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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jun 2005

    Buying a Tandem for an Adult and a Child

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    Hi There,
    I know its been a long time since I've been on here but I do lurk, lol, and I couldn't think of a better group of cyclists to turn to for some advise.

    My son will be 9 in May and has expressed interest in a tandem bike he can ride with me. He is just over 4' tall and 60 lbs and I'm 5'6" and 160. I don't even know where to start other than it would be on the low price end and we would use it for riding on the road and at most, rails to trails. I have downsized my car to a honda civic so I don't have a lot of room for a bike or a hitch at this point. While all advise is appreciated, here are a couple of questions I do have:

    How do you find the right size with such a height difference and with one still growing?

    Are the bikes adjustable to accomodate this or are there kits to buy to help with the fit?

    Are the folding tandems worth the cost, durable and comfortable?

    TIA for all your help!
    “Minds are like parachutes...they only function when they are open. - Thomas Dewar"

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Well, the tandem board over at Bike Forums historically has lots of discussion (and OPINIONS) about this (and everything else.)

    But, as with just about any cycling related issue, Sheldon Brown is a good place to start:

    Good luck!!
    Each day is a gift, that's why it is called the present.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Melbourne, Australia
    +1 for the tandem forum over at bikeforum.net. Very helpful.

    Yes there is a tandem you can ride. The Co-motion Periscope is an ultra extending tandem to fit everyone, however you will have to watch out for 2nd hand ones on eBay, Craigslist etc as they are a bit expensive new.

    Other options include getting a normal sized tandem and using crank shortners or kids crank entender to make the bike fit until he grows into it.

    Folding tandems are pretty expensive for what you want to do and the ones you can by for $299 on eBay- well you get what you pay for!

    Re hauling your tandem around. You can get roof racks that hold tandems, however we fit ours on our hitch on my car (Mazada 6) by turning the front wheel and strapping it and remembering that half a wheel overlaps on the other side. DH sometimes takes the tandem in his Hyunadi Getz on our strap on rack, but very carefully! If we travel long distance we take both wheels off, put a rear mech holder on and the bike is extactly the width of the car.

    Firstly can you hire a tandem and give it a try with him? Riding a tandem is like driving a limo and does take trust and teamwork. For some people it works and some it doesn't. Also another way to give it a go would to be see if he still fits a Trail-a-bike and attach it to your bike. That way at least he can choose when he pedals and what gear he uses.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2008

    Been There...

    Hi. Also been a while since I posted but I have certainly been and done this one! My DD wanted to come on a cycle tour with us a few years ago when she was just 10. She had grown out of her tagalong and after advice from various people, a tandem seemed to be the way to go.

    I went around to every bike shop I could find that had one and tried them all. They do vary a fair bit in geometry and this can work for you or against you. I am only 5'3" and she was probably about 4' when we were looking (although she's catching me quickly now she is approaching 13).

    You get the ones that fold (like your Bike Fridays) which can accommodate large variations in sizes of the two riders, and also will be good for soaking up the growing stages. You get the MTB-style ones which have a little fatter tyres, cushier seats, riser bars (usually), broad range of gearing (MTB stuff) and a more sloping frame which can help deal with different-sized riders reasonably well. Then you get the more roadie-style ones that tend towards more conventional geometry, skinnier tyres and either flatbar or dropbar arrangement and roadie triple gearing (in the ones I looked at). These can sometimes be a real compromise if there is a large discrepancy between the sizes of the riders.

    We were going to travel long distances on the road and eventually found and bought the flatbar roadie style of tandem. It felt pretty good, not too heavy and it was a small enough frame that I fitted onto it (with a little compromise here and there) and with a little tinkering so did DD. The only real changes we made were to put a nicer seat on for her (skinny hard little roadie seat did nothing for her) and to drill and tap a second set of holes in the crank arms (the Truvativ cranks were meaty and flat enough to accommodate this) to shorten her crank length until she grew a little bigger. We may also have narrowed the bars slightly for her too. There are pedal kits you can get that sort of put a little block on top of the pedal to make the reach a bit shorter for them but it doesn't do anything for the KOPS position so I preferred the drilling option.

    One thing to think about is pedals. It came with toe clips and I replaced them with flats because I thought it would be easier for her to manage. After the first time I stopped pedalling, causing her feet to fly off the pedals and then the pedals collected her in the shins as I re-started pedalling, we reverted to the toe clips. We used these for our first tour quite successfully, but it was quite the dither around getting her in and out.

    I eventually found a very cheap pair of shoes (at JensonUSA I think) and put an old pair of clipless pedals on for her. I had the type that had a platform cage thing around the edge and the MTB clipless in the middle left over from my old hybrid, so I used those. She took to them like a duck to water and by the time we came back from our second tour was asking if I could put them onto her own bike. We had another pair in the pedal bucket, so I put them on her bike as well, and she has never looked back. I think it is well worth it if you can manage this, as it really streamlines the getting on and off.

