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  1. #1
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    How do I upgrade my Tandem

    Salut from Geneva,

    I wish I was in the USA, as you all seem to have great access to rebuilding and refurbishing your bikes.

    Problem 1 GEARS: Tandem feels heavy and slow up the mountain Alps, like a basic two crank bike

    HELP Needed: How can I upgrade the existing Rear to Front Deraillers, Cranks and Pedals, Rear Cogs (28..to 11 surely would be best?)

    The rear derailler gear cable broke, then the chain snapped. I fixed it and enjoyed returning on a heavy gearing. Ouch as the inclines were 10% and what felt like more!

    Please review what the bike looks like here:







    Front brakes











    As a novice and being in Geneva, I will need help sourcing from .com USA sites you may have used. The parts that I need to change from front to rear.

    PROBLEM 2 CHAIN: What kind of chain do I get, where from and how do I measure it? I would like to chain both chains. The longer to rear derailler snapped.

    PROBLEM 3 Gear Cable: What do you recommend? Teflon coated?

    Problem 4 Brakes: Should I upgrade the cables? How do I improve them easily? They work fine, but downhill my hand is on the coasting brakes.

    Thanks in advance

    LoveGeneva

  2. #2
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    I live just along the lake from you, in Lausanne, and also have a tandem (two now in fact, one is for sale - see below). There arre no good local sources that I know of for tandem-specific parts, SJS Cycles in the UK is the most convenient online retailer that carries tandem parts. You might be able to get some derailleur cables at your local bike shop that are packaged as standard "Dura Ace" cables, which are in fact tandem length - we sell some of those in the shop I'm working in, plus we have some dedicated tandem length brake cables for sale - the store is called The Bike in Pully, just on the edge of Lausanne.

    The shop did have a couple of Cannondale tandems that we used to rent, but they needed some serious work. I bought one for cheap "as is" and have now finished overhauling and refurbishing it, so if you want a completely upgraded bike, then I have a Cannodale Road tandem in size Large/Small (see chart here) for sale for 1500 Swiss Francs, it is about 8 or 10 years old and has had intermittent use during that time due to being a rental.

  3. #3
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    Hi, First it looks like a really nice bike. 1)i would start with new brake pads(looks original and pads will be hard) and not grip very well. 2) Sram Chains, you will need 3, one in the back and 1 and a half chains for the connecting chain Sram PC 830 or PC 850 should be fine and work with 6,7,or 8 speed rear cogs and you have a freewheel not a cassette. I would use a mountain bike type freewheel for a lower gear because hills are that bad, like the stoker is in a backpack not on the bike so to speak. 3) This is a little tricky because of the double cable brake lever. Some of these levers had 2 individual cable balls ends or 1 cable ball end splitting out into 2 cables. If it is 2 cables replace them and put them both to the rear brake and separate the front brake for better stopping power.You will need 2 tandem road brake cables to do this and need 1 tandem shift cable. Barend shifters would be a little easier to shift then stem shifters. Send message if you need more help, Randy.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    Problem 1 GEARS: Tandem feels heavy and slow up the mountain Alps, like a basic two crank bike
    Well, how much Tandem ridin have you done? It's a team effort, until you and your stoker gets used to riding together it'll always feel heavy and slow heading uphill. Once you're both accustomed to the bike and each other it'll just feel "different" instead.
    And if you have to ride it solo, then Tandems ARE heavy.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    HELP Needed: How can I upgrade the existing Rear to Front Deraillers, Cranks and Pedals, Rear Cogs (28..to 11 surely would be best?)
    Upgrade can mean a couple of different things. Either you can get what's basically more expensive stuff. They might work a bit crisper, but won't really improve on the basic functionality much. Or you can stay in your approximate price range, and simply go for parts better suited for your type of riding.

    Unless your current parts are actually worn out or broken:
    Derailleur change - won't do you much. Easing up on pedalling when changing gears will improve things a lot more than any derailer change ever can.
    Cranks - even less of a change there. Sure you can get those which are stiffer and maybe a tad lighter, which again will mean next to nothing for your ability to tackle a climb.

