The Best Tandem Bikes of 2020/2021 Steel, Aluminum & Titanium Touring, leisure, kids, holidays, recumbent
14 models readily available for all purposes and budgets
In the utterly lavish cycling lot, tandem bikes still come as an extravagance. Not only does the tandem defy our shining depiction of the exulting pink jersey hero at the end of his lonely final sprint.
It also overturns any embraceable idea of a dream bike: aerodynamic like a jet, agile like a panther, light like a feather…the tandem is not.
However, once you got past its rather hilarious appearance, you’ll discover an enthralling machine originally designed for the greatest speed.
Since tandems have better force/weight ratio and equal wind-resistance than a single bike, two trained riders who can develop a perfect synchronization are surely faster than the same guys cycling solo.
That been said, tandem has always been associated with courting and family time.
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The Authors, Ale and Ste and Their Around the World in Tandem
In this article we want to draw an overview of the tandem-world for first time users, presenting some ideas about an often-overlooked kind of experience.
We have been building our opinion on a 50.000 kilometers tandem journey across 30+ countries.
Alex has always been a passionate cyclist, while Steff couldn’t give a damn. What we both loved was traveling.
We were both intrigued by bike traveling, but we couldn’t put a mile together on singles without starting a fight or rescuing Steff up from a ditch.
The idea of the tandem came up as a joke, but we realized immediately the advantages for our unpaired couple: Alex wouldn’t have to wait for Steff half day or to save her up from each ditch, while Steff could – slowly – forget the suffering of trying to keep up with a cycling fanatic and with the fear of being ditched at every curve.
She had to concentrate on building up pedaling muscles and discovering the pleasure of cycling, while Alex had to accept set up a slower pace and being outmatched by chubby cyclists.
Ever since we have been learning a lot about each other and about how our couple can work efficiently.
We’ve figured out that arguments can be solved if we think about us as a team collaborating in a happy project of life instead of behaving as two individuals competing to claim our space in the relationship.
Alex has realized how to slow down on steep descent while Steff has learned how to stand up on pedals on steep hills.
Having successfully survived the divorce machine and truly enjoyed every second of it, we gaily give you our two cents.
The Best Tandems 2020 In a Nutshell
The list of tandems we’ve put together is just an example of models readily available on the market that we’ve researched or seen around and that would fit a diverse range of purposes and budgets.
Trek Electra Deluxe Unpretentious cruiser for fashion enthusiasts
Cannondale Tandem 29 Reliable all-rounder
Co-motion Periscope Scout Highly adjustable riders’ size, for all family members
Koga Traveller Full-optional foldable touring tandem
Santos Double Travel A purebred pack mule for long journeys
Co-Motion Kalapuya High-performance gravel with open frame
Da Vinci Tailwind TBD Electric handcrafted tandem with independent coasting
Northwoods Dual Drive For the occasional Sunday spin
Khs Sport Solid starting point for beginners
Khs Americano Little foldable with 20 inches tires
Salsa PowderkegCross-country with no suspension fork
Hase bike PINO Semi-recumbent tandem for thrill-seeking stokers
Thorn Raven Twin The British masterpiece
Santana Journey Only for the obsessed
So, let’s get started with the description of the best tandem bikes. If you want to know more about tandem bikes and would like some expert advice on how to choose, you’ll find all the info you need at the bottom of this article.
The Best Tandems Readily Available 
THE BEST ALUMINUM FRAME TANDEM BIKES
Tandem bikes can be heavy machines, why not save some weight going for an aluminum frame? Some of the best and sportiest tandems in this list are indeed made of alloy, let’s check them out.
Trek Electra Deluxe [+/-] 1300$
The Super Deluxe Electra by Trek is colorful and fun. The lightweight aluminum frame is the curvy soul of this comfortable and reliable city tandem, garnished with fenders, chain covers and Nexus gear hub for low maintenance.
A cloud-shaped bike that can be used every day, for shop hopping or romantic beachside strolls.
Frame Completely hand-built Super Smooth TIG-welded full suspension, Y-tech tandem folding frame. Tubes manufactured in triple-hardened and super oversized 7005 aluminum for extra stability. Rear swing arm with adjustable oil/spring suspension unit (80mm travel) and extra disc brake and a replaceable rear derailleur hanger.
