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  1. #1
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    Aluminum vs Steel Burleys - Frame Flex?

    Hi everyone. While this is my first post to the forum I have checked the archives for similar questions. While there is lots of info (thanks everyone) on frame flex and different frame materials and builds I couldn't quite find the answers. Here goes:

    Main Question: Has anyone directly compared the steel Burley Rumba/Duet vs the aluminum Tamburello/Tosa? Are there any substantial differences in flex along the top tube (fishtailing)?

    Background: My wife and I are new to tandeming and are currently test riding in the $1500 range. Combined weight around 260 pounds. Each doing around 50 miles per week on our singles. Captain 5'10'', stoker 5'2''. Both spin pretty smoothly, as spending a fair bit of time on rollers over the winter.
    Prime motivation for looking at tandems: pulling our toddler in a Chariot trailer, and later, if she is up for it, having her stoke with kiddie cranks.
    Secondary Motivation: New toy for fast(ish) 1-4 hour rides for the adults. Trying something different. Why wait until our daughter can stoke if we get some fun out of it in the meantime.

    Experience so far: Ridden a Rumba and a Paso Doble. Size small fits great. Tried the Paso to see what additional $1000+ buys you. Sure it's a bit nicer, but the bottomline for us was that both frames seemed to flex like crazy along the top tube, almost as if there is a pivoting point between captain and stoker. While never really disconcerting, the wobbliness was quite annoying particularly when doing smooth S-turns staying within a lane of traffic, but even when cruising along the flats. Given our low weight we were very surprised about the wobble as we didn't expect to be able to flex any decent frame. (Though subsequently I heard from a similarly built neighbor that they called their recently sold Duet "Team Tuna" as it seemed to propel itself like a fish.) But with the amount of perceived flex we knew we would not enjoy riding this tandem.

    To see whether the flex was because of us being newbies with complete lack of co-ordination we then tried a Comotion Primera (again size small). There was absolute no flex even when we tried to weave around hard. My wife said that this rides like a bike, not like a drunk tanker. It was just solid, and for the first time we thought that we could really enjoy tandeming, not just for its novelty value and for family duties (pulling trailer, having kid stoker). Note: We rode the Paso again right afterwards, and wobbled again big time.

    The Problem? We don't have $3000 for a Primera. Would a cheaper aluminum bike fit the bill? We could order a new 2005 Tamburello for 1400, but can't test ride it. We know the small Burley geometry fits very nicely. However, this would only be worth it if the aluminum frame (with the same geometry as the steel Rumba) is likely to eliminate most of the top tube flex. Will the different material alone (since it's the same geometry otherwise) be able to do that?
    Any thoughts and suggestions much appreciated. What other bikes in the 1500 range may fit the bill?

    Final note: Comfort seems to be less of an issue. Even without a suspension seatpost on the steel frames my wife didn't seem to mind anything short of real potholes. So I would think an al frame with a shock post could work for us comfort wise.

    Many thanks.

  2. #2
    Bill G Bill G's Avatar
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    Normaly aluminum has less flex and is stiffer in general. But with that being said it all depends on the material and how the tandem is built, this applys to both materials aluminum or steel. A good quality steel tandem can be stiff and have a great ride with no flex like the Co-Motion Primera you guys road. I have heard good things about the Burley aluminum frame from others it may do the trick for you. To bad you can not save up the dollars and get the Co-Motion Primera you liked, you guys would probably be money ahead in the long run if you could come up with the exstra cash. Also we chucked our suspention seat post years ago.

