I guess it was so long ago that I had the “big A-hah” on home-based tandem speciality businesses that I sometimes wrongly assume most tandem enthusiasts know this too. That false assumption reared its head a while back when someone on one of the tandem discussion forums I frequent was taken aback when he made an appointment and visited one of these home-based tandem dealers. His expectation was that the “shop” would be a brick & mortar store, not a business being operated out of a personal home.
While there are a couple of brick & mortar tandem speciality dealers & full range bicycle shops that also specialize in tandems, there are also several 100% home-based tandem dealers out there serving the needs of the tandem community. Moreover, in some respects, these home-based businesses are sometimes better suited to both first time and enthusiast-level tandem buyers since tandems are their sole focus. Additionally, most of these businesses operate on a “by appointment only” basis which means that when you arrive for your appointment you’ll have the complete focus of the principles who are all tandem experts in their own right. They also tend to have a wider range of tandems and tandem speciality equipment in stock then you’ll find at the typical bike shop that will also sell you a tandem, and have a complete understanding of what parts and accessories are available for the very specialized and narrow tandem market.
So, who are these home-based tandem speciality dealers?
In business since 1984 is Tandems Limited, located near Birmingham, Alabama & operated by Jack & Susan Goertz. Given we lived in Atlanta when we decided to explore tandems back in 1997, it was a co-worker at Lockheed who first referred us to Jack & Susan and Tandems Limited is where we found our ’95/’96 Santana Arriva. We had a wonderful and full day with Jack & Susan and that experience put us on the right track for a positive tandeming experience. Although they are now retired from their former full-time day jobs, in addition to selling tandems Jack & Susan also support a variety of other activities as volunteers including overseeing the operations of The Tandem Club of America and serving as coordinators for the annual Southern Tandem Rally.
The second oldest is Tandems East, located in southern New Jersey & operated by Mel & Barbara Kornbluh since 1988. Mel & Barbara both have “day jobs” that also put heavy demands on their time but, as tandem enthusiasts and workaholics, you’d never know that they didn’t do tandems 24/7 given their annual open house event, annual tandem rally, commercial tandem tours and other tandem cycling advocacy efforts. Seriously, I know of no other couple who have as much energy and enthusiasm as Mel & Barbara: we live in awe of their daily schedules.
Tucked away in up state New York is Gear-to-Go Tandems, operated by Rich Shapiro & Lindy Ellis. Rich started the business at their home in Elmira New York back in the mid-90′s and relocated their home and business to Saranac Lake some 3-4 years ago after Lindy retired. Like most of the tandem speciality dealers, Rich & Lindy are long-time tandem enthusiasts who also host an annual rally as well as a number of commercial tandem tours.
Out in the midwest and just outside of Kansas City, Kansas is Precision Tandems. In business for over 16 years, Mark & Susan Johnson started off Precision Tandems as a side business and off-shoot of their interest in family and tandem cycling. In fact, I can’t think of any other tandem speciality dealer who has as much multi-seat tandem experience as Mark, noting that he and Sue began riding a triplet with their daughter Courtney in an infant seat attached to the triplet’s middle section when Courtney was just a few months old, and quickly moved to a quad and then a quint.
Closer to home here in Georgia is MTBTandems.com, an off-road tandem speciality dealer operated by Alex & Kim Nutt for over 10 years. Once again, building and selling tandems is not what Alex or Kim do as their day jobs, but they turned a new-found passion for off-road tandem cycling & Alex’s long time passion for off-road mountain biking into a niche within a niche business. I’d venture a guess that Alex has built and delivered more off-road tandems than any other bicycle or tandem dealer in North America, bar none, and does a healthy trade in the international market.
One of the newest home-based tandem speciality dealers is House of Tandems just north of Houston, Texas. Although they’ve only been in business for about 5 years, owners Ric & Marcia Becker spent a decade building one of the top bike shops in the US before selling that business so they could focus on tandems. Ric founded ACME Cycles in Katy, Texas back in 1995 and after expanding the business several times, the 15,000 square foot shop garnered recognition as one of the Top 100 bicycle shops in the US and one of Trek’s Top 50 shops in 2007. In addition to offering a full line of tandems, Ric has also been instrumental in the development and serves as the distributor for Spinergy’s very lightweight and durable Tx2 tandem wheelsets.
So, be careful before judging a tandem speciality dealer by his store front, or the lack thereof. You’ll be hard pressed to get more personalized service and attention, never mind a wealth of experience from these folks if you’re in the market for a tandem. Oh yeah, and as a group they are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.