    Pedals - I like SPD-style pedals, but some are intimidated by the much more definite connection to the bike that they offer. In reality you have to be pushing quite hard before there's a measurable benefit from them. I like mine anyhow.

    Rear cogs - what do you want an 11 small for? Assuming that you have 700C wheels and a 50-something tooth big chainring, you'd be spinning out at around 60 KMH / 37 MPH. I wouldn't feel any pressing urge to add any more speed in that situation anyhow.

    As I can't make out how many speeds you are currently running it gets hard to offer more specific advice. If it's a freewheel hub 7-speed is a so-so option on account of the long unsupported axle. But if you're using 7-speed already, then you could try one of the megarange MTB-style freewheels with a whopping 34T biggest sprocket.

    Or you can keep a reasonably densely spaced cassette/freewheel and get yourself a quad crank instead..
    Or for the sake of simplicity, just replace your rear right crank with an easily available MTB crank with something like a 24-34-44 or thereabouts tooth count. On 700C wheels it'll still get you to about 50 KMH /31 MPH.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    PROBLEM 2 CHAIN: What kind of chain do I get, where from and how do I measure it? I would like to chain both chains. The longer to rear derailler snapped.
    Some people are almost religious about their chains, I'm not. I tend to alternate between Shimano and KMC depending on what I can get easiest/cheapest.
    As far as I can tell, running conditions and frequency of clean/lube is more important than the brand.
    KMC comes with a quick link, Shimano doesn't.
    Chains are almost always listed by the no of gears they're supposed to work with, so just count the number of rear sprockets and you're all set. Length has to be cut to fit anyhow. For your drive chain there are plenty of links on how to get the length right, for your synch chain you'd just have to eyeball it.
    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    PROBLEM 3 Gear Cable: What do you recommend? Teflon coated?
    IMO using a casing with a liner is more important than the cable.
    For an elegant solution you have the extra challenge of finding longer-than-average cables, so you might be a bit limited in your choice there.
    I have on occasion successfully lengthened shifter cables using the metal sleeve from an electric terminal block. Simply run both ends through from opposite directions and tighten the screws. It's a bit ugly but real easy.
    I've even used butt-spice crimp terminals to extend brake wires. It hasn't killed me yet, but it's not really something I'd recommend. To get it even halfway viable you need a high-end crimping plier, which kinda negates the ease of the operation.
    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    Problem 4 Brakes: Should I upgrade the cables?
    As long as it's clean and not fraying there's not much difference from one cable to another. You're likely to see more change from switching pads and making sure that your routing is as good as possible. Good housing with a liner can make a difference.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    How do I improve them easily?
    change pads, tune the routing. Then you're pretty much out of easy options. You've got an oddball cam-actuated brake which use a non-standard mount, so there's not that much you can do.
    One option would be to switch to another fork.
    Do note the tandems on good surfaces can put a wicked load on the fork during hard braking, so you might want to get something really sturdy, maybe even custom built. You could even have a disc brake/rim brake combo. I've even seen some dual discs.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    downhill my hand is on the coasting brakes.
    Couple of options here. Hook the rear hub brake to a friction/thumb shifter, or hook one of the brakes to a brake lever on the stoker's bar.

  5. #5
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    Grenoble has some good bike shops for tandems. From what I recall, Routens stocks the longer cables.

    That is a nice-looking bike, I would try and keep it in original form.
    It would be a shape to split up the transmission and put a modern MTB crank on. Are the cranks Shimano or Specialities-TA? You may be able to fit a smaller chainring on, but not by much. Far better to start on the rear cogs.
    You can get rear cogsets up to 34 teeth. You may need a modern MTB derailleur to cope with the capacity

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Looks to me as if you need to change the stoker's right crankarm,
    to one with a boss on the back side of the spider arms for a smaller 3rd chainring,
    to drop down to a significantly smaller chainring .. like a 24t .. 74mm BCD.
    that you can do with a single bike crank, chosen so you kep the crossover drive on the left side.

    there are 'tripleizer' chainrings, [TA] the bolt circle for the smaller chainring
    is made part of the 2nd chainring, so outer, 130, inner 74..
    not sure how they handle the power of 4 legs.

