By Stephen Haynes
Chris Brown, Owner/Operator of Brown Cycles in Grand Junction, Colorado, and mastermind behind the KidzTandem, says he used to race the bus to school as a kid “just to show the kids riding the bus how cool I was.” It’s in this spirit of playfulness and determination that he conceived the KidzTandem.
Over the last ten years, this father of four has been listening to his shop customers. What he found were riding enthusiasts turned parents who were looking for a way to get what Brown describes as their “riding mojo” on, while spending quality time with their kids.
By making the forward-most top tube of the Kidz Tandem a place to attach various add-on parts, Brown has effectively given you a 4130 chromoly do-it-all machine. Depending on the accessories you purchase, you could be riding the standard KidzTandem, a racier version of the original with drop bars, a cargo bike, a tandem with half a recumbent, a special-needs tandem, or a toddler tandem. They even make a triple! Feel really strongly about an idea you have, but don’t see it on his website? Contact Brown directly and he’ll likely find a way to make it happen for you.
The KidzTandem is piloted from the back seat by the adult. This gives the child up front an unobstructed view of things as they approach. My nine-year-old daughter, Darby, aka “Co-Pilot,” calls out things like “Puddle!”, “Squirrel!” or “Look, no hands!” as we amble along, happy to have a clear view. Also, happy not to smell me, I think…
The kids’ side of the bike, or front seat, is fully adjustable. The saddle can be dropped down nearly to the frame and the Satori EZ stem adjusts to bring the bars to the child. Standover height for the kids is 25”—that’s taller than Darby can reach, but dismount- ing was still easy for her since I hold up the bike at stops.
The one-size-fits-most geometry and componentry does a good job of making things comfortable without being complicated. What amounts to a 17” mountain bike frame in the back with a 23” standover height, combined with an adjustable stem, makes this bike height-compliant for a wide range of people from the not-so-tall to those over 6’. One nit to pick for me is the giant couch of a seat that comes with the bike. While “more cush for your tush” may be desirable for some, I found it to be less comfortable than likely intended.
SRAM X7 grip shifters keep you moving through the available 27 speeds while Avid SR linear-pull brakes make sure you stop. It would be nice to see disc brakes on a future model. Fully loaded with kids or groceries, depending on the set-up, the stopping power provided by disc brakes is warranted.
The bike is steered via a steering rod running from the bottom of the back seat’s steerer tube to the fork. There is something of a mental disconnect here as a result of being several feet removed from the front wheel. If you’re used to riding 26” or 700c wheels, like me, the 20” front wheel will feel a little squirrely. Smaller wheels make for better maneuverability, and with what feels like a large proboscis hanging off the front of the bike, you’ll want that. You have to plan your turns, letting the front end clear the corner before committing to it, or simply swinging a little wide to compensate. It took a few outings before I was confidently navigating the KidzTandem, but once I got it, the thing became incredibly fun to ride.
Bedecked with full fenders (a standard feature), the KidzTandem is no slouch in the inclement weather department. A rear rack is also standard, custom-made for the 26” rear wheel and made to fit a Sunlite Child Carrier ($225, optional). The toddler seat can also be mounted to the square top tube in the front portion of the bike by way of a custom mounting bracket, included with the seat. I’ve had my four-year-old son, Odin, in the back and Darby in front simultaneously with no problems at all. The bike also comes with a center kickstand that makes parking trouble-free.
Brown was kind enough to send a cargo basket ($200) with my tester. A similar mounting bracket attaches the cargo basket as for the toddler seat (though not at the same time). Riding this bike in cargo mode is a blast—I feel like Pee-wee Herman driving a U-Haul truck. The basket (27”x17-1/2”x6”) holds a ton of stuff, and with the aid of a few well-placed bungee cords, you can fit a week’s worth of groceries in it. Don’t overdo it though—weight capacity for the front half of the bike is 100lbs.
