KidzTandem Review

by Brian Mullin on April 15, 2009

INTRO

For anyone who has younger kids and bikes themselves regularly, you are always going to hear “When are you going to take me riding?” They don’t quite grasp the logistics and difficulty of getting them out riding, especially when it comes to mountain biking. Most of us have used kid trailers, which of course feel like you is pulling around a heavily laden sled. They are very functional, but are cumbersome and hard to maneuver, and worst of all, the kids are not getting to participate, so boredom can set in fast. Heck, how many times have you turned around, and they are soundly sleeping?

At the Outdoor portion of Interbike 2008, I bumped into the Browns Cycles booth where they had on display a tandem bike that can be used with younger children, aptly named the KidzTandem. I had a nice conversation with the owner Chris Brown of Grand Junction Colorado about the system, and I knew immediately it was a wonderful, functional and participatory bike that allows you, and your child to truly ride together. On the KidzTandem, the adult acts as the Pilot on the rear seat, doing the steering, braking, and drivetrain management, while the child on the front seat acts as the Copilot, pedaling and enjoying the views (no steering input). This arrangement not only allows free conversation with the child, but makes them feel that they are part of the team. It is amazing to feel the laughter and empowerment that the child feels from this set up. To use tandem terms, the rear person is the Captain while the front is the Stoker, which is the opposite of most tandems.


The bike comes in a normal , road and mountain version, and fits kids from 2-4 in a toddler seat or 4-7 on a traditional saddle, and it has a conservative weight limit of 100 lbs. In addition to the optional quick-change toddler seat, you can also install a large basket for groceries or a dog, and a recent addition to the lineup is the triplet version.

The frame is made from 4130 Cro-Moly steel, and comes standard with 24 speed Shimano Deore parts package in either Sunshine Yellow or Red.

TESTING AND FEATURES

Test Bike Specs
Parts build: Shimano Deore drivetrain, Lasco cranks, Tektro V-Brakes, flat pedals, kickstand, wheels – 26″ rear and 20″ front, RST 200K front suspension fork, saddles – WTB rear and Cloud 9 front, bars – Ritchey rear and generic front, stem – generic rear and SATORI-EZ front, etc.

Weight: 54.6 lbs.

KidzTandem Features from Brian Mullin on Vimeo

I tested the mountain bike version of the KidzTandem in yellow over the winter in Colorado with my 6 year old daughter Rachel as my Copilot and fellow tester. It was difficult to get many rides in for in depth testing and fun between snow storms and the cold. For anyone who is a bike nut, going out in inclement weather is pretty normal, and some cold and snow never bothered us too much, but that is not something most children are quite as interested in doing! Sunny and warmer weather are much more fun for the kids.

“It’s such a fine line between stupid, and clever.”

Although I haven’t had a kickstand, since I was a kid, I enjoyed having the center-stand style kickstand. It was handy on the trail and in the garage, although on an occasion I scraped my leg on the kickstand when I was putting it up or down.


The set up for the bike was fairly straight forward. The handlebar and SATORI-EZ stem combo for the Copilot was really easy to put into any position that was needed, and my daughter was always changing them to suit her mood, the terrain or her whim. I think that her whim won out!

Copilot Adjustable Stem and Bars

RIDE IMPRESSIONS

Weather and time constraints meant we, mostly rode the mountain bike version around the neighborhood on the streets and sidewalks. Since it had a front suspension fork it was fun to drive off small curbs, drive into culverts and into grassy areas. It was fun to hear my daughter scream with delight (or was that fear) when I would suddenly veer over and drop off the curb. I took it through snow drifts and anything that was entertaining, so at least we both could have some fun. Since my daughter was in up front she really gets the birds eye view of riding, and that makes the riding much more delightful for her. She is truly out riding, maybe not always a willing participant, since I got to choose where we went, although she was always giving directions anyway!

“As you Wish.”

Front Suspension Fork

We took it off road on some wide single track over at Fox Run Park near my house. The trail system, mostly consists of gravely trails with occasional roots and rocks, and it winds this way and that with a lot of up and down. It was a pretty fun, and it is mild enough for my daughter, but had enough entertainment for me. We turned a lot of eyes trying to figure out just what the bike really was, people were very intrigued by the bike, and that I was riding with my young daughter on a tandem off road.

