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…

Circe Helios Tandem & Cargo Bike

Today I visited Practical Cycles to test ride a variety of exciting cargo bikes, and the test ride impressions will be published over the next week or so.

One of the bikes which caught my eye, but which I didn’t  test ride myself was the Circe Helios Family Tandem. I had already seen this bike on several websites, the design is particularly clever; a tandem with 20 inch (406 mm) wheels, with a telescopic seat-post allowing either an adult or child stoker.

The Helios tandem with added mudguards and bottle cages

The clever part is that the stoker seat-post can be removed when it is not needed, and replaced by an extended cargo rack similar to that of the Yuba Mundo:

The tandem can also become a cargo bike for one (this one thankfully has hub gears instead of a derailleur)

However, when I saw the bike in real life, one very small feature (which I can understand the manufacturer not going out of their way to promote) really impressed me:


The Helios in the Practical Cycles showroom


A close-up of the headtube. Looks familiar, no?

The headtube has threaded bosses for a Brompton luggage block. This is a very clever little addition, increasing the luggage capacity, especially when the bike is used as a tandem. I doubt there are any patent issues with this, two screw-holes on a headtube are unlikely to be granted any IP protection. Circe have very cleverly managed to provide owners of their bikes with the option of wide range of existing Brompton luggage without the expense of making their own proprietary luggage system.

Sometimes it is the little extra touches which can impress the most.