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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 01-23-12, 04:54 PM   #1
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Should I buy a triple/quad

I've been dreaming about a really long bike for awhile now.

I have five children, ages two through ten. The oldest three will ride with me--the longest trip we've made together is 4 miles each way (with a picnic in the middle). I don't think my wife has ever gone further than that, either, nor is she all that comfortable with traffic. But that's when we have lots of time.

While we don't drive a whole lot as it is, I'd like to drive less and ride more, and I'm wondering whether it would be worth our while to buy a Bilenky triplet/quad that's available. We currently have a tandem, which is great for taking my daughter to ballet school, avoiding conflicts about who has to ride behind whom. On those rare occasions when my wife and I ride it without any children along, we can really get going. It's a lot of money, but my wife seems willing (if I let her buy plants for our garden). Specifically, if any of you have bicycles of that magnitude, I'd like to know whether it makes a difference in how often you ride (as opposed to driving), and whether it's substantially faster than riding with children on their own bikes (given that they won't be supplying all that much power compared to the weight of the bike.
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Old 01-24-12, 12:04 AM   #2
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We've got 5 little ones as well - I use the Adams Trailer Bikes to allow me to do long training rides. I have a tandem trailer and a single. We also have a double Chariot. If I have a buddy comming, we can put two kids in the Chariot and two kids on the tandem trailer. Once they are a little bigger we might rotate the trailer kids onto the tandem for the return journey. Anyway we have enough gear to be able to mix it up pretty good. Here is the Adam's website:

I have tried the tandem trail a bike behind our tandem and it was too unstable so we didn't go far. With a more experienced stoker it might have been acceptable but I was afraid mine was going to bail on us at speed :-)

Here is a photo of the rig:
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Old 01-24-12, 12:29 PM   #3
Philly Tandem
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We've had a Santana Cabrio triplet for about three years now. My son is now seven, and has been on it for about two seasons. We use it almost exclusively for recreational riding, so I won't comment on riding it vs. driving. Prior to the triple we rode a tandem pulling a Burley trailer with my son in it. I'm certain we ride more, and longer distances, than we would if our son was on his own bike (especially since the training wheels just came off of it last summer). We've done up to a three-day, 100+ mile loaded bike tour on the Great Allegheny Passage last summer, with 45+ miles in one day. We are not otherwise "hard core" riders and definitely are not currently in the best shape, but the big bike allows us to do 20 mile rides on average together without problems. Our son loves riding the triple and especially the positive reactions it gets from onlookers and other bikers.

Beware that a big bike does have logistical issues, as you'd imagine. Transporting it is a hassle, unless you have a bigger vehicle (it fits inside our Honda minivan). Storage is also challenging, and you have more bike and associated parts to maintain (LOTS of chains!).
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Old 01-24-12, 01:12 PM   #4
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For answers you might also look in the Recreational & Family Forum. They have talked about this a lot.
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Old 02-01-12, 05:49 AM   #5
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If you are serious about doing this I would avoid going with a steel bike at all costs. I actually don't think even tandems (or singles for that matter) should be crafted from steel. Steel bikes make for flexy boat anchors, and this is only exaggerated by multiples on tandems and triplets/quads.

There are those in the tandem community that swear by their steel tandems, but there is a reason that no one makes competitive racing singles out of steel anymore. A tandem is asked to do a hundred times more than a single frame in terms of lateral stiffness. Steel ain't real on a tandem, however they do build affordable steel bikes, which allows many to access their first tandem, in steel. Not everyone wants to buy a craigslist Cannondale tandem used, regardless of the performance and value.

There are some great designs for quads/triples that break down into a tandem, or build back up depending on which kid is riding with you. However, I'd suggest that the pursuit is a waste. I really want a quad for our family (a delta, with two rear wheels for stability and to distribute weight), but how often would I really use it? Maybe getting a Co-Motion periscope would be better for you, and make the one-one-one cycling time with Dad more special?

The other thing I'll add is that I personally no longer ride on the road, only multi-use bike paths. No way in hell I'm letting my family essentially "stand" on roadways while cars buzz by. Something to think about, as the ideal family activity could potentially turn tragic instantly.

For the kiddies now we use the trailers. We have a Chariot CX2 and a Cougar 2. This is our third Cougar 2. We keep selling 'em off. We had a CX1 but it was damaged, and rather than repairing it (Chariot's customer service is just plain awful) REI just gave us a Cougar 2 instead. I'm probably going to sell off the Cougar 2 (again). I've always wanted to get the Wike softie trailer.

Avoid the Burley or any other trailer. We've had a Burley D'Lite. Suspension in theory only, essentially rubber mounted axle. The only "safe" trailer, in my mind, is the Chariot suspended trailers (CX series and Cougars) and the Wike Softie. Everything else will give a kid "Burley Trailer syndrome" similar to shaken baby syndrome. Remember, there are absolutely no safety standards for kid bicycle trailers for vibration and bouncing. I always say the safest trailer is leaving the kids at home.

