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  1. #1
    Arschgaudi Mayonnaise's Avatar
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    Buying A Used Tandem Success Stories

    My wife and I have decided well buy a tandem by next Spring. Were reasonably sure were going to buy a used tandem first. Although new to tandems, Ive got quite a bit of experience with singles and am confidant I will make a good decision if the right bike comes along.

    Ive been poking around on Craigslist and Ebay as well as some of the classifieds from the Tandem Link website group. Most of what I see doesnt thrill me: its too old: prior 2000, or too pricey: Im sure its nice but for that price I can buy something brand new.

    Seems to me that many people ask too much for a used tandem without considering how much its depreciated since they bought it (Ive seen early 90s Santanas for $3K).

    I turn to these pages to ask you to post your success stories on buying a used tandem in order for me to learn how to best proceed. Where is the best place to find a good used tandem?
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  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    A generalization: 'an early '90s used Santana for $3K . . .'
    What exact year. . . 1990 or 1999? A bottom-line Santana Arriva or a Santana Titanium, with S&S fittings/cases? Huge difference in year built, tubing, components, weight, quality and resale value.
    Have sold a used Velo Schauff a few years ago for only $300 and a 10 year old custom Co-Mo with 57,000miles on the odo for $1,200.
    Depreciation is a fact, however make/model/extras etc will affect the price. You can place a bid for what you think it's worth or make an offer to a private owner.
    Don't think you'd have wanted the decrepit Velo Schauff (cheap pirce); the Co-Mo still rode/looked great and had the best componentry for its time, filet brazed, chromed forks/rear triangle, custom air-brushed paintjob, etc. A bargain at that price.
    But you are smart to be looking ahead . . . check out classifieds in Tandem & Recumbent Magazine, quite a few tandems that 'may' suit you.
    Good luck in your search!
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  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Be patient and watch www.tandemmag.com/classified, your local craigslist, and Ebay. Better quality tandems at fair prices will pop up now and again. The trick is being diligent enough in checking the ads so that you can find those better deals as they don't last long. Go ahead and give RTR Mag's classifieds a look see along with the ones at [url=http://www.tandemclub.org]The Tandem Club of America just to see what else is out there. I don't believe the latter two are as close to real-time or as up-to-date as the other resources mentioned earlier, but that can work to your advantage if a buyer hasn't received too many offers.

    I've bought two used tandems back in the 90's using rec.bicycle.marketplace which has pretty much been turned into a "hey, go look at my Ebay auction". Both were excellent values: a '98 C'dale MT3000 for $1,850 in '99 and a NOS '98 Ventana frameset for $1,000 in 2000. In both instances, I just got lucky in finding the bikes during my weekly check of the classifieds. We've also sold two tandems via www.tandemmag.com/classified and one using Ebay, and I'd say that everyone who purchased our tandems got great bikes at fair prices. You'll need to decide what's fair and, yes, there are a lot of folks out there that have unrealistic expectations with regard to asking prices for second-hand tandems. Then again, an asking price is just that... the seller's starting point. If you see a tandem that fits your requirements but it seems to have a higher than reasonable asking price, make a fair offer.

    For example, we recently sold a 5-year old Erickson travel tandem for ~59% of it's replacement cost, which coincidentally ties to my own used tandem pricing tool's guidelines. I priced it a bit higher than my lowest selling price to accomplish a few things: 1. To weed out shoppers from buyers and, 2. To make sure there was room to negotiate. Sure, I would have preferred to sell it for my full asking price... and I think even at that price our tandem would have been a great value. However, I was more interested in selling it at a fair price quickly -- and if at all possible to someone local -- instead of holding out for a higher price from someone possibly buying long-distance... which comes with all kinds of inherent risks and issues as well as the hassles associated with shipping. I'm sure there are others selling tandem who may be using similar pricing / sales strategies.

    Just remember, a 'good tandem' is all you need for a first tandem (and maybe even for your long-term tandem). One of the strongest teams we know ride a tandem they found on Ebay for not a lot of dough. Folks easily spend 3x - 5x what they did on any one of several high-end tandems and will never come close to holding the wheel of that Ebay special, ourselves included.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-02-07 at 11:44 PM.

  4. #4
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    My purchase of a used tandem was rather a fluke, based on seeing a posting on the tandem@hobbes list to the effect of "my friend has a tandem he wants to sell". By that time I'd done a lot of looking at eBay and Craig's list, and had an idea of what I was interested in.

