Tandem Cycling - Advice for couple looking for a tandem
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08-05-07, 03:21 PM
I have been riding road bikes the last couple of years (about 5,000 miles since Jan of last year). Now it seems that my girlfriend (of 3.5 years) wants to join the fun.
One of my relatives owns a Rodriguez road and a Rodriguez mountain tandem. We seem him about once a year, and for the last couple of years, he has let us ride his mountain tandem as much as we want. We both love it, and we are thinking that it is time for us to get a tandem of our own.
During a recent trip to Portland, we test road a Trek T900, a Cannondale Street Machine, and a Santana Sovereign SE with the goal of deciding how much we wanted to spend, and if we wanted a road or mountain tandem. We both enjoyed the Trek and the Cannondale, but there was something about riding the road tandem that excited both of us. Since riding the bikes, we have been debating whether to get an entry level tandem/mountain tandem and upgrade later (Sheldon Brown makes a good case for mountain tandems for beginners), or go for a nice bike now to avoid a seemingly inevitable upgrade. With that said, like most people, we'd like to keep our price down if we can.
Our combined weight is just a hair under 300 pounds. I will be the captain at 5'8" and a 31" inseam, she will be the stoker at 5'7" and a 32" inseam (she has pretty long legs). I am a bit concerned about how close our heights are, given that most tandems seem to be built for a couple with a stoker several inches smaller than the captain. We plan to use the bike for comfortable, but not sluggish, rides. We also hope to do some touring and possibly centuries, rallies, etc. in the future.
We live in Boise, Idaho, and there is a serious lack of tandem dealers around us. After calling shops, it seems that all that is in stock in the area is a Burley Zydeco and Co-Motion Periscope. However, the shops have said they can special order Trek, Cannondale, or Co-motion bikes. The problem with this is a 20% down payment must be made to order a bike, and I would be nervous about putting 20% down on a bike that I am unfamiliar with.
It seems that my options are:
1) Roll the dice, make a down payment, either on an entry level tandem or a "nice" tandem. After all, if we didn't like the bike, we could order another and hopefully transfer the down payment over to the new bike. If we were to go this route, what models would you recommend?
2) Make a trip to a larger city. It seems that Salt Lake City has some tandem dealers. We have been to Gateway Cycles in Portland, but would not hesitate to go back to them if it were the best option. It also seems that Seattle has some shops with good support for tandems. The disadvantage is the time and gas money that it would take to travel to these cities. If we were to travel to another city, are there any shops people might recommend?
3) We really enjoyed the Sovereign SE, perhaps the Arriva SE would ride similarly for slightly less money? Would it make any sense to buy one without test riding?
4) While the used bicycle market is not large around Boise, and the amount of tandem teams I have seen riding around town is very slim, I could keep any eye on classifieds and see if a good used tandem goes up for sale.
Maybe some of these questions seem silly, but we have felt a little lost trying to figure out where to get some test rides on bikes, and we wanted to make sure that we were going about looking for a tandem the right way. Thanks for any advice you have to offer!
Nick (and Amber!)
08-05-07, 04:02 PM
Nick 'n Amber:
We are currently spending the summer in Idaho (Twin Falls) and agree there is a lack of tandems in this state . . . we are definitely an oddity out here. Are also acquainted with Boise from the 2002 NW Tandem Rally . . . bike friendly area!
Among other cities you could visit for tandems, would be Eugene, OR where Co-Motion and Bike Friday bikes/tandems are made. Either manufacturer would let you get hands/butts on a tandem.
Seeing that both of you are already familiar with quality tandems (Rodriguez) you'd likely go for a good road tandem to begin with.
Our suggestion is to get to ride a Co-Motion Periscope; they range in price from $3,000 and up (new) and there may be a few used ones on the market by now. Periscope has the ultimate in height adjustability with a seatpost-within-a-seatpost (hence name 'Periscope'). Peris are available in 26" and 700c wheel sizes. Yes, have ridden several Co-Mo models including the Peri. Impressed with Co-Motion's quality/workmanship and warranty. Also, did put 57,000 miles on our custom Co-Mo.
The Arriva is NOT a Sovereign, like the Periscope is NOT a Machiatto (both in $$$ and performance). More $$ buys you less weight and better components/finish.
The Zydeco was Burley's bottom line tandem, ideal for rentals and more casual riding . . . you indicate possible touring/centuries/rallies, so a higher level tandem would likely suit you-2 better.
Also, stop and chat with tandem riders you see in the Boise area, they can be helpful in giving you their insight and (maybe?!) a test ride, although asking for a test ride on someone's gee-whiz tandem is like asking to borrow their new car for a quick spin! Perhaps they may even know of a used 2-seater for sale in town.
None of your questions are silly; you are approaching this investment in a tandem the correct way.
