Originally Posted by SDS
.... what to look for, for people new to tandems.
Hopefully the tandem dealers are addressing most of what you're suggesting, but that's probably a different thread (e.g., not all dealers who sell tandems are tandem dealers). However, back to your question, I've probably written it a few times over the years and have been meaning to write a buyers guide tailored for this list but haven't gotten around to it. However, to be frank, 99 out of 100 first time tandem buyers probably wouldn't (and perhaps shouldn't) care. A first tandem needs to:
1. Fit within a budget;
2. Fit the captain and stoker;
3. Have a frame and components of sufficient quality to meet the intended use;
4. Be assembled or serviced by a qualified mechanic; and
5. Make both riders feel the ride is good enough to meet their needs.
If I can make yet another analogy to wine... Most folks who drink wine are concerned with what it costs and how it tastes; sweet, dry, or full-bodied and pleasing to their palate. If that first taste is good, then pour the bottle and lets enjoy. A wine connoisseur, on the other hand, will swish the wine around under the nose, swish it around in the light, and swish it around in their mouth to extract every detail about what went into it in an effort to "understand the wine" before spitting it out, cleansing their palate and going on to critique the next one. None of this makes a wine any more enjoyable to drink to someone who simply likes the way it tastes and thought it was a good value. It has been my experience that first time tandem buyers are basically looking for a tandem at a reasonable price point relative to their budget that's comfortable enough to be enjoyable and safe to ride (and maybe a certain color).
So, with that theme in mind, we turn our attention back to tandems as a product. Part of marketing tandems is specifying the colors that they think buyers will like (or offering their customers a choice of colors) as well as the components right down to the tires such that the tandem "as delivered" by the manufacturer represents what the builder intended in terms of the ride quality. So, parsing out the differences in tires, air pressure, wheel construction, fork rake, tubing specs. would only serve to complicate the buying process for a first time buyer and alter what the builder intended customers to find appealing about their tandems.
Case in point: I believe you have had the opportunity to speak with "Mr. Bill", aka. founder and president of Santana Bill McCready. Bill will tell you without one iota of hesitation that every aspect of a Santana tandem exactly as it should be, right down to the Continental Gatorskins. If he didn't believe in his designs and wanted to go after the Co-Motion buyers, all he would need to do is to offer an alternative fork with 45mm of rake to replicate the steering geometry used by Co-Motion. But, he won't do that because he truly believes a 55mm fork is "the best" for use on tandems. To his credit, Burley, Trek and a few other builders have pretty much followed Mr. Bill's lead and spec their tandems with the same geometry and for the same reason: most first time tandem buyers find it preferrable during their initial test rides. Same thing goes for tires, etc... Now, if you go and talk to Dwan or Dan at Co-Motion, they'll tell with you with just as much conviction that the 45mm rake and their super-robust forks (both chromo and carbon) help to create "the best handling" tandem for their buyers. And like Bill, I suspect that Co-Motion would not look favorably upon a dealer who was substituting the Co-Motion spec. forks for ones that would replicate the steering geometry of the Santana or Burley in order to help bolster sales to first time buyers. After all, Co-Motion's position is that once you have that first 100 miles under your belt you'll finally understand and appreciate why their steering geometry makes Co-Motion the best handling production tandem you can buy, right down to the tires that they specify for each model.
So, for the first time buyer, IMHO it's the composite impression that matters the most. Or, more simply put, finding a tandem that just suits their tastes (and their budgets).