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  1. #1
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    Chosing a tandem for touring with a child

    Hi all:

    I'm in the beginning stages of planning an extended tour with my daughter next summer. Probably down the Pacific coast from Portland to Southern California. I've done extensive touring on my own over the decades including that same ride, but never with my daughter. We do lots of riding together but she's just not strong enough to tackle a long tour like that on her own bike. We live in Texas but have family in Oregon. My idea is that we fly out and pick up a tandem in Oregon...maybe a co-motion from the factory. Work out the kinks, set it up with a trailer, and then start out on the adventure. I teach high school so I have plenty of time to work things out at my parent's house in Oregon before heading out.

    I have decades of experience owning and working on bikes but frankly know nothing about tandems and tandem design. This trip would probably be a one-time thing and then I'd bring the tandem back to Texas to mainly us for recreational and century riding with my wife. Based on what little I've read about tandems so far it seems I have two basic choices for setting up a tandem to carry my daughter in the back. She's about 4'5" now and will probably be an inch or two more by next summer. My wife is only about 5'1" so not that much taller really. I'm 5'10"

    The first option seems to be to get any adult tandem and affix a child stoker kit to raise the stoker crank to the appropriate height.
    The second option seems to be to get a tandem designed for kids in the rear like the co-motion periscope models and then just use it with my wife after the tour.

    It seems there could be tradeoffs either way, I just don't know what they might be and would welcome any advice. The adult tandem might put my daughter higher than she is comfortable sitting and might make mounting and dismounting more difficult. The child designed tandem like the periscope might be less than ideal for two adults in the future.

    Any advice or discussion on what type of approach you would all recommend?

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    Google "Thorn Me n U2" for something you may not have thought of

  3. #3
    Roadie, Tandem & Commuter KenHuffman's Avatar
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    I have a regular tandem that is size small. I am 5'7" and my youngest started riding when she was 6 years old. She was shorter than 4'5" and crank shorteners worked just fine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/5719339...in/photostream

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by jolly_ross View Post
    Google "Thorn Me n U2" for something you may not have thought of
    Not looking for a triple. My wife can't come on this trip. She'll be staying home working and looking after the other two kids. I'm doing a summer adventure with each kid individually. This is the only daughter who is into biking enough to want to do an extended tour with me. So regular tandem it will be. Back in Texas it will probably be mostly riding with my wife. She's been wanting to come along on centuries and that kind of thing but doesn't really have the bike or experience to ride those distances solo at pace and isn't interested enough to train. But she is interested in trying tandem riding.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KenHuffman View Post
    I have a regular tandem that is size small. I am 5'7" and my youngest started riding when she was 6 years old. She was shorter than 4'5" and crank shorteners worked just fine. http://www.flickr.com/photos/5719339...in/photostream
    I guess I really need to find some tandem dealers to do some fit tests. Unfortunately I didn't have in mind buying one here in TX and have to pay sales tax and God knows what to ship it to Oregon when I can get one there tax free. I am pretty fussy about bikes and it will make me crazy over the long run if I buy the wrong thing. Essentially I'm looking for a good touring and sport riding tandem (centuries and weekend rides) that will fit a range from my soon to be 10 year old up to my 5'1" wife. No racing. More of a utility bike that will take racks and accessories and can easily be outfitted for long distance riding. Definitely 700c wheels.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Bent In El Paso's Avatar
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    Give Dwan a call at Co-Motion. He will not lead you wrong.
    Fred

    Behind every good captain is a great stoker!

    Co-Motion Speedster Co-Pilot

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent In El Paso View Post
    Give Dwan a call at Co-Motion. He will not lead you wrong.
    Thanks for the recommendation. I know there are a variety of brands out there. But given that we plan to start this adventure in Oregon (I actually grew up in Eugene) it seems to make sense to wait and buy a local Oregon product or at least acquire a tandem in Oregon. From what I understand, the learning curve for tandems is pretty steep so I'm not sure I would really learn all that much by taking my kid around and doing road trials of various bikes. I'm really more inclined to just trust the experts in terms of fit and build and get something middle of the road.

  8. #8
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Our first tandem was a Co-motion and agree that they are a good company.

