Tandem Electric Bike Suggestions?

CrankyGoat

New Member
Hi folks, my wife was recently diagnosed with a significant autoimmune disorder (a severe type of arthritis). At age 45 she has transitioned from a healthy, active marathon runner to being home bound and tired after a mere 5 km hike!

We wish to still travel, explore and enjoy life ... so want to explore the world of electric bikes. In particular, for her safety, I'm thinking a high end tandem electric bike for touring purposes would be the way to go.

It's my wife and partner in life, so I'm not going to be finicky with cost - just want quality, durability and reliability. Any suggestions as to where I should start looking? Or will I need to explore a custom bike? If so, any suggestions as to who may be most experienced in designing / building a tandem electric bike?

Thanks - your kind consideration is most appreciated.
 

Bud Baker

Member
Perhaps a Bionix kit or a Bafang 8Fun mid drive. These are easily added to a a regular bike in various options and I would think a tandem would need a fair amount of torque. However the front rider or captain would have the motor control for braking and shifting. Then there is the chain timing issue so perhaps a hub motor would be the better option over a mid drive. Would a test drive on a townie style flat foot low bar perhaps be an option for your wife? Do look at some of the reviews from Court. I will say there are many of us with various disabilities who have found new life on the upright riding style ebikes. There is also an interesting side by side ELV that may work for you. Again see Court"s review. Cheers, Bud
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
Bud, thank you very much for your reply - the Pedego bike looks very promising as an option if a tandem proves unsuitable. My one concern with the trike is width of exposure on the highways, may sound silly but I've seen too many 'close calls' from shitty drivers that I'm leary of a trike design, despite how versatile it seems.

Here on Vancouver Island we have a few custom bike manufacturers who I plan to approach with this - as I likely will need a custom bike. The most promising one is Naked Bikes on Quadra Island as I believe they have experience with both tandem bikes and electric bikes: http://nakedbicycles.com/

My hope is a tandem design that is comfortable for my wife for moderate to long rides; light enough that I can comfortably 'carry the load' when she is unable to - which may be often, but at least she can get outside and enjoy the ride with me; and versatile to do light touring with. I always admired internal hubs and I'd love a Rohloff hub system combined with a Bionix kit or something similar; if I go custom, I'd be willing to explore the idea of a Rohloff Hub combined with a carbon belt drive - very durable combination but not sure how suitable that would be for a tandem design. Thoughts?
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
Court - if it works for my wife and I can find a good tandem design ... it would be a lifestyle that I wholeheartedly embrace, including the need to learn basic bike mechanics. Fortunately we have a bike co-op here in Nanaimo, BC that have some excellent bike mechanics who are willing to teach and provide access to their workshop.
 

JRA

Well-Known Member
It could be as simple as buying a tandem that fits you both and will suit the terrain you want to ride and fitting a Bafang BBS02 mid drive style motor system as the Captains crankset. You wouldn't be able to use a BionX type rear hub motor with a Rohloff IGH but with a mid drive you could. In order to run a belt there needs to be a way for the rear triangle to split to be able to install it so that would be a custom deal for sure. It looks like the Naked folks are belt savvy so they should be able to answer that for you.

A popular hardtail tandem is the Ventana Fandango and they also make FS models. Either would work as a mid drive. Another option is the Davinci tandem which has style of drivetrain that allows for independent pedaling. In other words on a conventional tandem the cranks are in sync and when one person is pedaling you both are although you can be inputting different wattage. With the Davinci there is a freewheel mechanism that separates the cranks so that one can pedal and the other can choose not to at any time. I had a tandem built with this system years ago and it worked quite well. It would only work with a rear hub style motor though so no Rohloff.

Whatever way you go I would suggest at least a 750-1000w system as it will be supporting a heavy bike and two riders.

If money is not an object and you want what you want getting someone like Naked to build your bike is probably the best way to go. Nothing wrong with supporting the local economy either eh? Not that CR is all that close to Nanaimo! I have been up the Georgia Straights many times and it takes awhile.....
 

flymeaway

Well-Known Member
Court - if it works for my wife and I can find a good tandem design ... it would be a lifestyle that I wholeheartedly embrace, including the need to learn basic bike mechanics. Fortunately we have a bike co-op here in Nanaimo, BC that have some excellent bike mechanics who are willing to teach and provide access to their workshop.