    I did do some looking at a lot of various Craig's list sites, searching under Bicycles for the word "tandem". And, I had eBay looking for "tandem" in listings (but with filtering set to knock out some of the bikes and other "tandem" objects I wouldn't be interested in ( -twinn , for example! )

    If you are thinking of getting a bike shipped from afar, it would do you well to research how to get it shipped. FedEx Ground worked for me, though I've read some reports of bike boxes apparently run over by forklifts! Greyhound has reasonable rates but crummy insurance unless you find a $350 bike. I'd certainly volunteer to pay a LBS to package the bike and perhaps even to get it to the shipper.

    Think about the questions you want to ask the sellers, and maybe compose a set of standard questions, from stand-over height for captain and stoker, to condition of the frame, etc., that you can send off to the sellers.

    Might want to do some Googling for the basic frame geometries and components for the various makers you are interested in. That way, if the bike has a derailleur installed which was not stock for the model year, you can ask about it; or, if the seller doesn't know the model year, you may be able to come close.

    http://www.airfreetires.com/Specs/Default.asp has some usable information on various models.

    One thing you have going for you is some time. Winter's coming, so even if you don't land the bike until February, that still will give you time to get it, service whatever you want to, mount new tires, whatever.

  5. #5
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    I succeded in buying a used tandem on ebay, a late 90's Trek T100 which won't excite most people on this list, but we were thrilled when we got it. Though we knowingly overpaid (it was the only bike available in a short time window that I had on a trip to the US), it was essentially brand new, years of garage, it fit and it is a very competent bike really. Don't worry about age too much, quality/market price ratios of older bikes are often much higher, look for the right fit, original quality, and signs of decent maintenance or long term garage stories (most of the used bikes I saw fit the ticket of "bought this great bike, rode it a little, stoker gave up, divorce, etc."....). Tandems are often sold with a lot less use than singles. However what is most important is to get a decent frame that fits, components can be replaced, and you can often bring down the price significantly to provide for component replacements when they are clearly worn.

    However be prepared to wait. If you want it for the northern hemisphere spring, start looking right now, and when you see the right bike, buy it, overpay if you have to, one thing is the market, and another is the right bike for you avialable from the right seller who you can trust. A few hundred overpaid get amortized in very few good rides. How much are you willing to pay for one good dinner at a restaurant?

  6. #6
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    We bought our 1998 Co-Motion Co-Pilot from an ad on Tandemmag.com. We bought it sight-unseen from a couple in Washington State (we live in Colorado). It was about 3 years old with about 1000 miles on it. We paid about 65% of the new price. The bike was in nearly perfect condition as advertised. Since it is a coupled tandem, it was easy to ship. I think it was a fair deal for both parties.

    My experience is that tandem enthusiasts tend to be more careful & more honest than bike riders in general. Also, tandems don't tend to depreciate as fast as single bikes. Maybe this is because the ratio of riders to available bikes is higher than with single bikes.

    If you consider buying a used coupled bike, it can easily be shipped to you & you can expand your search area.

  7. #7
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    Spring can start to get late for the used market. People start getting excited with the change in seasons and the market picks up. Best time to purchase (highest inventory) has traditionally been Fall to Winter. I'd think you would want everything finalized by Feb, maybe March.

    As others have stated, know your market. Don't be afraid to counter offer. If you look long and frequent enough, you will see the overpriced ones pop up a few times after no bites. If you have a particular make and model in mind, you may have to jump quicker, especially if your size does not come up often. Flexibility of course makes the whole process easier.

    Good Luck.

  8. #8
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    My wife and I picked up our first tandem from ebay this summer: a 2003 Raleigh Persuit. We are very pleased with the bike and the price we paid. I spent a ridiculous amount of time on ebay, craigslist, and many of the previously mentioned tandem-specific websites, getting a feel for what we wanted and how much it should cost. It took over a month of daily looking to find the right bike. Patience paid off though.

    -find out how tall previous riders were and how well the bike fit them
    -when you find a bike you like, look online to find out what experience others had with that year / model. This might help you know what questions to ask of the seller.
    -When looking for advice online, understand that individual opinions are far less important than the group consensus. Every great bike is disliked by somebody for some reason or another.
    -try to get a sense for how much life is left in the components (but recognize that you probably won't get a complete picture)
    -budget some money for all the little changes you'll make to the bike after you first get it. We added a rear rack, a mirror, a computer, changed a set of pedals, got it tuned up, and bought a roof rack for the car. These costs add up fast.