Ultimately you wallet(s) and a test ride will help you decide which tandem you want.
Good luck in your quest!
Pedal on TWOgether!
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
08-05-07, 04:19 PM
Thanks for any advice you have to offer!
Information for first time tandem buyers:
For new tandem consultation, contact Mark Johnson @ Precision Tandems and see what he can do for you.
He's not exactly local, but he carries a wide range of brands and does a great job of supporting folks regardless of where they are and is a bit closer to you than some of the other folks who I might otherwise recommend.
08-05-07, 04:41 PM
Our combined weight is just a hair under 300 pounds. I will be the captain at 5'8" and a 31" inseam, she will be the stoker at 5'7" and a 32" inseam (she has pretty long legs). I am a bit concerned about how close our heights are, given that most tandems seem to be built for a couple with a stoker several inches smaller than the captain. Nick (and Amber!)
If you are one inch taller and her inseam is 2 inches longer than yours... the stoker compartment can be smaller than yours up front.
We bought a Santana Soverign from Mark at precision Tandems. It was cheaper to get it from Mark than to get it directly from Santana. Mark knows tandems and will not steer you to buy certain brand unless he thinks it will benifit you. About a year after we got the Santana we spent close to 2 grand upgrading it (carborn fork (reynolds), disc brake (avid mechanical 203mmm), and sweet 16 wheelset) We love the way it rides and the way it looks. We are happy with our ride now but may upgrade to a Machiatto, a Beyond, a Zona, or a Calfee in the future. Upgrading is expensive and can be a pain but it is also exciting and fun. The point is that every team has to grow or not grow in their tandeming quest and that the important thing is to get your foot on he door... so to speak.
we got lucky with an $850, used trek T100 after some tweeking it fits pretty good and yesterday we road the Copper Triangle over 3 mountian passes in CO. 78 miles and over 5000 ft of climbing. the only regret was that it's only a 21 speed and we spun out at 48 mph. and what blew past us? another tandem! This was our first big tandem ride and it was alot of fun. We are hooked, so I guess my point is, don't cancel out used bikes.
08-13-07, 01:16 AM
well, after lusting after cannondale for YEARS.... and after cruising ebay for a year, i found a mt800 cannondale tandem.
having never been on a tandem except one i made(1 set cranks, 26" rear wheel, 27" front, and bendy in teh middle!)
i dont know the diff. its a mt tandem year 2000 model. love it. only changed 1 thing so far-swapped the 10' wide front city bar for a 22" scot at-2 mt bar w/built-in bar-ends. same thing with stoker bar.
ride it 99.9% on road with tioga 1.5 slicks.
10-12 miles/day but BUSTED our butts today riding with 3 other very seasoned tandem teams who kindly allowed us to follow thier train for a 33 mile ride.
gonna feel it for a while.
We have purchased 2 tandems off craigslist and got great deals. If you are patient and search the craigslist sites in driving distance from you, you might get lucky with a great deal. There are always folks out there that have not ridden their tandems and want to get it out of the basement. You can also post a 'wanted' ad on craigslist and list what you are looking for. Good luck!
We live in Boise, Idaho, and there is a serious lack of tandem dealers around us. After calling shops, it seems that all that is in stock in the area is a Burley Zydeco and Co-Motion Periscope. However, the shops have said they can special order Trek, Cannondale, or Co-motion bikes.
Calicoisfashion and I live in the Treasure Valley and have been searching for a tandem for over two months now (we finally found one!) Pretty much all of the shops with a masculine first name (Bob's, Geroge's, Ken's) have been very helpful to us in our search for a new ride. Each of them has a variety of machines in stock, though most would be considered "entry level" bikes. Two of the three offered extended support on a bike once we bought one, for a reasonable price, even if we don't purchase through them.
If you would like to go on a ride sometime, please drop a PM in my box!
08-15-07, 06:19 PM
It also seems that Seattle has some shops with good support for tandems. The disadvantage is the time and gas money that it would take to travel to these cities. If we were to travel to another city, are there any shops people might recommend?
Go to Seattle.
2 for 1 at;
5627 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
5627 University Way NE
Seattle, WA 98105
6119 Brooklyn N.E.
Seattle, WA 98115
Great seafood there too!
08-22-07, 07:11 AM
Sounds like you already know you'll enjoy the tandem, so buy a good bike the 1st time around. Don't buy something because it's cheaper, figuring you'll upgrade later. It'll cost more to upgrade later on. You can change components, but not your frame. So, while sticking within your budget, make sure you get the right bike so you can enjoy riding it now & in the future without having to worry about upgrading too soon. When we bought our 1st tandem we had only ridden 1 rental mountain tandem, we hated that bike, but we knew from the experience that we'd love riding a good road tandem. So, off to the LBS we went & ended up buying a Trek T2000. Sure, the lower end bike was more affordable, but we knew we'd be selling it soon to buy the T2000 (and losing money on it), so we just got the T2000 to start with. Then this spring we bought another T2000 (we are fortunate enough to have 2 homes, and have to have a tandem bike & kayak at each), and called around all the Trek dealers within reasonable driving distance & found a 2005 leftover (unused) that was significantly reduced in price. So even if you have to wait longer to buy the right bike (ie, if you need more time to save to increase your budget), get the best bike you can the 1st time around.
