I sent the saddest text to a stranger today:
“Question: can one person ride a tandem?”
I was asking because a she was selling her tandem, and I was thinking of buying, but not sure if I should put the rack on the car or just walk over and ride it home. Her response included a caps-locked LOL.
How I got to this place…
Cyclist math consists of one equation: (n+1), where n represents the number of bikes you currently have, and the sum equals how many bikes you wish to have. Joke being… you always want at least one more bike in your collection. Sometimes this equation yields interesting results… like in my case, a 40 year old, burnt orange tandem bicycle.
When I first got in to cycling, I thought “n plus 1” was a pretty elitist and privileged view of bike ownership, especially since bikes are so expensive, but my view has since changed. There are bikes you have deep emotional attachments to, like my Trek 520 which I love, and others you keep in the stable and rotate in and out as necessary - an MTB for the weekends, a cruiser for pub crawls, etc etc.
I have been thinking about buying a tandem for a while now, my main requirement for the bike being that it cost less than $200.
Bikes retain their value much better than cars or household appliances, which makes it easy to, as my partner did last year, drop a pretty penny on a one-of-a-kind Spanish single-speed (bought while visiting family in Puerto Rico, so we felt very international), knowing full-well that if you don’t end up loving the bike, you can sell it pretty quickly, for little to no loss, to someone who will really appreciate it.
So this was the thinking that bought me a tandem bicycle.
So you Bought a Tandem… Now What?
My tandem purchase brings to mind the summer many years ago when my Uncle Joe, father to 4 under the age of 10, bought a used, fire-engine red Mazda Miata that he used to drive us (one at a time) to the White Hen Pantry to buy doughnuts on Sundays. He would then ceremoniously hand-wash it in the middle of the driveway, yelling at us to grab him a chamois, or arch the hose higher.
It is important to remember that, like the Miata, tandem bikes are wholly impractical toys, meant to be enjoyed “every once in a while,” purchased for a price that reflects that (like, under $200 in my case), and lubed up in the middle of your front yard on sunny mornings (which I just proudly did).
One thing to consider when buying a used tandem is that tandems don’t tend to get used very much, so they may be in some state of disrepair and require quite a bit of lubing and other maintenance (see photo below).
I’ve never even ridden a tandem, which could be an interesting relationship test when my partner and I take it out this Sunday, wind in our hair and sun on our faces, for coffee and doughnuts. And if not, back to craigslist it goes :)
UPDATE: I wrote this blog the day I purchased the tandem, a couple months ago…. and since then I have ridden it to yoga, to three parties, to a bar, to dinner and a couple date nights… I have ridden it with my partner, with a friend, with a stranger, by myself, and have lent it out a couple times, too. All in all, it was GREAT purchase!