    Good luck!

  9. #9
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    We lusted over the Co-Mo Supremo that fellow club members purchased new. We even rode it around the parking lot. 2 years and a divorce later, the bike was ours. It had been ridden very few miles and we paid less than 50% of replacement cost. I'm sure it would have brought more on ebay, but we were just down the road with cash in hand.

  10. #10
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    i bought our 2002 burley duet w/ a flight deck computer, rock shox susp seatpost, arai drum brake and rear rack on ebay about 2 years ago for $900 plus $50 for a shop to box it up and $150 to ship. the good deals are out there and winter is coming just keep your eyes open and be ready. it took about 6 months of looking for the right one to show up. i think we got ours cheap because the seller had only one small picture with the front wheel off leaning against a bunch of junk in the garage

    i know what you mean about the search though, the old bikes can be tempting for around $500 but the cost to modernize will put them over buying the right one in the first place.

    the khs tandem with an alum frame isn't too bad and is pretty cheap on ebay (or was). i didn't get one bceause the size wasn't right and the two sizes offered had almost the small top tube length.

    as for craigslist, at least you can deal with the seller on the price, and in the middle of january i'm sure the price will be very negotiable

  11. #11
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    Used Tandem Success Stories

    Two weeks ago I purchased a 2005 Da Vinci Joint Venture 10th Anniversary Edition (upgraded carbon fork, King Headset and Avid Read Disc) with Polar Computer including heart rate monitor with less than 300 miles on it for $3K. I did not attempt to negotiate a lower price since I thought it was fair price (1/2 of new) and it is in pristine condition. It was a Craigslist find. Good Luck on your hunt.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Jinker's Avatar
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    I got a '94 Burley Rock'n'Roll softride for $800 CDN delivered to my door by the previous owner (who lived 150km away, and happened to be coming to town). Found it in a canuck Craigslist equivalent (kijiji.ca).

    It is in excellent shape, used a little but very well taken care of. Rack and Arai drum brake were included.

    I don't think it was a screaming deal, but a fair one.

    Tandems in good shape don't depreciate the way singles do. The relentless pace of 'one more cog on the back' doesn't seem to affect them quite as much. Instead, a solid frame and wheels, confidence inspiring brakes, and a reliable drivetrain are premium items.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Dayton Duo's Avatar
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    We bought a 94 Burley Bossa Nova on e-bay for $650. We think it was a good deal and have put 700 miles on it this year. It is a great way to find out whether or not you like the tandem experience without sinking a lot of money in the bicycle. You can slowly upgrade items as money becomes available rather than having to spend it at one time (if you have to the latest and greatest).
    Took about 2 months of hunting to find our bike. Was pretty much what they advertised and overall was a good buying experience. If you do your own bicycle repair work, that also lessens the used cost. With the tandem and mechanics forums, you can generally find all the help you need.
    Happy hunting and let us know how it turns out.

  14. #14
    Arschgaudi Mayonnaise's Avatar
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    another question. let's say I find a bike posted on website and have decided to buy it. What keeps people honest. I'm sure there aren't that many scams out there, but sending $2500 to someone I've talked with on the phone and through email scares me.

    Does it come down to a leap of faith?
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  15. #15
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mayonnaise View Post
    Does it come down to a leap of faith?
    Yes...

    If you can't build a level of rapport and trust through your 'discussions' with the seller, then you have some cause for concern. Obvious 'red flags' that pop up in your head while making a deal should never be ignored: always address your concerns head-on, e.g., if you suspect that the seller really doesn't have a the bike ask for a photo of the serial number or other 'evidence' that will give you confidence that you're dealing with a real seller. Google their name or Email address to see if they are where they are supposed to be.

  16. #16
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    When we were buying our bike, the seller gave us the phone number of the local bike shop to vouch for the condition of the bike. The guy at the LBS said "oh yea - I know the guy you're talking about. The bike is in great condition and the seller is a retired minister."

    We bought the bike and have since stayed with the seller in Washington & they have stayed with us in Colorado.

