The bike advice thread

So, I am building a tandem for my son and me, because he has a little bit of a coordination problem, and I’m hoping he can learn to ride a bike this way, or at least get the experience of riding a bike.

I have a tandem frame that is bare except for handlebars (one of which I’m going to swap), and a fender, and I have two parts bikes. Altogether, the three bikes came to $95. I’m planning to put a few other things on it, like getting a banana seat for the back for my son, and getting BMX side-pull brake calipers, since they are stronger then the ones that will come on the parts bike, and a little longer, and since I’m planning to put 24" tires on a frame that originally had 26" tires, they should adjust down the extra inch (I have already asked a few knowledgeable people about this, and it been assured that it won’t be a problem).

My son is eight, but he is the size of a typical 12-year-old. He’s 4’9 and 110lbs (he’s always been big for his age, and so was his father, and there isn’t anything wrong with him). But, getting one of those tag-along bike pulls for my bike for him to ride is out of the question. If I’d known about those 4 years ago it might have been great, but now it’s too late. I’m 5’5, 150lbs.

So, hit me with all the advice, opinions, criticisms, warnings, anecdotes; I know you’ve got 'em.

I know NOTHING much about things with pedals but one real suggestion would be to have someone go over it good for safety and maybe test it out wth a willing adult or two before taking him for a ride on it.

Helmet(s) (at least for your son). Fluorescent reflective vest (for you both). Comfortable garments. Reflectors. Tandems are really long (duh) so imagine you’re invisible - even with the bright stuff I suggested.

And most of all - have fun! :slight_smile:

Best of luck to ya.

BUT . . .

This seems a little dangerous. A tandem bike has two people pedaling and also the weight of two people on it, so the forces on the components are different. For example, the rear axle from a regular bike will probably not hold up.

Making a tandem out of regular bikes seems problematic for lots of other reasons as well. I would guess that you will find numerous compatibility issue - for example, you will need an eccentric bottom bracket most likely.

If this is something you want to do because you enjoy the challenge that is one thing, but if you add up all the little costs you will undoubtedly run into, buying a Kulana would probably be the cheaper option.

IMHO, Just my 2cents and YMMV.

I am in agreement with Mr. Nylock. It will likely be cheaper, safer, and quicker to find a used, working tandem and customize it from there, than to try and build one from spare parts from regular bikes. Wheels, especially, should not be swapped from a regular bike.

Agreed, you are making a HUGE mistake and are endangering yourselves. Do a search to find any tandem bike that has side caliper brakes OR a banana seat. There’s solid safety/engineering reasons for this. It sounds like you’re about to jump off your house, using an umbrella.

RivkahChaya, if it can be built and is strong and safe, then go for it!

In addition to what good advice there is so far here: lights, bright and flickering/blinking, white for front and red for rear. Remember, the lights are less to light the road so you can see, and much more to be conspicuous so that others can see you. Be safe, be seen, and have fun!

I’ve been pricing tandems for several months, and I can’t find a good used one under $600.

I’ve talked to several people who know about building bikes, and the best advice is to use wheels for mountain bikes, and brakes for mountain bikes or a BMX, and since I don’t plan to take it off anything but mostly designated paved bicycle paths, and no really hilly areas, I should be OK. My son and I together weigh 260lbs, and there are men who weigh that much who ride mountain bikes safely. It would be a mistake to use parts from, say, children’s bikes or racing bikes, yes.

He already has a helmet.

I have a separate thread about painting the bike, because the frame is slate gray, and I want something that will show up better.

My husband thinks I should put toe clips on the boychik’s pedals, but I’m nixing that, because I want to keep it simple for him.

Pacific, Kent, Sun All make tandems under this price. None of these brands are particularly high end, but they should work well for your needs.

24" wheels are a kid’s size, and usually not designed for the type of use you are intending to put them to. Of course there are 24" wheels that are higher end, but it seems unlikely that you are using something like that - it would be something pretty rare to just come across. There are different types of BMX brakes; side pull bmx brakes are generally very weak and low end, you will probably find this out at the end when you go for a test ride. I have trouble believing that the people you spoke to were very knowledgable if they said they thought the reach would work - there is really no good way to know unless you measure it.

I am guessing that you will find this unwelcome news; so I only post it on the off chance that you you have a change of heart and decide to look in to some lower priced new tandems.

I did measure it. It will work.

If this bike helps my son learn to ride, I can decommission it after seven or eight months. I won’t sell it to anyone else. I’m hoping that the experience of riding, and building muscles riding will help him learn to use a bike on his own. If not, then when he turns nine in the fall, we’re going to have him evaluated by a PT. His coordination problems aren’t terrible, but they are there. If we can get him diagnosed with mild dyspraxia, we might be able to get a better bike paid for by insurance that will hold up as he gets bigger.

