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Rodriguez 8-Ball Convertible Tandem

"A travel bike built for two... I mean one... I mean two"

The 8-Ball as a single


Add this section to the single to convert it to a tandem


Willie and Kat with their new tandem

Rodriguez Bicycles (R+E) built this convertible 8-Ball tandem for Willie Weir, the tourist, author and storyteller from Seattle, WA and his wife, Kat. The bike will soon be used for a Cuban tour. Willie will start the tour by himself and Kat will join him a month later with the parts required to convert the single to a tandem. Conversion takes about 10 minutes. Rodriguez also offers the 8-Ball as a single/tandem/triplet convertible model.

In Willie's Words:

"A bicycle built for two... I mean one... I mean two"

About a year ago, Estelle Grey invited me and my wife (Kat) to a tandem class. Neither Kat and I had ridden a tandem before and we were intrigued. After some instruction and a couple of spins with Estelle, we were off pedaling a Rodriquez "Toucan". Not more than ten minutes into our ride, we were thinking about the possibilities of a tandem for our next adventure.

There was a problem though. Our schedules don't always mesh and it looked like I would be leaving for Cuba 2 to 3 weeks before Kat did It looked like a tandem was out of the question.

But thanks to the imagination and innovation of the folks at R + E, we will be able to ride a tandem after all...an "Eight-Ball."

The Rodriquez "Eight-Ball" is a tandem built with S & S couplings, which allows the frame to come apart for easy packing a traveling. This is not unique. Most custom bikes have an "S & S" option. What makes the "Eight-Ball" unique, is that it uses a couple more couplings (seven total on our tandem) and is designed so that the middle comes out and the front and back of the bike screw together and "presto chango" you have a single bike.

You have to see it to believe it! It is so well designed that the first time I tried, I was able to convert it from a single bike to a tandem in less than twenty minutes!

Thanks R + E!

--Willie Weir

Cuba Commentary #4 of 10

The Train

I grabbed a spanner wrench and began loosening one of the silver couplings on my bike frame. Soon my bicycle lay in two pieces, as if King Solomon himself had divided it in two.

For the twenty taxi drivers crowded around us at the airport, things were not going as planned. When I first tried to explain that their services would not be needed, they all just laughed. They saw me and my wife, Kat, (who was joining me after my solo two week tour of Cuba’s western-most province), one bicycle and a substantial amount of luggage. Surely someone was going to score a hefty fare lugging two tourists into the city.

But piece by piece I began adding Kat’s luggage to my bicycle. First a new section of the frame was placed between the two pieces of my own and screwed into place. Then pedals. Followed by handlebars, a seat and an extra chain.

The laughter around us turned to conversations of wonder and surprise as the taxi drivers slowly began to realize what we were doing.

Thanks to R+E Cycles, a Seattle-based bicycle manufacturer we had the world’s first bicycle that converted from a single to a tandem. Within thirty minutes we were waving at the taxi drivers from the seats of our bicycle built for two. They all cheered. None of them seemed angry or disappointed at losing the fare.

Soon we joined thousands of other cyclists on the highway into Havana.

Cuba is a bicycle advocates dream come true. Large bike paths are clearly marked. /Entire streets are off limits to cars. Giant bicycle parking lots with attendants are available in every town and city. Kids, students, parents and grandparents all ride bicycles. If you stand in the middle of a town square and count the number of vehicles that pass, bikes outnumber autos by more than 20 to 1.

You don’t see people dressed up in lycra to go recreate. Bicycles are transportation. It is not uncommon to see a family of four all perched on the same bicycle headed for the park, lovers who have mastered the art of making out while pedaling, or people headed to market with squealing pigs tied to back racks. From ditch diggers to dentists. Everyone rides a bike.

The casual visitor might assume that Cuba’s love affair with the bicycle was a long-standing one. But the marriage is less than ten years old. And it was a shotgun wedding at that.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did Cuba’s gasoline pipeline. Overnight the internal combustion engine was not an option except in the case of emergency.

The transportation solution arrived in the form of single speed bicycles from China. In two years, the number of bikes on the streets of Havana went from approximately thirty thousand to over half a million.

These Chinese bicycles come in three models. The "Forever Bicycle", a name that apparently has nothing to do with a warranty; the "Light Roadster", which is possibly the heaviest bicycle I have ever encountered and, my favorite, the "Flying Pigeon".

If the company expands their line of products I have suggested that they call their bicycle taxi version the "carrier pigeon" and their bike with the extra-wide seat the "stool pigeon."

Compared to a "Flying Pigeon", Kat and I are riding the custom motor home of bicycles. It has been dubbed "el tren" (the train) by the locals in Havana and we have grown used to hearing, "MiraMiraMiraMira," as we pedal down the crowded streets. Translation: "LookLookLookLook", as little kids with wide eyes and gaping mouths tug on the arms of parents and siblings.

I cannot tell you how many times a local has pedaled alongside our "locomotive" and with a hand gesture, a smile, raised eyebrow and a nod of the head, offered to swap vehicles straight across. I have to admit, there is a traveler’s purist streak in me that is tempted to ride across Cuba on the same simple, rugged one-speed that Cubans all ride. But I soon came to my senses, especially my sense of touch as it relates to the specific region of my body that is in contact with a bicycle seat.

Tomorrow when we leave for two months of exploring the provinces east of Havana. I can assure you we will be seeing them by train instead of pigeon.

   Copyright (c) 1999 by Willie Weir.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

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