It’s Not About The Tandem…

From outward appearances this may sound like pure hypocrisy, but it ain’t about the tandem!  It’s about the tandeming experience.

If having a certain brand, model, type, material, color, or specific gravity improves your tandeming experience, all the better.  However, it’s not a zero-sum game, where for one person’s tandem to be better, someone else’s must be less better.  In fact, while a few folks have attempted to come up with ways of benchmarking the qualities that they believe are the hallmark of a “better tandems”, it’s a stretch to believe that there is such a thing as ‘benchmarks’ for something as subjective as personal preferences, with or without the added complexity of cost and value for money.

I make mention of this because as is often the case as the various bike shows are held and new or upgraded tandems make their debuts at the late winter and early spring events here in the states, there always seems to be a tendency to discuss what’s “better” about the new stuff.  Frankly, while we see some truly new and innovative things now and again, very little of what gets introduced each year strikes me as being “better”: it’s simply different.  Different in that it could be lighter, use different materials, be more expensive, or have other properties that some consumers will find desirable. Moreover, in many instances what arrived with great promise and fanfare in one season quickly becomes old news as real world use by average consumers puts those promises to the test and as you’d expect, get mixed results for the usual reasons: different expectations, demands, appropriate and inappropriate applications, and of course simply missing the mark with a product that really wasn’t quite what the marketing spin and subsequent ‘buzz’ suggested.

This brings me back to something I’ve said for nearly as long as I’ve been riding tandems:

Ride what you like and like what you ride…

That’s all that matters.  Lest anyone think the tandems we own or have owned were ever bought for any other reason than simply appealing to our sense of style and budget, it’s really quite that simple.  I really don’t care what anyone rides, so long as they enjoy it enough to ride it.  If having a lighter tandem, a fancy paint job, exotic wheels, the latest components, or bragging rights for having spent the most $$ makes you enjoy and ride your tandem more often that’s goodness in my book.  In fact, in some respects getting a go-fast tandem could actually make a tandem team a stronger team if only because they feel compelled to ride harder and more often because of what they’re riding!

Yes, I fiddle around with all kinds of equipment and have even bought tandems, wheels and other components simply to satisfy a curiosity I had about purported benefits or features.  However, rest assured that we’ve never had any illusions that the equipment we ride would transform our abilities or performance beyond one truly objective measure: proper fit.  That’s about the only objective measure that comes to mind that matters more than anything else.  Beyond that it’s how:

  • the machine functions and once again I’ve seen $1,500 tandems that were dialed-in better and more reliable than $11,500 tandems; and most important of all..
  • the engines that drive a tandem function individually and collectively.

Yup, that’s about it.  If you want to know why we’re riding what we’re riding at any given point in time, be it the frame or some exotic wheels just ask… don’t assume, as you might be surprised to find that we’re simply trying to see how long it will take to make something break or otherwise show its shortcomings.   From time to time I also fall victim to vanity… as was the case over the last few weeks with our “gold package”: there’s a story there, but it’s a weak one and at the end of the day it really was a bout of vanity that compelled me to bling out our tandem.  Yeah, it looked good… but it didn’t go any faster or any farther because of it.

 Yeah, boys and their toys…


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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One Response to It’s Not About The Tandem…

  1. MSRW says:

    This strikes me as a worthy topic, and I would guess, that for most tandem teams, the pursuit of a better tandeming experience, beyond a certain baseline, hasn’t generally been enhanced by continuously upgrading to the latest flavor of the month equipment.

    For me, maybe even to the contrary most of the time. Low spoke count wheels come to mind.

    I think it’s never a bad idea to be brutal in evaluating tandem gear on whether something is simple, functional, well-designed and reliable, vrs whether it isn’t.

    Some of the things I’ve found that work really well on tandems:

    –Mechanical disk brakes–esp Avid
    –bar end shifters, esp Shimano Dura-Ace.
    –Titanium frames
    –Phil Wood hubs
    –Son dynohubs–esp the 28
    –Paul Motolite brakes
    –Schwalbe Marathon Supreme Liteskin 700x32c tires
    –Brooks Ti saddles
    –Tubus Ti racks

    But the fundamental magic of tandeming hasn’t been predicated on any of these items–most of what my wife and I love about tandeming was just as much there with the Trek T200 tandem we first rode and that got us into this, as it is with our current very high end tandem.

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