It Takes Two

    a tandem in traffic, Victoria, B.C., Canada
    Bike to Work: a tandem with cargo racks is ideal for sharing a ride to the office (Photo: hans905 on flickr)

    What's better than riding a bicycle? Two people riding a bike together! Tandems are two-person on two- (and sometimes three-) wheels. Why better? Despite appearing large and heavy and therefore slow, two people on a tandem are usually faster than one person on a bike.

    Tandems have long been popular with couples -young and old- for obvious reasons. However an increasingly wide variety of tandems models and acessories are helping to attract a greater number of riders to tandems. In additional to the traditional road, touring and MTB tandems, models are increasingly available in city bike trimmings including Dutch- and cruiser styles, as well as trikes and special needs all with the option of electric-assist.

    A so-called kiddie crank is a good way to get a child stoker riding from an early age and can be fitted to more common types of tandems including for touring. Complete kits are available, or for the DIYers, there are many homemade setups which can provide for sources of inspiration.

    Tandems built for three, four and five riders are called triplets, quads, quints and hexes, respectively, but these are very much more niche bicycles than general-purpose utility cycling bikes and are accordingly not covered in detail below.

    tandem kiddie crank
    Kiddie Crank: a touring tandem equipped with a DIY child stoker crank setup (Photo: Jill Hill / twowheelflight on flickr)

    City Tandems

    Gazelle Dutch-style tandem
    Double Dutch: a Gazelle Dutch upright tandem (Photo: the manufacturer)

    This section is under development.

    Atala DueSmart tandem
    Short Wheelbase: an Atala DueSmart compact upright tandem (Photo: the manufacturer)


    Touring Tandems

    Trek 900 touring tandem
    Grand Touring: the Trek 900 tandem (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Touring tandems are ideal for car-free touring.

    This section is under development.


    Combination Tandems

    A combination tandem, also known as a reverse tandem or (perhaps misleadingly) as a semi-recumbent tandem, addresses the visibility issue for the stoker while providing both riders with a clear view looking forward. (Note that semi-recumbent can also refer to the crank forward design of comfort bicycle.)

    Hase Pino combination tandem
    Teutonic Two: the German-made Hase Pino combination tandem provides flexibility (Photo: the manufacturer)

    The rider upfront pedals in a recumbent position, while the rider at rear pedals in a semi-upright position, similar to a trekking bike. This allows the bike to be much shorter than normal tandems and puts the riders close together, which makes for easier communication. The drivetrain allows the front rider to coast while the rear rider continues pedaling. For 2009, Hase introduced a version of the Pino that can be quickly disassembled for transport.

    Note that semi-recumbent can also refer to the crank forward design of special needs.


    Recumbent Tandems

    Rans Screamer
    Whisper to a Scream: a Rans Screamer 'bent tandem (Photo: the manufacturer)

    This section is under development.


    Tandem Trikes

    tandem adult trike with shopping basket
    Born 2 Shop: a tandem delta trike for shopping (Photo: zubastik14 on ebay.de)

    This section is under development.


    Recumbent Tandem Trikes

    Recumbent tandem trikes are almost always of a tapole design with two wheels in front and one at rear (as opposed to the delta design).

    Greenspeed GTT 20/20 recumbent tandem tadpole trike
    Flying Furniture: the Greenspeed GTT 20/20 'bent tandem tadpole trike (Photo: the manufacturer)

    Newer commercial models can usually be quickly folded / disassembled for easier transport, for example, for car-free touring.

    Greenspeed GTT recumbent tandem trike folded
    Bent Together: the Greenspeed GTT tandem can be folded for easy transport (Photos: wrhpv.com)


    Tandem Adapters

    Cyclemorph tandem adapter kit on MTB
    Say No Morph: the Cyclemorph tandem adapter kit was a short-lived offering (Photo: the manufacturer)

    A low-cost commerical tandem kit called a CycleMorph (compatible with the majority of mountain- and hybrid bikes) was introduced in 2003. Reportedly taking only 5 minutes to put it on or take it off the bike without the need for tools, it was suited to adults and children.

    According to the late cycling guru, Sheldon Brown, who was a big fan of tandems, the product was:

      "..a really clever, well thought out conversion unit to make a conventional mountain bike into a fully-functional tandem."[1]

    In 2009, due to a lack of interest from bike shops, production was stopped though specialty bike dealers (especially in the U.S.) may still have stock.

    For cycling safely with children, the classic trailer bike, one of the increasingly popular Child Carriers, or still the most common, a child trailer, provide alternatives.


    The main disadvantage of both conventional and recumbents tandems is that the second rider (the stoker) is positioned inline behind the first rider (the captain) causing the stoker's view forward to be obstructed by the head and shoulders of the captain. This problem is overcome with combination tandem described above as well as the sociable bicycle design.



    1. http://sheldonbrown.com/lasvegas/2003-outdoor/


    tandem, captain, stoker, rear admiral, R.A., triplet, quad, quint, hex, hi/lo, ladyfront, rear steer, biketrain,

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