Meet our groups: 50 years of the Tandem Club

The Tandem Club is the biggest tandem group in the world with over 3,000 members here and overseas. All photos by the Tandem Club
This year, Cycling UK-affiliated group the Tandem Club, whose motto is ‘twice the fun’, celebrates half a century supporting people who ride bikes made for two or more riders. The club’s chair and publicity officer, Peter Weeks, describes how the group functions and what it’s got coming up in 2022

About the Tandem Club

The Tandem Club, founded in 1971, is now the largest tandem club in the world with more than 3,000 members in the UK and overseas. It is the club for all tandemists and would-be tandemists, as well as people who ride tandem tricycles.

Club members sometimes also ride triplets and, occasionally, quads. The club also encourages the use of tandems as a safe and efficient mode of transport, especially for children and the disabled.

How difficult is it to ride a tandem?

If you and your partner have not ridden a tandem together, we strongly suggest trying out one or two and seeing how you get on. The important thing is that you both enjoy it and feel comfortable and safe together.

There is a technique to safe starting and stopping on a tandem which is worth learning. When riding, the important things are communication and the stoker’s trust in the pilot (the stoker is on the back and the pilot rides at the front).

There is nothing in the world of cycling – nothing in the world really – s romantic as a tandem

Peter Weeks

Like solo bikes, tandems come in a range of styles& and sizes. A tandem should suit you both in terms of& sizes (usually expressed as seat tube heights like a solo bike) and lengths (the distances measured horizontally between the stoker and pilot seat tubes, and the pilot seat tube and the head tube). Older tandem designs tend to be shorter at the back.

Is tandem riding good for romantic relationships?

There is nothing in the world of cycling – nothing in the world really – as romantic as a tandem. When we are out, people often smile and wave at the sight of a couple simply enjoying riding together on the same bike as we go past.

In the early days of cycling, long before flash sports cars, tandems had a very racy image and were probably the kind of thing your mother would warn you about – going off in the company of a young man could lead to trouble! In Victorian and Edwardian times, they were looked on as a kind of seduction machine because the two of you could easily escape alone together into the countryside.

But it takes two to tandem. If you enjoy cycling with a partner, then you should definitely try and see if it helps you arrive together. It’s a 50:50 proposition. Ignore all that ‘he/she’s not pedalling on the back’ nonsense. Sharing the load, teamwork, equality, good communication, keeping the other half happy sounds like the recipe for a good relationship.

Why is the club successful?

The aims of the club have changed over time. At first, back in 1971, it was to provide hard-to-find spare parts at a time when tandems were going out of fashion. Competitions and tandem racing soon became popular.

The club expanded into social events and rallies and developed a strong UK regional structure, as well as being a home for visually impaired riders and others who are not able to ride solo bikes.

From having no rides, to restricted numbers on rides, socially distanced rides, and virtual group rides, we have managed to ‘keep going’ throughout the pandemic. In fact, tandem use surged during lockdown and we had a big jump in new members and we are now looking ahead to 2022 with optimism.

How we help people with disabilities

The Tandem Club has a disabilities liaison officer who may be able to help with queries related to disabled people and to visually impaired cyclists. As the interests of members have evolved, so has the club evolved to serve tandemists, whatever they want to do.

When and where most of our rides take place

The club has regional groups all around the UK that arrange local tandem rides, usually monthly. In recent years, we have also taken trips abroad and visited France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, the Channel Islands, Sweden and Denmark.

The type of rides and/or events we offer

  • Regular local group social rides all around the UK
  • Tandem rallies
  • Member-led rides and events

What we offer our members

  • A bi-monthly 48-page magazine on everything to do with tandems, including a spoken-word version for visually impaired members
  • Three rallies a year. Two in the UK and an international rally
  • Local groups for day and weekend group rides
  • For sale and wanted boards
  • A database of GPS and route sheet rides
  • Advice and help on finding, hiring and riding tandems
  • Access to a members’ area of the Tandem Club website with information on:
    • where to purchase a tandem in the UK
    • how to ride a tandem
    • transporting tandems by car
    • transporting tandems by train
    • tools to carry
    • buggies for children
    • carrying kids on tandems
    • Tandem Club shop with some hard-to-get items, including a 50th anniversary snood and socks with tandems on!
    • retailer discounts

You do not have to own a tandem to join. Often people join to find out about these unusual but wonderful bicycles before buying one. An annual subscription for member and partner is just £15 per year.

How we plan to celebrate our 50th year

After having many events cancelled or postponed over the past couple of years, we are really looking forward to celebrating in person in 2022.

We’ll kick off with our Easter rally in the Cotswolds over the weekend of 15-18 April. This will be followed by our national week-long 50th birthday rally on Saturday 28 May to Saturday 4 June, also in the Cotswolds. We’re very excited that we’ll celebrate the birthday with a party and speeches by Cat Dixon and Raz Marsden, who hold the round-the-world ladies’ tandem record!

Finally, all being well, many of us will take part in the International Tandem Rally in north-west Germany from Saturday 30 July to Saturday 6 August 2022.

More about the group

Some regions arrange social activities like evening gatherings and weekend camping trips. It’s largely up to local members to arrange what they want – the club is to some extent a network to enable these kinds of social activities and events by putting local tandemists in touch.

Our membership is over 3,000. Most members seem to use their tandems on a regular basis, judging by reports in our journal and website and our social media presence. Some members use their tandems every day for shopping or the school run. For others, it’s about Land’s End to John o’ Groats or long tandem tours.

Rallies attract 200-300 people. A good, local day ride for a region would be 8-15 tandems.

The club is run by a committee of about 20 people, with some more who look after the website and membership. Then we have about 35 regional officers around the UK and every one is a volunteer.

Members can wear what they like on club rides and events. There is also a club strip.

We welcome anyone interested in tandems. A small but important part of our membership are people for whom a tandem is the only cycle they can ride; for example, visually impaired, limbless, people with balance problems, people who have never learned to ride solo.

What is group the most proud of?

Going from supporting a supposedly obsolete and dying kind of bicycle in the 1970s to a big and growing network of people who enjoy riding tandems with other people around the country and around the world.

On our club website, we have a large and growing database of thousands of tandem-friendly rides around the UK and overseas.

Three words that describe the Tandem Club

Friendly, enthusiastic, social.

Get involved

Cycling UK currently has volunteer opportunities for tandem pilots in England and Scotland – you do not need to be an experienced tandemist to undertake these roles but you do need to be a confident cyclist.

Tell us about your group and you could feature in Meet our groups too.