    If you can find a whole TA Zephyr Tandem crankset that would be a score,
    the French Company stopped making them a few years back ..
    advantage: the final drive crankarms were drilled with 3 sets,
    a 110 outer ring circle, and 2 different bolt patterns for the granny gear.
    either a 74,and a 56, the latter offers the potential to put a 20t sprocket on to further lower your rear ratio..

    I'm guessing the rear hub is double threaded,
    a freewheel cluster on your right, the Arai brake on your left.

    not a freehub, so the 11t pedal down hill cog is out, limited to 13t

    unless you have the wheel rebuilt with a current cassette tandem hub.
    the one from Shimano retains the thread on the left for the drag brake..
    and the 48hole drilling..

    rebuilding the front hub with a Schmidt dynamo hub will be more reliable
    lighting power than the Sanyo tire drive one that is there,
    [and slips in the rain]
    the front lamp would have the on/off switch..

    oh , and there is probably no problem switching the final drive crank to your front crankset, chain is a lot longer, of course.
    Its how tandems were set up in the 50's.
    [no cross chaining issues because of the long distance
    between the front and rear chain cogwheels]

    but more common,is as you have, these days, short final chain. triple on stokers right side..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 05-10-11 at 10:18 AM.

  7. #7
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    First of all: A very large THANK YOU to all who have well thought ideas and offered precise points.

    Chris_W:
    Thank you for the note. What a SMALLWORLD. I didnt expect to have anyone else from my end of the world. I shall definitely visit your store when I get a chance. We are quite fond of our bike, so I cant say I will be looking for another yet. Our tandem was used and expertly kept for a charity. It was for blind people in Geneva to get them outdoors. Look forward to catch-up.

    mwbikeman: Thanks. I shall get 1. new brake pads asap. 2. New chains as described. Learning curve with all the Jargon quick: Stoker or Stocker in a backpack, Freewheel etc. 3. Getting cables for brakes and sticking to bar end cable shifters, replacing these cables too.

    dbac: Thanks as well for the lengthy comments. I have ridden a tandem over 3 seasons now (3 years). My fitness is better than my Stoker (must be the term for my rear team mate aka GF). I agree and clearly noticed that if a buddy joins me I have plenty more power. I also go far faster and those 10% inclines are actually quite well achieved. My neighbour owns P.A.L.M Geneve, so he actually makes Tandems from Carbon. His tandem is amazing. Bespoke and lighter than anything I have seen. I think he mentioned 9kgs approx. Mine is double this amount! However, I see another side, I see my Stoker and I will augment our fitness. I am signing the line to reach the goal.

    The information is very useful, thank you for the link as well. After reading what you wrote I agree with you. It seems pointless to go over the top with what already works fairly well. I actually enjoyed the uphill on the easiest gearing and I think my Stoker will be fit by next month. My GF will not want more speed, however, I appreciate what you have said.

    Ref Prob 2 Chain: Thanks. I seem to be able to find Shimano easier.

    Ref Prob 3 Cables: Looks like I have found extra length wires from a UK company with the Teflon coatings. I can also get the nice plastic matching covers to match.

    Ref Prob 4 Brakes: Ok I shall change the pads. The bike rests on our Balcony, sheltered with a cover. However, the colder temperatures may damage it. Time to change as its an easy fix. Talked to an Atelier and had a heart attack, he said 400 to 600 bucks to get a basic brake upgrade. I think no thanks. Price value is not wise. Someone said keep it as stock as possible. It will sell better and these bikes when well maintained sell very well.

