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  1. #1
    Senior Member adamlaw's Avatar
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    Custom road tandem - most useful features?

    I am planning on having a road tandem built for my 50th birthday - something I can ride with my wife, son (15) and 2 daughters (12 and 10). I am looking for suggestions on several topics. Please weigh in with your wisdom and I will post pictures in the Spring when it is ready. I plan to train for some distance cycling/racing with my son/daughters and cycle charity rides/light touring with my wife (she is an equestrian and has not been on a bicycle in years).
    Geometry?
    Wheels?
    Brakes -disc or regular?
    Independent coasting?

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Frame material and proper fit are #1 priority.
    With several size stokers that could be an issue; however keep in mind: kidz grow fast.
    Indpendent coasting could be nice with younger and/or inexperienced stokers, but not vital.
    Depending on where you live(flat, hilly, mountainous) and team weight or if you decide to do loaded touring, V-brakes front and rear and maybe, if deemed needed, a drum or disk brake for margin of safety.
    If you've never owned/ridden tandem before, suggest you rent one/several for test rides with all family members. A production tandem, like one of the Co-Motion PeriScopes could fit the bill very well. They are quite adaptable to all size folks and can be bought for as low as $2,500 to $8,000; sticker shock maybe? That's not even the cost of a full custom 2-seater.
    daVinci builds one of the best independent pedaling tandems and will custom build.
    Good you are doing research/planning now. Good luck!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    A link to an article I wrote a while back on Custom Tandems:
    http://www.thetandemlink.com/articles/Customs.html

  4. #4
    Senior Member adamlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zonatandem
    Frame material and proper fit are #1 priority.
    With several size stokers that could be an issue; however keep in mind: kidz grow fast.
    Indpendent coasting could be nice with younger and/or inexperienced stokers, but not vital.
    Depending on where you live(flat, hilly, mountainous) and team weight or if you decide to do loaded touring, V-brakes front and rear and maybe, if deemed needed, a drum or disk brake for margin of safety.
    If you've never owned/ridden tandem before, suggest you rent one/several for test rides with all family members. A production tandem, like one of the Co-Motion PeriScopes could fit the bill very well. They are quite adaptable to all size folks and can be bought for as low as $2,500 to $8,000; sticker shock maybe? That's not even the cost of a full custom 2-seater.
    daVinci builds one of the best independent pedaling tandems and will custom build.
    Good you are doing research/planning now. Good luck!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
    Great suggestions: Frame material: what's your choice? Proper fit: Are the dimensions from a well-fitting road bike sufficient for captain? Any geometry thoughts?

  5. #5
    Co-Mo mojo
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    Suggest you consider renting a Co-Motion Periscope. This tandem has an incredible amount of adjustment, and is great if you may be riding with different stokers -- and different captains too. Check out the Co-Mo web site. The 2006 regular Periscopes are $3k and come with either 26 inch or 700c wheels. The 2007 Co-Mo price list is out to dealers but has not yet been posted to the Co-Mo web site. I've heard that there wil be a slight increase in price for many of the models.

    If you live in northern California, B&L Bike Shop in Davis has a Co-Mo they rent. Check out other Co-Mo dealers close to where you live -- perhaps they have rentals, and certainly they will let you take test drives. The key is finding a dealer for any brand and model of tandem that has a decent selection in stock.

  6. #6
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    Frame material would ultimately be a personal choice. I have never found a comfortable aluminum bike and thought a tandem would be a great place for aluminum. The one Santana, Cannondale and Trek that we tried in AL left me with the same feeling I have toward AL singles, I just don't like the ride. There are plenty who do like aluminum. The daVinci we ride is steel. I like it in that the ride does not make me think that the frame is too flexy, too heavy, too stiff, etc. It does and feels how I expect it too, and I just don't think about it. I'd love to try both a Ti and carbon frame. The carbon, just to see what it feels like. I will likely always have a Ti or steel frame.

    As for independent pedaling systems, the daVinci system is top notch. It shines when you have two riders of vastly different capabilities. I would not trade mine for any custom frame at this point. But I have 3.5 small kids (7, 5, 2 and around the end of the month). When they are grown, I will pick up a traditional setup. My wife is not an avid cyclist but I think (and hope) that she will enjoy learning to be a true team on a traditional setup. In the few rides she and I have been able to do she has very much enjoyed the ICS.

