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My father had studied Latin in high school. He would recite the saying "de gustibus non est disputandem" as he lifted his before-dinner glass of the wine which he made in our garage, in 5-gallon glass jugs he called "carboys." From glass tubes which penetrated corks in the necks of the jugs, hoses made of yellowish rubber surgical tubing snaked down to water-filled glass milk bottles on the floor. Bubbles of fermentation gases rose though the water in the bottles, making a "blip, blip" sound day and night.

In our basement, my father had a copper pipe contraption, which he told me once was a "condenser." Vapor went in one end, he explained, and it came out the other end as liquid. The condenser may have dated back to Prohibition years, for all I know. I never saw my father actually set it up.

Condenser (3.5 KB JPEG)

The condenser,
rediscovered in
my parents' garage
in February, 1998.

John S. Allen photo


My father's Latin saying translates as "there's no accounting for taste." Or, in the English of today, "different strokes for different folks," or, "whatever..." Though that typified my father's attitude toward life in general at the dinner hour, he was proud of the wine. Knowledgeable guests have said that it equaled good commercial vintages.

I am no judge of wine, but "Whatever," or "Different Strokes" is a fitting name for my ugly but functional tandem, which, like my father's wine -- and his condenser -- is homemade. I built the tandem in 1979 from three old Raleigh frames and a basement stash of reasonably good components.

Tandeming with my son Jacob,
Newton, Massachusetts, USA, March, 1997

John and Jacob tandeming (33 KB JPEG)

Photo 1997, Sheldon Brown

DISPV (pronounced "DISP-you") has seen some memorable times. In 1980, I took DISPV to the League of American Wheelmen Centennial Rally in Rhode Island. On the ride to the Centennial celebration in Newport, tandems were allowed to move to the front at the crest of the high bridge over Narragansett Bay. DISPV would have been first into Newport, descending the 40 foot wide velodrome-smooth, and for that one day, car-free concrete slope of the bridge, -- except that my stoker of the day did not like to ride fast and didn't put any energy into pedaling. She called out to me to slow down, and though I didn't, the team of Chris Menton and Guy Minnick on their Schwinn Town and Country drafted us and pulled past at the very bottom of the bridge. Someone was standing at the bottom of the bridge and took a photo as Chris and Guy passed us. I wish I had a copy of that photo.

As the Centennial crowd gathered on the lawn at Fort Adams Park in Newport, Bill McReady of Santana Cycles uncomfortably edged his showroom-new, demo Sovereign tandem away from DISPV. I was trying to show him how I had used a long rear top tube, just as he had, but he apparently didn't appreciate the competition.

I lent DISPV to my friends Osman Isvan and Judy Levy for the Charles River Wheelmen ride to Mystic, Connecticut one year, and they were the first to arrive in Mystic, at the end of a 90-mile day. Another couple, with a Santana, arrived in the sag wagon.

Osman and Judy on the
ride to Mystic... and immediately after getting married
(Note: helmetless only for short ceremonial ride!)
osmanjudy.jpg (24246 bytes)
Carol Tesiero photo

John S. Allen photo

The picture of a happy couple on my tandem reminds me that one good reason for a single man to own a tandem is to have a good excuse to get to know women who are bicyclists. Osman and Judy took their very first first tandem tour on DISPV and are now married. To be fair, I should admit that they had known each other for several years before they rode to Mystic on DISPV. At their outdoor wedding ceremony, they arrived on solo bicycles and left on a tandem. OK, so it was a Santana.

I did get to know several women through tandeming, including some who liked to ride fast; but, as it turned out, Elisse, whom I married, has a back condition which only lets her ride a recumbent bicycle. Our son Jacob rode 2209 miles with her before he was born. I built a kidback attachment for the tandem a decade before Jacob was born, years before I met Elisse. Even as I built it, I knew that I wanted to ride with my own child someday, and these days, I do. Before he outgrew the kidback, he exceeded the 2209  miles riding with me on DISPV. My rides with him are the best use I have ever had for the tandem.

If you would like to know more about home-building a tandem, or about riding with children, you can check out Sheldon Brown's articles on his Web site. Sheldon also took the photograph at the top of this page. I am now building another tandem and have written an article about how to build one. I have also posted an article on how to assemble a tandem crankset using inexpensive solo-bike parts.

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Contents 1997 John S. Allen

Last revised 13 September 2003