Like any tandem, there are two sets of cranks that share a chain and pedal in unison. This echoes the fundamental ethos behind the KidzTandem: “Get the kids involved.” By sharing the task of pedaling, the kids are more actively interested in riding. At certain points in our rides together, Darby and I would take turns putting our feet up and letting the other handle pedaling responsibilities. Though it was difficult for her to pedal for very long without me, she really felt like she had gone on a ride with me, instead of just being a passenger on my ride.
I wasn’t sure how I felt about the KidzTandem at first. The maiden voyage was shaky and Darby wasn’t completely sold on the whole idea. Slowly the bike won me over after loads of recyclables were taken to the dump and loads of groceries were brought home. The real revelation came when I had both my kids on the bike at the same time—this solidified my fondness for the bike. I highly recommend it to anyone who needs a bike that can serve multiple purposes and is looking for a fun way to get their kids actively involved in cycling. Once they’re riding their own bikes, hook up a basket and go shopping. Available from Brown Cycles or one of their many distributors in three eye-catching colors to help you, and your kids, beat the bus to school.
- Age: 34
- Height: 5’ 11”
- Weight: 220lbs.
- Inseam: 30”
- Country of Origin: Taiwan
- Price: $2,000
- Weight: 55lbs.
- Sizes Available: One Size
By Stephen Haynes
I’m often challenged creatively. Frequently it is one deadline or another that has me reeling in my aspirations for a certain project. Other times it’s a new medium that has me perplexed. Occasionally, the two converge and I find myself in the deep end of the creativity pool sweating out a project until it’s submitted for approval.
Such was the case with the Bicycle Times promotional video for the National Bike Summit happening March 20-22.
The video needed to be 15 seconds long and showcase what the magazine is and why we support the National Bike Summit. I’ve not worked very extensively in video. Any and all work I’d done in this medium was relevant when 8mm cassette tapes were still in fashion. That was the first problem. The second was capturing what Bicycle Times is visually… Care to take a stab at that? It means so many different things to so many different people. Explaining why we support the National bike Summit was the easiest part of the equation.
With the help of my wife Trina, I came up with and tested the idea of stop-motion animation as a means to visually express what Bicycle Times is. It centered around the idea of “everyday cyclists” as a play on our slogan “your everyday cycling adventure” while featuring some of the people that make the magazine.
After a short mock-up using Trina as the stop-motion model, I got the go-ahead from the “Head Cheese” and set about enlisting everyone willing to participate in the making of the video.
We systematically called each person in the office down to the photo studio/basement/merch department and had them pose in a series of positions for a fraction of a second each. Some, ahem, interesting stuff came out of the shoot.
I took the day’s worth of shots home that night and spliced them together in iMovie while Karen Brooks, editor of Bicycle Times, recorded a little voiceover bit to lay on top of the moving pictures. I dropped her voice over into Garage Band and strummed out a few guitar chords to add some ambiance.
With the moving pictures and voiceover in hand, I mated the two in iMovie, added some titles, exported in the appropriate format, and hoped for the best. Here is what the finished video looks like. I recommend watching it through once and then going back and stopping it occasionally to find some real gems. Enjoy.
Thanks to the staff of Bicycle Times and Dirt Rag for being good sports, to Justin Steiner for helping me set up the photo studio, to Karen Brooks for the voice-over and guidance, and thanks to Trina Haynes for helping to initiate the idea and facilitate the smooth transition of all the participants. You folks rock.
Editor’s note: Stephen will be one of the staff members riding home from the National Bike Summit, from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, via the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage rail-trails. Stay tuned for blogs from our journey.
By Stephen Haynes
I’ve always been intrigued by folding bikes, much as I am by efficiency apartments, tiny houses, James Bond gadgets and Murphy beds. There is something appealing about a bike that is both practical and fun and can be discretely folded down and thrown in the trunk of your car. It plays to the pragmatist in me while adding a sense of whimsy to the mix.
The Tern Castro Duo does a good job of satisfying these wants and needs by offering a simple bike in a compact package.
The bike folds down small enough to be out of the way in that efficiency apartment or dorm room, but isn’t quite small enough to haul on the bus with you. If you have limited space in your dwelling or are a park-and-ride commuter, this could be your new best friend.
