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