The side-by-side tandem is one of the most interesting bicycle frame variations, introduced originally (and patented) by Punnett Cycle Mfg Co in America in 1896 (see illustration below). A similar machine was designed and sold by Wolff-American the following year. Rudge-Whitworth made a similar machine in England, though very few were sold.
This was the heyday of the ‘courting tandem’ when, for the first time, young men and women were able to go off together socially, leaving their chaperone behind. Other tandems of the era required the woman to sit at the front, with the steering controlled by the man seated behind; so the side-by-side concept was seen as a very practical novelty.
The idea died out after the turn of the century, as passenger trailers, and then sidecars, were introduced, for the motorcycles (‘motor-bicycles’) that came onto the market. But the idea was resurrected in Australia in the 1930s by the innovative cycle builder Bruce Small, of Malvern Star. And a few builders since have made a similar side-by-side style of tandem as a tricycle, with two wheels behind for added stability.
1910s English Side-by-Side ‘Sociable’ Tandem
WIDTH: 20″ Rear Axle
WIDTH: 40″ Handlebars
I’ve not yet identified the manufacturer of the example featured here. It is a well-constructed machine, whose design and components date it somewhere in between the pre-1900 machines and the 1930s Malvern Star. It is likely that it was built by one of the leading British companies to a customer’s special order. It’s ready to ride.
1930s MALVERN STAR SIDE-BY-SIDE TANDEM
SIDE BY SIDE SOCIABLE TANDEMS (BICYCLES & TRICYCLES)
1889 NOTTINGHAM SOCIABLE TRICYCLE
1895 DUPLEX CYCLE MFG Co SOCIABLE TRICYCLE
1896 WOLFF-AMERICAN SOCIABLE TANDEM TRICYCLE
1899 ROULETTE SOCIABLE TANDEM BICYCLE