reach the bars. No good. And, I was disappointed to see that Santana had sent adult length cranks, 170 mm. These would have had our four year old’s legs really pumping up and down as we pedaled.

    I contacted Santana and paid to have them cut down another crank set and tap it for 100 mm, much more reasonable for the short legs of a small child. (Phil Wood’s adjustable stoker cranks might have made this less of a problem, but they had limitation, too, as I recall.)

    As for the handlebar position, we found some “high rise” handlebars (a style available for kid’s bikes back then) in a bike parts catalog. Putting those on the long stem gave our daughter a more comfortable posture, Aerodynamics played no part, since she was totally shielded by my body as the captain. Also, she was not strong enough to “pull” on the handlebars to help power the bike. We wanted her to be able to ride up there comfortably for as long as we did.

    Thus outfitted, we did a lot of family recreational riding around town and errand running (weather permitting -- Juneau is a rainy climate). Come September 1984, we participated in the League of American Wheelman (what are they called now?) century ride. We rode a half century with our daughter as stoker. The ride went very well. We realized that we COULD now consider doing a tour with the tandem, and my wife on her single bike. So we set to planning for the next summer. Our daughter would be just 5 years old.

    So, how did it work, this child stoker riding? I’d straddle the bike, first. She’d climb on and get her feet in her toe clips (she had them, too). I’d launch off, just like on a single.

    I set up the timing chain so that our feet were in sync. This way I would easily know where her feet were in the pedalling cycle. Starting out with some verbal communication, we quickly learned to communicate by the feel of the pedals, so she’d feel when I was going to shift and stopped pushing.

    Since a stoker who changes position on the bike, looking around and such, can wobble the path of the bike. In heavy traffic, I would sometimes use the words “ride straight” which we had set up to mean that I needed to be able to steer the bike exactly where I need to because of the traffic.

    Occasionally, her feet would come out of the toe clips as we pedalled. She’d just spread her feet sideways, out of the way, until I realized what had happened, or she said something. She never got whacked by the pedals. Once I lost the balance of the bike coming to a stop. She realized this and jumped off and out of the way before the bike and I hit the ground. She cheerfully chastised me to be more careful.

    Riding a tandem is definitely different feeling at first. The turning radius is larger, a consideration when making right hand turns at intersections.

    The trip we planned and rode saw us taking the Alaska State Ferry from Juneau to Prince Rupert. A Canadian ferry from there to Port Hardy on the north end of Vancouver Island. We then basically rode down Vancouver Island, across southern British Columbia and up the Canadian Rockies to Jasper. There, we’ caught the train back to Prince Rupert and the ferry home to Juneau.

    I won’t detail the trip except to say we rode 1200 miles (=2000 kilometers) in a month. The longest day was 75 miles (twice, and both unplanned but necessary). Most days were in the 40 mile range. We camped out every night, except for our three lay over days when we were visiting relatives. The tandem and the single both had front and rear panniers and handlebar bags. My stoker, even has a little bag attached to her handlebars.

    As further preparation for the trip, I changed the gearing on the tandem (a triple) to get rid of high gears that I would never use in trade for low gears. So, we ended up with a high of 88 inches and a low of 24" as I recall. I'd need that low for hills. And, who needs high gears when you can hit 50 mph downhills just coasting on a tandem?

    What of the stoker? She had a great trip. Being with mom and dad 24 hours a day. Being outdoors camping each night, doing and seeing interesting things everywhere. Being a participant.

    What about the captain? Being in charge of a tandem with a child stoker is a bit of a responsibility, but I had confidence of my riding skills, having accumulated more than 50,000 miles of riding, much of that bike commuting in San Diego, California along with a bit of racing, lots of recreational riding and some touring.

    There ARE stresses on the captain of a child stoker bike. The captain has to provide almost ALL the motive force. On the flats, this was no problem. Downhill, gravity was more than adequate. Uphill, though, was a physical, and sometimes a mental stress. There was no way I could keep up with my wife on her single climbing any sort of long grade. A child stoker, especially one who is only five years old, can’t provide much force to the pedals. Their feet just get carried around. We were not much slower up hill on the tandem than my wife, but always behind. This can get to be very wearing, at times. And, the reward of the fast downhill run goes by too quickly. But, our favorite places to ride all seem to never be flat. We do love mountains.

    Actually, our daughter COULD help push noticeably on the flats, too. Especially if I was tired, like on our first long day of this tour, she could actually accelerate the bike. The first day on the road out of Port Hardy turned out to be 75 miles instead of the 40 miles we had been lead to expect (misinformation about the length of the road between towns and the campsites in the tourist information). Mom and dad were physically and mentally shot by the end of that day. The stoker was still enthusiastic and took up “racing cars” that were overtaking us, accelerating the tandem in the process!