08-22-07, 07:32 AM
I'm voting with the other "get a nice tandem" folks. It seems that you two have already figured out you like tandems. Therefore you can get what you feel comfortable buying.
My stoker and I are odd proportionately - I'm 5'7", 29" inseam, she's 5'4", 31" inseam. We have a M/S Cannondale road tandem. As a previous tandem-er, I knew I liked the Cannondale. We both like road riding. And based on her single bike measurements, the Small stoker section would work. We bought the bike sight unseen and have been happy with it.
We changed two things on the bike (other than adding pedals, bottle cages, etc). One was a swap to Ergo levers (10s on the otherwise Shimano 9s drivetrain). That was for me. The biggest improvement was the Thudbuster for the stoker. An absolute must have, ignore whatever comes on the tandem stock. She's more recreational than me but we did do a metric century last year (and a 55 mile ride the next weekend). She loves the Thudbuster. It makes captaining the bike a lot easier too since I don't have to be hypervigilant about cracks and small pavement patches.
Good luck with the tandem search,
08-22-07, 09:38 AM
+1 on get a nice tandem. Tandems put a lot of force on the componets. The componets on a too cheap tandem will tend to wear ou quickly, break, not stay in adjustment and be a general pain in the rear.
Also , if your tandem is a significant step down in quality from your singel bike, you may find that you won't like riding it.
08-22-07, 09:45 AM
Thanks for the advice everyone.
Right now we're toying with the idea of driving back out to Portland to pick up the Sovereign SE that we test road. We really loved the bike, plus it must be last year's model because it's marked down several hundred, and it already has a carbon fork upgrade. Sounds like a good deal to me.
So that's the direction we're thinking of going right now.
08-22-07, 11:00 AM
I live in Meridian (8 miles West) and went through the same thing twice.
We became interested in the tandem idea in the late 90's. We test rode a friends older Santana it was to small and wobbly. I was almost doing a push up to keep it stable.
My wife was in Florida on business and when I went to visit we test rode a Sovereign SE and it was a huge difference. The newer bike, parts and mostly correct frame size. We ordered one from World Cycle and enjoyed the bike for 7 years. The only downside is the Aluminum is a little rough riding on the chip sealed roads after 3 hours.
We decided that we would upgrade, well the wife decided it, and what the stoker says, GOES!
I had to be convinced a highly over priced tandem would be a better more comfortable ride. We visited Portland, Oregon and test road a year old Seven they had hanging up on the ceiling for a long time and then test rode the owners brand new Calfee Carbon. Well a few small potholes and railroad track crossings had us sold. We upgraded last year at this time and have really enjoyed the bike. We decided if we were going to keep riding together why not take the plunge. Consequently, I am still driving the 96 Civic.
I did see a co-mo for sale on the bulletin board at (Boise) REI last weekend, not sure about size/parts or year.
If you decide to take a road trip be sure to call the shops ahead and tell them exactly what you want to do and what size bike you want to ride.
A road trip to test ride is well worth the cost.
If you both enjoy excercise and cycling and have already tried a tandem, I would find the best one you can afford and buy one model higher up.
I would strongly advise a rear disc brake or drum if possible if you are going to attempt big descents.
I'm not sure that the listing of 3 shops in SEA is correct. I'm not sure, but I think you'd best be advised to call before driving the 12 hours from BOI-SEA. I believe that Angel Rodriguez is actively in business, and has been since the early 1970's. The others I'm not sure of.
08-27-07, 08:56 PM
I believe that Angel Rodriguez is actively in business, and has been since the early 1970's. The others I'm not sure of.
R&E Cycles still remains in business, but the founders and name sakes -- R = Angel Rodriguez & E = Glenn Erickson -- sold the business back in the late 80's. I believe Angel went on to become CEO of Bikebiz publishing and consulting company and more recently was on REI's board of directors for a few years. Glenn has been building frames from his home-based shop and leading tours in Europe. In fact, you'd need to time your visit to Seattle to fall somewhere between late October and Late May to find Glenn at home. Dan Towle has been the owner of R&E since the early 90's. It is true that Dennis Bushnell has relocated his frame shop to R&E's location where he is the resident frame builder... producing tandems under his own brand and under several others.
Another great shop is the Seattle area is Elliott Bay Cycles were you'll find Bob Freeman out in front and Bill Davidson out back building beautiful frames.
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