Saturday, 27 June 2015

Can ye' ride tandem ?

Older readers may recognise the title from a 1971 television advertisement for PG Tips tea,  one of a series featuring chimpanzees.  Although animals are still anthropomorphised more than ever on TV and cinema, it's usually done through animations and no doubt the use of live animals dressed in clothing and appearing in comic situations wouldn't be acceptable these days...  

Anyway, I thought I'd share a few pictures of our folding tandem, a wonderful piece of Italian engineering from the late 1960s.

It's a Carnelli Graziella, and our model was built in 1974 or 1975.   It's relatively easy to date old bikes with Sturmey Archer gears since the hubs are always date-marked, a feature going back to the 1920s, and our hub is stamped 1974.

These are quite rare in the UK, but I see there are more available to buy on European websites.  The bike has 20" wheels with hub drum brakes front and rear.  Ours is almost an original example, although at some time in its life some of the decals have peeled off and a bike dealer has added its own stickers to the frame in an act of wanton vandalism.

The chrome is in terrific condition for a 40 year old bike, no rust and only slight tarnishing which should come up bright again with a little Solvol.   The paintwork is not bad, although there are a few scratches here and there.  The original sprung saddles are ripped in a couple of places, but we'll first try to repair these with glue.  The sidewalls of the tyres are little weathered and so these will need replacing soon.

Although we actually bought this last December, and we've been up and down the lane on it a few times, until recently I'd never got around to carrying out a few minor repairs.  The rear brake has now been re-cabled and the gears adjusted.   When we bought it, the previous owners said that they couldn't engage all three gears and therefore the hub was 'broken', but I didn't even need tools to sort that out, just a few adjustments with my fingers.  Hub gears are not so difficult to understand if only people would take the time to get to know how they work.... 

The bike is folded and set up using an allen key which fits into a couple of grommets under the stoker seat.  The same key fits the handlebars and seat posts and also secures the front section of the frame, which is hinged and swings back in on itself for storage and transportation, although this bike is hardly what you'd call lightweight, at around 40 kg.

the key for setting up.....
the frame hinge....

and all folded to fit into the back of the car....

Here's a scan I found on the internet of an original sales brochure, but the quality's quite poor when enlarged :-

They made solo versions of this folding bike too, and were launched in the 1960s on the continent with an advertising campaign featuring Brigitte Bardot - Google the name if you're under 40...

I'm toying with the idea of stripping this bike down to the frame and respraying it, if I can get hold of some of the original decals.   We could also replace the saddles with more modern versions.

However, I think we'll just get out on it and enjoy it for now ....


  1. Awesome - looks like a cracker.

    We bought a tandem (dawes) a few years ago. It's one of the best £250 we've ever spent...we've had many fun hours on it!

  2. I had an old Dawes racing bike in the 1970s - great bit of kit...

  3. Hello
    Very nice bike you have got there!
    I have one of these myself, but mine is white.
    I live in Sweden and, I have never seen and one like this before; in Sweden that is.
    Kind regards
    L-O Rydén