Riding a tandem is a great test of a relationship — it requires the unified exercise of both pairs of legs, riding towards a common goal. Rhode Island frame builder, Brian Chapman, and his wife obviously work well together, and now they’ve got the ultimate vehicle for that purpose.
The tagline of Chapman Cycles reads “Modern frames for vintage souls”, although the reverse is equally true: Brian makes beautifully crafted ‘Constructeur’-style frames for modern customers. Brian and his wife were actually the customer for this tandem.
They had previously been riding a Jack Taylor tandem for the last five years, bought on Craigslist as a bit of a novelty, and they discovered they quite enjoyed riding together on it. As a result, Brian got the idea to build one specifically for them.
Jack Taylor Cycles were based in Stockton-on-Tees, England, and had a reputation for tandems, tourers and excellent construction. Chapman Cycles also has a reputation for exceptional machines but, on the other hand, are based on the other side of the Atlantic: in Providence, Rhode Island.
The ‘Constructeur’ analogy isn’t that much of a stretch, Brian designs his bikes as a whole and has a vision of ‘the truly integrated bicycle’, just as René Herse and Alex Singer did. This foresight comes in handy when creating a bike as complicated as a tandem.
Brian’s tandem has much to absorb. The frame itself is built from True Temper OX Platinum super oversize tubing with Reynolds tandem fork blades, which he assembled with a 1 1/8″ steerer Pacenti MTB crown.
All the cabling has been considered, from the Schmidt dynamo hubs to the front and rear lights, including the Velo Lumino taillight on the trailer fender which connects to a plug on the non-drive side chain stay. There’s a Velo Lumino switch controlling them all, incorporated into the stem cap.
The rear hub has an interesting mechanism which may be unfamiliar to those with solo bike riding experience only: There’s a Phil Wood drag brake on there, which applies an amount of drag set by the shifter on the down tube. The captain applies this on descents, which assists the rim brakes.
The rear hub was custom made by Phil Wood, as the drag brake hasn’t been made since 1979. Brian fillet brazed the cantilever brakes himself, from .035″ wall 5/16″ chromoly, along with the stems. The stoker stem is adjustable and has no way of rotating against the keyway slots.
The care and consideration Brian took with the multitude of details on the tandem becomes more evident the closer you look. Like the ties on the rear dropouts that secure the trailer, and the spare spoke holder which doubles as a chain stay protector.
Art Deco lines reel around the tandem when viewed from the rear — a delightful symmetry twice as enticing as a solo bicycle. There’s even two head badges, although the trailer can be disconnected and the tandem used with front lowrider panniers for overnight ‘credit card’-style touring.
Brian’s philosophy to cycling and frame building is admirable. The riding and socialising with friends is the essence of cycling for him, but he doesn’t want to have to think about the bike when he’s bombing down a hill — although they should be appreciated and admired when it’s time to stop for a break.
Both riding and admiring would be very pleasurable pursuits upon this tandem, that’s for sure.