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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 11-10-08, 12:25 AM   #1
Mike Mills
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Tandem Virgin

I've never had a tandem. I've rented the beaten-up Schwinn tandems for bike rides at the beach but never ridden a serious tandem. My wife is no longer able (or is it willing?) to ride by herself. I thought a tandem would allow us to break through that barrier.

Is it true that a decent quality serious tandem is $5k?

Is it reasonable to have my wife in the front and me in the rear as stoker? She steers and controls the brakes.

Why are there so few top quality tandems for sale? I imagined people would buy them but not use them and want to sell. I guess not!?

Talk to me. Thanks in advance.
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Old 11-10-08, 07:08 AM   #2
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Starting prices for new "good" tandems are about $1600 (KHS Milano). Now, of course, it depends on what you mean by "decent quality serious".

Tandems just aren't that common, and so there are fewer for sale. But it is true that they are either well-used or well-ignored. There doesn't seem to be much middle ground. There are a lot of nearly-unused tandems in garages.
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Old 11-10-08, 07:42 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Mike Mills View Post
My wife is no longer able (or is it willing?) to ride by herself. I thought a tandem would allow us to break through that barrier.

Is it reasonable to have my wife in the front and me in the rear as stoker? She steers and controls the brakes.
It depends on why she is no longer willing or able to ride by herself. If she doesn't like riding now because she finds it boring or stressful, having her captain a tandem won't make her like riding more. The captain gets to do the boring job of watching the road in front of him or her, and takes responsibility for keeping the bike upright. This is why I loved stoking, I could do pretty much anything I wanted on the back while pedaling and watching the scenery, but I didn't have to worry about what was ahead on the road. I didn't have to remember to unclip at stops, or time lights, or anything. I miss stoking a ton.

If she is about the same size, or bigger than you then it's pretty reasonable for her to be the captain if that's what you want. If you are heavier than her or she's not strong enough to hold you up you will have to unclip at stops. If she is smaller than you then you will probably be looking for a custom bike, and that starts getting pricey.
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Old 11-10-08, 10:37 AM   #4
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Costs...yes you can easily spend 5K+ for a new Tandem.. but you can also spend $1K to $2k for a very decent used Tandem that will give you many thousands of fun miles if you take care of it.

Tandems are a very very small piece of the huge bicycle pie. But there are plenty to be found with a little looking. For used try Ebay, Craigs list and any local large bike shops in your area. For more places to look and learn about Tandems in general, try http://www.thetandemlink.com/ ..it has a wealth of info.

Can your wife Captain the Tandem?....If she has the strength to manage you team's weight and, the desire and ability to do the work required of the captain....absolutely.

The best thing your team can do now is do your homework first...like you have started doing here. Read everything you can on this site and referenced links... you will lean a lot that will save you time, money and grief. Enjoy the experience..Good luck.
Bill J.
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Old 11-10-08, 11:45 AM   #5
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I thought I would address the matter of the captain being smaller than the stoker.

1. Miji Reoch (world class cyclist) used to take out larger male cyclists on the back of her Jack Taylor tandem around White Rock Lake in Dallas. No problem.

2. I have taken out stokers up to 6'4" and 240 lbs. At the time I was an underfed stripling of only 200 lbs. Adding the food, water, spares and tandem, I figured the gross weight was shading pretty close to 500 lbs or so. Again, no problem. Nobody tried to pass us going into the wind. Way too much motor for that sort of foolishness.

My conclusion is that as long as the captain is reasonably competent, and the stoker has good balance, there is no reason why a smaller captain cannot ride with a larger stoker, easily.
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Old 11-10-08, 12:43 PM   #6
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My conclusion is that as long as the captain is reasonably competent, and the stoker has good balance, there is no reason why a smaller captain cannot ride with a larger stoker, easily.

I'm not sure I'd completely agree with the "easily" part. Larger stronger Caaptain has a big advantage. Any problems with coordination/ balance, a larger stronger captain can overcome with brute strength.

A smaller captain that's a good rider, and a stoker who's working well with the captain as a well cooridnated team will be fine, but most people don't start out that way.

I think most people will find it easier, particularly starting out riding a tandem, for the larger stronger person to be captain.
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Old 11-10-08, 02:36 PM   #7
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I think most people will find it easier, particularly starting out riding a tandem, for the larger stronger person to be captain.

Is this considered truth? Is this agreed on as conventional wisdom? From what you say here, I should be the captian (6'2"/230lb vs 5'6"/150 lb). I thought she'd appreciate being in control rather than just being dragged along.

My wife is muych smaller than me and is a much less accomplished cyclist. I thought a tandem would allow her to come along as a passenger. The problem is one of her legs hurts when she rides long distances. I thought I could bring her along behind me and she could get some conditioning without hurting herself.

