Monday, July 31, 2006


Tantrums: That was the nick name I gave to tandems; building them was for me a love/hate thing. The problem building a tandem is in the fact that it is more than twice the work of building two single frames, but they do not command the price of two singles. So I knew I was screwed financially every time someone talked me into building one. I would cuss and swear all through the building of it (Hence tantrums.) and would promise myself I would never build another.

I will say that once the tandem frame was built I did get double the satisfaction in seeing the finished product. Time would pass and someone else would come along and ask me to build them a tandem frame; I would say “No” they would whine and beg and eventually I would give in, and the whole process would start over.

Working on a single frame whether it be brazing it or filing the lug work after; you simply hold the frame in one hand, place a wooden block around a tube and clamp it in the vise with the other hand.

With a tandem frame it is so big, heavy and unwieldy that it takes two hands to hold it; you rest one end of it on something while you let go with one hand to put the wooden block in place. Next you carry it to the vise and try to tighten it using your knee. Invariably the wooden block falls off during the process and the result is more tantrums.

There is one tandem frame that I am particularly proud of and may have actually enjoyed building it. It is the track tandem pictured here and at the top of the page and it was ridden in the 1978 World Championships by Roy Swinnerton and Trevor Gadd representing Great Brittain. Seeing two very powerful young riders get up to speeds of 55 mph. on a banked oval track is both satisfying and at the same time very frightening.

I built a few tandems when I first moved to the US in 1979 and I worked for Paris Sport; here is one of them.

Later I went to work for Masi in Southern California and in 1982 started my own business there. On doing so I promised myself I would never build another tandem.

I was asked several times but I always said “You can’t offer me enough money to get me to build one.” And no one ever offered enough that I was even close to being tempted.


VintageSpin said...

I always wondered why tandems could not climb hills like a single bike can, given the same caliber of riders. Is it a "problem" with efficiency, design, weight or something else?

Dave Moulton said...

Riding a tandem especially climbing hills or sprinting on a track for that matter calls for total coordination between the two riders. On the track if one rider makes a sudden effort and the other doesn’t respond at the exact same moment, then the first rider is dragging all that dead weight and will quickly tire.

The same on a hill if for example the rider on the back eases for a split second then the other rider is dragging the weight of his partner up hill and they will slow immediately. The rider on the back then realizing what is happening makes more effort but now he is pushing the dead weight of the guy on the front.

The main advantage of a tandem is two riders with only the wind resistance of one, plus only the rolling resistance of two wheels. So on a flat road even two inexperienced tandem riders can out perform a single.

Philip Williamson said...

The Paris Sport tandem pictured in this entry is apparently for sale in Northern California.
I clicked on a link in the Craigslist ad to find your blog. No relation to the seller, etc.

I really love that track tandem!