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  1. #1
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    So How Hard are These Monstrosities (sp?) to Ride?

    The unthinkable happened; She Who Must Be Obeyed (who is fairly athletic but rides very little) saw a couple out on a tandem ride recently and thought it looked like fun. Oy.

    I love my carbon and think this will end badly. They look like they would be like turning an ocean liner. True, false? Comments please. How long before they become manageable?

    Also, what is price ranges for lower end models?
    “with the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy." Ignatius J. Reilly

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    I'd venture a guess that someone with average bike-handling skills who is motivated to succeed and who has a stoker (that would be SWMBO) who is likewise understanding and motivated to succeed can master the basic skills in about 15 minutes. U-turns and the like will take a few rides. However, a tandem will never handle as crisply as a single bike at slower speeds or in competitive settings and will always demand more attention by the captain vs. what they experience on a single bike.

    As for cost, an entry-level Cannondale is around $1800. You can also find a pretty nice KHS for something closer to the $1100 level, e.g., Milano Tandemania. Your best bet is to look for used tandems in the 2 - 10 year range for the best value, e.g., Treks, Burley, Santana, Co-Motion, Cannondales, etc... They depreciate just like other bikes and sometimes don't see much use.

  3. #3
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    My wife an I (in our 60's) picked up bicycling last August after a 20 year absence. Bought a tandem about 3 months ago and we're having a blast. Not as "handy" as a single (stating the obvious), but much more stable and faster downhill and on the flats. I'm a stronger rider, but we're already faster on the tandem than I would be on my single even with moderate climbs. We've mastered turning around on a two-lane country road, but experienced teams do much better. Starting on steep hills requires some practice, but ordinary riding around is a no-brainer. (Disclaimer: we have a daVinci which allows one or the other to coast).

    Figuring out how to climb has required some work. Initially, I would put us in a gear that would work for me, but your uphill speed will be a compromise between captain and stoker capability. Better to be in too low a gear than to have to shift (especially FD) under the drivetrain load of a tandem. Caused some frustration on my part, but that's all part of figuring things out. Now that we have an intercom I can hear how hard my wife is breathing on these hills.

    Price: Look hard used and you will find some very good values, but it takes time. We saw a 1994 Santana Sovereign in mint condition with a $1500 asking price, but I'm sure it could have been had for less. Seems like the bottom end for older/heavier would be several hundred dollars ranging to zillions for CF with couplers.

    "She Who Must Be Obeyed" must have a Thudbuster or similar. You can't see every pothole in time and you can't bunny-hop so a suspension seatpost for the stoker is almost essential for a harmonious experience.
    Rick T
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  4. #4
    Tandem Mountain Climber
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    Check out our video from a typical Saturday tandem ride. Might help you with ride impressions.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4gTpsB5A2Y

  5. #5
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    Thanks. What is your average speed on a route like that?
    “with the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy." Ignatius J. Reilly

  6. #6
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    If you are spoiled by a carbon single bike, you will likely be disappointed by a low-end tandem.

    A decent (but rather heavy) tandem will likely run >$3k new.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I agree with Oldacura. It was a little disappointing for me to go from my Colnago to even a mid-level aluminum tandem. A good quality carbon tandem from someone like Calfee will run you about $4500+ for the frame/fork. It's definitely worth the $'s IMVHO. I suppose it's possible there are cheaper carbon frames out there but I'm not sure if there are better ones.

    Regarding suspension seat posts, they are not for everyone. I did a 370km ride as a stoker on one of those things and I absolutely hated it! It was so bad that I started looking around for bike shops as we rode so I could replace that darned thing with a real seatpost. My current stoker prefers a regular seatpost as well.
    Some people really like them and others don't. It just depends on the person.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by gettingold View Post
    The unthinkable happened; She Who Must Be Obeyed (who is fairly athletic but rides very little) saw a couple out on a tandem ride recently and thought it looked like fun. Oy.

    I love my carbon and think this will end badly. They look like they would be like turning an ocean liner. True, false? Comments please. How long before they become manageable?

    Also, what is price ranges for lower end models?
    My stoker does not ride anything but the tandem on the road with some limited time in the saddle in the woods. Been that way for 11 seasons. The nice thing about that is that she doesn't try to steer from the back, and she just goes along great. Stoking is not for everyone. If she is interested, that's great. I used to think it took a lot to turn, until we purchesed our triplet. Tandem=large boat, triplet=Exxon Valdez! Assuming your commnts above are somwhat tongue in cheek about ending badly, all I can say from experience is this. Trust and communication. If you don't have them, don't get the tandem, and call off the wedding now! I ride a CF Trek Madone, amongst the assorted bikes of mine hanging in the garage. We have a steel Co Motion, with a carbon fork, and for me I love the handling and ride qualities of the bike, keeping in mind what it is. Wheelbase makes for a pretty comfortable ride for me. Softride beam makes the stoker happy. I keep telling her maybe we will get a Calfee next year, but for us that's not a needed purchase. We picked up riding it right away, having had someone take the time and give us a few pointers. Would be great for you to find someone in your area with one that is willing to give you some pointers, and even let you try it. Most tandem teams are pretty social, and love to help out others and encourage new people. At least they are around here.