    Our daughter also discovered something else that pleased me. While as captain, I could not stand up on the pedals to go up hills, she COULD. We found early on in the trip that when she did this, it really helped. On a long hill, the tandem would be faster than my wife’s single. My child stoker could not keep this up for ever, but got stronger through the trip. It was a definite mental lift, more than physical whenever she stood up on the pedals.

    With the heavier bike, and the weight of the child stoker, the extra effort required is not surprising, but it did get to me a couple times. We even bailed out one day, about half way through the trip (the normal “mid-point crisis” in any trip, an interesting psychological time). We had taken a mid-afternoon break at a rest area, planning another hour or two of riding. I was tired, though. Tired of hills, tired of being slow up the hills. Even though posted “No Camping” we camped at the rest area that night. The next morning was beautiful. I was refreshed. Crisis over, never to return. Even though there were more hills to be slow on, I was past the “mid-point crisis.”

    We went back to the Canadian Rockies on another tandem trip, four years later. Our daughter, then nine years old wanted to do this because she did not remember the earlier trips very well.

    Giving child stoker tandem riding a try is not a small decision. Tandems are big and expensive. The physical and mental demands are not trivial. But, the rewards are hard to beat. Riding around town, and on the tours we took with the tandem were glorious hours spent with our daughter. I am not sure how having not gone this route would have changed how our daughter grew up. I do believe that trips and efforts like tandem touring have helped keep us a close family. Even though our daughter is in her senior year in college (time passes so very fast when you have kids), and has a boyfriend, she is enthused about going with us to bike tour in France, in 2003, all of us on our own bikes, this time.

    One last interesting aspect of touring with a small child on a tandem -- you are quite a sight. In Juneau, we had see more than a few people, drivers & pedestrians, do double takes as they encountered us. This happened on the tour a lot. How charming, cute, appealing? The sight of a tandem, unusual in itself, was made a real spectacle with the sight of a small child on the second seat. She was a real cure blond headed imp on that bike. At tourist stops in the Rockies, WE were as much of a tourist attraction as the scenery. We are in numerous family photo albums around the world!

    While riding across southern British Columbia, we ran into a biker heading the other direction who had HEARD about us days before from motor tourists and hoped he run into us. We had not expected this sort of notoriety. But, it was good fun.

    There you go, a brief look into the joys we found with a child stoker tandem.

    For us, this worked fine. One child is easy, well relatively, anyway. For those families who can’t just stop with one, what do you do with two, or more children and biking?

    After we got back from this first tandem tour, we saw a family riding in downtown Juneau on a tandem with a child stoker, a single pulling a trailer and an older child on her own single. It turned out to be a district judge who lived in Juneau. We had each independently discovered the joys of a child stoker tandem and bike trailers. How we managed to have never before even heard of each other in a town of only 25,000 people is amazing.

    What's happened since. The bike tour at nine was the last family bike tour. One thing that happened was that our daughter eventually reached a leg length where the clamp-on bottom bracket, could not be lowered anymore without running into the cranks below. But, her legs were not long enough to the reach regular cranks. We had to give up this arrangement.

    We moved on into other family outdoor activities, like sea kayaking in Southeast Alaska, and later, backpacking -- and, building a house for ourselves. Fortunately, we get to close the bike touring loop with our daughter next summer.
    Mike Sakarias
    Juneau Alaska

  8. #8
    Senior Member tchazzard's Avatar
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    I have two tandems, a Burley Rumba and an old Univega Sport Tandem. My two girls (9 and 12) ride the Univega. They love it. It is a blast being able to ride as a family on only two bikes.

    I have looked at quads, but my garage is not big enough.

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    I would be curious if any of you have ridden with the child stoker using crank shorteners? If the captain is using 175mm crankarms, what is the ideal crankarm length for the child stoker (age 8/9) to have so that they can handle a higher cadence?

    BB

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    A good way to determine crankarm length is to take the inseam in inches (standing against wall, flat shoes, run book up between legs until it won't go any higher, measure from floor to top of book), multiply that number by 5.29, and that gives you your crankarm length in millimeters.

    I'm opposed to devices that make the pedals much farther apart for small people, so the last time we had to deal with this we actually found short cranks (125mm) with square tapers in a dealer bike part catalog. I hear the Quality Bicycle Parts catalog is now available on line, but I have no other details. DaVinci makes multi-pedal-holed cranks with the hole centers 20mm apart, perhaps in two sizes that, if both purchased, would provide six settings only 10mm apart?

    Cadence on a tandem is almost always a compromise. Shorter people should want to use shorter cranks at a higher cadence and a lower gear. Imagine a child walking next to an adult taking many more shorter steps more often to walk at the same speed. My advice is to take care of the fragile young growing knees by keeping the cadence up and the effort light.

