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First Tandem - Recommendations / Thoughts?

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First Tandem - Recommendations / Thoughts?

Old 09-23-21, 03:24 PM
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themrbruceguy
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First Tandem - Recommendations / Thoughts?

Hey there! My wife and I are both formerly avid cyclists (we have slowed down the past year, but are still very active with bike commuting, running, etc) who enjoy gravel riding, overnighters, short tours, and recreational out-and-about kind of rides. We are both fairly athletic, so going fast is something we would probably be interested in doing, but racing is definitely not the reason we're looking for a tandem. My wife has owned an old Schwinn tandem since I met her 6 years ago and we really enjoyed riding it throughout dating and marriage. The thing is, it's single speed, only has a coaster brake, is heavier than my car, and doesn't fit either of us well. Despite those challenges, we've been able to mash up some pretty steep hills and have thoroughly enjoyed each outing on the bike. But recently the rear hub has started making some extremely loud mechanical screeching noises and the bike is not worth the cost of a replacement wheel.

Due to the fact that we both enjoy tandem riding, I am wanting to look at getting a more legitimate tandem soon. I have been stalking these forums thoroughly for the past few days (and have learned a lot!), but would like some feedback on my situation.

Here are some things we would like to have in a tandem:
- Comfortable to ride (I am 6' 2", she is 5' 2")
- I would likely be captain and my wife the stoker
- I weigh 185lbs and my wife is ~115lbs (total weight ~300lbs)
- We really enjoy riding gravel, so fitting wider tires would be awesome if possible (42mm would be amazing if possible, would settle for 35mm)
- We're really only considering older tandems currently due to our budget (would like to spend less than $1,000 USD)
- We are very light packers during our backpacking and cycling trips, so we don't necessarily need a frame intended for heavy touring since that is not representative of how we travel

Where we live in the Midwest, it looks like we have a few tandems in our area that seem like attractive options. Here are the tandems I am currently looking at:
- Santana Sovereign (Local) - $1,100 link
- Santana Visa (Local) - $750 link (includes tandem roof attachment)
- Santana Arriva (Local) - $800 link
- CoMotion Unknown Model (Local) - $1,500 link
- Cannondale Unknown Model (4hr drive) - $400 link
- Santana Unknown Model (3hr drive) - $600 link (includes tandem roof attachment)
It would be greatly appreciated if none of these tandems were bought out from underneath us without at least a heads up

I have read several times on this forum that fit and comfort are basically the most important factors in choosing a tandem, which makes total sense. That's why I prioritized every tandem that is local to me and my wife, so we can give them all test rides. However, if we assumed that all of these tandems fit us (unlikely), which options seem like they fit our needs/desires the most? It would really help to gain some understanding of the pros/cons of various models as it relates to our goals. Many of these tandems have been listed for several months which could make for decent negotiations too.

Currently I have a soft spot for the Santana Sovereign at the top of the list.
- Pros: It looks like super clean bike, well taken care of, the color is pretty nice, looks like it has the thicker 1-1/4" threadless fork, comes with a rear rack, I have read good things about the aluminum Sovereign frame on this forum, and the price seems to be pretty fair from what I've seen. Although I would still try to negotiate to $1k or so if possible.
- Cons: I am not sure how well the Medium frame will fit me and my wife. The current owner said he is 6'2" and his wife is 5'2" (exact same as us - I did not tell him that ahead of time) and he had to add the bullhorn bars to get a bit more stack height to feel comfortable. I much prefer drop bars, which he is very willing to install prior to our test ride, which is kind of him. If the test ride proves that it feels a little too small with the drop bars still, what else could be done? Buy a longer stem (hard to source due to the 1-1/4" spec). Overall, I'm a pretty big fan of this particular bike and many users on this forum rave about their aluminum Sovereigns.

Next up would be the Santana Visa, also local.
- Pros: Very nice color, well taken care of, looks like it has the thicker 1-1/4" threadless fork, comes with a roof rack, comes with a rear rack,
- Cons: Again, I am concerned about fit. The owner couldn't tell me the official frame size, but said he and his wife are both 5'8". Which would mean my wife's seat would likely go down, and my seat would likely have to come up. Looking at the current configuration of the bike, I'm not sure if that will work out. But they are willing to let us test ride it, which is great. I have also read many people in favor of Santana steel frames, and many people totally against them. The only way to make a decision for ourselves is to test ride some bikes I suppose.

The Cannondale is also pretty appealing:
- Pros: Some people on this forum love the stiffness of the frame, looks like it comes with a Brooks saddle (big fan), has the Arai drum brake, and the price is incredible!
- Cons: It's not local and would be a risk to drive 4 hours away only to learn that we don't like the way it rides / fits. It's a L/S model, which seems appropriate for myself and my wife, but there's no telling without a test ride.

Sorry for the super long post. If anybody has thoughts or opinions about these various tandems, I would love to hear it! Especially if you have experience riding the models shown and can compare one to another. I am still learning a lot about tandems through this forum and am excited to jump on board!

Thank you!
~ Jake
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Old 09-23-21, 06:29 PM
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I can’t really speak to the other tandems but the Cannondale isn’t a large/small. It’s a large/medium. I have a large/small Cannondale and the difference is far larger than the bike you are showing. Mine’s a 58cm front and a 44 rear. The one you are looking at is more like a 58/49 front/rear. My wife and I have ridden that size but it never really fit her 5’ frame all that well. The Cannondale we have now is a much closer match.


As to ride, far too much is made of how soft steel is. It isn’t. It’s stiffer than aluminum. The tubes used are a smaller diameter so they feel a little softer but an aluminum bike using the same diameter tubes is a noodle. On the other hand, we have a very old Burley Samba which is a mountain bike type tandem without bracing between the front and rear. It is noodle. Any movement by my wife causes the bike to wander all over the road. It’s a bear to handle.

