2004 Gunnar Rock Hound MTB; 1988 Gitane Team Pro road bike; 1986-ish Raleigh USA Grand Prix; mid-'80s Univega Gran Tourismo with Xtracycle Free Radical
I don't really have any specific history, but I know tandems have been around for a long, long time. There's some information in Archibald Sharp's book, Bicycles and Tricycles: A Classic Treatise on their Design and Construction.
I was riding in a charity ride a couple years ago and came along a couple who were riding a sociable, which is not a true tandem (since the riders are alongside one another, not one in front of the other), I suppose, but which was cool nonetheless.
I am trying to find out a little more of the history of tandem riding, where it started, why, how, etc. Got some info or sites that I can visit?
Just do some "googling" on search strings like:
FWIW: In many hours spent surfing the Web over the years I have not found a comprehensive web resource that deals with the history of tandems. In the back of my mind I continue to ponder the feasibility of compiling such a resource or perhaps a hardcover book but, as of yet, have not made time for it.
However, in general, what you'll find is that "tandems" were originally 3 or four-wheeled variants of the highwheeler bikes, circa 1880's that were often referred to as "courting bikes". There were various configurations where the two main wheels were in front and followed by a small rear rudder wheel, about the size of a Pennyfarthing's rear wheel. A four-wheeled variant would add an extra small wheel in front, austensibly to preclude a "nose dive" or "endo" which, considering that the ladies being courted usually sat in front, could be disasterous to a relationship. There were also variants that had two small rudder wheels and, alternatively, two small front steering wheels. There were also "tricycle tandems" that placed the two larger wheels in back and used a 1/2 front wheel for stability and steering. In this configurations, it seems as though the "chauffeur" could be found seated just as often in front or rear in historic photos.
The two-wheeled "safety bicycle" configuration that we recognize today as a tandem seems to show up in the early 1890's and I believe you may find reference to one being issue a patent in 1895. Again, many of the early tandems were "courting bikes" designed for a man and woman which continued to place the lady in the front seat with the chauffeur behind and steering the bike through a linkage from the rear position. One of the more famous variants was produced by Ignaz Schwinn who included a special "middle seat" for his young son (photo below). These front "step-through" frames were a common sight well into the 1900's. There were of course racing tandems designed for men and, well, tandems begat triplets, quads, quints, and even a ten-seat monster from the Orient Bicycle Company. The quintuplets were often times used to "pace" track racers up to higher speeds prior to the invention of the motorcycle whereas machines like the 1896 Orient Orietin were basically promotional bikes.
Getting back to the "why a tandem", there were obviously two or three main purposes or drivers:
1. Like most technology, the first applications tend to be pretty much geared towarded more primal instincts and such was the case with the bicycle. The bicycle basically expanded the world of the courting male and allowed him to venture off in search of companionship in neighboring towns. Of course, who wants to be left to hang around the parents house once you've found a suitable partner for courting. Hence, the development of a courting bike that allowed the courter to take his lady out for a ride. Of course, it would be unthinkable to make a lady look at the backside of her male companion so it was only proper to place her in front where she would have a better view.
2. Social Riding: While it would be logical to assume that transportation should have preceeded courting, we're talking about tandems so it got first billing. Moreover, I would still maintain that with the exception of #3 below (sport), the courtship process or the pursuit of courtship did more to drive the interest in bicycling and the the tandem than anything else. Of course, with cycling being all the range in the 1890's, it was also logical that married couples and parent with children would most certainly want to pursue the activity.
3. Sport: If a track bike was fast, a track tandem would be faster... Tandem track racing and the tandem sprint was (and still is, but only for exhibition and paralympic events) one of the most exciting things you'll ever see on a track. The speeds are mind-blowing, even compared to the incredible speeds of todays super track stars. However, with tremendous speed and power comes tremendous risks and devastating accidents. Many a tandem sprint team ended up in hospitals which eventually led to the sport's disappearance from the Olympic games and, later, from USA Cycling events on America's velodrome schedules.
FWIW: To anyone not familiar with bicycle racing, while Europeans adopted "road racing" around the countryside in the United States track racing was the sporting rage. In fact, if you're a fan of American motor racing and either NASCAR or CART oval track racing you can pretty much thank the creation of the American Velodrome and track racing for creating the concept. Velodromes, track racing and "six day races" were again the rage for sport in America. In fact, there are all kinds of spin-offs from bicycle racing that you are probably familiar with but don't fully appreciate, e.g., Madison Square Gardens was built for bicycle racing and there is even a track racing event called "The Madison Race" that was invented there and named for it. Barney Oldfield was one of the most famous bicycle racers of his day, but is more well known for being one of the greats of American motor racing. But I digress.
Bottom Line: Tandems were created because it's the best way to share a bicycle ride with someone you want to be close to or with someone who wouldn't otherwise be able to enjoying cycling on their own.
Time for a lesson in photo history. Back in those days, photos were taken with a view camera which used a large negative, sometimes emulsion on a glass plate. Lenses were slow, meaning not a lot of light got through them. Film emulsions were slow as well, requiring lots of light, which in turn meant a long exposure. I'm a bit hazy on exposure times, but they were much longer than our current fraction of a second. That's why smiles are rare in old photos, and child are even more rare. They may have had to hold that position for several seconds, perhaps a minute even. You simply couldn't hold a smile long enough, nor could small children sit still long enough to get a decent photo.
Re: photo history -- I have also heard that people the 19th century also took photo portraiture very seriously. It was expensive, time consuming and not frivolous. So they seldom smiled. Is that apocryphal/anecdotal--or their some basis in fact?
I'm sure there's a bit of truth to that. Photography was certainly more of an upp middle class thing. The only lower class people that had their photos taken on a regular basis in NewYork, for instance, were photograped by Jacob Riis. He was one of the first to use a flashgun. He would poke a huge camera through the window of a lodging house where 20 guys were sleeping off their liquor, take one shot, and run like hell. He was trying to effect social change, as many people lived in filth in the slums, and fires in crowded areas killed groups of people all at once. He also photographed Potters Field, the graveyard of the poor. His famous book that no one's ever read is called "How the other half lives".
Biggleswade - Set on the River Ivel, this busy town is in the heart of market gardening country. During the 18th C. it was an important coaching centre on the Great North Road, and many old inns remain today. Dan Albone (1860-1906), racing cyclist and inventor of the tandem bicycle, established the Ivel Cycle Works in the town.