Can you get
a tandem in a wee little car?
2007 - see last paragraph)
When we first
arrived in New Zealand in 2002, we spotted this cute little Honda we
had not seen in the US, known there as the Jazz. It looked ideal. It
was small on the outside, but practically cavernous on the inside, thanks
to well designed versatile interior that allowed the seats to be configured
in many ways, and most importantly for us, had a lot of interior vertical
space. We test drove one and loved it, but then picked a house at a
price that left not much money for a car. And once we decided not to
stay permanently, we couldn't really justify buying a new car that we'd
have to sell in a year. But when we returned to the US, I wanted that
car. But alas Honda didn't import it into the US yet, so we went car-free!
They finally brought it in this year, under the name Fit.
all along that a tandem would FIT inside, but had not tried it. The
floor was lower than similar cars like the Toyota Matrix, and
the additional vertical space combined with the way the back seats split
and folded flat (the base of the seat folds down, so the seat rests
on the floor) and the front seat folded back down flat on the back,
made us think this would be a great rental car for hauling bikes or
a tandem inside - upright and secured by fork mounts, and still have
room for two people. One of the ads for the Fit shows a surfboard in
the position where we imagined the tandem could go. There advertising
says space for objects up to 7'10" in length!
Now, if we
owned a car, we could just put a tandem rack on the roof and be done
with it, but as we just rent occasionally, the solution would either
involve a trunk rack (which works fine for singles, but not so well
for non s+s tandems) or getting it inside. And we wanted something with
good fuel economy, and vans just aren't meeting that goal. The bike
shown in these photos has neither rack nor fenders. So, Yes, we could
remove both wheels and carefully cover both chains and get the bike
into most any hatchback, but removing the rear wheel and dealing with
chains on both sides is a bit of hassle. Also our other tandems sports
full fenders and a rear rack, removing the rear wheel doesn't help.
We have carried our s+s tandem (the one with rack and fenders), by popping
off the front third. Then the front part typically goes inside and the
rear goes on a trunk mounted rack. We've done this with lots of rentals.
So technically we can carry two of the tandems in small fuel efficient
cars with a bit of disassembly and care about greasy chains. We haven't
actually reassembled the mountain tandem since returning from to the
States, so I can't really complain about taking it places, now can I?
But if there's
something out there that makes hauling a tandem around easier, that
would be great.
recently added 4 Fits to the fleet, so we got the chance to try my theory
We have a
glider board with fork mounts that we've used for years to secure bikes
with front wheels off inside vehicles. The first test was with two single
bikes, which fit fine in this manner. This eliminates concerns about
paint and knocking things out of adjustment. Also having the bikes upright
means greasy chains aren't making contact with anything.
So the real
test was the tandem. We removed the captain's seatpost with stoker bars
to make it easier to maneuver the big bike in. Note that the stoker
seat and post is still on. With a bit of twisting this tandem would
go in with the captains seat post and stoker bars, but it was just easier
to remove that one post. The twisting involved laying down the rear
seat and then putting it back up, as well as covering it with a blanket
to not have chains contact upholstery. Having chains on two sides makes
it far more likely! And remember one of my goals was to eliminate the
sideways part of the task. With a shorter captain or narrower stoker
bars, this might not be necessary. But as it takes 2 seconds to pop
out the post and another 2 to put it back, not a big deal.
rear has a 40/60 split, we load the tandem on the right side and then
sit in tandem (one behind the other) in the car. We folded the back
seat flat, and the front seat back and flat and then put a blanket over
the upholstered front seat, popped the tail gate, popped out the captains
seat post and the front wheel and slid the tandem in along the side,
and attached the fork to the glider board. We tossed in the wheel, seatpost
assembly, bags and riding gear, John hopped in the still upright back
seat and we headed off. We also had plenty of room for our bags and
could have hauled down quite a bit more.
that the other tandem has racks and fenders. The front fender means
we need to put the glider board up on something a couple of inches high,
so the front fender clears the floor. This bike also fits easily, again,
just removing the captain's seatpost. These are both medium Co-motions.
John has a 34 inch inseam, so his saddle is a bit high. There is room
for a longer bike. There is still a few inches to spare at each end
of the bike, and having it kitty-corner would add more. (Next time we
rent, I'll get some photos of the other tandem and the singles inside).
We have had
the opportunity to try quite a few other cars and vans. We got the tandem
inside a Mazda 5 upright, but just barely. Since the seats don't fold
down as cleverly as they do in this Honda, we had to place the tandem
down the middle in between the two front seats. The rear wheel rested
on the side of the gear changer in the middle. John had to lift up the
rear wheel when I shifted out of park. Fortunately it was an automatic.
There was plenty of space in the back, but the timing rings had to go
between the middle seats forcing us to have the bike further forward
in this car. This car was also located at the top of a big hill and
it poured rain every time I reserved it!
We have also rented a Toyota
Matrix several times. (I can verify a large "L" shaped Ikea
desk won't fit inside a Matrix either!) It looks similar to the Fit,
but slightly longer. The floor isn't as low, and the seats don't fold
as cleverly, so the inside isn't as big as the smaller Honda! My single
bike will fit upright with front wheel removed, but John's (larger bike
won't). The tandem definitely won't fit upright.
above we have carried our s+s tandem, by popping off the front third,
and using a trunk mounted rack. We've done this with lots of rentals,
including a Prius. We have put the tandem in an Honda Element. We liked
the idea of this one because of the plastic upholstery - no worries
with chain grease. But the rear seats fold up to the sides and use up
valuable cargo space. We were able to get three people in the Element,
but the single bike had to go on the rack. The first time we tried this,
the vehicle belonged to a friend who offered us a lift home from a very
long ride. The second time was accidental as I made a mistake with zipcars
online booking. We had friends over to visit and needed something that
would work for four people, a tandem and two singles. I thought I had
selected a van on that occasion. By the time I realized my mistake,
all the vans were booked. With four people, we had to take the tandem
apart and use the rack as I described above. Given this, we could have
selected a much more environmentally friendly car - the Element gets
half the gas mileage of the Fit. Any of the station wagons or hatchbacks
would have worked as well.
Scion is smaller than the Fit, and the interior design is like the Matrix.
I couldn't even get my single in it upright. The Boxy Scion looks
big, but had a platform under the rear seat making it not work at all.
It didn't handle skis well either.
us to bigger vehicles like minivans and the dreaded SUV. Yes, we did
own a minivan for years and it was great for hauling lots of bikes and
people around, but why is it in 20 years, the fuel economy on these
has not improved? And while I feel less guilty using one only for limited
trips and only with a full load, I just prefer to be a bit more conscientious
about what I drive even if it is less than once a month. The great thing
about renting is you can select the vehicle according to need. If I
need to carry 6 passengers one weekend, I can get a van, but otherwise
I can rent something smaller...
If I were
to buy a car, it would be the Honda Fit. It's a small car with
good fuel economy, great versatility and the ability to carry (inside)
bikes or tandem and one (or two really friendly or small) passengers
plus drivers. The car is short (as in not tall) enough to make loading
a tandem on a roof rack relatively easy, and it seats 5, with lots of
room for bags behind the back seat, so it can also work for the family
when they come to visit once a year, or a trip with friends.
certain this article helped sell a few of these cars, but Honda didn't
offer me a discount when I finally went to our local dealer and asked
to take one home. Yes, I we are going to buy a Honda Fit. If I need
something bigger when the Bayley clan comes to visit, I'll rent it!
The experience should have been easier