There are plenty of reasons to want a tandem bicycle—the most compelling being that they’re inherently silly, and thus insanely fun. Like us, many of you are probably stuck inside for most of the day and itching to get some fresh air and sunshine. A tandem bike is a great way to do that while also including your partner, best friend, or kid.
Check out five of the best below, then scroll farther for buying advice and longer reviews of these and other quality rides.
Things to Consider
Learning to ride in sync does take a certain amount of practice and a willingness to hone your communication skills and trust. But if you can sideline your love of solo spinning long enough to find a willing stoker (the rider in the back) or pilot (the rider up front), you’ll discover that tandem riding is ideal for several things—namely, keeping an even pace with someone at a vastly different skill level, maintaining conversation at speed, introducing beginners to road riding, setting some serious K/QOMs on flat terrain, or just getting around town with a friend. Plus, every adventure is better with a partner. Why not embrace your inner codependent and discover the true meaning of teamwork by trying to pedal a bicycle built for two?
But first, you’ve got to settle on which bike to get. Whether you want to get a serious workout in or just roll along the flats for some fresh air with your better half, you have options when buying a tandem just as you do for a single bicycle. There’s a lot to consider here, primarily because tandems are so customizable. There are cute cruisers, like the Electra Tandem 7i, and off-road 29ers, like the Salsa Powderkeg. You can find frames built of steel, aluminum, carbon, and even bamboo in all sizes and build kits from custom makers like DaVinci Designs and Calfee Design. And you’ll want to consider the experience level of your stoker or pilot: If you’re riding with a kid, you might opt for a tandem built for families with a low step-through rear frame, like the Schwinn Twinn Tandem or Co-Motion Periscope Trident.
There are tandems in every price range. Spring for a new bike, or track down one on Craigslist, while of course doing your research and maintaining a skeptical eye. They tend to abound in barely used condition, and this is how I found mine, a Burley Design touring tandem no longer in production. That’s because plenty of cyclists love the idea of a tandem but find they don’t have as much time to ride together as they’d like.
How We Selected
We chose each bike on this list after thorough research and evaluation of the market. We survey user reviews, speak with product managers and designers, and rely on our own experience to determine the best options in terms of value, performance, and accessibility. No matter which path you take, new or used, before you get discouraged by some of the costs, remember you’re essentially buying two bikes in one—and ultimately investing in an awesome way to spend some time outdoors with the people closest to you. Here are the best new tandem bicycles we’ve found.
Take this cruiser-style tandem for a spin along the boardwalk. Designed to accommodate riders ranging in height from 5-foot-4 to 6-foot-2, this steel-framed beauty rolls you and your partner smoothly through the neighborhood. It has front and rear v-brakes, which are lighter and cheaper than disc brakes, and a 7-speed drivetrain to help you pedal easily, even on hills. Cushy, white-walled tires soak up bumps in the road while wide, upright handlebars and a curvy step-through frame complete the beachy style.
Bike Friday Tandem Two’sDay
Anyone who’s owned a tandem knows the real challenge isn’t riding it—it’s everything you have to do when you’re not riding it, like stowing or traveling with it. This folding tandem from Bike Friday eliminates those challenges by packing down into one compact 33- by 37- by 17-inch space. But, get this: That’s not even the best reason to buy this bike. The low step-over height of the frame and adjustable stoker stem makes this the perfect vehicle for bringing along a kid who’s newly ready to start pedaling or not yet comfortable in traffic. The 24-speed bike has two setup options for recreational riding or adventure touring—and even an electrical-assist option—so you can customize it to your intended riding style.
Pedego E-bike Tandem
For those who want to ride together without having to contend with insurmountable climbs, Pedego’s 7-speed tandem e-bike can make every ride feel like a beachfront cruise. The bike strikes a nice balance between quality and price. It’s designed for casual riding—with relaxed, cruiser handlebars and a step-through frame—but the 48V battery can take you up to 56 miles on a single charge, so you can tackle longer adventures at up to 20mph, as well. The bike is powered by a 500-watt rear hub motor and has disc brakes for more controlled stopping. It’s almost 70 pounds even without the battery, so keep the battery charged if you want to make it home. Get it with a 48V 10Ah or 48V 15Ah battery (Respectively: 480 energy watt hours and or 720 energy watt hours; the latter will provide a longer range).
