A Bicycle Built for Two

08.31.2007 | 6:57 am

A Note from Fatty: I’m not ready to declare a winner of the Ergon BD1 yet. There are so many entries, and many of them are pretty long. To give all entries a fair shake, I need time to read. I will post a winner Tuesday (Monday’s a holiday and I’m taking the day off).

New Bike Smell
Yesterday, I picked up my new bike from Racer’s Cycle Service and took my first ride.

No, wait. Scratch that. That should read, “We picked up our new bike from Racer’s Cycle Service and took our first ride.”

I’m just not used to having a bicycle be “we” thing, you know? Anyway, check it out:

I love the retro-cruiser look with the mustard fade and the little flame detail:

Handlebars a mile wide:

A Green Line tandem cruiser. How cool is that? (Answer: very, very cool)

Early Observations
Mostly, buying the tandem was a selfish act. I want to spend more time doing outdoor stuff with my kids, but biking’s about the only outdoor thing I’m good at. Since my boys haven’t otherwise showed much of an interest in riding their bikes, I figure maybe I could get them jumpstarted with a tandem. You know, give them the feel for riding a bike, while I do most of the work.

Here’s what I’ve discovered so far, based on one ride with my 11-year-old:

  • People see tandems: The jury’s still out on why, but I’ve noticed that people definitely notice and look at the tandems a lot more than they watch other bikes. I’ve got two theories for why: there’s the possible “recumbent” effect — any unusual (i.e., bizarre) bike is going to get noticed. And then there’s my preferred theory, the “Wow, I’ve never seen a tandem cruiser before, that’s totally awesome!” effect.
  • The saddles are enormous: I mean, take a look at this thing. It just feels wrong to be sitting on something this gigantic. All part of the experience, though.

  • I have never sat so upright on a bike before: The swoop-back handlebars and seat combine to leave you entirely upright on this bike. I expect that for casual riders, this is really great. I feel silly and keep expecting someone to start playing the theme music to The Flying Nun.
  • This suckah’s heavy: I haven’t weighed it, but I’d guess this bike weighs 65 pounds. It turns out that if you buy a tandem for less than $500, it’s not going to have all the lightest, high-zoot parts. Go figure.
  • I’ve got to cool it with the cadence: I’ve been training myself to pedal a nice fast cadence, and I kept forgetting myself when out riding. And since the cranks have to turn together on the tandem, this meant my 11-year-old kept having his legs spun around much, much faster than he wanted.
  • So far, the bike’s a success: My 11-year-old wants to go out on another, longer ride on the tandem this weekend. So, oddly, this by-far-the-cheapest-one-I-own bike may wind up being the most valuable bike in the stable.

Bikes: An Exception to the Law of Diminishing Returns?
As I rode with my son on the tandem, I kept coming back to the thought of how cheap this bike is compared to my other bikes. I mean, it is seriously 1/3 the cost of my next-cheapest bike (the Rig). And this tandem’s a good bike — it seems well-built, and it’s definitely fun to ride.

So have I been wasting my money spending many multiples of this cost on bikes?

No, I don’t think so. I love all my bikes, and feel they’re all good deals. They’re just for different things — riding with kids, riding on the road, racing on the dirt, ruining my knees.

All different parts of the biking experience, all really great. All with different price tags, but all worth every penny of it and more.


  1. Comment by Boz | 08.31.2007 | 7:07 am

    Cool bike, great family fun ect..
    But I could never ride stoker. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But a long ride that close…..Well we’d have to be family, or at least cose friends.

  2. Comment by quadzilla | 08.31.2007 | 7:27 am

    I freakin’ love it! I want one— NOW!

  3. Comment by Lowrydr | 08.31.2007 | 7:45 am

    That’s one sweet tandem you got there Fatty. One question, is the stoker seat really in line with the frame. In the second pic it looks kind of off. Must just be the angle of the camera.

    My daughter and I spent one year on a bagged Cannondale tandem, and it was the best year of riding I’ve ever done. And she was the same age as your son.

    She still talks about it and she’s 24 now. Just try to not grin too much, gotta watch out for bugs you know. And enjoy every minute of it.

    Now I want to buy another one again too.

