When I bought my Specialized Venge, it took another $3,000, on top of the $3,100 sticker, to make it right (of course, I dropped 3 pounds off the bike in the process and made it spectacular). I upgraded every part that can be upgraded on that bike. My ’99 Trek 5200, about $2,000. Same thing; only the chainring bolts are original besides the frame and fork. My wife and I started talking about buying a tandem about four or five years ago, the owner of the local shop just happened to have a Co-Motion Periscope Scout, a flat bar hybrid tandem on display that caught our eye.
We loved the adjustability at the back end of the bike because it could fit a rider from 4’2″ to 6’2″ (127 cm to 188 cm). That meant we’d be able to fit our daughters on the back, as well as my wife… and all of the adjustments were astonishingly simple. We pulled the trigger on the bike under the condition it would be converted to a road bike. A few weeks later, once the changes were made, we brought it home. Since, I’ve taken the kids on the bike a grand total of three times. My wife and I, however, have taken to it for our Sunday rides and are in the process of trying to ride the wheels off it.
We had the bike fitted with fenders a couple years ago because we had a tendency to get caught out in wet weather on the bike… don’t ask me how it happens. It just does. Anyway, with the fenders, we can get caught in a storm and I won’t have to fully wash the bike after (a simple wipe down usually suffices). It’s amazing how clean the bike stays in a rain storm with the fenders on (and whichever friend gets to draft us is always appreciative).
This is the important part. With the exception of one set of new shift cables, and maintaining the drivetrain, the bike has been entirely maintenance-free since we brought it home. It amazes me how little tinkering that tandem requires. A tightening of the timing system here, a twist of a barrel adjuster there… maybe some attention to the seat post clamp bolts (ours loosened over the years, causing the seat posts to drop a bit)… but that’s it.
Now, if you look at the photos above, the first and third are shot at the front of the bike… did you notice the shifter levers? The owner of the shop could only get a 105 triple lever with a silver handle… he offered to shoot black, but I declined. I hoped the tandem would be in the family for a while and I kind of dig the uniqueness of the story. I had no idea my wife and I would take to it the way we have. In fact, it’s considerably more fun than I hoped.
What I’ve found with our Co-Motion, contrasted against other tandems, is that there’s nothing cheap or poorly thought out on our bike. The eccentric bottom bracket used to tighten the timing chain is ridiculously simple next to other systems. Loosen four easy-to-get at bolts and turn. Tighten bolts. Done. Every part is top-notch and well planned out. On lesser tandems, that eccentric bottom bracket uses a wedge system that is outrageously difficult to mess with and notoriously creaky. We ride that bike hard and it’s still silent and a joy to ride.
Riding tandem is not without its challenges, of course. First, ours a 42 pound bike (19 kg)… my wife and I are no lightweights, too, so we’re pretty slow uphill, even putting out max wattage. Second, there’s the whole tandem concept. A friend likes to say tandems are marriage makers or breakers. My wife and I are a great team off the bike, but on a bike took a few years, several arguments, and a lot of patience (on my wife’s part as much as mine) to get to where we work together and finish a ride happier than when we started. It was worth the effort, though. Once we got it right, we’ve had a blast.
Co-Motion tandems are hand-built in Eugene, Oregon. Co-Motion Cycles come in old school steel, like ours above, or high-grade aluminum. One thing to be aware of when considering a Co-Motion tandem, they are not cheap. That 42 pound beauty above was just shy of $4,000. If you want to get into the top-end bikes like the Carrera (steel – $7,300), Robusta (aluminum $8,300), Suprema (aluminum $8,800) or the big dog, the Macchiato (aluminum… starting at $9,900), be prepared to lay out some coin. Now, before you stomp off, claiming $10,000 is ridiculous for a tandem, you should know that fitted with the right groupset , the Macchiato comes in at an astonishing 24 pounds. That’s about what my gravel bike single weighs. It’s a drool-worthy bike, you just better know you want to ride a tandem because a Co-Motion is an investment.
I can tell you, before we get close to retirement, when the girls are on their own, I’m going to be eyeing a Macchiato, Supremo, or maybe a Robusta. Or maybe we’ll just stick with our modified Periscope. There’s no question it’s a fantastic bike and the steel frame provides an unbelievably comfortable ride. And the price is definitely right! Paid in full.
As for that cool stem mounted bottle cage, don’t bother looking for one on the interwebz. That’s a custom piece built for us by the owner of our local shop. To my knowledge, that’s the only one in existence.
A tandem, however, is readily available at their website or through your local bike shop. I can’t recommend them highly enough.