    On the transport side, we had a small SUV (Subaru Forrester) when we used to transport it places a lot (now we just ride it there) and with both wheels removed it is about the same length as a conventional bike and so we just put it on the normal hitch-mounted bike rack across the back of the car. Friends with a similar rig, mount it on a normal roof rack (but I am too short to do this without a chair to stand on). I suspect that this is another area where the Bike Fridays come into their own, as a folder must be a bit more manageable to transport.

    Not sure whether any of this has helped, but if you have any specific questions, feel free to ask.

    PS: I found the tandem (and the time spent on it) a wonderful investment in the parent-child relationship. The conversations were amazing! Also, I found it a wonderful way to train her in efficient riding and in good traffic behaviour.
    2008 Shogun Ninja/BBB Women's Race
    2010 Scott Speedster S20FB/BBB Women's Race
    2011 Avanti Vitale 3 (converted to flat bar with triple)/Zero Zia Pro
    2008 Kona Lisa HT/WTB Speed She
    2009 Specialized Era Marathon/Ariel SL 143
    2008 Holstar Roadster (tandem)/WTB Speed She

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2010


    We did this years ago. When the kids got too old to ride in the Burley trailer we switched them to the back of a tandem. We bought an entry level (but still nice) Burley Duet road tandem. Burley offered a child adapter kit which we installed on the back until the legs grew longer (this never happened as by that age they both wanted to ride their single bikes). The various adapter kits for growing kids work quite well.

    After the kids were grown and gone we started riding the tandem (without the adapter kit) when I wanted to start cycling again and when we found out how much fun it was we upgraded and got a nicer tandem.

    If I were you I'd find a gently used entry-level road tandem with an adapter kit and get going! You'll need to be sure the front fits you well, but the rest should be pretty adjustable for the child. We found that if we turned the stoker bars over (so the "horn" is facing towards the stoker instead of the captain) it makes them easier to reach, but then we started our kids on the tandem at age 5 so maybe you won't need to do that. It seems like gently used tandems are pretty easy to find because people tend to get these grand ideas and then for one reason or another they park their tandem in the garage and don't use it. Our sat for 10 years and we just sold it two months ago. It was a $2200 bike new, and we sold it for $800 and it was in mint condition.

    Another entry level road tandem that I'd recommend is the Grand Junction model by daVinci (www.davincitandems.com). Do use toe cages on the pedals, even if you choose the kind without straps (for the stoker).

    For transport we bought a Yakima tandem rack for the top of our car. I personally think it's difficult to hoist a tandem up that high to put in the rack but then I wasn't the one who had to do it.

    Have fun ! You'll probably find this is the best thing you ever did!
    2010 Specialized Sirrus Comp (XS)
    2010 daVinci Global Venture

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2004
    I know this is considerably over your budget, but I've always thought that this:


    would be an excellent bike for your situation. I especially like the fact that there are few barriers to communication.

    If I had had extra money (as if) when my girls were younger, I would have gotten one.
    Give big space to the festive dog that make sport in the roadway. Avoid entanglement with your wheel spoke.
    (Sign in Japan)

    1978 Raleigh Gran Prix
    2003 EZ Sport AX

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    West MI
    Quote Originally Posted by Kiwi Stoker View Post
    Yes there is a tandem you can ride. The Co-motion Periscope is an ultra extending tandem to fit everyone, however you will have to watch out for 2nd hand ones on eBay, Craigslist etc as they are a bit expensive new.
    Yeah...we got lucky. My MIL REALLY wanted us to have a tandem so that we could all ride (DH and DS on the tandem with me on my solo bike...or DH on the front with me on the back when we don't have the rugrat along), so she paid for half of our Co-Motion Torpedo Periscope.

    DS was 9.5 when we first got the bike. Now he is 10 and rides with clipless pedals. It was a really ideal way for him to get the hang of using his "clippy shoes."

    We got a Yakima roof rack for my car (don't think a tandem will work on a trunk/hitch rack, because they are too long). It has a special tandem fork mount that makes it easier to get it up and onto the rack.
    run/bike log

    '11 Cannondale SuperSix 4 Rival
    '12 Salsa Mukluk 3
    '14 Seven Mudhoney S Ti/disc/Di2

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Oh, you ladies rock! I knew you'd point me in the right direction.

    His birthday is in May and I was just trying to think of something we could use this summer. He loves riding bike but still refuses to ride his bike solo. We still have the tag-a-long but he's about 60 pounds and its just too much weight for me. He is such a socialite and nature lover - he waves like a parade mashall and Wal-mart greeter, lol, sings, etc. just does everything but pay attention so his movements sometimes makes it difficult for me to control, so it's attached to my heavy steel bike (I sit most upright on that).

    We have the best time riding bike! I don't want to force the issue of him riding his bike on his own (although I'd love for him to!) but he only wants to ride bike with me because he's afraid of falling and hurting himself. So the tandem just seemed the most logical way of keeping him riding. Not to mention that his classmates will probably be less likely to pick on him riding a tandem than on a tag-a-long.

    I'll start doing my homework this weekend.
    “Minds are like parachutes...they only function when they are open. - Thomas Dewar"



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