Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Family Folder

I've seen this guy riding around a couple of times (I counted him going both ways on the Longfellow when I did my bike count)  but I'd never seen him with his passenger.

What you can't see from the picture is that this is a folding tandem specially designed to take a kid on the back- the Bike Friday Family Traveller
I can't actually tell how it folds from the photos,  but it claims to fit in a suitcase. 
I don't know if it would be simple enough to fold on a daily basis, but if it were, it could be a good solution for someone looking for a kid bike with a tiny apartment.   Longtails aren't much worse than a normal bike to store, but Bakfiets and cargo bikes are not easy to fit in a city apartment.
It claims that the stoker can be from 3'6" to 6'3"  so it would be useful for a long time.

This is clearly their daily child transport bike, as I see the father riding with the empty bike (presumably after drop off) quite often.  I think it's an interesting option that you don't often see for kid transport.

Oh,  and one of the things I noticed during the bike count was the surprising (to me) number of folders.  I didn't track it exactly, but I suspect that it was 10%, which is pretty high.


  1. I haven't seen these in person either, but I did watch a YouTube video on folding a Bike Friday before I purchased a Brompton for daily folding use. The Bike Fridays are the best for long distances, but I wouldn't want to fold one every day. :(

  2. I've got a Tandem Twosday and have only ever folded it twice. It isn't a folder in the sense of "Oh no, I've got a flat, I'll just hop on the bus with my bike" more like, "I've got a big ass SUV and am going away for the weekend so I can eek it into the trunk". Folded it's about 30" wide, 36" tall and 42" long. And that's if you can find a way to easily fix the wheels to the frame so they don't wobble back and forth.

    The bike has two main folds at both of the seat tube masts. The rear folds down first underneath of the bike after you've disconnected the rear brake cable. You can then remove the stem and bars via QR and fold the front of the bike underneath at its seat tube. If you have racks or cruiser style bars on the stoker set up the fold will be more cumbersome.

    To get it into the two suitcases that Bike Friday sells, you have to disassemble it. Most people only do this if they are flying with the bike. It takes about an hour to break it down, 20 minutes to pack it and another hour on the other end to put it back together.

    That all said, these are still great bikes, particularly for people that don't have a lot of dedicated bike storage. The bikes are shorter than regular tandems and bakfiets, and as narrow as standard bikes. They are also fairly lightweight, mine is around 40lbs, the family tandem is more like 55, so they are simple to store upright via wheel hooks. The low stand over provided by the 20" wheels allows for kids as short as 37" to ride stoker. I ride captain and am only 5'1" so most tandems aren't small enough to fit me. My partner can also captain this bike even though he's 8" taller. It's wonderful to have such a wide range of fit. Once my 5 year old is too cool to ride with me, my old man and I plan to continue using the bike for rides together.

  3. Thanks Ash for the first hand experience. I think that it sounds like a pretty good solution for an urban family, especially if you'd use it as a limited service adult tandem when the kids are grown.

  4. Cycler, you probably didn't realize this, but I've been riding a Bike Friday Family Tandem for almost two years now! This is how I introduced my kids to cycling before they could ride on their own. I took it a step further-- my older daughter rode stoker on the tandem, while my younger daughter rode a trailercycle attached to the tandem. This is how I got our kids to school for over a year. This is our "bike train" (complete with panniers, lighting and fenders, of course!):


    And this last picture is from almost two years ago, when the kids were only 6 and 4 years old:


    The bike is so maneuverable and intuitive that it's easy for my to captain it solo, even pulling the trailercycle. It has a very low center of gravity and low trail front end geometry which probably help in that regard. It's weight without the lights, fenders, rack, panniers, etc is about 42-43 lb (not 55 as the poster mentioned above), so it's really not heavy for what it is. Of course, as outfitted, it's more like 55-60lb. And since those photos were taken, I've added a Bike Friday front rack and two additional panniers, for a total of four. I can carry at least four full shopping bags with this setup.