What I really really would be interested in would be a recumbent delta quad trike. Nice Lazy-Boy comfortable fit, and a stable low speed fun bike for going touring on. Maybe someday...

Last edited by mtnbke; 02-01-12 at 05:59 AM.
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Old 02-01-12, 08:38 AM   #6
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@mtnbike, the steel debate is one that has played out way too many times, so I won't get into it too much here.

For others, consider the following comments from somebody (me) who actually owns and rides a steel triplet (and a steel tandem). I've owned both steel and aluminum tandems, btw.

As I mentioned in a previous posting, we own a steel Santana Cabrio convertible triplet. We're a fairly heavy team (but getting lighter! :-) with probably 500 pounds of rider weight between the three of us. We've also done a three-day, loaded tour on the triple with bags front and rear. Never -- ever -- have I felt any flex to speak of. We've been riding tandems since 1994, so I consider us an experienced team that would recognize frame flex.

The Cabrio design, while not essential, gives you a great deal of flexibility with the bike. We don't convert ours to a tandem much (if at all), but that's because we also have a tandem. If we only had one bike, I'm sure we would convert it often. But beyond converting from a triple to a tandem, the design makes it MUCH easier to transport and even travel with (we've taken it to Europe once already, and likely again this summer for a tour). We're also very lucky to have a vehicle (Honda Odyssey) that the triplet fits inside, albeit just barely. If you don't think you will ever need these capabilities, then, by all means, get a non-coupled bike.
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Old 02-01-12, 11:56 AM   #7
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Just to let the OP know that some of us love our steel tandems. There are good and bad tandems of all materials. The stiffness of a bike has more to do with frame design than the material it is made from.

Personal preference and team size/strength also enter into what makes a good bike. To illustrate personal preference I will mention our current favorite tandem. It is a steel open frame tandem that we have migrated to from stiffer tandems. We prefer a more flexible frame than some teams. I am not saying that type of bike is best for everyone, only that it is best for us. Given an unlimited budget I might get a carbon or Ti tandem but only if the maker could replicate the "just the right amount" of flex in our current bike. Different strokes for different folks.

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Old 02-02-12, 10:05 PM   #8
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We ride a used CoMotion (steel) tandem with a Burley Piccolo tab behind. 10 year old on tandem and 6 year old on tab. Have done 300 mile week tours this way. When you start professional racing with your kids in tow maybe it is time to "graduate" to the aluminum mentioned above but until then steel will suit you fine.

Adams used to make a tandem (2 kids) tab by the way that maybe you can pick up used on eBay.
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Old 02-06-12, 11:38 PM   #9
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My wife and I rode a Santana Cabrio Quad with our (initially) 6 and 9 y/o sons for several years, including two rally's in Colorado. The bike was used also as a travel tandem for a few airline trips for my wife and I. We typically did rides of 2-4 hours, on weekends during the school year, and occasionally during the week in summer. But when we did ride, we were fully "kitted" with cycling clothing/gear. It was not used as around town transportation. As for the effort to pedal an 80 lb bike with two young kids that don't begin "pull their weight"? My wife and I are both pretty accomplished athlete's/cyclists, and this bike, while just fine on the flats, was a monster on anything resembling a grade.

Based on how much/how you're saying you plan to use the bike, I frankly can't imagine this kind of purchase. At least that's my opinion. You state that this will be used as something to reduce use of your car? You could buy a nice used car and a he!! of a lot of gas for what one of these is going to cost you. And you'll need kiddie crank setup(s) for your younger kid(s), to make things more complex/costly.

We bought the bike to enjoy cycling as a family, in venues that we NEVER could have done with pre-teens on singles....ever. The boys (they're 21 and 18 now!) remember those days as challenging, but very enjoyable and rewarding. Hope this helps in your decision.


* As to the comment about steel construction for long bikes....I disagree. ANY quad is going to flex, no matter the material. The design/tubing/construction probably matter as much as the material. The Cabrio, configured as a tandem, had no more noticeable flex that our aluminum Robusta tandem.

*One more comment....I just re-read Brian's comment about his Triplet. We now have a steel Santana non-coupled triplet that we ride with our 6 y/o son (!), and this bike has no appreciable flex either. It does, however, have 26" wheels, while the Quad had 700c.

Last edited by DrMarkR; 02-06-12 at 11:47 PM.
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Old 02-07-12, 12:58 AM   #10
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I generally agree with Mark R on this one. We have a steel Santana Quad (26" wheels) that we have ridden with our children (now 8 and 13) for the past several years. The bike is great for longer rides (>10 miles) on roads with little traffic and few intersections, but stop and go in the city is really a pain. We actually went car free last year in Denmark, and while we had the quad, we found we were better off riding singles or singles and a tandem if we were only riding around town. The stopping and starting is significantly more work on this type of bike. We have tried to ride in some parades, and it is very frustrating. These bikes are great for long rides in low traffic areas. We have done multiple supported multi-day tours that were great.
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