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Trek T50 Tandem Test

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Trek T50 Tandem Test

Old 05-19-21, 05:17 AM
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Trek T50 Tandem Test

For a long time, my wife and I have been curious about trying a tandem. The allure of tandem riding is only offset by the probability of spending more money than necessary, especially if we don't like the experience. I've looked around and shopped around for a qualified candidate, but so far have come up short. Either they are too cheap and cheesy, or prohibitively expensive. We could probably afford a nice bike, but I want to be certain that we will really like tandem riding first. So for the last couple years I've been vigilantly looking at Craigslist ads for tandems. I've seen some good ones and some really bad ones, with prices all over the place. One nice gentleman had a really sweet Bilenky tandem - and I'm a Bilenky fan - but he wanted way more than I would pay for it just to try it. So the search continued... until yesterday.

I woke as usual, and with a hot cup of coffee, reviewed my Craigslist searches, of which "Tandem" was one of them. Some guy north of here had this Trek T50 listed for $200. The pics were of medium size, so not a lot of fine detail or ability to do a close-up view, but I shot him a text, telling him that I would take it. After a few minutes I thought better of it and called the number in his ad. He answered and was driving to work. I told him I wanted the bike and that I was able to come and get it today, if it was available to get it today. He asked, "Can I trust you?" I said, "Sure, I'm a straight-shooter," and he claimed that the bike was outside leaning against the back of his house, and that I could just give the money to his neighbor, whom he would call. I said sure why not. The bike was located about an hour and twenty minutes away, so I let the dog out for a quick break and hopped in the truck. After some drive-through coffee and an ATM stop, I was on my way.

When I got to the bike, it looked a little rough. Fixable, and definitely restorable, but way more time and money than I wanted to put into it. I have a long history of getting projects that seem to last forever because I am a perfectionist - to a fault - and it just takes time to make things right. Anyway! So I called the guy and said I was disappointed in the condition and that I would pass on it, and sorry to waste his time, blah blah blah. He said, "Okay, how 'bout a hundred bucks?" So I said okay. His neighbor wasn't home, so we agreed that I would slide the cash under his door. I dropped five twenties into an envelope I had in my glove box, and tried to slide it under the door, but the gap was so tight, I couldn't even get the envelope even partway inserted, so I shot a pic of the envelope, sent it to him, and stuck it under the doormat. No complaints, so I take it the cash was still there when he got home. So here is the new ride:



Dirty. Needs a new chain, new tires, new cables, derailleurs cleaned and flushed, and adjustments all around. The wheels need to be trued and some adequate saddles installed. My plan is to get it running and safe enough for us to try it out, and if it works out for us, I'll refurb the whole bike and we'll take it to the next level. I'm going to check the chain for wear, and if its okay, I'll clean it. I'll have to buy some new chain, and perhaps a tandem-length derailleur cable, otherwise I already have everything I need to get it roadworthy. I have a brand new set of Schwalbe Landcruisers, which wouldn't be my first choice for this bike ,but I got them, and they're just sitting on the shelf, so I'll use them.

If we decide that we like the tandem experience, my next step for this bike will be to perform a complete frame-off restoration, which will probably mean a good cleaning/polishing of the paint, and do some framesaver on the insides. I use Fluid Film instead of Framesaver, but you get my point. Then I will focus on the ergonomics and aesthetics. We like the fit and function of Jones bars, so I will install a couple of the Jones Bend bars, along with a couple new saddles. Mudguards racks, and a couple bags. That should be enough to get us comfortable and roadworthy.

There it is! I'll use this thread as a platform to show my progress, so stick around, and thanks for reading! Oh, and any advice along the way from you experienced tandem riders would be most-appreciated!
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Old 05-19-21, 06:13 AM
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I understand the reluctance. Some questions that in my opinion are important in this context.
-Does your wife ride a bike often?
-When you ride together, do you not tend to stick together due to different strengths?
-If you were to ride a tandem, you would not be concerned about the relative energy you are both willing to put in?
-If she is significantly shorter, might she warm up to the idea that although see can't see around you, she will no longer need to pay attention to the road and now has the freedom to see everything around you in much greater detail?

Don't forget to listen and adjust to her concerns however minor they may seem. Good luck.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:22 AM
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I've been looking for a "vintage" tandem as well so we can try out tandem riding. I'd like to pick up an older MTB style tandem so I can run fat tires on it. I figure we can at least use it go to to the farmer's market weekends.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:23 AM
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Thank you for the kind concern. I'll address your comments below in italics.

Originally Posted by IPassGas View Post
I understand the reluctance. Some questions that in my opinion are important in this context.

