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  1. #1
    Senior Member AndyGrow's Avatar
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    Need some help - getting frusterated w/choices.

    I'm getting a tad bit frusterated trying to decide what tandem to get, without being able to actually ride one or two. The closest dealers are 3 hours away...and there are only 2 tandems between all the dealers. All of the tandems are either medium or small frames...not too good since I am 6'4 and my wife is 5'7.

    So I went to the mfgrs websites of the tandems we are considering, and wrote down all the measurements I could find.

    Question - can we use our single road frames measurements as a rough guide for what will fit with a tandem?

    Right now it looks like Burley has the best/closest measurements to what we actually ride. The C'dale and the Trek are either way too small (numerically) or way too big (C'dale jumbo frame). But that's just by using the written measurements.

    Since we can't actually try a frame that fits us, is it a somewhat safe bet that if we go by the measurements then we should be ok? I really don't want to drop $2k on a bike we won't ride because it doesn't fit either of us at all.

    Someone please calm our nerves...!

    Thanks
    Andy and Vickie

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyGrow
    I'm getting a tad bit frusterated trying to decide what tandem to get, without being able to actually ride one or two.
    Top tube length is the critical dimension on a tandem and, like it or not, the stoker's compartment is for the most part a by-product of whatever tandem size is needed for the captain. In other words, if your personal bike has a 60mm top tube, then you'll want to find a tandem with a 60mm top tube, or something pretty darn close to it. Therefore, assuming your personal bike fits, you can use your personal bike as a guide when sizing the front end dimensions of a tandem and get a fit that's "close-enough" to where the stem length can be adjusted to dial-in your fit.

    However, if you haven't done so, let me strongly suggest that you find a time on a weeknight evening when you have 30 minutes to an hour of distraction free time and use it to call and talk with someone like Mel Kornbluh at TandemsEast.com or Mark Johnson at PrecisionTandems.com (phone numbers are on their Websites). Tell them what your concerns are, give them your personal bike size(s), you and your wife's inseams, height, weight, etc... (they'll ask you for it anyway so just have it ready), and go with the flow. They've sold hundreds of tandems over the years, many of them sight unseen by their clients, and will be able to put your mind at ease on this decision.

    Just something to consider.

  3. #3
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    I am also 6'4" tall and my stoker is 5'7". We have a 'large' KHS Milano. Milano's only come in large and small. I have a bit of seatpost showing and the fork is uncut with a stack of spacers under the stem, but I was able to duplicate the cockpit of my single bike pretty darn close considering that the seat tube angles are half a degree different. I have an adjustable stem on the front just in case any of my buds want to try it out which if measured, comes out to about a 135mm length with no rise.

    When shopping for a tandem I was a bit worried about the captains cockpit lenght. But, if you look closely at the geometry, Most of the XL or Jumbo frames measure 23" seat tube with a slightly sloping top tube. The head tube is also a little shorter than, say a 60 CM single bike so the reach can be a little longer than you think it will be, depending on if there is a difference between the head and seat angles, like on my KHS (74 deg. head angle, 73 deg. seat angle).

    You and your stoker would fit a large Trek, a jumbo/large or extralarge/medium Cannondale, a large Burley or a 23/20 Co-Motion, or a large KHS if you were so inclined.

    One thing you may wish to consider is the captain generally wants the standover to be a little lower than his or her single bike so that the captain can stand with feet spread fairly wide to hold the bike while the stoker mounts up and sets the pedals for takeoff - without the stoker backpeddaling into the captain's calf...ouch!

  4. #4
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    At 6'4" a large Burley might do ya. I am 6'1" and my stoker is 5'4" and we ride a medium 05 Rivazza and absolutly love it. Great bike for abotu $3200. You an get a large Tosa for $2200 which is the same frame but cheeper wheels and componets.

    Good luck.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Wildwood's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Top tube length is the critical dimension on a tandem and, like it or not, the stoker's compartment is for the most part a by-product of whatever tandem size is needed for the captain. In other words, if your personal bike has a 60mm top tube, then you'll want to find a tandem with a 60mm top tube, or something pretty darn close to it.
    Since everyone has a slightly different opinion let me disagree somewhat with TandemGeek and concur with Galen regarding sizing. On my single road bikes I ride with a 59cm top tube, 13 cm stem in a nice stretched out position, on the tandem I wanted a slightly more upright position (but not a cramped cockpit), 56.5 & 12 which I think gives me a bit more control at slower speeds. I also like wider handlebars on the tandem for a (perceived?) feeling of more control. Slightly lower standover is a good thing when starting and stopping.

