Tandems are big investments; both in terms of the money they command from your wallet and the space they take up in your home. Chances are, you'll only be able to fit one in your stable. Which ushers in Landescape's new Freedom Series concept nicely: one frame to rule them all. Or at least, one frame that can handle a whole host of options - be it road riding, sport touring and even off road explorations. This versatility is carried right through to the finishing kit, which is hand picked by the customer.
It happens like this. Your friendly Landescape retailer starts with a tandem kit: frame, fork, headset, various lengths of stems, tandem specific hubs and an adjustable handlebar stem for the stoker. Choose whether to use a road or Mtb chainset, and generally how you want to spec your bike. Prices open at £1350 with Deore (our test bike was £1700) and rocket to as high as you're prepared to pay. There's plenty of tandem warranted kit to choose from, including cable pull and hydraulic discs, various suspension forks and different crank lengths to match your ride and budget- while still promising the option of adaptability in the future.
Designer Pete Bird's been building tandem frames since 1979, and the Landescape's packed with a whole host of ideas and experience. Most noticeable is the fact that it's compatible with 700c and 26in wheels, disc and non-disc alike, with all the relevant cable and hydraulic boxes ticked. While you do gain some frame clutter, the advantage is that you're investing in a very adaptable tandem frame should your riding preferences change. It's easier to sell on and production costs can be lower too. Swapping between one wheel size and the next should be fine, as long as you keep to a large profile 2in tyre to keep the bottom bracket height pretty much the same - otherwise, it could feel a bit low on a set of 26in x 1.5in slicks.
This said, it's an elegant looking frame, built with butted aluminium 7005 tubing which makes it, in the tandem world at least, relatively light. Extra wide for lateral stiffness, the top tube is surprisingly shallow in height and is flared out at the stoker's seat tube for added welding strength. There's a mix of conical tubing and big, butch squared off chainstays to accommodate the massive 145 OLN hubs, plus an open gusset headtube to cope with all that extra stress at the steering end. There're just two sizes available: Landescape say that this covers everyone from 6'4" to 4'6", thanks to a variety of positions offered by the adjustable stems, though this will inevitably affect the feel of the steering. An extra size or two would have been welcome, just to keep things a bit more in proportion at the extremes. The eccentric bottom bracket shell tightens with an Allen key, there's a replaceable mech hanger as well as an impressive six bottle mounts for long distance riding and provision for a dynamo and pump. Rack mounts (tested to 30 kg) are spaced out to make room for wider cable disc calipers. It's neatly done, but will compromise strength when it comes to loaded roughstuff touring. Being Mtb friendly, the frame also has a lower top tube, which makes getting on and off a bit easier - something that can be an issue with a tandems.
Forks are oversized tandem specific affairs, with a bladed unicrown, a reinforced chromo steerer and extra-lipped dropouts to secure the quick release, while the skewers themselves are forged to boost security too. Tandem disc forks are overbuilt to compensate the twisting effect that disc brakes induce under particularly hard braking, to prevent the front wheel popping out - in any case, skewers should always be clamped down very tightly. Rigid fork and frame are warranted for five years. There are suspension fork upgrades available, all warranted for tandem use, including Magura's excellent Ronin and the one-armed USE SUB with uprated springs. Surprisingly, none feature bolt-through axles, which would seem sensible just to be on the safe side.
In terms of the captain's perspective, we found the Landescape offered an involving ride that experienced riders will enjoy, but newbies will take longer to get used to. The light steering at the front end requires more attention than slower steering, more stable tandems we've ridden, which means it's initially a bit of a handful in the city and at slow speeds. But once settled in, this handling can be put to good use - we soon found ourselves carving confidently round high-speed corners and weaving delicately through the typical bollard and gate chicanes common to many cycleways. Cranked up to full pelt, the Landescape rolls really well, and the frame smooths out any bumps while still feeling laterally stiff. Again, riding out the saddle involves a bit of skill - personally, I'd prefer a wider set of handlebars to help with stability. I also found the riding position too stretched but different length stems are available at the point of sale to sort this out. Braking from Avid's mechanical discs is simply superb, and very confidence inspiring over hilly terrain. But as with all discs, it's crucial not to drag them on long descents (as you would with a traditional drag brake) as rotors can overheat and warp - always squeeze them on and off to prevent heat build up.
