A tandem bike lets two riders of different abilities cycle together and this means nobody gets left behind. But are there other benefits of a tandem bike vs single bike?
Knowing what makes a tandem different to a single bike can make it easier to decide if it is the right fit for your family.
A tandem bicycle is efficient and lets riders stick together. There are several differences between a tandem bike and single bike including cost, speed, and difficulty of riding.
The differences in how a tandem works compared to a single bike is only part of the story. There are price differences, and challenges unique to tandem riding that you can avoid with a single bike.
This guide takes a closer look at tandem bike vs single bikes, so you can see what benefits and concerns come with each. More than size matters when it comes to the right set of wheels.
To see all of my up-to-date recommendations for bikes and cycling gear, check out this resource that I made for you!
Table of Contents
How Do Tandem Bikes Work vs Single
When the whole family wants to go for a ride, you can double up with tandem bikes or get a bike for everyone.
There are important differences between the two styles of bikes. Depending on what you are looking for, one style may be a better fit than the other.
Tandem bikes are different from single bikes in several ways.
Not only are they longer and have two seats instead of one, but they are more expensive and a little more challenging to ride.
There has to be coordination between the two cyclists on a tandem in order to get forward momentum.
The shape, weight, and aerodynamics of a tandem are also very different to a single bike.
How Long Is A Tandem Bike vs Single
The length of a tandem bike can vary in the same way as the length of single bikes. On average a tandem bike will have a total length of between 7 and 8 ½ feet.
This measurement goes from the front of the front wheel to the back of the rear wheel.
On average a single bike will have a length between 5 and 6 feet, using the same wheel-to-wheel measurement.
The difference of a one or two feet accommodates the additional frame space needed for another pair of handlebars and a second seat.
Aerodynamics of Tandem Bike vs Single
Air resistance is the number one factor affecting speed on any bike. With a tandem there is 50% less wind resistance, then if you had two single bikes pedaling along.
Additional power is needed to overcome the wind resistance though and tandem riders use 20% less power than two separate cyclists on their own bikes.
So long as the two riders are cycling together at similar rates, the power generated can easily overcome the wind resistance.
On a tandem, the two riders in a line are more aerodynamic than two single riders.
And this means a tandem team riding on a flat road will need to create almost 50% more power than one person powering a single bike.
Most tandem teams can achieve this when working together so they can ride faster with less effort over longer distances as compared to a single rider.
Is It Easier To Ride A Tandem Bike or Single
It is not difficult to ride a tandem bike. What matters more is that there are a few things to know to make sure both riders cycle together to keep the tandem moving forward.
The cyclist in front is typically referred to as the captain while the second rider is the stoker. These roles need to be clarified before riding a tandem.
There needs to be constant and clear communication between the two riders to efficiently pedal and keep the tandem from falling over.
Obviously, with a single bike, the rider only needs to worry about themselves.
With communication and a clear understanding of captain and stoker roles and directions, riding a tandem is not hard.
Are Tandem Bikes More Dangerous Than Single
Tandem bikes are longer and weigh more. Being heavier and more cumbersome can make them a danger, for those that are not paying attention.
The risk of the bike falling is also greater if the two riders are not in sync.
Getting on and off the bike has to be done in a specific order to prevent the bike from falling.
It is also more difficult to get these heavier bikes uphill and this too can be dangerous if the riders are not communicating and working together.
What Is The Best Seat Height For Tandem Bike vs Single
In general, the ideal height of a bike seat will depend on the rider and not the bike. This means for a tandem or a single bike, the height seat will fit the person.
A seat that is too low puts too much pressure on the knees, and too high rocks the hips causing chaffing.
The general rule for placing the seat to an appropriate height follows these directions:
- Sit on the bike with your feet on the pedals.
- Place your heel on the pedal and pedal backwards to reach the six o’clock position.
- Your knee should be completely straight.
- If your knee is bent, you need to raise the height.
- If you can’t reach the pedal with your heel then you need to lower the seat. Make any adjustments in small increments each time
Cost of Tandem Bike vs Single
Most would think that because there are twice as many seats on a tandem, the price will be twice as much as a single bike.
The reality in most cases is that they can be 3 or 4 times as much.
For a high-quality tandem bike, you can pay between $1,500 and $7,000. When you pay a higher price tag you can expect to get great features and a reliable tandem, so for the most part it works as a great investment.
The additional pricing for a tandem comes from the longer frame, extra seat, pedals, bars and the additional chain and crankset.
These components cost money to make and so you see the price in the final product.
There are also specialist parts on a tandem that account for the increased price such as tougher hubs and highly adjustable rear stems that can better cope with the additional weight and force.
The Schwinn Twinn Classic Tandem Adult Beach Cruiser is one of the better tandem bikes I would recommend as it is one of the sturdiest on the market.
Made with an aluminum frame that withstands a lot of weight, you also get an extra-low setting of the rear bar and ergonomic grips on both handlebars.
Schwinn is a name you can trust offering complete control suspension and mechanical disc brakes that guarantee a comfortable ride and instant stopping.
- Preassembled tandem bike on delivery
- 21-speed EZ fire trigger shifters
- 5-year warranty
- Aluminum frame
- Plush fitness saddles
- Only comes in silver
The Road Bike LZ-550 is a premium single bike that is worth investing in.
This great bike comes with a durable fork and frame made of high-grade steel, iron-racing handlebars, and an ergonomic seat post design for lower back support.
One of the top features of this bike is the 21-speed Shimano A050 gear and TX-30 shifters to give you the smoothest and quickest ride every time.