I've converted a Cannondale MT1000 using a Bafang 48V 750W mid-drive

can be viewed here http://electricbikereview.com/community/threads/e-mt1000-750w-mid-drive-project.611/

I have also converted two Motobecane cafe' bikes; one with a Bafang 36V 500W mid-drive

can be viewed here http://electricbikereview.com/commu...a-motobecane-elite-adventure-500w-bbs-02.546/

and the other Motobecane I used MAC 500W geared rear hub 36V with Grin's Cycle Analyst and Infineon controller

can be viewed here http://electricbikereview.com/community/threads/mac-500w-8t-conversion.1224/

So if you think you might want to convert an existing tandem I can give you some advice...but if cost isn't a factor and you're will to pay a shop to turnout a great ebike tandem I'd opt for that option. I'm assuming $5,000-$8,000 would give you a very nice finished product.

Court J.
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
Another option is the Davinci tandem which has style of drivetrain that allows for independent pedaling. In other words on a conventional tandem the cranks are in sync and when one person is pedaling you both are although you can be inputting different wattage. With the Davinci there is a freewheel mechanism that separates the cranks so that one can pedal and the other can choose not to at any time. I had a tandem built with this system years ago and it worked quite well. It would only work with a rear hub style motor though so no Rohloff.

Whatever way you go I would suggest at least a 750-1000w system as it will be supporting a heavy bike and two riders.

Thanks for the info - particularly about the Davinci style freewheel mechanism - THAT would be essential for my wife's health condition, somedays she does great and can really work her leg muscles, some does she suffers from rapid fatigue ... the freewheel mechanism would be ideal for allowing her the ability to 'adjust according to her needs'. Looks like the Pedego bikes typically use a rear hub style motor (particularly on their tandem bike) and it sounds like a good compromise for the feature benefits. The local bike company on Quadra Island also works with titanium frames, may be worth the money to get the weight drop without compromising frame strength...
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
So if you think you might want to convert an existing tandem I can give you some advice...but if cost isn't a factor and you're will to pay a shop to turnout a great ebike tandem I'd opt for that option. I'm assuming $5,000-$8,000 would give you a very nice finished product.

Court J.

Thank you very much - I'm going to explore with the local bike company and see what a custom bike would cost me and go from there. If that becomes too exorbitant for the features I'm looking for, then I would certainly explore converting an existing tandem and, if you don't mind, will pick your brain for some advice. As I had mentioned, we have a great bike co-operative here in Nanaimo and they would be receptive to a joint project - so I would have lots of help with a conversion.
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
You guys are awesome - can not thank you enough for the supportive advice, the electric bike world is a very cool world ... I have a LOT to learn, and very much looking forward to it.
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
I stumbled upon this bike and would love opinions from any experienced tandem bike user - this appears to have some significant benefits for my particular needs:
http://cyclingabout.com/hase-pino-tandem-info-from-long-distance-tourers/

 

JRA

Well-Known Member
That design seems like a good one in that the seating arrangement should be more comfortable for your wife and it has the independent drive system also. Reading through that blog it seems like there are some longevity issues with the frame failing at the junction where the bike folds, which is a nice feature btw, but it looks like the folks that are breaking them are using them for some pretty strenuous touring.

As far as electrifying one I would suggest thinking about using a front motor system. With the battery either in the rear frame triangle or on the rack. Weight distribution is always a consideration for bikes and that may balance better? Just a thought. You still could use a Rohloff hub too but not with a belt drive as there is no split in the rearend.

