March 2005 We've been doing a bit of investigation into the options for a child-back tandem, ie, one that has a short enough stoker position for a small child.
There are many custom frame-builders in the business, but St. John Street Cycles is the best-known store for getting the exact bike you want. They also have an off-the-peg childback tandem with 18"/12" seat tubes, with lots of options like kiddie cranks and long reversible handlebars for the stoker. V-brakes are the default, which is probably fine, but hub brakes are also available. This bike starts at £700.
A more expensive option is the Bike Friday. This is a folding bike, and the tandem version is folding too. A feature of these bikes is the highly extendible seatpost and the super-short seat tube, which makes them ideal for small kids and large adults alike. Obviously there will be compromises, but all-in-all they seem to have a workable geometry. Plus, even the tandem version should fit in the boot of a car. The downside? Cost, of course! The bottom-end tandem can be bought in the USA, direct from bikefriday.com, for around $1300 (which right now is around £700 plus shipping and import duties). A nine-year-old mid-range version in good condition sold in the UK recently for £800, so they also hold their value well.
The Orbit Zodiac has a really small frame (13"/11" seat tubes) and 20" wheels, making it similar in geometry to the Bike Friday. But of course, it doesn't fold and the price is £600 from Cuckmere Cycles. It also has only 5-speed gearing, using an SRAM 5-speed hub gear.