You can also count on increased efficiency from the 7-speed KMC chain and dual brakes that help you handle adverse weather conditions.
- Superior speed on different terrains
- Calipers along with disc brakes
- High-grade steel made durable a frame
- Extra-wide tires
- Stunning three-spoke rims
- Highly comfortable saddle
- It cannot withstand wet conditions well
- May get rusty over time, requiring high maintenance
- Tough to assemble
Tandem Bike Speed vs Single
A tandem bike is definitely the most efficient family bike. Two adults can go faster thanks to the double pedaling power.
The overall weight is not double though. While a tandem will weigh more than a single bike, the combined weight of two single bikes and riders will be heavier than two adults on a tandem.
So you get more power and speed overall.
There is a big advantage for speed with a tandem bike, even with an adult and child riding.
Tandems will not go up hills as quickly as solo bikes for the most part, but this can be achieved if both riders manage to pedal out of the saddle in perfect unison.
Are Tandem Bikes Faster Than Single
Tandem bikes definitely have the capability to be faster than single bikes. Mainly because of the increased power output of two cyclists.
Tandem bikes also have lighter frames, despite there being a longer frame. With two people pedaling, a tandem bike will have twice the get up and go.
Two cyclists on their own individual bikes cannot achieve the same level of efficiency even if they manage to draft with each other.
They are not able to share the workload so will not create as much power or speed. Of course, the speed on a tandem is heavily reliant on the two cyclists being in sync.
Is Riding A Tandem Bike More Efficient Than Single
There is greater efficiency with tandem riding because the workload is shared. Cyclists of the same athletic levels will produce more power on a tandem as a result of splitting the work.
Wind resistance also plays a part in the overall efficiency. While power increases for tandem riding, resistance stays the same.
The second rider faces less wind resistance, so overall it will be the same as a single rider on their own bike.
A second tandem rider will be drafting behind the person in front, providing better pedaling efficiency.
Why Is Climbing Hills Slower on Tandem Bike vs Single
Climbing a hill gets harder no matter which bike you are on. The main difference with a tandem is that both riders need to work together.
Both of you have to ride at the same rate and cadence, and this needs to match the strongest rider of the two.
Many tandem riders struggle to master the two-person coordination that is needed to get uphill easier.
The key things to remember for going uphill on a tandem include:
- Coordination: Both captain and stoker need to pedal at the same speed and position. One cannot be standing while the other sits
- Power-to-weight ratio: Lighter riders will be able to achieve more speed uphill.
- Lack of aerodynamic advantage: All coordination is compensated for on the flat by the aerodynamic advantage tandem bikes have. But air resistance is negligible on a climb and you also have to deal with greater rolling resistance with a tandem that can slow the bike down.
With these factors in place, tandem riders with average fitness levels and skills can travel much faster and more efficiently that one person on a single bike.
Even when the terrain changes, the momentum of a tandem team is powerful and doesn’t work against the team.
How To Transport A Tandem Bike vs Single
A single bike can be transported by car using a roof rack or a bike rack that attaches to the back of the car.
Transporting a tandem bicycle by car is always a little more difficult because of their longer size.
Some larger SUVs or trucks with beds may accommodate both tandem and single bikes. If not, a rack will be needed for both types.
There are also specific tandem bike racks that you can purchase or additions to standard bike racks to help transport your tandem.
The YAKIMA – SideWinder Fork Mount Tandem Bike Carrier from Amazon is a great solution for transporting a tandem bike.
It is specifically designed for tandems and can easily hold one weighing up to 50 pounds.
This addition easily attaches to a roof rack, to accommodate your tandem. This specific mount is designed to fit most cars, including hatchbacks and is easy to load with a swing out arm.
If you already have a bike rack for other bikes, this is the mount to get to accommodate your new tandem.
3 Person Tandem Bike vs Single
For the same reasons that a 2-person tandem will be challenging to rise, so will a 3-person version.
There is more weight to the bike as you now accommodate 3 people complete with seats, pedals, and handlebars for each.
However, the extra person adds extra power. The overall power needed to propel the bike is now divided between three people.
This means each has to do less to get the bike to achieve the same momentum as one person on a single bike.
The extra seat comes with an extra cost and extra weight, but the factors that benefit tandem riders are also now tripled.
The most difficult part of riding a 3-person tandem is that you now have to coordinate the movements of all three people.
This can be challenging for two riders and is even more difficult with three. If you can get all riders to work together in unison at uniform power and cadence, a 3-person tandem will be a powerful machine on the road.
Helpful Tips To Know If You Should Purchase A Tandem Bike or Single Bikes
When you are trying to decide whether to buy a tandem or single bikes for the family, there are several things to consider.
This guide is here to help answer your questions but before you buy, keep these helpful tips in mind.
- Riding is more efficient with a tandem
- Tandem bikes are great for giving kids experience
- It is easier to communicate with another rider on a tandem
- Make sure you have the right rack and adapters to transport a tandem
Cycling is good for the body and the soul. Whether you want to enjoy the coast or ride through the countryside, it is more fun to cycle with family and friends.
Having a tandem is a fun and efficient way to travel together. Despite the extra cost, riding a tandem comes with important benefits for serious and casual cyclists.
Having a single bike has advantages too, but when it comes to overall investment and value for money regarding tandem bikes vs a single bike, the right bike will be the one that keeps you moving in the right direction.
Depending on what you need, be it speed, efficiency, power, or fun family time, it is worth considering a tandem.