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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 03-06-08, 05:15 PM   #1
kylen721
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fixing up old tandem. Is it worth it?

Hi all I know that this may be a question better suited to the classic and vintage forum, but I figured it being a tandem I would start here and see what everyone thinks. So I had posted a WTB ad on craigslist and ended up getting an e-mail about a vista tandem we settled on a price of $50. I went today (despite the weather) and picked it up, but after getting it back I am starting to have second thoughts..

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As you can see there is quite a bit of rust. The guy said it has been in his workshop for 10 years or so, so it must have not been in great shape when he put it away. From my brief look at it I noticed that the cranks were in different positions from each other, which from my limited knowledge of tandems seems not right. It is just a internal 3-speed I guess with a coaster brake. Also the shifter is on the stokers bars. Just lots of little weird things, but I dont know if is worth investing money into. What all do you think I would need to get it in a decent shape? Thanks for any info

Kyle
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Old 03-06-08, 08:00 PM   #2
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I would spend as little as possible to get it in ridable condition and then enjoy the heck out of it. Think of it as a two-wheeled version of a bucket-T from the 50's: use lots of elbow grease, naval jelly & polish or paint on the bright work and the least amount of $$ because you probably won't get your money back out of it if you try to make it good as or better than new. In fact, I did a quick Google on "vista duo" and there's someone with a pristine, very original model on Craigslist in Boise who's got it listed for $300. That's probably the upper end for this type of a tandem. Even when it was new it would have sold for something less than the very nice Schwinn Town & Country tandems @ $175.00 back in the early 60's. I can't imagine how much time and effort it would take to get yours in that condition, but I suspect it would cost a lot more than $250 in labor and materials... unless you're not worried about the value of time.

Here's the deal, I don't believe it really has a lot of intrinsic value as a 'collector item' other than being an example a low- to mid-end cruiser tandem from the 60's, similar in quality and value to what you'd find at a department store today. In fact, you'll also find examples of Columbia-branded "Twosome" tandems that use the exact same frame from the same time period that you can use as a gauge for value (not to mention as a source for parts). Therefore, the value must be tied to what else you could buy to replace it for what ever your intended purpose was, e.g., just fun to go riding, as part of a display, a nostalgic acquisition, just a fun project bike to hone your restoration skills.

By the way, the cranks are fine the way they are... that's what's referred to as being set out of phase. While the vast majority of tandems you'll see have their cranks in-phase (crank arms aligned), there is an entire school of thought and practice out there that suggests riding out-of-phase can be as good or more efficient than in-phase. You change phasing by removing the chain from the idler wheel to create slack, and then reposition the front cranks chain ring on the chain so that they are either in line with or at a 90 degree angle from the rear cranks.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 03-06-08 at 09:30 PM.
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Old 03-06-08, 09:18 PM   #3
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Recall the Vista brand coming in around early 70s and in about the same league as Huffy/Montgomery Ward/Columbia. Recall a single Vista with frame breakage.
Agree, do not spend a bundle on this bike to make it 'as new' . . . make it rideable and enjoy the ride TWOgether.
As far as cranks being 'out-of-phase' (OOP) we've been riding OOP for over 3 decades on our tandems.
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Old 03-06-08, 10:04 PM   #4
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Thanks for the help. I was pretty sure that I was not going to want to put a lot of money into it, but the tires hold air, and once I get some of the rust off it should be an enjoyable little ride. Thanks for the info and if my wife and I like it maybe wheel will get a "real" tandem one day. But for 50 dollars I did not feel like I could pass it up since it is in rideable condition!
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Old 03-06-08, 10:15 PM   #5
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But for 50 dollars I did not feel like I could pass it up since it is in rideable condition!
Agreed...
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Old 03-07-08, 09:46 AM   #6
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Vista Duo

We have a Vista Duo just like yours but white. It is a GodAwful piece of junk. We use ours at a beach location for really short trips around the neighborhood but if we want to ride more than about 3 miles we will bring our Burley from home (400+ miles trip one way).

When fixed up they look cute.
As with any tandem be sure to check the frame size - ours is very small.
Our Vista's components are garbage.
The fork is scary skinny and flexible.
Frame has "pasta like" dynamics.
Steering is extremely twitchy.
This is the kind of tandem that potentially scares new tandem teams.

In summary - if you and partner are small and lightweight, already familiar with tandems and have a large stock of junk-bike-parts with an excess of free time then go for it.

We do have limited fun with ours, $50 is okay - don't pay more.

SORRY - Just saw that you *bought* it. Oh well, all is not lost. Ours also has a really funky drive-train as it has suffered like yours. The good news is that there is no value or prestige to keeping it stock. Our Vista has a 5 speed freewheel with a cable operated internal drum brake. The frame prevents you from hitting the small cog though so it's really a 4 speed. I've been thinking about a 3 speed hub - but just don't want to spend the money or effort...

-Ken

Last edited by ken_sturrock; 03-07-08 at 09:50 AM. Reason: Re-read OP
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Old 03-07-08, 10:08 AM   #7
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Oil the chains, make sure the barkes work, pump up the tires and ride it. If you like tandeming then you may consider upgrading.
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Old 03-07-08, 06:13 PM   #8
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I recently restored an old 63 Schwinn Bicycle Built for Two Tandem (not a Twinn). Here's a pick of it at 95% as I still need to lace up the new front wheel and redo the rear reflector. I spent way more than it's worth - but it was worth it to me as my wife gave it to me as a Bday gift. We'll use it to cruise to the farmers market or just tool around. I had a great time restoring it over the winter.