    Maybe the reason for my sizing choices has something to do with the fact that I have several stokers, one of whom is close to my own weight (200#) and it makes for a different sensation than when riding with my 110# daughter.

    Also at 6'4" (and 5'7") I can't believe that a jumbo Cannondale is too big for you, but then I haven't checked their specs. Co-Motion was our choice and it has been a great bike for fitness rides and some supported touring. It's set up for unsupported touring, but we've never been quite so inclined - maybe now that my son is 15 we'll be ready to go it alone for some distances.

    My advice is always not to rush into a purchase - try to ride a few tandems before you choose, the decision is one that 2 (or more) people have to live with. Good Luck.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wildwood
    Since everyone has a slightly different opinion let me disagree somewhat with TandemGeek and concur with Galen regarding sizing.
    Are you sure you about that?


    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Therefore, assuming your personal bike fits, you can use your personal bike as a guide when sizing the front end dimensions of a tandem and get a fit that's "close-enough" to where the stem length can be adjusted to dial-in your fit.
    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    ...but I was able to duplicate the cockpit of my single bike pretty darn close considering that the seat tube angles are half a degree different.
    Again, not to add to the confusion, tandem fit IS subjective as hell and it varies with riding style, fitness, physical size, expectations, and often times bad advise even from bike shops who are trying to move inventory. It's also easy to get caught up in symantics, terminology, and hairsplitting in these digital discussions.

    However, what you see represented between the suggestion to go with a slightly shorter "reach" (and, after all, it really is reach we're talking about but that's not always easy to quantify when window shopping for tandems via the Internet) and the same reach used on your personal bike is the norm. How much shorter can you safely go? About 5% which still keeps you within reasonable adjustment ranges of most useable stem lengths. It also usually compensates for some additional saddle set-back which many tandem captains seem to adopt vs. their personal bike's saddle set-back, myself included.

    Shorter reach will enhance control but, unless you expect to need that extra control once you and your regular stoker get dialed into tandeming, most seasoned cyclists who captain tandems and who plan to engage in fast recreational riding or racing will want to replicate their regular bike riding position on their tandem. For captains who will have "guest stokers" or kids or couples who will be using their tandem for extensive touring, the shorter reach with higher bar position would be preferrable.

    Again, all of this can usually be sorted out by an experienced tandem dealer over the course of an interactive telephone conversation not Email or IM. And, you'll also want to steer away from discussions regarding "what do yo have in stock that will fit" since that's quite often where the worst fitting tandems come from... and I've seen a lot of mis-fit teams, to include a few who bought from tandem speciality dealers. There is nothing that frustrates me more when dealing with folks who can't get a good fit on a tandem when I see captains or stokers with set-back seatposts and saddles all the way back on the rails or straight posts with saddles all the way forward where it's obvious that the correct saddle set-back position was not the most important dimension relative to the sale. Even the self-proclaimed leader in tandems includes comments in their catalogs that tout how by pushing the stoker's saddle all the way back and pushing their bullhorn handlebars all the way forward the rear stoker compartment magically grows several inches.... well yeah, if you don't mind giving your stoker a sore lower back and planting their face in your butt.

    I guess there is some kind of BS argument that goes, if we can at least get them onto a tandem TODAY that's pretty close, they're more likely take the tandem home today and start riding tomorrow (seizing the moment, if you will) than if they have to walk away and think about ordering one which may or may not happen.

    Bottom Line: Do yourself a favor and take what you've learned about tandems -- probably enough to be dangerous -- and give one of the aforementioned tandem dealers a call on the phone. You will not regret it.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 09-07-05 at 05:57 AM.

  7. #7
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    There is nothing that frustrates me more when dealing with folks who can't get a good fit on a tandem when I see captains or stokers with set-back seatposts and saddles all the way back on the rails or straight posts with saddles all the way forward where it's obvious that the correct saddle set-back position was not the most important dimension relative to the sale.
    Mark,

    I think a lot of what you see with regard to seats all the way forward (stokers) or all the way back (captains) is simply people trying to get as close as possible to their single bike's KOPS position. Tandems almost universally use a 73 deg. seat tube angle front and back (I think Burley may us 72.5 for the large size). 73 degrees would work fine if everyone rode a 56 CM single bike.

    In trying to duplicate a friend's riding position from her Trek CF single bike to my tandem, I had the saddle all the way forward and still was 2 CM further back than on her single (she uses a Thompson zero setback post on her single).

    My KOPS is about 1 CM further ahead on the tandem than my single. I have used a seat set-back adaptor in the past, but then my saddle interfered with my stoker's hands so I removed the adaptor and just pushed the saddle back as far as it would go on the stock post. Only on a Burley with the 72.5 seat tube angle could I get it exact, but then my stoker would have to deal with a 72.5 seat tube angle instead of the 74 she has on her single which would result in her saddle being all the way forward on the post thus shortening her cockpit.