The Cannondale (which is new to us) is far more comfortable and handles much better. The frame isn’t all that punishing and, more importantly, my stoker can do some movement without me thinking the bike is going to go left instead of straight.
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Old 09-23-21, 09:37 PM
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The Co-Motion Periscope is another good choice for riders of very different sizes. We bought a used 3 y.o. bike 14 years ago. It's a Co-Motions Speedster. We got it for about half of new retail at the time, so $3000. It still runs perfectly, though none of the drivetrain is original. Stuff wears out. We have many, many thousands of miles on it. It's still a perfect bike for us. I spent almost 2 years scanning used bike ads before I found just the thing. You don't want to buy too old a bike because of future spares and maintenance issues. Thus a bike you'll love for a long time is probably going to cost more than $1000. Our bike was in perfect condition when we bought it. We changed out the tires was all. That's a good thing. Tandems are more complicated pieces of machinery than single bikes.
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Old 09-24-21, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I canít really speak to the other tandems but the Cannondale isnít a large/small. Itís a large/medium. I have a large/small Cannondale and the difference is far larger than the bike you are showing. Mineís a 58cm front and a 44 rear. The one you are looking at is more like a 58/49 front/rear. My wife and I have ridden that size but it never really fit her 5í frame all that well. The Cannondale we have now is a much closer match.
Interesting! Thank you for that catch! Her single bike is a 46cm which seems to fit her well, so perhaps the Large/Medium frame of the Cannondale would be a tad too big? And with it being so far away, it would probably be a last resort to drive all of the way out there to give it a test ride. Thank you for the feedback and insight!


Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
As to ride, far too much is made of how soft steel is. It isnít. Itís stiffer than aluminum. The tubes used are a smaller diameter so they feel a little softer but an aluminum bike using the same diameter tubes is a noodle. On the other hand, we have a very old Burley Samba which is a mountain bike type tandem without bracing between the front and rear. It is noodle. Any movement by my wife causes the bike to wander all over the road. Itís a bear to handle.

The Cannondale (which is new to us) is far more comfortable and handles much better. The frame isnít all that punishing and, more importantly, my stoker can do some movement without me thinking the bike is going to go left instead of straight.
I will agree with you there as far as metal properties are concerned. But generally, due to the common tube sizes of steel, most steel bikes (single and tandem) tend to offer more of a compliant feel. There are definitely exceptions to that rule, but that seems to be the general consensus in my experience.


Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
...You don't want to buy too old a bike because of future spares and maintenance issues. Thus a bike you'll love for a long time is probably going to cost more than $1000.
I really appreciate the insight, thank you for sharing! However, I have read on this forum that it's recommended to purchase a tandem on a budget (within reason) in order to prove to the couple that they do enjoy riding the tandem together. That's a big reason for our $1,000 limit. It's true that my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed ourselves on her old rusty Schwinn SS tandem, so I would assume we would enjoy a legitimate road tandem even more. But we'd still like to test out the waters before diving in head first and spending $3,000+.

Regarding the comment about old bikes, it looks to me like many people on this forum have enjoyed their 80's / 90's / 2000's tandems for decades and find no reason to upgrade. Others enjoy them for a short period of time and then decide they want a carbon Calfee or a titanium Co-Motion. Different strokes for different folks. I suppose that depends on the goals + personalities + budget of the couple. If one of the bikes mentioned above fits us well and we enjoy the heck out of it, we may also be one of those couples who own their tandem for 20+ years before getting something else (I'd like to think that would be us due to our frugal nature).

And on the topic of future spare parts, it seems like we'll probably have a long supply of spares with modern manufacturers, eBay, and online classifieds. As far as I understand, the only tricky things about Santana spare parts are 1) the 1.25" threadless fork and corresponding 1.25" stem, and 2) the 160mm wide rear hub. Santana seems to sell their forks and stems still, and there are still manufacturers of 160mm wide rear hubs and used 160mm hubs online. Everything else on these bikes can be pretty easily upgraded as time and money allows. Those are my thoughts at least
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Old 09-24-21, 12:39 PM
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My wife and I bought a '92 Santana Fusion for a thousand dollars several years ago. It's been fun to have but we only take it out for short rides a few times a year, so I'm glad we didn't spend a lot more money on a new one. It's got 26" wheels so we can fit really wide tires which is nice for some of the gravel paths we ride. My wife is 5'6" and I'm 5'11", which seems to be a little more common size combo than what you are looking for. I watched craigslist for a few years before something local came up that worked for us. I added a thudbuster in back, some new tires and replaced the stoker drop-bars with bullhorns, but otherwise haven't had to do much to it. My wife says she wouldn't ride it without the thudbuster, so I'd highly recommend allowing some space for a suspension seatpost when you size the bike.
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Old 09-24-21, 04:45 PM
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On the Santana bikes, if you email the serial numbers to Santana, they can tell you what year/model/size it is from their sales records. I did this numerous times before buying our first tandem about 6 years ago, a 2000 Santana Sovereign.
Also, Santana can give guidance as to risks of older-year models. I recall their steering me away from anything much older than 2000 because of some upgrade issues.
I wouldn't assume your first tandem will be your soulmate. You might get what you think is the best bike available now for your needs--to get you on the road now--before investing too heavily in it. If it isn't right, you can resell it on CR for a discount on what you paid and call it the price of learning. Or keep it as a spare, which is what we did when we bought our second, a 2005 Co-Mo Speedster Co-Pilot, when we found the Santana just a tad too small and lacking in travel couplers.
In any case: Buy a tandem and ride!
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Old 09-25-21, 12:53 PM
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Old is relative, and is heavily related to what you would have to change.

