Micargi California – An Entry Level Tandem

micargi california

My wife and I recently became interested in the idea of a tandem for paved and dirt road use. I want to use 1.75″ – 2″ tires with fenders so 26″ wheel tandems seemed a good starting point.

Looking at the options for lower priced tandems I came across one I’ve been unable to find much info on – the Micargi California. In some ways it’s the Giordano Viaggio of 26″ wheeled tandems but there are some appealing aspects:

  • aluminum frame vs steel (KHS Sport, etc) for potentially lighter weight
  • frame has both V-brake posts and a disc caliper mount on the rear (the included fork is V-brake only)
  • 6 bottle cage mounts, though only 4 of the spots can hold a 24oz bottle and one can hold a 32oz bottle
  • eccentric bottom bracket up front (the Viaggio uses an idler tensioner)
  • kickstand plate
  • priced between $500 – $600 new

micargi california2

The downsides:

  • one small-ish frame size (seat tubes are 19″ / 15.5″, captain’s effective top tube is 22.25″)
  • 135mm rear spacing (maybe not so bad with some well built wheels)

If you’ve never assembled a bike that ships direct from the manufacturer you should know that you need to go over almost everything – checking bolts, adjusting bearings, adding grease, etc. Some of these companies will have you believe the bike is 80% assembled and you just need to attach the handlebars, tune the brakes and shifting, air up the tires and ride; don’t believe that for a second. But I knew this going in.

At 6′ I needed to add a 350mm seat post and a 120mm long, 40ยบ high rise stem to fit the in captains spot. On the plus side the 15.5″ rear allows for a sub-five foot stoker, my 8 year old can ride it.

The disc brake mount opens the possibility of a 650b conversion, though now that Compass is making some nice 26″ tires this may not be worth the expense.

The frame is good at this price, while the parts are a mixed bag of decent components and some very cheap ones. Here’s a run down of the stock components:

Seats and seatposts – The seats have been fine on the short neighborhood rides we’ve had so far but they will eventually be replaced with saddles we know work for us. The seatposts are cheap with separate saddle clamps, but functional provided you are not too tall. Both positions use 27.2mm seatposts.

Wheels – The bolt-on 36h hubs were over-tightened but easily adjusted to spin smoothly without play. The rims are single wall and 30mm wide. These wheels are usable for a while but on my list of items to upgrade.

Tires – The 2.35″ knobby tires are stiff and heavy, these will be replaced with smooth 1.75″ – 2″ tires.

Shifters and derailleurs – The lower-end Shimano 3×8 shifters and derailleurs are perfectly usable.

Drivetrain – The captain’s bottom bracket uses a set screw eccentric assembly that seems good but the bottom brackets themselves are cheap steel. The square taper aluminum cranks have pressed on spiders and riveted chainrings, standard fare in this price range.

The closest tandem I could find to the Micargi is the KHS Tandemania Alite, which has some of the same features (AL frame, disc mount tab) and some slightly better components at 3x the price. Replacing the wheels and drivetrain of the Micargi should give a better bike for less.

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  1. Hi David,

    Thanks for posting your blog and the information about the Micargi California Tandem. Can I ask a favor of you? Would it be possible for you to take some closeups of the front Derailleur, the stock Crankset and Captains Cranks and the Stock Handlebars and post them? Are the stock chainwheels bolted on or riveted? Does the manual list specs for the parts?

    The Micargi website lists certain components in the brief specs list, but they have no useful pictures The pictures available on the websites of the various retailers who sell the bike conflict with the Micargi parts list and are lacking in certain details I’m interested in. There’s lots of random information and a lot of it is incomplete or just wrong. For instance, Micargi states the rear derailleur is an Acera, while the various website pictures show an Altus. They don’t state at all what the front derailleur is or what brand the brakes are. did you upgrade the pads or brakes? I’ve asked Micargi to send me more information, but I’m not gonna hold my breath. I found your blog and I thought I’d ask an owner. ๐Ÿ™‚ I plan to buy the California by this Summer for my wife and I.

    Thanks for your time and again for your blog. Happy Trails!

    • Galen,

      The rear derailleur is an Altus RD-M310; front derailleur is only labeled Shimano – very low end as the band uses a bolt requiring a wrench or socket vs the usual hex/allen key. All cranks are labeled Lasco and have pressed spiders and riveted chainrings.

      Front stem and handlebar are 31.8mm diameter, stoker bar is 25.4mm – both are generic and fine for intended use (i.e. not MTB).

      Brakes are generic and with proper adjustment stop the bike without drama. Still, nicer brakes would be a reasonable upgrade.

      This is a < $600 tandem so low end parts are part of the package. I've upgraded things that matter to me but left many of the low end parts on the bike - when they wear out I'll replace them with higher end stuff.

  2. David P

    I found your site informative since I am also looking at tandems and like the aluminum frame of the Micargi California, although it may need some adjustments. However I suspect that the captains spot will be too big for me. I am 5’5″ and I think that the 19″ frame there will be too big. But I was surprised to see that you needed to add a bigger seat post , with you being 6′. Perhaps I am wrong in my assumption? Can a person of my size be in the front position?
    Thanks for any help

    • Sue,

      I would suggest trying to find a bike with similar measurements to ride. Check that the 30″ stand over height is acceptable for you, keeping in mind that on a tandem it is helpful to be able to spread your feet far enough apart for the stoker to rotate the cranks into position. If the reach to the handlebars is a bit long you can change the bars for some that sweep back a bit.