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Starter Tandem - Burley or another recomendation?

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Starter Tandem - Burley or another recomendation?

Old 09-17-21, 11:55 AM
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Starter Tandem - Burley or another recomendation?

Happy Friday, Everyone -

My wife and I used to cycle together here and there, but I admittedly grew less fond of it due to the speed difference between us. She just moved at a much slower pace than myself, and I didn't have much patience for stopping to wait. We haven't biked in some years since then, but she's been asking me to try again. This time, she's suggested trying a Tandem to alleviate the problems we experienced in the past. Of course everyone makes jokes about tandems being divorce-makers, but we like to imagine we're more tolerant of each other than the average couple (don't we all). Nonetheless, we are going to rent one for the day tomorrow before we get head over heals on purchasing one.

If all goes well, we're looking at our options, and primarily looking at the used route. We aren't looking to spend much money on our first one (topping out at $1000 for something that really wows us, but hopefully less), and we'd rather get a nicer model that comes pre-loved rather than a walmart-special that we won't enjoy.

Someone on Facebook is selling a Burley Zydeco Mixte (currently asking $775) about an hour away from us, and I know Burley stopped making these ~15 years ago, but it looks like this one has been well cared for. I'm curious for some experienced opinions though - would this be a good starter tandem if we could get it for a good deal? If we fall in love with the hobby, we could upgrade down the line, and if we don't, we won't have a huge investment to lose.

On one hand, the mixte frame is kind of interesting, because it seems like it would work well for us - I'm 6'1" and she's 5'4", so the stepthrough-ish design for the stoker is convenient. I've heard that the zydeco can have a bit of give in the frame though, and with the pair of us pushing a combined 500 pounds, I'm wondering if that would be a bad decision?

Any input is appreciated!
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Old 09-18-21, 11:29 AM
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Renting a tandem for a day is a good way to start out. See if the seller can tell you the size of the Burley Zydeco Mixte. How well a tandem fits each of you will be a major factor in how much you enjoy riding it. Buying a used tandem seems like a wise move based on your goals. Keep an eye out for a Trek T900. It won't wow you, but the cost should be on the low end of what you want to spend; your stoker should fit okay; and it could be a good starter tandem for you to see how riding a tandem works for you. FWIW, my stoker would not be able to keep up with me on a half bike. We started riding tandems 30+ years ago on a Trailmate cruiser; went to a Trek T900; now ride a daVinci Grand Junction every day. It works great for us.
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Old 09-18-21, 08:58 PM
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I would not call tandems divorce makers, I do call them relationship accelerators. They'll get your relationship to where it's already going and do it faster, whichever way that may be.
Renting a tandem, assuming it's the same general type (ie. don't rent a beach cruiser if you want a roadie) is a good idea. I do like your overall plan.
While that is what Burley called it, I've always thought of a Mixte as a step through where the top tube is replaced with two smaller tubes. My wife and I did have a Mixte tandem and it was a bit of a limp noodle. Of course it was a mid 70's bike as well, so an early 2000's bike may well have solved many of the problems ours had.
Comfort is key. Your wife being shorter is actually a bit of a benefit IMO because tandems tend to have somewhat compressed stoker compartments. After a while my wife had all sorts of reasons for not wanting to ride our first tandem, but a large portion of that had to do with her not being comfortable with the fit combined with being nervous about me not being the smoothest captain on a noodle of a bike. Our current tandem (an early 2000's da Vinci) is a substantially easier bike to handle for me and more comfortable for her, and thus we're able to enjoy riding it.
Captaining a tandem can take some getting used to even for those experienced with a single. Other than the wheel base being longer they tend to ride much the same without a stoker, but getting used to the weight back there (namely not leaning the bike when you stop) is easier for some than others. If anyone local to you (or the rental place?) is willing to play experienced stoker while you get used to captaining that may make it a bit easier for the first ride with your wife. If not, just remember it make take a few days of rentals before you both get the correct experience. It's a bit like learning to ride a bicycle.

