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!)