    I've never really understood the allure of bakfiets style bikes for families with older kids, like in the 3-6 year old range. For infants and toddlers, fine, and for shopping, fantastic. But once kids are school-age, they're too heavy to comfortably tote around (unless you enjoy hauling 120 lb forth of kids and kid accoutrements around), and then they don't get exercise, either! At that age they should be working for you, not against you. With the exercise my kids got from stoking the bike train, their legs were plenty strong when they transitioned to their own two wheelers. They now ride their own 20" wheeled bikes up the hills of Somerville that some adult cyclists have to walk their bikes up. And these are single-speed bikes.

    Our Family tandem is not the folding Twos Day model, but looks identical. It does come apart into three segments using and S&S type coupling system, and like its folding counterpart, and can be packed into two suitcases. I haven't once tried this, and I don't think I ever will. It fits fince in our 8' shed (it comes out to just under 8' long).

    The kids are already becoming "too kool for skool" and have claimed they're embarrassed riding with me to events like soccer games and to school, which is fine with me since they have been riding their own bikes for almost a year now. We thought of using it as an adults-only tandem, but I don't think Mrs. S and I have what it takes to make a good tandem match, although the tandem itself would fit both of us perfectly (captain can be up to 6'5", stoker can be up to 6'0"). But for now I'm holding on to it. It really is a great urban family solution. When I don't need the third passenger, I can take one stoker and a trailer for shopping:


    1. I knew you had a tandem, but I didn't realize it was one of these. I'm really glad to hear about your experiences, because they don't get a lot of press in stories about family biking options. Makes sense to put those little legs to work, although I will say that with the guy I was following, the kid was only pedaling part of the time..

    2. Sorry for the mistaken weight. I rode a friend's family tandem before finding mine on Craigslist and could have sworn it was heavier.

      I also own a Joe Bike box bike (similar to a bakfiets short) and don't think you're correct in saying that it doesn't serve much purpose beyond very young children. I ride year round in Chicago and without the weather protection of the rain cover we'd be relegated to driving or taking the bus much more often. Inside the warmth of the vinyl cover my 5 year old is toasty as can be and can sip a mug of cocoa as we ride on the brutalist of days. The lip of the rain cover also comes up to partially cover my handlebars so the numb digit feeling that I despise in winter is a non-issue. Obviously, bakfiets aren't great bikes for your topography but to say that they serve little purpose beyond toddlerhood is short sighted.

    3. Ash, I guess you're right, I was viewing the practicality of bakfietsen through my own local topographical bias. I live on top of one of the steepest hills in my town, and a box bike would not be ideal. But I suppose on flatter terrain they can be much more manageable on a daily basis and for a broader age range of children. I do agree that for other, non-human cargo, they can't be beat!

      As for the pedaling issue that Cycler observed, sure, sometimes kids don't like to pedal. And to be honest, for the first year they rode with me they contributed very little to the overall forward propulsion of the tandem. But that changed after awhile as they got more used to it. And on hills I insisted they pedal-- I would stop the bike if I felt they weren't putting in some effort, telling them they had a very important "job" to help make the tandem go (even thought I could propel the bike on my own power). Back then they also didn't have the confidence or the muscle coordination to stand while pedaling, and that's something that they now do naturally, and they generate a lot more power by doing so. It still amazes me that they can pedal their single-speed two-wheelers up a short 4% grade on their way home from school each day. Maybe it's not the tandem that prepped them for this, maybe it's just a matter of having to do it every day that's giving them ongoing training!

  5. Forgot to add, here's a short submission I wrote about the "Bike Train" for EcoVelo, before they closed their blog:


  6. Dear Cycler -

    I'm a Globe reporter doing a story about cycling styles. I'd like to talk to you but
    don't know how to reach you. Please contact me at l_matchan@globe.com??

    Thank you. Linda Matchan