Brakeset (rear) Shimano disc brake controlled by Sram X.9 twist shifter – Extra rear brake for descending plus Magura HS-11 Hydraulic rim brake
Brakeset (front) Disc-/Hydraulic brake set (front) Magura HS-11 Hydraulic rim-brake – Excellent braking power maintenance-free – Turbo Pad Adjustment – Reach Adjust – Easy Bleed Technology
Wheelset Rims KOGA KM21-622 XStrong alloy – Double wall and double eyeletted 48 holes – Durable finished
Crank set Shimano Octalink & Hollowtech – Lightweight – Hyperdrive chainrings for smooth and precise shifting: 48x36x26T with chainguard and 32t 2x with chainguard
Spokes Sapim stainless – Cold forged reinforced and butted
Saddle Selle Italia FLX Man – Genuine full-grain leather
Weight 29 kg
Santos Double Travel [+/-] 7000$
Santos Double Travel is designed for long journeys. It has a comfortable seat for riders who like to sit deep as well as for those who prefer a higher handlebar.
The stiff 7005 aluminum frame with special cr-moly steel fork steers you through tight corners, keeps you stable when descending fast, and feels efficient at every pedal stroke.
The Double Travel is a purebred pack mule with stable driving even with lots of luggage. The extra-strong 26 inches wheels are hand-built by Santos to ensure an efficient and comfortable ride on both paved roads or unpaved routes. The Rohloff speed hub is just the cherry on the cake.
Brakes disk brake hope tech 3-V4 with extra tick and strong 203mm Santos disk
Headset Santos with stainless steel bearing and anti-twist system
Drivetrain Aluminum tandem crankset / KMC X1 gold, extra-strong Singlespeed chain with anti-rust layer
Cockpit Tandem, adjustable, black
Rim 26″ holiday rims
Tires Schwalbe 26inch marathon green guard
Co–Motion Kalapuya Tandem Bike [+/-] 7500$
The name Kalapuya sparks the image of steep forested mountainsides glowing with bright green moss. Co-Motion Kalapuya open frame design is neat and elegant, tubes tastefully arranged in the frame and carbon belt placed on the left side.
Kalapuya definitely belongs to the gravel category. The compact frame has a wheelbase just a few centimeters higher when compared to its roadie brother, the Macchiato.
The fork of this tandem is sinuous and intriguing: the two carbon blades are generous at the top; they bend a little backward, then, right after the eyelet appears somewhere in the middle, they become flat at the bottom.
The beautifully designed fork can host a rack, but it doesn’t mount any eyelet behind the seat stay. This tandem can take you deep into the backcountry when equipped with a proper bike-packing setup.
As chic as it is, you could ride to a wedding party. And nothing can stop you to carry along a spare wheel and follow your roadie or gravel mood.
Drivetrain Co-Motion Compact Tandem Cranks 50-34t / Gates Timing Belt / 11-40t cassette
Cockpit FSA Omega compact and Co-Motion stoker bar / FSA SL-K and Co-Motion adj. stoker stem
Post/Saddle Co-Motion 31.6mm / Selle Italia Nekkar and Lady Flow
Wheels Hand built Astral Leviathan/ Co-Motion Boost 148/110 thru-axle wheels
Tires WTB Riddler 700x45mm
Da Vinci Tailwind TBD Tandem Bike
Wow and only wow. This gorgeous game changing electric tandem is the ultimate choice for those who want to find the ideal partner at all costs.
On my long tandem experience, I’ve always underestimated DaVinci Independent Coasting System Design. It comes to me as an awkward useless piece of machinery.
On the one hand, it makes things easier, since “Captain and stoker can independently relax, take a drink, adjust the seat position, stand for a few seconds to relieve weary sit bones, even take a moment to gaze at the scenery, while the other keeps pedaling.’’
On the other hand, it ruins the perfect synergic coordination of an ideal tandem experience. That been said, here we are looking at an e-tandem with a powerful Shimano engine.
I would never buy an electric tandem without the DaVinci Independent Coasting System. This tandem is just beyond the imagination.
