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Pros and Cons of Tandems

and Trailer-Bikes

Chris Timm's response to a T@H post with Scott Steketee's follow-up

While tandems and trailercycles look very similar, there is one large difference:

On a tandem the stoker must pedal at the same cadence as the captain. This may seem like an advantage of trailercycles ("The kid can rest whenever it wants/needs to"), but actually it is a big advantage of the tandem:

Tandems make the child feel much more as part of a team:

They contribute as much as the captain (of course they don't, but it feels that way to them). When taking them along on a tandem you are signaling to them that you are taking them serious as a partner.


MTR 2000 St. Charles Illinois

The largest advantage of a tandem is that you might actually get your wife to ride with you as well...

Also, the fact that a child on a trailercycle can rest may turn out to be a real disadvantage: Children who don't feel that their effort is needed might get bored, or a child taking a break on the trailercycle might actually fall asleep. This can also happen on a tandem, but you will notice it much more easily.

In addition, tandems are easier to ride. They are more stable than most trailercycles (maybe with the exception of the Burley with its sturdy rack-mounted hitch).

Yes, you can attach a trailer to a trailercycle - some teams do that. Some even form long "road trains" with a tandem towing both a trailercyle and a trailer. However, it would seem that this greatly increases the stresses on the trailercycle's hitch. I would only use a trailercycle if you absolutely must have the flexibility it offers.

The largest advantage of trailercycles is their lower price. However, if you are on a tight budget and only intend to ride with your children a cheaper model or a used tandem would not take away any of the pleasure of riding with the kids.



Scott Steketee followed with these excellent points:

Chris has covered the bases pretty well. Two further comments:

1. The trailercycle probably doesn't have gearing to match a tandem.
Some, in fact, are single-speed, greatly limiting the child's ability to pedal and contribute. Even if it does have multiple speeds, the range may not be sufficient, and it's up the the child to do the shifting and keep the gear appropriate to the speed. This is a challenge that may be well beyond the capability of a youngster. (Our kids started stoking at age 3, well before they could have made much sense of a shift lever.)


2. If you ask folks who've tried both, you'll get a response which overwhelmingly favors using a tandem.

If you can afford to use a tandem, do it.


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