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Old 08-26-13, 10:05 PM   #1
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Adams-trail-a-bike upgrades

Quick preamble. Daughter is 5 1/2 and enjoys riding on the 7 speed version of the trail-a-bike. Since a lot of the riding will be with her I'd like to make the tow as enjoyable for me as possible. We tested her capacities on a ride that ended up taking us over 45km on 10-15 ascents and descents (we had planned for a 35km flat course!). She loved it so lets find a solution that doesn't weigh 40 pounds + excluding the rider in tow. She'll use it with us for a least two more years if not more, so transforming it is worth it. My real first option would of been be a tandem with an adjustable crank apparatus or a Co-Motion periscope but shelling out $5k for a tandem that the girlfriend may never accept when the little one grows up isn't a viable option.

The rear fender is off and the stock pedals have been replaced by a pair of XT platforms I had lying around.

I believe the part that would have the biggest impact is the wheel, the current one weighs a ton. I haven't had much luck in locating a 20" mounted wheel but I did find interesting rims on recumbent sites. Since a new wheel is in order, I'm taking this opportunity to think about gearing. I toyed with the idea of using a Capreo or a Nexus/Alfine hub, but since higher gears aren't the goal here I believe sticking with a classic 8-10 speed compatible hub is the best choice. I own many 9 speed cassettes so that's an easy choice. Any wheel recommendation?

9 speed means the problematic grip shift (no way a 5 year old can use one) is out the door and a replacement will be installed. I'm looking at three options: bar end shifter installed on carbon drop bars (another available item in the shed), 9 speed down tube shifter installed on the main tube or Tiagra R440 Flat Bar Road Shifter. Opinions?

Another drivetrain issue is the crank. The current one is crooked and the BB isn't worth much. I thought locating a single chaining crank with 135mm arms would be simple. I'm most likely not looking in the right direction because I can't find anything let alone expensive custom models. Anyone?

I'm not going to touch the seat post since it's a vital part or the folding frame and the seat can't weigh that much. This leaves frame modifications and I'm tempted to grind off the crank protection tube. I'm no engineer but I can't see how this extension provides any vital role in the frame strength.

Anyone else riding 50k+ with a 5-8 year old?

Montreal, QC
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Old 08-27-13, 08:39 AM   #2
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Have you looked into a Trail Gator? That may be your answer. She can ride on her own and then when she gets tired, you hook her up and tow her along. As she gets older, she'll be able to ride for longer distances, which means you only tow when she needs it.
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Old 08-27-13, 10:12 AM   #3
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I hope to follow your thread here to gleem some information. The route I am going is I bought a Burley Samba (circa 1995) MTB tandem off of Craigslist for $275, and plan to add a Burley Piccolo kids add on so my wife and 6 yr old can go on rides.

If my wife doesn't go for the tandem adventure then I can move the Piccolo over to my Cross bike which has frame mounts for rear rack and fenders.

YouTube video of Piccolo:
Burley's site:

Awesome review from MTBR Forum:
"We used a Burley Picolo to do a 100+ mile bike camping trip in Alaska on a pretty rough dirt road and some short trails. We could load heavy panniers on the steel "Moose" rack and even had a rack on the rear of the Picolo with overloaded panniers.

The Picolo worked great, tracks with confidence and never developed any slop in the linkage to the main bike. I actually preferred it to a tandem because it keeps the kids weight lower as they lean to the side to look at stuff and talk to their brother, etc. Because it is lower, it is easier for the child to mount and dismount too. Unlike on a tandem, the kid does not need to have the same 70-90 rpm cadence you will be maintaining. I kind of let my son save his strength so he was fresh when I needed help on the hills.

At other times I also pulled a kid trailer behind the Picolo, and so long as it was not SEVERELY steep down hill, it would work great, but make sure more weight is on the Picolo then the trailer. If regularly hauling a trailer, a tandem probably is preferable.

In short, I highly recommend the Picolo! Get the geared version. The kid's pedalling effort really can help and it is a great way for them to learn to shift before cutting them loose."

There is also this tow bar:
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Old 08-27-13, 11:32 AM   #4
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Capreo hub only makes sense if you're really zooming down hills. You can also look at folding bike rear wheels (keep in mind you want to match the current width).

I'd recommend trigger shifters if you don't like grip shifters (I don't like grip shifters either) and you can get 8/9/10 speed versions.

I don't think you're going to end up making the trail-a-bike a lot lighter than it is now (and your daughter's only going to get heavier anyway), so I wouldn't look at it as a weight reduction, but rather a chance to improve the quality. (Replacing the tire with something that rolls faster is probably the easiest biggest change you can make).

As far as cranks, the biggest issue will be matching whatever bottom bracket size the Adams takes (this might not be a problem at all).
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Old 08-27-13, 11:46 AM   #5
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Bike Friday and Co Motion both offer a Kid back option for their tandems

the seat posts start short and will be extended as the child grows, telescope ..

and the crank stroke can be changed through parts swaps .. or..

Trek has some cranks on their kids bikes threaded in 2 places on each arm , to change the stroke
as the legs grow. those also can be adopted or a machine shop project...

and specialty shops re machine another set of pedal threads.

Stokers crank can be fitted with 2 chainrings , bigger one to a Kid Crank so the cadence can be sloower.

+there are kid crank, 3rd BB that clamp up on seat tubes of other tandems ,
to move the BB up to where the Seat Is.

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-27-13 at 11:53 AM.
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