    If you have doubts after talking with the seller for a while, see if they can give you a 3rd party reference.

  17. #17
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    Per oldacura's experience, you can take that a step further. You can involve a bike shop as the third party in a transaction. You can more easily find a good and bad shop via the forums, internet, googling and calling. I have done a few transactions where the shop is hired to give the bike a once over, pack and ship. The pack and ship part is not always something they are willing to do but you will at least have a shops signature on the condition of the bike. I have found the better shops more willing to do this. REI was even willing and had seperate member and non-member pricing for the service. A tandem savvy shop is preferred but no always available. Still more peace of mind than leap of faith trust in an unknown seller.

  18. #18
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    Is the OP from Chicago? There must be a shop in that market that does a lot of tandem business. Ask the owner to let you know when he gets something traded in. I got my Santana Cilantro for $1k this way.
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  19. #19
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    Like you, I shopped for our first tandem through traditional sources,...however, I was primarily concerned with size. I know I can upgrade various components if needed,..but I wanted to make sure both of us were comfortable for longer rides. I ended up finding an older Bilenky. I think the price on ebay was around $800. The geometry was right for us,..and as a bonus it has some really neat older components,...older Campy high flange hubs etc.

    After riding this for a couple of years we agreed we really enjoyed tandeming, so I bought a new Raleigh
    tandem which was a leftover at the local bike shop. This was basically a mountain bike,...but it was also about $900 and I love to tinker,...so I slapped some drop bars on it, skinny tires, and since we were sending this one to florida, I changed the gearing. Its a great bike,...well great bike for the money.

    I found both to be perfect for the first tandem. Both allow us to ride for longer rides comfortably, which in turn allows us to learn enough to decide whether this is something we really want to pursue. For us, it was a great fit. I still do my normal training for the few races I do each year,...fewer and fewer as I age, and now we are both talking about possibly buying something that we can really customize for the two of us for the long term.

    GOOD LUCK,...there are tandems out there lurking,....looking for a good home.

  20. #20
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    I guess it depends on what you are looking for. We were looking for a solid but inexpensive tandem because my wife was not 100% sold on the idea. Our area is not known as a cycling hotspot, and I was not very hopeful that I would find a used tandem. Craigslist came through for us. We found an early 90s Burley duet for $600 from a local seller. It has fit our needs perfectly. I felt this might be slightly overpriced, but it was well worth it from our standpoint. It was a relatively small investment which has enabled us to try tandemming. So far, so good!

  21. #21
    Senior Member pocky's Avatar
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    I got exactly what I wanted at a great price: a less-than-200mi '01 Burley Rumba in our size for $600. But it took some "figuring out the system", and a little more willingness to trust "the system" and avoid human contact than some people would probably feel comfy with. See Hiring a LBS to ship a 3rd-party sale
    Here's a really long post-mortem that is probably overdue for that thread.

    Short answer for me:
    1) Get great advice on this forum
    2) Fully understand the theory and inner workings of eBay-type and Craigslist-type systems
    3) Fully understand how to use inaccessible locations, large items, and sellers unwilling to ship them, all to your advantage
    4) Stalk your target areas like a hawk, and be willing to wait (though I didn't have to)
    5) Luck helps, too.

    Here's everything I know:
    My story is I got some great advice on this forum, and then did a LOT of stalking over a fairly short period of time on all sources I could find. I did a lot of work but I also think I ended up being a little bit lucky, though I think others could luck out this way, too. I already had a good deal of online auction experience so I already knew many of the tricks of the trade, but there's something very interesting about difficult-to-ship items like tandems: I discovered that, on auction-based systems like eBay, sellers who advertise that they are willing to ship a tandem at all, even at exhorbitant cost, tend to entice more bids, quickly driving the price up, even well-before "sniping time". Sellers who specifically state that they are NOT willing to ship the bike entice far fewer bids, keeping the price low. This is true for non-auction systems like Craig's List, too, but you won't see the bids. On any ad-based system, someone will often ask the seller if they are willing to bring the bike to a local shop and then they'll pay the shop to ship it. I found lots of examples where as soon as someone asked the seller that question, the seller realized how easy that would be, and posted an addendum saying they'd be willing to do it. Immediately, the bids started coming in.

    I also noticed that tandems posted for sale in heavily populated areas, particularly bike-friendly areas, went faster, regardless of whether or not shipping was advertised.