The good news is that finding a good used bike at the <$1000 price point is entirely possible if you're patient and don't live in the middle of nowhere.
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Old 09-19-21, 02:42 PM
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Echoing on riding one more than once as it is a different feeling than a single and it takes a few times to build trust. My wife won't go back to a single now but I bought an e-kit to balance us out on single rides, so that is an option if a tandem does not work out.
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Old 09-19-21, 07:48 PM
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We began to tandem for the same reasons, she was slower. It has worked for us for over 15 years. We started with a Burley Rock-N-Roll with 26" wheels and it was a good way to start. I eventually put a new set of hand laced wheels on it. I changed it from 8 speed flat bars to 9 speed drop bars and we rode it for five years.
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Old 09-19-21, 09:16 PM
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you also get her a mid drive e bike. then she can keep up if the tandem idea does not work out.
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Old 09-19-21, 10:27 PM
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Cannondale tandems are fairly plentiful and deals can be had. Itís a lot of bike for the price - we paid $600 for our 2005 road model with disc brakes and 9 speed Ultegra/Deore.
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Old 09-22-21, 12:00 AM
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Originally Posted by due ruote View Post
Cannondale tandems are fairly plentiful and deals can be had. It’s a lot of bike for the price - we paid $600 for our 2005 road model with disc brakes and 9 speed Ultegra/Deore.
Yes, Cannondales can be had for a song. I like them for new riders because they avoid the dreaded noodle flex many steel tandems suffer from. And I say this as a safety measure, not as an elite attitude or desire for "optimal efficiency." If your stoker leans or shifts weight or does something unexpected, a flexible tandem may surprise you. Stay a bit further from parked cars you're passing if you're on a really cheap tandem!

It's apt that this subject came up because I just happened to repair a damaged CounterPoint steel semi-recumbent tandem. This thing is quite a kick! The recumbent front rider is the stoker (if you're running a "traditional" captain stoker arrangement) and the upright captain is in back. I repaired it and called my intrepid stoker for a test ride! Some background: we've been tandeming together for almost 30 years. On and off road. We climb out of the saddle when we like. We track stand. We can even ride backwards a little bit. We've mountain biked the Sierra, Colorado and Moab on the off road tandem. In other words, we're pretty damn comfortable on our tandems. Well let me tell you, this steel CounterPoint is a HANDFULL to ride! I'm lucky in that my stoker is the lightest, awesomest stoker around. It's cheating on our "normal" tandems having such a good stoker. Well, on the CounterPoint - a flexible noodle - it's SCARY! She was shifting her weight on occasion and it really threw us around. I'd say this thing is not suitable for the general riding public it's so sketchy. Whenever the front rider shifts their weight, the bike wants to go wherever it wants to. This is the problem with poorly designed steel tandems with inadequately small tubing.

Now don't get me wrong, I wouldn't expect you to have such issues with a traditional steel tandem. But I also had a surprisingly disappointing experience with a steel Santana I rented way back in the 90's. Total noodle. I didn't realize how spoiled I had been on my Cannondale. Rock solid. And many will say TOO solid. But for casual riding, the predictable, stability of the oversized Cannondale frames is a big plus in my book. So I'd consider a Cannondale, given their quality and good used pricing.

PS My steel Co-Motion has none of the issues I mention above. If done well, steel is fine. Just know what's good and what isn't.
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Old 09-22-21, 05:28 PM
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$775 for a Burley Zydeco does not sound like a screaming deal. Burley Samba's were better spec'd and I see them for $500 - $600+ all the time. We even bought one at the upper end of that range because the seller brought it to our home. Solid bike. Stiff as anyone needs. Love Cannondales too. Can't go wrong with either. A Trek T900 is our family car and a Raleigh Coupe is our sportscar. We just added a Bike Friday Two'sday for mixed mode commuting. Sadly the Burley was stolen before we ever got it on the road.
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