Brakes Avid BB7 Front and Rear Disc with 200mm rotors
FrontBars Flat or riser mountain bars
RearBars Profile Stoker 26 – 47cm
Front Stem Thomson Elite X2
Rear Stem Control Tech Adjustable Stoker
Cranks Da Vinci Designs Billet Machined (wide choice of lengths)
Rear Cogs 11-36 or 11-40
Driving Gears Shimano Hyperglide 13-21-28 Equivalent to 26-42-56 (this is very customizable)
Eccentrics da Vinci Designs
Front Hub White Industries
Rear Hub White Industries Tandem Disc – 145mm
Rims da Vinci Designs V-23
Tires Panaracer RIBMO
Front Seatpost Thomson Elite 31.6mm
Rear Seatpost Cane Creek Thudbuster ST or LT
Saddles Selle Italia Man Flow and/or Lady Flow
THE BEST STEEL TANDEM BIKES
Is steel still real? Let’s check it out!
Northwoods Dual Drive Tandem [+/-] 500$
This is the cheapest and the heaviest of the list. It is made by metal fences kind of steel and could rust quite easily if you don’t take the proper care.
For less than 500 bucks it’s probably a wiser choice to opt for a second-hand better quality tandem, but if you can’t stand your impulse to buy it, you’ll probably be quite surprised of its performance.
If you’re looking for a budget tandem bike for leisurely weekend activities by the beach, this might just be the best buy for you.
Spokes Sapim stainless – Cold forged reinforced and butted
Tyres Schawalbe Nobby Nic 29 x 2.25’’ performance folding
Saddle WTB Pure V Comp
Weight 20 kg without gadgets
Hase PINO [+/-] 4300$
The next level of rideability is delivered by Haze.
Just think that among all the awards earned by the German company Haze, there is also The Guinness World Record for the creation of the longest trike, connecting 62 trikes together.
The semi-recumbent tandem Pino offers unprecedented comfort and an exhilarating ride. The wheelbase is so short that you won’t need to speak loudly, the front rider can surely get the best selfies ever, and most importantly this brilliant creation is maneuverable almost like a single-seater.
If you can manage to ride recumbents, the Pino offers beautiful views and optimal panorama to both riders. In addition, switching positions it’s easy like in no other tandem.
The front rider can just enjoy the comfort of a ride without pedaling because there is a freewheel in front, so the bike can readily double as a taxi.
You can smoothly accommodate children with their dedicated crankset, that can be mounted in a flash. And adding the foldable Haze bag, the Pino can easily carry a week of groceries.
If you aren’t impressed by PINO’s size, don’t worry. The frame can be split into two pieces, so that it’s possible to carry the parts in any compact car and, once you’ve reached your destination, reassemble your tandem in a flash.
Crankset/bottom bracket: HASE BIKES crankset for tandem with integrated freewheel mechanism, Rear: 170 mm 28-38-48 tooth, left 36 teeth; Front: 165 mm 38 tooth
Lighting system Hub dynamo Shutter Precision
Taillight: B&M Toplight 2C plus
Headlight: Herrmans Black MR8 50 LUX
Fenders: SKS black matt
Luggage rack: Racktime Addit, Max. load: 66 lb (30 kg)
Kickstand: Humpert double kickstand
Weight: 55 lb (25 kg)
Colors: RAL 3002 Carmine Red matt/powder-coated, front boom black anodized with length-adjustment markings
Thorn Raven Twin S&S Mk3 Tandem [+/-] 6000$
How not to mention Thorn, the British company that firmly believes in the motto ‘’Steel is real’’.
Thorn tandem surely offers a lot of value for money. 26 inches hand-made wheels, Rohloff speed hub, neat crank-set all on one side, heat-treated steel frame with the diagonal tube, and S&S couplings installed.
Take notice of the diagonally sliced seat stay at the seat tube weld, it’s Thorn signature.
This tandem is beautifully designed and multifunctional; considering what you get, it comes at an unbeatable price.
Frame: mega-oversized, seamless, cold drawn, butted, heat-treated top quality Japanese Cro-Mo tubes – “Thorn 9/6/9
Fork: (A) twin-plate crown fork rim brake bosses, Reynolds blades fork (B) unicrown fork only disc, ISO disk mount
Gearhub/Shifters: Rohloff speed hub 14 gears
Brakes: ventilated disk brake system available
Headset: Thorn high quality
Drivetrain: Thorn cranks 7075 aerospace alloy ratio TBD
Cockpit: Thorn expedition handlebar
Rim: Andra 30
Tires: Schwalbe 26inch of choice
Santana Journey [+/-] 10000$
For the sake of inspiration, we couldn’t leave out a marvelous titanium frame by Santana! Well, here you’ll have all the benefits of the everlasting and spacecraft looking titanium frame with a carbon fork.