  4. Comment by RussellM | 08.31.2007 | 7:48 am

    You realise that you’ve GOT to do Leadville next year on that, don’t you?

  5. Comment by Lisa B | 08.31.2007 | 7:48 am

    Cruising in style, FC! My husband and I are leaving tomorrow morning for a two-week, self-supported tour through the Green Mountains of VT on our tandem. You’re right – people notice tandems: they point, they stop and smile, and they (usually) give us a wide berth. It’s fun. Nothing like riding a half bike (as the tandem club calls singles :)), but a great way for riders of differing abilities to stick together. Enjoy!

  6. Comment by usimpto | 08.31.2007 | 7:49 am

    Way cool, Fatty. For some reason the tiny college I went to (St. Joseph, in Indiana) had one at the rec center one year and my friends and I used to joyride around campus on it. We felt totally silly at first but it was loads of fun. Have fun with the kids!

  7. Comment by Craig | 08.31.2007 | 8:08 am


    a bike for two for less than a cost of an I-9 or CK hubset?

    interesting idea.

  8. Comment by pikkumatti | 08.31.2007 | 8:15 am

    Bike looks great. I want one for me and the Mrs.

    My only question: can the rim brakes really stop that heavy vehicle, like on the downhill? I’m a bit concerned, esp. ‘cuz I’m not the lightest guy on the block.

  9. Comment by dug | 08.31.2007 | 8:27 am

    it totally feels wrong to be sitting on something that big.

    oh my god, what am i, twelve?

  10. Comment by Murphy | 08.31.2007 | 8:34 am

    What a great ride. I’d have one for Sunday Ice cream cruises but the garage is full to my wife’s patience.

    My daughter and I started tandem riding about 3 years ago. We started out just cruising on a Rails to Trails project in our area. We’ve upgraded the tandem and our riding style. Now we’re doing Saturday ride with the group. Everyone in the group talks with us and makes her feel part of club. It’s a wonderful way to spend time togehter. She’s enjoyed its so much that and at the end of September we’ll be participating in an MS150.


    I really like this bike.

  11. Comment by buckythedonkey | 08.31.2007 | 8:42 am

    So your love affair with the Selle Italia SLR lasted all of 2 months! Pah!

    65 pounds, eh? Hmm. I’m thinking carbon bars and posts, a nice strong wheelset, tubeless tyres, whip that XTR crank off the WoC, Ergon grips (of course), some nice unobtanium detailing. Maybe make it a singlespeed and you’ll be ready for…

    …the singlespeed tandem class at Leadville. I’m thinking of Kenny’s rehabilitation here, you understand. Victory guaranteed. Diamond-studded belt buckles all round, etc.

  12. Comment by Griffin | 08.31.2007 | 9:14 am

    What happened to your beautiful Bianchi Pista? I would have expected that to be the cheapest bike in your stable above the tandem?

  13. Comment by MTB W | 08.31.2007 | 9:16 am

    I think the cheapest bike in your stable is the one you allow Dug to continue riding.

  14. Comment by fatty | 08.31.2007 | 9:53 am

    griffin — you’re right, i forgot about the pista. this bike cost about 2/3 as much as the pista.

  15. Comment by Willie Nelson | 08.31.2007 | 10:15 am

    Make sure you keep it locked up tight. Someone came into our backyard in Provo and rode off with our antique blue Schwin tandem that had this cool 2 speed automatic rear hub. I still feel pretty sick about it because of all the sweet memories I have cruising around all the old houses in downtown Provo with my wife on the back (she of course would sing making it all the more funny because it had a basket on the front and it felt like something from a 1950’s TV show). Enjoy the memories, tandems are pure fun and that’s what bikes should be about.

  16. Comment by Rachel | 08.31.2007 | 10:23 am


    I used to have two favorite websites: yours and fatty’s. I went through serious withdrawal after you quit posting, and yet you still taunt me with that link on your name. And don’t give me any of that “tambourine without a hand” line. Slacker.

  17. Comment by cyclingphun.blogspot.com | 08.31.2007 | 10:25 am

    I was looking at a tandem. My wife wanted her own though:(.

