Bicycle Built for Two... or more!
December 2, 2010 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Maybe you really like cycling. Maybe you also a have a partner who really likes cycling. Maybe you need a tandem.

"Tandem" refers to the in-line seating on the bike. This is a tandem. This is not a tandem, it's a Sociable. This isn't a tandem either, but it certainly looks social.

Tandems have been around for a long time, and there are some distinct advantages over riding a single bike. A very famous song was written about tandems, which is a great tool to teach computers to sing (skip to 0:53).

You can join any number of clubs if you want to go on group rides. Once you get good, you could try cyclocross or even track racing (ouch). If one of you is lazy, though, you can get a tandem that lets one of you coast.
posted by backseatpilot (55 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
In my family, we call tandem bikes "argument machines."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:46 AM on December 2, 2010 [7 favorites]


The Hase Pino seems like a much more satisfying couples arrangement than the traditional tandem--not that I've tried either.
posted by Chuckles at 11:52 AM on December 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Seconding that tandems are second only to canoes in number of fights caused throughout history.

I rode in the Almanzo 100 this year and the winning team somehow covered 100 miles of very hilly gravel in 5:15:36 on a tandem. Unreal.
posted by substars at 11:53 AM on December 2, 2010


Since the stoker cannot see the road directly ahead, the captain has a special responsibility for warning of bumps in the road, so that the stoker can brace for them.

No thank you.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:54 AM on December 2, 2010


Whoa. 1995 website design. Awesome!
posted by blue_beetle at 11:55 AM on December 2, 2010


Wow, there are some crazy bikes out there!

Tangential: "Hey, how do you like my new giggles?"
posted by not_on_display at 11:58 AM on December 2, 2010


A very famous song was written about tandems

As long as we're being pedantic, couldn't that song just as easily refer to a sociable? Incidentally, why is it that that song makes me want to go on a murder spree?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:00 PM on December 2, 2010


couldn't that song just as easily refer to a sociable?

If you look at the lyrics, it makes tandem puns in the verse.

Incidentally, riding a tandem is a blast and anyone can do it. The girlfriend's pretty nervous about riding around the city, but I put her on the back of the tandem and she told me she had a great time.

Asking if people want tandem rides is slightly less creepy than asking if they want mustache rides.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:06 PM on December 2, 2010


My favorite tandem bicycle youtube clip. British cyclists Terry Tinsley and Paul Sydenham in an early round of the tandem sprint against the defending Cezch champions.
posted by clockwork at 12:07 PM on December 2, 2010


The girlfriend's pretty nervous about riding around the city, but I put her on the back of the tandem and she told me she had a great time.
 --backseatpilot


So, will we see username backseatstoker anytime soon?
posted by not_on_display at 12:14 PM on December 2, 2010


It was a dark day when they took the tandem sprint out of the Olympics..
posted by Ahab at 12:15 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


She's already on here!

My parents (plus dog) on their tandem.
posted by backseatpilot at 12:16 PM on December 2, 2010


When a couple fails to make it as a tandem team, it is almost always due to either the stoker being scared as a result of an incompetent/inconsiderate captain, or due to saddle soreness.

So much blame to go around.
posted by monospace at 12:21 PM on December 2, 2010


This also seems a good time to mention one of the most amazing bicycle journeys ever, recounted in Three Men on a Bike.

The basic story involves four men and two bicycles cycling the length of Africa. One of the bicycles is the Goodies three seater. Along the way they had endless mechanical problems, were attacked by bandits, eaten by mosquitoes, caught malaria, and lost a testicle.

They also had a beard growing competition that has inspired me and my friends ever since the book came out. Each man puts a slip of paper into a hat. On that slip is the name and a drawing of a beard. Whoever draws each slip has to grow the beard represented upon it. My most challenging result was "the Tiger" - a series of carefully shaved and dyed wavy stripes across my cheeks. I never quite got it right.

