The Thill Family Bicycle started as a stock 1992 Santana Arriva tandem that I found in nearly-new condition for a good price on Craigslist.
Problem Solvers brand (from QBP). My friend Mark at Bikesmith Design provided a crankset with the arms shortened to 90 mm (and threaded for tandem, of course). The subsequent addition of the child-seat (shown above with my son Oliver, age almost 2 at the time) was a short-lived experiment that made the bicycle difficult to control. Anyway, Elissa and I rode the bike maybe 100 miles last Fall before we had some crummy weather in October that compelled me to put the tandem away for the winter. During the Winter, I asked Bikesmith to make me a 1-1/4" quill adapter (diameter of the adapter is 1-1/8" or 28.6 mm). The quill adapter slides into the threaded steerer tube like a normal 1-1/4" quill stem, and is just the right diameter to accept a 1-1/8" threadless-style stem. As you may know, there is not a wide selection (new or used) of 1-1/4" quill stems (the stock stem from Santana was not terribly comfortable), but there are hundreds of options for 1-1/8" threadless stems. The quill adapter gave me much more flexibility to fit the bicycle to my body, and made longer rides more comfortable and fun.
This Spring, as soon as it seemed reasonable to go camping, Elissa (now age 5) and I loaded up and headed to Carver Park Reserve.
Elissa rode about 65 miles over the two days, and had a great time. I couldn't have been prouder. On the down side, I decided (again) that the Jack Brown Blue tires were not for me (tried them on 3 bikes, and hated them every time). I switched to Panaracer Pasela 700x28, which made the bike much more lively and fun to ride on pavement. The problems with this tandem started to become obvious:
1. There was not enough tire clearance for tires that would allow me to comfortably do the kind of multiple surface rides and touring that I most enjoy. When we rode trails or gravel, Elissa complained about the bumpiness, and I felt that the skinny tires didn't provide enough control on loose materials like gravel and sand.
2. Cargo capacity is the same as on a single touring bicycle (front and rear panniers), but must be shared by two riders. It's workable, but sub-optimal for travel with children, who require toys, books, etc.
3. Elissa was a fun companion, but Oliver was getting to the age where he would enjoy bike rides, too. I felt bad leaving him behind when Elissa and I went riding.
One day, in the presence of some bike geek friends, I openly proposed the idea putting an Xtracycle on the tandem. That idea, because it is ridiculous, received some laughs. But I was half-serious. The more I thought about it, the better I liked the idea. I could carry lots of stuff, including an extra passenger, and the Xtracycle with a 26"/559 mm wheel has plenty of tire clearance. One day at the shop, I noticed my Pugsley fork and wheel lying in the corner. Porn music started playing in my head (wah-wah-chicka-wah-wah) and it started to come together: Tandem plus Xtracycle plus Pugsley. The cherry on top was the potential for using disc brakes, even hydraulic! I would be foolish NOT to do this! (yes, a headset adapter is required).
It turns out the Pugsley wheel and tire produces some pretty scary handling characteristic with a bike of this length. Luckily, this is the symmetrical Pug fork, which will take a normal wheel, too.Off with the Pug wheel, and on with a more conventional wheel with a Schwalbe 26x2.35" Big Apple to match the rear. Mr Rose at Shockspital modified an Avid Juicy brake by adding a hose long enough to cover the span from the handlebar to the rear disc.
The maiden voyage of this contraption was a 65-mile jaunt through the river bluffs and rolling hills between Minneapolis and Wilson, Wisconsin, where we over-nighted on the property of Dave's Brewfarm.
Last weekend (Independence Day weekend) we stayed closer to home, but still rode the tandem a lot for errands and general transportation. It turned out to be a 70-mile weekend for Elissa and me, highlighted by a trip to the St Paul Farmer's Market:
Once home from the grocery run, my wife mentioned that Oliver (now 2-1/2) is usually very enthusiastic about the bike, and very sad when we leave without him. I immediately found some suitable clothes for him, strapped on his helmet, lowered the saddle a bit, and snugged his feet into the toe straps. We made a tentative trip around the block:
Wow, he didn't jump off or freak out! We kept going. Down the street, turn here, turn there, pretty soon over the bridge and westbound on the Minnehaha Parkway bike trail. Then around Lake Nokomis. Some old lady rode behind us for awhile before making a snide comment about my decision to have a small child on the bike, but Oliver was doing just fine and having the time of his life.