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Viking Tarantino review

Posted By: Frank
Date: 13 July 2008

We've now done about a hundred miles on our new tandem, a Viking Tarantino

The motivation for my wife and I in getting a tandem is to allow us to continue to cycle together, talking as we go and sharing the experience. We're not planning any long tours just yet, so our initial expectation was that it would be used for day rides plus the odd two or three day weekend tour, perhaps 10 times a year in total. If my wife likes it, of course it may be a lot more than that

We chose this bike for two reasons: value for money and style of bike.

The price - at 400 delivered - was attractive and meant that we didn't have to think of it as a major investment, making it easy to take the risk of buying our first tandem. Cheap price is one thing, but would it be any good?

The spec looked ok for an entry level bike - mostly lower end Shimano equipment, eg Acera front and rear derailleurs. The shifters are the flat-bar STI-type which are not to my taste but serviceable. The gearing appeared excellent with an 11-30 cassette and 22/32/42 chainwheel, giving a range of 20-105 inches. I felt 105" would be just about fast enough for leisure use and the low 20" gear ideal considering I would be providing most of the power. Importantly, other aspects of the spec - such as 48-spoke wheels and eccentric bottom brackets - confirmed the bike was a proper tandem, not a stretched touring bike.

Having established that the bike was ok on paper, I did some research on Viking. I had expected to find it was a Far East operation which had come from nowhere and only existed on the internet. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a proper bicycle operation, based in Manchester - where they even do some assembly work using imported components. The brand, although I hadn't heard of it before, has a long heritage as one of the many British bike manufacturers of the early 20th century, with a factory in Wolverhampton and its own racing team. The original company went out of business in the late sixties but the brand was sold on and is now owned now by people with at least a track record in the bicycle industry, and who produce a range of apparently credible low/mid-range models which are stocked by many bike shops up and down the country. That gave a great deal of comfort. The other thing that influenced me were two reviews of Viking Saratoga tandems: the excellent Viking Report by Dave Walker on this site, and a well-written review on amazon.co.uk. These both confirmed that people who seemed to know what they were talking about were happy with Viking tandems.

When looking at Viking tandems, I first became aware of the Saratoga, a mountain bike style with 26-inch wheels, disk brakes and no mudguards/racks. However, we want to ride mainly on-road, prefer the larger wheels, don't like getting splashed in the rain and use panniers! The Tarantino appears to use the same frame as the Saratoga but is designed as a fully equipped touring tandem with 700c wheels, mudguards, racks (back and front), toe-clips and V-brakes. I'm not aware of any other 700c tandem costing less than 1,000, with the Dawes Galaxy (which I would have loved but could not justify considering our likely usage) the next one up in this style. Although the Saratoga is available for quite a bit less (around 330 delivered on eBay), I reckoned that by the time we'd bought mudguards and carriers, the difference would disappear.

We've really enjoyed our first few (three) rides. It fits us both (we're both around 5'8"). Ideally, I would have a bit more standover height at the front, but its just about ok. There's plenty of room at the back. It's more pleasant to ride than a (more expensive) Trek tandem that we hired when we were considering getting our own. We've customised it a bit and got it how we want it - a new saddle and suspension seat post for my wife, bar ends, propstand, etc. It's ridden well. There's no noticeable frame flex, it feels stable at speed, the low gear gives us a chance of getting up steep hills, the brakes are fine, it copes fine with bridleways and bumps. It's also not too heavy at around 20kg; I don't have a problem lifting it onto the car on my own. The only slight glitch has been with the gear change. A couple of times (literally two times - not more), when changing the front derailleur, the chain has come off. I think both times have been changing down at high speed - so I hope, with practice, I'll get the hang of it so it doesn't happen. If I was being fussy I'd also ask for a higher top gear as we do tend to get into the 105" quite a lot and could do with a higher one for the descents, but it is not such a big deal that I'd bother changing the gearing.

For any couple who are starting tandeming and looking for something equipped for touring use but who don't want to make a major investment, the Tarantino is worth a look.

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