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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 01-22-07, 08:13 AM   #1
Sammyboy
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Older and Cheaper tandems

Ok, so I nearly bought this the other day, and only the location stopped me. I'm a huge bike fan, my wife less so, but we'd get out more together if we had a tandem, and I wouldn't find it so hard to go slow enough for her to keep up! I'm a vintage bike fan, and an able bike mechanic in most ways, but I don't know everything there is to know about tandems. Can somebody bring me up to speed on what the tandem specific parts are? I believe the front BB is unusual, there clearly a whole range of crank related wierdness that I need to understand, but what else? Standard 40 spoke rear wheel, or are there special hubs? Basically, I'm going to try to hunt down a used tandem for circa $200, and that's going to mean me doing some work on it. The main thing is to be sure that nothing tandem specific is completely knackered, since everything else I can replace or repair easily. Help!


http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/ws/eBayISAPI.d...0454&rd=1&rd=1
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Old 01-22-07, 08:58 AM   #2
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It might be a shorter list of what's not tandem-specific: Headset, saddles, seatposts, pedals, tubes, tires, cassette/freewheel, derailleurs, chainrings, front stem, left brake lever (on older tandems, the right is often a split cable).
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Old 01-22-07, 11:03 AM   #3
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Tell me a bit more about the wheels, in particular. In the case of this bike, it looks like everything would've been sortable, but I would definitely have wanted to replace those steel rims. What are the differences in the hubs? If I was going to replace the rims on the existing wheels, what would I have needed to look for in terms of rims?
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Old 01-22-07, 11:28 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sammyboy
Tell me a bit more about the wheels, in particular. In the case of this bike, it looks like everything would've been sortable, but I would definitely have wanted to replace those steel rims. What are the differences in the hubs? If I was going to replace the rims on the existing wheels, what would I have needed to look for in terms of rims?
Your replacment rim choice would depend on team weight and use, but you generally want a tougher rim than you would for a solo. I like Deep Vs or Sun Rhyno Lites. The hub differences are axle width (wider than solo), spoke count (often 40 or 48), and possibly drum brake mount.
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Old 01-22-07, 11:42 AM   #5
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I took on a similar project and had fun doing so. Was a good learning experience I have several links on a web-page I made of places that I found information for my project if you care to see it.
Sheldon Brown was a helpful source of information.
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Old 01-22-07, 11:52 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Sammyboy
Can somebody bring me up to speed on what the tandem specific parts are?
Aside from a wider rear tandem-specific hub and extra long derailleur and rear brake cables, you can pretty much build up a tandem using second hand single bike parts. Although, if you use cable-couplers (in-line cable adjusters) you can even splice together standard bike length derailleur and brake cables for use on a tandem.

As for other tandem-specific parts, the eccentric (that would be the usual front bottom bracket to which you referred) usually comes with a more contemporary frame as does a more robust fork designed for a tandem, e.g., a slighly higher crown height. Older or home-built tandems will usually employ an idler pulley in lieu of an eccentric, either one of which is used to adjust the tension of the timing chain that runs from the captain's to the stoker's cranks. I would note that eccentrics have more recently been discovered by single speed builders to facilitate the installation of disc brakes where a traditional rear drop-out tension adjuster can't be used.

As for the cranks, a pair of triple cranks can be used to create a direct drive (right side drive) crankset with dual chain rings or three sets of cranks can be modified into a cross-over (left side drive) crankset. A long threadless mountain bike stem can be used to create a stoker boom. Aside from that, the rest of the parts on a tandem are common to other single seat mountain and/or road bikes depending on what type of gearing you plan to run.

To your question on rims and hubs, a tandem hub requires a more robust axle and ratchet mechanism as well as the appropriate spacing for the rear drop outs, which can range from 120mm to 160mm depending on the vintage, brand, and model of the tandem frame, as well as optional left side threading for a drum brake as previously mentioned. Shimano makes one of the more affordable and durable hubs in most of the more common rear drop-out spacings with 36, 40, and 48 hole spoking. 36h tandem wheels on 700c or 27" models are best chacterized as "performance wheels" whereas 40h wheels are all purpose. 48 hole are used for touring models and very heavy teams. Rim selection is somewhat driven by available drillings as 40 and 48 hole rim offerings for 700c and 27" wheels tend to be designed with either touring, trekking, or tandems in mind.

Now, to be fair, even an set of non-tandem specific hubs can be used for a tandem that won't be subjected to demanding conditions. However, when used for serious climbing, strong or heavy teams, or many long miles, most standard non-tandem spec' hubs will wear out rather quickly. The same applies to very lightweight performance rims and wheels not specifically designed for the added demands associated with a tandem.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 01-22-07 at 12:01 PM.
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Old 01-22-07, 12:01 PM   #7
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I have several links on a web-page I made of places that I found information for my project if you care to see it.
More than care to, I'd love to. And TandemGeek - thanks a lot - really helpful stuff.
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Old 01-22-07, 03:42 PM   #8
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One of the things to think about on Tandem specific parts is Strength. No lightweight Solo bike parts to be fitted. Start with the wheels- They have to be built with strength- just to take the extra weight of the team and the higher cornering speed with that weight. On top of that- you have to keep those wheels in better condition than you can get away with on a solo. Then silly things like headset. A Standard quality headset will be usable but it would not last that long. Rear cassette- Quality is a good thing but I have bent Shimano XT cassettes wheras the heavier weight- cheaper quality LX cassettes just wear out quicker than on the solos. You have to think of the strength of the item to be fitted and cost does not always have a relationship on that.
Admittedly I ride offroad but there is a difference between standard quality and heavy duty. I do do not mean heavy---- Heavy duty is built to a higher quality but does demand a higher price. That for me even goes down to the handlebars as standard bars do not last long for us- We go for downhill quality.

A second hand old Tandem is a good place to start. Whatever parts are fitted should be suitable but Get the wheels checked out as a priority, even if they do look OK. Check the rest of the bike out and you should be fine.
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Old 01-23-07, 09:05 AM   #9
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Thanks all - I'm a big guy, 6'3 and 250 pounds (but falling), and a strong rider, but my stokers are my g/f (5'1, 110 lbs) and my ten year old son, so anything we bought wouldn't get too huge a hammering. It'll be little 10-20 mile tootles in the country, rather than any really hard riding. Was bargain hunting today and came across this on eBay - almost tempted to buy it just for the laughs! (of course, the fork is toast)

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