Good Evening, Raetshax:
Welcome to the zoo. 2-up!
Just my 0.02….
– Craigslist and eBay are brilliant for finding used tandems. For better, and for worse, they don’t hold value extremely well, as we’re kind of a small market. Consequently, you can get a lot of bike for a good value.
-Brand probably does not matter that much. All of the major brands either do, or have, produced tandems that are worthy. Trek and Cannondale tandems are probably some of the best value for the dollar and are very common. Co-Motion, Calfee, Burley, Santana…..there are lots. It might be more a question of finding one that fits, as if you’re very different heights, that will dictate what kind you go with more than anything else.
-Specifications: you’ll see some that have pure Road groups on them, some that have a mix of road/mountain, etc. Again, kind of depends. XT or XTR rear derailluers are pretty common sights coupled with Ultegra shifters. I find myself shifting even more on the tandem than I do on my single, so make sure whatever you get has a shifting system you really do like (bar ends, brifters, whatever). Disc vs. Rim brake: either goes, really. We’ve ridden both, and for a ride like RAGBRAI, you’re not going to reasonably overload rim brakes. If you’re planning on something like Triple Bypass afterward, then, well, disc might be a better idea in the long run. Just about every bike you’ll find is a 3×9, 3×10, or 3×11 setup. a 2×11 can work if it’s a really wide range. Again, climbing a tandem is very different; you sometimes need those lower gears. Do watch out for older component sets; some of the 8 or 9 speed stuff is getting hard to find if you need to replace parts.
-Get a Thudbuster ST or the like for the stoker. The Captain will mess up and miss-call a pothole/railroad track/whatever. The Thudbuster makes all the difference when that happens. As me how I know.
-You might end up needing a different set of seats than you usually use on your singles. We tend to get off the saddle less on the tandem due to having to coordinate, so we found that saddles that were cut differently worked better for us.
The biggest thing, by far, is fit.
For parts if your LBS doesn’t have what ya need: Tandems East (New Jersey) or Precision Tandems (Kansas) are both aces; I like Precision a bit better.
Otherwise, please ask away if you do have specific questions! There are a lot of tandem ‘folks on here, and we’re not shy. :)
See you in July.