    I like our 26" wheels well enough. I don't know if I would rather have 700c or not. I have appreciated the durability of the 26's, especially with the cross country trails my kids like me to take them on. If it were a dedicated me and wife bike, I am thinking I would have 700c.

    I like our V-brakes. They stop us and the trailer with 2 kids well enough. Although, we aren't doing long 5% hills. Tandemgeeks comments and experience are probably right on with this.

    I wish I could comment more on geometry but that has not really been a factor for us. The most complaints I have read are the stoker compartments, in that most find them smallish. I know I like slightly steeper than traditional road head tubes on my singles but I have not had to think about that on the daVinci. It handles fine. I don't wish it were more or less aggressive. My stokers are still jumpy, so a quicker handling bike might not be in our best interest. People that like the Co-motions, like the single bike handling they find on them. I have not ridden one, but I imagine I will look strongly at them for our dedicated tandem. We thought the Santana's were comfortable. Steering movements were muted and appreciated as a new tandem team. The others felt different. I do not recall anything significant about them, good or bad. Hopefully your test rides will confirm for you what you like and don't like. Maybe others will have more insight on geometry and handling.

    Hopefully someone can direct you to a shop that carries tandems in the Ithaca area. If you want to try more "specialty" tandems you may need to travel. Mel Kornbluh of TandemsEast (www.tandemseast.com) generally has a good selection. He runs the business out of his home if I remember correctly. I have not been there but I and many others have had good dealings with him. The 5.5 hour drive from Ithaca to Pittsgrove, NJ might be worth the trip to help you narrow some of your choices if you cannot find what you need locally. Do set up an appointment with him as I think his hours can vary.

  7. #7
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by adamlaw
    I am planning on having a road tandem built... I am looking for suggestions on several topics.
    Just curious... have you talked with Rich Shapiro at Gear-to-Go Tandems in Elmira, NY? GTG, like many of the better tandem dealers, is a home-based tandem specialty business and I believe they are located fairly close. Can't go wrong contacting Mel at TandemsEast either, but GTG seems to be fairly close. Just a thought...

    In addition to my comments on custom builders the article I linked in a quick post last evening, here are a few more sound bites:

    Geometry? Make sure the largest stoker "can" achieve a riding position that replicates a good fit on their solo bike: you can always shorten the rear compartment's reach with a longer stoker boom. Yes, longer tandems can also be a bit more demanding on the captains if the stoker's don't have a smooth pedal stroke so be mindful of that when making decisions about your steering geometry and wheels. A smooth team can get away with a big bike, aggressive steering geometry, and lightweight wheels whereas a heavier or less smooth team will do better with a shorter bike, more conservative geometry, and more robust wheels. If you want the steering to feel lively, you could go with a fork that has less than 55mm of rake (Santana's, Burley's, and Trek's steel fork spec) on a 73 degree headtube (pretty much the standard on all production tandems). Cannondale's tandem forks now uses around 53mm of rake, Co-Motion uses 50mm, and Trek's new carbon fork for the T2000 also use 50mm. The most "lively" stock set-up are tandems with 73 degree head tubes using the Wound-Up carbon forks which have 47mm of rake... not sure if Seven and others who use the Wound-Up are also sticking with 73 degree head tubes or if they alter it to correct back to a more conservative amount of steering trail.

    Wheels? Totally dependent on your maximum team weight. My default recommendation for fast-paced riding are Velocity Deep-V rims. Consider 36h for up to 350lb teams, 40h for 350 - 400, and 48h for 400 and up who will be running 700x23 - 700x28mm tires. Frankly, at 350 and up I would actually suggest lookin at the Velocity Dyad rims which will allow for a better fit with 28mm and larger tires. Hubs are totally dependent on your budget. Chris King and Phil Wood are top shelf, White Ind are lightweight and a good value, Hugi's 2nd generation of tandem hubs seem to be holding up well and are priced well, and the Shimano HF08 is bomb-proof and a best value... but no points for panache. We've used or own examples of all the above on our road and off-road tandems. Chris Kings need some initial attention during the first several hundred miles of break-in to adjust out the play that develops as the rear hub components bed-in (this is covered in their instructions but often times overlooked as is periodic cleaning & relube of the internals), we've had a couple issues with the Phil Woods that were quickly and permanently corrected by Phil (great customer service), same with White Ind. -- a few teething pains that were remedied at no-cost by their customer service folks -- and the Shimano hubs while not sexy get the job done. We blew up the 1st Gen Hugi hubs, but again, the 2nd Gen seem to be doing well -- however, be attentive to recommended service / periodic cleaning and relubrication of the internals.

