Thanks for your insight into the British tandems. Here is the little I know about the "other" French makes:
Desvages: 1920s, did a lot of promotion of tandeming, rode PBP ahead of the race in 1921. Suspension forks. Anybody know of a survivor? Pitard: Late 1920s through 1950s. Rode PBP 3 times (1931, 1948, 1951) with his wife. Anybody know of a survivor? Nicola Barra: 1930s-ca. 1950 (see history in Cycle History 12 by van der Plas/Cycle History). Oversize aluminum, also steel. Experimented with the twin top tubes that were popularized by Hurtu. Aluminum frames seem to have broken once in a while. Hurtu: 1930s-1940s. Series-production, "total triangulation" with twin top tubes, twin seat tubes and sometimes even twin down tubes, apart from the weird design high quality machines. A friend has one and has ridden it a few 100 km. He says it rides OK. His bike will be in the next VBQ. Narcisse: Extremely modern-looking tandems in the late 1930s already. A wonderful example in the next VBQ. Switched to series-production in the late 1940s. Reyhand: 1930s (died in WW II). I know of one tandem. Very nice, but not as advanced as the above Narcisse. Will be in next VBQ. Chaplait: They won the Poly de Chanteloup hillclimb race five or six years in a row in the 1940s. Never seen one of the tandems. From the Rebour drawings, they don't look all that sophisticated, for example, the timing chain is tensioned with a tensioner, so there is no BB eccentric. (Of course, that could be a special solution for the race.) Hugonnier-Routens and Jo Routens: 1940s-1960s. Won PBP outright 3 times in a row (1948, 1951, 1956). Doesn't seem to have made many tandems, though. I know of only one. Oversize tubing, twin triangulation, well-built. It's my size in the front, but a 46 in the rear. I'll be able to ride it when Leander is old enough. Give me a few years! Will be in the next VBQ. C.I.M and Marcadier: 1940s-50s. Oversize aluminum. Will be in next VBQ Alex Singer: 1939-1980s. Oversize tubing, twin, single laterals and open frames. One will be in next VBQ Herse: 1940s-1970s. Oversize tubing, twin laterals or open frames. One will be in next VBQ. Goeland: 1930s-1960s (?). Once again, only one tandem known. Was on E-Bay recently. Looked pretty cool. Follis: Starting in 1970s, Follis went from semi-mass production to custom bikes. The tandems built after that seem like competent machines. Still building.
And about Taylor: I like them because they got the geometry right: The tandem isn't influenced by stoker movement. This is explained nicely in Tony Oliver's "Touring Bikes," and my main criticism of modern tandems, which veer off course each time the stoker reaches for a waterbottle. The Taylors handle fine, more flexible than a twin lateral Herse, but never of concern, even one I have with a very large frame (65/63 cm), and which I ride with a very strong stoker. One of the Taylors holds our mtn. 100k brevet record, and there are many twisty descent and steep hills (up to 18%) on this one, which would highlight flaws in the ride and handling immediately.
The quality is indeed marginal - I have the hardest time to keep the BB eccentric from turning, the stoker stem clamp anything but round, and other things, too, make them less than optimal to work on. The second downtube of the double diamond doesn't seem to do much - the tandems are about as stiff as the open-frame Herse. Both appear to be from similar tubing (Reynolds OS 531). The Taylors are about 5 lbs. heavier, mostly because the fork steerer tube is very thick and heavy (OD for OS headset, ID for standard stem). The French often used a tapering steerer tube with thicker wall thickness and OS headset at the bottom, tapering to standard wall thickness and standard HS at the top. Tandem forks tend to break at the crown, so both are very useful solutions.
Mercian: A friend has a 1993 or 94 model, which is well-built, but the geometry is such that stoker movements affect it greatly.
I would like to start a register with people's experience of various makes of performance tandems. Here is mine, please submit your experience OFFLIST in a similar format. Then we'll know what works and what doesn't.
Make/Year Frame configuration Miles ridden Impression Recommended? Herse 1948 OS Twin lateral 1500 Great handling/stiffness Yes Herse 1957 OS Open 110 Great handling, OK stiff Yes Davidson 1980s OS Modern direct lateral 400 OK handling, Exc. stiffness Yes Jack Taylor 1984 OS Double diamond 900 Great handling, OK stiff Yes Jack Taylor 1984 OS Double diamond, 65/63 cm frame 800 Great handling, OK stiff Yes Rodriguez 1980s OS Modern direct lateral 700 Poor handling, Exc. stiff No Mercian 1993/94 OS Marathon 1000 Poor handling, OK stiff No
Also ridden off-topic 1980s Cannondale (1500 mi/poor handling, not recomm.), 1990s Trek (30 miles, extremely poor handling), 1980s alumin. Rodriguez (50 miles, poor handling, not recomm.), 1996 Co-Motion (35 miles, poor handling).
Explanation of frame configurations: Modern direct lateral: Fat tube inside plane of frame from headset to rear BB. Marathon: As above, but tube ends in middle of rear seat tube, extra set of stays from there to rear dropouts. Twin lateral: Two sets of thin stays, from headset to rear BB and from front seat cluster to rear dropouts. Should be spread as far as possible on rear BB to give triangulation. Single lateral: As above, only one set of stays. Specify which. (Popular on Pitard and A. Singer tandems) "Grande triangulation": Single set of laterals all the way from headset to rear dropouts. Seen a 1940s Singer with that. Open frame: No extra bracing. Double diamond: As open frame, but with extra second downtube on rear. OS: Oversize tubing
Jan Heine, Seattle
Vintage Bicycle Quarterly
It has been fascinating reading all the nitty gritty about the devlopment of tandems and the various frame configurations. I've had a few over the years, mainly twin-lats, mainly built by one of the larger production hand-builders such as orbit in the UK although I have had a couple of early 1940s curved seat tube Claud Butlers. The twin lts - all tourers were very twitchy, the Claudes very stable, and great downhill. I have also built a few tandems under The Bespoke Bicycle brand and as the name suggests these have been one offs built very much with purpose in mind - in all cases for time-trialling where rigidity and short wheelbase were of prime importance. The double marathon design was employed except for curved seat-tube models where I preferred the single marathon. Oddly I never rode one of them myself but not having received complaints I assumed that they rode well.
Having used all these tubes to stiffen the frames I often wondered how twitchy Jack Taylors open frame designs were, and how much they flexed. Clearly the Taylor Bros frames are held in very high esteem in the States and some of you have probably visited their old workshop, but I just wondered if any copies of a woderful video about the Taylors ever crossed the Atlantic. The video was made by the Open University -one of the most successful educational ventures ever set up by a Labour government - and was shown during the Engineering Studies course on TV. What an eye-opener that video was. For those of you who have not seen it I will keep my powder dry.. for the moment.
None of the emails seem have have considered the merits of Mercian or the late George Longstaff or Chas Roberts in London. Over here he enjoys a superb reputation... and what about Routens and Cazenhave and Chaplait in France?
Norris Lockley .. surveying my last three tandems .. a Rencsh twin-lat curved seat-tube, a Higgins curved seat-tube ( very unusual) and a racing Claud Butler, possibly early 50s with over size tubing. superb bronze-welding, massive head-tube, and curved seat-tube.. and just wondering why I bought them when they are all TOO BIG.. but beautiful.