It is a noble sport. A noble sport indeed.
posted by Ahab at 12:26 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


We put a front kids seat a rear kids seat and a trailer on our tandem and all 5 of us ride. Yes, we look as ridiculous as you can imagine.
posted by Blake at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


How about aiming for 123 miles by tandem?
posted by maudlin at 12:27 PM on December 2, 2010


Or riding a sub-4 hour century on a tandem
posted by ghharr at 12:34 PM on December 2, 2010


I think the panflute flowchart applies equally well to tandems.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


I read "cycling" as "crying" and thought that somehow biking in tandem would lead to painful crashes, or was emotionally stressful.
posted by ahdeeda at 12:37 PM on December 2, 2010


Ah, memories of the Drs Guthrie family pedalling through Glasgow: parents on a tandem trike (a Longstaff, of course), and kids on a tandem trike trailer. A giant articulated vehicle, and woe betide any motor vehicle that got too close!
posted by scruss at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2010


I've got a bike jersey that says 'if you can read this the bitch fell off.' Not really, but we do wear matching jerseys sometimes.

Bought our first, a Burley Samba, 26" wheels and flat bars in 1996. Logged tens of thousands of miles. Went from Cheltenham PA to Ocean City NJ and back in one day, about 150 miles round trip. Can't say it was always smooth sailing, but still...

That bike had a suspension seatpost for the stoker, pretty much eliminated the can't see the bumps problems. I'm a good captain, too.

That bike was great because the stoker cockpit could easily accommodate riders of different sizes. I used to take blind kids from Overbrook School for the Blind on rides. Pretty great stuff. I cried a little when a tiny girl hugged me tightly and told me it was like flying.

In 2000 we sold that a bought a pretty serious road tandem, a Co-Motion Supremo with a Wound-Up carbon fork, FSA carbon cranks, carbon seat posts, Dura-Ace, pretty zoot bike. Oh, yeah, and six S&S couplers. Nice bike. This bike rides so great we didn't even bother with the suspension post.

Met a lot of nice people riding bikes, seen some great sites, hit 62 mph near Vergennes, VT.
Fun stuff, everyone should try it.
posted by fixedgear at 12:39 PM on December 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Let's not forget the totally awesome sub-category of back to back tandems.
posted by adamrice at 12:42 PM on December 2, 2010


somehow biking in tandem would lead to painful crashes, or was emotionally stressful

In my experience, yes on both accounts.
posted by Jugwine at 12:45 PM on December 2, 2010




"The stoker can also do a bit of back rubbing now and then, as well as taking photographs, singing encouraging songs, reading maps, etc."

... while the Captain actively searches for speed bumps that can be hit with enough velocity to catapult the backseat pain-in-the-ass right into the nearest dumpster.

FTFY.
posted by Mike D at 12:49 PM on December 2, 2010


Let it be known that no matter how far civilization has progress by this point, two men riding a tandem on the South Side of Chicago will repeatedly and loudly be called all sorts of awful things.
posted by Dmenet at 1:00 PM on December 2, 2010


Let it be known that no matter how far civilization has progress by this point, two men riding a tandem on the South Side of Chicago will repeatedly and loudly be called all sorts of awful things.

Eh, my wife and I get called 'fags' and 'homos' all the time, though I'm not sure how that would work.
posted by fixedgear at 1:04 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


We put a front kids seat a rear kids seat and a trailer on our tandem and all 5 of us ride. Yes, we look as ridiculous as you can imagine.

Please say there are pictures!!
posted by emjaybee at 1:05 PM on December 2, 2010


Whoa. 1995 website design. Awesome!

Just another one of the old-man-and-his-hobby websites. Additionally, Sheldon Brown passed away in 2008. He wasn't writing as much near the end.
posted by just.good.enough at 1:06 PM on December 2, 2010


Just another one of the best old-man-and-his-hobby websites ever.
posted by everichon at 1:13 PM on December 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


When I was 13 or 14, a buddy and I found a tandem in the alley, left out for the junk dealers. We put some new tires on it, had the creepy guy on the next bock with the welder fix the sheared weld on the frame, and took it out for a spin.

So here's the picture: late 80s, two teenagers in homophobic South St. Louis, riding around on a bright yellow tandem the model name of which was stenciled on the side: "Sunny Day Ride". A lot of older kids gave us shit, called us names. Fuck 'em. We off-roaded it. We were both pretty strong cyclists, so the captain could steer and pedal, and the guy in back could throw fluorescent bulbs or Mason jars, or firecrackers. If the object of our shenanigans took chase, with both of us pedalling we could get out of trouble (or head up a one-way street if our target was in a car).

Our other trick was for the stoker to ride *backwards*. Since the center of gravity is in between the riders, it's *behind* the stoker when he's backwards. It can really fuck up your inner ear, but it's scary fun. One time while by friend was riding backwards, some dude in a small pickup threw a pumpkin at us. My friend caught it in midair, jumped off the bike, and launched it back...*through* the pickup's rear window. Damn glad we had a clicker for the garage...