-Does your wife ride a bike often?

Yes, daily, as do I.

-When you ride together, do you not tend to stick together due to different strengths?

Haha! Some days are different. We don't ride together as if we were a pack of roadies, but we do ride single-file a few bike-lengths apart. Sometimes when she's had a tough day at work, she'll come home and attack the ride like her hair is on fire. Other days she lags behind me. There is rarely a time when we lose sight of each other. Very rarely. I always wait for her if she falls behind.

-If you were to ride a tandem, you would not be concerned about the relative energy you are both willing to put in?

Not sure I understand this question, but I think we'd have to learn how to cooperate and coexist on the bike as we have in the 43 years of our marriage. Communication, I think, is key.

-If she is significantly shorter, might she warm up to the idea that although see can't see around you, she will no longer need to pay attention to the road and now has the freedom to see everything around you in much greater detail? Don't forget to listen and adjust to her concerns however minor they may seem. Good luck.

Dear Wife is 5'7", and I'm 5'11", so not a lot of difference. Our biggest obstacle is that she's had reconstructive spine surgery to her C4 and C5 cervical vertabrae. The bone had grafts installed and was fused. She's fine, but now has somewhat limited motion of turning her head side-to-side. When riding, she needs a helmet mirror, but otherwise she's fine. My concern with all of this is that I don't want her spine to be bumped and jostled any more than necessary, so I'll be installing a Thudbuster in the stoker position.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:29 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I've been looking for a "vintage" tandem as well so we can try out tandem riding. I'd like to pick up an older MTB style tandem so I can run fat tires on it. I figure we can at least use it go to to the farmer's market weekends.
In retrospect, what I should have done is to shell out some extra cash for a bike that was in better shape. I passed up a pretty sweet Burley last week that was $600. If I rebuild this T50, I will easily spend $600 just in parts and about 30 hours of labor, so probably not the wisest choice. Still, if I can get it running with parts I have on hand, and get a taste of what tandem riding is going to be like for us, then it might be worth it. Maybe once we decide we like it we'll just buy a nicer bike.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:34 AM
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That is a great platform to jump into tandem riding! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Most of us have gone through several tandems during our time, we are on tandems, 4 and 5 now. :-) So that said see where it takes you and enjoy the ride.
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Old 05-19-21, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by J.Higgins View Post
Thank you for the kind concern. I'll address your comments below in italics.
Great, sounds like the both of you are on the right track. Great to hear she is an avid biker. My wife and I have about the same height difference, that means she can see over my shoulder, which is an important benefit for the stoker. The spine aspect is a concern, of which I have no experience, but agreed that a seat post shock could help. I might also go with the widest possible tire, unfortunately probably limited to 32 or 35s on the trek 50. The command BUMP is even more important for you. Don't forget to remind spectators that the stoker usually has her feet up, eating bon-bons while sipping champaygnia
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Old 05-19-21, 08:10 AM
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Trek steel tandems are legit, good find! I like this one, it's just new enough to avoid the really obsolete bike-boom build of 1970's-1980's bikes.

I have one of those Burleys. They fit big, you are probably better off here.

Did you score a key for that lock, though?
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Old 05-20-21, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
Did you score a key for that lock, though?
Nope. I took an abrasive disc to it. Here it is with a pile of all the useless garbage removed so far.

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Old 05-20-21, 09:31 AM
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Here it is in a complete state of disrepair. Needs a new chain. I'll take it off and give it a good scrubbing, but I've got some nice KMC 7-speed chain standing by in my Amazon cart. If we decide we like this, I might just fix it up really good. One of those sweet Co-Motions with disc brakes sounds really good about now.



Pardon the clutter. I'm remodeling the mudroom, so guess who's area suffers the most for it. Got the rear wheel off. No springs in the hub skewers and one is bent. This project is either going to nickle-and-dime me to death, or I spend A LOT of time cleaning, polishing, straightening, and general magic-working.



Putting some Kroil in the places that are a little stubborn. I've had to use it on the captain's seatpost, but the stoker seatpost slid out really nice. The captain's seatpost is still stuck, but I havent really reefed on it yet. I added a little more Kroil to it just now.