    Brakes -disc or regular? Depends on your team weight and where you'll ride. Dual rim brakes may be more than adequate; however, a rear disc in lieu of rim brakes is a nice compromise vs. dual with a drum brake if you're not a large team, won't be pulling a trailer, doing loaded touring, or prefer to take it easy on the steep descents. We hedged our bets and have fittings for both rim and rear disc mounts on our travel tandem which gives us several options / configurations. We're a 280 lb team who ride light and descend aggressively... very pleased with the Avid disc as a primary rear brake.

    Independent coasting? Very personal decision. ICS -- which means exactly that, one or both riders can coast independent of each other (period) -- is essential for some teams. It's important to understand that ICS does not provide for independent cadance. A strong captain with a much weaker stoker will usually come out ahead even if the stoker ends up soft pedalling as the captain won't loose energy by pushing the stoker's feet around as can happen on a conventional tandem. With kids, again, it may leave the captain doing all of the work but at least he/she won't be constrained in his power output by stoker limitations. For clean-riding teams, you're often hard pressed to tell that they aren't locked in-sync as the ones we've ridden with tend to get the pedals lined up for "cruising" and only kick-out of phase when climbing. Again, it's an interesting option. It's also noteworthy that ICS can be set up with fixed cogs instead of freewheeling ones that eliminate the ICS feature while retaining the very large gear range afforded by daVinci's use of 4 chain rings vs the 3 found on most road tandems. I would note that for stokid set-ups (this has been Santana's recommended system) and those who would like the option of independent pedalling on a conventional tandem frame, the Advanced Transportation Products (ATP - no longer in business) Independent Pedaling System (IPS) is still available and marketed as the Sun IPS, from J&B importers. This cut-sheet descibes the system as used on ATP's Vision recumbent tandem but it works the same on a conventional, up right tandem.

    Frame Material: Any frame material can be used to acheive the ride qualities you're looking for when you work with a skilled custom builder. It's the builder's selection of the tubing diameters, thickness, the use of butting, geometry and wheel/tire recommendations that will yield the final ride qualities. For example, an aluminum Santana, Co-Motion, and Cannondale all have unique characteristics, as do the Santana, Seven, Litespeed, and other Ti tandem frames. I've only ridden the Calfee carbon tandems, but I suspect they are very different from the ariZona and the Santana IsoGrid carbon/Ti frames. There are also many good reasons to stick with steel on a custom tandem. Obviously, if you are leaning towards a particular material be sure to consult with builders who have a proven track record producing custom tandems in those materials and be sure you talk with past clients.

    Bottom Line: Settling on the builder is the most important part of a custom tandem build. You and your builder will then work out all the details... After all, that interaction and consultation is a lot of what you're paying for.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-01-06 at 06:04 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member adamlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    Just curious... have you talked with Rich Shapiro at Gear-to-Go Tandems in Elmira, NY? GTG, like many of the better tandem dealers, is a home-based tandem specialty business and I believe they are located fairly close. Can't go wrong contacting Mel at TandemsEast either, but GTG seems to be fairly close. Just a thought...

    In addition to my comments on custom builders the article I linked in a quick post last evening, here are a few more sound bites:

    Geometry? Make sure the largest stoker "can" achieve a riding position that replicates a good fit on their solo bike: you can always shorten the rear compartment's reach with a longer stoker boom. Yes, longer tandems can also be a bit more demanding on the captains if the stoker's don't have a smooth pedal stroke so be mindful of that when making decisions about your steering geometry and wheels. A smooth team can get away with a big bike, aggressive steering geometry, and lightweight wheels whereas a heavier or less smooth team will do better with a shorter bike, more conservative geometry, and more robust wheels. If you want the steering to feel lively, you could go with a fork that has less than 55mm of rake (Santana's, Burley's, and Trek's steel fork spec) on a 73 degree headtube (pretty much the standard on all production tandems). Cannondale's tandem forks now uses around 53mm of rake, Co-Motion uses 50mm, and Trek's new carbon fork for the T2000 also use 50mm. The most "lively" stock set-up are tandems with 73 degree head tubes using the Wound-Up carbon forks which have 47mm of rake... not sure if Seven and others who use the Wound-Up are also sticking with 73 degree head tubes or if they alter it to correct back to a more conservative amount of steering trail.

