Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some tandem related questions that come up from time to time and some answers by people on the email list. If you find some of the information is out of date or a bit incorrect, send your corrections to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What should I know about bike safety?
This isn't a tandem specific FAQ, but safety is every bike rider should think about. Here are some informative links that were sent to us that you might find helpful:
Are tandems easier to ride than a single bike?
Some riders say yes and some say no. However, tandem bikes are a great equalizer when one rider is stronger than the other. Some couples have trouble riding single bikes together because one wants to ride faster. That's not a problem on a tandem. You each put in as much effort as you want. If you're not moving, it's probably a sign a tandem is not right for you :-). One wife commented to her daughter, "We rode for 18 miles and I kept up with your dad the whole way!"
Are tandems good for a relationship?
They can be, however it depends on the couple. Many of the Portland Tandem Club members have found tandem riding to be a great activity they can do together. But a tandem will probably not improve an already rocky relationship. Here's another quote: "Wherever your relationship is heading, it'll get there faster on a tandem!"
We did see an ad on Craigslist for a tandem titled: "Divorce Cycle for Sale", however most of the people on the email list have had a much better experience.
Can I take my tandem on an airplane?
A common solution to the travel problem is a "Coupled Tandem." Some Tandems have S&S coupling which allow them to break up their tandem into pieces allowing them to fit into standard size cases. Typically it is an option when buying a new tandem, but in some cases it can be a retrofit. It is not cheap though. It does add a little weight to the bike but doesn't compromise the ride-ability of the tandem.
In an email survey we ran, a little more than half have of the people on the email list have taken their tandems on an airplane. Of those that have, 4 had coupled tandems and 5 didn't. Only one said they wouldn't do it again and two said they would only do it again with a tandem with couplings that allow it to be broken down.
The club has a hard shell case that can be borrowed. Click here for details.
Traveling with your Tandem without S&S couplings
Paul and Liz Grun have traveled quite a bit with their tandem. This is an excerpt from a message Paul posted in June of 2019 to the email list:
Liz and I have some recent experience with traveling with our tandem that may be helpful to you. Our bike is not coupled; nevertheless we have taken it on three overseas adventures in the past few years, including to New Zealand, Italy, and Germany/the Czech Republic. We’ll be traveling to the British Isles in September.
The club owns a full-sized travel case, courtesy of Jack and Robin, which is currently stored in our basement because, hey, we’re the only ones who seem to need it. That said, the case is a little rough for wear but serviceable. We’ll be taking it to the British Isles in September.
Here is our experience so far:
The fees you pay, and indeed whether the airline even accepts the case, are very much at the whim of the ticket agent at the counter. Be prepared to pay, if needed.
We have found that flying on United is, so far, the safest bet because they have a written tariff that says, paraphrasing, “bicycles, INCLUDING TANDEMS, travel for a flat fee of $200 each way, regardless of weight.” That has always worked for us, but we did have a close call on one trip when a rookie ticket agent began to weigh the thing because she did not know the rules. Luckily, a more experienced agent saved our bacon.
It does not matter how you book the ticket, it’s the ticket agent at the receiving airline that controls what happens to you. We booked a trip through United, but Lufthansa was the carrier on the return trip. They were unimpressed by United’s rules (see item #4).
I recommend that the total weight of the case plus bike be kept to under 70lbs. We found ourselves in the Czech Republic last year with a ticket agent who absolutely would not accept the case because it weighed, ahem, 71lbs. We ended up frantically pulling the wheels out of the case and shipping them separately and stashing other miscellaneous pieces in our luggage. The story is a bit longer, but the long and short is we were faced with a situation where no amount of love or money was going to solve the problem of the overweight case. Our new policy is to buy a separate case for the wheels, and incur the excess baggage charge.
To state the obvious, you have to be sure that each leg of your trip is on planes that seat at least five across. Smaller than that and you risk the case being rejected. Our trip to Italy originally included a last leg on Dolomite Airlines, until we discovered (thankfully before the fact) that was on a regional jet and our case would not fit. We ended up booking through Istanbul on Turkish Airlines instead.
Bill McCready (Santana Cycles, with whom we have traveled three times) has an interesting and useful expose on the subject of traveling with tandems. Some of his advice I agree with, some I do not. Let me know if you need a pointer to his essay. If nothing else, it’s a useful point of view from someone who has vast experience traveling with tandems.
No matter how you slice it, maneuvering a full-size tandem case through an airport is a pain in the rear.
Ground transportation to/from the airport can be an issue. In the Czech Republic we could not find a taxi big enough to fit the case to get us to our local hotel. With sufficient advance planning this can be overcome.
We seriously considered ordering a new coupled tandem, to the point that I wrote up a Request for Quote to be sent to a few manufacturers. Two things stopped us – 1) we really enjoy our Sterling and see no need to replace it, and 2) $10,000+.
Where can I buy a tandem in the Portland area?
Here are few places to buy a tandem mentioned by PTC club members (We're sure there are others in town). They are listed in order of number of recommendations received.
West End Bikes
River City Bicycles
Also, if you are looking to save money, you can regularly find tandem bikes for sale on craigslist.
Where can I rent a tandem in the Portland area?
Waterfront Bicycle is one place we have heard of that rents tandem bicycles in Portland. If you are thinking about buying a tandem, many bike shops will let you go for a fairly extended test ride. If you know of other places that rent tandems, let us know.
One more place to try is Spinlister, which is a bike sharing website. There are several tandems listed. We have no affiliation with them and do not know anything more than what we found on their web site. If you do rent a tandem using Spinlister, please send us a review of how it went.
Where is a good place to get my tandem repaired?
We sent a short survey to our club members and compiled the results. We asked for bike shops and if there was a specific mechanic they recommended. Here are the results:
Beaverton Bike Gallery
River City Bicycles
West End Bikes
Portland Bike Gallery
Sellwood Cycle Repair
How do I sell a tandem?
Please don't ask us to send your ad to everyone on the list.
Craigslist is a common option.
Some members on the email list have used Tandem Classifieds, but you should be prepared to ship the bike to a buyer.
Sellwood Cycle Repair will sometimes allow one tandem for sale on consignment in their shop.
If you are a member of the email list it is okay to send a message mentioning you are selling a tandem with a link to the tandem ad.