    The Trek T1000 is a nice Tandem for around $2400.00 retail and has a nice stiff aluminum frame with good solid componets, you can probably find one for less than the $2400.00 retail if you shop around. I have seen them as low as $1700.00 to $2000.00

    Good luck and ride together,
    Bill G
    Last edited by Bill G; 05-07-06 at 11:21 AM.
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  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Suggestion:
    As you-2 seem to prefer the Co-Mo ride over the Burley, why not look for a used Co-Mo in your size?
    Sold our '93 custom Co-Mo steel last year for $1100 . . . it 'only' had 57,000 miles on it and the folks who bought it zipped passed me on my single the other day (younger legs!) and were all grins as they yelled "Hi!"
    Another possibility on your frame flex issue: You both seem to be 'powering' hard and riding in-phase. Try riding 90 degrees out-of-phase (OOP).
    With a bit of patience/experience you'll eventually get the tandem you want . . .
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  4. #4
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    no direct comparison, but we have a Burley Duet and it feels pretty stiff to me. Our team weight is around 350 lbs, and we've given it some pretty hard works outs including climbing 10% plus grades, descending at 50 mph plus, and hammering with the local racers. In my observation the bike is a little heavy, and somewhat slow responding, but I've never felt it was flexy.

  5. #5
    Ride, baby...RIDE! High Cadence's Avatar
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    We enjoy our aluminum 2003 Burley Tosa. Our I'm 6'4" tall, wife is 5'8" tall. Our combined weight is about 375#. Nothing but sheer enjoyment on our tandem. Matter of fact, we are getting ready right now to go for a 1-hour ride.

  6. #6
    Long-time Curmudgeon DrPete's Avatar
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    +1 for the Aluminum frame. It is a little quicker than the steel in terms of acceleration/handling (we have the Tosa), but for all-day comfort I'd recommend a suspension post for the stoker and a carbon post for the captain (Wound Up makes one in the obscure 29.8 size).

    Granted, we're a 350# team, so we may stress most frames more than you will. The other thing to consider is stoker comfort. The top tube on the Primera is a good inch or more longer for the stoker than the Burley geometry. Now that Mollie's riding pretty aggressively that's becoming an issue because she doesn't have a lot of room on the Tosa. Just another thing to consider.

    DrPete

  7. #7
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    personally i always go for steel over al, but as for those 2 bikes i'm none the wiser
    although al is lighter it'll never have the same riding feel as steel

  8. #8
    Bill G Bill G's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzbandit
    personally i always go for steel over al, but as for those 2 bikes i'm none the wiser
    although al is lighter it'll never have the same riding feel as steel
    I use to feel the same way about steel untill we upgraded from our Co-Motion Supremo to a Co-Motion aluminum frame Robusta. All I can say is WOW!! the aluminum Robusta handles fast and the ride is great every bit as good as our steel Supremo even better in some ways. That is saying a lot considering we prefer not to use a suspention seat post on our tandems. The Robusta is Stiff and fast climbing with a great ride it does not get any better than that, it made me a believer.

    Take Care & Ride Together.
    Bill G
    Last edited by Bill G; 05-07-06 at 07:56 PM.
    Custom Co-Motion Primera Tandem (AKA The Marrage Counsler)
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  9. #9
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Well, our opinion/experience is a bit more varied yet!
    Have extensively ridden and/or owned owned steel, alu, ti and carbon fiber.
    All materials ride just a bit different, but our preference (and our butts) are with carbon fiber.
    Light/responsive/comfort . . . all in one material.

  10. #10
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wombatspeed
    Main Question: Has anyone directly compared the steel Burley Rumba/Duet vs the aluminum Tamburello/Tosa? Are there any substantial differences in flex along the top tube (fishtailing)?
    The aluminum Burley's are definitely stiffer than even the current air-hardened steel framed models; however, in the grand scheme of things even the Burley aluminum frames aren't as rigid as steel and aluminum models from Co-Motion. Burley's tandem designs, like Santana, trade off a bit of frame stiffness for comfort in both their steel and aluminum models. If you're looking for a stiff racing frame, Co-Motion caters to that market niche. Cannondale also has a reputation for rigid frames; however, they lack the more aggressive steering geometry found on all of Co-Motion's tandems... even more so on the Co-Motions fitted with the Wound-Up forks.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wombatspeed
    We could order a new 2005 Tamburello for 1400, but can't test ride it.
    Given your and your spouses sensitivity to frame stiffness, a test ride really seems to be in order. While I would think the 7000 series aluminum Burley would be an improvement over the steel models and should be "good enough", if you're using Co-Motion tandems as a benchmark you could find yourself with a slight case of buyer's remorse... But, then again, this is your FIRST tandem: you can always upgrade in the future when your tandem budget and your knowledge of your tandem needs / desires are both better refined. In the mean time, if you buy the Burley Tamburello you'll have a very good tandem to support your immediate needs within your budget.


