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  1. #1
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    Tandem trail riding w/first grader - Which bike?

    Hi all,
    I'm a long-time cyclist, newbie tandemist, hoping to soon get a tandem a can ride on some dirt trails with my 7-year-old. He does great with the trail-a-bike (only on paved surfaces) so I'm hoping we'll both enjoy a tandem. I want the standover height to be low enough for him to get on and off easily so that really limits the selection. Bikes I'm considering:
    1) Schwinn Sierra tandem (my current choice)
    2) Burley Zydeco Mixte
    3) Trek T900
    The Schwinn is new this year, so if anyone has any info/opinion on it beyond what is on the Schwinn website, I'd love to hear it.
    Any thoughts? Thanks!

  2. #2
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Only initial thoughts as I do not know any of the Tandems you mention. One thing about trail riding is that it can lead to some fairly aggressive off-road riding. Make certain that the tandem you get will up to the standard of riding that you want it to take. There is nothing worse than after having spent a fortune on a bike, finding out that the wheels could have been a little bit stronger, or the frame flexes too much or that the components are wearing out a bit rapidly.

    Others will be able to advise you on the particular bikes you are thinking of, but What type of trail riding are you thinking of doing?

  3. #3
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    You're absolutely right, I'd love to get into some fairly aggressive off-road riding, and I'm hoping the bikes mentioned are adequate for that type of riding. I'm 5'8", my boy is 3'10", I don't like the idea of using a child stoker kit (I want him to be able to get on and off easily and also not to have too far to fall when we crash), so my options seem pretty limited. If anyone has experience, either good or bad, using a stoker kit on a mountain tandem, I'd love to hear about it.

  4. #4
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have seen the Schwinn at Interbike. Looked impressive but did not get to ride it. Made in mainland China. Have seen some other late model Schwinn tandems actually 'fall apart' . . . and at $600?
    Burley Zydeco Mixte is the biggest bang for the buck (at $999)!
    If you can go up in price the Co-Motion Periscope (about $3,000) would be an excellent choice with lots of adjustability as the son grows. He may not need kiddie cranks on this one.

    Rudy and Kay/Zonatandem

  5. #5
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    Have you considered something like this http://www.cyclemorph.com/

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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Have seen the Schwinn at Interbike. <snip> . . and at $600?
    Burley Zydeco Mixte is the biggest bang for the buck (at $999)!
    Thanks for the reply (I'm jealous, always wanted to go to Interbike)!
    The Schwinn Sierra Tandem sells for $850. Even if they were the same price, the Schwinn appears to be a better bike than the Burley: Schwinn - disc brakes, WTB SpeedDisc rims, front shock and stoker seatpost suspension; Burley - V-brakes, ZAC 2000 rims, no suspension. Unless the Burley frame is superior, it seems to me the Schwinn is much more bang for the buck.

  7. #7
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Cyclemorph is a complex and rather expensive idea and really you still don't have a tandem.
    Get to test ride the Sierra and the Zydeco and see which you prefer. Especially check out the ride/fit/quality between the two brands and the comparative braking power.
    The $600 Schwinn (that literally fell apart) we had reference to was NOT a Sierra but a really cheaply constructed and over-priced geared cruiser type. On its maiden voyage in Duluth, MN last year, we stopped our tandem to assist the Schwinn stuck by the roadside with a stoker's rubber platform pedal that just fell apart; it was cilpped
    together and really not fixable. Stoker had to continue riding with foot on just the pedal axle . . . and they had just paid cash for that 2-seater that very day. Suggested they go back to the bike shop and have them put on some better pedals, for both pilot and stoker.

  8. #8
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    I really didn't think much of the Cyclemorph myself. But I am wondering how a seven year old is able to keep up with a grown man.

  9. #9
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mountain-biker
    Any thoughts?
    If you've been successful with the trail-a-bike then the tandem would probably work out well for both of you...

    Best bet would be to look for a used or NOS Cannondale MT800 from around '01/'02; that would be a great bike for what you're considering.