I still have the Sunny day Ride, hanging up in my parents' garage. DUnno if I can still get tubes and tires for it, though. Good times.
posted by notsnot at 1:20 PM on December 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


Don't forget you can go tadmen in other sports such as white water kayaking. Thanks to the 20 years young topo duo and a new offering from Jackson kayaks.
posted by Virtblue at 1:21 PM on December 2, 2010


Whoa. 1995 website design. Awesome!

Not to snark too much, but yeah. More than you can possibly imagine.
posted by bonehead at 1:25 PM on December 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


One day riding home from work I pulled up next to a guy with a full-on three-seat tandem. It was the longest bike ever.
posted by GuyZero at 1:32 PM on December 2, 2010


My girlfriend and I bought a Pino a few years back. It is fantastic. Chuckles, you're welcome to borrow it any time, just shoot me a MeMail.

We've ridden our share of tandems, but the Pino is soooo much nicer.

* You've got two different saddle types (upright and recumbent), so you can trade jobs if your butt or legs get sore.
* You both have a clear field of view, no need to stare at the back of your partner's head for hours at a time.
* Your heads are close together, so you can converse easily, at any speed.
* Also, the stoker has their hands free, so they can take pictures, read the map, make a sandwich, or feed the captain iced coffees (yum)
* It holds 6 panniers, so touring distances are easy
* It's surprisingly compact with the front boom removed (and the latest model comes with frame couplers), so you can pack it on the train for open-jaw adventures!

It's not a cheap bike, but it costs less than a Mexican vacation for two. And it keeps giving.
posted by anthill at 1:36 PM on December 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh, and one more thing: The Pino is totally capable of being soloed - so you can use it as a cargo bike (just strap the luggage in the front seat), or as a taxi (ride it to pick your lady up at her office).

Seriously kickass design. Love those German designers.
posted by anthill at 1:38 PM on December 2, 2010


So, will we see username backseatstoker anytime soon?

I'm pretty sure that should be frontseatstoker...
posted by Chuckles at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2010


We've always called the positions Captain and Rear Admiral.
posted by Herodios at 1:42 PM on December 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is a Pino the same as a Bilenky Viewpoint? i.e. stoker arrives at the accident scene first? I think that's the only time my wife/stoker was truly scared, when we test rode one.
posted by fixedgear at 1:43 PM on December 2, 2010


Hey that isn't any old 1995 website.
posted by fire&wings at 1:54 PM on December 2, 2010


Asking if people want tandem rides is slightly less creepy than asking if they want mustache rides.

Single Ladies Using Tandems and Just Occasionally Needs Stoker. That's tandem mailing list humor.
posted by fixedgear at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2010


A partner who likes cycling? I aspire to becoming polyamorous.

Of course, in 2007, I got all straight-curious and co-piloted Fifi, a fifteen foot tall tandem pedal-powered quadricycle poodle with aquatic capabilities on an eighteen mile course through downtown Baltimore covering streets, the harbor, mud pits, sand piles, and hills so steep I cursed the day I was born with my beloved pal Theresa, the lady behind the magical design aesthetic of the American Visionary Art Museum.

Sadly, I made a few key mistakes. First, I thought it'd be funny for us to wear badass biker leathers and German army helmets, which proved to be hot as the motherfucking planet of searing hemmorhoidal hell, the sexy look notwithstanding. Second, I wore myself out in the opening ceremonies doing a monastic dance number in a breakaway monk's habit that I peeled off to go-go dance in a tank top and shiny shiny gold hot pants. Third, and this is probably the biggest problem, I had a theory that I could do an eighteen mile race in a twelve hundred pound human-powered dog eating only almonds and drinking nothing but twenty-four cans of diet Mountain Dew, which turns out not to be a very good theory.

After the race, Theresa said she knew something was wrong about three miles in, after about thirty minutes went by in which I made neither comment nor complaint and didn't tell some long, rambling story only peripherally related to what the hell was actually going on around me. As the previous copilot had been a wiry ninety pound vegetarian fiber artist and I was a two hundred and mumble-mumble pound bar bouncer-looking guy famous for being able to pick heavy shit up, I thought I'd be an even better copilot, but strength is apparently not the same as endurance. Fluffy as Fifi looks, she's a massively heavy bitch goddess, and I was pretty much praying for all-out nuclear war to step in so I wouldn't have to keep pedaling, and that was before my bottom bracket disintegrated into graunchy metal parts like a wrench in a blender at mile 15.

