The Entry Level Tandem Price Gap

In my “pulse of the tandem market” update, I mentioned the entry-level tandem price gap and that bears some additional discussion, because it’s an interesting situation.

Here’s the deal, if you’ve budgeted $3,500 or so for a new tandem the world’s your oyster: lots of great options out there, including a couple really nifty redesigns by Co-Motion: the Primera & Mocha were transformed as mentioned my October blog entry, What’s new at Co-Motion for 2011.  However, if your budget is more in the $1,800 – $3,000 range its slim pickings UNLESS you’re willing to look at the used tandem market.  Why is that?

A few years back, Burley, Cannondale and Trek all offered consumers tandems in the $1,000 – $2,500 price range.  Today, there’s just a little bit of NOS (new old stock) inventory, the Trek T900 and a couple new offerings from Tandems East who has created its own house-branded line of tandems: Hokitika. So, what happened?

  • Burley imploded back in 2006, taking out the Zydeco, Samba, Rumba, Duet and Tosa offerings.
  • Cannondale has for some strange reason dropped the RT3, MT and Street Tandems and now only offers a single, $3,500 tandem offering… which is, interestingly enough, probably the only Cannondale being made in the US.  It too will eventually go off-shore.
  • Trek simply dropped the T1000 (and T2000) in 2008, but still offers the imported $1,000 T900.

So, how are the producers responding?  Santana began exploring the potential for importing Taiwan-made tandem frames a few years back as a way to bring down their entry-level price point, but interestingly enough, it was daVinci that was the first U.S. premium quality tandem builder to source a production model from Asia.  I discussed some of this in an entry back on December 6, 2010 that focused on Santana’s new for 2011 Nuovo Sport that you can find HERE.

As mentioned, at least one of our friend/dealers, Mel Kornbluh at Tandems East, has taken steps to fill the entry-level tandem price gap on his own by developing a house-branded line of tandems called Hokitika.  The US-made frames are offered in three different models:

  • A $1,950 entry-level tandem  called the Haka, which is Mel’s answer to the price gap left by the departure of the aforementioned Brands.
  • A $2,975 model called the 2-Be-One that falls into the same range as the Santana Nuovo Sport and other entry-level tandems from daVinci, Co-Motion’s Periscope and Primera/Mocha models, as the Rodriguez Toucan ST.
  • A $2,999 triplet frameset model also called the 3-Be-One, again being targeted at the price gap where many families who’d like to have a better-quality triplet find themselves when they’re unsure if the expense of a made-to-order triplet from one of the better known builders is warranted without knowing if they’re family will be successful with a triplet.

To be completely candid, I’m a little bit jingoistic when it comes to bicycle frame production and clearly have a preference for domestically produced tandem frames. So, I’m encouraged by Mel’s efforts to keep a US-made frame in that price gap vs. the imported models, for fear of a slippery slope that could move more “premium branded tandem frame” production off-shore.  Our friend Alex at has done the same thing with his house-branded Fandango off-road tandem frames, now produced to’s specs by the folks at Gibson Design Group in Rancho Cordova, California.

So this will be a market segment that bears close attention. As I said, if buyers are willing to forego a brand new tandem, then there is plenty of “used inventory” in that $1,800 – $3,000 price point.  In fact, there are some amazing bargains to be had at a variety of price points.  Just like cars, the higher the initial selling cost of a product, the faster the resale price falls as depreciation hits.  $10,000 exotic tandems that serve a very limited market can quickly end up losing thousand’s of dollars in depreciation that put them on the market for only 75% of their original value, even with minimal wear and tear.  So, those $3,500 – $4,500 premium tandems can also drop quickly into that gap market after only a few years, and perhaps that’s why some of the builders are reluctant to try an offer a product in that price gap: it’s actually a market that’s being taken care of by second-hand tandems.

Anyway, interesting stuff to keep your eyes on.


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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12 Responses to The Entry Level Tandem Price Gap

  1. Pat says:

    Cannondale, first of all, drove their company to ruins, I believe they are owned by my home0town company Pacific who owns many brands: Schwinn, Mongoose, GT, CANNONDALE… and Pacific is owned by a Canadian firm I believe DOral Dorel whatever.