Schwinn Twinn Tandem
A casual, affordable tandem for exploring rail trails and multiuse paths, this aluminum bicycle has a low step-through frame in the rear so that kids can easily get aboard. Twenty-one speeds give you plenty of gears for climbing, and mechanical disc brakes make for reliable stopping, even when you’re picking up a startling amount of speed on a downhill. The Schwinn suspension fork and a pair of 2.1-inch tires (on 26-inch wheels) add to a smooth overall ride for the price.
Co-Motion is one of the best-known brands in the tandem game, with more than 30 years of experience building two-seater bikes and over a dozen different models. We like this comfortable, handmade steel machine for its high quality to price ratio. The 700c aluminum wheels are lightweight and strong, and can fit tires up to 32mm wide for extra stability. The 10-speed Shimano Deore cassette (11-34t) and 44/32t chainrings offer plenty of room to find a comfortable cadence for you and your stoker. Mounts for racks and fenders mean it’s ready to load up for a cross-country tour—or just a quick commute to the store for a week of groceries.
For those who dare to take their tandem skills off-road, maybe wait until the hospitals aren’t so strained. But when the time comes, there’s the Powderkeg. It’s part 29er chromoly mountain bike, part trust exercise. With a long, stable wheelbase, tons of tire clearance (up to 29 x 2.4-inch), an extra burly fork, Shimano SLX 10-speed 11-36 cassette, dual thru-axles, and SRAM BB7 mechanical disc brakes, the Powerkeg has everything you need for a truly unforgettable day in the dirt. Get it as a complete bike or just as a frame for $1,999. It’s available in three sizes so you can ride with a partner of almost any dimension. This bike can be described as “fun as hell” or “terrifying as hell,” depending on whether you’re the pilot or the stoker.
DaVinci Tailwind E-assist
Behold, the Lexus of two-seater bikes. If you’re looking for a lightweight, custom-made tandem with e-assist to take you on a cruise through the Alps or the bike tour of a lifetime, the DaVinci Tailwind E-assist is the model for you. Built with a Shimano Steps E8000 motor and 504Wh battery, the bike has considerable power for climbing. (Boasts the website: “My wife and I have taken it out for many 30- to 35-mile rides and only used one bar of the battery [~ 20%] each ride.”) You can customize every part of the bike, from the frame material—aluminum, chromoly steel, titanium, or carbon fiber—to the level of Shimano parts, and whether you want it set up as a road machine or hybrid. Check out the menu of add-ons and start building the bike of your dreams. DaVinci also makes non-e-assist tandems, with a base price of $5,595 for a steel frame, if you’re looking for more affordable options.
The Milano is a solid, double drop-barred road tandem for prospective buyers who are trying to stick to a budget but tired of trawling Craigslist for used models of suspect quality. Although the bike is a bit heavier than more expensive road tandems, it has a sturdy alloy frame, chromoly fork, and a mix of Shimano Sora and Deore shifting to provide a dependable introduction to two-person riding at a manageable price. With mechanical disc brakes and a 9-speed Shimano 11-34 drivetrain, you’ve got everything you need for tackling the hills with your favorite stoker. KHS also sells a $1,299 upright bar model called the Sport, if you’re looking for a more kid-friendly two-seater.
Co-Motion PeriScope Trident
The three-person Trident is one of the best ways to introduce your kid to road riding and tackle longer, faster adventures together without having to worry about turning or braking skills. Available in two colors and three sizes, with a low rear top tube that allows for stokers of all heights, the steel-frame tandem has dual mechanical disc brakes with 203mm rotors, a Shimano 105 derailleur, a triple 52/39/30 chainring, and an 11-32 cassette so you can climb almost anything. This particular model comes equipped with hand-built 26-inch wheels, so take it on some gravel if you want. This is great step up from an attachable Trail-a-Bike because it allows your sidekicks to contribute to the overall effort without any fear of crashing.
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