I covered stoker bars a while ago. That was a cop-out because the bar is the easy part. Almost anything will work (chopped off mountain bike bar, old BMX bars, Albatross, whatever). The hard part is mounting the bar in such a way that the passenger’s nose is not stuffed into the rider’s butt.
That’s where the tandem stoker stem comes in. Normal stems fit most seatposts with a shim (either bought or made) but lack reach and angle for optimium stoker comfort. Unfortunately, these are pricey buggers. I’ve seen the oft-mention Control Tech Stoker stem for as much as $120 on Eb@y and as little as $60 from Universal Cycles in Portland.
If I was putting this on a real tandem I’d pop for a Control Tech, no problem. But even $60 seems a little excessive for Xtracycle use.
Luckily, I’m the master of cheap and also quite tolerant of mindless web surfing. It was only a matter of time before I found another option — in this case an Ebay seller with NOS (new old stock) stoker stems. The stem is basically a short quill stem that telescopes inside a tube you mount on your post. Nothing elegant but it’s practical. If I recall they were listed ~$15. I contacted some buyers via the ebay feedback tool and a couple of them said the stems were decent quality — nothing fancy and not super lightweight, but inoffensive and probably safe.
Just my speed. I ordered two.
At this price, I was worried they would be boat anchors. I don’t normally care about weight on the Xtra, but I don’t go searching it out, either. Once in hand, I was pleased to find they weighed in at 450g — basically the same as the Control Tech advertised weight. Finish was decent, though I did need to take the dremel tool to the inside of one to remove some welding slag. I didn’t want it carving up the quill part of the stem every time I moved it.
All in all, it works a lot better than a re-purposed threadless stem and makes carrying a passenger a lot more enjoyable. One thing to keep in mind — this stem is designed for a huge 31.x seatpost which means normal seatposts will need a commercial shim to work. Most places have them for ~$8 or so. My 30.9 post just needed a strip of beer can, something I can usually drum up.
I don’t know why Xtracycle doesn’t have some of these made. They have all the Taiwanese manufacturing connections and the stem is a common request on the forums. I contacted the seller a while back and he said he had a bunch more. I have no idea how long he’ll have them, but it’s worth a try. Please note that I have no connection to this seller nor am I recommending that you purchase generic bike safety equipment. Here’s a link to his current sale (for future readers who find the link dead the stems are showing as $9.99 buy-it-now, with $8.15 shipping).
If the link goes away you can try searching Ebay for the seller: [name removed by request]. Good luck and as always on Ebay, “buyer beware.”
Stem detail thumbnails:
About this Series
I figured no one wanted to read a 5000 word post on how I built the bikes, and writing it would have sucked, too. Instead, I’ll try to (ir)regularly pop something into the “buildin’ the Xtracycle” category as it fits my fancy. Some probable topics: Sourcing the “kit,” Frames, Passengers, Chains and Shifting, Rigid vs. Bouncy, Brakes, alternative “manufacturers,” and more. If there’s something else you are curious about, give me a shout and I’ll try to write something up.