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  1. #1
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    First Tandem and its a Gift

    I've been into cycling as a commuter for the last year or so, and my cycling was the impetus for fixing up my mom and dad's inherited cruisers. Much to our surprise, my dad took to it. He doesn't ride often, and I don't blame him; with the baskets attached, the bike weighs in at 55lbs, and it's only a 3-speed IGH. I suspect my mom doesn't ride much because of vision problems and extreme fatigue due to MS.

    Long story short, they both know they want to keep active and stay healthy. Cycling on a single bike wasn't going to cut it. Their 25th anniversary is coming up this August so we (my brother, sister and I) decided to get them something special. My sister wanted to replace my dad's wedding ring which gave its life to save my dad's fingers from the table saw last summer but we determined that it'd be too pricey and personal for us to do. I got to thinking and started perusing craigslist. Long story short, I wound up with a tandem strapped to my thrift store trunk rack after driving by a flea market seeing this gleaming diamond in the rough.



    Well, it didn't look as good when we bought it. The seats were.... well they were bad. Falling apart, fabric missing, the cushioning deteriorating, etc. The grips had turned from a nice soft padding to a sticky mess. The stoker's pedals were mismatched with one having a toe clip and the other not. I'm reasonably handy with the bike tools and maintain my own bikes so none of this scared me.



    The first thing to go was the grips as they made it very difficult to even test the bike. While riding in the parking lot to make sure it worked and could shift gears reasonably well (and brake reasonably well too) I had to hold the bars with just my fingertips to avoid the gross stickiness of the grips.



    And then I added the seats. They're not my kind of seat, but then again, my dad is still confused as to how I don't see my seat as a form of torture. I did it for them, not me.

    I still have to steal the semi-slick tires off of my mountain bike because the rear tire is separating and the tube is poking through, and it is going to get a good tune up (adjusting the brakes, replacing a spoke on the rear wheel, and adjusting the deraillers) and wipe down but otherwise it is done.

    Here's a cost break down:

    Bike - $86
    Bell - $4.19
    Grips - 2x $7.99
    Seats - 2x $19.99

    Total cost, with tax has come to $128.76 so far. My brother, sister and myself are splitting the cost, and going to surprise them with it in the coming weeks (they're bringing a trailer load of mulch to the house my brother and I are living at now so it works out, I'd be wary of 100 miles with the tandem on the cheap rack).

    I can't quite nail down the year, but from what I can tell its a 1995-1997 Univega Tandem Sport. My only concern is the learning curve in getting them to ride it. My brother and I had a fun time learning that, but once we got going it was a blast - save for the dragging rear brake and seats that were coming loose from the posts...


  2. #2
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    What a GREAT gift from a loving family. I hope your Mom and Dad have great time with it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tekknoschtev View Post
    My only concern is the learning curve in getting them to ride it. My brother and I had a fun time learning that, but once we got going it was a blast - save for the dragging rear brake and seats that were coming loose from the posts...

    There are several sites with "How to get started on a tandem".

    http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tandem.html

    http://www.gtgtandems.com/tech/newriders.html

    and

    http://www.gtgtandems.com/tech/propmethod.html

    This last one describes what is the most common "first lesson" in tandeming, given to countless teams over the years. Be aware that while it is described as the "Proper Method", there are those who are perfectly happy with other ways of getting started (well there's probably only one alternative - both have the same foot down). But whether you want to suggest they subscribe to the "Proper Method" school of thought or not, there's lots of other worthwhile commentary in that article.

    If you can ride it enough to be confident of a) the bike's mechanical condition, and b) your captaining ability; you'll be in better shape for giving the first lesson.

  4. #4
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    Murf524, thanks. We indeed look out for eachother and I was very excited to see this bike as my girlfriend and I were driving along. She probably thinks I'm nuts, but she understands (she's a keeper).