  18. Comment by rexinsea | 08.31.2007 | 10:33 am

    Excellent – riding with the tribe is an great Sat/Sun afternoon gig for sure. I have a 6 year old and we LOVE to go out on the old Mtn bike and a “tag along” pedal trailer hooked to the seat post. For a real adventure, I can put the 1.5 year old twins in the regular trailer and attach that to the tag along. Then we have a regular parade float going down the bike path. Honestly, I’ve only carried all the kids once. Usually my wife either carries the baby trailer or the tag along pedal trailer. We’ve gone on 10-12 mile rides this way and usually plan it so we can stop at a park along the way and the brew pub for some refreshment post ride.

    Good times. Enjoy the the ride!

  19. Comment by Clydesteve | 08.31.2007 | 10:59 am

    Well, this does look fun. My son & I are trying to build a racier tandem, using a couple of old MTB frames. Chop the rear triangle off the front half, and remove the fork from the back half, weld in a boom tube and a couple of spacer tubes up top. But work is going slow. I might be ahad of the game to make it a SS MTB…..



  20. Comment by IndoorRolyPoly | 08.31.2007 | 11:02 am

    It’s funny you should post this today. I was in a race Thursday that had a Tandem class (if you raced a tandem you raced for FREE) and the great thing was, a couple that showed up for the race on a tandem Cannondale mountain bike , and they where FAST!
    I wondered how they could navigate this track being fairly tight and technical. the couple said that there was only one area that they couldn’t do because of a couple of tight trees in a switch back.

    could you imagine the speed that you could do climbing with a Tandem? I suppose you will now. (I just don’t know if I want to see any photos of you and Kenny on the retro beach cruiser tandem making record time over you favorite mountain pass….. OK I lied, I do want to see photos of that!)

  21. Comment by axel | 08.31.2007 | 11:15 am

    I like the cruiser styling – ours looks more utilitarian. I expect future ride reports to include the line – ‘then we had to stop to pick up juniors lost flip flop’. At least that’s what we do on all of our tandem rides…usually if my cadence is too fast.

    cost of bikes – that only matters if you buy it and don’t use it. Who cares about the price if it pays back FUN. Still, I buy used when I can – half the price, so I can buy twice the number of bikes, or support twice the number of hobbies. Or both.

    not to take anything away from your fine cruiser, I think the coolest tandem is this http://www.bilenky.com/viewpnt.html – although at $4500 that would probably be the most expensive bike in the stable…

  22. Comment by JC Wise | 08.31.2007 | 11:17 am

    You get noticed on a recumbent and you get noticed on a tandem. Do you get twice as noticed on a recumbent tandem? My wife and I have been riding a Barcroft Columbia for a year and really enjoy it. I’m a stronger rider that her so I get a great workout and she gets to keep up. Highly recommended.

  23. Comment by Bob | 08.31.2007 | 1:23 pm

    That’s great about the tandem bike and all, but I want you to know that my road bike in the parking garage has a flat tire, and it’s the rear tire, and I don’t like flat tires, and I am quite upset about the whole situation. But nevermind. You don’t want to hear my problems. So… what’s up with you?

  24. Comment by KT | 08.31.2007 | 1:46 pm

    That bike is really cool! But it needs some cupholders for your Venti Chai iced latte with soy. Extra ice.


    Indoor Roly Poly, I thought about tandems and their speed on the last long ride I did… and decided that what you gain with double the legs doing the work, you lose with double the weight of people and bike. Although, you do get to stay together with your riding partner instead of losing sight of him on the long uphills and flat straight stretches…. But I digress.

  25. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 08.31.2007 | 2:14 pm

    I think it’s great you and your son and possibly other family members may team up on the bike overtime. When I was eleven my dad never had the time to even contemplate spending time together with me like that and i have to admit I don’t think I would have wanted too.
    In our riding circle there is a husband and wife team who are both good riders in their own right that often team up on the tandem and they set a cracking pace but do get caught out a little on the hills. They have heaps of fun. They do get tired of the comment from passers bye that the one at the back is not pedalling.

  26. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 08.31.2007 | 2:16 pm

    Oh yeah good luck with that bag selection thing there are a lot of good claims buried in there.
    Now then who won the time tipping competition, how are the shirt sales going, etc etc and with this backlog of work you are taking a day off?
    Enjoy it.