  11. #11
    Mercrudgeon Bikedud's Avatar
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    I have a Cannondale MT1000 tandem.

    http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/97/97_mt1000.html

    I bought it when my children where much smaller and I did a lot of research to see what would fit a child. I did not want to have to deal with a childs crank.

    I got a 18/16, thats 18" captain (front) and 16" stoker (rear). I easily adjusted the captains seat and stem to accomodate me (5'11"). My son could ride with no pedal blocks or child crank when he was 8 and my daughter when she was 7. I had to purchase a long stoker stem from Tandems Ltd. to bring the handle bars to them. They both did Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) twice and had a great time.

    Tandems Ltd in Alabama is a great source of equipment, info, and advice.

    Good luck.
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    Bikedud,

    I picked up the used Cannondale MT800 because the front is XL and the rear is S which fits fine. The rear stoker seat has a seatpost that needs to be swapped out so I can adjust the seat a little bit lower. My daughter reaches the pedals as is without swapping out the post, but she needs just a tad more bend in the knee. The front cranks are 175mm and the stoker's are 170mm. I was thinking that something in the 150 - 160mm range would be better so that our spin matches each other a little bit better. Her solo bike has 150mm crank arms, but the Sugino stoker and triple are both spiders which means either crankarm shortener or new crankarms to get a shorter reach.

    That is, if she needs it. How much wider would crankarm shorteners make her feet be?

    BB

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    Mercrudgeon Bikedud's Avatar
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    Bruce,

    I don't think cadence is that big of an issue. Her cadence is going to be the same as yours, it will be in a circle that may not be mechanically efficient, and it will be larger and probably faster than she is accustumed to.

    All that being said, I think the reality is that as a child (she is a child isn't she? Age?) she is not going to be doing much work as the stoker so I don't think there is much of a chance she will stress her knees too much. I was more concerned with proper height. My experience is YOU are still going to do all or almost all of the work, at least at first. She can be a big help on hills and long gradual grades but most of the time she is going to be doing what most children do. Play.

    The first year I took my children on tours ( each at different times) it was obvious when they were helping with the pedaling load, which was usually when I asked for help. I wanted the kids to enjoy the experience and wasn't too concerned with how much work thay did. The second year both were stronger, better cyclist, and it was obvious when they were NOT helping. Both of their singles had a 165mm crank so going to the 170mm on the tandem wasn't that big of a deal. They surely did not notice and never complained of any knee aches. My biggest concerns where hydration and sunburn, Kids don't understand "drink before you need to"

    If you are convinced you need to alter the crank length, of the options that I am famaliar with, I like the multiple pedal-holed cranks the best. It will grow as your daughter grows and it doesn't increase the distance between the pedals (Q) so her cadence will be narrower and more natural. I don't like the crank shorteners, although they are probably the least expensive option. A family that we often rode with had the shorteners on their Burley and it looked like thier daughter was riding a horse. Her feet were almost as far apart as her legs were long. That's a bit of an exaggeration but it sure didn't look comfortable. The shorteners probaly don't add but a couple of inches but it looks like a lot.

    Have you ridden much without modifications? I would try taking your daughter on a few rides and see what she thinks. If she is accustomed to a shorter crank and notices the difference then you may want to consider modifications. You may find that she does well without any modifications.

    Good luck and let us know how things work out.
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    We are doing our first longer ride tomorrow without any modifications. However, she simply cannot reach the pedals with the correct amount of bend in her knee. So I have ordered the crank shorteners as it seemed to be not as radical as swapping out the rear cranks and they have 4 or 5 slots for various lengths so we should be able to find a workable fit for our upcoming RAGBRAI.

    BB

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    kids stoker set

    Hi. I live in South Africa and have being tandeming since the mid 80's with my wife. Our youngest kid (8) iss at a stage he wants to tandem and we are looking for a good, affordable conversion kit, even 2nd hand if in a good condition.... any suggestions. Brett

  16. #16
    Senior Member dwmckee's Avatar
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    Tandem Recommendation

    Hello. We were having a similar experience to yours several years ago when we made the "jump to tandem" calculations and went for it. My oldest was 5 and we had toured on a trail a bike but got tired of all of the sway. Bought a used Raleigh Coupe tandem for $560 that had only about 10 miles on it and put crank shorteners in the back for my son. The Raleigh Coupe is particularly good for us because the frame allows the stoker adjustment to go all the way town to fit a 5 year old and all the way up to fit my 5'7" wife (and then some). The Raleigh Coupe is a great deal for the money as it is a reasonable tandem that most are unfamiliar with so the prices are pretty low when you buy a used one. My son is now 10 and we now put the trail a bike on the back of the tandem for my younger son (now 5) and have a poor-man's triplet, We do a 200 - 300 mike tour every summer and a lot of day rides. Our triplet gets a lot of attention which is fun at first but after a few years we really just want to enjoy riding and get on with it. Last summer we rode the Erie Canal route across NY and 2 years ago we rode DC to Pittsburgh on the GAP and C&O trails.

