Selecting the proper tire or tire combination for your tandem is vital to the safe operation of your tandem.
Road Tandem Tires – generally tandem teams look for a wider profile “touring” type tire with thread casing in the 100+ tpi area. With the narrow profile and short sidewalls road tandem teams need to be concerned with puncture resistance, blowout strength, and sidewall stiffness. The worst case scenario on a road bike is to blow out a tire and drop rim to pavement in a manner that causes loss of control. A wider tire also creates a larger contact patch with the pavement to create a smooth ride.
Look for wound casing, folding bead, Kevlar lined tires in the 25+ width sizes.
Mountain Tandem Tires – As with the braking systems tandem mountain bikes have benefited from downhill and free-ride mountain biking. The drive for “motorcycle like” tread patterns in these aggressive mountain bike disciplines and ensuing puncture resistance and sidewall strength demands allows tandems to be fitted with tires designed for aggressive use.
Unfortunately most downhill type tires ignore weight concerns and most active tandem teams opt for a more conservative tire setup leaning towards a mild free-ride to XC tire in the 2.2″ width range. When selecting tires for a tandem mountain bike ask and answer the following questions:
Proper tire selection for your tandem relies heavily upon trial and error. For mountain bike teams monitor your tires for chunking on the sidewalls (loss of rubber blocks on the edge of the tread) and grip while riding. For road tandem teams monitor tread wear on the center and cracking of the rubber (higher performance tire rubber tends to shrink and crack). Remember that a tandem team’s worst case scenario is a blowout at speed; take care of your tires so that they can take care of you.