“I’m not sure we can ride this thing” I exclaimed! This was the third attempt at take-off on our borrowed tandem. It was summer and we were providing ample amusement for our neighbours and people passing by. 5 miles later and the status had reduced to: mildly terrifying. It felt like I was piloting a barge down the road and every little twinge from the back felt like a potential fall.
Moving forward 2 years, we now have our own tandem and we LOVE IT! We use it for everything: the second car, the tourer, the late evening hack even our wedding chariot!
Is a tandem for you?
So how did we transition from terrified bicyclists to eccentric tandem enthusiasts? Well, I think it takes a certain type of person to love a tandem. I’m hoping the list below will help decide if a tandem is for you?
- Do you and your riding partner ride at different paces? If so, a tandem is a fantastic way to level both riders, so they can ride and talk comfortably.
- Is the proposed stoker (the one on the back) calm? The person on the back needs to put immense faith in the pilot (the one on the front). The bike will feel odd from the back, which can be unnerving. Attempts to correct the bikes road positioning from behind will only end in tears!
- Do you communicate well? The pilot will need to let the stoker know of oncoming obstacles, turns and even gear changes.
- Linked to the above: do you argue often? If so, a tandem will certainly (at the start anyway) bring this quality out in you!
- Do you mind attention? A tandem will start conversations, provoke comments from passers-by and even cause a full-on stop and stare!
- Do you love quirky things? If you’re thinking of buying a tandem you must be a bit eccentric. Embrace it!
Choosing a tandem
I can only give one piece of advice here: ride as many tandems as you can. Work out what’s important for you. Eventually you will find the one that clicks. Ours was the Circe Helios.
We first saw the Circe Helios at the London Bike Show. I dismissed it because of the small wheels at first, after talking to Richard at Circe I was persuaded to come for a test ride.
The small wheels give the bike a much shorter length than a normal tandem. This means the bike feels much more like a normal bike to ride and is less cumbersome when navigating around obstacles. The small wheels also give the bike a much lower centre of gravity which really helps with stability. The bike felt so comfortable on our first ride that we even attempted ‘both riders standing up’ while riding. Other tandem owners will understand what a big deal this is!
It’s compact size also helps with storage and transport. Ours comes with us on our camper van and can even fit into a small hatchback with the wheels off. Transport leads me to the Helios’ party trick, as it was designed from the bottom up to transport families, their luggage and shopping! This means that the Helios can transform into a number of different bikes; with the help of some accessories. Modes include: 2 adults riding, 2 adults and a child, an adult and 2 children or 1 person as a cargo bike. It even has an adaptor to take a babies car seat.
The last thing that attracted us to the Circe was the build quality and attention to detail. It’s been designed by a couple of clever blokes in Cambridge and their passion for cycling really shows in the bike.
For more information on the Circe Helios, check out: http://www.circecycles.com/products/helios/