  9. #9
    Tandem Mountain Climber
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    Quote Originally Posted by gettingold View Post
    Thanks. What is your average speed on a route like that?
    I think on that ride, it was around 50 miles with close to 5000 feet of climbing. Avg speed was probably just under 15.0 mph

    Downhill... mostly in the 40s

    Uphill... We can climb Mt Diablo (11 miles, 6% avg grade, pitches to 18%) in around 77 minutes.

    Flats... mid to high twenties.

    This is on our old steel (but upgraded) 1990 Santana. It probably weighed around 42-44 lb.

    We are building a Calfee (carbon fiber tandem) that I should finish up on Thursday.

  10. #10
    Senior Member swc7916's Avatar
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    I detect an attitude problem that may sink this before it gets started. My single bike handles like a sports car and the tandem is more like a truck. They're both good in their own way. For cruising on the flats or blasting downhill, I much prefer the tandem; however, the speed gained on the downhills does not make up for the speed loss climbing uphill - for us, anyway - so I can actually average faster speeds on my single than on the tandem.

    If she wants to ride more and wants to ride with you, that's a good thing; don't screw it up.

  11. #11
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    +1 on the steel frame comfort. Our daVinci rides like a caddy from my perspective. Regarding a suspension seat post (or similar): It would only take a few jarring experiences to discourage a non-cycling stoker. You will inevitably hit potholes coming down a shady grade and the tandem isn't as nibble as a single. To be safe at least get a frame that has enough seat post extension in the rear for a suspension. If you don't need it all the better.

    Captaining a tandem is great hill training BTW. You will work harder than normal in the often misguided attempt to climb as fast as your single, younger, go-fast oriented teams excepted. After two months of riding the tandem my single feels like it weighs nothing (and it's not even that light).
    Last edited by rdtompki; 07-28-09 at 12:57 PM. Reason: typo
    Rick T
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    daVinci Joint Venture

  12. #12
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Small learning curve on becoming decent tandem riders.

    He who gives the orders shall always "communicate" to the one that must be oveyed on what he is doing on that lo-o-n-g bike. Been riding as a tandem duo for 34+ years and still happily married!Works for us!
    Prices on tandems run the gamut from below $1,000 used to $13,000 new. Whatever your wallet dictates.
    Go for it!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  13. #13
    Senior Member DCwom's Avatar
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    Our experience, for what its worth...

    In our case our tandem is a better bike than either of our singles so its faster, smoother, etc. However it is a different beast than a single, but that is the purpose, at least it should be, its a team thing and if that isn't part of your objective you probably aren't going to enjoy it. I don't mind the handling inconveniences of a tandem so much when I remember that my wife is giving up much more of the cycling experience as stoker than I as captain.

    Since you sound like a serious rider (e.g. carbon) and your potential partner may not share the same passion, you should certainly seek out an opportunity to rent or borrow a tandem to see how you work together.

  14. #14
    Riding Heaven's Highwayson the grand tour
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    """she wants to ride more and wants to ride with you, that's a good thing; don't screw it up."""

    +100

    Don't know your life's experiences or your personal goals in cycling but you have a golden opportunity here to share a pasion with your life's partner....IF, you are ready for that. Do some homework on tandem technique and make it happen...most importantly make it fun for her from the first time she gets on the bike, do it at her pace, let the process develope at a fun rate and enjoy.....
    If you are a hammrhead that just has to ride your brains out 100% everyday with the boys and have little patience at this stage of your life, then that is cool and there is nothing wrong with that... however, just know that this is not the time to introduce tandems to the Mrs. ....Save it for the future when you are more ready for her to join you.

    Bill J.

  15. #15
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    ^ and gradually turn her into a hammerhead. We've gone from casual family rides pulling a trailer, to faster group rides, to time trials, to mass start races, over a period of years.

    No way my wife would have signed on to this when we first started riding a tandem.

    You know the old saying about boiling a frog.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  16. #16
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    Still a novice, but I'll give my impression. Going from even my steel road bike to this mammoth tank-weighted tandem took some adjustment even riding myself. I think a lot of it was mental - that and the fact that the tandem was more of a hybrid/upright riding style bike than my road bike. It felt clunky and awkward, and turns still are a mental game for me. I only rode it a few times though, while I was tweaking it and fixing it up to give to my parents as a gift.

    My brother decided to be the stoker and helped get a feel for it. It was... an experience. We wobbled, and it took a while for us to figure out how to balance and start. Once we were going, it was fine but starting was miserable - then I learned he wasn't pedaling because he thought it'd be easier to avoid balance issues. Once that was sorted out, it was a blast. But nothing like my road bike.

    My parents, on the other hand, took to it amazingly. My folks only rode their bikes a couple of times last year, and before then had barely touched them except to shuffle them around in the garage. But they took to it like they've been doing it for years! I was impressed and humbled.

    So, its funky and a little weird adjusting, but its still a lot of fun!

