By Eric McKeegan
Ask most parents and they will tell you they love riding with their kids. I love riding with mine. The only problem is that you either ride at their speed, or end up riding with a child seat or a trailer. Not that there is anything particularly wrong with that, in fact sometimes that is absolutely perfect, but at times I want to go for a longer, faster ride and I’ve found hauling kids around in a seat or trailer isn’t conducive to that. After riding this Co-Motion, I realize all rides with kids don’t have to be at kid pace.
The other problem with most kid-carrying devices for your bike? Kids grow; bikes don’t—at least not usually. That is the key to the Periscope. Both the front (captain) and rear (stoker) positions have a double telescoping seatpost. Remove the lower extension and riders as short as 4’10” up front and 3’6” rear can fit comfortably. With both extensions in place (and adjustments to the handlebars), riders up to 6’2” can occupy either position.
Who is Co-Motion? Based in Eugene, Oregon, Co-Motion started building frames over 20 years ago and is still at it, one of the few larger frame shops left building in the U.S. They offer a variety of bikes including many to fill underserved (or ignored) niches. We’ve tested a cyclocross and an adventure touring bike from them in the past, most recently the Pangea in Issue #7. They may be most famous for their tandems, but there are plenty of other options including custom frames, not only in the expected steel but also in 7005 aluminum.
The Scout is built with oversized, butted steel tubing, and weighs a good bit less than I expected. That oversize steel tubing is super-stiff, a welcome trait when descending at speed on potholed roads with precious cargo hanging off the back. All the basic braze-ons are provided: mounts for four bottles, front and rear racks, and fenders. The tiny rear triangle and disc brakes make rack mounting difficult, and it can be hard to find skinny fenders for 26” wheels, but these problems are probably not going to scare off the type of rider that will buy this bike.
I tested the small frame and found the head tube and top tube to be on the short side for long rides; I felt cramped and the low handlebar height caused some hand pain. The size large has a longer top tube, so a bump up in size (and possibly a taller stem) would work fine without losing any ability to fit my shorter kid on the back. The build kit is a solid blend of road, mountain bike, and tandem parts. As a mountain biker used to having strong brakes, the disc brakes were a welcome spec, and the oversize rotors insure powerful fade-free braking.
The road triple-chainring crank matched with a wide-range mountain bike cassette provides a huge range of gears, helpful in getting up hills with a stoker who might be more interested in the next ice cream stop than in assisting the captain on the current ascent. While no one seems to be able to agree on the perfect crankarm length, there is little argument that shorter riders should have shorter cranks. Tandems East, one of Co-Motion’s largest dealers and a giant in tandem retail, sent me a set of their crank shorteners ($118), a machined aluminum fitting that bolts onto the crankarm and provides four shorter mounting points for the pedals, from 24-76mm. I chose the second shortest position with seemed to work well for Seamus (who is 3’8”) and his 7-year-old sister Oona (3’11”).
Both kids could climb on the bike them- selves, which made getting started easy. I flipped the stoker bars backwards so the ex- tensions faced the rear and extended the stem completely, which shrunk the cockpit enough for the kids to ride comfortably.
Riding for two
Neither my wife or I have much tandem experience, but we both found the Scout to be very easy to ride. I was comfortable enough after a few rides to try some mild dirt paths. Off-road speed is kept in check with the slick tires, but that isn’t a bad thing—this is not a mountain bike.
The stiff frame is also great for climbing. We have a very steep hill near our house that leads to a long descent, and I had no problems cranking up the steep bit—cheers from passing cars also helped. Going down, the bike inspired confidence. I’ve ridden a lot of cargo bikes with similar wheelbases and steering geometry that would get pretty scary at speed due to frame flex and weak brakes, but the Scout had none of these issues. Regardless of all the adjustability built into this bike, it still feels very sporty.
The seatposts were easy to adjust with standard quick-release levers that did not slip. Switching from a child stoker to an adult would be a very quick job; the crank shorteners probably double the time, but it still only takes half an hour or so after some practice.
The Scout also has a very practical side. My wife used it to drop Oona off at school, and I hope to keep it around a little longer to take it on an overnight bike-camping trip. Outfitted with racks and fenders, I would have no problem setting out on a multi-day tour, either.
The only real problem I see with this bike is that the kids fight over who gets to ride it. Few bikes make peoples’ eyes light up like a tandem. Kids particularly liked to see us out and about. Both kids were stoked to be stokers—they really liked knowing they were helping to get where we were going rather than just being carted around.
To top it off, my family would always have room to grow into this bike, unless one of us ends up over 6’2”. That makes this a serious long-term investment, which makes the price tag much easier to swallow. It’s easy to see who this bike is for: lifelong cyclists looking to ride longer distances at faster speeds than with other child-carrying options. The fact that it is made in the U.S.A. is just icing on the
Regina’s perspective: In the seven years I’ve been a mom, I think I’ve tried just about every combination, contraption, and attachment known to man to haul my children around the city by bicycle. Once I took the tandem out I realized that was exactly my problem: I was “hauling” them around instead of letting them participate in the ride, too. I was, for once, not nervous about what was going on behind me, how close cars were, if the kids had become detached and were rolling away into traffic, etc. I never felt more comfortable cruising around with one of my kiddos on the bike than I did with the tandem. They really dug feeling like they were responsible for getting us up a big hill, being able to easily chat with me, and the envious stares of neighborhood kids
- Age: 37
- Height: 5’11”
- Weight: 155lbs.
- Inseam: 32”
- Country of Origin: United States of America
- Price: $3195
- Weight: 34.5lbs.
- Sizes Available: Small (tested), Large
- Contact: www.co-motion.com