Today I came across a bike I initially perceived as an abomination. I soon discovered this side by side bicycle was the Buddy Bike.
I was intrigued and began itching to take it for a spin. As my mind flipped through possible partners, I took a step back and did a bit of research instead.
The history of the Buddy Bike
The Buddy Bike or side by side bicycle is a concept that dates back to the end of the 19th century likely originating in England though there have been different iterations throughout the years. Fledgling versions of this bicycle built for two were often used by young men to court women of interest. Proximity to one another was naturally intimate and conversation was easy, thus coining the term “sociable” bike.
Robert C. Barrett invented the modern version in 1979 and sold the patent, where it was manufactured in the 80s and branded under the name ‘Bike Buddy.’ Unfortunately the company went under and these bikes are no longer commercially produced. However variations continue to emerge at a grassroots level thanks to homemade engineering.
Riding side by side
When it comes to riding, both passengers pedal using cranked pedals arranged on opposite sides. Steering and braking is controlled from the left while the person on the right holds onto a stationary handlebar. Opinions among some suggest that passengers should be of equal weight to minimize any chance of tipping over. Situations of severe weight discrepancy may transform the bike into a trebuchet. However patents would suggest otherwise as seats and handlebars can be staggered to different heights allowing riders to inter-fit transversely while still maintaining a center of gravity between them.
Does the Bike have a future?
It be would interesting to see a reincarnation of this type of social bike but there are a few drawbacks. The obvious is that they are marginalized since two people are required to ride them. Which means you’re screwed if someone decides to end the joy ride and walk away. Also unlike tandems, they can never be geared towards performance when considering the wind resistance factor and the intricacies of an uphill battle.
There is also the danger factor if you plan to hit the city streets. Attempting to ride one along Queen Street in Toronto would invoke a death wish. In some countries the bike they may not even be street legal. In Argentina for instance, traffic laws require bikes to ride in single file, one behind another such as in the use of a tandem.
Buying one may need some strong persuasion from your partner rather than from a salesperson. But there are still options available if you want to ride one. In Berlin, two can rent a stylish Buddy Bike with the motto of “Endless fun for the lover or the beloved.” What better way to roll towards the Brandenburg Gate while being hand-fed slices of bratwurst. If even relegated to sight-seeing or a city tour, the buddy bike is worthy addition to any cycling community.