    However, with regard to the three bikes you are looking at, here are my thoughts:

    Schwinn: If you're buying from a brick & mortar bike shop in the local area (aka, LBS), theN you "may be OK". What you're looking for is a bike shop that's got enough experience with the Pacific Bike (parent company) era of Schwinn bike production to understand how well they hold up, who can provide service, and who are tied into the warranty program. My take on Schwinn's bikes are, frames are probably OK; mass-produced in Asia using time-proven materials and technology. However, where I'd be more concerned is the hubs, headset, brakes, and fork. The hubs (Quando) could be good sealed cartridge bearing models or they could be not-so-good unsealed loose bearing models; Quando makes a full range of hubs for many different brands. Same thing with the headset. The brakes, there is only one "tandem-rated" mechanical disc brake available aftermarket... Avid's BB7. Now, others have used different mech. models of Hayes brakes with good results; but not this particular model. My concern would be having high expectations for what looks to be a light-duty disc brake. Same thing goes for the RST fork. Both of these products are basically entry level products used on single rider mountain bikes targeted for easy to moderate useage, not heavy-duty applications. So, while the "package looks" ready to rip it up, I'd be careful about how hard I'd push it.

    Burley: The best thing about a Burley (or Trek) is that they are only sold by pretty good bike shops, something I find somewhat reassuring. They may not be tandem experts, but most shops that carry Burley products are usually staffed by qualified mechanics. As for the bike, the Zydeco has come a long way from it's early days an unimpressive steel "family tandem" that flexed more than Arnold S. The aluminum model is spot on for the target market (entry level) and the components are higher quality than the ones found on the Schwinn. While it lacks a suspension fork and disc brakes, the benefit of that is that it doesn't lure you into more aggressive riding than might be prudent, particularly considering your precious cargo. Remember, the stoker on a hardtail tandem takes the brunt of most bumps. Therefore, while the captain clearly benefits from a suspension fork, the stoker tends to get banged around. A suspension fork and disc brakes could easily entice a captains to ride the tandem more aggressively than they would if it was a rigid bike which, as you would expect, brings with it higher risks for more violent crashes and increased wear and tear on the riders and the equipment. So, consider that a rigid tandem could have a nice moderating effect on your riding habits.

    Trek: Clearly targed towards "family use" on paved multi-use paths and/or crushed gravel trails. Components look to be OK, on par with the Burley. Comments on Trek dealers are noted above in the Burley section.

    Bottom Line: The Schwinn could be right on target for your needs. However, you'll want to be sure that yoru dealer will stand behind the bike with regard to free tune-ups and any warranty work that could be required. Again, while it has a suspension fork and disc brakes, they are more show than go in that they are not necessarily intended for use on anything that is too aggressive. The Burley is a solid product backed up by a pretty good dealer network and very good manufacturer support/warranty. It will support your riding needs for several years to come and should have fair resale value should you decide to sell it. The Trek, it's a good product but I don't think it would be my first choice for off-road trails. Otherwise, it's on par with the Zydeco for dealer backing and perhaps even resale.

    On stoker kits, bear in mind that stoker kits raise the riding height of your child. Now, if the tandem's stoker compartment is short enough, there are crank shortners that can be used for young riders that reduce the effective length of the cranks to be more proportional to a child's short legs. The latter is the ideal situation for off-road tandems.

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the great advice, it was very much appreciated.
    I bought the Schwinn tandem from a very reputable LBS, City Bike Shop here in Traverse City MI. Since our combined captain/stoker weight is under 200 pounds, I think the bike should hold up well with the dirt trail riding. I plan on sticking to pavement for a while (5 - 10 rides?) while we learn, before progressing to the trails. Should be getting the bike in a week or two, I'll let ya know how it goes!

  11. #11
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    Anyone actually own one ?

    I appreciate the analysis and comments here from many knowledgeable tandem bikers. They are very helpful. But so far, nobody here has actually bought one. I think it will be more helpful to get some reviews from people after they have used it for awhile. Anyone?

  12. #12
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    How do you like your Schwinn tandem?

    Hi mountain-biker,

    Which Schwinn tandem did you get? Do you still have it? How much have you been riding it? How do you like it? Any problems or complaints? Thanks.

  13. #13
    PMK
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    Just letting you know, the guy that started this original post in March of 2005 has not visited this site under his Mountain Biker screen name since April of 2006.

    I don't know if anyone currently posting here actually has a Schwinn. If there is I hope you get a reply.

    Just a thought.

    PK
    Last edited by PMK; 08-04-09 at 03:09 AM.
    2006 Co-Motion Roadster, flat bars, discs and carbon fibre fork, size 22 / 19
    2006 Ventana ECDM full suspension mountain tandem
    Some single bikes and a couple of KTM's
    And most important, someone special that enjoys them with me (except the KTM's)

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