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We drop our kid at school in the mornings, and I'd like to bike over to pick her up after school. I've picked her up on our tandem (that's one reason I got the tandem), but she'd like to ride her own bike some of the time.

So I need a way to take her bike with me, something like this, I guess:

trail-gator picture

...except I don't need to be able to support the weight of the kid on the bike, I only need to be able to tow a riderless bike. So I'm trying to find a way to do the same thing that's cheaper (hopefully) and lighter (and maybe smaller?).

One possibility (that I'll try) is to simply strap her bike to the back of the tandem. I'm sure that will work, but I'd also like a system that works if my wife is the also riding the tandem and a system that would on a single bike.

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7 Answers 7

Maybe you could just lift the thing up bodily in place of a stoker? Just bungee the rear wheel to the 2nd set of handlebars, then bungee the center of mass to the stoker seat? If it works you might find a way to make more convenient attachment, like standoffs (like the way the attach the space shuttle to a 747) to hold the kids bike horizontal above the stoker position. In the meantime, try foam to reduce rubbing.

I have seen a platform, holding a pair of grocery bags which dropped over the rear bar. No room for a stoker - they were carrying 4 bags of groceries. Something like that- replace the stoker with cargo.

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What is a "stoker"? It's not a term I'm familiar with beyond being a person who fuels a fire. –  jimirings Jul 16 at 22:40
    
Stoker is a fairly common term for the person in the back of a tandem (sheldonbrown.com/tandem.html#stoker). –  Batman Jul 17 at 2:49
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I still need to play with it a bit, but I'm currently doing pretty much what heltonbiker suggested - bungee-ing the wheel of the kids bike to the rear rack:

tandem with kid bike

The top of the kids bike wheel is strapped to the rack, and the front of the wheel is strapped to the frame of the towing bike. You can't see it clearly in the pictures, but the fork of the kids bike sits against the rear stay of the rack, so pulling the front of the wheel into the frame of the tow bike keeps the wheel away from the wheel of the towing bike.

Another variation that worked quite well has been to use a metal hook (similar to this, but one side is large enough to fit the wheel) to hang the wheel of the kids bike from the rack, then a couple bungee cords to hold it tight.

Closer view:

enter image description here

This works well enough for my purposes, but it's not perfect. Because it's the wheel of the kids bike that's strapped to the rack, there is some freedom for the rear of the kids bike to move up and down, which is good.

But because the bike is tipped up and off-center, interesting things happen going around corners. Turning to the left, no problem. Turning to the right... the rear wheel of the kids bike "flops" to the right and ends up about a foot off-center to the right. It comes back inline with the towing bike when you straighten up, but you have to have the cranks in the position shown so they don't come close to the wheel of the tow bike.

Another issue that came up after I actually tried it with my kid on the back of the tandem is that the kids bike has to be attached as far back as possible on the rack to give enough clearance for the stoker's heel.

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The FollowMe Tandem is the only commercial product that I've seen that does this effectively.

This is not a cheap solution but it likely carries high resale value. The unit is well made (I've installed several) and can be completely detached from the parent bike except for the mounts on the rear axle.

You can probably get some good DIY ideas from their design.

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I've had similar problem some time ago while my kid was 6 years old more or less.

I have those trekking rear racks with "dumbo ears" that avoid the panniers to touch the rear wheel. So, I took some of those hooked elastic ropes and tied the front wheel of the bike side-by-side to the rack.

(Of course, the best solution would be the quick-release pseudo-axle mentioned by Matt Adams in one of his answers.)

It worked, but with the following caveats:

  • Mono-wheel trailers have two axles, one vertical to allow cornering, and one horizontal to allow going over small obstacles. The vertical should face the bike, and the horizontal should face the trailer. Since with a towed bicycle it is the opposite, there is a terrible trend for the trailer to fall to the side on curves (the rear of the bike spins around the headset, then the whole trailer falls to its side - to the back of the bike - spinning around the front axle);
  • Without the weight of the tiny rider, the bike has a annoying and sometimes dangerous tendency to jump. Sometimes, the whole setup becomes a bit wobbly, and the steering becomes a bit unstable.

I think it is worth the effort, specially if you use the pseudo-axle instead of just tying the front wheel directly.

As a bottom line, while in traffic I found the transition from the child-seat to the tandem (6-7 years old) and then to the own bike (9-10) ideal, instead of going straight to the own bike. My kid is ten and just now he can safely navigate in light traffic, always under my direct supervision. Of course it depends on each case.

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My current solution (see my own answer) is pretty much the same as your first suggestion. –  Ward Apr 26 '12 at 19:41
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Maybe you could use a surf board rack and try to slot the front wheel into the hooks somehow.enter image description here

The idea started when I thought maybe some kind of horizontal loop attached to the bike rack that you could just slot the front wheel in. It's hard to describe and my drawing skills are awful!

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I'm not sure from your picture how you'd pedal... The first thing I tried a couple weeks ago was to bungee the front wheel of the kids bike to my rack, but I couldn't find a way to do it that didn't interfere with the pedals. –  Ward Feb 24 '12 at 4:41
    
With the surfboard mounted people can still pedal. So the board holder must hold the board far enough away from the bike that it misses the pedals. –  Mac Feb 24 '12 at 4:44
    
Just hope you don't run into a cross wind. –  Kibbee May 1 '12 at 0:59
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If the child's bike has a quick release front wheel, you could also use a universal fork mount bolted to a rear bike rack. Then just hang the front wheel on the kids bike with a bungee cord.

enter image description here

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I see there are some cheap makes of fork mount, so if I can get one cheap (new or used) I'll certainly try this. The bike doesn't have a quick release, but it'd be easy enough to bolt and unbolt it. –  Ward Feb 24 '12 at 4:42
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It is important that the fork can spin around the axle while the skewer is tight, otherwise going over bumps might brake something. –  heltonbiker Feb 24 '12 at 16:36
    
I haven't got a fork mount yet, but I was doing some tests just hooking the dropouts over the rear rack... unfortunately, on the bike I've got, it's a hassle to get the wheel off because of the cheap front brake - there's no easy way to loosen the brake to get the tire out. –  Ward Apr 26 '12 at 19:24
    
This isn't a good idea; children's bikes don't use the standard OLD for front forks. –  user973810 Apr 26 '12 at 22:23
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Using some conduit and bungee cords, i presume you could fashion some sort of hooks. I envision a simple 180 bend on the main bike, and a T with both ends of the T also having a 180 bend on the bike side. Sounds hokey, but i made a picture, maybe it works, maybe it get the wheels turning on a better idea. Just need to find a way to use a bungee cord or two to keep it all together.

enter image description here

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I was originally thinking light weight metal conduit used for electrical, but i bet some 1" PVC and some elbow joints would be just as strong, while less frame marring. –  Matt Adams Feb 23 '12 at 23:37
    
How do you keep the rear bike from hitting you when you slow down or stop? Won't the hook just come forward off the seatpost? –  mikes Feb 24 '12 at 0:46
    
same issue on the seat post. For sure a bungee cord on both ends to secure it from up and down, and forward movement during a stop. –  Matt Adams Feb 24 '12 at 4:25
    
You need to keep the wheel of the trailing bike off the ground and you need to hold the bike upright. I suspect it will take more than 1" PVC to do that. –  Daniel R Hicks Feb 24 '12 at 4:43
    
Making the rear bike always upright, the front wheel always trailing the front bike, sounds like an interesting idea. I suspect, though, that having both trailer wheels in the ground could make the trailer jump wildly depending on terrain and speed. –  heltonbiker Feb 24 '12 at 16:31
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