    If you want expert advice call House of Tandems in the North Houston area. He sells most major brands of tandems so you can make an appointment and go test ride and compare various brands. He also sometimes has a couple used bikes to sell. I have experience with them and feel they will give you good advice.

    http://houseoftandems.com/


    Since you mentioned having decades of experience owning and working on bikes and time to plan things out I also suggest you look at buying a used tandem in Texas. Not sure if price is an issue with you but many good used tandems sell for about half the price of new. Working on tandems is not that much different than singles and you will have ample time to work the kinks out with your daughter and the bike before starting such a long tour.

    For example we recently sold our really nice 2006 Comotion Speedster, a great all around tandem that was in great shape for $2,200. Lots of people buy tandems and then don't use them or like us buy a middle of the road one and upgrade when they decide what they really like. With your experience you should be able to tell if it is a basically sound bike and for selection just stick to Comotion or Santana with the tire clearance you want and you will get a good middle of the road bike.




    Last edited by waynesulak; 08-20-12 at 09:33 AM.

  9. #9
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    From what I understand, the learning curve for tandems is pretty steep so I'm not sure I would really learn all that much by taking my kid around and doing road trials of various bikes. I'm really more inclined to just trust the experts in terms of fit and build and get something middle of the road.
    I'd say that the learning curve isn't all that steep at all, even more so since you say that both you and your daughter ride already. Communication is really the hardest thing and I suspect as a teacher you will figure that part out quickly enough as well. I ride a cannondale so I can't offer much in the way of suggestions, other than to comment that the Co-Motion periscope series are very adjustable and will work well for your daughter and later, your wife. Oh, yeah and the used market is probably the best way to get into a tandem.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainHaddock View Post
    I'd say that the learning curve isn't all that steep at all, even more so since you say that both you and your daughter ride already. Communication is really the hardest thing and I suspect as a teacher you will figure that part out quickly enough as well. I ride a cannondale so I can't offer much in the way of suggestions, other than to comment that the Co-Motion periscope series are very adjustable and will work well for your daughter and later, your wife. Oh, yeah and the used market is probably the best way to get into a tandem.
    I didn't mean the learning curve in terms of being able to physically ride the bike. I'm talking more about gaining enough experience riding one to understand the nuances of what I am feeling. I'm guessing that if I take my kid and do some test rides cold we are probably going to be more focused on the actual riding and not be so in tune with the nuances of handling. So it may not be possible to really evaluate different bikes now compared to in a few years when I have thousands of tandem miles under me.

    I will start looking into the used market. Where do most tandems get sold? Craigslist or ebay? I just hit the craigslist for DFW, Austin, and Houston and nothing jumped out at me except for one older Cannondale. I had a Cannondale road bike for about 8 years and it soured me on aluminum. My current road/fitness bike is a titanium cyclocross bike that I have set up with 28mm Continental Grand Prix 4-season tires for the mix of pavement, chipseal, and gravel roads I encounter in this part of rural central Texas.

    Based on zero knowledge of tandems but a lot of experience with single bikes I'm guessing that I'll be looking for a steel (or titanium) framed tandem with plenty of wheel clearance for 28 or 35 mm tires, racks, and fenders. And definitely a WIDE range of gearing so I can haul myself, my child, and a trailer full of gear up steep passes on the west coast. Budget is an issue but not a huge issue. I don't want to drop $10 grand on a tandem but I'm willing to pay what is necessary to get the right bike.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
    Our first tandem was a Co-motion and agree that they are a good company.

    If you want expert advice call House of Tandems in the North Houston area. He sells most major brands of tandems so you can make an appointment and go test ride and compare various brands. He also sometimes has a couple used bikes to sell. I have experience with them and feel they will give you good advice.

    http://houseoftandems.com/


    Since you mentioned having decades of experience owning and working on bikes and time to plan things out I also suggest you look at buying a used tandem in Texas. Not sure if price is an issue with you but many good used tandems sell for about half the price of new. Working on tandems is not that much different than singles and you will have ample time to work the kinks out with your daughter and the bike before starting such a long tour.

    For example we recently sold our really nice 2006 Comotion Speedster, a great all around tandem that was in great shape for $2,200. Lots of people buy tandems and then don't use them or like us buy a middle of the road one and upgrade when they decide what they really like. With your experience you should be able to tell if it is a basically sound bike and for selection just stick to Comotion or Santana with the tire clearance you want and you will get a good middle of the road bike.
    I guess a road trip to Houston is in order. That's a 3 hour drive for us. Are there no similar tandem dealers in DFW or Austin?

