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Retrofitting Couplers to Steel Tandems

By Dwan Shepard, Co-Owner of Co-Motion Cycles

The reason why we do not recommend retrofitting couplers is that we believe their installation deserves more attention than simply cutting a frame and plugging in the couplers. We have taken extra steps in our coupler equipped bikes to ensure that every coupler is properly supported in tubing specifically designed for our travel bikes. In fact, the butting profile of the tubing used in our travel bikes is different from that used in our other tandems specifically for the purpose of integrating the couplers.

When designing a coupling-equipped bike, one of the parameters that can be challenging to adhere to is making certain that each coupling is located within the thicker profile part of the tube, unless the tubing was initially designed for the task. Add to that the importance of locating the coupling for breakdown into its travel case(s), and you may then have another reason to replace a tube.

We also believe it's very important that the tandem frame is constructed as optimally as possible, and we know that it is far better to build a bicycle from the ground up for the purpose intended. Our process for coupling integration is to install the couplers into the tubing, then miter the tubing, then construct the frame. This process ensures better coupling alignment as well as better structural harmony.

In addition, the cost of integrating couplers into a used frame is often more than replacing the frame with a new one, if you include repainting and consider the resale value of your existing frame. If the retrofitter encounters serious corrosion, or discovers upon cutting the tube that the butt profile is not ideal for coupler placement, or the tube is too thick or too thin, then the tube should be replaced. Tubing replacement can get rather expensive.

Not all manufacturers offer framesets alone, but you may find it more economical to resell your old frame and replace it with a new one originally equipped with couplings. You may even consider this an opportunity to upgrade some of the new features you've been eyeing on new bikes and replace not just the frameset, but the entire tandem.

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