The Magic Bike by Kellie Morris

When I get on my bike, I sometimes wish that I could ride farther, get to my destination much, much faster and be able to keep up with my husband.  Perhaps you have the same wish.  But it was just a wish until I recently rode the Magic Bike. This bike granted me my wish: I was able to ride faster, farther and I kept up with my husband.  First, let me say that the Magic Bike is human powered, not an electric bike. The Magic Bike comes in various models. I test rode hybrid and road configurations. It also comes in cruiser, mountain and recumbent models. As with most wishes fulfilled, there is catch. I had to give up a lot to get my wish granted:  I gave up steering, braking and, shifting control of the bike.  Some of you might have figured out that I was riding the stoker (rear) position on a tandem bike. My husband was piloting the magic bike.  The pilot has control of the steering, shifting, and braking of the bike.

For riders of tandems, it can also be called Magnify Bike.  Wherever your relationship is at, riding a tandem will magnify it.   If you don’t trust the pilot, it might be impossible to ride a tandem as a stoker.  A lack of trust and giving over total control does not mesh.  Maybe that’s why there are always tandems for sale at bargain prices on Craig’s List.

My husband and I are both cyclists and have been married for 30+years so we decided to take a systematic approach to trying a tandem.   It's a big step for us.  I year ago we were not ready to try the magic bike.  

After some research I figured out that Kirk's Bike Shop in Ramona CA is an expert in Tandem bikes. They have many in stock that you can test ride.  We called ahead and made an appointment to test ride some tandems then took a restful two hour drive to Ramona a few days later. We weren't sure a tandem was right for us. So we went to Kirk's because he took the time to TEACH us how to ride a tandem.  

That's right! You do need to learn HOW to ride a tandem.  Here are the steps we took:

  • Step 1: Kirk took me for a ride. He was the pilot, I was the stoker (riding on the back seat)
  • Step 2: Kirk took my husband on a ride. Kirk was the pilot, my husband was the stoked
  • Step 3: My husband took the bike on a ride alone so he could get a feel for the controls - how it shifts, how it brakes, how it corners.
  • Step 4: My husband and I went for a ride where he was the pilot and I was the stoker.

After this training we had a successful ride.  Successful meaning we were still talking to each other after the ride and we had not fallen during the test ride. We are now tandem fans! Kirk then shared more information about the magical world of tandems.   I found that the stoker does have one very important job: when we stop the stoker back-pedals until the take-off pedal for the pilot is in position.   This happens while my husband hold the bike up with both feet firmly planted on the ground.   The stocker also does not unclip (if you use clip-less pedals) or does not take their feet off the pedals.  I saw this technique on a ride where I saw a tandem team stopped at the light: the pilot had both feet firmly planted on the ground and the stocker had both feet clipped in and was taking pictures.   I wanted to watch them take-off from the light but could not find a place to pull over!

Top Tandem brands:

Santana: Company established in 1976. At Santana's California factory, they build a comprehensive range of tandems from superior alloys of steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon. All are guaranteed to be lighter, stiffer and more comfortable than offerings from other builders. Most models can be equipped with couplers for hassle-free flying.  Couplers allow you to break apart the frame into smaller components.  Notable: Santana has a bike airline SafeCase that has a unique Foam Tray System that adds seven precision layers of high-density foam to snugly encapsulate your travel tandem’s pieces.

Co-motion:   Co-Motion Cycles was started in 1988. “Co-Motion” can mean a lot of things, but what the  name means to its owners is the unique relationship between people and their bicycles: Our bicycles. They want to make this bond between you and your machine stronger by designing and building bicycles of substance including tandems, road bikes, travel or touring bikes, or a custom Co-Motion built just for you.

By the way: tandems are not just bicycles built for two.  Tandem refers to the configuration of the bike: one rider in front of another.  A tandem can accommodate 2, 3, 4 or even 5 riders!