    Finally I dont trust my stoker. She freaks out to quickly. I would be pedalling and I can imagine her braking too often.


    MichaelW: Merci. I will look up the shop you mentioned as well. So far the UK seems a great place too for parts. My partner will visit the USA so I shall get her to get a few bits. A good friend of mine was a downhill MTB'er, he also has race bikes and so will be helping me out. I think one chap above clearly described the rationale to change or not to change. Its not a Shimano. I will have to read it clearly. My single seater race bike has full ultegra Shimano, however this bike...hmmm I have absolutely no idea. Will need to take the cover of and inspect further.

    fietsbob:
    Wow. I dont understand what you have written. I need to do a lot more reading. I knew I had to start somewhere. What a learning curve.

    THANK YOU!!!! MERCI Beaucoup!
    Last edited by LoveGeneva; 05-10-11 at 06:29 PM. Reason: make clearer to read

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    shimano sells so much components to the bike frame factories, these days,
    it is often 'the standard'

    tandem hubs from other companies are made , they often cost much more.

    Freehub . the freewheel is a component of the hub, axle bearings on the extreme ends.

    freewheels screw onto the hubs-shell,there is a good amount
    of un supported axle past the right bearing in the hub..
    you taken the rear wheel out... ever?


    +1 on putting the drag brake on a ratcheting , sun tour bar end shifter.
    the ratchet pawls will let you set the brake and have it stay in a drag mode ,
    ,while you use both hands on the rim brakes.
    then you can separate the duplex brake lever for the rim brakes into individual

    front and rear brake levers.

    your brakes are a roller cam type, the brake lever is what would be old style road brakes ..
    cable out the top, I'd think the cable pull leverage a better match,
    so single up the duplex lever to 1 cable , ..
    aero type levers likely pull too little cable..

    the nature of leverage..
    fulcrum closer to the work/ longer effort arm.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    ... The bike rests on our Balcony,..the colder temperatures may damage it.
    No, that won't happen. There's nothing on a bike that will take damage in a temperature range that's tolerable to humans. If anything, cooler temperatures slows down decay.
    Heat OTOH is routinely used for what's called forced or accelerated ageing tests performed to determine stuffs expected longevity. If you can keep it out of direct sunlight it'll help preserve the paint and everything plastic and rubbery.

    Regarding upgrades: Tinkering with a bike has of course an emotional value as well. Replacing an although fully functional part with one that you know is a bit shinier, slicker, lighter (and more expensive) can certainly bring more joy to riding.

    Basically there's a chance that you will ride better/harder b/c you know the bike is better.

    But you need to be real careful about how much improvement you're expecting, and even more so about how much of it as you attribute to the bike.
    As long as all parts are fully functioning, rider ability/effort has a much greater impact on performance.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    Ref Prob 4 Brakes: ... Talked to an Atelier and had a heart attack, he said 400 to 600 bucks to get a basic brake upgrade.
    1) what currency?
    2) what was he intending to do?

    Not knowing the exact spec of your tandem, I can't promise anything. But it seems likely that you'd be able to fit a rigid, (maybe suspension corrected) 26" MTB fork that can take a disc brake.
    Avid BB5 road can be had for say EUR 35, I see forks starting at EUR 60, then you'd need another stem and another headset - say another EUR 50 or so. Oh, you'll need another wheel too.

    Quote Originally Posted by LoveGeneva View Post
    ..Someone said keep it as stock as possible. It will sell better and these bikes when well maintained sell very well.
    This is all bolt-on, so it'll bolt straight off again. Unless you misplace parts while they're off the bike, it can be returned to it's original condition (well, maybe with an added tool mark or two) in less than an hour.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    shimano sells so much components to the bike frame factories, these days,
    it is often 'the standard'

    tandem hubs from other companies are made , they often cost much more.
    Thanks fietsbob.
    Freehub . the freewheel is a component of the hub, axle bearings on the extreme ends.

    freewheels screw onto the hubs-shell,there is a good amount
    of un supported axle past the right bearing in the hub..
    you taken the rear wheel out... ever?

