In response to the question you asked:
The Bontrager Race Lite Tandem rims have been on the market for about a year now and the feedback on these wheels has been very good. Here is a link to their Web page with all the details: http://www.bontrager.com/roadwheels/...p?id=122&pt=10
Note: They are spec'd for tandems with 145mm rear spacing. You could probably modify them to work with 160mm rear spaced tandems.
I know and correspond with several teams who have upgraded older tandems with these wheels, who have recently purchased TREK T2000's that come with these wheels as OEM, or who have added them as an upgrade to their new Co-Motion tandems. Team weight has not been an issue as these teams cover the full spectrum from super lightweight (under 280lbs) to heavy weight (350 - 400lbs). Again, all of these folks have been very happy with the wheels. I don't think anyone has paid full retail for them, e.g., more like $750 - $800 vs the MSRP of $849.
Since someone mentioned the Santana / Shimano wheels.... Santana/ Shimano 16 spoke tandem wheels have an MSRP of $799 and just began to ship to customers in late November '02. At that time they did have several sets in stock for immediate delivery as after market items. They are spec'd for tandems with 160mm rear spacing and cannot be modified for use on tandems with 145mm rear spacing, nor are there plans to produce a 145mm rear spaced version.
The following FAQ's are now available in Santana's 2003 Preview Issue of Tandems & Tandeming which you can obtain for free by requesting one from Santana (Send Email to SantanaInc@aol.com
---------------------- snip -------------------------
From Bill McCready & Steve Lesse of Santana Inc.
16-spoke tandem wheelset FAQs
Q: How do Santana's 700c wheels differ from Shimano's single bike wheels?
A: The 160mm rear hub has dramatically wider flange separation allowing
improved spoke bracing angles and doubled durability. Symmetric lacing
further augments durability by allowing all 16 spokes to shoulder an equal
load. The rear hub also features a stronger tandem-rated drive mechanism and
disc brake capability. The 100mm front hub has slightly wider flange
separation and a steel (instead of aluminum) axle. Both hubs get titanium QR
skewers (instead of steel). The aerodynamic double-butted spokes are one
gauge larger. Shimano's updated rims feature machined braking surfaces and a
welded seam. These wheels are the first
to sport Shimano's striking new-for-2003 graphics.
Q: How light are these wheels?
A: More than a pound lighter than any previous tandem specific wheelset,
these wheels are also a full two pounds lighter than an Aerospoke wheelset.
Improvements to sprinting, climbing and acceleration are impressive.
Q: How aerodynamic are these wheels?
A: While the tandem version of Shimano's competition wheelset (WH-TD77) are a
bit heavier and wider than Shimano's "Dura-Ace" single bike wheels (WH-7701),
the aerodynamic advantage is comparable. Be prepared to ride faster.
Q: Aren't aero wheels uncomfortable?
A: It's true-because deep "aero" rims lack vertical compliance, they produce
harsh-riding wheels. Wide spoke bracing angles, however, create wheels that
are simultaneously vertically compliant (for enhanced comfort) and laterally
stiff (for quicker out-of-the-saddle sprints). You'll love the feel of these
Q: Are these wheels strong enough for tandems?
Answer 1: In dynamic testing performed at Shimano, the 16-spoke rear wheel
tested better than our 40-spoke 160mm rear tandem wheel. Consequently, we can
predict that this 16-spoke rear wheel will also be stronger than a 145mm rear
wheel with 48 spokes.
Answer 2: In two years of testing prototype 16-spoke wheels here at Santana,
we have yet to experience any type of failure.
Answer 3: Over the past 3 years, Shimano has delivered tens of thousands of
16-spoke wheels. This was the fourth season they've been used at the Giro
d'Italia and Tour de France (where they've won many stages and the
prestigious King of the Mountain title). An off-road 26-inch version has
proven reliable for all types of mountain biking. Improved spoke bracing and
total symmetry strengthens Shimano's competition-tested design, making it
suitable for tandems.
Q: Is there a recommended weight limit?
Answer 1: Initially, Shimano's recommended maximum rider weight for single
bike wheels was 160 pounds. This limitation has been lifted. Santana's
initial design goal for the 16-spoke tandem wheels was a combined rider
weight of 330 pounds. Based on experience gained from two years of testing,
we can now recommend (and warranty) these wheels for teams with a combined
rider weight of no more than 400 pounds.
Answer 2: Shimano's rule of thumb for single bike enthusiasts is that their
16-spoke wheels have the same strength as traditional 32-spoke wheels.