    TREK was, I think making the road frames at Waterloo and only selling around 250? units a year. I met smoe dude AT Trek on a event ride, I suspect he may have been a product MGR or the owner, he confessed that they were not making money on tandems and not in any way dominating that market, and they realized it. The T900 doesn’t count, it’s probably mostly imported, just a decent upright alu carcass and reasonable components for knocking around town.

    It is NOT rocket science to make something that is fine for entry into the tandem world, but the market speaks with it’s dollars, or not. I have a KILLER Releigh Persuit? 700C tandem in the garage with disc brakes, I got it USED for $800 converted to drop bars w/ TravelAgents. It started out as a flat-bar 700C road tandem, probably selling in the mid-teens? If it was such a great DEAL why cannot we buy them NOW? Hmm. It’s like the economy? The rich get richer? The poor are poor. I dunno.

    I do know this, any couple seeking the magic experience can HAVE that with a good machine, not a wonderful one — it should just WORK. I have a mint T200 in the garage, hard to value that machine in dollars, isn’t it? What can you buy NEW that will stretch to 145 in the back and that actually will go and stop and take you way out in the sticks without not dying? Hmm.

    I know there IS a market for the $1500 decent 700C tandem, I doubt it exists “new”, but it sure could.

  2. Brian Wasson says:

    Regarding the used tandem market, I always thought that it would be cool if the big niche tandem makers (Co-Mo, Santana) would offer to extend their lifetime frame warranties to a second owner. The best way to do this would be to have the new owner take the tandem to a local dealer to be inspected, and then perhaps pay an “extended warranty” fee like $100-$200.

    Sure, the manufacturers would be taking on increased risk, but it would be mitigated by the inspection and fee. Plus, both the shop and the manufacture would get to develop a relationship with these (likely) first-time buyers. Once the buyers “grow out” of the used tandem, the shop/manufacturer will probably be first on the list when the team is looking for a new bike.

    Not only that, but it allows the original owner to more easily sell the tandem, and for a higher price, allowing them to more easily get into that upgrade tandem.

    • TG says:

      Your idea has merit, but I’m not sure all of their “authorized dealers” would have the ability to be “certified” to inspect a frame in a way that would satisfy the underlying manufacturer’s insurance policies. But, that’s just a guess at one of the possible issues.

      FWIW, Calfee has what it calls its Second Life Warranty that does just what you suggest. It costs $250 and what it does is transfer the balance of any remaining warranty to the new owner, noting Calfees tend to have either 10-year or 25-year frame warranties. It requires the frame to be shipped to Calfee for inspection as part of the process.

      At one time I had thought that Co-Motion would extend its warranty to subsequent owners upon request, but in looking at their current warranty it clearly states it is now applicable to only the “original owner”. Guess I’ll have to update my used tandem guidelines since it still refers to what I believe was the older policy provision for warranty transfer.

  3. Paul Meixner says:

    Minor correction: The name of the triple frameset is 3-BE-ONE.

    Keep up the great work!

  4. Stephane Sery says:

    Thank you for the information. It helps a lot. We still cannot find a web site that has a large choice of tandem bikes in a used inventory. Do you know one ?

  5. Ron Bell says:

    Wow, great post! My wife and I have over 10,000 miles on our Raleigh Pursuit, and except for anticipated maintenance it has been a great bike. It sure has brought the two of us together, and we have had great times! Sometimes, I get the hankering for a new ride for us, but price with no performance gain keeps me making small upgrades on the Raleigh! When we started tandem riding over a decade ago, my wife really enjoyed going so fast and so far on a bicycle. My legs were really strong then! Now her legs are stronger as mine fade, but we are an even faster team now!! So, guys, do not complain about the stokers lack of performance, encourage, teach good technique, I remember our first out of the saddle climbs! Keep high lighting the shared accomplishments. With luck, you will experience what I have, seeing your wife/child/partner grow into cycling. There is not a dollar value that one can put on this experience, we talk of buying a new tandem someday, one that couples so that we can travel with it. We have had some bad rental tandem experiences, which are better than no tandem experience! As stated above, the market will respond to us, not the other way around. So, make some noise, we have the web now, let the big guys know we want an affordable tandem back!!!! Then buy’em.

