William, speaking about bikes, I was thinking about a trying a tandem to see if the wife might like it. We tried separate mtn bikes years ago, but she's not a very confident rider, as in wants the seat height low enough to to have both feet on the ground. Then there's the issue of leaving her behind. Any thoughts about a tandem being a solution? I found this Kent Dualdrive at Walmart for $279, cheap enough to be worth a try. It had lots of good reviews.
We have a tandem (custom-built Davidson) but have not ridden it in some years. It suffered the same fate as most of my bikes while the kids were younger. Not that I didn't want to ride but other things came first.
I'm conflicted on this bike. If you want to have the tandem experience, no doubt that this is a cheap way to do it. But let me back up and give my $.02 about tandems in general.
What they do well:
- Fast. 1.5 - 2 x the horsepower with the wind resistance of one.
- You talk a lot. Because you are so close together, you talk much more even than when you are side by side on the bike.
- Make it fun for riders of different abilities to ride together. This is especially important in loaded touring. It was almost comical back in the day when I did some touring because you'd see the guy coming up the hill the other way all smiles. Further back would be his gf, wife, etc struggling and not smiling.
- Allow someone who isn't as experienced and comfortable on the road let someone else do the driving. A tandem is probably more visible if for not other reason that it is unusual. Drivers are less likely to be agro seeing two people rather than a spandex-clad Lance wannabe.
What they don't do well:
- More expensive. For a decent tandem, you can spending 1.5x or more of the cost of a single bike. You have a more expensive crankset, intricate frame with special tubing, stouter wheels, etc.
- PITA to get around. They are too wide even without wheels for the back of most cars. They require special trays for rooftop mounting and are pretty long to get in the back of a van, truck, etc.
- Generally require the captain (upfront) to be heavier than the rider in back or the handling gets squirrelly to dangerous.
- The stoker (in back) talks a lot. Sometimes the stoker talks a lot and is distracted by the scenery so he/she doesn't contribute a whole lot to the pedalling.
- Requires absolute trust in the captain by the stoker.
- A little trickier to get on and start, especially on uphills and intersections.
- Go slow downhill. Tandems want to go downhill like overloaded gravel trucks. Our family PR is around 48-49 mph just south of Buford Dam. This was before having kids.
If you are serious about this project, I'd suggest looking for a used Santana, Cannondale, etc. If you don't like it, you can sell it for pretty close to what you paid. If you like it, you won't have to go out and buy the bike you should have in the first place. Maintenance will actually be lower because they'll have robust, tandem specific parts. Email me if you want to talk about borrowing ours, it's laid up right now because I took the shifters for another bike in the stable.
If you just want to get your lovely wife on a bike, also consider the following:
Find a used bike with a laid back geometry like Electra, Trek Pure. This will allow longer leg extension with out being that much higher off the ground. Or, get a more normal "hybrid" bike and lower the seat if you don't already have a bike. It isn't the end of the world if her leg isn't extended properly at first. You may wish to get a step-through frame (ladies frame) which makes dismounting a little less scary. As she gets more comfortable coming to a stop by getting off the saddle and then putting a foot down, you can inch the seat up bit by bit.
Ride slowly with her and tell her you aren't out for a hard work out and don't mind riding a bit more slowly. Silver Comet is great for this. Talk instead of worrying about getting a cardio workout.
My biggest cycling mistake has been to worry too much about optimizing things for the people I ride with. If she starts to get really into it, you can worry about the details and fancier equipment later.
(I get pangs of guilt every time I read this one.)