Last weekend I was able to spend some time getting to grips with a tandem, a completely new experience for me. This was made possible thanks to Ian of Lazy Bicycle Blog, who agreed to lend me his tandem for the weekend in exchange for a loan of my Brompton. When we were discussing the exchange, Ian said that there were some pictures of the tandem on some of his older blog posts. Whilst I did have a look for them, I didn’t look too hard, so I was slightly surprised when I got there and saw these:

A racing tandem, complete with Shimano Deore components, 24-speed dérailleur gears and drop handlebars. Not the sort of thing I usually ride. Ian rode me to the main road (presumably being amused by my relatively poor proficiency with drops) and I set off back to the city centre. It didn’t take too long before I became reasonably happy with the narrower bars, the positions of the brake levers and the bar-end shifters. As I headed down Hyde Road, I decided that I would take a detour on the Floop to avoid the traffic. Needless to say, I was initially unimpressed to encounter this:

However, my irritation was soothed slightly by the fact that the tandem weighs so little. It actually felt lighter than my DL-1 does when equipped with saddlebag and locks. I returned home and planned to try the bike out with a “Rear Admiral,” on the following day. That evening I swapped the saddles for some of the Brooks saddles on bikes I had to hand. This was partly because of personal preference, but largely so I could mount my Carradice saddlebag to cope with the lack of a rear rack.

The next day, Ms. C. and I took the tandem out for a ride together. Whilst we were initially wobbly during the process of starting and stopping, we quickly seemed to get the hang of it and managed a round trip to Chorlton, checking out the newly opened Pedal MCR on the return home. The ride experience was interesting, the bike felt quite fast with a Rear Admiral, presumably due to the increase in power without much change in aerodynamics. This experience is probably somewhat skewed though, as the racy geometry and components of the tandem encouraged me to ride faster regardless of whether I was on it alone or not. After all, the great thing about drops is that they make you go faster, but what sucks about drops is that they make you go faster. I found myself cycling faster and tiring myself out more than I usually would without any intention of doing so.

The real fun of the tandem though, came later that night when we took it over to see some friends. After a bit of persuasion, everyone wanted to give it a try. With me as captain, this seemed to go relatively smoothly. When I was not captain, the results were generally more amusing.

I’m very pleased to have had the opportunity to try a tandem, it was definitely a good experience. Whilst it is not based on the type of bike I would normally ride, it was still immense fun. Now, if anyone has a tandem based on a roadster, let me know…

11 thoughts on “Tandem

  1. A racer with Deore, barcons and a high rise stem?I don't think you're fooling anyone there :)Bicycle Boutique do tandem hire, if you're interested in trying one again – theirs have flat bars, iirc.

  2. @John.I have seen the SP tandem Brompton before, like most of his stuff, it is a very impressive piece of kit (shame about the S bars though). I have inquired about the Bicycle Boutique tandem before, it seems a little bit steep. It is more mountainy than racy, but it has no mudguards so it'd always feel like a gamble with the weather if I rented it.The tandem I rode actually had an adjustable stem, which was ideal for me as I'm not a big fan of the whole horizontal back riding position (especially in traffic). WRT to the rest of the spec, I tend to forget how quickly things tend to move on in the sport side of cycling, especially racing. I suppose it is partly driven by professionals and also through the whole "Fred" phenomenon, which an outsider to sport/competitive-oriented cycling, I find rather fascinating. Maybe Ian will upgrade it all to Dura Ace Di2 😉

  3. I'm not sure that things have moved on that quickly in cycle racing. Riders in the first Tour De France 100 odd years ago didn't use fat, chunky tyres like those on your tandem.It looks like a MTB, not a racer, The handlebars and gearshifters are traditional and still popular tourer equipment.I've never been convinced about tandems. Are they the preserve of couples who have to do absolutely everything together?

  4. "I tend to forget how quickly things tend to move on in the sport side of cycling, especially racing."Drops, Deore, Barcons is a bog standard touring set up to my eyes, fwiw.Edit: as Pete points out!I quite like the idea of a tandem for picking my daughter up from gym class, &c – the Circe Helios (which doubles as a cargo bike) would be my choice.

  5. @pete,You don't really have to have it together that much. If you both cycle a fair bit then it will take some getting used to, but with an experienced person up front and an inexperienced person at the back it tends to be relatively straightforward.@John,I must admit that I had thought along the lines of a tourer, but decided against writing it for a few reasons; it has no rear rack (but there are eyelets), it has no front rack (and there are no eyelets to add one) & it has V-brakes rather than cantis/discs.However, considering the more durable component choices made in some parts of the spec, combined with the chunky tyres, I'm going to revise my attempt at tandem taxonomy and declare it as a cyclocross tandem.As for the Circe Helios, I'd probably choose the same, especially as it takes a Brompton luggage block.

  6. Great post & pics Chris & glad you enjoyed it :>)Didn't think it would stir up so much controversy though lol. For anyone in any doubt with the spec, it's a…bicycle.To clear up any other aspects, it's a childback tourer – the low rear seatpost means that a nipper can come along for a ride and even the pedals are adjustable on the rear cranks for short legs.It came with a rear rack which I've pinched for another bike (needs must), and there are eyelets for front panniers on the forks.We bought it on recommendation from a tour company in Brittany in France that uses them.P.S: See what you mean about the barriers Chris. A bit more extreme than the ones in York we encountered, and not very cycle freindly!

  7. A colleague has the Helios. Dropped stoker seat for the little one and a child seat for the littler one. It's very cool. But I don't know where I could fit one. 😦

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