    WebsterBikeMan, Perfect. I've read the Sheldon article, and will be emailing the links to my folks after they've gotten the bike. I'm definitely going to be practicing more so I can help them out the first time. I know both of them know how to ride a bike and are comfortable with it, but seeing how comical it was for my brother and I to get going, I want to make it as smooth of a transition for my folks as possible.

    I'm excited - from the sounds of it we'll be giving them the gift next week

  5. #5
    aka Phil Jungels Wanderer's Avatar
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    Nice thoughtful gift! Coming from an old grandpa........

    I hope they have many happy miles on it.

  6. #6
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    We got a tandem for our 20th wedding anniversary back in 1975. Now celebrated our 54th (yes . . . we are THAT old!) and still manage to get in a 100 miles a week. So far have tandemed TWOgether for 225,000+ miles.
    You sound like nice kidz . . . . happy anniversary to your folks!
    Pedal on!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  7. #7
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    Discovered a little set back while swapping tires out from my mountain bike. One of the spoke nipples on the rear wheel is missing, which alone isn't a huge deal as I could probably pop down to any bike shop and pick up a nipple and true the wheel up myself. But, something I didn't realize until I took the wheel off was that the hub is nearly completely seized. I can barely spin the axle by hand where as with the front wheel and every other bike it spins freely. I really need to invest in a set of cone wrenches...

    I guess I just wrote off the slowness as the bike being improperly adjusted with a dragging rear brake (which was due to the spoke nipple missing). The front hub also is making noises which would indicate to me that it needs to have its bearings replaced, or at least repacked with grease. I'm excited to try this out again once all of the adjustments have been made.

    Fortunately, the university I graduated from last December has a bike shop which has very good prices. I'm going to pop in during my lunch break to see what they can do.

  8. #8
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    Problem solved, at least for now. New wheel and rim tape bought during my lunch break I'll swap the cassette over after work this evening and be ready to roll.

  9. #9
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tekknoschtev View Post
    Problem solved, at least for now. New wheel and rim tape bought during my lunch break I'll swap the cassette over after work this evening and be ready to roll.
    If that's a tandem-grade wheel you've just doubled or tripled your investment, no?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by WebsterBikeMan View Post
    If that's a tandem-grade wheel you've just doubled or tripled your investment, no?
    Unfortunately, it is not a tandem grade wheel but from what I was told, the wheels on it weren't either. The shop quoted me at $270ish for a tandem wheel and it'd have to be special ordered. The two or three people working there discussed it for a bit and said that the mountain bike wheel should be fine, but no guarantees. It was a tough choice because I don't want to create a situation where the bike is unsafe, but at the same time it's my brother, sister and I pooling our money, both of them in college with crappy part time jobs, so we're trying to keep costs down.

    I'll be swapping the cassette over today - didn't put two and two (or rather 7-speed wheel and 8-speed hub) together at the shop and forgot I'd need a spacer.

  11. #11
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    Well, I got the spacer all sorted out, and oddly enough I barely had to adjust the derailler. I took it out for a cruise on my own and its like a whole new beast. It's still weird riding it compared to my road bike, much wider turns, much heavier. But otherwise it rides like a dream. I don't have the super padded seats on any of my bikes, so that was a bit weird. Between the super long wheel base, the 2.1" wide semi-slick mountain tires, the cushy seats and the upright riding position, it feels like riding on a cloud compared to my road bike.

    Then I added my brother as the stoker using the techniques listed here and wow, what a difference they make. It also helps that I convinced him to pedal instead of just hanging on for a free ride. So, I think with a little work and some time my parents will love this bike.

    My folks are trying to figure out a time to deliver another load of mulch (e.g. they'll have a trailer) next week so I think we'll try to surprise them with it then, and if not then, one of these weekends we'll meet them at the campground with it. Very exciting stuff.

    Oh, also, I was able to adjust the existing wheel, so once I pick up a spoke nipple and some rim tape, I should be in business and have a spare rear wheel.

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