    So, a lot of what you see I think is people trying to match their single bike KOPS to the tandem while dealing with a different seat tube angle than on thier single bike.

    Naturally, if I went custom, I would have a 72 degree seat tube angle for me and 74 for my stoker and have about 3" added to the standard boom tube length just for good measure.
    Last edited by galen_52657; 09-07-05 at 09:25 AM.

  8. #8
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    I think a lot of what you see with regard to seats all the way forward (stokers) or all the way back (captains) is simply people trying to get as close as possible to their single bike's KOP position.
    I wish that were the case... but usually it has nothing to do with anything that forward thinking. When asked, most teams -- many of whom have never heard of saddle set-back or KOPS -- simply indicate that the saddle was moved forward or aft as a way of adjusting their reach, e.g., 5'2" stokers with 7.5cm - 8cm of set-back or 5'8" captains riding Medium frames with almost no set-back. Of course, my favorite mis-fit is the stoker sitting on a saddle where the non-suspension seatpost is buried in the seat tube and they're still rocking their hips, although more recent changes in tandem frame designs with shorter stoker seat tubes and sloping top tubes are making that less common.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 09-07-05 at 11:46 AM.

  9. #9
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Of course, my favorite mis-fit is the stoker sitting on a saddle where the non-suspension seatpost is buried in the seat tube and they're still rocking their hips
    I understand what you are saying and I see it all the time - with riders on single bikes. I see many short-statured riders who look like they have a reasonable amount of knee flex at the bottom of the stroke, yet still have an excessive hip sway when viewed from the back. I think this is due to several factors:

    1. Riders under 5'3" +/- sometimes don't want to buy a bike with 650 c wheels and thus buy the smallest 700 c frame that is still too large for them.

    2. Riders under 5'3" using 170 mm crankarms which are too long. They set their saddle too high because when the saddle is set to the proper height, their knees are in their chest at the top of the stroke. Or they experience knee pain due to the acute knee angle at the top of the stroke and raise the saddle.

    Different people have different amounts of flexability. Standard saddle height recomendations are just a guide. Regardless of knee flex angle at the bottom of the stroke, the ability to pedal without rocking side-to-side on the saddle should be the determining factor in saddle height IMHO.

  10. #10
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    Riders under 5'3" +/- sometimes don't want to buy a bike with 650 c wheels and thus buy the smallest 700 c frame that is still too large for them.
    Debbie would normally fall into that category at 5'2", but given that she's got a fairly long inseam (not all that uncommon for the fairer sex), she is able to ride a 49cm x 49cm Ritchey with very customized geometry.


  11. #11
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Very handsome machine....!

  12. #12
    Senior Member wsurfn's Avatar
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    ""However, if you haven't done so, let me strongly suggest that you find a time on a weeknight evening when you have 30 minutes to an hour of distraction free time and use it to call and talk with someone like Mel Kornbluh at TandemsEast.com or Mark Johnson at PrecisionTandems.com (phone numbers are on their Websites). Tell them what your concerns are, give them your personal bike size(s), you and your wife's inseams, height, weight, etc... (they'll ask you for it anyway so just have it ready), and go with the flow. They've sold hundreds of tandems over the years, many of them sight unseen by their clients, and will be able to put your mind at ease on this decision.""

    Andy this is my advice as well. My first choice is to ride them first. Once it is bought it is bought. But if you can't, this is my second choice. This is exactly what we did. Mel and Mark are first class guys.

  13. #13
    Senior Member AndyGrow's Avatar
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    Thanks (again!) to everyone that replied. I called and talked to Mark last night - wow talk about a wealth of information. Anyhow, he helped set us straight on what we should be looking for, what sizing will be best, and based on our budget, he recommended the Burley Tosa in size Large.

    So - we are now hunting for an '05 Tosa. Hopefully we can get something before the end of the season (snow is not too far away for us!), but if not we'll get an '06 over the winter.

    Anyone ride their tandem on a wind/mag trainer?

    Thanks to everyone for your input.
    Andy and Vickie

  14. #14
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AndyGrow
    Anyone ride their tandem on a wind/mag trainer?
    Yes, but not lately. See Clayton's thread on "Stationary Trainers"

  15. #15
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    Good luck on your search for a 2005 Tosa. Some of us who ordered this tandem in the spring had to wait 2 months for delivery. Hopefully, Burley has gotten over their delivery issues.

    For us, it was worth the wait. Its a great tandem for the price.

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