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Sheldon Brown's Picchio Fixed-Gear Tandem

Picchio Logo


Due to my health problem, I sold this bike to a cyclist from Los Angeles in June, 2007. It was very hard to say goodbye to it, it had some wonderful memories attached to it.


I've been a tandem fan since I built my first tandem while I was in high school. I've been a fixed-gear fan almost as long. My wife is also a fixed-gear fan, so the idea of a fixed tandem had a lot of appeal, but my homebuilt frames were not suitable, since they use spring-loaded chain tensioners on the synch chain, which would not be suitable for fixed gear use.

Sometime in the 1990's, I was visiting Mike Kone's Bicycle Classics shop, then in Needham, Mass, and I saw this gorgeous frameset on the floor with a sign saying "ride it if you dare."

This tandem was originally equipped with Campagnolo road equipment, but Mike had parted it out, so what was left was the frameset with headset, bottom bracket and stoker stem.

My daughter had outgrown her Cinelli BMX frame, and I knew Mike was a major Cinelli lover, so we made a straight swap of the Cinelli BMX frameset for the Picchio tandem frameset.

Blasphemer that I am, I built it up with Shimano 105 cranks (165 mm arms, Biopace chainrings all around.) and 105 SLR single-pivot brakes (the finest single-pivot caliper brakes ever, in my opinion.) With Mathauser brake shoes, the braking is quite good, especially since I built it up with 630 mm (27") wheels, which shorten the caliper reach by 4 mm. It is made of Oria tubing, with strange creases down some of the tubes, which, I presume, are intended to stiffen it up. I was skeptical about the open rear parallelogram frame design, but it seems quite stiff despite the lack of triangulation.

It has a steel "flip-flop" hub in back, Brampton, I believe. The hub originally came on an older Raleigh. I put an 18 tooth fixed sprocket on one side, and a freewheel with a 20 tooth sprocket on the other. (It was originally a 5-speed freewheel, but has only the one sprocket on it now.) This gives us a fixed gear with a 6.0 Gain Ratio (78 inches, 6.2 meters) and a freewheeling gear with a 5.4 Gain Ratio (70 inches, 5.6 meters.) Someday we'll probably try riding the freehwel, but it hasn't happened yet.

Sheldon Brown & Harriet Fell on Picchio Fixed Gear Tandem

After I had some info on this on my Bicycle Page, I received an email from the previous owner, which I quote in part:

Date: Tue, 26 Jan 1999
Subject: Picchio

From your homepage it seems you ended up with my old tandem: the 57 x 57 Picchio. A couple of corrections are in order. You should know that the crimped tubing craze would date the tandem to the early 80's not the 70's. It is in fact from 1983. When Bill Lewis told me Picchio had offered to build him some tandems for the US market I ordered one of the 6 he eventually received. He had some "advance" photos and I was sold when I saw that fork crown. I like the beefiness. I received it as a frame and fork. All of the Picchios came in that way, I helped Bill unwrap them the day airfreight delivered them to his Austin mini-warehouse. I built it up with Campy parts as I was working with the Campy Tech Support Program at that time leading up to the 84 Games. The Cinelli rear stem was the hardest item to locate. My sale to Bicycle Classics had nothing to do with braking power. In 95 when I sold it I had reached a breaking point in my garage and needed room; particularly for a recent acquisition: an early 60's Roma tandem. This Italian upright tandem has Campy drum brakes front and rear, 3 speed freewheel and steel record rear change. I also sold them a Rossin mountain bike frame that was a Show bike in 82. In fact in the last year or so I have had sellers remorse, the bike was a joy to ride around and was quite striking with the red Cinelli VIP leather bars, red Concor saddles, etc. Hope you enjoyed learning a bit more about your bike.

01-profile-13.31b 02-frt-quarter-13.32 03-rear-quarter-13.32c
04-rear-seat-lug-13.33c 05-frt-seat-lug-\-13.33d 06-head-lugs-13.33e
07-low-head-crown-13.34c 08-headtube-13.34b 09-saddle-rear-13.33
10-saddle-front-13.34d 11-drive-profile-13.34e 12-drive-quarter-13.35
13-drive-primary-13.35b 14-rhub-vert-13.35c 15-rear-drive-13.36b
16-rear-bb-13.36 17-front-bb-13.36c 18-eccentric-13.36d
Nikon D70 , minor tweaking with Adobe Photoshop 7.0


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Last Updated: by Harriet Fell