I, of course, started off to buy a tandem bike, a bicycle built for two, for exactly the same reason as anyone else. I wanted to share a ride with someone else. In my particular case I wanted to see if I could get Lee interested in doing some long distance charity rides. I began my search with the tools at our collective disposal, and after surfing the net and checking a few stores, I discovered that Tandem bikes are expensive! This fact would only make sense as there are far fewer of them made, and well, honestly, you're only gonna sell one of 'em to two people. Anyway, I tried something which I had suggested frequently to other folks who needed to operate on a budget, Recycle-a-Bike.
Recycle-a-Bike is a city based outfit dedicated to doing exactly what the name implies, but additionally it is dedicated to teaching high school students how to become bike mechanics by working on the bikes they recycle. I checked their website and there she was a nice blue Burley Tandem! So I called immediately and guess what? The Blue Tandem was gone! Sold to the highest bidder! ARRRGHH! But the wonderful gal on the phone told me to call back tomorrow when she would check to see if there was another one. I did and there was!
It seemed that sometime ago that the Burley Design Co-operative had donated two tandem Bicycles to Recycle-a-Bike to use and ultimately to fundraise with. There was one left that I later found out that the mechanics had been using to terrorize Manhattan, achieving, they were quite please to tell me, up to 50mph on the flats! I made the appointment and went to see "Rock and Roll," the name stenciled on her top tube! Bright red, she was obviously of another design era. Her shifters were friction and mounted on the handle bars. Her design was kind of a hybrid mountain cruiser style with fatter tires and a lower profile, but she was beautiful! I was sold before Orville and I even took her for a test ride!
Eons ago when I was still less that post high school, my buddy Bob MacDonald and I home built a tandem bicycle. It was cobbled together from two old Schwinn Pee Wee Hermin bikes and there was no handlebar for the rear riders, but she worked, and we rode her everywhere. So since I was experienced, and since I was buying, I got to drive!
Riding a tandem is not like riding a regular bike! The entire turning radius thing is unlike anything you have experienced on a regular bike. It takes at least twice as wide a turn, and until the riding team learns to really lean into the turns together, it takes even wider turns. So, of course, we nearly piled up at our first turn. But we got the hang of it and we really had a ball touring the blocks around 6th street. So, it was easy to convince Orville that we should ride the bike from Manhattan back to get it to Baldwin.
Three days later at around three-thirty in the afternoon, I think it was a Tuesday, Orville and I showed up at Recycle-a-Bike, down in the East Village at 75 Ave C, Between 5th & 6th Street to pick up the newly tweaked Burley Design Co-operative Tandem Rock and Roll Bicycle. Recycle-A-Bike will not sell any bicycle until they are absolutely certain that it is roadworthy and safe. I asked for and received two spare tubes and Orville and I headed off for the wilds of Long Island.
Our route took us across the Manhattan Bridge, through Prospect Park in Brooklyn, across Coney Island, through Howard and Atlantic Beach, through Long Beach, Island Park and eventually to Baldwin, a 35 mile cruise. About a mile away from the house I gave Lee a call from the cell and asked her to wait out front. She did and when we pulled up her only comment was, "What are you guys Crazy?" Not exactly the reaction for which I had hoped! Anyway through the course of the last few years, Lee has indeed come to think of "Rock and Roll" as "Our Bike," and she has actually participated in several of our "Friendship Rides" with me on it's rear seat. The bike has given innumerable rides to neighborhood kids and practically every relative that has been to the house.
Now for a review, I love the Bike! I love the bike so much that I frequently take it alone! If I am riding over to Chrissy's house or just feel like tooling around the neighborhood, I am just about as inclined to take the tandem as I am my mountain bike. Now it is important to know that when you ride a tandem bike, you will get many comments from bystanders. But, when you ride a tandem alone, everyone you pass will make the comment that you have forgotten someone! Eventually you get used to it! The ride of the bike is SUPERB! Bike reviewers like to make the distinction between aluminum and steel frames, calling the aluminum harsh and the steel flexible. I would classify the Tandem ride as Magic Carpet Like. It is like floating on air! Of course the Mountain style rims and tires add a great deal to the comfort level of the bike, but mostly I think it is wheel base! It's just a longer lever arm from the front to the rear so every bump lifts the bike just that much less. Anyway it's a pleasure.
The shifters are the old style levers on friction wheels and although they are not as positive as their modern single click equivalents, they do work. They are conveniently located near enough the grips to make them easily reachable. The brakes are center pull and although they are older in design, they stop the bike efficiently, even with the extra load of two people.
Although heavier, wider tired, and longer wheel based, this bike is NOT hard to pedal. The way it works is simply this. There are precisely the same dynamics resisting the rolling of the bike. Two Wheels, a chain, pedals, bearings, and wind resistance, exactly the same as on a single seater bike, but with two people, you get twice the motive force, four legs, not two! Hence there is a net gain in power available for the go fast part! Lee frequently mentions after we have ridden a ten mile Friendship ride, "Gee that was easy!" OK part of it is the fact that I am pedaling up front, and who knows what she is doing back there, but actually in comparison to her Giant Simple beach cruiser, it actually is easier.
I can't really comment too much on the gear hung on the bike, as I am not certain how much of it is original, but I suspect most of the running gear and brakes are factory equipt. All I do know is that I have seen several Burleys on the Charity ride circuit, and I have yet to see one equipped with anything but widely smiling riders! Almost invariably they will tell you the year and name of their steed and when you admit that you have one at home, they will always ask you, "What's it doing there?" I wish I had a good answer!