Maybe I am deluding myself and grasping at straws.
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Old 11-10-08, 03:11 PM   #8
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If you're both in synch , and you're following her lead well, then her smaller size isn't an issue. But if you get out of balance starting out, stopping, or there's some confusion as to exactly which direction you're going or what line to take, it's much harder for a 150lb captain to deal with the weight of a 230lb stoker, particularly if the captain isn't already an experienced bike handler.

After riding together for 14 years, we usually are pretty well coordinated as a team, but every so often it will happen where we're not on the same page. When that happens in a tight spot, with no time to discuss, it's nice for the Captain to have the strength to overide the stoker's input by sheer force.

I'm not saying that the 2 of you can't learn to work together with her as captain, I just think it's likely to be more difficult.

As for her legs hurting riding long distances, she's still going to have to pedal. I think you have a couple of optionsin this regard. One work up to longer rides slowly (probably a good idea anyway) or Two, look into a Divinci tandem, which alllows independent coasting.
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Old 11-10-08, 04:45 PM   #9
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Although there is certainly variation, tandem teams usually have the larger rider as captain and the smaller rider as stoker. Stock tandems are typically designed to accommodate this kind of tandem team. You may need a custom built tandem frame if you want a stoker who is 8" taller and 80 lbs heavier in back.

One thing to note is that stoker isn't just a passive passenger who is being dragged along. He or she is an active participant in the process. The captain may make the steering and braking decisions, but pedaling is a group effort, and at least in my tandem team, most of the navigation happens in the back seat with the person who can peruse the maps and guidebooks.

You may want to consider an alternative tandem design. The Bilenky ViewPoint / Counterpoint Opus / Angletech Harmony is a rather unique semi-recumbent tandem. The captain rides in the rear, on what looks like more or a less a normal looking single bike from the handlebars back, and the stoker rides in front, on a recumbent seat mounted over the front wheel, with the pedals on a boom out in front. This design has the nice feature that it allows both members of the tandem team to have an unobstructed view to the front. Another nice feature from your perspective is that the stoker can pedal independently from the captain, or even stop pedaling altogether. So if your wife doesn't necessarily have to pedal the entire ride, if doing so would cause her pain.

http://www.bilenky.com/viewpnt.html
http://www.angletechcycles.com/bikes/tandems/index.htm

As for prices, tandems are somewhat expensive, but the cost is roughly equivalent to a pair of bicycles of comparable quality. And since tandems must user higher quality components due to the added stresses, that limits how inexpensive a "quality" tandem can get. My wife and I just bought a brand new Trek T1000 for about $1700, which is about as cheap as it gets for quality new tandems, but there plenty of options for under $5000.
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Old 11-10-08, 06:44 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mike Mills View Post
Is this considered truth? Is this agreed on as conventional wisdom? From what you say here, I should be the captian (6'2"/230lb vs 5'6"/150 lb). I thought she'd appreciate being in control rather than just being dragged along.

My wife is muych smaller than me and is a much less accomplished cyclist. I thought a tandem would allow her to come along as a passenger. The problem is one of her legs hurts when she rides long distances. I thought I could bring her along behind me and she could get some conditioning without hurting herself.

Maybe I am deluding myself and grasping at straws.

DaVinci tandems have an impressive Independent Coasting System (and the Schwinn Tango Tandem has an independent pedaling system) so she wouldn't even need to pedal if she's tired...

http://www.davincitandems.com/dv2.html

http://www.schwinnbike.com/est/eng/P...O-Tango-Tandem


.

Last edited by Stray8; 11-12-08 at 12:52 AM.
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Old 11-10-08, 07:39 PM   #11
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My wife is no longer able (or is it willing?) to ride by herself. I thought a tandem would allow us to break through that barrier.

I'd recommend talking about it with her just to see how warm she is to the idea. You might want to even download Santana's and Co-Motion's catalogs for her to peruse, as they do a great job of showing people enjoying the tandem lifestyle... and visualization will go a long way towards pushing through any anxiety or apprehension about tandem cycling short of meeting and riding with a couple who 'tandem well together'.

Is it true that a decent quality serious tandem is $5k?

Tandems are no different than single bikes when it comes to pricing, except that they tend to cost twice as much for equal quality until you get up to bout the $6k range. At that point the ratio begins to drop since it's really the components more-so than the frame that begins to drive the price point... exotic frame materials and wheels notwithstanding. So, for $5k you'll find yourself on a pretty nice tandem with Ultegra components and perhaps even some carbon bits that will be on par with a $2,500 single bike. However, once you start adding speciality items or using exotic materials like Titanium or carbon and high-end components you're headed into the $8k - $12k+ realm, similar to your high-end singles which now fall into the $6k - $8k range.

Is it reasonable to have my wife in the front and me in the rear as stoker? She steers and controls the brakes. Not based on your size difference (6'2"/230lb vs 5'6"/150 lb). Even if you two were the same height and weight her lack of cycling experience would suggest she ride as stoker.

Why are there so few top quality tandems for sale? I imagined people would buy them but not use them and want to sell. I guess not!?

