At Midwest Bike & Tandem
When Joel Hakken and his wife, Wendy, went bicycling together, she used to complain that he rode too fast. So he figured a tandem bike would solve the problem. The two sets of pedals are synchronized, so both riders have to pedal at the same speed.
That's the theory, anyway. Joel says they'll be riding along on their bicycle built for two, and he'll start to feel tired. "I'll say, 'Are you really working back there?' And she'll say, 'I was about to ask the same about you.'"
Though tandems didn't guarantee domestic bliss, they became a passion for Joel. The rangy fifty-five-year-old, a former professional photographer, launched Midwest Bike & Tandem last September inside the Ride Boutique on North Main. When Ride Boutique closed last winter, Hakken found a space in Plymouth Road's Courtyard Shops. He opened there this spring.
The store sells regular bikes but specializes in multi-seat models. According to Hakken, tandem is a generic term for any bike with more than one seat. Technically a three-seater is called a triple, four seats is a quad, five a quint, and six a hex. Quads are the biggest tandems Hakken stocks, but he can special-order bigger ones.
The store carries more than a dozen tandem models, plus a full line of biking gear, including extra-long bike racks to carry tandems on the roof of your car.
Despite their somewhat ungainly appearance, tandems are faster than most single-seaters. "You've got twice the power with two riders, but the wind resistance is the same as it would be for one rider," Hakken says. Going downhill is even faster because of the extra weight of the bike and riders. Hakken says he once rode a quad downhill and hit fifty-seven miles an hour.
While everybody pedals, it's the driver up front who normally steers, shifts gears, and brakes. But not always. Hakken says, "I've outfitted tandems where the wife has an override brake on the rear handlebars. They'll say, 'You're going too fast,'
and clamp down on it." It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "backseat driver."
Tandems don't come cheap. Hakken's entry-level tandem runs around $1,600, and his top-of-the-line quad-a Co-Motion prototype featuring a distinctive, torpedo-shaped frame-is $6,500. Hakken sells a lot of Co-Motion bikes, and now he's designing a bike for the company. His goal is to make a tandem that's under twenty pounds-no easy task.
Co-Motion hopes to build a prototype in time for a huge industry show in Las Vegas this fall. The finished product should sell for around $16,000 and delight tandem enthusiasts. "Everyone likes a lighter bike," Hakken says-especially since "tandems are notoriously slow climbing hills."
Before the Hakkens bought a tandem, he says, they "didn't realize how much quality time you could get [riding together]. We talk about anything and everything." One customer even told him that buying a tandem after his kids were grown was the best thing he could have done for his marriage. "He told me, 'It's like we're dating again.'"
Tandems, he concludes, are eminently sociable. "It's like a long car drive," he says. "You don't turn on the radio. You just sit there and talk."
Midwest Bike & Tandem, 1691 Plymouth (Courtyard Shops). 213-7744. Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-7 p.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Sun.-Mon. by appointment. www.midwesttandems.com
[Originally published in July, 2009.]