He was very briefly hypoxic at birth, so that could have caused dyspraxia, and we worry about it. He was a late walker, and a late talker, although he is doing well in school. His handwriting is terrible, though, and he has mixed dominance. He still doesn’t show a hand preference. His teacher is making him stick with his right hand for writing, since it seems to be the one he uses most often for writing, in the hope that using the same one consistently will help his writing improve. Of course, my brother is a commercial artist, and has the worst handwriting of any adult I know, so who knows? The boychik may have some special, inherited disconnect with handwriting.

I did decide one thing from this thread, though, which is that I probably shouldn’t let his 6’2, 230lb. father ride with him unless we can get it stress tested somehow.

I will not have any problem with 24" wheels, as I have freakishly short legs. On my 26" bike, the seat is as far down as it can possibly go, and the handlebars are as high as they can go. I could never race.

He has a lot in common with most of the doctors I’ve ever been to :slight_smile:

Buy a used one, use it, and sell it. It’s already used, so as long as you don’t wreck it too badly, it should retain most or all of its value.

Good idea. Just make sure it has lights.

Also, your plan sounds a bit insane and I hope your husband was joking about the toe clips.

The easiest way for your son to learn is to get a bmx-type bike his size, remove the pedals, lower the seat so he can stand over it flat-footed and practice balancing and pushing along. A catastrophic tandem wreck may turn him off bikes forever, not to mention maiming one or both of you. He’s almost 3/4 of your weight and can’t balance. If/when he leans drastically the wrong way, can you keep the bike up?

I can ride my bike with him sitting on my carrier. (The carrier is rated for up to 100lbs, and I took a chance.)

We’ve tried a lot of things to teach him to ride, and he’s getting discouraged. A “bicycle built for two” was actually his idea. The first several rides may just be around the parking lot of our building.

Cautioning him against leaning drastically one way or the other is probably a good idea. So are knee and elbow pads for him. And maybe a mirror so I can watch him.

We tried to get a buddy bike for him when he was younger, but they are really, really expensive, and we couldn’t get insurance to help out, because his problems are not severe enough. The older he gets, though, and the further behind he gets on some skills, even if they are primarily recreation-type skills, the more help we can get, because insurance companies are interested in him getting plenty of exercise. We finally got his swimming lessons subsidized this year. He has to have an instructor who is also an OT, but I have no objections to that.

I am late for shul, so I won’t be checking back with the thread for a while, but I’m not blowing anybody off.

I’m dyspraxic, and I was even more dyspraxic when I was around that age and trying to learn to ride a bike. It took me awhile to finally get the hang of it. My father helped a lot, but I think it was just a developmental “late bloomer” thing. I just needed extra time and patience. (It also helped to have a twin sister who was off training wheels a full year ahead of me. I had to show everyone I could do it too, by golly.)

Not knowing how dyspraxic your kid is, while I think the bicycle built for two sounds like a good idea in theory, it may end up being more work than it’s worth.

Well, good luck. And don’t forget helmet, pads, and gloves for yourself. If he goes down, you do too.

Try to find some videos showing riders leaning into a turn. Beginners sometimes feel the bike lean and try to fight it by leaning the opposite direction. Make sure he expects this and understands he must lean with you and the bike.

I think what you are doing is crazy.
If the kid suddenly shifts his weight the bike will go down, taking you with it.
And there might be a fuel truck there that stops because of the accident and it would be over the rail road tracks just as a train carrying nuclear warheads is coming through. When that explodes it will be picked up by satellites, causing a panic where everyone launches their missiles and so ends all life on Earth.
Just think about that before you go around starting a bike build.
Of course the train could be carrying bio weapons instead, but same result.

Well this post certainly put all of us safety conscious nuts in our place.

Some thoughts on safety and tandems, fast yes, takes a knack yes, more risky then a normal bike no, great fun yes… Our first was a pretty awful Pashly i bought cheap of a blind guy who rode as the stoker with his wife. It was built of awfully cheap and nasty components. It snapped spokes, “one ones gone again…keep riding to get home…” the main chain wheel came loose (uncrimped it wasn’t even welded on) walk push and free wheel down hill home and got it welded back on eventually the frame broke under my seat (still rode it home)so i put a bit of pipe in it and welded it back together.Its awful double caliper brakes would melt the pads on to the rim on a long decent!.. so it suffered several failures but never to the extent that we crashed.
Second was some frame we were given, painted it yellow and found wheels etc rode that miles on standard “old” bike components. Until we got a lovely Dawes Galaxy Twin old thing now but stiff and great to ride. Ok so it better in nearly every way than our first tandem but not more fun.
One can worry to much about things, do it and have fun!