  27. Comment by elayne | 08.31.2007 | 5:02 pm

    Have you seen Electra’s Hellbetty & Swing Tandems?

  28. Pingback by RocBike.com » Links Of The Day: 31 August 2007 | 08.31.2007 | 5:16 pm

    [...] A Bicycle Built for Two [...]

  29. Comment by joliver3 | 08.31.2007 | 6:34 pm

    My 9-year-old son outgrew our Burley Piccolo trailer cycle, so I picked up an old — like 1989 old — Burley tandem on ebay over the winter. For ~$500 plus a couple hundred in part updates, we’ve gotten a great way to spend time together on the weekends. He seems to alternate in phases between wanting to ride the tandem or wanting to ride his mountain bike (also new this year) on the local trail, but either way, I think he’s got the biking bug, and I hope we’ve got a great long-term father/son hobby.

    He’s been making noises about wanting a road bike too, now. I guess I’m not setting such a good example with my mountain bike and two road bikes!

    Now if I could just convince my wife that the used tandem was only supposed to be a one-year experiment, to be replaced by a new one if it proved successful…..

  30. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 09.1.2007 | 7:10 am

    WILLIE NELSON, is this your (stolen) tandem? I only glimpsed it a couple times, so I don’t know: http://saltlakecity.craigslist.org/bik/411374349.html

  31. Comment by Tim D | 09.1.2007 | 9:10 am

    Tandems are great. We’ve had various ones for 15 years now. Check out http://www.sandsmachine.com/a_swa_t1.htm for a real long rig. This really got us noticed when the boys were smaller.

  32. Comment by Mike Roadie | 09.1.2007 | 2:57 pm

    After MUCH consternation, the pink FC.com jersey is finally here!!! I took it out to the beachfront ride this morning and got an unbelieveable amount of comments!!!! I had a LOT of ’splainin to do!!! But it was all good, and folks really like the whole blog-LAF-Susan connection.

    Don’t forget to help me support Susan and others in their fight…..I and Clydesteve are both riding in separate LiveStrong Challenges (so no tandem here!!!!) and raising money for the LAF…..I’m over $10K with all of YOUR help. But there is still time to support the Pink FC Jersey in Austin, TX:


    Help us today!!!!!!

  33. Comment by Beast Mom | 09.1.2007 | 5:31 pm

    My husband just got his issue of “Bicycling” magazine today and YOUR jersey is on the cover. Bet you knew that already, but I’m just sayin’ so anyway. :)Thought that was cool. Hope the jersey sales are going great! And hope your fam is all doing well too. Think about you all often.


  34. Comment by velocc | 09.1.2007 | 7:52 pm

    I had just taken a nasty crash going down a single track trail in Laramie, WY, when a couple on a MTB tandem came up the hill, going through all the roots and rocks like nothing….they had to stop for me. After we (my husband and I) got by, she climbed on the back seat and then he got on the front and off they went, up the relatively steep, definitely technical hill…WOW!!! They had some riding skills and trust in each other.

  35. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 09.2.2007 | 2:51 pm

    Anything that brings father and son together gets my vote.

  36. Comment by Min Jung | 04.2.2008 | 7:48 am

    I want to ride that bicycle.

  37. Trackback by Pehntermine. | 04.16.2008 | 12:59 pm



  38. Trackback by Recall tadalafil. | 07.15.2008 | 5:55 pm

    Recall tadalafil.

    Recall tadalafil.

  39. Comment by Modified Mummy | 12.22.2008 | 6:17 pm

    My hubby and I bought a tandem a few months ago for £20 off of ebay.

    Our plan is to ride it together doing the North England Coast-to-Coast ride. It’ll probably help if we get it all fixed together before then, as the whole thing is in pieces. We’ve never built a bike before, but for twenty quid we’ll give it a go :)

    Although 140 miles is going to be a damn sight harder than the 6 mile trips we’re currently comfortable with.

  40. Comment by Kathleen@ForgingAhead | 04.29.2009 | 6:13 pm

    I started riding bikes again last year after my husband and I borrowed a tandem! It was great – though he would pedal too fast at first.

  41. Comment by Jeremy | 07.18.2009 | 5:09 pm

    Damn, that thing looks really nice. Wish I had one.


Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.