Buying a Used Tandem

Buying a Used Tandem

One of the biggest question we get here at is “what should I look for in buying a used tandem”. To simplify the process we have outlined some of the important factors to consider during your shopping for a used tandem.

What type of riding do you plan on doing?

Let’s first hope that you have at least discussed the idea of buying a tandem with your soon to be riding partner. The biggest mistake most first time tandem buyers make is not communicating the idea with their significant other; tandems do not make for a good surprise gift.

In deciding to buy a tandem consider the terrain you will encounter and the surface conditions. Will you be riding many hills or mostly flat roads? Do you foresee any dirt trails in your tandem riding future?

How experienced are you at riding a bike?

Do you or your future tandem partner currently ride a bike on a regular basis? What type of riding do you perform (road or mountain)? This will help dictate the majority of the riding you will end up doing on a tandem.

Frame designs available

Less expensive Asian imported tandems are usually made with steel. The frames use low quality welds and are suited strictly to gentle rides on bike paths; these bikes make up a majority of the models found for sub-$300 on eBay.

Aluminum, Titanium, high-end Steel, and Carbon-fiber are the preferred materials of high end tandem bike builders. They build into stronger and more laterally stiff bikes. When researching these frames check out the manufacturer’s website and popular review sites for opinions on quality and workmanship.

Previous owner’s use of the bike

The advantage of shopping for a used tandem is that a large portion of them were ridden only a few times. The key thing to look for on these lightly ridden bikes is how and where they were stored. If the bike sat outside under a tarp it is highly likely that all the bearings will need to be replaced or re-lubed, the chains replaced, the tires replaced, and the cables replaced. If you are doing the math in your head it becomes obvious that the dollar savings begin to disappear.

Sometimes higher mileage tandems offer a better deal because the more active teams will have already stress tested and replaced weaker parts allowing you to take-over a steady ride.

Mechanical condition – things to look for

  1. Visually inspect all welds (when buying online demand detailed photos)
  2. Eyeball all tubing looking for bends and dents
  3. Shift the gears and apply the brakes
  4. Listen for creaks and grinds
  5. Lateral twist in the front and rear wheels (looking for signs of extreme stress on components)
  6. Check the seat posts and stems for stress
  7. Wheel true (give em a spin and watch for alignment and listen for smooth bearings)


When buying anything second hand you need to be wary of potential pitfalls. Due to their size and the weight they carry tandems require special treatment when being purchased used. Taking care to address the issues above will help eliminate some of the potential after purchase problems.

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