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 MTBTandems.com has done the same thing with his house-branded Fandango off-road tandem frames, now produced to MTBTandem.com’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.