    Wheels? Totally dependent on your maximum team weight. My default recommendation for fast-paced riding are Velocity Deep-V rims. Consider 36h for up to 350lb teams, 40h for 350 - 400, and 48h for 400 and up who will be running 700x23 - 700x28mm tires. Frankly, at 350 and up I would actually suggest lookin at the Velocity Dyad rims which will allow for a better fit with 28mm and larger tires. Hubs are totally dependent on your budget. Chris King and Phil Wood are top shelf, White Ind are lightweight and a good value, Hugi's 2nd generation of tandem hubs seem to be holding up well and are priced well, and the Shimano HF08 is bomb-proof and a best value... but no points for panache. We've used or own examples of all the above on our road and off-road tandems. Chris Kings need some initial attention during the first several hundred miles of break-in to adjust out the play that develops as the rear hub components bed-in (this is covered in their instructions but often times overlooked as is periodic cleaning & relube of the internals), we've had a couple issues with the Phil Woods that were quickly and permanently corrected by Phil (great customer service), same with White Ind. -- a few teething pains that were remedied at no-cost by their customer service folks -- and the Shimano hubs while not sexy get the job done. We blew up the 1st Gen Hugi hubs, but again, the 2nd Gen seem to be doing well -- however, be attentive to recommended service / periodic cleaning and relubrication of the internals.

    Brakes -disc or regular? Depends on your team weight and where you'll ride. Dual rim brakes may be more than adequate; however, a rear disc in lieu of rim brakes is a nice compromise vs. dual with a drum brake if you're not a large team, won't be pulling a trailer, doing loaded touring, or prefer to take it easy on the steep descents. We hedged our bets and have fittings for both rim and rear disc mounts on our travel tandem which gives us several options / configurations. We're a 280 lb team who ride light and descend aggressively... very pleased with the Avid disc as a primary rear brake.

    Independent coasting? Very personal decision. ICS -- which means exactly that, one or both riders can coast independent of each other (period) -- is essential for some teams. It's important to understand that ICS does not provide for independent cadance. A strong captain with a much weaker stoker will usually come out ahead even if the stoker ends up soft pedalling as the captain won't loose energy by pushing the stoker's feet around as can happen on a conventional tandem. With kids, again, it may leave the captain doing all of the work but at least he/she won't be constrained in his power output by stoker limitations. For clean-riding teams, you're often hard pressed to tell that they aren't locked in-sync as the ones we've ridden with tend to get the pedals lined up for "cruising" and only kick-out of phase when climbing. Again, it's an interesting option. It's also noteworthy that ICS can be set up with fixed cogs instead of freewheeling ones that eliminate the ICS feature while retaining the very large gear range afforded by daVinci's use of 4 chain rings vs the 3 found on most road tandems. I would note that for stokid set-ups (this has been Santana's recommended system) and those who would like the option of independent pedalling on a conventional tandem frame, the Advanced Transportation Products (ATP - no longer in business) Independent Pedaling System (IPS) is still available and marketed as the Sun IPS, from J&B importers. This cut-sheet descibes the system as used on ATP's Vision recumbent tandem but it works the same on a conventional, up right tandem.

    Frame Material: Any frame material can be used to acheive the ride qualities you're looking for when you work with a skilled custom builder. It's the builder's selection of the tubing diameters, thickness, the use of butting, geometry and wheel/tire recommendations that will yield the final ride qualities. For example, an aluminum Santana, Co-Motion, and Cannondale all have unique characteristics, as do the Santana, Seven, Litespeed, and other Ti tandem frames. I've only ridden the Calfee carbon tandems, but I suspect they are very different from the ariZona and the Santana IsoGrid carbon/Ti frames. There are also many good reasons to stick with steel on a custom tandem. Obviously, if you are leaning towards a particular material be sure to consult with builders who have a proven track record producing custom tandems in those materials and be sure you talk with past clients.

