The story of frame couplers dates back twelve years when Shirley Smilanick, the wife of a workaholic, decided she wanted a real vacation. On her previous vacation attempts, even when she was successful in prying Steve away from his machine shop, he proceeded to spend most of their time riding his old Bianchi. Booking passage for herself on a Mediterranean cruise, Shirley was sure she’d found the perfect answer—an exotic vacation far removed from her husband’s work and bike.

As Steve carefully studied the colorful brochure she’d placed in front of him Shirley said, “There’s room for a handsome guy in my stateroom. Care to join me?” And Steve did join her. But only after he’d spent countless hours developing a way to sneak his Bianchi onto the cruise ship. After hack-sawing his frame in half, he machined some unique fittings to allow reconnection.

A decade later Steve’s firm, S&S Machine, sells thousands of his patented couplers to certified craftsmen around the world, who weld them into frames that allow customers to take their bikes along on vacation. Steve’s largest customer? Santana.

Of course, before S&S frame couplers were invented thousands of owners had already taken tandems on airplanes. A Santana in its original shipping carton was an easy fit, even on the smallest DC-9 or 737. While our oversize box was an imposing thing to drag through a terminal, not one tandem owner had been turned away or missed a flight. Actually, the biggest hurdle was hauling the box to and from the airport. And when tandem travel plans included shuttles, taxis, small rental cars or commuter planes, (not to mention cruise ships) a vacation could quickly become a bit too stressful.

While couplers add a thousand dollars to the cost of a tandem, Santana customers soon found a way to recoup their investment. With a claimed success rate of over 99%, they’ve discovered that a Stowaway™ tandem packed into our SafeCase will fly for free—saving them up to $200 per trip. While not everyone who buys a coupled tandem will be able to project a profit, reduced airline fees plus worry-free travel provide a compelling argument.

But what about Shirley? Did she and Steve find happiness? Absolutely. Since that first cruise they’ve shared lots of romantic getaways. In addition to Steve’s shirts, Shirley now packs their coupler-equipped tandem.