For example, our old 1970ís tandem has French thread BBs, a method of securing the eccentric that will never be good, and a seat tube diameter such that I had to custom modify an off the shelf seat tube. I got it when I couldnít afford more and spread the upgrade money over several years. While it got us into tandeming, and while parts are technically available, the cost to update or even maintain (as replacements are needed) all those things very quickly ends up at the purchase price of a newer nicer bike with a better frame.

Our second bike (early 2000ís) is great for me because it fits my spare parts and lets me have linear pull brakes plus an Arai drum. A rear disk would not allow that. On the other hand, if someone really wanted say disk brakes front and rear with a composite fork it would mean new hubs, fork, and brakes (I do have a rear disk mount). That quickly becomes a >$1000 project. If that was my goal, I should have gone just a few years newer and gotten that up front.
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Old 09-25-21, 08:10 PM
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Be aware that a stoker doesnít have to be able to touch the ground. More teams than not have the captain hold the bike up while the stoker gets on, and itís the captainís job to keep the bike up until the stoker gets off. So even though the Cannondale dimensions might be too big for your wife as a single bike, they might work fine for a tandem.
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Old 09-25-21, 11:57 PM
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Originally Posted by WheelsNT View Post
Be aware that a stoker doesnít have to be able to touch the ground. More teams than not have the captain hold the bike up while the stoker gets on, and itís the captainís job to keep the bike up until the stoker gets off. So even though the Cannondale dimensions might be too big for your wife as a single bike, they might work fine for a tandem.
I really wish everyone who makes this kind of claim would go out and ride a bike that is several sizes too large for them to see how it feels to ride a bike that you canít comfortably ride. No, a stoker may not need to be able to touch the ground that often but they do need to get on and off the bike. And itís not comfortable to get on or off the bike if the bike feels like it is going to split you in two. Would you want to bail off a bike in a hurry if it is 3Ē too tall? A 50cm frame is 7cm larger than what a 5í2Ē woman should be riding.

I canít tell you the number of times that Iíve seen people on the Bike Forums state that proper bicycle fit is paramount. I happen to agree with them. But, often, the same people will say that a small woman should ride a bike that is obviously the wrong size. Bike fit is important. Itís perhaps even more important for small people.
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Old 09-26-21, 03:21 PM
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cyccommute I don't know how much tandem experience you have, perhaps you have a lot. But let's talk about some stuff that's specific to tandems --

On a Tandem, the stoker is always right. Period. So if your stoker is uncomfortable not being able to straddle your tandem then it's not right for you regardless of what anyone else says. If the stoker isn't happy, then you don't have a tandem team, you have a captain with an empty seat. So the stoker always has to come first.

Bike fit is just as important on a tandem as it is on a single bike. It's vital that the touch points of pedals, bars, and seat be right for both riders. However, the standover portion of bike fit is different on a tandem than a single bike depending on how each team stops and starts. For example, some teams choose to start with both captain and stoker having a foot down, and both have a responsibility for stabilizing the bike at a stop. If that's how you ride, then standover should approximate what you are comfortable with on your single bikes.

However, the vast majority of tandem teams use what has been called "The Proper Method", where the captain straddles the bike, spreads feet wide, and stabilizes the bike in a vertical position so the stoker can climb on and get ready. For these teams, the captain needs more standover room than a single since they have to be able to get their feet wide enough to stabilize the bike without leaning it to the side like you would on a single. The stoker then needs less standover room, because they are never going to be required to put down a foot.

For example, my daughter has ridden on the back of our tandems without a child stoker kit since she was about 4'6". Back then, there were crank shorteners and a stoker stem extension to get the touch points right for her. The seat was as low as it would go, right on the top tube. I would stabilize the bike, and she would step on one pedal and swing her leg around the back of the saddle. We've never had a problem with this process. My wife and I ride the same way -- I stabilize the bike at the beginning, and she climbs on. At the end I stabilize and she climbs off.

The same thing applies, and more so, on our Co-Motion quad. On the quad, I sit right down on the top tube on my right butt cheek with the nose of the saddle coming by my right hip. Then the quad can't go right because the top tube hits my right thigh, and it can't go left because the saddle is against my hip. My weight pushes the bike down for the other 3 riders to climb on and get set. So with all that weight -- heavy bike and lots of riders -- I need lots of standover so I can get my legs wide enough. And the 3 stokers need none.

Many, many teams ride the same way. There have been new captains in this forum that were looking at tandems based on their single bike fit, and people have counseled them that if they're going to use the proper method, then they need a smaller frame than their single bike because they won't be able to spread wide enough to hold the bike vertical. So I guess I would say, these ideas around bike fit for tandems are not some kind of tyranny against smaller folks, as if they're not worthy of having a frame that fits. It's about how you stop and start, and what that means.

Let me say again, if YOUR stoker isn't comfortable, then it's not right for you regardless of anything else. But many teams are comfortable with the stoker not being able to straddle.

Hope this is useful.
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Old 09-26-21, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by kingston View Post
My wife and I bought a '92 Santana Fusion for a thousand dollars several years ago. It's been fun to have but we only take it out for short rides a few times a year, so I'm glad we didn't spend a lot more money on a new one. It's got 26" wheels so we can fit really wide tires which is nice for some of the gravel paths we ride. My wife is 5'6" and I'm 5'11", which seems to be a little more common size combo than what you are looking for. I watched craigslist for a few years before something local came up that worked for us. I added a thudbuster in back, some new tires and replaced the stoker drop-bars with bullhorns, but otherwise haven't had to do much to it. My wife says she wouldn't ride it without the thudbuster, so I'd highly recommend allowing some space for a suspension seatpost when you size the bike.
That is a beautiful tandem, I must say! Those wide tires are ideal for gravel rides, but there doesn't seem to be many 26" tandems in our area. And realistically, my wife and I will most likely ride a tandem on paved roads for the most part because it's a bit of a haul to get out to gravel roads from our house. I would also probably upgrade to a thudbuster, especially if my wife isn't happy with whatever comes on our used tandem.


Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
On the Santana bikes, if you email the serial numbers to Santana, they can tell you what year/model/size it is from their sales records. I did this numerous times before buying our first tandem about 6 years ago, a 2000 Santana Sovereign. Also, Santana can give guidance as to risks of older-year models. I recall their steering me away from anything much older than 2000 because of some upgrade issues.
Thank you for the recommendation! I will be giving Santana a call tomorrow in order to inquire about the Arriva, the Sovereign, and the Unknown model from my first post.


Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
I wouldn't assume your first tandem will be your soulmate.
That is a good point. While it would be awesome to find our "forever-tandem" on the first try, that shouldn't be an expectation of mine.


Originally Posted by WheelsNT View Post
On a Tandem, the stoker is always right. Period. So if your stoker is uncomfortable not being able to straddle your tandem then it's not right for you regardless of what anyone else says. If the stoker isn't happy, then you don't have a tandem team, you have a captain with an empty seat. So the stoker always has to come first.
After reading through the responses related to stoker fit and frame size, I think this is probably the best takeaway. If my wife is happy with the fit (and I am also happy with the fit), then that's a tandem we will consider. If my wife is not excited about the fit, then I won't force her into getting that bike since that will likely leave me as a lonely captain without a stoker. No point in doing that haha!


I really do appreciate everyone taking time to give feedback and leave comments. I have been learning a lot! Currently, I think I am leaning towards the Sovereign due to the good things that I've read on this forum. It seems to be a good balance in quality, weight, and condition considering the asking price ($1,100). And the seller is willing to negotiate, which is nice. The seller has been to more than 20 Midwest Tandem Rally events and is very enthusiastic about tandem riding in general. It's been a good experience communicating with him so far, and he was willing to put on drop bars for the captain position since I prefer them, which was very kind. Here is the bike with the newly installed drop bars (link). Hopefully I can get my wife and I some free time to go give the bike a test ride within the next week or two. I will keep this thread updated.

If anybody has any insights as to how a Sovereign would compare to an Arriva or Cannondale, etc, feel free to write it below I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!
~ Jake
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Old 09-26-21, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by WheelsNT View Post
cyccommute I don't know how much tandem experience you have, perhaps you have a lot. But let's talk about some stuff that's specific to tandems --
We bought our first tandem when my oldest was about 1. She’s 35 now. My wife and I pulled a trailer up to the point where she was just short of 4, then I rode with her and her sister (5 years younger). We kind of got out of tandem riding after my youngest got to about 10. A good solid 15 years. We recently started back up. We got one of our old Burleys back from a niece we loaned it to (we sold the other one long ago).

The more important part of the story is that I have fought a long, hard battle on finding my petite wife a properly fitting bike since we started serious bicycling around 1977. The bike she had up to that point was a Sears 10 speed (same bike as mine). I estimate it was a 22” to 23” on 27” wheels. That’s 7” to 8” taller than what she really should be riding. To ride that bike she had to lean over with her leg hooked over the top tube to even get her foot on the ground. Far from optimal. For many, many years, she had to ride mixtes which have super long top tubes, and a bit extra weight. Or she was riding the smallest available which was a 19 for many, many years. Smaller but still about 4” taller than what she should ride. Ask yourself, would you want to ride a bike that is just 4” too tall? How about 8”?

Eventually we found a Terry Symmetry (the one with the 24” front wheel) and she finally found a bike that fit like it should. She now has an aluminum Terry Symmetry with 650C wheels which she loves to ride. It took the better part of 30 years to get to this point. One of the issues as to why it took so long to find the proper bike was that we had to get over her feeling that the smaller bikes she was riding were too small. The other was simply due to lack of availability of small frames.

On a Tandem, the stoker is always right. Period. So if your stoker is uncomfortable not being able to straddle your tandem then it's not right for you regardless of what anyone else says. If the stoker isn't happy, then you don't have a tandem team, you have a captain with an empty seat. So the stoker always has to come first.
Yes, and…

Bike fit is just as important on a tandem as it is on a single bike. It's vital that the touch points of pedals, bars, and seat be right for both riders. However, the standover portion of bike fit is different on a tandem than a single bike depending on how each team stops and starts. For example, some teams choose to start with both captain and stoker having a foot down, and both have a responsibility for stabilizing the bike at a stop. If that's how you ride, then standover should approximate what you are comfortable with on your single bikes.
What you are missing is that at some point the stoker needs to get off the bike. Even if the stoker starts in the saddle, they need to get to that saddle. If the rear of the frame is one to two to four sizes too big, the stoker can’t mount the bike properly. “One size” generally means 2” (or about 4 cm). There is also the act of how the stoker gets on the bike. If they put their foot over the top tube, 4” too large means they have to lift their leg much higher to get over that bar and then settle onto a bar that may be smashing their sensitive bits. Or, if they try to swing their leg over the back of the bike to mount, a large frame means they have to lift their leg higher before smashing the sensitive bits. Either one is not a great way to have to mount a bike.

However, the vast majority of tandem teams use what has been called "The Proper Method", where the captain straddles the bike, spreads feet wide, and stabilizes the bike in a vertical position so the stoker can climb on and get ready. For these teams, the captain needs more standover room than a single since they have to be able to get their feet wide enough to stabilize the bike without leaning it to the side like you would on a single. The stoker then needs less standover room, because they are never going to be required to put down a foot.
Although there seems to be more to “The Proper Method” than just that…there’s a whole bit about the captain stabilizing the bike with their left leg and left hip…”The Proper Method” begins with the stoker mounting the bike. See above for details of what problems having a too large frame causes.

