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How old is this Tandem Rear Steer Skip tooth ??

  • 5
    "Very" I'd guess its 1960s at latest. Why do you call it skip tooth? Does it really have a chain that old? Could be inter-war period. The tyres look like 70s or 80s gumwalls. Could you add a bunch more photos? This one is good, but details like head badge, crankset, rear gears, headtube badge, and any decals (though it looks like its been re-painted)
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 3:29
  • 1
    If you click at the picture, the larger version has very visible skip link chain and compatible chainwheels with 1/2 inch tooth spacing and every second tooth very low. Wikipedia claims that "Skip link chain became obsolete sometime in the 1950s".
    – ojs
    Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 10:14
  • 1
    Yeah, I would say it's pretty old -- certainly prior to 1970. Commented Jul 1, 2016 at 12:28

6 Answers 6


This looks like a prototype or maybe even a home-made version due to the way the horizontal cross tube for the second rider looks unevenly cut off just before reaching the first rider's seat post.

Dating will be a bit of a trick - the angles of the down-tubes don't match anything I can find on the net with a cursory search, but rear steer tandems were popular as far back as the 1890's in quite a few designs. Prices seemed to average around $150 USD. Many got recycled/refurbished in the 1930's and later, usually with upgraded seats and tires/wheels. The seat in the picture doesn't look more than 50 years old.

Brands names that I have come across are Colsen and Geneva.

The cranks remind me of pre-1940's bikes with the spindly crank arms, as opposed to tapered cranks that are more commonly seen today.

I would suggest looking closely at the frame, even the underside, for any marks that show names or numbers. Might be hard to do as the paint looks a lot newer than the bike and may have filled in the letter/number stamping on the frame, or any mounted/welded/riveted ID plates.

It's not too far off from the late 30's Colsen models, so I'm making an educated guess it is at least pre-World War 2.

update: looks like I found the exact same bike at this eBay link: http://goo.gl/yxirV8

added by Nul: Seller says: "looks as if it's been repainted at one time. the wheels and tires don't look right for this bike, although the rear wheel sprocket is skip tooth. seats are not original. one pedal is different from the rest. i do not know what kind it is, there is no badge. i did find a serial number on the bottom of the front pedal shaft housing. the number is in the photo, looks to be #46556. there are a few dents here and there. buy them when you see them!!"

Photos from auction (added so they're not lost when link disappears from ebay)

Side view enter image description here Steering link Stoker's crank Captain's crank Rear hub, stand and reaction arm Rear wheel and mudguard Rear elevation stoker's seat mount, from left side Bigger main photo.  Shows captain's seat mount, front down/top tubes twin keel tubes, with bike upside down.  Shows holes in bottom bracket Serial number on bottom bracket shell

Auction closed on 30th June 2016 with a hammer price of $699.99 USD

  • That's some excellent web-archaeology skills! Good finding - I agree its the same bike.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jul 6, 2016 at 0:58
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    The hacked-up nature of the rear bottom bracket (as seen from the bottom) does re-enforce the supposition that this is a custom-made or prototype unit. Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 3:09
  • 1
    It looks to have been set up so that the front rider would be pedaling with a much higher cadence than the rear, perhaps around twice as fast. Could this requirement be part of the reason for a custom design?
    – Miff
    Commented Jan 4, 2018 at 11:58
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    @Miff It looks like the chains are reversed - if the sync chain used the smaller of the two stoker chainrings, the chainline would be better and all the ratios would be normal.
    – Marjan
    Commented Oct 20, 2023 at 5:16

That is an Iver Johnson dates from late 1800's-early 1900's

enter image description here
From: https://www.henrysheldonmuseum.org/pedaling-through-history

enter image description here
From: https://velocipedegallery.com/museum/iver-johnson-tandem-iver-johnson-arms-co-fitchburg-mass-1898
Lots of photos here.

Clearly shows the skip-tooth gears, and the lower part of the steering chain.

Lastly - identifying the age via the head-tube badge: From https://thecabe.com/forum/threads/1897-iver-johnson-rear-steer-tandem-bicycle.97376/ Again, lots of photos here.

enter image description here

  • 2
    Hi, welcome to bicycles. You could make this a much better answer by including some pictures of the bike you name to show how it matches.
    – DavidW
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 14:01
  • 2
    Welcome to Bicycles SE. We're looking for answers with more detail. Please consider editing your answer to explain what you recognize about it. A short, one-line answer like this is likely to get downvoted, flagged for moderator intervention, and possibly deleted.
    – jimchristie
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 15:17
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    Welcome to the site - I've taken your lead and expanded your answer with more info.
    – Criggie
    Commented Dec 28, 2023 at 21:02

This bike is much older than anyone has guessed. It is likely 1890s to early 1910s, if not a bit older. It is what was known as a "courting tandem," whereby the lady sat in front and the gentleman sat in the rear. It could be steered from either seat, permitting the gentleman to ride it solo from the rear to pick up the lady. He would then hold it steady while she got onto her seat and they would ride off together.


Between wars seems most likely . Colson fits the structure , not a custom or prototype . 70 plus years old (plenty of time for alterations) . originaly had 28" wooden rims and single tube tires (very expensive to get now ) and was re-wheeled to make it rideable appears to be 27" likely done in the mid 70's earliest . Now 29er street tires would fill the fenders well . The "hacked up" bottom bracket was frugality at the factory >make it with what we have here< common to low volume cycles then. Great find , enjoy the ride .


*****Clearly a 1939 or earlier era bike, (never judge a bike by it's tires, or crummy seats) clearly painted by a 7th grader. Even the serial number look VGT, skip tooth and other accessories tell me it's pushing 80 years old. Someone needs to strip it, get proper wheels, tires, seats, and make it presentable.***

  • 7
    Can you define VGT please?
    – Criggie
    Commented Oct 30, 2017 at 2:27

late 1890s. probably NY,NY Liberty is a possible manufacturer.I have the bike with all original parts.Yours appears just frameset bars seat post and part of drivetrain is original.looks to have been rebuilt in last 30+ years hopes this helps

  • 4
    Welcome to Bicycles SE. That sounds like great information. Would you please add some pictures to your answer (edit it and add them) to further help others researching this bike style?
    – Ted Hohl
    Commented Dec 17, 2023 at 15:55

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