StoKid Riding High

With Spring weather here at last, Homeschooled Farm Girl (age almost 17) and I have been logging big miles on our bikes. We’re preparing for the Calvin’s Challenge 12-Hour race, approximately one month from now, and hoping to beat the 188.5 miles we managed to do last year.

The younger kids want to get in on the fun, but of course can’t keep up. The 13 year old is probably going to inherit HFG’s old Trek road bike; he’s taken it out a few times, and really likes it, even though he’s not in good enough shape to keep up with HFG (who got a new road bike over the winter). Little Brother (age 6) keeps begging to ride with us as well. What’s a dad to do?

The sixteen year old and I got out for 38+ miles early this afternoon. We thoroughly enjoyed the sunny, 50 degree March weather, especially given that most of our route was on quiet rural roads. Would a few more degrees have been nicer? Sure. But we had plenty enough clothing to be comfortable. I took my vintage Basso Gap road bike, as a fun change of pace, and was barely able to keep up HFG.

We got home, and then it was the boys’ turn to join us for an additional six miles. Big Brother is still getting the hang of his sister’s old road bike, so that’s plenty of miles for him for now. And as far as Little Brother goes … I don’t want to take him on too long of a ride too soon, and have him get discouraged. So, six miles is plenty for him as well.

How does a cyclist dad take a six-year-old on a six mile ride? In a such a way that the six-year-old can be a full participant, and not just a passenger?

Behold, our Co-Motion tandem bike:

IMG_20160326_165423874

I’ve zoomed in on the drivetrain, so you can get a better idea as to how it works. Each rider has a set of cranks. Mine (the “captain”), up front, are connected to the “stoker” cranks in the rear via a long chain on the left side of the bike. There is a regular set of chainrings and sprokets on the right side, just like any other bike would have.

If Big Brother were riding stoker, that would be the end of the story. However, Little Brother’s legs are way too short to reach the pedals at the bottom. That’s where the child conversion kit comes in. Notice that I’ve bolted an additional set of cranks to the tandem frame, just under the stoker’s seat. These are connected by the vertical chain to a second chainring on the lower left cranks.

Child Kit 2016

This whole kit can be attached, or removed, in about five minutes. The upper cranks are held in place by four hex bolts. All I have to do is remove them, remove the cranks, and the vertical chain simply slips off. Add a set of pedals to the main cranks at the bottom, adjust the seat height, and we’re in business for a new stoker. (The second chainring just stays in place; it isn’t interfering with anything, so it doesn’t need to be removed.)

Did Little Brother enjoy his first ride today? Oh, yeah! He had an absolute blast, cranking his pedals, as we flew along country roads. Yes, the captain supplies a huge proportion of the power. But that’s okay. StoKid is giving it everything he can. Best of all, he doesn’t have to worry about keeping up with Dad. And he’s close enough to carry on a conversation.

Our speed was naturally slower than what HFG and I rode earlier in the afternoon. And that’s fine. I still got a plenty-good workout, pedaling this beast. I sure enjoyed the change of pace. And the enthusiastic waves we got from other little kids as we cruised past them. And, above all, the smiles my StoKid gave.

Here’s hoping we have many more in the months to come.

2 thoughts on “StoKid Riding High

  1. Si bought a child stoker kit for my 4 year old daughter from Precision Cyclles and had it shipped to us in Australia. I got stumped by the lack of clearance between the existing stoker chain rings and bike’s chain stays. No room to fit the child stoker ring in the inside. I noticed you have a set up with smaller chainring on the outside to the child pedals. How did you fit this? Does it work well? I am very keen to get Dusty off the rear rack and onto pedals.

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    • Thanks for the comment; I didn’t realize the blog was being read as far away as Australia! You must be enjoying summer down there. We’re in a deep freeze here in the northern USA.

      It’s a bit hard for me to diagnose your problem without seeing the bike, but I can explain how we set ours up. The standard tandem “timing” cranks, on the left side of the bike, for both the captain and stoker, should allow for a chainring to be installed on either the inside or the outside or both. I set up our tandem with these rings on the inside, with captain linked to stoker by the long timing chain. I then used longer bolts to add a second chainring on the outside of the stoker crank. After securing the child’s crank to the seat tube, I adjusted it to line up perfectly with the new “outside” chainring below. On our child crank, there are a couple of bolts on the shell that can be loosened, which allows the whole child crank/spindle assembly to slide to the left or right. Once the alignment is perfect, the bolts are re-tightened. I then added the child stoker chain to connect with the outside chainring below. I prefer using the outside ring, because it’s a lot easier to remove the child kit. Once the child cranks are unbolted from the seat tube, the chain slips right off as well, without having to be cut. If you have the child chain on the inside chainring, the chain itself will need to be disassembled / opened up in order to remove it from the bike.

      Are you saying there is no clearance to use any chainring on the inside of the stoker’s cranks? If you bolt a ring to the inside, does it rub on the chainstay? If using a smaller chainring doesn’t help, would it be possible to use a longer bottom bracket spindle, to move the left side of the stoker’s crank out a bit?

      Here’s another thing to consider: do you have enough clearance to add a chainring to the inside of the CAPTAIN’s crank? If so, you could continue running your standard timing chain on the outside chainrings — and then use the inner chainring to connect to the child cranks with a long DIAGONAL chain. We’ve actually done this before, and it works. It requires more chain, and the chain is more “in the way”, but it’s an option.

      I hope this helps you get started. It’s wonderful once the kid is in the saddle and cranking along with you.

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