    Bottom Line: Settling on the builder is the most important part of a custom tandem build. You and your builder will then work out all the details... After all, that interaction and consultation is a lot of what you're paying for.
    Thank you for this detailed and very helpful reply. I am working with Bob Brown to build this tandem and I am planning on using steel as a material. I like the lugwork he does - incredible craftmanship given each has to be individually made. Clearly, we are using steel.

  9. #9
    Senior Member adamlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by masiman
    Frame material would ultimately be a personal choice. I have never found a comfortable aluminum bike and thought a tandem would be a great place for aluminum. The one Santana, Cannondale and Trek that we tried in AL left me with the same feeling I have toward AL singles, I just don't like the ride. There are plenty who do like aluminum. The daVinci we ride is steel. I like it in that the ride does not make me think that the frame is too flexy, too heavy, too stiff, etc. It does and feels how I expect it too, and I just don't think about it. I'd love to try both a Ti and carbon frame. The carbon, just to see what it feels like. I will likely always have a Ti or steel frame.

    As for independent pedaling systems, the daVinci system is top notch. It shines when you have two riders of vastly different capabilities. I would not trade mine for any custom frame at this point. But I have 3.5 small kids (7, 5, 2 and around the end of the month). When they are grown, I will pick up a traditional setup. My wife is not an avid cyclist but I think (and hope) that she will enjoy learning to be a true team on a traditional setup. In the few rides she and I have been able to do she has very much enjoyed the ICS.

    I like our 26" wheels well enough. I don't know if I would rather have 700c or not. I have appreciated the durability of the 26's, especially with the cross country trails my kids like me to take them on. If it were a dedicated me and wife bike, I am thinking I would have 700c.

    I like our V-brakes. They stop us and the trailer with 2 kids well enough. Although, we aren't doing long 5% hills. Tandemgeeks comments and experience are probably right on with this.

    I wish I could comment more on geometry but that has not really been a factor for us. The most complaints I have read are the stoker compartments, in that most find them smallish. I know I like slightly steeper than traditional road head tubes on my singles but I have not had to think about that on the daVinci. It handles fine. I don't wish it were more or less aggressive. My stokers are still jumpy, so a quicker handling bike might not be in our best interest. People that like the Co-motions, like the single bike handling they find on them. I have not ridden one, but I imagine I will look strongly at them for our dedicated tandem. We thought the Santana's were comfortable. Steering movements were muted and appreciated as a new tandem team. The others felt different. I do not recall anything significant about them, good or bad. Hopefully your test rides will confirm for you what you like and don't like. Maybe others will have more insight on geometry and handling.

    Hopefully someone can direct you to a shop that carries tandems in the Ithaca area. If you want to try more "specialty" tandems you may need to travel. Mel Kornbluh of TandemsEast (www.tandemseast.com) generally has a good selection. He runs the business out of his home if I remember correctly. I have not been there but I and many others have had good dealings with him. The 5.5 hour drive from Ithaca to Pittsgrove, NJ might be worth the trip to help you narrow some of your choices if you cannot find what you need locally. Do set up an appointment with him as I think his hours can vary.
    It sounds like we have similar issues - tho' my kids are a little older than yours (14, 11 and 9). I am working with Bob Brown at present on building this tandem. Your comments are very helpful and appreciated.

  10. #10
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    I always thought S&S couplings to pack the tandem in two suitcases would be great to have (that is on my fantasy wish list together with a 1970 Mercedes 280 SL, and the time to travel), any word on this? Of course that depends on your need for portability.

  11. #11
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    why go to a custom build for a first tandem? Buy a cheaper one, ride it for a while, and see what you really want/need.