Sizing is typical to the most common tandem physiology - tall lad up front (captain), short lady at the back (stoker). From the stoker's perspective, there was a good sense of space and breathing room. But while the women's specific Selle San Marco was initially pleasingly racy, it just wasn't padded enough. Even with a suspension seatpost, a stoker's more likely to feel the bumps as they can't be anticipated - pain ensued until a change of perch was found. It's also worth being aware that you're unlikely to be out of the saddle much on a tandem, so comfort across the contact points is all the more important. The wide handlebars offer a good width and variety of positions, though we felt that because they're broader than the captain's handlebars, knuckles can feel a little exposed in traffic. Stem adjustability is excellent; height, length and angle can be tweaked. Be sure to tighten all the correct bolts -12 in total! Cranks are 170mm both front and rear and there were a few times when we would have preferred longer ones up front and shorter ones at the back. This would be more of an issue with riders of very different heights or cadences, and beginners - other cranks, such as Ultegra Middleburn, TA or FSA, can be specced to suit.
With a mix of Deore and V brakes, the basic bike is £1350. There are all sorts of braking combinations, mixing V brakes with Avid cable pull discs and Magura hydraulic Gustavs, both of which comes with dinner plate 203mm rotors.
The stoker has no control over the braking. We're fine with that - if you can't see anything, it makes sense to trust the captain, though an emergency rim brake is available (£25) that's stoker operated. Having a well-fitted rack (braze-ons tested to 30 kg) was useful as the captain can't wear a rucksack - unless the stoker wants their nose pressed into it, that is.
The tandem specific Synergy chainset features 52/42/30 mated to an 11-32, offering ridiculously fast top-end speeds, and good climbing potential too. There's also a BratPak alternative, with cranks drilled to 150mm, as well as smaller pedals and saddle (£85). STI Tiagras offer perfectly good shifting thanks to neat cable lines. As we've already discussed, there's a wide variety of handlebar positions, and we liked the novel front stem that offers some 5cm of quick adjustability to the height of the captain's handlebars.
The Landescape uses beefy, sealed bearing hubs, with forged hardened flanges to guard against cracking around any of its 48 spokes. Triple box section and eyeleted Alex DH19 rims are equally burly. Typical to tandems, the wheel is four-crossed for maximum strength, with triplebutted spokes - a mix on the drive and non-drive side to offer maximum strength would have been even better. The IRC tyres are 30c wide and provide ample comfort - they're tandem specific, with sidewalls to cope with all that extra heft. On the whole, we find grip isn't such an issue as the sheer weight of riders and machine plants the bike when cornering. Still, they're surprisingly quick when pumped to their max of 100psi, roll well and corner nicely, even on a canal path. A side benefit of disc brakes is the saving on rim wear, which can be more of an issue on tandems thanks to their increased rolling weight. A 700c tyre does run quite close to the bridge though, so you probably wouldn't want anything much bigger than a 32c or so. But there's plenty of space for roomy 2in knobblies on a 26in rim. A second set of wheels would open up all those firetracks and forest trails.
There is the argument the Landescape could be seen as jack-of-all-trades but master of none. In fact, it's a great all-rounder that we suspect will cope with pretty much anything your average rider throws at it - even if it's not our first choice for a long expedition or full on Mtb'ing. Some might find its low speed stability an issue at first. But the fact that it's a real chameleon will appeal to many couples who enjoy different kinds of riding - be it on road or off - in company. What's more, trying one is the perfect excuse for that weekend break you always promised yourself.