You must know where to look and you could also be surprised to find what may be available in your own area by simply posting a "Wanted to Buy" ad in a Craigslist. As others have noted, there are an awful lot of tandems purchased with the best of intentions that quickly find themselves stuffed into a corner or hanging from a hook.

The problem is one of her legs hurts when she rides long distances. I thought I could bring her along behind me and she could get some conditioning without hurting herself.

You'd want to understand why her leg hurts before doing anything else, as it could be something as simple as a bike fitting issue, poor riding mechanics, or perhaps a physical issue such as one leg being slightly shorter than the other (fixed with pedal / shoe shims or orthotics). A good bicycle fitting professional would be able to put her on a stationary bicycle to look at all of these possible contributors and, well, this would be yet another confidence builder relative to warming her to the idea of cycling more or trying out the tandem thing.

Merlin's & Stray8's suggestions regarding the daVinci Design tandems with their Independent Coasting System (ICS) is also a good one for couples or parents with children who must deal with vastly different levels of fitness as the ICS system basically allows the stoker to soft pedal or coast independent of the captain. While this gives the stoker some relief, it also gives the captain relief from the burden of pushing around a set of tired legs. It's truly a great system for many, many teams who might not otherwise be able to enjoy tandeming as much as they do because of the ICS. It's noteworthy that daVinci recently introduced a 'production' model called the Grand Junction that allowed them to lower their price point for an entry level ICS tandem to $2,850. I've seen the new models and the quality is really excellent, noting Todd and Brian spent a lot of time overseeing the entire process and doing extensive QA at their supplier.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 11-10-08 at 08:04 PM.
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Old 11-10-08, 10:22 PM   #12
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With your size/weight difference and riding experience, bigger person would be up front.
While smaller folks can pilot a tandem, with your differences it would not be advisable.
Does she really want a tandem?! Heck ask before laying down a few grand.
Riding in tandem is a cooperative effort.
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Old 11-11-08, 01:07 AM   #13
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Super-great info, everyone. Thanks for that.

I certainly will ask her about it before buying one. Heck, she'd hang me if I didn't.

This is just a guess, but I'd bet she's inclined to really, really like the Schwinn just based upon it's looks (aesthetics). I liked the DaVinci's I looked at.


Thank, again, everyone.
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Old 11-11-08, 06:20 PM   #14
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Retro looks of the Schwinn might be 'cool.' But one test ride on Schwinn vs daVinci will convince you that 'cool' is only in the looks. daVinci ride/handling/durability will quickly manifest itself.
Yes, have ridden both brands
Just our experience/input.
Pedal on TWOgether!
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Old 11-11-08, 08:46 PM   #15
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I must agree with zonatandem. We were looking for a tandem for some time. Tried a bunch including the Schwinn. Since this was a new venture for us I didn't want to go "whole hog" but I wanted quality. We were lucky enough to find TandemsEast near our home. Mel had a bunch of tandems for us to test ride so we could experience what a tandem should be. We came home with a new Burley setup with quality components. We couldn't be happier. My wife cannot ride a bike but loves to ride on the tandem. We used to ride our motorcycle every chance we got, this summer we were on that Burley more then the Goldwing! Of course we still took a nice vacation down to NC on the motorcycle. What can I say.. we just love getting out on 2 wheels.
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Old 11-12-08, 02:41 AM   #16
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Well, we talked about tandem cycling again this evening and my wife said she has no interest in it at all.

She said she wants a big scooter with bicycle-sized tires. Who'd a thunk it?
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Old 11-12-08, 06:39 AM   #17
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She said she wants a big scooter with bicycle-sized tires.
You mean a kick bike, like the Mogo Scooter?

I'll assume you two must live somewhere devoid of hills with bike paths which is where kick bikes fair best...
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Old 11-12-08, 01:44 PM   #18
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Yes, that is eexactly thte type of thing she was thinking of. We live near the beach and its flat bike path.

This is also why the Schwinn tandem was not totally out of the question. We have options for just cruisin' the bike path on a heavy, clunky tandem.
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Old 11-12-08, 09:24 PM   #19
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Mike,

For what it's worth, I just went on line to Craig's List and started scouring the postings in sunny climates. Do a search for used tandems in San Francisco, Phoenix, Tuscon, Sacramento, LA, San Diego, Portland Or., etc. In bike friendly towns you're likely to find used ones more so than in Pittsburgh or Cleveland, for example. I found what would be a new $5k aluminum frame Santana tandem used for $1500 with upgraded components. We split the cost on shipping it across the country and I ended up shelling out $1600.

It is important to make sure the fit is right. It sounds like you'll want a larger frame for your build.

Good luck,
Nika
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Old 11-13-08, 08:09 PM   #20
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My suggestion is to call and /or look for quality used tandems at bike shops. These are not usually advertised but I have seen at least one of them, anyway. For example I saw a slightly used early-nineties Trek hybrid tandem for $750 in a shop in Springfield, OH. It's probably still there.
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