Diablo Daughter has about outgrown her Giant Halfwheeler trailercycle but she still enjoys cycling with Dad so we decided it was time for a tandem.
I looked at quite a few over the last few years and after much review, decided on this one. The runner up (Co-Motion Periscope) was really neat but at least twice the cost. What really attracted me to this Bike Friday was not the "packable" feature, but the geometry that lets me set up the stoker postion for a 4-foot tall rider with a minimum of extra bits and futzing.
So I called Bike Friday in Eugene Oregon, told them I was ready to spend my 2008 Economic Stimulus Tax Rebate check (I didn't really have it yet), and we got the order going. They sell a lot of customized bikes (different components, paint colors, handlebar options etc) but this one is available as a stock bike and ships out the same day you order it so that was an advantage to me as well. The customer service rep was excellent and talked me through a couple things and then I got an e-mail with a UPS tracking number to follow.
Wednesday the box comes and I couldn't believe how small it was. I thought "There's no way there's a tandem in here." But I opened it up and started undoing all the bubble wrap and packing paper and gradually I did realize that they had sent me a single, folding bike by mistake! I was disappointed but not exactly mad and I fired off an e-mail explaining the situation and asking what to do. They got back to me right away and had the correct bike sent out by FedEx with a Saturday delivery - they were very apologetic and bent over backwards to make sure I was happy. When they say they pride themselves on customer service, they mean it.
Saturday morning, the new box comes...Oh no - the box is the same size... could they have made the same mistake twice?
AHH! There be tandem parts here!
It took about 45 minutes just to unpack it.
Here's what it looks like when you get all the parts out of the box. Very considerate of Bike Friday to include two cages, two bottles, and a bell at no extra charge.
Then it took about an hour and a half to do the bulk of the assembly. The instructions weren't too bad; there were a lot of "Insert Tab A into Slot 1" type instructions. There were some minor confusing issues in the manual but nothing that wasn't cleared up with a little head scratching. All the threads were clean and pre-greased with just the right amount of stuff, all the tricky bits like the crank, shifters, derailleurs, and brakes were already installed. Pretty much all that was required was to connect the subassemblies and tighten some bolts. I frequently found myself admiring the clever engineering and quality of the parts as I was doing all this.
Diablo Daughter couldn't wait to get on even though I wasn't done building it yet.
The timing chain goes on one of the three chainrings of the rear crank. This allows use of a regular, single ring crank for the captain's end instead of an expensive tandem crank. You don't need an eccentric bottom bracket either; the tension on the timing chain is adjusted by actually lengthening the exposed section of bottom tube and then clamping it with those allen bolts near the stoker's crank - one of those operations where it helps to have three hands but it wasn't too tough.
The V-brakes and 8-speed shifting work really well, needed some adjustments out of the box... just the normal stuff. The tire selection was smart also.
A kickstand is a nice feature on a long bike. The pedals that came with the bike wouldn't accept toe clips so I scavanged some other ones from my other bikes; minor gripe.
Cables up front aren't exactly tidy but they don't get in the way either.
We are ready to roll, baby!
This is the catalogue photo of our tandem and there are some interesting differences to the one we received: it shows a pump peg on the bottom tube that isn't on our model, it shows a chainring protector/chainguard on the stoker crank that isn't on our model, it shows front and rear reflectors plus wheel reflectors that we didn't get, and it shows the stoker handlebars coming out of the seat tube whereas what we got is a conventional stoker stem that attaches to the captain's seat post. None of these reduce the value to me any (I have mounted front and rear lights, use CO2 inflator, etc). This photo also only shows one set of bottle cage mounts for the stoker but ours has two.
Let me talk a little more about why I didn't go with a more conventional tandem.
Another child stoker conversion to a full-sized tandem. The child crank is barely below the top tube!
Here's my beef with these child stoker cranks - you've now got two timing chains to synchronize and tension, they clamp on to the seat tube where clamping forces are not accounted for in the frame design, and they just look too busy. Bike Friday tandems require none of this.
So.... what did all this run?
$1395 for the stock bicycle, including shipping
$1395 for the stock bicycle, including shipping
$100 for the crank shorteners (sounds expensive but they're a standard item from QBP and that's what the price everybody pays).
$40 for handle bar extensions; probably could have found some cheaper ones but I was thinking they were somehow special and I'd need them for my stoker's short arms... turned out she didn't need them so I put them on the front.
$20 for one pair of pedals that accept toe clips.
I had existing red blinkies and white headlights that I put on too, along with a friendly sounding bell on the captain's bars. Free Incredibell with bike went on the stoker bars.
Now for the importantest bit: How does it ride?
The small wheels definitely give the bike a different feel than a full size bike. It only took a couple trips around the block to get the right combination of leaning and countersteering though. And it definitely handles way better than having a trailercycle attached to your seatpost. Most of all, it is really FUN! This bike doesn't scream to be ridden in sufferfest hilly centuries, it's unpretentious and unusual and unabashedly unserious. This bike, in my opinion, is a superior next step up from a trailercycle and a far better option than a child stoker conversion to a conventional tandem. It gets a 9 out of 10 on the Diablo Scott tandem rating scale.
Hey, if any of my readers orders a Bike Friday, be sure to drop my name and I'll get a referal fee and you'll get an honorable mention RIGHT HERE!
Click - HERE to be taken to the post where I do the Tour de Cure ride review on our Bike Friday Family Traveler Tandem.
And click HERE to see my post where we rode our tandem in the Tour d'Organics; including a fun video.
UPDATE JUNE 2010: My first referral!!! I get a lot of blog hits from people searching the web for Bike Friday tandem product reviews and FINALLY, someone bought one and dropped my name as the reference and now I get a nice credit from Bike Friday. Thank you "Johanne" whoever you are and I hope you really enjoy your new tandem... send me a photo. And the rest of you... be SURE to tell them "Diablo Scott sent me"... they'll know who you mean.
Also, you might notice the rear pannier rack we added to the back. Diablo Daughter and I like to ride the tandem to the swimming pool, but my backpack was always too close to her head. Now we have the rear rack and we use either a trunk bag or a side pannier to put our stuff in... works a treat! Also good for the farmer's market. Normal bike racks won't fit though so you have to buy one from Bike Friday. Normal bags from any bike store work fine though.
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