For example, my daughter has ridden on the back of our tandems without a child stoker kit since she was about 4'6". Back then, there were crank shorteners and a stoker stem extension to get the touch points right for her. The seat was as low as it would go, right on the top tube. I would stabilize the bike, and she would step on one pedal and swing her leg around the back of the saddle. We've never had a problem with this process. My wife and I ride the same way -- I stabilize the bike at the beginning, and she climbs on. At the end I stabilize and she climbs off.
My kids rode the tandem with a kid stoker and they would physically climb up the bike to get in the saddle. Try to convince your wife that is a dignified way to mount a tandem. With the tandem we have now (see above post), my wife can get on and off without issues and without smashing any parts that make her unhappy.

Many, many teams ride the same way. There have been new captains in this forum that were looking at tandems based on their single bike fit, and people have counseled them that if they're going to use the proper method, then they need a smaller frame than their single bike because they won't be able to spread wide enough to hold the bike vertical. So I guess I would say, these ideas around bike fit for tandems are not some kind of tyranny against smaller folks, as if they're not worthy of having a frame that fits. It's about how you stop and start, and what that means.
My issue with the “oh, it’ll fit the stoker” afterthought is that it is an afterthought. There is usually a disparity between the captain and stoker height. It’s not often that it is 12” but it does happen. When looking at tandems, the size of the stoker and the bike should be as much of a consideration as the size of the bike and the captain. Small stokers shouldn’t have to just settle with a bike that is too large for them.

Frankly, the Cannondale we have now is one that we lucked into. I didn’t even know they were made in that different of a size range before we saw it on Fleabay. The front is an almost exact match to my Cannondale touring bike in terms of geometry and the rear is damned close to a Specialized Vita (which fits her well) that she also has. She is way more pleased and waaay more comfortable on the back of this tandem then she was on the old Burley Samba we had. She has commented that this one rides better as well.
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Old 09-26-21, 07:07 PM
  #13  
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As post 12 has discovered, most modern tandems come in sizes, usually only 3, small, medium, and large. They also come in combinations of those sizes for both captain and stoker. Ours is a medium-small. We both have standover, but neither of us can reach the ground sitting on the saddle, which is normal. We both have standover because the straight top tube slants down toward the rear of the bike because it's a medium-small. However most boob tubes are level and thus a shorter stoker with shorter cranks than captain's will find their toes further off the ground than captain's. That's normal.

Actually in the Proper Method, captain mounts first. Stoker mounting first makes no sense unless the captain can mount by swinging a leg over the bars, even then it's questionable. Captain steadies the bike while stoker mounts cowboy style from the pedal, not the ground. Stoker of course clips in first while captain holds the brakes on to make that easier. Stoker offers the captain a pedal, captain clips into it, releases the brakes, and they're off.
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Old 09-26-21, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
As post 12 has discovered, most modern tandems come in sizes, usually only 3, small, medium, and large. They also come in combinations of those sizes for both captain and stoker. Ours is a medium-small. We both have standover, but neither of us can reach the ground sitting on the saddle, which is normal. We both have standover because the straight top tube slants down toward the rear of the bike because it's a medium-small. However most boob tubes are level and thus a shorter stoker with shorter cranks than captain's will find their toes further off the ground than captain's. That's normal.
To be clear, I am not talking about being able to put my foot on the ground while stopped and still seated in the saddle. My wife doesn’t have her bikes set up that way either. I’m talking about being able to straddle the bike at a standstill with both feet flat on the ground.

Actually in the Proper Method, captain mounts first. Stoker mounting first makes no sense unless the captain can mount by swinging a leg over the bars, even then it's questionable. Captain steadies the bike while stoker mounts cowboy style from the pedal, not the ground. Stoker of course clips in first while captain holds the brakes on to make that easier. Stoker offers the captain a pedal, captain clips into it, releases the brakes, and they're off.
Who said anything like the stoker mounting first? That would be as stupid as you have pointed out. Give the rest of use some credit, ‘k?

As to mounting “cowboy style” from the pedal, that’s a whole lot harder to do with clipless pedals. Clipless, especially mountain clipless, have a pretty small platform which makes slipping off the pedal more likely. If the stoker clips that foot in, it’s in a rather awkward position as well. I’ve seen some videos of “The Proper Method” and in none of them does the stoker mount “cowboy style”. That’s mostly because the bikes are the proper size for the stoker and the stoker swings their leg over the bike, straddles the bike, and then puts their feet on the pedals.

Finally, you could give the courtesy of either quoting or acknowledging me by either my Bike Forum name or my name rather than just as “Post 12”. Your post is also a bit condescending. I’m not new to the bicycle game nor to tandeming. I know how to size bikes and how to size tandems. The Cannondale (from 2010) we have now is the only tandem I’ve seen that has this kind of size difference. To bad more of them aren’t available.
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Old 09-26-21, 08:16 PM
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It was said somewhere upthread that "the stoker is always right." That's not from the Proper Method, which instead states, "The stoker makes no mistakes." There's a big difference. That said, captains should certainly be aware of and respect a stoker's boundaries.

How the stoker can best mount should be left to the stoker. My stoker's legs are quite short and so are her cranks. The boob tube being level, that makes her saddle quite high. Actually she rides dressage and can mount either way.

I saw the Proper Method mandate that the stoker mount first somewhere else, not here.

So far in group tandem rides, I have not seen a Thudbuster type stoker post on which the stoker did not bounce. Bouncing robs power. So it's a choice which depends on team goals. We use a Specialized Cobl Goblr carbon post, which works well enough. I don't think the stoker's ride is any rougher than the ride on a single bike, but as pointed out above, they can't lift in anticipation of big hits and need warning. If I lift or level the pedals, Stoker lifts, without my saying anything.
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Old 09-27-21, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
It was said somewhere upthread that "the stoker is always right." That's not from the Proper Method, which instead states, "The stoker makes no mistakes." There's a big difference. That said, captains should certainly be aware of and respect a stoker's boundaries.
I agree. However it is up to the whole team to find a bike that fits properly. ďSettlingĒ for a bike that doesnít fit isnít about who is right or wrong nor about mistakes while riding.