    How does one ship a tandem? I'm guessing a non-coupled tandem is not flying on a plane. Are they reasonably easy to ship via UPS? Or do they exceed UPS shipping parameters? If we bought one here we'd have to get it out to Oregon somehow.

  12. #12
    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    I guess a road trip to Houston is in order. That's a 3 hour drive for us. Are there no similar tandem dealers in DFW or Austin?

    How does one ship a tandem? I'm guessing a non-coupled tandem is not flying on a plane. Are they reasonably easy to ship via UPS? Or do they exceed UPS shipping parameters? If we bought one here we'd have to get it out to Oregon somehow.
    Tandems are niche market. There are specialty tandem shops around the country that are usually operated by former bike shop owners that now only handle tandems. House of tandems is like that. The owner ran a retail bike shop for years but is not selling tandems only from a shop on his property. There are large shops in DFW, Austin and Houston that sell tandems but don't really specialize in them. They are usually more concerned about selling lots of Treks, Giants, or Specialized....

    I live in Fort Worth so it would be a 4+ hour drive for me and I think it is worth the trip to see multiple brands and get advice from a full time tandem dealer not tied to a single brand that has experience with kiddie cranks and stoker set ups.

    I have bought two tandems through craigslist with good results. One from Houston (shipped by House of Tandems) and one from southern California shipped by the owner. Both transactions worked well but there is always some risk though because at some point you have to pay and hope they send you the bike. We sold our CoMotion on craigslist and a guy drove up from Round Rock and paid cash to pick it up and drive it home the same day. From waco you can do that to DFW, Houston or Austin.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 08-20-12 at 11:00 AM.

  13. #13
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    I suggest you look into R+E Cycles in Seattle. It's a short train ride from Portland and their shop is just head and shoulders above any other I have been in for service. It doesn't hurt that all their tandems are custom built (I think Dennis Bushnell is still making them), they are great at getting the fit just right with a database that goes back decades and their prices are substantially lower than Co-Motion. I really enjoyed working back-and-forth by email with Dan Towle, the owner, this past spring as they built our new tandem. We're a difficult design problem in the other direction from you. My wife rides captain (5'6" 130 lb) and I ride stoker (6'2" 190 lb) and they were able to exceed our expectations in every way.

    R+E Cycles
    5627 University Way NE
    Seattle, WA 98105
    (206) 527-4822
    http://www.rodcycle.com
    sales@rodcycle.com

    They're a much smaller operation than Co-Motion, which has its pluses and minuses. For us, one of the pluses was that they happily repaired our old tandem when I sheared off the stoker's seat tube at the bottom bracket. Even though I live just a few miles from Co-Motion, they won't touch anything they didn't build. My positive experience with R+E during the repair certainly influenced my decision to have them build our next tandem.

  14. #14
    Member droopayne's Avatar
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    i know you're not looking for a triple, but if your wife likes riding i'd really consider a co-motion trident convertible...

    http://co-motion.com/index.php/tande...nt_convertible

    we have the trident periscope and as much as i love it part of me wishes we had gotten the convertible. with the convertible you can remove the middle section for your trip and run it as a 2-up tandem. then when you get back home you can add the mid section back and have a bike for the whole family to ride. i'm sure if you picked it up at the factory you could ship the mid section home. i admit, it's a weird looking bike and in all honesty it's looks are what kept me from getting it (well that and the higher price tag) but if i were to do it again i would buy that. the versatility is worth the funny look and the extra money (which wasn't a lot more than ours because we added on set of couplers to our trident periscope).

    riding a tandem is addictive, riding a triple is such fun for the whole family. we love our triple, and every ride on it is a blast...but clearly it's an investment.

    as for the regular periscopes, i don't really see any disadvantage for two adult riders, especially since your wife is a shorty. i've seen pics of the trident triple with 3 6ft+ riders. there really is no disadvantage. i love our co-motion and the huge rotor / bb7 avid combo brakes are awesome.

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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I suggest you look into R+E Cycles in Seattle. It's a short train ride from Portland and their shop is just head and shoulders above any other I have been in for service. It doesn't hurt that all their tandems are custom built (I think Dennis Bushnell is still making them), they are great at getting the fit just right with a database that goes back decades and their prices are substantially lower than Co-Motion. I really enjoyed working back-and-forth by email with Dan Towle, the owner, this past spring as they built our new tandem. We're a difficult design problem in the other direction from you. My wife rides captain (5'6" 130 lb) and I ride stoker (6'2" 190 lb) and they were able to exceed our expectations in every way.