At 10 grand price tag, the Santana Journey is a tandem recommended only for the passionate of titanium tubing frame composition. It is more a journey to a still undefined prototype than a smart and well-engineered set of features.
Confused? Don’t worry, read on for our full buying guide to the best tandem bikes! Learn how to chose the tandem of your needs and things you should consider before buying a tandem.
The Tandem Bike Buying Guide (by the experts)
Global Tandemic – A Brief History of Tandem
The visual impact of the odd tandem you have seen on the beachside is probably not the same you expect from the sporty bike of your dreams.
Oddly enough, tandems had initially been developed to be the fastest of all bikes, for the very purpose of record breaking.
At the end of the nineteenth century, state-of-the-art tandems, triplets, quads, and quints ridden by professionally trained teams were widely used as pacing bikes in track and road races, shortly before the invention of motorized pacing tandems.
Since then, tandems’ fame has seen many ups and downs, culminating in the late 1990s, when tandeming was the most promising discipline in the racing compartment.
Some suggest the decline of the sports circle’s attention towards tandem has been the unintended consequence of the spreading of an evil training tool: the force-meter.
This sensor was meant to improve the performance of a cyclist by buzzing each time he wouldn’t impress the same force on both pedals.
When installed on the pedals of two tandem riders, results immediately showed: times decreased and miles bumped up at stellar rates, while riders’ motivation dropped equally fast.
It’s probably a coincidence, but it casts a light on a tandem’s ground-rule that can’t be set aside: its intrinsically social nature.
Are you a Tandem Person?
When two people ride the same pair of wheels something intriguing happens: the synchronized cadence is not anymore only a competition concern.
It forces them in a pattern of movements that it’s quite like dancing. In order to enjoy the dance, both have to let go of the performance anxiety and embrace the joyful and comical side of cycling.
It means for the captain to take the lead with the most attentive and courteous attitude, and for the stoker to be led with complete trust and lightness.
That’s why tandem is most successfully used as an auxiliary kind of bike for people who cannot cycle themselves: when accompanying a small child or avisually (or otherwise) impaired bicyclist, the captain is automatically more aware of his co-riders’ special needs, while the stoker is naturally trustworthy.
Anyway, tandem enables people who have not equal physical aptitude or cycling experience to ride together enjoyably.
Especially when the captain can cope with his first-of-the-class complex and the stoker develops a marble ass able to survive unseen bumps. Our case is a classic example.
Our recommendation: try as many tandems as possible before making up your mind. Every team has a unique feeling and a special way of working together pleasurably. Only they can understand which tandem suits their personality better.
Different Tandem Categories Explained
You can easily find tandems declined in all most representative single bicycle categories, i.e. road, MTB, touring and gravel.
A peculiar type is the telescopic, or family tandem, whose frame has been designed to ensure ample adjustability of saddles and handlebars’ height, in order to fit stokers of different sizes. Fairly common are tandems capable to split or fold into two or multiple pieces.
The road tandem is sometimes built with sensual carbon fiber frame and components, crazily short wheelbase, and tiny shiny wheels.
The compact frame entails the highest level of intimacy and the greatest speed possibilities: recommend only for well-knit couples.
You must trust your partner but especially your tires because you risk staining your pants on a 100kmh descent.
A new entry in the tandem lot, the gravel has a compact reinforced frame capable of withstanding the Eroica off-road, relatively short wheelbase, drop bars and wider tires. It’s barely a pinch higher from the ground than a road tandem.
The MTB tandem presents longer wheelbase, wider clearance to accommodate bigger tires and a more upright position.
If equipped with a proper suspension system can assure delightful off-road moments, and bounce the stoker enough to hug the captain when most needed.
The touring tandem is the one that offers more flexibility of use. Some have the longest wheelbase and biggest tire clearance of all categories.
All materials are allowed without compromising reliability and appeal. All sorts of bike-bags or panniers can be hanged to get ready for a lifelong honeymoon.
Things to Consider When Buying a Tandem
Tandems are often purchased on a whim by over-enthusiastic couples who won’t actually find the time and the patience required to get to ride together.
The good news is that tandems’ second-hand market is full of good-value options. Checking a lesser-known hand-crafted bike manufacturer is also a good idea since an affordable capable artisan is often your best bet if you need a custom-built frame.