  6. Joe Osborne says:

    Well, I am on my third tandem but its my first road tandem. I am a somewhat serious ciclist but living in Mexico, well, I am on a budget. So, I bought the Giordano tandem which ended up with some upgrades and importation costs to Mexico costing around $900. There are some problems that I am still working on like the brakes for starters. I have some newer dual pivot brakes to put on but I will have to modify them to get them to fit. I changed the wheels, tires and some other things as well. The bike weighs less than 40 lbs now and it flies on the flats. Only thing is there are lots of hills around here and riding in general is harder than it is in the US due to hills, elevation and road conditions. Tandem riding is a blast! We’re having a lot of fun!

  7. Ron Bell says:

    To Joe Osborne,

    My friend bought a Giordano tandem, I put Shimano Sora dual pivot brakes on it. He put on new saddles and spd pedals. She is a rocket ship! So, far the Sora shifters are functioning great, the dual pivot brakes are a must, but they fit without any adjustments on the stock rims! Good luck, and have fun. I feel the frame alone is worth the cost of the bike. An inexpensive way to get into the tandem scene!

  8. Quentin says:

    I just stumbled onto your 2-year old article, but I found it quite relevant to my situation. I got into tandem riding as a way to do family rides with my kids. We started with a Bike Friday tandem because it could fit a very short rider, and put the other child on a tandem trailer, which I’m now convinced are dangerous and should be avoided for serious riding. We got rid of the trailer and last winter I customized a second tandem for my wife: a 2002 Raleigh SC Tandem. The Raleigh tandems have a decent mix of components for their price, but they keep the price down by using a very heavy frame, with the bike weighing in somewhere in the low 50 pound range. We did a lot of rides on the tandems this summer and decided we want to keep doing this, so now we’re both thinking about possible upgrades, but it’s really hard to find what we’re looking for without quickly getting expensive.

  9. Nice, relevant post here, TG.

    As we were already a cycling family, (with all 7 of us on road / road racing bikes), I was looking for a new ‘wrinkle’ to keep our family rides from getting to be too ‘routine’.

    While doing a local Texas T Shirt ride & seeing all the fun the tandem teams were enjoying, I decided to search Craigslist for nice, quality tandems – road types (no mtb, hybrid or cruiser style), to see what the market had to offer.

    (We also had noted the Giordano Tandem and were considering it, too…)

    There were a couple of nice Treks – but one stood out – a custom Curtlo (handmade in Washington state) that was a bit vintage but had quality parts & nice design features.

    It had a 3 x7 Shimano Deore drivetrain with cantilever brakes & Arai Drag Brake on the rear hub. Wheelset was Phil Wood hubs with Mavic 36 spoke wheels & Gatorskin tires.

    Adding a unique flair, it was finished in a Hot Pink powder coating, still looking nice & new after being built in (estimated) 1994.

    The couple had used it quite extensively in California, but moved to Ft Worth & went back to single bikes.

    I was able to negotiate them down to $ 550 on the bike, which was a veritable steal for a nice custom tandem, albeit a vintage one.

    The bike weighs 45#, but is solid & stable as a rock. The smooth rolling wheeset allows it to be very efficient, despite being a bit portly.

    Probably it’s main mechanical drawback is the antiquated 7 speed drive train. Due to the drag brake needing axle space, there doesn’t appear to be any room for a wider / higher speed cassette. (If anyone knows different, please chime in…..)

    My next move is to install a new Deore rear derailleur, as the current vintage one is very weak & doesn’t respond well to front chainring switches & isn’t very smooth.

    As long as shifts are smooth & reliable, we can deal with the larger jumps between gears that comes with 7 speed gearing.

    One thing to consider when looking at tandems is the size of the frame for Captain & Stoker positions. For example, the Trek we first saw was a Large / Large, which made the back position uncomfortable for my wife (I’m 5’10’ she’s 5’5″), and would have made it “unrideable” for our 3 little girls.

    I’m told this is a ‘mixtie’ frame, with it being a Medium / Small – ideal because it turns out my wife won’t ride Stoker & my little girls absoutely love doing so, almost fighting to get the Stoker priviledge !

    So, just thought I’d chime in & give you a brief idea about how we got into tandeming.

    If we go for an upgrade tandem (a big if, if my wife never warms to it), we’ll probably mainly look at the used market on our local Texas Craigslist, or maybe going to some tandem rallies would be another approach, too.

    In the meantime, we plan to do more family & club rides that include the tandem.

    Thanks for your great blog, TG.

    I subscribed to your blog (of course) so that I won’t miss your posts.

    Warm Regards,

    David in East Texas
    ( )

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