    Quote Originally Posted by Wombatspeed
    What other bikes in the 1500 range may fit the bill?
    If you're looking for a rigid frame, you'll be hard pressed to find anything aside from second hand C'dales in that price range that would compete with the price you've been quoted on the Burley Tamburello.

    A good tandem that you can start to ride now, is better than the ideal tandem that remains out of reach and delays your introduction to tandem ownership.

  11. #11
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    I find it strange that the OP would find the ride of the steel-framed Burley to be that objectionable, especially considering their team weight. Is it possible there was something wrong with the bike? Loose headset or spokes or something? We weigh in combined at 360 lbs, and though frame flex is detectable, its not an issue riding the KHS. To induce frame flex we have to be climbing overgeared, standing and out of sync, in which case the steering becomes erratic and we tend to wonder off line. Or coasting down hill through a series of 'S' turns taken at high speed where the bike is healed over to one side, then straitened up abruptly and healed over to the other side, in which case the bike seems to 'squat' a little which I attribute to the fork loading, unloading then loading again. I am sure we are flexing the frame at other times-seated climbs mashing a hard gear- but it's not really detectable to me up front.

  12. #12
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by galen_52657
    I find it strange that the OP would find the ride of the steel-framed Burley to be that objectionable, especially considering their team weight. Is it possible there was something wrong with the bike?
    I suspect it's a combination of things, and perception is just that... perception. The Burley should not feel "objectionable" by any stretch; however, if a Co-Motion became the benchmark for a subsequent ride the bikes would definitely feel different.

    Again, too many variables to address (i.e., tire size, psi, shockpost vs no shockpost) which is why test riding is so important... if only to vanquish the demons of preconceived notions or to satisfy subtle biases that may have crept in during early research that skew perceptions.

  13. #13
    K&M
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    We ride an aluminum Burley (and ride it pretty hard) and have had no problems with frame flex (something which we would definitely detest). We have also put in quite a few miles on the Trek aluminum frame and found it stiff enough (although we disliked the steering). We doubt you will have any frame flex issues with either frame.

  14. #14
    Banned. galen_52657's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    I suspect it's a combination of things, and perception is just that... perception. The Burley should not feel "objectionable" by any stretch; however, if a Co-Motion became the benchmark for a subsequent ride the bikes would definitely feel different.

    Again, too many variables to address (i.e., tire size, psi, shockpost vs no shockpost) which is why test riding is so important... if only to vanquish the demons of preconceived notions or to satisfy subtle biases that may have crept in during early research that skew perceptions.
    A shockpost set too loose will definitely throw off a newbie team (as I experienced first hand) as every steering input causes the stoker's weight to move in the opposite direction, giving the sensation that there is some sort of hinge located mid-frame.

  15. #15
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by K&M
    We ride an aluminum Burley (and ride it pretty hard) and have had no problems with frame flex (something which we would definitely detest). We have also put in quite a few miles on the Trek aluminum frame and found it stiff enough (although we disliked the steering).
    Just so that no one gets too confused...

    I seem to recall that you have a Burley Rivazza with the "Race Package", which includes the True Temper Alpha Q carbon fork (47mm of rake), and not the "Sport" package with Burley's standard steel fork (~55mm of rake). This is somewhat important to note for readers as Trek's T1000 and pre-06 T2000 model tandems have the same steering geometry as Burley's "Sport" package (nominal 73* headtube with 55mm fork rake). The '06 Trek T2000s are now being spec'd with a tandem-rated carbon Bontrager "Satellite Plus" fork that features 50mm rake that "should" make the handling a bit more lively, although still short of a Co-Mo or Burley's Race Package.