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Old 03-07-08, 09:54 PM   #9
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I recently restored an old 63 Schwinn Bicycle Built for Two Tandem (not a Twinn). Here's a pick of it at 95% as I still need to lace up the new front wheel and redo the rear reflector. I spent way more than it's worth - but it was worth it to me as my wife gave it to me as a Bday gift. We'll use it to cruise to the farmers market or just tool around. I had a great time restoring it over the winter.

Wow looks great I would love to see what it looked like before.. I am willing to invest probably around 100 into this bike just to get it to not be so ugly and stuff. Seems like you did a great job. I dont think I will ever get rid of this bike even if we did upgrade to a more expensive tandem.

P.s. im a long time member of vwvortex!
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Old 03-08-08, 08:43 AM   #10
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Wow looks great I would love to see what it looked like before.. I am willing to invest probably around 100 into this bike just to get it to not be so ugly and stuff. Seems like you did a great job. I dont think I will ever get rid of this bike even if we did upgrade to a more expensive tandem.

P.s. im a long time member of vwvortex!
The bike was a rattlecan painted rusted mess when I got it. Here's a couple of pics of it after I took it apart.


Yet another Tex member into cycling
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Old 03-08-08, 10:34 AM   #11
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but I dont know if is worth investing money into. What all do you think I would need to get it in a decent shape?
Two questions:

How do you picture yourself using the bike after you make it rideable?

Do you find the refurbishing process itself to be an enjoyable pastime?
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Old 03-08-08, 07:21 PM   #12
kylen721
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Two questions:

How do you picture yourself using the bike after you make it rideable?

Do you find the refurbishing process itself to be an enjoyable pastime?
I plan on using it for me and my wife to just go out and have fun. We have a park that is not to far away and will probably ride to it for a picnic once in a while or just ride around town.

I do enjoy the refurbishing process, but I have never worked with anything this rusty before and I think that is what makes me the most nervous. I have searched lots of topics on removing rust, but none of it seem to be as bad as what I am working with.
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Old 03-08-08, 08:43 PM   #13
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I plan on using it for me and my wife to just go out and have fun. We have a park that is not to far away and will probably ride to it for a picnic once in a while or just ride around town.

I do enjoy the refurbishing process, but I have never worked with anything this rusty before and I think that is what makes me the most nervous. I have searched lots of topics on removing rust, but none of it seem to be as bad as what I am working with.
That bike is in significantly better shape than our first tandem was when I got it.

It sounds to me like you have a reasonable expectation for the bike and you enjoy the process. I say just do it. Even if the costs turn out to exceed your expectations, you'll be learning and enjoying yourself. It's all about fun. Go for it!
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Old 03-08-08, 09:09 PM   #14
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That bike is in significantly better shape than our first tandem was when I got it.

It sounds to me like you have a reasonable expectation for the bike and you enjoy the process. I say just do it. Even if the costs turn out to exceed your expectations, you'll be learning and enjoying yourself. It's all about fun. Go for it!
I think that was just what I needed to hear. I just got to take my time instead of pouring a whole lot of money in it all at once.

Edit: any tips for a new fork that is a little better?
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Old 03-10-08, 08:29 AM   #15
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Check Sheldon Brown's archives for fork recommendations. In a nutshell, he says get a 1" threaded rigid mtb fork. The bonus is usually canti brake bosses, so you are able to upgrade the brakes if desired. I say go for it, the process can be very enjoyable. my project was a blast, I went from this:

to this:

Short list of work follows
Disassembled the bike, cleaned rust off parts to be retained, degreased headset and BB cups.
Sanded/chemical peeled the frame to bare metal.
Spray painted the frame. Three coats primer, three coats color, four coats clearcoat.
Bought new chains, pedals, BB and headset bearings. Laced new wheels. Front: Sturmey Archer drum brake hub to Rhyno Lite rim. Rear: Shimano red band 8 speed hub to Rhyno Lite rim. Spooned on big comfy whitewall tires.
Mounted a rear rack to attach handmade basket panniers I got as a gift.

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Old 03-10-08, 11:18 AM   #16
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Helluva transformation! Great before/after shots.
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Old 03-11-08, 08:21 AM   #17
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Thanks! I'm dying for the nicer weather to arrive so my wife and I can head out for the first picnic and opportunity to get some really good pictures. I'll post them soon.
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Old 03-11-08, 01:06 PM   #18
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Anyone ever have a single speed tandem? I am thinking about making this as simple as possible and just going single speed, but I dont know if it can or should be done.
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Old 03-11-08, 10:11 PM   #19
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It can be done, however it's nice to have some gear choices . . . not only for the occasional hill, but for unexpected headwinds.
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Old 03-16-08, 12:10 PM   #20
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I've ridden around an old schwinn twinn single speed a bit (city cruising) and have decided to install nexus 7 hub. I enlist the kids or other less-than-willing passengers sometimes and had found myself doing all the work on the little hills around town. Not so easy hauling myself, a heavy old tandem, and a dead-weight passenger on a one gear bike.
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