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Tandem Trike Is One of a Kind
Restoration/Conversion Labor of Love Proves Worth the Effort
Text and Photos By Scary Gary Newcomb
Editor Note: Purchase of old tandem leads writer to create an altogether new, beautiful riding machine, one selected for display at the annual League of American Bicyclists BikeFest. (Click on the photo links throughout the article to view the bike at different stages of restoration and conversion. To bypass article and view progression of photos, follow these links: Photos #1, #2, #3, #4, #5.)
When I first saw the tandem bike it was balanced on its pedals against a parking stall outside an antique store. After a little haggling I talked the owner in to accepting $125 for the bike. Then I had to figure out a way to get the bike into a Toyota Camry. After removing both wheels and the front fender, I got it shoehorned in to the car, and drove 2 hours back to Orange County. (Photo #1)
Upon taking full stock of what I just impulsively purchased, I saw there was not a chrome piece on the bike that was not rusted. The frame was mostly covered in a combination of 10-15 year old spray paint and the thickest layer of dust I have ever seen on a bike. It had no head badge or original decals so I didn't know the make of it. So I turned to the Internet and started researching, while I started stripping parts off the bike. I eventually found its make by looking in the largest market place on Earth... Ebay! I did a search for tandem and it came back with 11 assorted items with tandem it their description. The last item was a post card that had a picture of a couple from the 1960s on a tandem bike. It was the same type of bike as mine. The Twin Arch design was unmistakable. In the description it explained that the card was a promotional item distributed by a local bike store. The bike was made by Huffman Manufacturing and the card was to introduce the tandem line they released under a few different companies.
I contacted Huffy Sports (officially changed their name in the early 1970s) and sent them a digital photo of the bike and email explaining the postcard I had seen. A great Huffy Sports service representative, Lynn Dotson researched all of the tandem bike catalog pages from the 1960s through the 1970s and sent me a copy of the catalog pages that matched the picture I had sent her. After comparing all of the photos, I concluded it was a 1966 by the design of the chain tensioner. They changed the tensioner design every year the made cruiser tandems (1964-67).
I continued with the paint stripping and decided on a classic yellow, because I liked the yellow that was visible through the chips in the now red spray paint. I stripped the bike down to the metal with chemical stripper, and built a spray booth in my garage, out of sheet plastic that protected it pretty well from foreign objects. I sprayed four good coats of primer, sanding between every other coat. Then I sprayed four coats of yellow sanding between coats, and then two more not sanding. I finished it off with six coats of Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear in high gloss. I was extremely happy with the finished results.
I kept a database of the approximate hours I was spending on the bike. After 52 days and 202 hours, the tandem bike was painted and restored. Every part that could be polished and restored was kept. I knew right away, that I wanted a springer fork.
Because of the HUGE price difference between Internet retailers, and my local bike shop, I bought most of the parts for this restoration online.
Through looking for a springer fork, I found online lowrider retail sites. Not that I am planning on putting any Twisted parts on my trike, but the selection crushes anything I found for reproduction parts for cruisers. After buying the chrome springer fork, I just wanted more.
The original heavy duty rims were trashed, so it was either re-chrome, or buy new. I stumbled in to 72-spoke Dayton wheels and knew those wheels were it. I had never seen straight laced spokes, and I was s-o-l-d, sold! I added a set of the fattest, high profile white walls I could find. Not thinking that going from 2 tire, to a 2.125 tire would be a problem. My mistake, there was a 0 percent chance that the original fenders we going to fit over those tires. A nice set of Schwinn Classic ducktail fenders fit the bill nicely. Then the Restoration was finished. This was the finest tandem bike I had ever seen and the envy of all my friends. (Photos #2 and #3)
Then I found a trike modification kit, and knew what I had to do. Take the tandem bike I have just restored beyond my expectations, and dismantle it again to make it a tandem trike. During the process, I did preliminary research and found that this was as original as I thought it would be. Nobody I spoke to had ever seen a tandem trike cruiser! Not one in the United States. I was more determined to finish, and to fill that position.
The trike conversion kit took about 30 hours to install and align the wheels. The weight of the bike and two riders was more than the manufacturer intended. I bulked up the installation hardware and adjusted the installation slightly to reinforce for the additional stress. I have had two riders totaling nearly 300 pounds, and the kit supported it nicely. Now, it needed a few finishing touches.
I did not want to spend that much time and money on building the first tandem trike in America and put Grandma's aluminum basket on it. So I built a wood flatbed out of pine 1x4-inch planks. Then I made brackets to hold a Phillips/Magnavox compact disk player hidden under the flatbed. It powers two Seiko SII amplified stereo speakers mounted in the back corners of the bed. (Photo #4)
As accents I added dual matching painted Specialized Astro headlights, and chrome round arrowhead knockoffs over the rear wheel axles (Ben Hur style). (Photo #5)
I have researched many organizations and have never found a person who has seen a tandem trike in the United States. I have registered with the largest bicycle database in the nation, The National Bike Registry. They have over 100,000 mass-manufactured and custom bikes on file. This is the one and only tandem trike registered. The League of American Bicyclists, who have over 300,000 members also deemed it the first of its kind and invited me to display at their BikeFest 2001 in Altoona, PA.
I have also checked with Bicycling Magazine, Several Web-Zines, Custom Builders, clubs, stores and Internet retailers and none have ever seen a Tandem Trike cruiser. The finished product is my one of a kind dream ride.
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