Saturday, 5 February 2011

Travelling With a Marlow Tandem by Train

Whilst visiting family in Cumbria I realised I had an opportunity to return with a Marlow Tandem.  My Sister and her husband had bought the Marlow at a York Rally many years ago as part of their transport portfolio.  However after moving to Cumbria and the children growing up the Marlow had been unused in a Barn.  So I bought it off them and made plans to return with it back to Corsham on the train.

I knew that Great Western would not be a problem as their 125s can take a tandem, however the Virgin trains are slightly more restricted with only single bikes being permitted.  I decided to take a risk, take the racks, wheels and mudguards off and strap them to the frame and carry it, then reconstruct it when I got to Chippenham so that I can ride it home.  For this my Brother-in-Law lent me some basic tools and some cable ties for the journey.

The first leg of the journey down to Birmingham was very straight forward.  The bike could be carried with one hand (just) and it mounted on the hooks provided by Virgin trains.  The change of platform at Birmingham was OK with the ends of the bike catching on the stairs.  It was heavy but manageable.  I decided that I would start constructing the bike at Bristol but only had 15 minutes between trains.  By the time I got into the guards van there was only 8 minutes to play with.  I got the cable ties off with a knife I found at the bottom of my bag which was a bit of luck.  This released the wheels which I put in place first but did not tighten them up.  The lower part of the back rack was attached when the Guard boarded who said I had one minute to get in the passenger section, there was no possibility of staying in the guards van to finish the job.  I secured the bike as best as I could and found a seat.

Dark was just descending on Chippenham when we pulled in.  I raced to the guards van, balanced the mudguard and remaining front rack on the bike and started to roll it out.  Due to the slanting angle of the track the door shut on me before I got to it.  There then followed a comic situation where after opening the door with one hand and getting the bike half out the mudguard began to fall into the gap between the train and the platform.  Catching it pulled up the forks and the front wheel came out which also started for the gap.  Luckily all the bits  ended up on the platform and could I complete the construction.  After a while getting the rear rack on - it does not quite fit, tightening up the wheels, fitting the lights and securing the rest of the bits to the frame I was ready to go.

The ride back was slow due to the low position of the seat and the significant resistance in the bottom brackets.  The wheel rim also seemed to rub and all this provided a lesson in poorly configured bikes being hard work.  After nearly an hour I arrived home.

The Marlow at Spindles

Marlow Tandem

A view that highlights the beautiful stays

Marlow Tandem
The frame is undoubtedly 531 as its light and has probably been made to order.  I haven't measured it but it look about 22.5/18.  The slightly different colour of the forks suggests an update of some kind at a later date.  Overall the deep blue enamel works well and is in good condition.   I have not seen a design involving two sets of long narrow stays before as can be seen above.  There are custom made front and rear racks from tubular steel as well as a multitude of braze-ons.  Its a TA chainset for both front and rear.  The Deore V brakes were added by my Brother-in Law as were the alloy handle bars front and rear and the twist grip changers.  The wheels are the weak point and want rebuilding.  The rear wheel contains an out of condition hub brake that's not connected. 

This is a quality bespoke bike that would be ideal as a adult child combination Tandem and well worth the journey     


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