  17. #17
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    The beauty of a tandem is that the captain and stoker can ride at whatever effort suits their respective fancy. A hammerhead captain can get a great workout on a tandem almost irrespective of the stoker effort. Of course if said stoker is at all competitive the frog analogy will come into play over time. My wife and I will celebrate the day when we can drop at least the slower of our twin sons on his single. Not quite there yet.
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  18. #18
    Legs; OK! Lungs; not! bobthib's Avatar
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    I won't get many backers here, but I just ordered a Lamborghini Viaggio Tandem Bike from Amazon for $506. Gets good reviews on Amazon that mostly seem real, despite shill claims. Frame is solid from what I read, but many of the other components are so so, and over time many have upgraded to get desired performance. I plan to change out the brakes but will wait for a while to see if SWMBO likes it enough. Also plan to do some club ride with my son, and since we're both strong riders, we'll give this a work out.

    Looked for some used bikes, but not much choice out there, not like "half bikes" as the TWOfer community likes to say. I figure that if we find we like it and stick with it we can get a better bike when we better understand what we want. For the time being, this will get us started.
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  19. #19
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    ^ At the risk of derailing the thread, I would ride the Lamborhini and enjoy it. I would resist the urge to upgrade it. If you really enjoy riding a Tandem, and find you want something a little more high performance, it will be way more cost effective to buy a new tandem, (or a higher end used one.) than to upgrade the Lamborghini.
    You could fall off a cliff and die.
    You could get lost and die.
    You could hit a tree and die.
    OR YOU COULD STAY HOME AND FALL OFF THE COUCH AND DIE.

  20. #20
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by specbill View Post
    """she wants to ride more and wants to ride with you, that's a good thing; don't screw it up."""

    +100

    Don't know your life's experiences or your personal goals in cycling but you have a golden opportunity here to share a pasion with your life's partner....IF, you are ready for that. Do some homework on tandem technique and make it happen...most importantly make it fun for her from the first time she gets on the bike, do it at her pace, let the process develope at a fun rate and enjoy.....
    If you are a hammrhead that just has to ride your brains out 100% everyday with the boys and have little patience at this stage of your life, then that is cool and there is nothing wrong with that... however, just know that this is not the time to introduce tandems to the Mrs. ....Save it for the future when you are more ready for her to join you.

    Bill J.
    Thats "Mr. Hammerhead" to you!

    Lots of good advice. Thanks all.
    “with the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy." Ignatius J. Reilly

  21. #21
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    Just one more bit of experience. My wife and I borrowed a series of tandems from friends all desperate for us to join them in tandeming. We used a KHS, an IBIS, and a Santana, the latter one for several months (their stoker was at school). We were able to determine what we were willing to spend on, and ended up with a CoMotion.

    The irony, as always, is that we have ridden with them very little since then. They all stopped tandeming for various reasons, and we ramped it up to 3-4k per year on the tandem. As they said, "We have created a monster".

  22. #22
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    One more thing. You always buy your first tandem so you know what you want in the second..

  23. #23
    Senior Member geranimo57's Avatar
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    """she wants to ride more and wants to ride with you, that's a good thing; don't screw it up."""

    That sums it up in my case. My wife cannot and does not want to ride a bike. When I met her almost 20 years ago that was pretty much the end of my bicycling... all touring. Of course I had a motorcycle, that is how we met and we proceeded to put over 300,000 miles on a few Goldwings touring the country. Last year I mentioned I would really like to get back to riding as I am getting older, could use the exercise. I suggested a Tandem and she thought that was a great idea(not to mention I gave my 80's vintage Trek to my son in college). Fortunately we live near TandemsEast and went over to talk to Mel. We came home with a new Burley, only took about a day to get comfortable enough to take to the roads here in South Jersey. We now ride first thing every morning.. beats going to the Gym, we have a blast and we do it together, I can't be happier that I finally get to ride again. The bike actually fits in the trunk of the Chrysler so we take it wherever. My next trick is to get a trailer for the motorcycle to haul the tandem and have the best of both worlds!
    Last edited by geranimo57; 07-29-09 at 05:28 PM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I did a 370km ride as a stoker on one of those things and I absolutely hated it! It was so bad that I started looking around for bike shops as we rode so I could replace that darned thing with a real seatpost. My current stoker prefers a regular seatpost as well.
    Some people really like them and others don't. It just depends on the person.

    I think I was with you on that ride, as I remember it, it was an all tandem plus a fixed gear fleche that finished in San Francisco. It was painful for me to watch you bounce along.

    A spinner and a masher equals pain.

  25. #25
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    Be patient; on craigslist I got a great deal on a 2003 Santana Sovereign ($950 purchase price plus another $250 to fit a short stoker). We are both still tandem novices, but she took to it quicker than I had expected and I look forward to many miles ahead. This last weekend our third ride together was quickly aborted after blowing both tires out on a downhill pothole. It was a bit nerve wracking, especially with very little shoulder on a 2 lane highway, but we managed to remain in control of the bike enough to pull over safely (I keep thinking there's a message here, but I don't know what it is). My stoker completely took it in stride, and we hitchhiked back to town. In general I expect future rides to go smoother.

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