    R+E Cycles
    5627 University Way NE
    Seattle, WA 98105
    (206) 527-4822
    http://www.rodcycle.com
    sales@rodcycle.com

    They're a much smaller operation than Co-Motion, which has its pluses and minuses. For us, one of the pluses was that they happily repaired our old tandem when I sheared off the stoker's seat tube at the bottom bracket. Even though I live just a few miles from Co-Motion, they won't touch anything they didn't build. My positive experience with R+E during the repair certainly influenced my decision to have them build our next tandem.
    Thanks. I actually know that shop. I went to grad school at the UW and lived a few blocks away in Ravenna. Bought lots of stuff there that I didn't get at REI. That was back in the early 90s. I wasn't aware that they were a tandem shop. But then i wasn't thinking about tandems back then. I'll give them a look too.

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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    I had a Cannondale road bike for about 8 years and it soured me on aluminum.
    I had similar reaction to aluminum single bikes from my own experience, but after doing a lot of reading, many folks pointed out that a tandem is different than a single bike. Tandems have much more load on them than single bikes, so the stiffness of aluminum can be an advantage with a tandem, where it might be a detraction on a single bike. We looked around and eventually bought a used Cannondale as our first tandem, which we have been happy with. Headed downhill at higher speeds, it's nice to know I don't have to worry about the handling getting floppy. We haven't done any loaded touring, but I would expect that the extra load would make it even more important to have a frame that is under control. YMMV, just a thought.

  17. #17
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    I guess I feel like my point still stands in as much as the fact that you're not going to be racing your tandem, but rather touring (or at least for the moment). Further more, at least in my experience, you'll find that what you are feeling isn't that greatly different than what you feel on your single.

    I find a large number of tandems posted to craigslist, but don't forget to check tandem classifieds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    Not looking for a triple.
    OK.


    I'll try to help by telling you a few things that have pleased me about our tandem - some of which have led to wife being an enthusiastic stoker ...

    Thudbuster seatpost and carbon handlebars on the rear - stoker can't see the bumps coming, I've been on the back of the bike and these really smooth things out

    The bike is a large/small frame size - fit is important as you know. It also has shorter cranks on the rear - but tbh I can't feel the difference with the cranks.

    The biggy was a rohloff hub - if I had a dollar for every time we're rolled to a halt in high gear by my mistake and just clicked back to where the gears should have been. We've seen a frank exchange of views between friends on a derailleur tandem at the bottom of a hill because of this.

    Spd pedals on back - this is a good thing once stoker is confident enough not to put feet down ever. (For this to happen you need to keep the bike as upright as poss when you stop, don't lean it slightly like you do a solo).

    By way of balance here are some bad things:

    Matching male/female Fizik Rondine saddles - neither of us like our saddle.

    The bike was a custom build and together with the rohloff this made it pretty expensive - it's just as well we turned out to like it.

    The fork is a thin steel one, it flexes and gives a bit of comfort - but shuddered badly under brakes at low speed - salmon Koolstop pads seem to have stopped this.

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    We purchased two Co-Mo Periscopes last year and couldn't be happier. At the time my daughters had just turned 4 and were about 42" tall. They just barely fit on the back of the bike with the rear seat masts removed. We have crank shorteners of course. Last year we could max out at about 40 miles, this year at 50 miles. Boredom seems to be more of an issue than strength when it comes to distance.

    The real question is long-term. Will you and your daughter continue to ride recreationally when you get back home? If so, the flexibility of the Periscope is great. If it will be just you and your wife, will she prefer a more traditional tandem or will the low step-over height of the Periscope be more attractive? Finally, go to Houston to ride a variety and spend some time there. Bring your daughter and your wife. Let them ride with you to get a feel for the options as well. It's what convinced my wife that this wasn't some crazy idea and that she could comfortably captain a tandem with a wiggly little girl on back.

    This is us at the Midwest Tandem Rally last year:
    MTR2011.jpg

  20. #20
    Senior Member CaptainHaddock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by QueueCT View Post
    This is us at the Midwest Tandem Rally last year:
    MTR2011.jpg
    That is such a great photo! It's awesome to see how well that fits your daughter as she's barely taller than that rear wheel.