Our world tour tandem bike was built by Paduan “Vetta telai” bike frames laboratory. The master artisan Antonio Taverna took the time to personally get our measurements and understand our needs; he delivered us a painted frame with crank-set and bottom-brackets for a very reasonable 1000$.
If you’ve already laid your eyes on a tandem, there are few single elements to consider before to get your first double rig: frame, wheels, and brakes.
The frame must hold lateral stiffness at optimal level, otherwise the wobbling of the long structure will scare you out.
Tandems nowadays tend to have an open frame without the diagonal tube that used to increase the natural stiffness (and weight) on older models.
To achieve this result companies have invested time and resources in researching materials, tube shaping, and geometry and have increased accordingly the price tag.
You can save a lot of money without scratching the surface of a suggestive look by choosing aluminum frame models with the diagonal tubes: they are perfectly up to the job.
A word about size should be said: stokers who are taller than the captain may have problems with handlebar height. For a pleasant ride, double-check the sizing of your frame before proceeding to other adjustments.
You need to trust your wheels. Look for a professional wheelmaker able to build strong and long-lasting touring wheels.
The ideal wheel doesn’t need 48 spokes to resist the stress of a great journey. We have been riding our fully-loaded tandem (220 kg) for six years on every kind of road and never broke one of the 36 spokes mounted on each wheel.
The Rohloff gear hub ensures equal spokes length and a much stronger structure: in fact, we cycled 50.000 km with the same rear wheel.
Tandems are significantly quicker than solo bikes on down-hills, so they need to have the best possible brakes.
We have been cycling around the world relying only on normal v-brakes, and surely, we had to be extra-careful in many descends.
Even disc brakes, anyway, aren’t to be used carelessly. Unless you are planning to compete, you won’t need huge disk brakes to slow you down, since it’s cautious to stop sometimes in all cases and make sure the disks are not melting.
You could consider installing an additional ventilated disk brake on the back to alternate the braking heat in long descents.
Why a Tandem: Love & Speed
Tandem fans will tell you over and over how they fell in love while cycling together or that they can enjoy fantastic quality time with their children and partners, but be aware: getting on a tandem is sharing the ride in a very real sense, and the truth is that to be a perfectly synchronized couple does take effort, patience, time and compromises.
So if you’re ready to watch your once best riding fellows breezing past you (on climbs, let’s say) and you don’t mind being shout at “she’s not pedaling on the back” till your nerves collapse, this article will introduce you into the heavenly world of tandeming.
Heaven, it can be. To find a tandem partner is adding a compelling new dimension to the already orgasmic pleasure of cycling.
In order for that to work, both the captain (the guy in the front) and the stoker (the one in the back, apart from some notable exception like the Pino tandems) have to feel a similar level of gratification while riding together.
That’s most easily happening when the stoker is someone who can’tride on his own, and the cycle is likely to be a memorably satisfying experience for both riders.
But even experienced cyclists willing to rediscover the participative side of the sport will be blown away by tandems’ thrilling speeds possibilities, while good-humored couples can strengthen ties and appeal over a laugh or two.
Long known as the divorce machine, tandem can indeed be seen as the ultimate love machine.
In a world of social distancing, tandem could be the key of post-pandemic socialization. Life is getting more and more individualistic, lonely are the people in front of the bright screen, few and far between the chances of being together.
Cycling in itself – when it’s not only dictated by Strava addiction – it’s a medicine for nerves, health and social flair.
Cycling on a tandem, in addition, can improve the cycling capabilities and self-esteem of people scared of traffic and solitude. Changing tandem mate is still morally acceptable.
You could even follow the example of that smart guy who ventured on a solo tandem world tour all by himself and came back home with a wife on his empty saddle. Try your chance, the perfect cycling partner could be just around the corner.
Is it easy to ride a tandem bike?
A tandem bike requires teamwork, it might not be immediate for you to get a hang of how to ride with a partner. You’ll have to sync your shifting and get along well. Besides that, the passenger will have to cope with the scary feeling of not being in control.
Can you ride a tandem bike if you can’t ride a bike?
Yes, riding in the back of a tandem bike doesn’t require any riding skills, just confidence and trust in the pilot. The only difficulty stays in standing up on the pedals to push harder, which requires a concerted balance.
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