There are plenty of reasons to want a tandem bicycle—the most compelling being that they’re inherently silly, and thus insanely fun. 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 find that tandem riding is ideal for 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, and even serving as the ultimate first date transportation. Plus, every adventure is better with a sidekick, right? Why not embrace your inner codependent and discover the true meaning of teamwork by trying to climb the Pyrenees on a bicycle built for two?
But first, you’ve got to solve the question of which bike to get. Whether you want to tour the world or just cruise the boardwalk with your better half, you have options when buying a tandem just as you do when buying a single bicycle. There’s a lot to consider here, primarily because tandems are so customizable. There are speedy road tandems, like the Cannondale Road Tandem, 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 builders like Calfee and Davinci. And you’ll want to consider the experience level of your stoker or pilot: If you’re riding with a kid, you might want a tandem built for families with a low step-through rear frame, like the Schwinn Twinn Tandem or Co-Motion Periscope.
There are even tandems in every price range, from the entry-level Schwinn Twinn to the finest Calfee Dragonfly. You’ve also got the option of whether to spring for a new bike or track down a used one on Craigslist, where tandems tend to abound in barely used condition. (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, which is how I found mine—a Burley touring tandem no longer in production.)
No matter which path you take, new or used, before you get discouraged by some of the bike costs, remember you’re essentially buying two bikes in one—and ultimately investing in an awesome way to spend time with your favorite person. Here are the best tandem bicycles we’ve found.