Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The BuddyBike - An Alternative Tandem Bicycle

I tested the BuddyBike last week, in my ongoing quest for potential bike purchases for our adaptive cycling program. The BuddyBike is a two-wheel tandem designed to support a front rider who needs a little extra balance support while riding, either in an ongoing fashion or to transition to riding a two-wheel bike independently. Wide handlebars allow the rear rider to steer the bike and give the front rider a chance to experience biking at the front of the ride versus behind the lead rider as on a conventional tandem.

I first tried this bike quite a few years ago, when it was an earlier incarnation known as the Love Bike. At that time I didn't get much time with it and never quite got the hang of it. I was especially interested  to see how user friendly it would feel this time. I was pleased to discover it took me, as an average adult cyclist, just a minute or so to get the feel of riding the BuddyBike. I test rode it with 6 year old Nate Coleman, then in both in back and front with Nate's mom Kerri, who is a sales rep for Bike-on.com, a regional distributor of the Florida-based BuddyBikes.

Riding with an obedient child is easy. Riding with an adult also went well - the BuddyBike can handle up to 380 pounds. If an adult sized person up front were to be antsy or erratic in their weight and balance on the bike, it might be problematic - I didn't test for that. The noticeable challenge for me was that my knees easily knocked the seat in front of me so I had to sit a little back on my seat, with my knees a little wider apart than usual. That wouldn't be a comfortable ride over any significant distance. We were testing the family model - there is also a more expensive sport model in which the back seat can be angled back further from the front seat. I would like to try that one and compare. At the very average adult height of 5'8", I felt at the tallest limit of this model for back rider comfort. I should also mention it has a wide steering radius and that the pedals are located more centrally below you than on a typical bike.

The BuddyBike has a lot to offer for parents with kids. It feels quite stable once you get comfortable with how it feels. I liked the foam covered handlebars and there are lots of choices for where the front rider holds on. It is easy to talk with your rider. For young adults with some disabilities - such as developmental delay or autism - the BuddyBike seems to fill a unique niche for two-wheel riding. I would avoid a heavier rider up front. Foot pegs for smaller front riders and a kickstand come separately from the main price of the bike and are worth considering. The BuddyBike requires assembly after purchase.

Check out the BuddyBike via their website and facebook page! Kerri tells me that Bike-on has BuddyBikes available right now, while the home warehouses are currently out of stock.


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Shelley at Buddy Bike said...

Thank you for reviewing and writing about the Buddy Bike! Your article was informative and will be helpful to anyone considering the Buddy Bike for their family. I would suggest the Sport model for anyone over 5'7". Taller riders find that model to be more comfortable due to over 2" of extra rear rider leg room and the increased angle of the captain seat tube. I've ridden with riders of all ages, sizes and abilities. Heavier and taller riders can make it difficult especially if they are nervous and fighting your steering but being so close to each other allows you to talk right in the ear of the front rider so you can offer words of encouragement and instruction. Thanks again for posting such a well-written and informative article. Shelley at Buddy Bike