  16. #16
    TWilkins
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wombatspeed
    both frames seemed to flex like crazy along the top tube, almost as if there is a pivoting point between captain and stoker. While never really disconcerting, the wobbliness was quite annoying particularly when doing smooth S-turns staying within a lane of traffic, but even when cruising along the flats.
    We got our Duet about 6 weeks ago, and have never experienced frame flex to the extent that you're describing it. We're right at 280 lbs, and in the 400 fairly hard miles we've put on the bike, the only noticeable frame flex we have noticed is "bump related", as we cross depressions in the roadway.

    I think my recommendation would be to decide what you want in a tandem, then shop accordingly. If you're interested in racelike performance, an aluminum frame is probably the way to go. If you're looking for comfort, I don't think steel can be beat.

  17. #17
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    For 2006 Burley has discontinued the Rivazza Sport. A stock Rivazza has the Rolf wheels, Carbon fork and FSA cranks (similar to the 2005 Rivazza - R)

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    Aluminum Burley it is for us!

    First of all thanks for everyone’s input. It certainly is interesting to get different perspectives.

    I think TandemGeek hits it on the head: at the end of the (testing) day it is about perceptions – what feels good and what doesn’t will vary a lot from team to team. I am the first to appreciate that (even if mostly based on single bike experience). I still have no explanation why we felt about the top tube flex the way we did. We just did – that was just our perception.

    Was there anything wrong with the bikes as has been suggested in some replies? I seriously doubt it. We ‘perceived’ the tail wagging in exactly the same way on the Rumba and the Paso, so I would be surprised if there were any loose spokes, and I know that that headsets were tight;-) Also, all the bikes had 28 tires as far as I know and no suspension posts. PSIs? – I didn’t check.

    Nonetheless, it is interesting to hear from other, heavier teams that they are very happy with their steel Burleys stiffness. Which is good, since happiness is what it’s all about. Just to clarify, I also wouldn’t call the Burley ride ‘objectionable’, but for us personally the wobbliness (however caused and whether real or perceived) was enough to make us think we wouldn’t enjoy riding enough to make us pick the tandem over our singles when going for rides together– and that is the point of having a tandem, right! It’s a shame that the steel Burleys didn’t work for us, as I wanted them to work, since they were the only affordable option we could test ride. So our ‘subtle bias from early research’ towards steel Burleys has been undone by test riding – unfortunately.

    Two other TandemGeek comments were very useful in our decision:
    1) directly comparing the al and steel Burley frames as well as cautioning that the al won’t be a Co-Motion either. While obvious, this will help to dampen expectations (and thus prevent buyer’s remorse), and I guess I appreciated it as it confirms what I have been telling myself: If stiffness is improved somewhat while staying within budget, that is the way forward at this point in our tandem ‘career’!
    2) This is our FIRST tandem. As a Tamburello seems ‘good enough’ to make us ride that’s perfect for now. Plus, the suggestion of upgrading once you know what you really like reflects my personal experience with MTBs: I started with a Kona Blast in 2000. It was good enough to ride a couple of weeks on the Great Divide Trail, it was good enough to clear (almost) everything I asked of it all over Colorado and Utah. And it wasn’t just good enough, it was GREAT. (and the original Alivio and Deore stuff still works like a charm in the bike’s reincarnation as a commuter). Now, I have a Rocky Mountain Element, which is a complete riot. And, yes, it is a much better bike. But I would have never spent three times as much when I started riding the Kona. And maybe the Kona can set a ‘working bike’ example for the Tamburello: If in a few years with a second kid we will ‘need’ to buy a second tandem, the Tamburello can become the ‘kid-stoker only bike’, and us geezers get the Co-Mo! Fun times ahead.

    Our bottomline: Can’t afford the Primera. Will get the Tamburello. We’ll let you know how we ‘perceive’ the extra stiffness from aluminum ;-) Most of all looking forward to riding. Thanks for all the advice.

