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rpfleger 05-16-10 09:53 AM

Around town and touring with kids: Options?
First post to bikeforums, but long time lurker. Seems like everytime I google a bike question the answer pops up here more often than not.

I am looking for a fun and efficient way to get around town, grab the groceries, and hopefully do some loaded touring with two children ages 5 and 2. Anybody have any suggestions?

We have been thinking about a tandem, and have been looking online at the Co-motion Periscope Torpedo with 26" wheels. The 5 year old would stoke, and the 2 year old would sit in a Topeak BabySeat. This keeps us from having to run a trail-a-bike with a trailer (just a bit unwieldy, fine for quiet roads and paved paths, but too much in traffic). Has anybody used a similar configuration? I have no experience on a tandem so even if you haven't used this configuration your thoughts on how this might work are still very valuable to me.

Some specifics about us that may or may not be important, skip 'em if they aren't. I am 5'11", 170# (my road bikes in the past have had 56-58cm top tubes), the 5 year old is 3'10", 40#, and the 2 year old is 28#. Everybody loves to be on the bike, except the 5 year old has to be pedaling. We have a trail-a-bike, 2 kid trailer, and kid seat which we use in various configurations. The 5 year old isn't really happy anywhere but on the trail-a-bike (he likes to pedal) but will go along with riding on the kid seat or in the trailer for short rides., The 2 year old is content anywhere, but she really prefers to be on the kid seat.

zonatandem 05-16-10 05:59 PM

Any model of the Co-Mo Persicopes would be great. Yes have ridden/owned Co-Mo (put 56,000 miles on one) and have ridden a Periscope.
Adding a trail-a-bike later on to the Co-Mo would work, even on that river bike path n Boise!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

B. Carfree 05-17-10 01:31 AM

A friend of mine in Davis, CA makes just what you want. He "recycles" bikes into rear-steer tandems. We rode one of these all over town with our child for years. You get some funny looks when a five-year-old is captaining with his arms folded across his chest. Look for Peter Wagner in the Yolo County phone book. I think he sell them for around $300.

You do get what you pay for: Peter's bikes are made from heavy Schwinn frames. They are functional, but not built for smooth speed.

riva 05-17-10 03:24 AM

Awesome B, sounds like a bargain to me..

I've had a baby seat on a tandem with a kidback crank. It actually felt more stable than the baby seat on the back of a single. I'm guessing the extra wheel base and weight is what did that. The bike is reconfigured now that teh 2nd kid has outgrown the seat, but it worked fine that way.

merlinextraligh 05-17-10 07:33 AM

I think you will really like the Co-Motion Persicope. Co-Motions are great bikes, and the Periscope will grow with your family.

You may want to reconsider, the child seat versus trailer however. There are a number of threads on this, one recent one in the Tandem forum. I think the majority of posters would argue that the trailer is safer than the child seat for a bunch of reasons that you'll see expressed in those threads.

riva 05-20-10 12:19 AM

I gave away the baby seat and we run a trailer, now that it got outgrown. Trailer does make for an easier ride. The baby seat was acceptable while not great on the tandem. Was downright terrible on a solo bike.

I tried the trail-bike on the tandem and didn't like it. I actually prefer that thing on a solo bike. I wouldn't run both a trail-bike and trailer together on anything. Not that I've tried it, but damn. Even one is trouble enough for me.

masiman 05-20-10 11:26 AM

I'd vote for the trailer too but mostly because it gives more options for transport (more seats, larger kids, groceries, etc.). Within the next year or so your 2 year old should be pushing the limits of the child seat. The trailer you already have will be the likely solution at that point.