How the stoker can best mount should be left to the stoker. My stoker's legs are quite short and so are her cranks. The boob tube being level, that makes her saddle quite high. Actually she rides dressage and can mount either way.
You donít see the issue here? If the stoker canít straddle the bike comfortably, how can they mount the bike in the manner that they want to mount? Again, would you ride a bike that you couldnít straddle comfortably or one that requires you to climb up on it like a jungle gym?

By the way, the ďboobĒ tube isnít the rear top tube. The ďboobĒ tube is the lowest tube that links the two bottom brackets and comes from the BB for bottom bracket.

I saw the Proper Method mandate that the stoker mount first somewhere else, not here.
Then why bring it is here? I will say that in ďThe Proper MethodĒ, the stoker does mount first in that they get their feet on the pedal and are seated in the saddle before the captain. I donít think anyone would suggest that the stoker straddle the bike before the captain straddles the bike. I have occasionally left the stoker to hold the bike while I get off to adjust something (saddle usually) but that is usually only after we are underway and the stoker says something needs adjustment.

So far in group tandem rides, I have not seen a Thudbuster type stoker post on which the stoker did not bounce. Bouncing robs power. So it's a choice which depends on team goals. We use a Specialized Cobl Goblr carbon post, which works well enough. I don't think the stoker's ride is any rougher than the ride on a single bike, but as pointed out above, they can't lift in anticipation of big hits and need warning. If I lift or level the pedals, Stoker lifts, without my saying anything.
I wouldnít disagree. However, using a shock post is up to the team to decide. As a very long term mountain biker, Iím very used to raise off the saddle on bumps. Unfortunately most people donít understand how to do this or why. I had to tell my wife why I did it just this last summer because she didnít know why or what I was doing. Sheís not a mountain biker and never really developed that skill. She now lifts up a little when I level the pedals so bumps arenít that bad. Sheís even told me that I donít need to call out bumps.

Finally, we have been having discussions because of this thread. She finds the supposedly punishingly stiff aluminum Cannondale to be a very comfortable bike. She is actually enjoying riding it which isnít something I could have said 35 years ago.
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Old 09-27-21, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I agree. However it is up to the whole team to find a bike that fits properly. ďSettlingĒ for a bike that doesnít fit isnít about who is right or wrong nor about mistakes while riding.



You donít see the issue here? If the stoker canít straddle the bike comfortably, how can they mount the bike in the manner that they want to mount? Again, would you ride a bike that you couldnít straddle comfortably or one that requires you to climb up on it like a jungle gym?

By the way, the ďboobĒ tube isnít the rear top tube. The ďboobĒ tube is the lowest tube that links the two bottom brackets and comes from the BB for bottom bracket.



Then why bring it is here? I will say that in ďThe Proper MethodĒ, the stoker does mount first in that they get their feet on the pedal and are seated in the saddle before the captain. I donít think anyone would suggest that the stoker straddle the bike before the captain straddles the bike. I have occasionally left the stoker to hold the bike while I get off to adjust something (saddle usually) but that is usually only after we are underway and the stoker says something needs adjustment.



I wouldnít disagree. However, using a shock post is up to the team to decide. As a very long term mountain biker, Iím very used to raise off the saddle on bumps. Unfortunately most people donít understand how to do this or why. I had to tell my wife why I did it just this last summer because she didnít know why or what I was doing. Sheís not a mountain biker and never really developed that skill. She now lifts up a little when I level the pedals so bumps arenít that bad. Sheís even told me that I donít need to call out bumps.

Finally, we have been having discussions because of this thread. She finds the supposedly punishingly stiff aluminum Cannondale to be a very comfortable bike. She is actually enjoying riding it which isnít something I could have said 35 years ago.
Wow, why so hostile?

You missed my point about the boob tube. I know which tube that is. I already mentioned that our top tube slopes down to the rear so we both have standover. My point about the level boob tube is that means that both BBs are the same distance from the road. If the inseams of the two riders are markedly different, as is frequently the case and the team uses proportional crank lengths, the stoker's cranks will be shorter than the captain's. Thus while standing on the ground beside our bike, the stoker's crotch to saddle distance is 1.5" greater than the captain's crotch to saddle distance making it more difficult for her to mount..

We've been putting 1000-3000 miles/year on our tandem for many years, so my stoker got used to dealing with being a stoker quite quickly. She's good about informing about how I could be a better captain. I appreciate it. She adores that machine. Stokers rule. I feel bad when I have to go out on my single, but that's only when she's too busy or the ride will be longer or harder than she wants. That used to be in the 100 mile/7000' category, now we're down to like 60 miles/4000'. We rode her birthday at 70.
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Old 09-27-21, 01:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Wow, why so hostile?

Passionate? Yes. Hostile? No.

I, like many others, think that bike fit is important. Unlike many others, I donít think some people should just have to settle for whatever is available. Iíve been through 40 bikes in my life because Iím seeking a better bike each time. My wife has been through 24 bikes over the same period seeking one that fits properly. Thereís a huge difference between those two goals. When someone says, ďoh, the fit really doesnít matterĒ, they are seldom referring to their own bikes.

You missed my point about the boob tube. I know which tube that is. I already mentioned that our top tube slopes down to the rear so we both have standover. My point about the level boob tube is that means that both BBs are the same distance from the road. If the inseams of the two riders are markedly different, as is frequently the case and the team uses proportional crank lengths, the stoker's cranks will be shorter than the captain's. Thus while standing on the ground beside our bike, the stoker's crotch to saddle distance is 1.5" greater than the captain's crotch to saddle distance making it more difficult for her to mount..
Iím not following your point. The bottom bracket tube on a tandem is seldom anything but level. Iíve seen a few that might slope upward but Iíve never seen a downward sloping bottom bracket tube. You probably donít want a downward sloping bottom bracket tube because it would result in the rear bottom bracket being lower and more likely to either drag on bumps or to result in pedal strikes in corners or even pedal strikes on level ground.