I’ve taken the Castro Duo on many rides both from my backdoor and from the trunk of my small car, folding and unfolding as needed with ease. The folding operation is quite easy by way of two joints: one located in the middle of the frame, the other where the stem meets the headset. The pedals fold down as well, maximizing the space savings.
Riding the Castro Duo reminds me of my first experiences on a bike—when a simple one speed with a coaster brake was all you required to get to the playground or friend’s houses. Tern has attempted to up the ante a bit by adding a SRAM two-speed automatic hub (Hence the “Duo” in the name). While this sounds great in theory, in practice I’ve found it has taken a little getting used to.
Unexpected shifts caught my knees out on more than one occaision early on, but I’ve grown more accustomed to the shifts and am getting better about predicting them, though not expertly just yet. I’ve also learned that by simply disengaging the drive train by quickly back pedaling (not enough to brake), will put you back down into the lower starting gear.
The Casto Duo rides quite nicely though and I have found benefits to having a second speed as well. Coasting down hills doesn’t necessarily mean coasting anymore and on the flats it means not having to spin out in a lower gear. Nice!
The super low step-through, upright riding position, 20” wheels and short wheelbase make it easy to get just about anywhere and be comfortable doing it. This thing is snappy and I’ve been tempted more than once to pretend it’s a BMX bike and launch it in some ill-advised manner.
The Duo’s frame has a built-in rear rack for carrying books, beer, pizza, or whatever; as well as built in front and rear lights. A chain guard means you don’t HAVE to roll up your pants and full fenders will keep those pants clean of street funk.
As if Tern couldn’t make this bike any more practical, they’ve also added a center stand that can be employed whether the frame is folded or unfolded.
The Tern Castro Duo will set you back $800 and for all the practical features that buys, sounds like a steal. Look for my full review in Bicycle Times Issue #16 coming out in April.
By Stephen Haynes
I love to ride bicycles. I also love my 8-year-old daughter Darby. She, however, doesn’t yet share my love of all things bike. How do I go about getting my mildly interested youngin’ into riding? After several misadventures cramming Darby and her younger brother into a buggy-type trailer, my wife Trina took a look at trailer bikes. When the Adams Trail-A- Bike (TAB) Folder 24 came across my radar, I jumped at the opportunity to get Darby on it.
One of the coolest things about the TAB Folder is that it folds up! A pivot point just in front of the TAB’s seat tube allows the whole contraption to fold back on itself, helping to keep the overall length manage- able when you want to stow or transport it. That said, the overall bulk of the thing, even folded, may be a bit cumbersome for small car owners.
The TAB is connected to a lead bike via a two-part hitch system. A receiving end is attached to the lead bike’s seat post—included shims make fit- ting easy. A universal joint on the front of the TAB slides into the receiving end and is secured with a hitch pin; this hitch pin also secures the bike in its folded state. A protective sleeve slides over the whole assembly to keep little fingers from getting pinched.
A 24” wheel on the TAB means a little smoother ride than trailers using a 20” wheel, plus the ability to accommodate larger riders (up to 85lbs.). The 7-speed drivetrain has been a good way to teach Darby about using gears. She says, “If it’s in number 6 or 7, it’s really hard, but if it’s in number 1, it’s really easy.” The higher gear range is nice for the lead rider, too. Both Trina and I can feel a boost when Darby shifts up into higher gears.
A higher-quality shifter on the TAB would be welcome; despite her claims that “shifting was easy,” I found it difficult and saw her using both hands at times to change gears. For an up-charge, your local bike shop could swap it out for something a little more user-friendly. Either way, the shifting lesson is there to be learned.
As an inexperienced rider, Darby occasionally leans in opposition to the lead rider, leaving the lead rider fighting the weight until the TAB falls back in line. Trina feels that the shift “can be a little overwhelming” and I tend to agree. We’re hoping that with more practice, and a little less looking everywhere but forward, Darby will learn better balance and keep the jarring to a minimum.
