Riding the best tandem bikes can be a joyful experience. It allows riders of differing strengths to ride together without any frustrations about being dropped or being held back. It can also be a very efficient way to cover ground, as you have the power of two people and aerodynamic drag roughly that of one person.
But riding a tandem bike does require good communication. The reputation of being ‘the divorce bike’ is not entirely unwarranted. That said, a tandem can also strengthen your relationship; if you can tandem together, you can do anything together!
We have compiled a list of the best tandem bikes available online in the UK and have then detailed some of the key features of tandems to help you on your search.
Our pick of the best tandem bikes
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Dawes Combi tandem
The Dawes Combi tandem is ideal for those wanting to test their hand at riding a tandem, without having to pay for a top end model. It has Dawes' sturdy alloy 6061 frame which has a geometry specifically designed to lend itself to having a smaller rider at the rear, making it a great option for riding with your kids.
With a seven speed cassette paired to a triple crankset, plenty of gears are available for both winching up the hills and cruising at higher speeds. Although rim brakes are used instead of discs, there is still plenty of stopping power available to scrub off your speed quickly. The high spoke-count 26-inch wheels are shod with 1.75-inch wide puncture resistant tyres, providing both ample grip and robustness.
Increasing its practicality are the equipped mudguards and the mounts for a pannier rack. With space available for bottle cages, there is even the option to take this on a lightweight touring adventure.
Dolan TDR Road tandem bike
With its drop handlebars and lightweight aluminium frame, the Dolan TDR tandem bike is built for a high quality performance feel, while its sloping geometry will ensure comfort on longer rides.
Equipped with a triple crankset, with the option for either a 11-32t or 12-28t cassette, you will have plenty of choice to find the right gear for whatever incline/descent you find yourself on. Mechanical disc brakes should also provide you confidence when braking at any speed you reach.
There's lots of options for customisation on offer: pick your bar tape colour, saddle, handlebar width or stem length. It can also take front and rear mudguards and panniers, rendering it suitable for year-round touring adventures.
Ecosmo Folding City tandem bike
Tandems can be awkward to store at your home because of how long they are, but not this one from Ecosmo which can be folded away with ease. The full size bike is 220 x 18 x 66 cm, while folded down it's as tiny as 110 x 34 x 66 cm. Weighing in at 21kg, it's not too heavy to carry, although you may not want to hold it for prolonged periods.
This folding bike is not only a practical option in terms of space, it also comes with a front light, mudguards, rear carrier and kick stand. Disc brakes are also fitted which will provide reliable, powerful braking whatever the weather throws at you. It has small 20" wheels and Shimano 7 speed gearing which means it's better for shorter rides, and not long distance touring.
Do bare in mind it arrives sealed in a box and is 80% assembled, with the handlebars, pedals, seat and chain needed to be fitted - however this is fairly straight forward and does not require any technical knowledge.
Orbit Lightning Pro
The Lightning Pro is Orbit's tandem designed for lightweight touring which offers both great handling and a comfortable ride. It can even put on quite a turn of speed with its fully butted lightweight aluminium frame and carbon front fork.
The groupset is 2x11 Shimano 105 and there is a broad range of gearing options to suit all riders and terrain. If your intension is flatter and faster rides, a standard 53/39t crankset and 11-36t cassette would be the best configuration. Alternatively, if you're carrying luggage and hitting the hills, the option of a compact 50/34t crankset with an 11-46t cassette will provide you with ample gears to keep the pedals turning.
Continental Gatorskins are mounted on robust 40-spoked wheels to provide some added protection against punctures. The width choice ranges from 25c to 35c, giving you the choice of comfort or speed. There are three sets of brakes: two rim and one disc brake at the rear, for assured stopping power and to eliminate any danger of overheating the braking tracks.
As every Orbit Tandem is built to order, if there are any particular component choices you would like to change, they are happy for you to get in touch.