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Old 05-21-21, 02:49 AM
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Congrats, I really like the „classic“ Trek frame with the lateral tube and the rest of it can be changed/replaced if you want to.
I would probably change rather more than less of the remaining components. Did you check for the wear indicators on the rims?
If the bike wasn’t hanging somewhere in a shack for its whole lifetime (and it doesn’t look that way), the rims could be quite worn by the brakes.
Something I would definitely have an eye on, especially with a tandem.
If the hubs are still good, why not using them with some new spokes & rims (& probably bearings).
I can’t see it clearly on the picture: Is there an excentre for captain’s bottom bracket and is it still working?
(a perfect tension of the primary chain avoids trouble in the primary drivetrain…)

And I strongly support your idea to go for a suspension seat post for your stoker.
To us it was the key to enjoyable rides for my wife (and subsequently for me as well):
As a captain you see every little bump in advance (in best case ) and you’re tensioning your body nearly unconsciously to it.
Poor stoker doesn’t nearly have that chance and the subsequent unprepared strokes are never good for the spline.
That’s were our Thudbuster LT (one of the few American components on our bike ) came into play and it does a good job for nearly 9000 km since then…

Have some lucky hours building this bike up and endless happy miles riding it together with your partner.



(if my English sounds a little “weird” from time to time… sorry for that, I’m not in my native tongue here…)
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Old 05-21-21, 05:29 AM
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Originally Posted by lichtgrau View Post
Congrats, I really like the „classic“ Trek frame with the lateral tube and the rest of it can be changed/replaced if you want to.
I would probably change rather more than less of the remaining components. Did you check for the wear indicators on the rims?
If the bike wasn’t hanging somewhere in a shack for its whole lifetime (and it doesn’t look that way), the rims could be quite worn by the brakes.
Something I would definitely have an eye on, especially with a tandem.
If the hubs are still good, why not using them with some new spokes & rims (& probably bearings).
I can’t see it clearly on the picture: Is there an excentre for captain’s bottom bracket and is it still working?
(a perfect tension of the primary chain avoids trouble in the primary drivetrain…)

And I strongly support your idea to go for a suspension seat post for your stoker.
To us it was the key to enjoyable rides for my wife (and subsequently for me as well):
As a captain you see every little bump in advance (in best case ) and you’re tensioning your body nearly unconsciously to it.
Poor stoker doesn’t nearly have that chance and the subsequent unprepared strokes are never good for the spline.
That’s were our Thudbuster LT (one of the few American components on our bike ) came into play and it does a good job for nearly 9000 km since then…

Have some lucky hours building this bike up and endless happy miles riding it together with your partner.



(if my English sounds a little “weird” from time to time… sorry for that, I’m not in my native tongue here…)
Thank you very much for your comments and advice. I so appreciate it. I've run into more problems with this bike, and now I am not sure that I'll be willing to proceed with the rebuild.

I've had the chance to remove and inspect the wheels much more closely, and I've discovered a broken spoke on the drive-side of the rear wheel, which would account for the wobbliness that I first noticed. The SUN rims appear to be only worn slightly, and definitely will accept a good cleaning and truing, but after removing the rim strip, it looks like every spoke nipple has threads protruding well past the end of the nipple, as well as being quite corroded and nasty. As a wheel builder myself, I can tell you this is not good. I'm going to give the nipples a dose of Kroil and see if they'll turn. Maybe I can get a new spoke in this rim and at least get it to the point where it can be ridden again (without much cost).

Upon further inspection, it would appear that the bike has been kept outside or in a damp area. There is bubbled and lifted powdercoat on the frame, so any restoration attempts will be overshadowed by this and until that issue is addressed, this bike will probably never be anything more than a beater. I'll try to get it running, but I'm skeptical... really skeptical.

There is an eccentric on the captain's BB, which appears to be serviceable. Other than adjusting it when I get the new chain installed, I doubt that I'll do much to it for now. A full rebuild would mean a whole new BB front and rear. Again, I'm not that enthusiastic about spending all that money on this bike. We get to a point where there is a realization of diminishing returns, where we have a brand-new bike at the end, but the bike itself is not worth the effort and the money invested. I get the visual of a diamond-studded dog turd, if you get my meaning. If this were a Burley or a Santana, it may be worth actually investing some cash into it. I'm scratching my head and really wishing right now that I could kick my own ass, because here I go again with another project that'll take a lot of money to "make right".

