Tips for First Time Buyers

© 1998 by Mark Livingood

1. Decide how much you're willing to spend for your 1st tandem.

2. Visit Web sites that offer "buying a tandem" advice: Tandem Magazine: or this one, at The Learning Center or Tandems pages.

3. Get a copy of "The Tandem Scoop", available for about $9.00 which can usually be found at

4. Ride as many different tandems as you can to find out what "feels right" to you. Each tandem manufacturer builds their tandems a bit differently and they all have certain characteristics that appeal to some teams, but not to all.

5. Consider buying a used tandem as your first tandem. There are several good web sites that provide tandem-only classified ads and there are always quite a few very nice tandems being offered for sale whenever I've looked. You'll find a list with hyperlinks to several classified ad sites that cater to tandem buyers HERE.

6. Make sure what ever you buy as your first tandem, its frame fits both you and your partner. You can change everything else about a tandem, but the frame is what makes the difference when it comes to how much you -- and more importantly your partner -- enjoy riding the tandem. A bit too small (except in the stoker's compartment) is better than a bit too big.

7. Recognize from the start, if you and your partner enjoy tandem riding you may find yourselves buying an "upgrade" tandem in a few short years.

Here's the rationale to support these recommendations:

If you are the cyclist in the family and have an affinity for "nice" equipment, you'll find it hard to settle for a tandem that's of a lesser quality (components & ride) than the single bike you're accustomed to riding. That is *IF* you and your partner become very active tandemists who expect to do routine touring, metric or full centuries and the like. If you and your partner only intend to take with an occasional "fun ride" then you may be able to fight off the urge for something better. Therefore, if at all possible, test ride several different types of tandems and find the brand or model that you feel most comfortable on or "like" best. Next, look for a 2 to 4 year old example of that tandem in the classified ads and compare the cost difference. Don't forget to consider the cost for sales tax and essential equipment needed on a new tandem that may come with a used one. If you can find a nice used tandem that suits your needs you may find it's all you need for the first year or two as you refine your skills and further define your needs.

Now, assuming you've purchased a used tandem, here comes the important part. RIDE, RIDE, RIDE!!! If you find that you and your partner aren't cut out for tandeming you may find you'll be able to re-sell it for not much less than you paid for it. However -- and this is the good part -- if you find that you and your partner are "hooked" by tandem riding you'll have a tandem that's probably "good enough" for your first year as you decide whether to upgrade your current tandem or begin to define what it is you'll want to have for your next tandem. Everything about tandems is subjective and you really won't know what you "like" or "need" until you've been able to spend many hour and/or at least several hundred miles on a tandem together. Even more important will be what you learn during this time from the new tandem friends you'll meet on the road or, if you are Internet savvy, perhaps from people on the Tandem@Hobbes listserver. Keep in mind, if you enjoy riding together you'll find yourself riding the tandem on the weekend's more often than your single bikes. In essence, your tandem will become your "recreational vehicle" and it will be easier to justify the expense of a high-quality tandem that meets all of your expectations. So, given that you've limited the entry cost to the sport, you'll be in great shape because you can order that "perfect tandem" and pay for 1/2 to 1/3 of it with the proceeds of your used tandem's re-sale. Also, in looking at what you want for that next tandem, you'll be able to take what you've learned about all of the nuances of tandeming, and apply it to your next tandem purchase. By that time you'll have a better understanding of any special requirements such as S&S couplers for travel, custom sizing, and you'll be able to apply your personal preferences to the components.

Bottom Line: By taking your time and learning along the way you'll be able to ensure the premium dollars you spend on your "long-term tandem" are all dollars well spent.


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