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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 09-09-04, 11:02 PM   #1
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riding with a child with bad balance

Our family started biking together this summer, using a tag-along for our 86 lb 9 year old son who is on the autism spectrum since he has not yet learned to balance on a bike (or on skates or a scooter for that matter). The problem is that he's really too heavy for the tag-along. My husband seems to manage OK with him, but when I ride with him I'm constantly fighting to keep the front wheel of my bike stable and grounded. I'm wondering whether a tandem might work for us, but I'm not sure how important the balance of the stoker might be, especially a stoker who weighs nearly 90 lbs. We're working with him to try to teach him to ride, but I'm not sure I want him making steering and braking decisions for himself even if he does learn to balance.

Will riding on a tandem help him learn to balance himself? Is it even possible to ride a tandem with a stoker with poor balance?

Any thoughts?
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Old 09-10-04, 01:23 AM   #2
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I had a similar issue. I first tried a tandem with a Trek tag-a-long (24" wheel) and there is a huge difference between using a tag-a-long and tandem or triple. The balance problems went away with the tandem and the triple

You may also want to look at My kids loved it. It is now being used by a friend with a child with Autism. They are thrilled with it.
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Old 09-10-04, 07:50 AM   #3
jim wallace
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I think a tandem should work much better than the tag a long. I have an 8 year old who is a pretty good biker and I felt unstable with several different tag a longs including the burley picollo. We were still able to ride and go fast but I had to concentrate and be careful. A couple of weeks ago we received our co-motion periscope tandem. This is far more stable and fast. Most of the time I don't even notice my son and it feels as though I am on a single bike. He weighs about 75 pounds. The periscope is really a great bike, although it is expensive ($3000). I would highly recommend it, especially for teams with children as stokers. My son can stand over the stokers top tube which is nice for starting and stopping.
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Old 09-10-04, 11:10 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by sporter45
Will riding on a tandem help him learn to balance himself? Is it even possible to ride a tandem with a stoker with poor balance?
If he can manage on the trail-a-bike -- which is a very unstable platform in and of itself and by extenstion, makes the bike pulling it a handful to manage -- then I believe the tandem would be a vast improvement for all concerned. Obviously, the proof would be in a test ride. A Bike Friday (probably THE ideal tandem for your needs) or a Co-Motion Periscope (high-performance, top-notch components) would be the optimal test bikes, but there is an entry level Trek tandem (T900?) as well as some Raleigh and Schwinn comfort tandems that are designed to accommodate very small stokers without the added expense of a kiddie crank set-up. Moreover, a full-size tandem with kiddie-cranks requires the children who still aren't tall enough to reach the pedals to sit up quite high on the rear of the tandem and that amplifies the wobbles: wobbles beget more wobbles and lots of undesireable movement which is what you don't want.

Not sure where you are located, but there are a few tandem speciality dealers (Alabama, South Jersey, Eastern Kansas, Colorado, Northern & Southern California, Chicago Area) as well as Bike Friday and Co-Motion dealers that may have bikes in stock that you could test ride. We have a partial list of tandem speciality dealers at our Web site:

As for helping to improve his balance, again, the tandem will be more stable and move in a much more predicatable manner which will be helpful to the learning process. The captain's position directly in front of the stoker also helps because the captain's movements are tied in with what the stoker immediately feels vs. the "lag" that you get with a trail-a-bike. There's also the benefit of matched / synchronized pedal cadence which also helps to add stability to the ride and from which a young cyclist can begin to experience a smooth and consistent pedal stroke.

As for how a wobbly stoker will affect the handling of a tandem, at 90lbs and somewhere between 4' - 5' in height his movements will be felt through the handlebars and require a higher degree of postive steering control than a stoker that does not move around. But, at the same time, they it shouldn't be all that hard to manage and should be an easier task than what you've experienced with the trail-a-bike.

Again, the best thing to do is to search out a suitable tandem for a test ride. It need not be an expensive or fancy model; it just needs to fit. I would strongly recommend finding one of the models that is low enough for your son to ride without a kiddie-crank system, e.g., Bike Friday Family Tandem 8 @ $999.00 or perhaps the Family Tandem 16 @ $1,200.00

Good luck. I think you're on the right path if your goal is to build up your son's confidence and skills to the point where he will be able to ride his own bicycle.
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Old 09-11-04, 02:32 PM   #5
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The Trek T-900 that Mark has reference to, sells for about $880 new; comes in one size only:18.5 x 14.5, has 24 speeds and 26-inch wheels and weighs about 44 lbs. This stoker compartment will give plenty of standover room for shorter legs. A good value at a low cost; if it's to your liking you can upgrade later to the Co-Motion Periscope.
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 11-06-04, 07:20 AM   #6
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I also have an autistic son and have been using a tag-a-long. I am beginning to consider a tandem. Did you purchase one? Is it working? Any recommendations on models - I looked at the Trek T 900 because it looked like the frame could support my son and my 8 year old daughter.

Thank you in advance for feedback.
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Old 11-06-04, 09:41 PM   #7
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Have ridden with stokers on tandem that are blind and otherwise 'less-abled.'
Currently training/riding with a lady who has Parkinsons disease; says she feel much better and secure pedaling than walking.
Really think a tandem is a superior platform than a trail-a-bike.
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Old 11-06-04, 09:49 PM   #8
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I have a 17 year old son with Down's Syndrome. He is only slightly taller than my wife but has at least 25 lbs on her. His balance is terrible and his attention span is not that great either. I keep saying I want to try to get him on our bike, but I'll have to swap out for platforms before I think of attempting it. I'm sure he'll be a handful but if we could manage it would be pretty cool. It would have been great to do a ride like Best Buddies with him.
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