Tilly The Tandem

You can spend a lot of money on a tandem if you want to but we didn’t.   We’ve had a tandem for all our cycling for over 15 years.  We’ve never paid more than £350 for one (our current Viking Serengeti was £349) and we’ve been delighted with all of them. 

Tilly – our current Tandem – has now done 20,000km.  We’ve changed some bits through choice and a wheel through our own negligence,  but she basically gets abused by us and never complains or breaks.  We’ve taken her to dozens of countries, round numerous capital cities, on and off road, through parts of the Sahara.  She’s crossed the finish line of the Moroccan 4*4 rally shortly after the trucks to great applause, and turned heads on 3 continents. We’ve been parked next to various expensive models and it’s always ours that gets the attention, not the £4000 one.  It looks the business and has lived up to those looks, bumping around off road and hurtling down mountain sides.  She’s what you might call a hybrid tandem, chunky wheels, big bottom bar of the frame and just as at home on and off road, shopping or touring. We’ve loaded her up for 4 months cycling touring this year in South Korea and doing the Rhine and she has performed almost flawlessly. 

Almost, because it’s not her that has problems but the aftermarket kit, primarily rear pannier racks.  We’ve been through a good number of these and had them welded back together in Morocco and Germany. In the end we had one made especially for her and that’s been fine since.

We’ve broken spokes, and destroyed our rear wheel (purely our fault) and replaced those with a Halo SAS 36 spoke one, which has also given us no problems.  

We change the front disc brake for a BB7 that we’ve had on all our tandems and the rear for a HyRd Hydraulic brake. This combination is very effective and can stop us fully loaded (about 225kgs) at any gradient up to about 18%.  

 I’ve got a Brooks front saddle but the rear is the original.  

Now we could have paid a few thousand for a tandem –  and we’ve test ridden many expensive tandems and never been impressed enough to switch form Tilly. So why did we get a cheap one?

We travel almost constantly, sometimes on Tilly alone and sometimes in our motorhome with Tilly.  We go to odd places and we’ve always felt that there was a possibility that the tandem could get stolen.  We didn’t want to be constantly worrying about where we leave her so we opted to go for a cheap tandem.  

Over the years we’ve tried various higher spec tandems that have cost thousand of pounds. None of which have felt good enough to us to upgrade to.

We’ve taken ourselves and Tilly to a bikefit and actually found, rather unsurprisingly, she was already set up correctly after years of cycling. 

But, after many years of derailleura we’ve opted for a Rohloff internal gear.  Why? Well, our trip to Korea involved a planes and buses all of which managed to knock the gears and require them to be reset up.  Sometimes this was easy, others it took quite a few attempts – it’s not something I’m good at, nor like doing.  And as we intend to fly more with Tilly we decided a Rohloff would hopefully eliminate these issues.  Besides, gears slipping always seem to result in Linda banging her knee and her hand banging my head, so time for preventative measures!

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