Iím also seeing how a level bottom bracket tube results in a greater standover height for the stoker. A higher rear top tube, yes, but not a level bottom bracket tube. The reason it is more difficult for the stoker to mount is because the rear of the bike is too large. In other words, you are asking the stoker to settle for what they have and make the most of it.

Thatís not what anyone should have to do on any bikeÖsingle or tandem. If you think that ďjust making doĒ is acceptable, then, again, I suggest you go get a bike that is several sizes too large for you and go for a ride. I have done this during test rides at my local co-op. Itís illuminating.

I happen to agree that my stoker ďrulesĒ as you say. Thatís why I went a very long way out of my way (three days and 2200 miles out of my way) to ensure that she has a tandem that fits her and she doesnít have to compromise. Iíve also gone out of my way to ensure that her single bikes fit well.
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Old 09-27-21, 10:32 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Passionate? Yes. Hostile? No.

I, like many others, think that bike fit is important. Unlike many others, I donít think some people should just have to settle for whatever is available. Iíve been through 40 bikes in my life because Iím seeking a better bike each time. My wife has been through 24 bikes over the same period seeking one that fits properly. Thereís a huge difference between those two goals. When someone says, ďoh, the fit really doesnít matterĒ, they are seldom referring to their own bikes.
I must be who bikes are designed for, because I've never owned a bike I couldn't ride all day without physical issues other than getting tired. In the past 70 years, I've owned and ridden 10 bikes, only 2 of them bought new.

Before deciding on a tandem, we took a test ride on a display tandem which was a different model and fit. That was a complete disaster, but I went ahead with my purchase plans anyway because I knew it wasn't right. I knew from a catalog exactly what model and size of tandem I wanted. I searched for a used one for a couple years, finally found one in Texas and had it shipped. It fit both of us perfectly with the usual adjustments.

When I bought my carbon single, I had the salesperson mount the size I guessed at on a trainer and loved it. I did change out the stem later on. For the 2 new bikes, I picked out about the right size from a catalog and adjusted it. The used bikes I just swung a leg over.
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Iím not following your point. The bottom bracket tube on a tandem is seldom anything but level. Iíve seen a few that might slope upward but Iíve never seen a downward sloping bottom bracket tube. You probably donít want a downward sloping bottom bracket tube because it would result in the rear bottom bracket being lower and more likely to either drag on bumps or to result in pedal strikes in corners or even pedal strikes on level ground.

Iím also seeing how a level bottom bracket tube results in a greater standover height for the stoker. A higher rear top tube, yes, but not a level bottom bracket tube. The reason it is more difficult for the stoker to mount is because the rear of the bike is too large. In other words, you are asking the stoker to settle for what they have and make the most of it.

Thatís not what anyone should have to do on any bikeÖsingle or tandem. If you think that ďjust making doĒ is acceptable, then, again, I suggest you go get a bike that is several sizes too large for you and go for a ride. I have done this during test rides at my local co-op. Itís illuminating.
It's not the standover height, which we both have. Stoker and I both mount by swinging a leg over the saddle, which as I've said now a couple times is comparatively higher for my stoker than for me. The older one gets, the higher that saddle seems. I've seen too much paint lost of top tubes to like that method. The stoker's compartment is a perfect fit, i.e. Stoker is short enough to fit in a standard Gates belt length compartment.
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I happen to agree that my stoker ďrulesĒ as you say. Thatís why I went a very long way out of my way (three days and 2200 miles out of my way) to ensure that she has a tandem that fits her and she doesnít have to compromise. Iíve also gone out of my way to ensure that her single bikes fit well.
For my wife, I bought a 7-speed MTB conversion many years ago, all stock MTB except with drop bars and brifters. It's a positively brilliant solution for short folks. She runs 1" tires on it. I'm not that familiar with all the mix and match possibilities for such conversions. I suspect that later Shimano components won't mesh like that. She had owned a mixte before that, an OK bike but heavy and clumsy.
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Old 09-28-21, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
I must be who bikes are designed for, because I've never owned a bike I couldn't ride all day without physical issues other than getting tired. In the past 70 years, I've owned and ridden 10 bikes, only 2 of them bought new.
And how tall are you? More importantly, how close to ďaverageĒ menís height are you? I have never had problems with finding a bike that fits and is comfortable for hours, either. However, Iím only slightly above average and bicycles are designed for me. Smaller peopleÖespecially very small womenÖdonít have that luxury. Bicycles for smaller riders areÖand have beenÖjust downsized larger bikes. Georgena Terry has a whole video series on what bicycle design for small rider should be.

The fact that you and I can go out and just buy something off the peg that fits vs having to hunt for something that fits was the point of my post. Itís not about us itís about our long suffering petite partners.

When I bought my carbon single, I had the salesperson mount the size I guessed at on a trainer and loved it. I did change out the stem later on. For the 2 new bikes, I picked out about the right size from a catalog and adjusted it. The used bikes I just swung a leg over.
Itís not about you or me or our fit on bikes. Weíre averageÖwell, I am and Iím assuming you are. Can your smaller wife walk into a bike shop, point to a carbon bike, and have it fit? Probably not because bike companies donít make small carbon bikes. That 15 lb wonder bike isnít available for the people who could really benefit from a 15 lb wonder bike. We are more than 20 years into widely available carbon bicycles but we are still stuck in the sizes from 40 years agoÖi.e. 50 cm is the smallest ones around.


