The Cycle Industry/Chapter 3

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That the tandem form of bicycle is a most fascinating machine few will deny who have had an opportunity of riding one. Compared with the single, however, they are not popular, as for every tandem thousands of singles are to be seen on the roads, and that is caused by the increased handiness of the solo mount and the fact that the double type necessitates the partner always being ready to accompany one on rides. There is also the difficulty of storage, as a tandem bicycle is not the most convenient form of machine to stable in a house, and tandem owners usually find it essential to provide accommodation for the steed in an outhouse.

The earliest practical forms of tandem bicycle began to appear on the roads about 1893, or contemporary with the pneumatic tyre. They were, of course, introduced to permit the use of a bicycle by a lady and gentleman, and all early models were designed for the lady to occupy the front saddle. Among the firms who were pioneers of this type of machine one remembers the Humber, the Singer, the Rudge, the Raleigh, the Whitworth and the Chater Lea.

By placing the lady in front it was thought in those days that she must occupy the place of honour, and the fact that she was likely to receive the first brunt of a collision, not to speak of cold winds, was forgotten. Naturally, the mere male was entrusted with the steering and balancing, and to enable these functions to be controlled from the rear handle-bar the two sets of handles had to be connected by a rod on the off side. This arrangement meant that the front rider had handles to hold but was not expected to do any steering or balancing, or she interfered with her partner’s control of the machine, and by ignoring the instructions might cause a spill at a critical moment.

The early frame designs were rather crude, as might be expected, and consisted of a strengthened dropped front frame attached to a rear quadrilateral terminating in the usual rear fork. The rear rider’s pedal crank axle was connected to the front crank axle by a chain, so that the thrust of each rider’s pedals were communicated to the rear road driven wheel.

The frame described above was weakness itself, and much binding of chains and bearings caused the machine to run rather hard.

It is difficult to say who first introduced the lady back tandem, as the modern type is described, but tandems for two male riders had been in use for a long time before the dropped part of the frame was placed at the rear. I believe the late P. L. Renouf made one of the first lady back tandems, at Humber’s Coventry works, but doubtless others may claim the title of first.

The design of G. P. Mills, when at the Raleigh Co., Nottingham, was regarded as the most scientific type of tandem frame for years, in fact it remains unbeaten to-day. This frame is triangulated from front to rear and can be ridden by two women, wearing skirts, by a man and woman, or two men.

The tandem has got a bad name as a roadster because so many imagine that it requires harder pedalling uphill than a single. I do not agree absolutely with this opinion, and I think it has arisen chiefly because tandem pairs do not practise together sufficiently often to acquire the unity of action that is required to make hill climbing as easy on a double as a single. Also, tandems are often geared too high. On level ground and down hill the tandem scores every time, principally because the surface area offered to the air resistance is but little more than that of a single machine and rider plus the increased propulsion effort of the second rider. Weight also counts down hill. Luggage carrying capacity is said to be reduced to that of a single because there is only the space over the one rear and one front wheel in which to place carriers for two people. This may be an objection, but in my opinion a tandem is an ideal touring bicycle for husband and wife, because the weaker efforts of the lady rider can be compensated to some extent by the more energetic and powerful pedalling of the partner. Strickly speaking, both efforts should be equal, but providing the double power is applied to the cranks evenly and at the correct crank position, there is no retarding effect if one rider exerts more power than the other.

In the case of the modern lady back tandem, the rear handle-bar is a fixture and only the front one is used for steering and balancing in the usual manner.

The increased cost of motoring has had something to do with the recrudescence of the tandem bicycle, as there is evidence of more of these machines being used this year than for some time past.