    Yes. Not on the tandem. I plan to do this tomorrow morning. I have to count the Stoker triple and then the rear, to check what setup I have and equipment. The rear could be a suntour, if so I should be able to replace it. I will replace the rear derailler as I feel it is in need of the change to create smoother changes. It is not a click system but a smooth system.

    +1 on putting the drag brake on a ratcheting , sun tour bar end shifter.
    the ratchet pawls will let you set the brake and have it stay in a drag mode ,
    ,while you use both hands on the rim brakes.
    then you can separate the duplex brake lever for the rim brakes into individual

    front and rear brake levers. Pointers taken. Thanks.

    your brakes are a roller cam type, the brake lever is what would be old style road brakes ..
    cable out the top, I'd think the cable pull leverage a better match,
    so single up the duplex lever to 1 cable , ..
    aero type levers likely pull too little cable..

    the nature of leverage..
    fulcrum closer to the work/ longer effort arm.
    Thank you again. I appreciate all the help. This is all useful.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dabac View Post
    No, that won't happen. There's nothing on a bike that will take damage in a temperature range that's tolerable to humans. If anything, cooler temperatures slows down decay.
    Heat OTOH is routinely used for what's called forced or accelerated ageing tests performed to determine stuffs expected longevity. If you can keep it out of direct sunlight it'll help preserve the paint and everything plastic and rubbery.

    Regarding upgrades: Tinkering with a bike has of course an emotional value as well. Replacing an although fully functional part with one that you know is a bit shinier, slicker, lighter (and more expensive) can certainly bring more joy to riding.

    Basically there's a chance that you will ride better/harder b/c you know the bike is better.

    But you need to be real careful about how much improvement you're expecting, and even more so about how much of it as you attribute to the bike.
    As long as all parts are fully functioning, rider ability/effort has a much greater impact on performance.
    Great points and I shall be wary of the matter.

    1) what currency? Euros
    2) what was he intending to do? I decided otherwise. Just supply a hydraulic system but said further parts needed to be changed and it would fly upwards. After reading what everyone has suggested.

    I made my own inspection on the bike. I usually leave it to the "experts". On looking at the bike it clearly needs new pads.

    Not knowing the exact spec of your tandem, I can't promise anything. But it seems likely that you'd be able to fit a rigid, (maybe suspension corrected) 26" MTB fork that can take a disc brake.
    Avid BB5 road can be had for say EUR 35, I see forks starting at EUR 60, then you'd need another stem and another headset - say another EUR 50 or so. Oh, you'll need another wheel too.

    This is very very interesting.

    This is all bolt-on, so it'll bolt straight off again. Unless you misplace parts while they're off the bike, it can be returned to it's original condition (well, maybe with an added tool mark or two) in less than an hour.
    I think I will start with the following:

    1. New chains all around, SRAM priced well.
    2. New cables in black for brakes. Jagwire Premium range.
    3. New cables in black for gears. Jagwire again.
    4. Counting the Front triple cranks to figure out my exact setting.
    5. Counting the rear cassette and checking for wear.
    6. Replacing or changing few parts on 4 &/or 5.
    7. Changing derailler due to wear. Shimano LX probably.
    8. Probably will have to change the stoker derailler as it also can be very moody. Sign of wear over time.

    Thats it for now. I shall thereon look at your suggestions better braking systems only if needed.

    Thanks chaps!

  12. #12
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    400-600 EUR for (just the) hydraulic disc brakes is quite a lot. Not impossibly much, but that'd buy you race-grade equipment, which you might not really need. Even assuming he included wheels in there it'd still be more than required. If it was for a total conversion, incl adding the disc brake mounts and touching up the paint, then it'd be a fair price. Besides, running hydraulic brakes together with drop bars isn't a straightforward proposition. Not entirely impossible, but it'll require some rather rare parts.

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