Ridgeback Panorama tandem bike
If you are looking to travel further afield, this robust tandem from Ridgeback is suitable for anything from weekend trips to long distance touring. Coming already equipped with mudguards and a pannier rack, it bears the hallmarks of a bike ready for travel. High volume Schwalbe Marathon tyres are specced, which are known for their impressive puncture protection and long service life.
TRP spyre disc brakes are present here. Unusually for a mechanical caliper, the pads are actuated on both sides, making them easier to adjust and providing a better braking feel. The large rotors serve to prevent overheating on long, heavily laden, descents.
A triple crankset provides a wide spread of gears, without any jarring jumps between gears. Three bottle bosses allow for plenty of fluids to be taken on board, essential for longer days in the saddle.
Gepida Voyage XT10 electric tandem bike
The Voyage has a front suspension fork with 63mm of travel, for a comfy ride and it's low step through frame makes mounting and dismounting a whole lot easier. Shimano hydraulic disc brakes are fitted for complete ease of braking, and also included is an additional V brake on the rear - this is so the stoker (person sitting behind) can have some more control over speed and it also helps stop the overheating of the disc brakes.
It comes standard with 42t chainring and 11/34t cassette, but this can be dropped to a 38t chainring and 11/42t cassette for an extra £100 - a useful and a good option if you plan to cycle in a particularly hilly area.
Features of tandem bikes and riding
Tandems are built with much stronger wheels than other bikes because they have twice as much weight to deal with. 40 spokes is quite a common number, as are 26 inch wheels, which have become a little more of a rarity since mountain bikers have eschewed them in favour of 29ers and 27.5in wheels.
Don’t be surprised of a third brake to be present on a tandem. Brakes work by converting your kinetic energy into heat, and on a tandem there is a lot more weight meaning a lot more heat is generated. An extra brake helps prevent any issues regarding overheating on long descents, as it distributes the braking forces across another brake.
There are a number of different ways for a third brake to be actuated: sometimes the stoker (person behind) has a brake lever they control; other times one brake lever is rigged up so that it operates two brakes simultaneously; and occasionally a lever is added onto one of the bar ends and can thus be used as a drag brake - you set a certain amount of braking force on the drag brake and modulate the speed with the ordinary brakes.
Different cranks lengths
Some prefer to spin at 90 rpm or faster and others like to grind away at 70 and sometimes lower. This can cause issues, as both cranks are kept in sync on a tandem via the timing chain which also transfers the pedalling force.
Fortunately, there is something that can be done. Giving the rider who has a faster natural cadence longer cranks will encourage them to slow down, while giving the rider who has a slower natural cadence shorter cranks will encourage them to speed up.
Remember that this won’t change the actual cadence the pedals are turning, 80 rpm is still 80 rpm for both. But it will change how that cadence feels to the rider.
As tandems have the pedalling force of two people, but an aerodynamic drag of similar to one rider, they can go at quite a pace on the flat - having some big gears will help you make the most of that.
However, tandems are quite heavy and can be quite cumbersome on the hills, so making sure to have some smaller gears as well is quite important.
Fortunately, a broad gear range is made easier to attain because small jumps between gears isn’t quite as important as when cycling by yourself. Gear changes are more of a commitment as you have to communicate them so that you both ease up on the pedals at the same time.
Descending on a tandem requires a different technique to descending on your own. For one thing, the total system weight is significantly greater, meaning braking has to be done earlier and more forcefully.
There is also the sensibilities of your tandeming partner to consider; you might be perfectly confident in your descending abilities, but that doesn’t mean your stoker is. For best results, go at the speed everyone is happy with.
I’ve been hooked on bikes ever since the age of 12 and my first lap of the Hillingdon Cycle Circuit in the bright yellow kit of the Hillingdon Slipstreamers. For a time, my cycling life centred around racing road and track.
But that’s since broadened to include multiday two-wheeled, one-sleeping-bag adventures over whatever terrain I happen to meet - with a two-week bikepacking trip from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia being just the latest.
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