Imagine yourself on a bike, riding through gravel roads, two track, and even singletrack with your significant other on a bike built for two. You’re either thinking… ‘absolutely not,’ or, ‘that could be fun.’ People have been riding tandem bikes for a while – on pavement and dirt. Companies such as Vicious Cycles, Fandango MTB, Vintana and a handful of custom builds such as Mone bikes have given people the opportunity to ride together at the same cadence. One ride in particular that has been popular on a tandem is the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.
There is a short history of tandem bikes for bikepacking and the Tour Divide. Back in 2009, Tracey and Jay Petervary road the route together, finishing the route with a time of 18 days 13 hrs 50 mins. They were riding a Vicious Cycles Tandem. In 2011, Kurt Refsnider and Caroline Soong road the route in 20 days on the Salsa Cycles prototype ‘Big Blue.’ Last year Kate and Sam Newbury finished 3rd overall with a time of 19 days 7 hrs 57 minutes on a Fandango 29er tandem.
Enter Salsa Cycles Powderkeg – released this past weekend at Frostbike along with the updated Warbird series. The Powderkeg has been a work in progress for 5 years now. So why did it take so long to produce a finished product? Salsa was struggling with tandem standards. There is currently no compliance or standard rating for tandem bicycles, so they had to adapt their own rating scale. It took quite some time to dial in the frame, and ensure it would hold up. The other element was the fork. The original prototype came with a White Brothers suspension fork. Salsa wanted to not only create their own, but make a ridged fork. They came up with the most durable fork they have ever created, with the chromoly tubing having a larger circumference in some areas then the down tube of the bike.
The bike is made out of a strong 4130 steel tubing and fork with a tapered head tube and thru axle. It also works with a tapered suspension fork and even compatible with a straight 1 1/8″ steerer. Some highlights include Salsa’s proprietary Alternator Dropouts for QR and thru axles that allow geared, SS and Rohloff hub. The front BB is eccentric for adjusting chain tension and length for a more customized fit for the rider. Maybe one of the most interesting is that the Powderkeg has the ability to carry 9 water bottles.
Another friendly part is the frame design, the bike comes with three large triangles for plenty of frame bag space. It is also rear rack compatible, perfect for touring. This design also creates a simple and clean look.
The Powderkeg comes with Shimano SLX components, a complicated looking drive train with the rear part of the system on the drive side, and the front on the non-drive side. The bike allows a 1x, 2x, and even 3x system. This tandem will hold up to a 29 x 2.4″ tire with plenty of mud clearance beyond that. It comes in 3 different sizes – medium/small, large/small, and large/medium, which will endure a proper fit for a variety of height combinations. The Powderkeg will be available this summer for an affordable price considering it is two bikes in one at $3,999 for a complete tandem or $1,999 for a frame.
Bottom line, this thing seems extremely versatile, although I may never try one, I do think it should be a popular bike for gravel, touring, and even some heavy road routes.