Patrice le tandem

Just because it doesn't work perfectly doesn't mean it doesn't work.

Normally I write up these bikes after a short test ride. I get a flavour of what they're like, but no more than that before they go on their way. This however is written following 5 days touring around Scotland...


I picked up bike up on a whim while staying with my partners parents. It was a little dusty, a few paint chips, but clearly a well loved machine. To be honest it could have had a crack in the frame and I'd have probably taken it as I'd fallen totally in love with the colours. That blue & orange combo, those parallel lines. This is a piece of art first and a bike second as far as I'm concerned.


Despite being clearly very well looked after over the years it needed a significant overhaul to get it roadworthy by modern standards. Stripping everything down revealed no major issues, but the whole bike was French to its core. French threaded bottom brackets, French threaded cranks, a French tandem specific headset.


The cranks were retapped to take English threaded pedals (as I didn't fancy riding hundreds of miles in toe clips!), and fortunately the B.B. assemblies were all in serviceable condition so no replacements necessary. The headset is a little rough however, but as nobody makes French tandem headsets anymore it'd going to have to be nursed through.


The first major change was the wheels; steel rims, however beautiful, make for terrifying braking. A rear wheel was custom built for me around a modern Sturmy Archer hub, and a new front completed the set. Nothing flash, but lovely and functional.


The new hub allowed a merciful upgrade to the gearing. I'm not sure what terrain Peugeot had in mind when they fitted the original gearing. A 52-42 up front with 5sp 12-25 at the rear makes me thing this was only really designed with the Loire valley in mind. How the previous owners ever rode this thing in Yorkshire blows my mind. A new 11-34 casette was fitted, with a new 28t inner. It may look like an impossible step for the front derailleur to handle, but it works flawlessly, especially with the gentle actuation of friction shifting. The only real downside is the frame was never designed with an 11t at the rear in mind and as such the chain rubs on the diagonal bracing. I took the decision to adjust the limiter screws and effectively run a 12-34, 7speed rear.


I'd have loved to put some gorgeous tanwall tyres on, but tales of exploding sidewalls reigned me back to the dependable schwalbe marathon. The only other major change was an upgrade to the brake pads to Kool-Stop Salmon (the only pads I will be using from now on), and hooking up the rear hub brake to a bar mounted thumbie shifter, effectively allowing the rear brake to be left on as a drag brake, or as a handbrake while the bike is parked.


I'd never ridden a tandem before, and neither had my partner. It's been a leap of faith, particularly on her part while I try and get to grips with downtube shifting without wobbling us off the road. Uphill is comically slow, especially up the hideous inclines we tested it on in Cornwall, but on the flat and downhill it absolutely flies.


It's beautiful, a bit stupid and a bucketload of terrifying fun.