4 years ago10,000+ Views
I have plans for a "commuter" tandem bicycle, but it will be years before I can start building one. As bicycle enthusiasts, you might be wondering why I would feel the need to custom design my own tandem. Clearly, tandem bicycles of various designs already exist! There's certainly little need for one more! Years ago, when I started this project, it was because, frankly, I realized my wife and I really needed a tandem bicycle for our trips to the grocery stores in our area. Grocery stores. Shopping. Heavy bags. Today, the bike would also be used to visit the lumber yard. Lumber yard. Lumber. Big, often heavy, cargoes. Clearly, this bike will need to be able to pull quite a heavy trailer ... With that in mind, I began researching tandem bicycles. First, the good news: Bicycle enthusiasts the world over agree, once both riders are used to their new ride, tandem bicycles are significantly easier to push than their single rider counterparts. There appear to be various reasons for this, but the primary reasons are improved aerodynamic efficiency and less bike per rider. Now the bad news: Tandem bikes make terrible commuters. Most tandem bikes, when running with two people, just too heavy. I realize there are tour bike out there. I am well aware there are touring cyclists roving cross-country the world over. But I have seen vow much maintenance such bikes require. Before every trip, those bikes must be finely tuned. The slightest mistake, and a wheel would literally collapse under the load! This means a tandem bicycle will likely be a maintenance nightmare! My research showed that not only would the wheels be problematic, but the brakes would be, too! Rim brakes would wear out the wheels much faster, and drum, coaster, and disc brakes would all have a tendency to fade! All this before attaching a heavy trailer! Finally, you'd think the longer frame would mean a better ride, which is only partly true. The rider up front can see everything that's coming, and can brace for it, so they get some benefit. As for the second rider? They end up getting a pretty rough ride if no steps are taken to isolate them from the road! Finally, the strongest rider always has to be up front for it is they who holds the bike up whenever it stops. (Please note: I've seen a custom tandem where the front rider was in an incumbent position, so clearly this is not always the case.) With all these problems, you'd think I'd just give up on it. But being me, I sought solutions. To summarize the problems, tandems suffer from too much weight and poor suspension. I played with various ideas, and it dawned on me. There already heavy bikes out there. Those bikes can weigh a thousand pounds! Those bikes move much faster than the forty five miles an hour maximum I wanted for my bike, and their brakes have no problem stopping them over and over and over again! Their wheels are durable enough they can take potholes at expressly speeds with no damage, and they have a beast of a suspension system! We call those bikes "motorcycles!" If you're a hardcore cyclist, and you're choking right now, I understand. Seriously! I do! I mean, this is a ridiculous idea, right? Building a tandem bicycle on a motorcycle suspension, with motorcycle wheels and motorcycle brakes! But I think it will work. My research shows the bike will be longer than a regular tandem. This is because a bike Luke this must be multiplied, and the motorcycle wheel expects a drive belt. While the extra length and motorcycle suspension mean this beast will be heavy, recent experience has shown it's eighteen inch wheels will make it very easy to push. It will probably never see forty five miles per hour, but clearly this tandem concept is no leisure romance ride!
The problems with bicycles remain the problems with bicycles. A good set of tandem wheels runs around nine hundred dollars - and have no warranties. Bicycle brakes aren't meant to stop five hundred pounds or more. And hitting a pot hole with a three to five hundred pound bicycle is a great way to ruin a rim. I believe I went over the reasons why a motorcycle suspension are necessary. Bumping around on bicycle (light duty) parts isn't really an option. Using bicycle parts to make a tandem is generally a great way to waste money, and there are reasons multispeed commuter tandems are so rare. If you intend to get to places in a timely manner, the last thing you want to do is hop on a tandem with a partner and run as fast as you can! As such, traditional tandem bicycles are really little more than toys. Just like most U.S. bicycles, really.
How bout a tandem fat bike? Not sure what the max tire pressure those things can take but they could offer some suspension. Coming from the motorcycle world and have pulled heavy trailers, keep the tongue wieght low. This takes the load off the bike. Felt like there was nothing behind us. We pulled whole camp sites with picnic tables and tents and such. Everyone always asked who drove the car with all this stuff? Of course it was all foldable stuff. But still all the comforts one could ask for. Look into fat tire tandem. Might even introduce the sport to a new class of riding.
Wow! Thanks for sharing this story. I've always been told that tandem bikes are also called 'divorce bikes' because the two people riding them usually end up fighting with each other! All jokes aside, I am really concerned with using motorcycle parts, especially motorcycle wheels. Motorcycle wheels will be extremely hard to gain speed on!