Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 09:32:18 -0700 (PDT)
From: Paul Meixner <>
Subject: [T@H] Triplet and longer considerations - I

Things to consider when purchasing a 3 or more seat

1. This is a luxury and/or novelty item. Tandem
dealers sell, and tandem builders construct,
relatively few of these each year. Many are used only
a few times per year, such as for charity rides. Many
are sold within a few years, generally with less than
a few hundred miles.

2. Number of seats. Identify how many riders will you
have on an on-going basis. If you are planning on
riding with your spouse and children, consider the
possibility that they may not be enthusiasts. If you
try to ensure a seat for all, would you use the bike
if you were down one or more riders? If you are still
of child-bearing age or considering adoption, are you
sure that your family size can't increase?

3. Why not two tandems instead. Two tandems are often
cheaper than a longer bike, but using two tandems may
not be an option in all cases. Is your spouse or
partner a reluctant captain? Does a physical
challenge prevent them from being a captain? Then a
longer bike may be your best bet.

4. Frame material. Steel and aluminum are the most
common, titanium has been done, and rumor has it that
a carbon triplet is in the works. The same pros and
cons that exist for two seaters also exist for longer

5. Frame size. It must fit the captain well. The
captain will tire more quickly muscling the big bike
around, and also will make corrections for any
wiggling that goes on back aft. Consider where adult
stoker will be located, or will you size the bike for
adults at all positions? If you are sizing for your
kids, will it still be appropriately sized five years
down the road? If you need a truly custom size, how
much extra will it cost ­ and will you be able to
resell it readily? Looong top tubes are recognized by
many as a very good thing.

6. Captain's controls. Upright (mountain) or drop
(road) bars are offered. Upright bars offer somewhat
better leverage, while drop bars offer more hand
positions. STI can work on these long bikes, though
many recommend only bar cons.

7. Fork. Reinforced forks may be desirable, depending
upon maximum team weight. It may be the case that
certain carbon forks may be usable ­ check the
manufacturers recommendations! Suspension forks may
also be on option.

8. Wheels size. All other things being equal, 26-inch
wheels are stronger than 700c. The greater the team
weight, the more likely you should go with 26-inch
wheels. 48 spokes, with butted spokes at least for
the rear, are essential. Aerospoke wheels may be an
option for some teams, not sure about weight rating.

9. Hubs. I have no idea what hubs are up to the task.

10. Rims. This is not an area to seek weight savings.
Consider a wide, sturdy rim, one that is compatible
with wider tire widths.


Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 09:49:01 -0700 (PDT)
From: Paul Meixner <>
Subject: [T@H] Triplet and longer purchase considerations - II

11. Tires. The guidelines that apply to tandem tires
are especially critical here. With increasing team
weight, wider tires should be employed. Tires from
32-50mm (1.25-2.0 inches) might be best. Tire
construction is also a factor. Under high loads, some
tires wear prematurely at the bead. Consider tires
rated as acceptable for tandems. See IRC Tandem, IRC
Metro, Avocet FasGrip Duro K, Panaracer Pasela, Avocet
Cross, etc. Tires should be inflated to a quite high
pressure (120 psi +/-, see your dealer for

12. Brakes. Consider an Arai brake to be mandatory.
Strong rim brakes are a must, stay away from overly
light systems.

13. Gearing and phasing. An extra long bike might
need a somewhat lower granny, depending upon
power/weight ratios of team members. An extra long
bike can scream on the flats and especially down hill,
depending upon power and weight, moderated by captain
skill level and stoker trust. Out of phase may help
smooth power delivery, but may increase the risks of
pedal strike over things like speed bumps.

14. Builder. Each builder has a different style and
philosophy. Do some research and speak with the
builders ­ they will likely be quite eager to satisfy
your needs. Santana has the most experience, has
build up through hex (six-seater), and they claim to
have standard sizes in stock. Co-Motion and Meridian
both have significant experience and offer up through
quads. Bushnell and Bilenky offer triplets. Bike
Friday offers a number of variations of a triplet, all
of which convert to tandems.

15. Dealer or factory direct. Advise going through a
dealer, though you should feel free to consult with
dealer and with builder to ensure your needs are
understood and met. Dealer may have more use-history
than the manufacturer. You may also want to establish
relationship with dealer to ensure good service during
the life of the bicycle. May be less of a factor if
you are highly experienced with bike design and
mechanics. Some dealers may have no or limited
experience with longer bikes.

16. S&S couplers. Useful to adjust length of bike for
number of riders, for transport, and for storage.
Adds cost, complexity, and time to assemble and
disassemble. See also Bike Friday for pack-able

17. Transport. Triplets and greater are more
difficult to transport. Remember, not all good rides
start at the end of your driveway. How are you going
to move the beast to rides that start 60 miles away?
600 miles? 6000 miles? A triplet fits in most
minivans if you remove the front wheel, just roll it
backwards up the center aisle. Full size vans can
swallow larger vehicles. ATOC does make roof mounted
system for up through quads, though up through
triplets are listed on their web site. Enclosed or
flat bed trailers are also common options. Be sure
that the trailer is acceptable for the relatively
light weight of your bike.

18. Storage. Where are you going to put your monster
when you are not riding it ­ the living room? Chances
are excellent that it is too long to hang vertically
in the garage, even with the front wheel removed. Can
lean it against a wall, hang it from its top tube
using two or more "standard" bike racks, or hang it
upside down from its wheels using J-hooks securely
mounted to the rafters. You may also want to devise a
multiple pulley system to hoist it up to the ceiling.

19. Paint. Have fun with this. The up-charge for
custom paint is quite small in comparison with the
total cost.

20. Electronics. Captain should strongly consider a
Flight Deck computer if for no other purpose than to
determine what gear you are in. Rigging three or more
computers is possible and often desirable. Choose
models that either have extra long wires or heavier
wires that are easier to solder/join. Consider tandem
talk device for communication among team members.
Being heard by the entire team at speed may be
difficult. Ear phones (ear buds?) for kids may be
tougher to find.


Date: Thu, 22 May 2003 09:49:49 -0700 (PDT)
From: Paul Meixner <>
Subject: [T@H] Triplet and longer purchase considerations - III


21. Cost and resale. It is tough to justify the large
expense. But if you have ridding a longer bike, and
have caught the fever, you probably won't regret the
choice. Are you truly worried about resale value, or
are you hoping to keep this bike as close to forever
as you can manage?

22. Maintenance. Costs will be higher than for a
tandem. The drive train simply has more moving parts,
and the parts are more highly stressed. Most other
parts will also see greater wear and tear.

23. The circus has come to town. If you think a
tandem attracts attention, just try to blend in while
on a triplet or longer bike. Your kids will think
they are constantly in a parade, waving to passersby.
If you don't want to speak with curious and smiling
strangers, don't get a long bike.

I hope this helps with some of the issues you'll be
confronting. I am a non-expert, as we only have about
50 miles on our triplet. But I have tried to gather
ideas and opinions from a variety of sources.

Keep the shiny side (with lots of smiles) up!

Paul Meixner