Tandem Mountain Bikes



© 1999 by Mark Livingood

An Enduro is a 26" wheeled tandem fitted with either drop bars or flat handlebars intended to be ridden both on and off-road. Although mountain bike components are used, the gear ratios may be somewhat higher than you would normally find on either a hardtail or full suspension tandem mountain bike used exclusively off-road. Enduro tandems are well suited for epic loaded touring (aka, Trekking or Expeditions) where paved roads give way to unpaved roads and trails. Although not specifically designed for it, skilled teams can often times negotiate technical single track and moderately difficult obstacles on an Enduro. Some stock models will provide the stoker with a suspension seat post which will reduce the jarring effects small ruts, roots, and other small obstacles will cause. Often times, teams will upgrade Enduros with a suspension fork that enables them to be used on more technically challenging terrain when paved roads aren't in the foreseeable plans. However, fitting a suspension fork to an Enduro that originally came with a rigid fork, owners should consult with their dealers to ensure the appropriate type and size of fork is used. The installation of a suspension fork will, in most cases, reduce the amount of stand-over height for both the captain and stoker and may alter the way the bike handles due to the change in effective head tube angle & steering geometry. A Hard Tail tandem mountain bike is a 26" wheeled tandem fitted with mountain bike componentry and, more importantly, a suspension fork that offers 3" to 6" (or more) of travel. It is strongly recommended that owners ensure only forks that are "tandem rated" are used. This caveat applies to both single and heavy-duty, triple crown long travel FreeRide or Downhill type of suspension forks. Just because a fork looks or is touted as being "heavy-duty" does not mean it is properly outfitted for use on tandem. As for what features to look for in tandem forks, consider forks offering no less than 4" (100mm) of travel if you intend to use the tandem on technical single track. It's worth noting, in more recent years, tandem manufacturers and builders have redesigned their tandem frames to better accommodate the long travel suspension forks and to offer higher bottom bracket clearances than the Enduros. As you can see with the Cannondale MT4000 depicted above, the geometry & frame design has been altered to increase the stand over height for both the captain & stoker, while at the same time, allowing the tandem to have a higher bottom bracket and a head tube that is sufficiently large enough to support the loads of the triple crown suspension fork. Fitted with the proper fork, you should be able to ride a Hard Tail on any trails or terrain that you are able to ride your solo mountain bike on; notwithstanding certain obstacles that a tandem's long wheel base and boom tube cannot physically clear. If you can't do it on your solo, don't assume you can on your tandem -- sometimes it's easier & sometimes it's not.   A Full Suspension tandem mountain bike is a 26" wheeled tandem built around a frame that incorporates a short to medium travel (normally on the order of 3" to 6") rear suspension design. Like the Hard Tail, the Full Suspension (or F/S) is fitted with mountain bike componentry and a robust front suspension fork. F/S tandems first arrived on the scene in the mid-90's and the number of models currently available is still somewhat limited: at present, Ventana, Boulder Bikes, Ellsworth, da Vinci and Chumba Wumba are producing F/S tandems. The F/S models tend to be more aggressive in their frame designs & geometry than their Hard Tail siblings to even better accommodate very long travel Downhill suspension forks. Whereas the Cannondale MT's offer approximately 11.5" of ground clearance to the bottom bracket/boom tube, a Ventana F/S model will have 13.5" or more, depending on which fork is fitted to the tandem. As with the Hard Tail, you should be able a F/S model on any trails or terrain that you are able to ride your solo mountain bike. The rear suspension will provide your stoker with far more comfort than the Hard Tail and will likely improve your ability to control the tandem on fast descents and technical climbs by improving rear wheel contact and overall bike stability. However, proper suspension set-up is essential as a poorly tuned F/S Model may actually prove to be more difficult to ride than a Hard Tail.


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