Biking with kids: Trailer bike vs. tandem

I started this post just two weeks after we got Big Blue.  Don’t get me wrong, we plan to get many more years of use carrying Gabriel on the longtail, but things change fast with kids, and finding a quality, used product takes time.

We still have awhile before G is ready to ride independently on the streets with us, so for now I’m considering options that would allow him to pedal with us.  Gabriel is now tall enough to fit many trailer bike set-ups, though I’m not quite sure that he’s developmentally ready for this step, but perhaps by next spring or summer.

The two main options for your child pedaling with you are some type of trailer bike or a tandem that has a rear (stoker) position that fits a small rider.

Trailer bikes
These are pretty common and easy to find.  You can get a new trailer bike for between $200 and $400, depending on brand and features.  A general pro is that we could purchase an extra hitch and/or rack (the Roland and Burley each attach to a custom rear rack), so that Gabriel could easily ride with either Matthew or me.  The trailer bike could be easily detached and left at school if one of us was doing drop-off and the other pick-up (or it could hitch a ride home in Baba’s car).

What’s in the running for us:

  • Roland add+bike: Very highly recommended by the folks over at Hum of the City — see their review here.  Of course, my number one trailer bike choice would have to be made in Germany and not widely available in the U.S.  Rumor has is that we could order one through J.C. Lind Bike Co. in Chicago, though this would easily be the most expensive option (with import shipping, probably around $500), and the one we are least likely to find used.
  • Something by Burley, either the Piccolo (pricier, but has gears and the option of converting to a stand-alone kid’s bike) or the more basic Kazoo.
  • The Weehoo iGo PRO: this seems like a cool concept, and the product gets great reviews.  If I found a great price on a used Weehoo, I might go for it.  In general, the Weehoo would be particularly good if you were concerned about your kid falling asleep or otherwise not staying on the bike.  Otherwise, I think I’d opt for one that gives more of a true riding a bike experience.

Given that this is something we’ll probably only use for few years, I doubt we’ll spring for the Roland, which means we’ll likely end up with one of the Burley options.  For a comparison of even more trailer bike options, see this guide over at Two Wheeling Tots.

Tandems
As far as I know, there are exactly two bikes that would fit the bill here.  I first became aware of the tandem option when I read about the Circe Helios on the Less Car More Go Facebook group.  The appeal is that either Matthew or I could ride as captain with Gabriel as stoker, OR Matthew and I could ride this bike together (if I can get over my control issues and deal with being stoker 😉 ).

Circe Cycles is based in the U.K., and they have exactly one U.S. dealer, located on the East coast.  On the low side, once we paid for shipping and such, I think we’d spend at least $2000 on this bike.  Given that we just recently made a big ol’ bike purchase (Big Blue), I’m not really sure this is in the cards.

Recently, a friend pointed out his Bike Friday tandem, which he’s been riding with his preschool-age grandson.  Bike Friday offers three models of their tandem (including a folding option).  The Family Tandem is the most basic, and it starts at $1300.  Quite a bargain for a tandem, but still an investment.

Both the Circe and the Bike Friday tandem use 20″ wheels, which makes for low step-over height, and they both claim to fit a relatively wide range of rider heights.  The suggested rider heights for the Circe Helios are 4′ 10″ to 6′ 5″ for the captain, and 3′ 6″ to 6′ 2″ for the stoker (though elsewhere on the website they mention 6′ as the max ideal stoker height).  I don’t have the exact numbers for the Bike Friday, but they are similar.

I’m not sure how a tandem would work for our everyday riding.  If we used a tandem to take Gabriel to school, then after Matthew or I dropped him off, we’d be riding around with an empty stoker seat.  I’m not sure how the bike would handle in this set-up.

At this point, it’s unlikely that we’d be able to ride either of the tandems before purchasing, which is a big downside (though it worked out okay with Big Blue).  I question whether Matthew and I, both on the tall side, would truly be comfortable on either of these bikes together, so being able to test drive would be really nice.

Next steps for us
I like the idea of the tandem, but I’m not sure I can justify the purchase.  Given both the versatility, lower cost, and greater availability of the trailer bikes, I imagine we’ll go that route.  I plan to keep an eye on Craigslist in the coming months (wish there were a way to set up an auto-alert!).

 

 

 

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4 Responses to Biking with kids: Trailer bike vs. tandem

  1. Melissa says:

    If you don’t find a used Burley, another option to consider is a FollowMe tandem plus your own kids bike. If you buy from Bike Discount in Europe (http://www.bike-discount.de/en/buy/followme-tandem-45215), rather than Clever Cycles (the U.S. importer) the cost is lower than a new Burley, and you get the versatility of being able to alternate between solo riding and “tagalong”. It’s also slightly more stable than a Burley and because it attaches to the axle, rather than the rack, leaves your rack top open for transporting goods, another child, etc. Another bonus compared to a Burley is that you only need a second skewer ($22, http://www.bike-discount.de/en/buy/followme-standard-quick-release-adapter-85547/wg_id-5248) to move it between bikes, vs. a second Burley rack, which is $50. The only downside vs. a Burley is weight.

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      At this point, we’ll likely be purchasing a solo bike before some kind of tag-a-long. Good to know about this option!

  2. jaladhi says:

    Melissa, curious to find out which option you ended up with. Apart from Helios and Bike Friday, Comition Periscope has also been suggested to me as a good tandem option for riding with a child.

    • Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      We got the Burley Piccolo trail-a-bike, and we’ve put many happy miles on it since May 2015. Pretty sure I’ve written about it since then (maybe you’ve found them?). As Gabriel gets heavier, I like the idea of a tandem, but that’s not in our budget right now :-/

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