KidzTandem Test Ride from Brian Mullin on Vimeo

It was a real trudge going up the steeper hills, I figure with my daughters weight, and the heavier tandem frame I was pushing an extra 90 lbs. uphill. Ugh, my thighs felt it, but I figured it was good training! This is a traditional tandem with a timing chain, which means your child must pedal at the same rate as you. My daughter liked pedaling, but her input was only mildly effective on the steep sections of the trail. It was also easy for her to lose the rhythm of the pedaling, and her feet would slip off, and she would have to re-sync them back on. I had swapped out the default flat pedals for my clipless ones, which did aid on those steep hills.

It’s a bit odd sitting way behind the front wheel doing steering, and it’s doubly tough
with the Copilot partially blocking the trail view, but you get used to it. It does not turn on a time like my normal bike, as it has a very long turning radius and wheelbase, so it’s sort of like trying to maneuver a big truck in a parking lot. It occasionally gave me problems negotiating turns and sharp corners, but with time you learn to compensate and give yourself more time and space to maneuver. Due to the way the steering system works combined with the rear seating, the steering input is a bit vague and not very neutral feeling. The simple and innovative steering system worked fine, and I didn’t notice any binding nor loss of control with the long bar and socket system . In deeper gravel and sand the front end tended to wash out just a bit, but it was not overwhelming and was easy to control. The additional weight and the rearward weight positioning keeps the bike very stable, and the bike did carve well, which was a pleasant surprise.

Steering System

The bike did pretty well on the bumpy terrain, and the small suspension fork did decently through the roots and rocks. I wouldn’t be taking this bike into any serious technical terrain, but it does just fine in the mild terrain that you would be riding with your child in anyway. This is a big long and heavy bike, so it does not stop on a dime, and it takes some good hand strength and distance to slow it down. Again, it was much like driving my pickup truck, which was also handy to have to haul around a very long bike like the KidzTandem.


BOTTOM LINE

This is a great bike, that allows a child to actually participate in the riding experience with an adult. The KidzTandem arrangement has a unique, innovative and functional layout that allows a great interface for the child and adult. The adjustable handlebar and stem combo for the Copilot are a really nice feature that allows a slew of multiple positions. The bike allows the child to get an up close and personal view of riding, and you can maintain a conversation easily during the ride, which depending on the child is a very important nurturing experience. The steel frame makes the bike a bit heavy, but it makes for a durable and resilient frameset, and the default parts build kit was fine for this sort of bike. The long wheelbase and rear seating arrangement make the bike difficult to turn, and gives rise to some vague steering. The view of the front wheel is obstructed by the Copilot so it makes steering a bit odd, but that is a design compromise. The bike carved fairly well, and it had a very stable platform while riding, but on an occasion the front end washed out.

My daughter and I have enjoyed this bike immensely, and she really digs getting to go for a ride with Dad. I asked her what she really liked about it? She told me “I really like going for a ride with you, and I like the bike saddle bag on it, and are you buying it?” My daughter liked being in front, as it was much more of a thrill for her, sort of like getting the front seat on a roller coaster ride. My daughter was very bummed that we had to return it. Thanks to Chris for the long term test!

Strengths
-Stable
-Fun
-Carves well
-Highly adjustable handlebars for Copilot

Weaknesses
-Heavy
-Vague steering
-Front end washout
-Hard to see front wheel

Value Rating: 3.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

Overall Rating: 3.5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

KidzTandem Company Specs:

Custom made by Brown Cycles of Grand Junction, Colorado
Frameset: 4130 Cro-Moly steel frames
Parts Selection: 24 speed Shimano Deore with varying parts selection
Color: Sunshine Yellow or Red
Front weight limit: 100 lbs.
Age limits: toddler 2-4 yrs and youngster 4-7 yrs

KidzTandems $1949.99
Road KidzTandem $2399
Mountain KidzTandem $2199

Optional Quick-change child seat, basket and dog carrier

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Warner March 18, 2016 at 4:15 am

I’m looking for a bike I am 23 but cannot ride by myself as I have a disability can you help me with a bike please

Reply

Brian Mullin April 4, 2016 at 7:29 pm

Sarah,

I’d contact the https://adaptiveadventures.org, that might be able to assist you or point you in the proper direction.

Good Luck.

The staff at The MTB Lab.

Reply

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