It's not the standover height, which we both have. Stoker and I both mount by swinging a leg over the saddle, which as I've said now a couple times is comparatively higher for my stoker than for me. The older one gets, the higher that saddle seems. I've seen too much paint lost of top tubes to like that method. The stoker's compartment is a perfect fit, i.e. Stoker is short enough to fit in a standard Gates belt length compartment.
Iím still not getting your point about the bottom bracket tube. My stoker has a frame that is sized to herÖ35cm seat tube center-to-center (40 cm center to seat collar). Other than slight hip problems, she has no problem swing a leg over the saddle. But, again, that has nothing to do with the bottom bracket tube.

For my wife, I bought a 7-speed MTB conversion many years ago, all stock MTB except with drop bars and brifters. It's a positively brilliant solution for short folks. She runs 1" tires on it. I'm not that familiar with all the mix and match possibilities for such conversions. I suspect that later Shimano components won't mesh like that. She had owned a mixte before that, an OK bike but heavy and clumsy.
Although this has nothing to do with tandems, Iíll go ahead and address it. Many people think that mountain bikes are perfect for small people because they come in small sizes. But what most people donít understand is that a smaller frame is proportioned to a larger rider because of the increased top tube clearance for mountain bikes. For example, I ride a 58 cm (23Ē) road bike but I ride a 19Ē mountain bike. The mountain bikes I own actually have longer top tubes for the smaller frame than my road bikes because the goal is to center the rider between the wheels better than on road bikes. My daughter (5í6Ē) rides a 50cm (19Ē) road bike but a 15Ē mountain bike. My 19Ē mountain bike would be a very poor substitution for that 19Ē road bike because the frame is proportioned for me, not her.

My wife rides a 44cm (17Ē) road bike. Putting her on that 15Ē mountain bike as a road conversion would result in a very stretched out rider position for her which would put more stress on her hands and shoulders. She wouldnít be able to ride that bike ďall day without physical issuesĒ. And thatís what I get so passionate about. It takes a whole lot of work to get a bike that is properly sized for a small adult. Manufacturers donít make it easy, either since they ignore this part of the market. Most people donít think about thatÖincluding small ridersÖand the small rider gets stuck with a bike that is ill fitting and not all that a enjoyable. In other words, they donít get to enjoy that ďall day without physical issuesĒ riding feeling.
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Old 09-28-21, 09:20 AM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by themrbruceguy View Post
Hey there! My wife and I are both formerly avid cyclists (we have slowed down the past year, but are still very active with bike commuting, running, etc) who enjoy gravel riding, overnighters, short tours, and recreational out-and-about kind of rides. We are both fairly athletic, so going fast is something we would probably be interested in doing, but racing is definitely not the reason we're looking for a tandem.
I’m not sure if you are still with us but if you are, Machinery Row Bicycle shop in Madison, WI has the same 2010 Cannondale road tandem I have. I’ve actually seen it in the flesh (I was in that shop in early August). It really is an excellent bike for a tandem team with your height differential. I know it’s a ways away from you (7.5 hours) but I drove a lot further to get our tandem It might be worth a road trip to go try it. There’s also lots of good riding around Madison. Make a weekend out of it.

As to my (somewhat) passionate views on tandems, I really am just looking out for the interest of smaller stokers. Often times…even in my own case…the captain decides on the bike that fits him and the stoker is left in the lurch. Finding a tandem that fits just about any captain is trivial. Finding one that also fits the stoker is a much more difficult proposition.
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Old 09-28-21, 10:49 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Iím not sure if you are still with us but if you are, Machinery Row Bicycle shop in Madison, WI has the same 2010 Cannondale road tandem I have. Iíve actually seen it in the flesh (I was in that shop in early August). It really is an excellent bike for a tandem team with your height differential. I know itís a ways away from you (7.5 hours) but I drove a lot further to get our tandem It might be worth a road trip to go try it. Thereís also lots of good riding around Madison. Make a weekend out of it.
I'm still here I got a little quiet waiting in the background for the sizing discussion to simmer down, but it was helpful for me to read various thoughts on the subject. Thank you for the tip about the Cannondale road tandem in Madison. My wife and I find ourselves up in that area maybe once a year or so. I will keep it in mind

~ Jake
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Old 09-28-21, 12:23 PM
  #23  
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We owned a Santana Sovereign (now riding a Calfee).
It was a great bike, I highly recommend it.
It is probably the lightest of the options you mentioned.
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Old 09-28-21, 06:49 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by themrbruceguy View Post
I'm still here I got a little quiet waiting in the background for the sizing discussion to simmer down, but it was helpful for me to read various thoughts on the subject. Thank you for the tip about the Cannondale road tandem in Madison. My wife and I find ourselves up in that area maybe once a year or so. I will keep it in mind

~ Jake
Thanks for your patience. Sizing is the most important thing. What you need to know is standover height in front of the saddle for both riders. That should be at least 1" less than inseam, measured from floor to pubic bone in bike shoes. The next most important thing will be captain's top tube length, which you can get from one of your single bikes. That should be somewhere close but of course can be adjusted with stem and bar style. Stoker reach doesn't really matter, as most tandems come with the standard bottom bracket spacing of 28.5". Still, BB spacing is something to inquire about. I don't think anyone would like a shorter spacing that that. Stoker reach can be adjusted to some degree with stoker stem and bar style, cowhorn bars offering a good bit more reach than drop bars.

It's often possible to find frame diagrams for older tandems by googling or asking the builder about the above measurements.
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Old 09-29-21, 05:57 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Still, BB spacing is something to inquire about.
Indeed it is. Standard compartment spacing often results in a stoker's head being too close to the captain, affecting vision and standing while pedaling. This spacing probably has had its origins in aerodynamics for racing. But most stokers could care less about racing and would prefer another few inches to enhance enjoyment of the ride...not that they don't love their captains. Even with a few more inches, there is still plenty of aerodynamic gain and so no need for a stoker to bother with drops.
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