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Which is the Best Cheap Tandem Bicycle? A Buyer's Guide

Updated on November 29, 2017
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What are the top three budget tandem bikes in 2017?

Cycling is a fun activity, and it's made even better when you do it with someone you like. There's no better way to turn heads and make people jealous than by cruising down the boardwalk on a bicycle made for two.

Tandem bikes are still pretty simple in concept. You essentially take a regular bicycle, stretch it, and add another seat, set of bars and pedals into the mix. The person in the front has the control over shifting gears and steering, while the person in the rear gets to enjoy the ride a bit more, helping to power the bike when necessary.

The technology is simple in theory, but because they're less common manufacturers tend to charge a premium for these models. And rentals places charge an arm and a leg due to the novelty.

Luckily for you, a handful of savvy companies have noticed there's an enthusiast niche for this type of cycling, and they've started offering a few cheap two-person bicycles for sale.

As a bike mechanic, I've had the opportunity to check these guys out. This article is intended to serve as a buying guide for anyone interested in a bike for two people on a lower budget. I'll talk about how they work, list any red flags, and finally showcase a few of my favourite rides. Overall, I hope to direct you towards the best, most affordable tandem bicycles for sale today.

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How "a bicycle built for two" actually works:

Can the back rider steer?

Some tandems cycles will allow the rear passenger to steer using a rack and pinion type setup. However, the vast majority of them will require the front driver to handle all of the navigational duties, as well as shifting gears and braking where necessary. The back passenger has fewer responsibilities and can sit back and enjoy the ride.

What makes a tandem different from a normal bike?

Whether cheap or high-end, a tandem bike frame will usually be a conventional diamond style that's been stretched (literally, chopped and re-welded). The longer the frame the stronger it needs to be, so finding a reputable brand with plenty of positive reviews is pretty vital.

Additionally, tandem bicycles face an interesting engineering problem: how do you direct the energy from two pedalers into a single drivetrain?

The added complexity makes them a bit trickier to construct than a conventional bike. Even the most budget-friendly tandem bikes include a double chain setup, meaning there is a front and back drive which connects in the middle (usually at or near the crankset of the rear rider).

Are tandems tough to ride?

You will face a learning curve, but they're pretty easy to pick up. The main trick is learning to anticipate the dimensions of a longer frame. The rear rider might find it a bit disorienting at first too.

If you're unsure, try renting one for an afternoon! It's a blast, really!

J Bikes by Micargi Sport, Blue - 26" 21-Speed 2-Seater Tandem Bicycle
J Bikes by Micargi Sport, Blue - 26" 21-Speed 2-Seater Tandem Bicycle

This is a great and inexpensive hybrid-style tandem bicycle at an accessible price point.

 

Micargi Sport: A top-quality tandem hybrid bike for two adults

The Micargi Sport is a lighter tandem bicycle for sale for under $500. And considering that most affordable price tag, it is a lot easier to handle than some of the heavy, clunky alternatives out there.

This bike has a steel frame and forks, 26 inch alloy wheels and an alloy stem, a Shimano drivetrain featuring 24 speeds in total (7x3), alloy linear V pull brakes, and performance-style saddles, all in a very neat and attractive package.

Considering that you're getting a very versatile and fun hybrid / mountain style frame that can go lots of places, this is a very reasonably priced bike. For anyone seeking a multi-use, fun and affordable tandem bicycle, this is one of the best options you'll find.

Kent Northwoods Dual Drive Tandem Bike
Kent Northwoods Dual Drive Tandem Bike

All steel frame, large 2.1-inch tires, a Shimano drivetrain, plus aluminum alloy wheels. This is one of the best and cheapest tandem bicycles for sale today.

 

Kent Northwoods Dual Drive: An inexpensive, immensely popular tandem bicycle

For sale for many years now, the Kent Dual Drive Tandem is one of the absolute best adult tandem bikes for two people. Tried and tested, it has garnered some excellent reviews from bloggers and customers alike for its great combination of features, its rideability, and its budget-friendly price tag.

As far as price goes, you just can't find anything cheaper, so if price is a major concern this is the model you should look at.

The cruiser style frame and gel padded seats make this a really comfortable ride for both pilot and co-pilot. The Shimano Tourney drivetrain is basic but certainly provides everything you'll need for a fun, casual ride in the park, the seawall, or the boardwalk. An all-steel frame and aluminum alloy wheels ensure a safe and sturdy experience; this bike will last you a long while.

It might not be feature-rich, but it's a tandem bike for under $300. That's insane. And despite that low price tag, the Northwoods Tandem is a tried and true bike, sure to grab you lots of look as you cruise the boardwalk.

Schwinn Twinn Tandem 20"/ one size Wheel Bicycle, Grey One Frame Size
Schwinn Twinn Tandem 20"/ one size Wheel Bicycle, Grey One Frame Size

A sturdy, welded aluminum frame and disc brakes offer a bit more for your buck than the competition. In the adult tandem bike world, this is a bargain.

 

Schwinn Twinn: A high-quality, affordable bicycle for two riders

If you're wanting a two-person bicycle with a higher end build quality, the Schwinn Twinn is a wonderful option to consider.

(And c'mon, how perfect is that name? Branding win!)

The Twinn is a really well constructed bike. The frame is more complex than the typical "stretched diamond" style you see so commonly. It's all aluminum alloy, meaning it's a tad lighter than the competition.

The shifters are EZ-Fire Shimanos with a 21-speed drivetrain, and you even have front and rear mechanical disc brakes. The seating position is upright and comfortable for both riders, with the rear seating position about six inches lower than the front. That means the taller rider should be the "pilot."

Despite the "mountain-style" frame, this is definitely a hybrid and should be considered for cruising around on light trails, pavement and grass. Coming in well under $500, this is a great tandem hybrid bike for adults which is easy on the budget.

Notes and things to watch for:

If you're shopping for sale-priced tandem bicycles, there are a few things you should be aware of:

  1. Tandem bicycles are larger than a conventional bike, meaning they are both heavier and longer. That will affect how you store it, the overall bicycle maneuverability, and perhaps most importantly, transportation.

    Even the box it will come in will be pretty large. You should be prepared for this and make sure to have a good place to store it.
  2. There are a few tantalizingly cheap tandem bicycles for sale, but if you're paying under $500 they will always be fairly basic. They'll have a few gears and a steel or aluminum alloy frame. Since tandems are generally used primarily for recreation, this is not a problem for most people.

    However, if you're interested in riding a bit faster or doing some road racing, you might want to look into higher end two-person bikes that are lighter, more maneuverable and built for speed. If that's what you're after, I recommend a trip to your local bike shop.
  3. I recommend avoiding the DIY 'home-built' tandem bike. A lot of people with novice welding skills will attempt to build their own little Frankenstein's monster in a garage. While some are successful, they rarely have the technical sophistication required to set up an efficient dual drivetrain and ensure the frame has the proper integrity for 300+ pounds of rider weight.

    Unless you're an absolute pro, I always recommend a purpose-built tandem bicycle from a good manufacturer. Wait for the sales and you'll get a bargain deal.

What do you think about tandem cycling?

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