As far as a Ti tandem goes I would not say it is necessary. The tandem I built up as I mentioned was Ti and it was pretty noodly. I think that Aluminum is probably the best for a tandem frame and steel is fine for a custom frame if a builder can't do Aluminum. Both are strong and light enough. Ti will just add cost that will be better spent on your build and electronics in the end.
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
As far as a Ti tandem goes I would not say it is necessary. The tandem I built up as I mentioned was Ti and it was pretty noodly. I think that Aluminum is probably the best for a tandem frame and steel is fine for a custom frame if a builder can't do Aluminum. Both are strong and light enough. Ti will just add cost that will be better spent on your build and electronics in the end.

Thanks for that advice, especially about Ti vs. aluminum vs. steel - the bike designer / manufacturer I'm hoping to work with has experience with all three frame options and I really like what he does with stainless steel. I showed my wife this recumbent tandem and she 'totally gets' the benefit of the seating configuration -- nice to see her excited about possibly getting 'back out there' after being essentially housebound these past few months ... she could exercise, or not, easily with this style and still enjoy getting out and about :)
 

Bud Baker

Member
Azib makes a very nice tandem which I would think could be converted to an electric recumbent quite easily. they can be prone to tip over at slow speeds so maybe not the best option with your bride as stoker. I will say you might be better off with a trike recumbent and I have even seen side by side bikes though perhaps a road hog. This photo is a custom.
viking_recumbent_tandem_tadpole_trike_5.jpg
viking_recumbent_tandem_tadpole_trike_5.jpg
 

CrankyGoat

New Member
Yes the trike definitely has it's appeal and stability advantages - but the 'road hog' issue is significant and the additional challenge of easy transport and overall weight ratio often arises as well. I would love to see any examples of a 'semi-recumbent' tandem trike - if anyone knows of one, please send the link or a picture ... hungry for ideas and this indeed sounds intriguing.

No easy answers, but I have been researching more into the 'semi-recumbent tandems' (their term, not mine) and there are at least five active manufacturers out there {the two big ones are Has Pino and Bilenky Bikes) and the folks who use these bikes vary greatly but all seem to love them for the significant advantages a 'semi-recumbent' tandem offers them, while acknowledge there is always compromise. Over the last twenty years there have been a handful of custom manufacturers attempting their own variation of the 'semi-recumbent' tandem but the consistent problem seems to be very low market volume / demand ... so the option of a 'one up' custom design comes into play. Which leads me back to the need to find a local custom bike designer / manufacturer to make one specific for my needs AND truly make it an electric bike (not just an afterthought option) that can be suitable for light / moderate touring capabilities.

An interesting tidbit, at least so far, is that the cost factor for a single custom 'semi-recumbent' tandem e-bike may NOT be significantly more than if I was purchasing two moderate-high quality single rider e-bikes ... makes it a bit more palatable to explore this option for my wife and I. The other very significant benefit of the compact 'semi-recumbent' tandem is that it appears universally acknowledged by their users that it generally handles well with a single rider AND, when designed well, makes an excellent single rider cargo bike ... another bonus for me trying to justify cost vs. use.

All in all, looks like I will be headed toward a custom designed semi-recumbent tandem electric bike - the very good news is that I have a lot of good resources in my region to access, not just well respected bike designers, but experienced e-bike users and bike mechanics as well ... it is a small, close knit community of which I 'm getting the impression are more than happy to help me out with this project.
 

JimDDD

New Member
Sorry for the late posting. I just came across the thread.

My wife and I own a Bike Friday folding tandem which was custom-made to fit our size and weight. Our bike, which we dearly love, was not particularly expensive by tandem standards, about 4k.

Bike Friday has recently begun building folding ebikes using the Bionx kit. You may want to give them a call, since they actually specialize in building custom bikes to meet special needs. They are not too far from you (Oregon), so you also might be able to visit.

Having a folding tandem is awesome. My wife really appreciates the low step over height and easier launch. In 2-3 minutes, I can put it into the back of our Honda Fit and take it anywhere we want to go. In your situation, a tandem which is easy to transport may be a big benefit. That way you can easily drive to the beginning of shorter but still spectacular rides.

You might also be able to easily use one of the e-trailers attached to a standard tandem. With the long wheel base, the tandem would likely be exceptionally stable. Never tried it myself, but it might work well.

Good luck!