    If you keep riding, a used tandem is the way to go. I actually sold our Raleigh this fall (for more than I paid for it) and bought a used Co-Motion, so if you take care of a used tandem you may be able to sell it for near what you paid for it so you have $ tied up but get it back later.

    There is no better experience with your kids than touring on a tandem. You have 8 hours with them just a foot away every day and no TV or video games and after you run out of the usual stiff to talk about on the second day it is amazing how the conversation swings around to even more interesting subjects. I just hope I can keep my sons interested when they are teens too.

    It took me about two years to learn, but I finally figured it out that it is not at all about the biking part; it is about the time and experience you have with your kids that is why this is the bets thing you will ever do for getting close to your family.[/U]

    On a tour we average about 40 miles a day and probably do not start rolling until 10 or 11 in the AM to make everything relaxed and fun.

    Just do it and it will be the highlight of growing up for your kids!
    Last edited by dwmckee; 11-22-10 at 10:08 PM. Reason: Adding info

  17. #17
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    DSCN2860.jpg

    My boy and I did a lot of local riding and touring with the tag-along between the ages of 4 and 6 (a lot being a few miles daily and maybe 1500 miles in 1-3 day touring). We moved up to a L/S Davinci JointVenture 700 just before his 7th birthday. We probably could have gone another year on the tag-along, but I got a sweet deal on the Davinci. As you can see, I had to block the pedals for a while (I had wooden blocks bolted to the pedals to gain another 3/4 inch). It also means we have space for little brother which is wonderful. In another year we'll have a tandem+tag-along rig going.

    Anyway, two things about the Davinci I really appreciate. 1. I've got their three-hole cranks (130-150-170mm) so they can grow with the boy. 2. The independent coasting is fantastic. Just like with the tag-along, I can take him out on very long rides (100 milesish) and he can take breaks as needed. It keeps it from becoming a torment for either of us and really adds to the fun factor. Since he can rest up a bit, I occasionally call out for "ramming speed" and he goes all out. He can really generate some serious wattage in short bursts. It's great.

    The independent coasting is also great when friends visit and want to go for a ride. It really lowers the threshold for novices.

    The tandem is, unsurprisingly, much more stable at high speeds (30-50mph) than the tag-along (though the tag-along never saw 50 mph). However, we used to use the tag-along for some fairly demanding mountain biking that the tandem is not up to. There are some advantages to the articulated nature of a tag-along rig including better turning radius and ground clearance. Of course, Davinci also makes mountain tandems, but it may be a while before I can justify the budget to my wife.
    Last edited by ScottCarney; 11-22-10 at 11:48 PM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member ScottCarney's Avatar
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    Oh, in response to the questions about kid crank length: I don't think it's that different from fitting an adult. My 7 y/o is 4'3'' and is using the 130mm crank length. He could probably handle the 150mm setting, but I don;t see the need to push it.

  19. #19
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    Spec' Tarmac (road), Spec' Secteur Disc (commuter & tourer), Salsa Mamasita (MTB), CoMo Speedster (tandem), Surly Big Dummy (cargo), Airnimal (folder), a train pass, and NO car :)
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    Wow, this is a thread that just keeps on giving. Has anyone noticed that the OP was in 2000, and there have been an intermittent sprinkling of posts spread over the last 10 years. If anyone is interested in any topic brought up here, then there is probably more recent info about it somewhere else in this forum.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
    Wow, this is a thread that just keeps on giving. Has anyone noticed that the OP was in 2000, and there have been an intermittent sprinkling of posts spread over the last 10 years. If anyone is interested in any topic brought up here, then there is probably more recent info about it somewhere else in this forum.
    Yes, the OP's daughter isn't 6 years old any longer, she's a young adult of 16 or 17! Where do people dig up these old threads? What's the reason for going back years?
    2013 Specialized Roubaix SL4 Expert, 2009 Ritchey Breakaway Cross, 2008 Trek T1000 Tandem, 2010 Specialized Tricross Sport, 2006 Trek Madone 5.2, 1995 Specialized Rockhopper A1 FS

  21. #21
    Senior Member
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    Well this is a great thread with a wealth of information for the tandem search. And this is the second result I got with this search on google: four year old on tandem bike site:bikeforums.net. So I figure why is has been revived several times and yet another time by me.

    It makes me want to look even further into this possibility of getting a tandem with my son who just turned four and I think he is out growing the rear seat and I do not want to hassle with the trail a bike (maybe a trail gator). But I am thinking longer term and not just Sunday rides.

    I am glad to hear about the independent coasting of the Davinci and the stoker is a nice thing I did not know about.

    Tandems may offer my wife another bike thing to groan over.

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