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The 8 Best Tandem Bicycles for You and Your Sidekick

Caitlin Giddings
Photo credit: Salsa Cycles

From Bicycling

There are plenty of reasons to want a tandem bicycle—the most compelling being that they’re inherently silly, and thus insanely fun. Like us, many of you are probably stuck inside for most of the day and itching to get some fresh air and sunshine. A tandem bike is a great way to do that that includes your roommate or partner.

Check out five of the best below, then scroll deeper for more buying advice and longer descriptions of these and other quality rides.

Things to Consider

Learning to ride in sync does take a certain amount of practice and a willingness to hone your communication skills and trust. But if you can sideline your love of solo spinning long enough to find a willing stoker (the rider in the back) or pilot (the rider up front), you’ll discover that tandem riding is ideal for keeping an even pace with someone at a vastly different skill level, maintaining conversation at speed, introducing beginners to road riding, setting some serious K/QOMs on flat terrain, or just a great way to get some fresh air with your roommate. Plus, every adventure is better with a partner. Why not embrace your inner codependent and discover the true meaning of teamwork by trying to pedal a bicycle built for two?

But first, you’ve got to settle on which bike to get. Whether you want to get a serious workout in or just roll along the flats for some fresh air with your better half, you have options when buying a tandem just as you do when buying a single bicycle. There’s a lot to consider here, primarily because tandems are so customizable. There are cute cruisers, like the Electra Tandem 7i, and off-road 29ers, like the Salsa Powderkeg. You can find frames built of steel, aluminum, carbon, and even bamboo in all sizes and build kits from custom makers like Da Vinci Designs and Calfee Design. And you’ll want to consider the experience level of your stoker or pilot: If you’re riding with a kid, you might opt for a tandem built for families with a low step-through rear frame, like the Schwinn Twinn Tandem or Co-Motion Periscope Trident.

There are tandems in every price range. Spring for a new bike, or track down one on Craigslist, while of course doing your research and maintaining a skeptical eye. They tend to abound in barely used condition, and this is how I found mine, a Burley touring tandem no longer in production. That’s because plenty of cyclists love the idea of a tandem but find they don’t have as much time to ride together as they’d like.

How We Selected

We chose each bike on this list after thorough research and evaluation of the market. We survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and rely on our own experience to determine the best options in terms of value, performance, and accessibility. No matter which path you take, new or used, before you get discouraged by some of the costs, remember you’re essentially buying two bikes in one—and ultimately investing in an awesome way to spend some time outdoors with the people closest to you. Here are the best new tandem bicycles we’ve found.

Electra Tandem 7i

Get ready to cruise on this adorable, easy-riding tandem. The lightweight aluminum construction makes it easier to get going quickly, and Shimano roller brakes bring you to a smooth stop. The Nexus 7-speed drivetrain is protected from the elements inside the rear hub, so leaving it outside won’t wear down the cassette. And slack seat tubes make it easy to put a foot down to balance when you come to a stop, without compromising a comfortable seat height.

Schwinn Twinn Tandem

A casual, affordable tandem for exploring rail trails and multi-use paths, this aluminum bicycle has a low step-through frame in the rear so that kids can easily get aboard. Twenty-one speeds give you plenty of gears for climbing, and mechanical disc brakes make for reliable stopping, even when you’re picking up a startling amount of speed on a downhill. The Schwinn suspension fork and a pair of 2.1-inch tires (on 26-inch wheels) add to a smooth overall ride for the price.

Pacific Dualie

This inexpensive steel model offers a smooth ride around the neighborhood. The 26-inch aluminum wheels are lightweight and strong, while the 7-speed Shimano Tourney rear derailleur and triple chainring offer plenty of room to find a comfortable cadence for you and your stoker. Flat handlebars and a grip shifting system keep things simple as you roll together.

Santana Synergy

Built for the long and serious haul, this high-end tandem is ready to tackle some fast rides. The titanium frame is designed to offer damping with confident handling, while maintaining scratch-resistance, durability, and a relatively light weight. Carbon seatstays and down tubes add to the vibration-soaking effect. We like the standard build kit and Ultegra 2x11 drivetrain—you choose between a 34/50 or 39/53 chainring, and a climby 11-40 or racey 11-28 cassette range. The bike also has a caliper front brake, and Santana gives you the choice between a disc or caliper rear brake.

Co-Motion Carrera

With tapered Reynolds 631 steel tubing and a carbon fork, this touring bike makes a few concessions to weight while being burly enough to handle anything. It comes equipped with Shimano Ultegra, a Chris King headset, and a Gates carbon belt to sync pedaling (instead of a chain—no rust), plus plenty of gears (a 50/34 chainring and a 11-34 cassette) for climbing. Rack and fender mounts make it easy to load down the bike with all your gear so you don’t have to argue over who gets to bring what. Plus, there are many custom options for accessories and colors, including couplers that allow you to disassemble the frame. If you find someone willing to go in on half of this bike with you, you’ve found a mate for life.

Salsa Powderkeg

For those who dare to take their tandem skills off-road, maybe wait until the hospitals aren’t so strained. But when the time comes, there’s the Powderkeg. It’s part 29er chromoly mountain bike, part trust exercise. With a long, stable wheelbase, tons of tire clearance (up to 29 x 2.4-inch), an extra burly fork, Shimano SLX 10-speed 11-36 cassette, dual thru-axles, and SRAM BB7 mechanical disc brakes, the Powerkeg has everything you need for a truly unforgettable day in the dirt. Get it as a complete bike or just as a frame for $1,999. It’s available in three sizes so you can ride with a partner of almost any dimension. This bike can be described as “fun as hell” or “terrifying as hell,” depending on whether you’re the pilot or the stoker.

KHS Milano

The Milano is a solid, double drop-barred road tandem for prospective buyers who are unwilling to shell out for the Carrera but tired of trawling Craigslist for used models of suspect quality. Although the bike is a bit heavier than more expensive road tandems, it has a sturdy alloy frame, chromoly fork, and a mix of Shimano Sora and Deore shifting to provide a dependable introduction to two-person riding at a manageable price. With mechanical disc brakes and a 9-speed Shimano 11-34 drivetrain, you’ve got everything you need for tackling the hills with your favorite stoker. KHS also sells a $1,299 upright bar model called the Sport, if you’re looking for a more kid-friendly two-seater.

Co-Motion PeriScope Trident

The three-person Trident is one of the best ways to introduce your kid to road riding and tackle longer, faster adventures together without having to worry about turning or braking skills. Available in two colors and three sizes with a low rear top tube that allows for stokers of all heights, the steel-frame tandem has dual mechanical disc brakes with 203mm rotors, a Shimano 105 derailleur, a triple 52/39/30 chainring, and an 11-32 cassette so you can climb almost anything. This particular model comes equipped with hand-built 26-inch wheels, so take it on some gravel if you want. This is great step up from an attachable Trail-a-Bike because they allow your sidekick to contribute to the overall effort without any fear of crashing.

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