Santana's rule of thumb for tandem enthusiasts is that the 16-spoke rear
wheel is as strong as our 40-spoke 160mm wheel (and a bit stronger than
competitors' 145mm rear wheels with 48-spokes).
Q: Is there a warranty?
A: Exceptional durability allows Shimano to warranty their wheels for two
years. The 16-spoke tandem wheels are covered by this warranty. Full details
of the warranty can be found on the web at Shimano.com. Because Shimano will
not stock these built-for-Santana wheels or their component parts, all
warranty claims for 16-spoke tandem wheels will be administered by Santana
Cycles, Inc. (909) 596-7570 x15.
Q: What are the servicing requirements?
A: The well-sealed hubs require minimal maintenance. If there is some concern
about spoke tightness, a wheelbuilder with a spoke tensiometer should check
them. Shimano's recommended minimum tension is 1000 newtons (~160 pounds).
The wide bracing angle allows a maximum tension of up to 1500 newtons (~230
Q: Should I be concerned about noise?
A: At the high tension required for a tandem, these wheels might make some
noise while the nipples, spokes and rim grommets become fully seated. As long
as the spokes have adequate uniform tension, there is no need for concern.
Q: What about initial trueness?
A: Because uniform tension is more important than exact trueness, it is best
NOT to true these wheels until after they've been ridden for a couple of
Q: What about rim distortion?
A: With the heavy weight of tandems, some distortion of the rim surrounding
the spoke grommets is not unexpected.
Q: And if a spoke breaks?
A: Amazingly, single bike riders have successfully continued to use their
16-spoke wheels after breaking a spoke. Because a wheel with a broken spoke
won't remain true enough for adequate braking or cornering, it should be
replaced at the earliest opportunity.
Q: Are special tools required to replace a spoke?
A: Neither the cogset nor the disc brake rotor needs to be removed. The
wheels are supplied with a lightweight alloy spoke wrench that can be carried
in your toolkit-this wrench fits all of Shimano's 16-spoke wheels. A
shop-quality steel wrench is available through your bike shop.
Q: Are special spokes required?
A: In a pinch, a normal 294mm spoke can be used. Tighten an "emergency" spoke
just enough to allow the wheel to pass between loosened brake pads. Final
re-truing should use the method outlined below. Santana will stock a wide
range of spares, including the proper spokes.
Q: Is a special procedure required to replace a spoke?
A: As is the case when replacing a spoke on any wheel with 28 or fewer
spokes, the proper procedure is to de-tension the remaining spokes, and then
systematically re-tension the wheel a few pounds at a time. This work should
be done by a professional mechanic with a tensiometer.
Q: What tires can you recommend?
A: Santana has tested the wheels with various 23-32mm tires, and recommends
premium quality 25-28mm tires with a high thread count and wire beads,
inflated no higher than 150psi. Due to rim width, tires wider than 32mm
should not be used.
Q: Will there be a 145mm version?
A: No. Shimano's dynamic durability testing proves the necessity of wider,
symmetric spoke bracing, which is not possible within the narrow confines of
---------------------- snip -------------------------
To my knowledge, no one has reported any spoke failures or other problems with regard to durability on either the Bontrager or Santana paired spoke wheelsets. There are lots of miles on the Bontrager wheels so that's a good sign. Santana's wheels are just beginning to see some real world use so it's probably too soon to form any opininons lacking sufficient feedback other than the folks that are using them really like them a lot.
With regard to low spoke count, paired spoke wheels a spoke failure is the area of greatest concern since each spoke carries a significantly higher amount of tension than a wheel with a higher spoke count. While I'm not too concerned about a wheel failing from the loss of a spoke I would be interested to see how true it stayed relative to being able to ride it "home" without rubbing on the brakes and/or chain stays.
It would be good to know a bit more about your team and your tandem with regard to making any recommendations, i.e., team weight, model and year of tandem and how you plan to use it. While the Bontrager wheels are certainly a nice product -- as are the Santana / Shimano 16 paired spoke wheels -- you can easily create wheels that are as light and less expensive using conventional wheel components, such as by using 28, 32 or 36h Chris King or White Industries hubs, double butted or bladed spokes and Velocity or Mavic deep section rims. The obvious advantage of component wheels is that replacement parts are less expensive, more widely available and allow you to take advantage of new technology (rims or spokes) when ever it's time to replace a worn-out rim - and the rims on component wheels will wear out every bit as soon as any other rim.