    So, my strategy became: to look for bikes in areas of the country that I knew were a little out-of-the-way, to look for sellers who explicitly stated they weren't willing to ship, and to figure out geographic circles within which I'd be willing to drive to pick up the bike, or within which I thought I might be able to convince a relative to drive to pick up the bike, and then coordinate shipping.

    That, of course, combined with making sure the bikes were worth what I thought I might end up paying for them, based on what I was willing to spend for the features and geometry I wanted, reality-checked against the Used Tandem Price Estimating Tool from thetandemlink.com. I was willing to entertain frames that I'd have to build up myself as well as full bikes, and I was willing to look at new and older stuff, but I ended up with a nearly-new full bike for very little.

    I ended up lucking out by finding, on both eBay AND CragisList, a less-than-200-mile 2001 Burley Rumba in exactly the size I was looking for, all the way in Lake Worth, Florida, with a seller who was unwilling to ship it. I live in Boston. But that was OK, because my mom was visiting my grandparents in Florida, and I knew I'd be able to bribe her to coordinate shipping. The seller had posted to his local Craigslist several times and was starting to look hungry. But, I RESISTED THE TEMPTATION to ask the seller if he'd be willing to bring it to a local bike shop to ship it, for fear that he WOULD, and he'd advertise that, and immediately the bids would start flying in. My theory paid off: I sniped the bike on eBay in the last two minutes of the auction for the reserve price of $600. The thetandemlink.com calculator said it was worth $650 if it was in crappy condition! Belmont Wheelworks Too, a well-respected albeit pricey shop up here, was asking $1,850 for a new-old-stock 2002 Rumba. And after all that, when I called the seller, he ended up being willing to bring the bike to a LBS after all. Glad I didn't ask that earlier over email. It ended up costing about $50 for the LBS to pack it and another $100 for DHL to come pick it up and ship it to me in Boston. So $750 including labor and shipping. Not bad.
    Last edited by pocky; 10-05-07 at 02:01 AM.

  22. #22
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    Another craigslist success story: We bought our Burley Duet in wonderful condition and only a couple years old for $1100. It was a local purchase so could do a thorough inspection and test ride and no shipping issues. Just doesn't get any better. (I've bought 2 other bikes on craigslist [had to drive about 500 miles for one, but well worth it] and have never had a bad experience. But, still, I'd never buy sight unseen from anyone, no matter what they say or how honest they seem. Someone might truly not know the condition and there are thieves and frauds out there too.) Just search "tandem" every day on the bikes list for every city you'd be willing to drive to and be patient. And, speaking of thieves, please don't buy a bike that doesn't have original purchase receipts or other documentation that the seller is the legitimate owner, or at least a pretty solid indication that the seller knows the bike from owning it.

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    Leftovers anyone?
    If you don't want to go the used route with all the hunting, maybe look for a shop with a good deal on a leftover model, old stock, or the like.

    I got my bike as a leftover, it'd been assembled, maybe tried out, but not much. It's an SnS coupler equipped bike that I got for quite a bit less than MSRP, with rack, panniers, bells, whistles, computer, kickstand, bottle holders, bottles, pedals, some apparel, and rack topper bag all tossed in. I reckon that I must have saved over $1500. Sure, if your flexible about model, brand, and other stuff I guess you could hover over the market and wait for something to drop. Not me... I'm an instant gratification type of guy, and had my eye on this very specific bike, one that is not really all that popular amongst tandem riders. I must have the only one in the whole state, if not the entire east coast. I don't regret it at all.

    Eric

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    We just bought a 2007 C'dale from a local ebay seller. The seller had posted the ad and I contacted the seller to say if there were no buyers to let me know and we could meet up. He did not have any buyers... we met in town.. .and we are now the proud owners of a C'dale Tandem. It was awesome. We have not had any issues and I think buying used (or slightly used) is the way to go. We got the bike we were looking for without all the taxes, add-ons, etc. And we did not have to wait a week or six to get it. Best purchase we have ever made.... Good luck!

  25. #25
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Location
    London, UK
    My Bikes
    Trek T200 plus enough others to fill a large shed
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    pocky, that was a great story. I learned a lot from it - If you were feeling entrepreneurial you could make quite a nice hobby business out of it. I say hobby because I guess ebay arbitrage on tandems is a limited market.

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