How to Shop for a Tandem

They say "you can't judge a book by its cover", but I dare say you can judge your ultimate level of satisfaction with your new tandem by the first experience you have with it on the sales floor. At RODRIGUEZ we believe the components on tandems are important, but we don't believe they are the MOST important part of the tandem. Often people shop and compare by components because that is what is most familiar to them. Often sales people compare and sell by components because that is what they know best.

The fit is the most critical component on a tandem. If it is not fit well, it will be uncomfortable to ride and it won't matter what kind of derailleur or tubing you have. When you are shopping for a tandem be sure that the sales folks do more than have you stand over the bike or even worse, just ask you "how does this one feel?" Make sure that when you are ready to take a bike out for a test ride, it is set up as close to perfect as possible, and if not, at least know what modifications should be made for you.

Your tandem test ride will tell you a lot about how much a shop really cares. Sending two people out alone for their first time is like handing a couple the keys to a semi-truck because they know how to drive a car. Hopefully, someone from the shop will take you each out separately before they send you together. They might even go a step further and accompany you for the first half mile. This says that they care about you and they care about their tandems.

There is a steep learning curve when it comes to shifting gears on a tandem. Quite often a couple will not like the shifting, or they'll tell us it plain old did not work. This is often user error and is expected in the early stages of tandem riding. A good instructor can help get you past this stage very quickly as well as give you pointers for climbing, descending, starting, stopping, and communicating. If a shop gives this kind of care to a test ride they'll probably give the same kind of care to the assembly.

Beware of purchasing a tandem that seems like "too good a deal to be true". Often shops purchase a tandem or two, but then realize they can't sell them. So they "blow them out" and it can be very tempting. What you may end up with is a poorly fit bike, that is poorly assembled, and a shop that does not have the tandem expertise to help you once you have signed the check.

Shop carefully for a tandem. The cheapest price is not always the best deal. It may take a few rides until you dial in the perfect fit. Be sure the shop you purchase your tandem from will work with you while you juggle seats and stems. Make sure there is a good warranty on the wheels. Compare your shopping experience along with comparing bikes. It might turn out to be the most important factor.