We’ve ridden the 27lb. steel TAB on rail- trails, city bike paths, and to and from the store. Darby has seen many interesting things on our ad- ventures but “the daddy long legs in the grass and the crazy caterpillar on the rail-trail” stand out as most memorable. Trina and I both agree that it’s a lot of fun, and having the ability to do longer rides is nice as well, though Darby says, “Long rides hurt my bum.” Perhaps a plusher seat?
At $290, the Adams Trail-A-Bike Folder 24 is a bit of an investment for something that isn’t a stand-alone bike, though families like ours can use it again with a younger child, as we plan to. Modest componentry like the shifters, seat, one-piece crank, and cup-and-cone bottom bracket leaves something to be desired, but all of these are upgradable if the need should arise. Despite this, Darby, Trina and I agree that the TAB is a great way to get out and spend time together as a family. Made in China. www.trail-a-bike.com
By Stephen Haynes
“Always leave them crying,” says Chris Brown of Kidz Tandems. What he means is, that kids love to pedal and you want them to be so pumped about riding that when the ride is done, they’re crying for more!
Unfortunately on our maiden voyage my daughter Darby did cry (and not in a good way). Of course I didn’t suss out the handling of the bike very well before encouraging her to jump on the front seat. The extra weight had me downshifting and the sudden boost in pedal rotation caught her off guard and she took a pedal to the back of each leg. Way to go Dad! Jeez! Though little or no actual scarring occurred, I haven’t yet convinced her that giving it another go is a good idea.
In the meantime, this unfortunate little hiccup has given me the ability to try out the Kidz Tandems’ utilitarian aspect. The optional, large front loader basket that came with my tester can haul some serious cargo and has been put through it paces on several grocery trips and recycling runs.
It’s taken me a little while to get used to the bike, and I’m not fully up to speed just yet. The small front wheel combined with the extended frontal region makes for strange cornering. Weight is also an issue, especially if, like me, any previous load hauling has been pulled, not pushed. Fully loaded the thing becomes a little bit of a beast but not totally unmanageable.
Chris also included a small child seat that I clamped onto the rear rack and strapped my son Odin into. He really enjoyed the ride but wasn’t quite crying for more. In fact, I think he’s a tad big for the seat as my heels and his toes kept colliding as we ambled down the street. Nevertheless, it puts a smile on my face when people stare aghast at me riding along with Odin and our recyclables. It’s a small town we live in and riding a normal bike is akin to walking around Au natural, or setting oneself on fire. The general consensus is “why wouldn’t you just drive”?
Hopefully Darby can be coaxed back onto the bike (maybe I can get Odin to work on her too) and we can put some miles on it in tandem mode and freak more people out with our “crazy shenanigans”. Until then, perhaps I can charge for bicycle rides down at the local park and see how many kids I can make cry?
By Stephen Haynes
What to do with a couple of house bound kids when the weather outside just won’t allow for frolicking? Dining room table circle track! It combines thrilling speeds, potential injury with possible property damage! Satisfying all the major "cool" points for my two whippersnappers.
Fortunately, when we decided to buy a house, we were blessed with hardwood floors. This type of flooring allows for such things as skateboarding, matchbox demolition derby, bowling, dancing like lunatics and of course riding bikes.
Our riding is typically confined to the dining room where we can roll uninterrupted in a circle around the dining room table. We will typically start off at a leisurely pace, feeling out the course, plotting our lines. As we gain confidence so too we gain in momentum and soon that comfortable right hander between the tchotchke/catchall, the table and the keyboard gets a little dicey! It’s inevitable that some unsuspecting bit of daily detritus gets knocked from it’s perch (usually by me), but it’s all part of the fun.
Of course there are other natural obstacles to overcome such as dizziness. Our table (and the room which houses it for that matter) isn’t very big. After 30 or so laps I’m begging for a "Pit Stop".. I often conjure images of those madmen on motorcycles in the circular enclosure at the circus. You know the ones? At any rate, the dizziness typically gets the best of me and I end up playing the part of traffic warden (Stop!! Go!!) the rest of the time. Then it’s onto the next potentially damaging activity. "Indoor soccer anyone?"