Multi-rider biking is where it's at, to be sure.
posted by sonascope at 2:03 PM on December 2, 2010 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: hot as the motherfucking planet of searing hemmorhoidal hell
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:22 PM on December 2, 2010


I was hiking a moderately rugged trail a while back when I came upon a couple struggling to get upright on their tandem mountain bike.

Yes, they were fighting.

posted by LordSludge at 2:24 PM on December 2, 2010


My friend Willis built this back to back tandem in 1992 and a few years ago rebuilt it for himself and his wife.

We bought a tandem for our 10 year old to ride with her dad because we didn't feel comfortable having her do long rides on her own bike or when they went downtown together.
posted by vespabelle at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2010


sonascope: was a great story. Makes me want to take you out for dinner.
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:42 PM on December 2, 2010


that* was a great story
posted by TooFewShoes at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2010


A very famous song about driving a tandem bike is "Ajetaan tandemilla" (Let's drive a tandem) from Freeman, a summer hit of 1976 and very much loved song for finnish bands to cover with its snazzy laser sounds, high notes and overall great fun.
posted by Free word order! at 3:02 PM on December 2, 2010


Damn, those Pinos look cool. Coveting!
posted by everichon at 3:03 PM on December 2, 2010


That pine tandem looks like so much fun. Added to my unrealistic wish list.
posted by Dr. Curare at 4:22 PM on December 2, 2010


My wife and I are cyclists (we met on a charity bike ride event) and while life has gotten busy we still keep riding. We fancy some day getting a tandem because it seems like it would make it easier for two riders of different physical strength to go together. When we ride together I'm happy to take it easy and enjoy the social aspects but a tandems seems like it would enable me to ride harder.

A few questions for others who have ridden tandems:

* Does it create problems for two people to ride the same cadence?
* I hear people citing this as an argument creator. That sounds terrible. Is this common?
* Aside from faster speed on the flats, is there really much advantage over riding two bikes?
posted by dgran at 6:48 AM on December 3, 2010


dgran, your questions are easier to answer in reverse order:

3) Tandeming reduces wind resistance only. Climbing hills will suck as much as on a solo bike. But you can get scary speed on the flats. The main advantage of a tandem is so that two people of differing abilities can stay close together and be social on longer trips.

2) I've heard tandems described as a "relationship accelerator". Wherever you're going, you'll get there faster on a tandem. The number one argument source in my experience has been because of the captain driving aggressively, which as a control-less and (in a normal tandem) visibility-impaired stoker can be very scary and tiring.

1) The next two most common arguments in my experience are cadence and 'who's not pedaling hard enough on the hills'. Power and cadence mismatches can be somewhat solved by installing different crank lengths. In recumbents like the Pino, the stoker has a freewheel and can stop pedaling anytime. In theory, the stoker could also have a chainring with fewer teeth to change the relative cadence.

The best way to find out if you like tandems is to join a charity tandem club. For example, many organizations for the blind have cycling programs (as described above).
posted by anthill at 11:32 AM on December 3, 2010


The Hase Pino tandem looks like it would be good for shooting video from.

I ride an under-seat-steering recumbent which is nice for following a longboard skater or biker or just shooting a cool bike bridge because there's nothing in front of me and I can get the camera 1 foot off the ground for "action passes" with a wide-angle, but I have to keep one hand on the handlebars. With the Pino's stoker seat in front, the cameraperson could focus on the shot.
posted by morganw at 9:44 AM on December 4, 2010


Morganw, you're totally right. It's awesome for filming. A friend's movie, "No Heart Feelings" has a lot of scenes of the lead characters on bicycles, conversing and riding down narrow park pathways and side streets.

The off-street shots (like at 0:56 of the trailer) were filmed from my Pino, with a steadicam improvised from a mono-pod and a duct-taped cast-iron frying pan. The camera operator could shoot for about 45 seconds at a time before his arms started cramping.

A little more camera mount development and the Pino would make a great close-quarters, 40km/h-capable camera platform!
posted by anthill at 8:32 AM on December 5, 2010


Thanks for the perspective, anthill. I appreciate it.
posted by dgran at 11:08 AM on December 6, 2010


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