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I really enjoy cycling, but haven't been doing much lately. My wife also enjoys cycling, but had a bad crash a couple years ago on her fast road bike and now will only ride her old (really slow) touring bike. We're not sure why she crashed, she doesn't remember much of it, and I was ahead of her at the time. She's concerned that it might be a balance problem, and has never been very comfortable with her road bike.

I was thinking that a tandem might be the way to go. Thought being that it would be more stable, and she wouldn't have to be responsible for steering. It would also keep us together while riding (her maximum speed right now is lower than my minimum speed, I end up doing lots of 360s in the middle of the road to let her catch up).

Difficulty being transporting it around for group rides. We have 3 small cars (MR2, Celica, and Eclipse). One is a two seater that I have a regular bike rack that fits, the other two are hatchbacks (neither has much space in the back, one of them can fit her road bike, but only if she takes the front wheel off). Are there any tandems that "fold up" to fit on a standard bike rack? I just don't see roof racks as being an option as the cars are so small.

Any other ideas that I've missed? I don't think she'd go for the balance wheels on her bike (and it still wouldn't cover all the speed difference issue).

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My first thought is a tandem with S&S joins so you can fit it in the car, but I don't know enough about them. –  Neil Fein Mar 4 '11 at 16:23
    
Related: My wife has Cerebral Palsy (CP) so can’t balance on a normal bike, what are the options so she can go cycling with me? (both involve tandems as well as with one partner with riding issues) –  Neil Fein Mar 4 '11 at 16:23
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Riding tandem requires a certain kind of trust and other relationship elements, as well as riding skills that you may or may not have. Find out by renting or borrowing a tandem before you commit. –  Jay Bazuzi Mar 4 '11 at 20:30
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@JayBazuzi: Good point! I've heard that tandem riding can make or break a marriage. The physics simply don't allow for disagreements. –  freiheit Mar 4 '11 at 21:10
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But S&S couplings do allow for divorces... kind of. –  JamesBradbury Sep 9 '13 at 19:09
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4 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

It does sound like a tandem is a good option for you and your wife. A trike for her (many recumbents are trikes) might solve the balance problem, but not the speed issue.

There are definitely folding tandems out there. Might even be able to fold up and stick in the back seat.

The "simplest" way to get what you want is an an [S&S Coupled bike with a [single split in front](http://www.sandsmachine.com/tandem.htm#single split in front). That's a bike that doesn't "fold", but does split into two pieces (or 3). If it splits in front you should be able to put it on a car bike rack and won't have to mess with taking a chain off. It's possible to retrofit many non-aluminum bikes into a folding/travel bike this way.

I believe usually people get an S&S coupled tandem so they can fly with the tandem and not pay outrageous shipping costs. Since you're more interested in getting a bike onto a bike rack on the back of your car you should have an easier time finding options.

So, the good news: yes, options exist. The bad news: they're custom or semi-custom and generally expensive.

Take into account that tandems can be hard to fit properly unless you're the "right" size difference.

Your best bet is probably locating a couple framebuilders near you and talking to them about your needs. But look around at a few of these links to see what some options are:

  • Folding Tandems from Bike Friday -- folds up small enough to fit in back seat. Custom. The "example" build prices that look like a fast road bike tandem setups seem to start around $3000 USD
  • Zinn Cycles Tandems -- I think the Titanium S&S coupled tandem is a model I saw at a big group ride. "$12,000 and up", but the steel travel tandem could be as little as $8000.
  • Calfee seems to have carbon road tandems with S&S couplings available for $8000
  • S&S Coupling US Framebuilder List (look on their site through the photo gallery and retailer list, too. And at the tandem page. Oh, and the [tandem retrofit photo gallery](http://www.sandsmachine.com/#Tandem Retrofits))

(If I could afford it and had those needs, I'd talk to my local framebuilder since he's on the S&S framebuilder list and does a bit of tandem stuff even if he doesn't list prices for them yet. But framebuilders closer to you are probably a better option than one in my town.)

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Just to clarify, usually the smaller it folds up the longer that takes and the worse the ride. There is at least one tandem Brompton that folds relatively small, relatively quickly. A Friday will need tools and patience, but rides well and packs small. A standard tandem with S&S couplers will not pack especially small but will ride ok and could be made to fold fairly fast. None are cheap. –  Мסž Mar 5 '11 at 3:04
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If you are getting a custom tandem made it may also be worth looking at a short wheelbase tandem, where the stoker sits over the rear wheel rather than in front of it. If she's concerned about balance, I suggest looking at recumbent bikes as well because they balance much more by steering and the seat back will give her guidance as well as support. A recumbent trike or quad will solve those problems completely, but they do not fold small. –  Мסž Mar 5 '11 at 3:16
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I would not count on S&S couplers to transport the bike. That is a whole lot of misery to go through just to move the bike from point a to point b. I would consider any kind of roof rack that could work with your car. I would not compromise on the bike by choosing something like a bike Friday. I would adapt my transportion to my bike of choice, I might consider the SeaSucker rack as it offers a bunch of flexibility.

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Do any of the roof racks work with t-top and sunroof cars? Unfortunately that's all we have. Nothing solid roof in the family. :-( –  Brian Knoblauch Jun 15 '12 at 12:20
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I think the SeaSucker actually would work with a sun roof, I would call and talk to them about it. They demo the rack on the back glass window of a Honda Fit (if I recall correctly), so maybe that would work on a sunroof as well. –  CLJ Jun 15 '12 at 15:58
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I did not check the exact sizing but perhaps removing both front an d back wheels for transport could allow you to mount you bike to the regular bike rack. It could be an easier option than folding the tandem.

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You might simply go with a roof rack. It's like having a canoe on the roof - it overhangs in the front a bit but the rails will work just fine. I've loaded four bikes, including a tandem, on the roof of a Subaru Impreza. For the extreme example, check out this tandem rack on a Smart.

You also might have a look at the underlying geometry issues of her single bike. Modern road bike handling isn't for everyone, and there are definitely more stable but still fast bicycles available.

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