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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 03-26-10, 08:24 PM   #1
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Help with Single Speed Tandem Build

A couple of years ago, I got a Raleigh Companion tandem frame and fork. Thought was, I could put it together with spare parts I had laying around or picked up inexpensively on eBay or Craig's List. As it turns out, these rigs can be pretty expensive. Seems it takes two of most everything.

When it comes to riding, I will only use it to get my wife out for spin. She is not much of a cyclist and not athletic at all. I ride over 3000 miles a year on a couple of road and mountain bikes. I imagine we will only take brief rides around the neighborhood or on a local rail trail.

To save on cost and to keep things simple, I am thinking of building with a single speed drive train; therefore, no shifters, no derailleurs, no cassette. I will likely use a standard mountain bike rear hub with a Performance Bike Forté Single Speed Conversion Kit.

This ride will have 26 inch MTB wheels with rim brakes. I am looking for advice on 1) where to get tandem-specific parts (eccentric bottom bracket mount, rear handle bar stem, tandem cranksets, chain) and 2) other thought on how to keep the cost down.

Question: For cranksets — Can I go with simple single-speed square taper cranks and buy three sets, using two of the drive-side crank arms for the rear crank and one of the drive-side crank arms for the front? Would this be cheaper than a tandem-specific set? Thanks in advance.
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Old 03-26-10, 10:51 PM   #2
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Several sources for tandem specific parts
Tandems Ltd in Alabama: tandems@mindspring.comm
Tandems East in New Jersey: tandemwiz@aol.com
Mt Airy Bcycles in Maryland: bike123.com
Precision Tandem, Kansas: PrecisionTandems.com
Why on earth you want to build it up into a single speed? You will need some kind of deraileur set-up unless all your rides will down hill, both ways!
Tandem riding is not at all like riding a single. With a non-athletic stoker and a single speed you'll be more than glad to have some gear choi
Been riding tandem for decades . . . one speed road tandems just are not a good choice unless all you want to do is ride out of the driveway and try to make it around the block.
Having said that, good luck with your project.
Pedal on!
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Old 03-27-10, 02:21 AM   #3
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So am I the first to think of building a single-speed tandem? Well maybe the incremental cost would not be much to add the rings and cogs and derailleur. I've never ridden one, I am mainly doing this for my wife who thought a tandem would be fun. We would stay away from hills and target a speed of around 8-12 mph on the flats. This is the kind of feedback I am looking for before I commit fully to the build or end up selling that frame. Thanks!
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Old 03-27-10, 07:08 AM   #4
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Question: For cranksets — Can I go with simple single-speed square taper cranks and buy three sets, using two of the drive-side crank arms for the rear crank and one of the drive-side crank arms for the front? Would this be cheaper than a tandem-specific set? Thanks in advance.
You only need two standard, double chain ring cranksets. Run the sync chain on the right side of the frame between the two inner chain rings and leave the big chain ring off the front crank. Your big rear chain ring drives the rear cog.

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So am I the first to think of building a single-speed tandem
Nope. The very first tandem was a single speed and that's what most cruiser tandems use. The late, great Sheldon Brown and his Harriet Fell rode a fixed-gear tandem on many occasions and would simply leave other tandem teams in complete amazement as they hammered up steep grades at the Eastern Tandem Rally and other regional events. Henry Abel & Amy Mitchell out in Eugene Oregon routinely race a single speed 29er tandem in local Cyclocross Events and took it to the Single-Speed World Championship this past year.
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Old 03-27-10, 07:20 AM   #5
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You only need two standard, double chain ring cranksets. Run the sync chain on the right side of the frame between the two inner chain rings and leave the big chain ring off the front crank. Your big rear chain ring drives the rear cog.
Oow, good idea! Any issue with running the sync chain on the larger rings? I may need the smaller ring to drive the rear in order to get the right gear ratio.
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Old 03-27-10, 07:33 AM   #6
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Oow, good idea! Any issue with running the sync chain on the larger rings? I may need the smaller ring to drive the rear in order to get the right gear ratio.
Nope. So long as the chain rings are the same size they'll work. However, if it was me I'd just replace the larger outer chain ring with a middle / small ring (BCDs are the same) just to keep the sync chain in bit closer to the boob tube and to keep the sync chain a bit shorter / more compact.

Actually, now that I think about it, what you'd probably want to do is find a pair of MTB cranks which will have that smaller drive ring. Just remove the granny rings and run the sync chain on the middle rings: a near perfect S/S set-up that you can fine tune with your rear cog selection.

Last edited by TandemGeek; 03-27-10 at 07:36 AM.
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Old 03-27-10, 08:06 AM   #7
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All good ideas, thanks! I was thinking MTB cranks (I have a couple spares). I never thought about putting a smaller ring in the outer position. It would be "flipped" over to get the counterbores for the chainring bolts in the right direction. Would probably want to avoid rings with shift ramps and pins, right?
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Old 03-27-10, 03:31 PM   #8
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Would probably want to avoid rings with shift ramps and pins, right?
Fixed gear; ramps and pins shouldn't be of any concern.

Also, it really doesn't matter which way you install the rings so long as you: (a) get the rear chain line squared away and then (b) can align the inboard 'timing' rings such that there's no interference between the sync and drive chains.

If there was, put some spacers on the inner chain ring to move it away from the outer ring. The timing rings don't have to have the chain line as spot-on as your drive chain because of the length of the sync chain.
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Old 03-27-10, 07:32 PM   #9
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So am I the first to think of building a single-speed tandem?
I have the exact same bike that my daughter and I currently ride and have been thinking the same thing when we replace it with something a little bit nicer. You will probably have to run a chain tensioner since the drop outs are vertical. Please post pics of your build when you get it done.

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Old 03-28-10, 11:19 AM   #10
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As usual, TG did a good job of addressing the actual question asked. But Zonatandem brings up a valid point.

Let me say right up front that we, too, want a single speed tandem, and ours will even be a fixed gear. But NOT as our ONLY tandem.

As I read your intentions, the idea is to get your wife out cycling. IMO, that's better accomplished if you can actually GO somewhere interesting, and THAT is better accomplished if you have gearing. If it were me, I'd do whatever I have to do to build it as a geared machine.

For instance, I might be tempted to buy one of these cheap Micargi tandems for $300, scavenge all the components off it to build the Raleigh, then replace them with better stuff as I had the bucks, (cause the components are cheap too, but when new and properly adjusted, they'll work for a while). Since it's probably not possible to get away with just $300 on this build anyway, this will hold your cost down, get you on the road with a geared bike, and as you eventually replace the initial components you could even rebuild the Micargi and sell it for a few dollars.

Just another way to attack the problem.
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Old 03-28-10, 11:23 AM   #11
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Great idea! But can a Tandem be called a single speed?

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Old 03-28-10, 11:26 AM   #12
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Great idea! But can a Tandem be called a single speed?
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Old 03-28-10, 01:31 PM   #13
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I agree with the comments about a single-speed setup not being a good idea in terms of helping your wife to enjoy the experience. Don't make this challenging task any harder than it needs to be!

EDIT: To keep the cost down, you could still go with two single-bike cranksets and the timing chain on the drive side, then don't use a front derailleur. Put a wide-range mountain bike cassette on the back, plus buy a MTB rear derailleur and a rear shifter; if you use 8-speed stuff then it should be pretty cheap even if buying it all new. I think your wife will then have a much easier time than if she had to ride a single speed.

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