Tandem Mountain Bikes (Getting Started)


© 1999 by Mark Livingood

OK, so you're intrigued by the idea of taking to the trails in tandem with your favorite riding partner; however, you're concerned about the cost of admission. Finding a tandem mountain bike to rent, borrow, or to otherwise take out for a "test ride" can be a daunting task . Frankly, I don't know of too many people that have an extra one laying about, dealers or enthusiasts. Of course, as with any tandem bicycle, the price of even a new "entry level" Enduro or Hard Tail ( $1,600 - $2,400) can be downright cost prohibitive if you're on a budget and, more importantly, not absolutely sure you and, or your partner will enjoy the activity. So, what to do?

Well, as I said, you can get yourself into a new entry level Enduro for as little $1,575 with the Burley Samba or $1,800 for a Cannondale MT800.

If you're pretty sure off-roading by two's will be the thing for you & your partner and believe you'll be into fairly serious terrain you can get yourself into a really nice Cannondale Hard Tail, the MT2000 for about $2,300. The MT2001 is a no-kidding Hard Tail tandem mountain tandem with the outstanding Moto FR suspension fork, Magura HS-24 hydraulic rim brakes, XT component group and Sun Rhyno Lite rims -- an outstanding package. The bike itself retails for about $2,300 which is a bargain; however, if you both don't have pedals that you can swap off between your solo bikes and the tandem you'll need to budget for two pair of pedals. The cost for two pair of pedals can be as low as $40 for platforms with clips & straps or range between $100 - $250 for clipless pedals, depending on which model you choose.

Now, if these prices are still a bit steep, or if you're looking for a better frame that you can upgrade over time, your next stop is Greg Shepherd's "Tandem & Family Cycling Magazine" website and the Classified Ads page:


The magazine may be on hiatus but the website lives on and the classified ads feature is an invaluable ally in your search for new riding machines or as a way to sell your extras. We have bought and sold a total of 4 tandems through this site in the past 18 months, 3 of which were tandem mountain bikes.

Anyway, what you want to look for are used 26" wheeled Enduro's such as one of the following models:

  • Ibis 'Cousin IT',
  • Fisher 'Gemini'
  • Specialized 'DejaTwo'
  • Burley 'Rock n Roll'
  • Cannondale 'Los Dos, MT900, MT1000 or MT2001
  • Santana 'Vision, Rio, Fusion, Cilantro, Encore or Picante'
  • If you're really lucky, perhaps you may even find a used Cannondale '98 MT3000 like the one we recently sold for about $1,800 (one heck of a good deal). There's really nothing to change on an MT3000 -- it's a ready to ride, full blooded mountain tandem with the beefy Moto FR long travel suspension fork. and complete mountain tandem component package.

Let's assume you can find a used Enduro type tandem. After a check -up by a qualified mechanic and the installation of some good off-road tires, you're ready to see if the very idea of riding on something other than asphalt is for you and your partner. No need to start spending money -- beyond the safety check & good tires -- on upgrades until you & your partner decide if you like "playing in the dirt". Now, if you decide that tandem mountain biking is going to be "one of your things" then your next step is evaluating your upgrades. The single most important component that you'll be faced with purchasing is a suspension seat post for your stoker. If you don't use one of these you won't be riding with your stoker for long -- trust me on this. Next, it's a suspension fork for the front end of the tandem. Although there are a couple of single crown, 4" (100mm) travel forks on the market that will to an adequate job for up to intermediate level trails, I would encourage anyone in the market for a suspension fork to seek out a triple crown FreeRide (FR), Dual Slalom (DS) or Downhill (DH) model with not less than 4" (100mm) of travel. These types of forks can be rather expensive ($450 - $900) and you'll need to talk directly with the manufacturer regarding any special modifications you'll need to ensure your fork can handle the weight and loads that are put on a fork by a tandem team. In most cases, heavy duty springs, increased preload, and additional spring rate progression will be needed so be sure you do your homework. Elsewhere on this page you'll find additional information regarding suspension forks & links to their manufacturers. Although I haven't seen them before, I'm hopeful this new forum will cause some quality used components & bikes to come to our attention, perhaps to include some suspension forks. From first hand experience I can tell you that it is not at all uncommon for someone to switch suspension forks as they search for the perfect set-up for their riding style.

Beyond the fork, your next most important component is your tire selection. Again, look to models that have been developed for the Free Ride, Dual Slalom or Downhill markets as they will be better suited to your tandem mountain bike than the lighter duty Cross Country (XC) and general purpose tires.

After the seatpost, fork & tires your next modifications will most likely be ones you make gradually as you either wear out components or find that they are not adequate for your level of riding. Be forewarned, it is not unusual to break components on tandem mountain bikes. Over time, everyone who rides off-road will systematically destroy: chains, rear hubs, rims, chain rings, cassettes, seat posts and just about every other component that can fail. It's not usually 'IF' so much as it is "WHEN". Tandem Mountain Bikes put tremendous loads on parts so you'll have plenty of opportunities to work in your upgrades as time goes by.

One last thing to keep in mind is, you can sometimes buy a new tandem mountain tandem for less than the cost of upgrading that "bargain bike". Do your homework and do the math. Even if you start off with a great deal on a used 26" Enduro for about $1,000, you'll quickly spend $700 on just a shockpost, suspension fork & good tires. If you're thinking about upgrading that old 7 speed system to 8 or 9, that'll run you at least another $250 just for parts (on sale) and, if you need some different chain rings... well, you get the point. Do your research and make the right decision for your budgeting needs.


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Copyright © 1999 - 2002 by Mark Phillip Livingood. All rights reserved.



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