A tandem trip through Germany

In 1993 my girlfriend Linda and I build a tandem and rode it for about 1200 kilometres (750 miles) from Denmark to Switzerland. Prior to this trip, we had no knowledge in how to build a tandem, whatsoever. All we used was common sense and a little help from Falle, the owner of our local bicycle shop.
There are a lot of advantages in riding a tandem instead of two separate bikes. Most important: It's a lot more fun. Second, you can travel at a higher speed (there is a less friction). In the very beginning of your tandem-riding career, you may have some difficulties, but you'll learn fast - it's not hard at all. It took us two weeks to cross Germany on the longest possible axis and neither of us had ever ridden a tandem before. When we crossed the german & swiss border at 0:15 (0:15 a.m.) on august 18th, we really felt like we had accomplished something special - nice feeling. If I hadn't done it already, I would definitely do it again. Are you on the search for an interesting adventure? Well, you could try something like this.

How to build an inexpensive tandem

By welding two (old) bicycles together, you can build a tandem at an incredible low price. This page is intended to give some useful hints on how this is done.
Since my native tongue is not english, you may find misspellings or things that seem unclear. If this is the case, you are more than welcome to tell me about it. Any other suggestions or questions - don't hesitate, send me an e-mail kauboy@hotpop.com (watch what you are writing, the spam filter is quite agressive ;-)
The basics for building a racer-tandem yourself are:
Take the two bikes

and strip 'em for everything (you may need some
specialized tools to do this) so only the frames are left

Now weld a part of the iron bar to one of the frames. Put
it where the front fork used to be. That's what we did, but
maybe you can use the front fork itself and spare the iron bar.

Weld the two frames together. Press the back part of the
foremost frame together, so it touches the iron bar, and weld here:

Now stiffen the construction by welding the rest of the
iron bar to the bottom of your tandem (to connect the back
part of the foremost bike to the iron bar, cut of a short
piece of the bar and weld it in between the axle and the bar
(red arrow)). Weld here:

You have just completed the tandem frame. At this stage
our tandem looked like this (with the paint job almost done):

One last thing has to be welded. The handlebars for the back
passenger should be static, so you should either weld the
handlebars to the frame (we did) or make some other arangement
that serves this purpose.

Now you'll have to put all the striped parts back onto
the bike. You shouldn't have troubles with the following:

You see, this starts looking like a real $2,000 tandem . Only a
few things are missing: The chain that goes from the front to the
back passenger, an extra derailleur to secure the fron chain and the rear
brake. The latter shouldn't be a problem, you just need an extra extra
long cable (this can be assembled of two normal length break cables). To
connect the chains correctly, see the follwing drawing (seen frome above):

The innermost chain rings of the front and the rear bike should be
of the same size, else you will be pedalling out of phase, which will
make the tandem pretty unstable - not a good idea. Assemble the extra
long front chain from two (maybe more, depends on how much space there
is between the two frames) normal chains (again, you may need som
specialized tools to do this). If you have more tahn one chainrings on
the front bike, you may remove those, that are not used. They serve
no purpose.

Now mount the derailleur that earlier was taken from the front
bike to the iron bar (as shown in the picture below), so it tightens
the front chain:

That wasn't so hard, was it?

Some last thoughts

Some pictures of our tandem and us.

Last modified: Mon Jan 10, 2005