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    Tamburello - first impressions

    Thanks again for everyone's input. Since we now have the aluminum frame Burley Tamburello I wanted to follow up with some first impressions of how we perceive the ride. The bike set up is completely stock and, hence, identical with the steel Rumba that we test rode earlier.

    In short: The ride is phantastic! Same nice fit as the same geometry steel Rumba, but what a difference in ride. No wobbliness whatsoever, even cranking up hard on steep hills or trying to sprint. And remember, we are new to tandeming, so we can improve our teamwork a lot! My stoking wife felt like she was on the same bike as I - when I steered ALL of the bike would immediately follow; which we both enjoyed immensely, in fact we couldn't stop grinning! (All this even with a slightly loose headset, which I only tightened two miles down the road! So it just got better) Moreover, even going through some pretty large holes and over rough pavement my wife felt absolutely no need for a suspension seat post on the al frame. Sure, there was a slight cushiness penalty compared to Burley steel, but for us it appeared very marginal.

    For us steel and al Burley frames felt like day and night. In fact we found the al ride so good that we felt like it was 95% of the Co-Motion Primera's ride quality (which we wanted, but couldn't afford) at less than half the price. Some of the remaining 5% are perhaps in the components (heavier wheels, more pedestrian shifters), but they do their job. And if we are going to enjoy tandeming as much as it looks like perhaps we'll end up putting a Winwood/Nashbar cross carbon fork on it to even bring the handling closer to the Primera.

    Our advice to other inexperienced teams: If at all possible, try not just different manufacturers, but also different materials from the same manufacturer. It made a world of difference to us.

  20. #20
    Senior Member mtbcyclist's Avatar
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    Glad you like the ride. My wife and I have a 05 Rivazza sport with a carbon fork. Just the right stiffness. My wife, just like your stoker, has never complained about too stiff of a ride or any pain related to a stiff bike. Glad you enjoy it. The additional carbon fork is nice.

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    Not to hijack your thread, but I found a lot of the discussion very helpful in the search for our first tandem.

    My wife and I are also soon to be proud owners of a shiny buttercup Burley Tamburello. We're a heavier team as well, about 360# combined at the moment (getting smaller each week though!). I was concerned about frame flex as well, given that I usually have to get the "beefer" model of everything due to my larger size (6'4", 210#).

    This last weekend found us very motivated to test ride and talk tandems with the local tandem specialty store. (Insert shameless plug for the wonderful folks at Chain Reaction Bikes in Maryville, TN). The shop happened to have a Tamburello on the floor, and better yet it was on sale (last year's model). They also had a few other tandems in, but nothing that would really come close to fitting us. This Tamburello is a medium frame and we noted in the Burley cataloge that the medium sized frame is only about .8-.7 in difference in captain top tube and standover, compared to their large size. So after some mucking with the headset, seats, ect we got it in reasonably good fit for us. Off we went for our Tamburell test ride, and we didn't stop grinning the whole time! I've never seen my wife so excited!

    I didn't notice any frame flex, the frame felt solid and easy to control. Granted, I don't have much to compare it to, but it felt safe and comfortable to us.

    The frame isn't exactly the size we'd purchase if ordering one from the factory, but with the adjustments the shop made it is comfortable to ride. Our thinking is that we'll ride the Tamburello for a season or two. If the tandem bug is still going strong then we'll start looking at the major upgrade to a co-motion of some description. We're getting this Burley for a great deal, less than half of what we were initially willing to spend if we considered the Primera in our price range. Interesting to note, it was recommended due to our size that we ultimately look at Alum co-motions and not their steel frames if we find ourselves wanting to upgrade.

    We should be picking her up this week! Now we start training on the tandem for our first MS 150 at the end of Aug!

  22. #22
    K&M
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    We also chose to buy a Burley because, after riding and comparing various bikes, it seemed to be by far the best value for the money. We have been EXTREMELY happy with our Rivazza (Race Package) and, even though we do a lot of longer rides (double centuries, etc.), my stoker says she does not want or need a suspension seat post. The frame may be stiff, but the ride is certainly not harsh.

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