  21. #21
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    Another viable option would be a Bike Friday tandem, which is a travel tandem that is also built in Eugene. I have the Tandem Tuesday, and have used it in Nigeria, the US, and now in Indonesia. With crank arm shorteners, it fit my youngest daughter when she was about 36 inches tall, but can also fit an adult in the rear. Having said that, I also have a Co-Motion Periscope Triplet, so I think very highly of their bikes also. Of the two, the Bike Friday is easier to travel with.

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    Another vote from here for the Bike Friday. We also have the "Twosday" tandem. I got mine used off Craigslist when my stoker son was 7, and now ride it both with him, now 12, and my daughter, now 7 herself. To fit my son when I first got the bike, I got a replacement stoker seat mast from Bike Friday, 2" shorter than the original. (Bike Friday now supplies the bikes with a telescoping mast, which offers much greater flexibility).

    Instead of purchasing crank shorteners, I attached PVC drain covers to each pedal with heavy duty zip ties, drilling appropriate holes for the zip ties plus holes/slots for the pedal cages and toe straps - cheap and easy and works great, used first with my son, now my daughter. IMG_0248.jpgIMG_0250.jpg

    The Bike Friday is at a much more attractive price than some of the other options mentioned (and I will say is every bit the "real" bike), could be picked up directly at the factory in Eugene, would have enough flexibility to also fit your wife, and travels and packs with ease - either to ship home or just stick in the back of the car for a drive to a ride start.

    Would love to tackle the Pacific Coast one day! We've done just a portion together, 6 days/ 225 miles from Crescent City, CA to just north of Fort Bragg: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=7203&v=Ci

  23. #23
    Senior Member Clarabelle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bent In El Paso View Post
    Give Dwan a call at Co-Motion. He will not lead you wrong.
    Good advice. We looked at and test rode the Co-Motion Periscope at Bainbridge Island Cyclery. After talking it over we ordered a Mocha. However, if I still had children at home, we would have gone for the Periscope. It is a clever solution for people like you.

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    Thanks for all the advice guys. At this point I think the plan that is gelling for me is to spend the next 6-7 months keeping an eye on the craigslist and online classifieds and search for something sweet used. Like perhaps a Santana or Co-Motion with SS couplers that is good to go for taking to Oregon and doing this sort of trip. It would probably mean adding a child stoker kit. But the end result should be a considerable savings over a new bike. Between the DFW, Houston, Austin , and San Antonio areas there is a lot of stuff for sale so maybe the right bike will pop up.

    In the event that spring comes and I still haven't found the perfect used tandem I'll start looking into ordering one up new to have waiting in Oregon. Probably something like a Co-motion Periscope as it seems to make the most sense and doesn't seem to loose much in terms of performance over a standard framed tandem. The Bike Friday models look interesting but when this trip is over we'll be mostly using the tandem for recreational riding on the open roads of central Texas. I already have two bikes with 700c wheels and it just seems simpler to minimize the number of wheels I have to deal with. For a city bike that is being used and stored in tight spaces the Bike Friday is interesting. But we live out in the Texas suburbs with lots of space and open roads so the compromises seem pretty pointless.

    I'm also pretty sure that I want to ride with a trailer instead of panniers. I'm thinking it will simplify things and help keep everything waterproofed and make the bike more stable and easy to handle with my child on back. Maybe some small bags on the bike like a trunk bag and small handlebar bag. But keep most of the gear in a trailer. Also makes it easier to go riding around town without all our stuff if we happen to decide to stay some place a few days.

    Does anyone have any thoughts on the Burley Nomad vs Bob Yak? Those seem to be the two main choices. Seems to be primarily a choice between one or two wheels. I've seen some comment that a 2 wheeled trailer forces them to ride farther out in the road to keep the right wheel out of the ditch. As opposed to the Yak which tracks the line of your own bike wheels. The Bob seems more popular for touring but they both seem to do the job.

  25. #25
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Copy of Us on Co-Mo.jpg
    Also agree on the Periscope from Co-Mo. They have several models/sizes within that model line.
    One wheeled trailer would be preferable to 2-wheels.
    Owned a custom Co-Mo back in the early 90s and put over 57,000 miles on it.
    A great company to deal with.
    Have also ridden bike Friday tandems.
    While S&S fittings are nice (and $$$) they are not necessary. If you are not going to travel by air frequently then the extra co$t factor is not worth it.
    Suggest you test ride Co-Mo (and others) locally but opt to pick up the tandem in Eugene thereby saving some shipping cost.
    Just our input.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandemn

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