We ride various configurations of tandem, stokid, TAB and trailer. My current favorite is tandem/trailer because it gives us seats and options for who is riding and who is resting without the length of the train. It is not that bad running the train, just extra weight and more needs to take care of, i.e. I have to go to the bathroom, my chain came off, I'm tired, etc. But you do what you need to do keep them riding :thumb:

I think you would enjoy the tandem with attachments plus the performance and relative simplicity compared to a single with attachments. I'd also suggest taking a look at the DaVinci tandems for their ICS (Independent Coasting System). It makes many communication issues irrelevant for child stokers. The Periscopes advantage is its adjustability.

rpfleger 05-25-10 08:33 AM

Thanks for all the responses! I had looked into daVinci, as the ICS appealed to me as well. I think in my situation with growing kids, adjustability trumps the other concerns however. Another factor is that as hard as it is to find used a Co-Motion its more than twice as difficult to locate a used daVinci.

Ultraslide 05-25-10 08:38 AM

+1 for the trailer. Child seats are nice for 6-18 mo.s but the high center of gravity really affects stability. I feel much safer now with my little girl in a trailer.

PedalPink 05-25-10 11:27 AM

We just hosted a family of five (kids ages 5, 7 and 9) who have been touring on two tandems (one with a tag along) for the past 10 months of a 15 month tour. Parents were each riding Co-Motion Periscopes and it was working out terrific. They loved their Periscopes.

I really liked that they had white erasable cards zip locked to the stems with the kids math and spelling homework for the week.

rpfleger 05-31-10 09:28 AM


Originally Posted by PedalPink (Post 10863325)
I really liked that they had white erasable cards zip locked to the stems with the kids math and spelling homework for the week.

Nice! Homeschooling on wheels! No 15 month tours in the immediate future for us. But it's good to know that the Periscope is suitable for that sort of thing. Our use would just be around town for awhile building to longer rides, then maybe some overnighters, or possible a week long tour this summer depending on the enjoyment/tolerance factor for the little people.

mrfish 06-08-10 04:39 PM

I thought I would share some experiences... this turned into a long post...

We have tried pretty much every solution for putting small people on bikes:
- Special child seat + trailer for 3m-1yr old
- trailer for 1yr old
- child seat for 1yr-3yr old
- tag along for 3 yr old
- Latest solution: 3 on a mountain bike with rear seat and top tube seat.

With kids, the main thing to remember is that unless your child goes to sleep, there is no way you will be able to do a long ride with them.

We found the special seat and trailer worked really well. The kids have outgrown it, but it allowed my wife to do some laps of the local park with baby from an early age. Otherwise she would not have been able to ride at all. Babies were very happy - for them it was just like a car seat or standard stroller. The special child seat we used is called a Weber babyshell - basically a car seat without the heavy plastic bits.

After our kids got big enough not to enjoy lying down, they graduated to the trailer proper. The didn't really like this as it has a bumpy ride, it's too low to see anything and we couldn't talk to them, and we didn't like it because it seemed unsafe. Roads where we live are often potholed and narrow, with cars parked and people squeezing past, so we were only comfortable riding it round the park, which isn't much fun after your 100th 1km lap. Then we recently noticed that with both kids in the trailer (large 1yr + 3.75yrs), the wheels would sag inwards and rub the frame. Basically the trailer is no longer up to it and is worn out. (It's a cheap trailer called a Spokey Joe - I imagine ones costing 4x as much should be better).

So in parallel we got a Hamax Kiss bike seat. I chose it because it's not a 'more robust' rack mounted model. My thesis being that the Hamax strut design (it attaches to the seat tube then projects backwards) would have more 'give' and thus avoid child spinal compression over London potholes and bad roads. I was dubious about the clamp design, but it's actually excellent, and one of the few clamp-on things which does not mar paint etc. I would still not use it on a carbon or lightweight aluminium bike though. Our 2 year old daughter loved it, but at about 3.5 we decided she was too heavy for it as lack of damping meant it would pogo. Our 1 yr old son now loves it.