Also, lichtgrau, don't worry about your English. Its better than a lot of Americans, whom English is their only language. Your heart is in the right place, and that's all that counts, brother!
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Old 05-21-21, 02:53 PM
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Don't forget that it was a $200 bike at the start. Things like the QR springs, annoying as they are, are often $1 or just thrown in with another purchase if you don't mind them coming from the LBS parts bin.
I wouldn't think of this as your dream tandem so much as the bike that lets you and your wife know if you like it enough to put more time/effort/money into it later. I recently bought a used tandem (for a good bit more than $200) and while many aspects of it are in great shape I've already thrown $100 in parts into it just doing a light review. Cartridge bearing here and there. The 0.75 side of the chain tool checker didn't go in, not because the chain wasn't worn yet but because it was so worn that it gets stuck on the previous roller.
Be aware that the timing chain on a tandem is sometimes just a bit longer than a stock chain, so it's worth saving the few leftover links you take out of new chains in case you need to make one just a tad longer.
If you find the timing sprockets worn you can always swap them and use the opposite side of the tooth.
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Old 05-21-21, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
Don't forget that it was a $200 bike at the start. Things like the QR springs, annoying as they are, are often $1 or just thrown in with another purchase if you don't mind them coming from the LBS parts bin.
I wouldn't think of this as your dream tandem so much as the bike that lets you and your wife know if you like it enough to put more time/effort/money into it later. I recently bought a used tandem (for a good bit more than $200) and while many aspects of it are in great shape I've already thrown $100 in parts into it just doing a light review. Cartridge bearing here and there. The 0.75 side of the chain tool checker didn't go in, not because the chain wasn't worn yet but because it was so worn that it gets stuck on the previous roller.
Be aware that the timing chain on a tandem is sometimes just a bit longer than a stock chain, so it's worth saving the few leftover links you take out of new chains in case you need to make one just a tad longer.
If you find the timing sprockets worn you can always swap them and use the opposite side of the tooth.
I've been reconditioning bikes for a long time, since 1972 to be precise. Sometimes you get a bike that seems like a worthy candidate, but some times you get one that really needs a lot of help, i.e. cash investment. I could spend a lot of time and money on the bike if I wanted, but not sure I want to now. I've been thinking of making a motorized cargo bike, and this frame might be a good victim... er... donor for that. I've got the nipples on that rear wheel soaking in kroil right now and if I can get them to budge, I may just clean it up enough to get a couple rides out of it, and then buy a better tandem for us. My wife will have to say she loves it (tandem riding) for me to invest the cash, so I'll see what gives tomorrow.
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Old 05-23-21, 05:23 PM
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Well I said goodbye to this tandem today. Posted it for $100 on CL, and someone drove off with it this morning. Yesterday, I replaced the spoke in the rear wheel and trued it up perfectly. Re-tensioned all the spokes and got it into ship shape. Had two brand new tires sitting on the shelf, and installed them, and when I slid the rear wheel into the dropouts, I was shocked to see that the hub was way smaller than the frame dropout spacing. The dropouts on the frame is 135mm, and the hub over-locknut-dimension is 126mm. No wonder it was stiff and weird when I was first taking it off! It wasnt the correct wheel for the bike to begin with. Stupid mistake on my part, but I've been preoccupied with some things this week, and sometimes stuff just gets by me.

Anyway, I took pics. Posted the bike. Sold it. Interesting side note: The chap I sold it to was a trumpet player and a trumpet collector. He stated that he had over 1500 trumpets in his collection. That's a lot of brass!
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Old 05-23-21, 11:53 PM
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Originally Posted by J.Higgins View Post
Well I said goodbye to this tandem today...
If the T50 set the "tandem virus" into your (and your partners) system... it was definitely worth it.

Hope you'll find something that's a better fit from the beginning and causes not so much "rebuild headaches". (Saying that I'm just preparing breakfast and looking forward to a hopefully joyful and sunny "Pentecost tour" with my beloved partner...)
All the best & have fun :-) :-)


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Old 05-24-21, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by lichtgrau View Post
If the T50 set the "tandem virus" into your (and your partners) system... it was definitely worth it.

Hope you'll find something that's a better fit from the beginning and causes not so much "rebuild headaches". (Saying that I'm just preparing breakfast and looking forward to a hopefully joyful and sunny "Pentecost tour" with my beloved partner...)
All the best & have fun :-) :-)


Now there is a fine pair of happy shining faces! I hope you had a nice ride.
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Old 05-24-21, 09:54 AM
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Originally Posted by J.Higgins View Post
Now there is a fine pair of happy shining faces! I hope you had a nice ride.
Definitely. 'Twas another day in double-bikers paradise...
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Old 05-31-21, 11:28 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
I've been looking for a "vintage" tandem as well so we can try out tandem riding. I'd like to pick up an older MTB style tandem so I can run fat tires on it. I figure we can at least use it go to to the farmer's market weekends.
Ask someone who has a tandem if you can try it. My guess is that they'll say "sure!"
Don't know someone with a tandem? Reach out to PIGS, COWS, or CATS or other bicycle clubs.
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