Oldie, just not here!
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Shady Hills, Fl.
Bikes: 2005 Trek T2000 tandem, 2003 Burly Tosa Tandem, 9 singles including 2 fixies
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You can put a derailleur system on almost any bike, with or without braze-ons. Clamp on cable guides and stops were the norm for a billion years, and are still available. Or, if you have to you can run fully enclosed cables from the front to the back and just zip-tie them on. K-mart does it!
The problem is expense. You will need several hundred dollars worth of parts and a good deal of expertise to accomplish it. I won't go into all the details but you'd need a new tandem rated rear wheel, the derailleur itself, a cassette (the sprocket set in the rear), cables, shifters, a complete handbrake set (assuming your single speed is a coaster brake currently - most are), and you'd also need to change out the rear sprocket (if that's even possible on your bike), as a derailleur chain is not compatible with a single speed sprocket usually.
A better way to go would be a three speed of some sort, if it could be made to work. Although the three speed hub was not made for a tandem, I'd bet it would hold up fine for the type of riding you're describing. The three speed hubs use the same chain as a single speed. But the problem there would be axle spacing. A competent shop with knowledge of tandems would have to take a look at the bike to advise you. If it could be done, there is even a 3 speed hub available that would not require the addition of hand brakes ... a three speed coaster brake hub.
There are probably other considerations there that failed to register with me before my second cup of coffee, but ..... bottom line is that you are going to spend more on the conversion than the tandem probably cost. A far better use of your money would be to find a used multi-speed tandem on CraigsList or somewhere.
BICYCLE - [bahy-si-kuhl] - Noun :> A medical device used to correct the common geriatric condition of OFS, (Old, Fat & Slow), in a manner that does not induce brain-decaying boredom like walking or running.
2005 Trek T2000 Tandem, 2003 Burley Tosa Tandem, Pacific Dualie beater tandem, and 6 singles including 2 fixies.
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