Our daughter mastered a push along bike (Islabike Rothan) at 2.5, and recently graduated to a larger Islabike with pedals. We also received a trailerbike from a friend, which she now loves. Unfortunately the trailerbike does not work with the bike seat as both attach to the seatpost area, so some changing things round is needed to fix one child carrying device per adult bike. We're happy with the trailerbike as it's more convenient than a stokid setup (and it was free).

My wife also saw one of her friends taking her 2 kids to playschool on her MTB, and wanted a top tube seat for our 3 yr old daughter so ordered one - a Leco multifit. This allows the MTB to take 3. I was somewhat dubious as the thing looks unsafe, is designed to clamp around the top tube, where all the cable go on our Klein beater bike. After a few minutes in the shed I concluded that these things are a nasty piece of work - in particular the clamp to the top tube is made of pressed steel and only half of it is round, while the other half is flat! There is no way I would put this on an expensive bike frame as the tube will be squashed immediately. After some simple woodwork I made a block of wood with cuts for the cables and a curve to fit the top of the top tube. Also I cut off the child seatbelt and back support as it's less than useless. Now it works quite nicely and my 3 year old and wife like it. Getting on the bike is tricky, but as long as you are careful it's OK. Compared with using a trailer my wife much prefers it as it does not force cars to squeeze past and keeps the kids up with her so they can talk. Again, we don't use it on busy roads.

Not sure what we will need next, but I'm hopeful that the expense and number of child-related bike purchases will reduce somewhat.

Oh, and helmets - The latest kids Giro with ladybirds is really excellent, with a elasticated Rocloc and only one strap to adjust, good overall coverage and 2 really cool red flashing lights integrated into the Rocloc rear harness. Then need to add these to adult helmets! It's really a big step forward compared with the older Giro models (yellow chic design for example) which have the same complex adjustment system as adult helmets.

bobthib 06-11-10 02:37 PM

3 Attachment(s)
If you live in a nice flat area like me, the stoker can "ride free." My grandson can't quite reach the pedals on our tandem, but he sure loves riding. I didn't want to spend the $ for a child stoker kit, and putting it on and taking it off was time consuming. Necessity, being who she is, inspired the following simple and inexpensive solution.

Installs in minutes and comes off just a quick. Spiffy paint job c/o my grandson. Totals cost as I recall: $8. 2 U bolts, 4 wing nuts, some protective tubing, and a piece of 1 x 3 wood.

My wife and I can use it for club rides, and next day I can take my grandson round town. An adjustable stoker stem and extra long seat tube allows for lots of adjustments, but right now, the only adjustments needed to go between spouse and grandson is the foot rest. :)

rpfleger 06-22-10 10:13 PM

Thanks for all the responses folks. Tandem purchased! I got a new Co-motion Periscope Scout from my LBS for $2100. I think it was an '08 or '09. Co-motion is very specific saying that the OMM racks are the only ones that fit but I got my Topeak on there just fine, wasn't even the disc specific version. I just had to make some new stays out of aluminum stock from Lowes with a few holes drilled. Waiting on the crank shorteners to arrive although my 5 year old can somewhat pedal without them. I really wanted to get the DaVinci cranks but the price difference was about $150 plus I'd need a square taper BB. Now we'll see how the siblings get along with each other with my daughter in the Babyseat. If needed I'll throw the trailer on the back and haul her that way. Anybody want to trade my Chariot double for your Chariot single?

rpfleger 06-22-10 10:22 PM


Originally Posted by mrfish (Post 10932547)
Oh, and helmets - The latest kids Giro with ladybirds is really excellent, with a elasticated Rocloc and only one strap to adjust, good overall coverage and 2 really cool red flashing lights integrated into the Rocloc rear harness. Then need to add these to adult helmets! It's really a big step forward compared with the older Giro models (yellow chic design for example) which have the same complex adjustment system as adult helmets.

I'll have to look into these. My 5 year old recently outgrew his Bern (which he loved), and is now in a Bell (which he hates, and is difficult to get a good fit while still being comfortable).

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