  12. #12
    Bicycle built for 5 tuolumne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ElRey
    why go to a custom build for a first tandem? Buy a cheaper one, ride it for a while, and see what you really want/need.
    My sentiments exactly. We bought a Burley Duet earlier this year (2000 model) because it was affordable. The fit isn't perfect, but with the kids, trailers and gear we don't often go more than 40 miles straight anyway. Regarding independant drive (DaVinci) I've never ridden one, but can offer this encouragement. Kids are extremely adaptable. It only took a few miles apiece for them to get the timing right with their pedaling. At first, I would get nailed in the shin if I unclipped quickly because my 3 year olds were pedaling so hard (child stoker conversion by the way). Now they are right in synch. Saturday I was climbing a really steep hill in our town with my son (almost 4) and stood up to maintain our speed. I felt a swell of power coming from my little stoker and turned around...he was standing on his pedals too! Even at that young age, they can add enough that our average speeds are better than if I was solo on my commuter bike. Mini-v brakes have plenty of stoping power even with a trail-a-bike and loaded trailer behind. I do love the auxillary avid drum brake for long hills since we can't coast too fast with the kids. Unfortunately, I've forgot to release it on occasions and wondered why the next hill is so tough. Good luck.
    Would rather be at 119.49079W, 37.76618N

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tuolumne
    Regarding independant drive (DaVinci) I've never ridden one, but can offer this encouragement. Kids are extremely adaptable. It only took a few miles apiece for them to get the timing right with their pedaling..... Saturday I was climbing a really steep hill in our town with my son (almost 4) and stood up to maintain our speed. I felt a swell of power coming from my little stoker and turned around...he was standing on his pedals too! Even at that young age, they can add enough that our average speeds are better than if I was solo on my commuter bike.
    Isn't that one of the coolest feelings? Here is your little tike providing some power that you can actually feel. It still boggles me when I feel their power in the pedals. They are so little yet they provide very useful power to the team.

    With the daVinci they do not have to be as focused (good and bad). I get the occasional, "look at me dad, I'm pedaling with one hand....now I'm standing on the pedals....now I'm running in place". They can do things independently, which means they will play .

    I would guess your wife preference will be a big factor to determine what you should get.

    I agree on the custom vs. used part also. But I think all here are more concerned about helping you get onto a tandem that works for you.

  14. #14
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    daVinci's ICS is the way to go with kids

    I've got to echo everything masiman has to say. We're also big daVinci ICS fans for all the same reasons he explained earlier. I've ridden with five stokers over the course of the past year, all rather inexperienced, and all fun in different ways. The ICS made it possible to get out and riding quickly with no problems.

    My usual stokers are my children at 12, 10, and 7 years old. They're currently 5'1", 4'7", and 3'8" tall respectively. They all fit on the bike fine, though I have to remove the shock-post and run a different saddle all the way down for the youngest. I've attached pictures...

    The 12-year-old daughter is nice to ride with because of the time we spend together. Where else can an old guy spend so many hours with his preteen daughter? She's not all that strong and doesn't like to push very hard, though she doesn't mind longer 60+ mile rides if we take enough rest stops along the way. If the speed ever gets above about 24-25mph, she starts calling for me to apply the brakes--speed demon she's not. The 10-year-old boy, on the other hand, is much faster both on the flats and especially downhill. He doesn't talk much, but likes to put his helmet down and hammer. Our average speed is about 1-2mph higher than with the girl. He tells me "Faster, Dad, faster!!," on every downhill. His longest ride is a metric century (62.5 miles) and he was very tired at the end. The 7-year-old is only just barely big enough to reach the pedals as you can see. He's a real fireplug up hills, though; I think his strength-to-weight ratio is higher than the other two. When he stands up on the pedals, I can really feel the turbo-boost kick in. His longest outing is 25 miles so far--he still talks about that ride and asks for the uphills when we go out. A real chip off the old block, if I do say so myself.

    My two adult stokers have been my wife (5'2") for a few rides and a blind gal (5'7" but heavier than I am) whom I took for a couple or three rides during the summer. Neither of these women are experienced cyclists by any stretch of the imagination, but we were easily up and riding on the tandem with virtually no issues. The daVinci ICS makes this especially easy.

    I can't say enough good things about the ICS system, especially if the captain is much more experienced than the stoker as is the case with me. It allows me to ride the tandem almost as I would a single bike, without any of the worries about dragging the stokers legs (as was previously mentioned), concerns about coordination of coasting periods, or even being effected when the stoker wants to stand up and coast for a butt-break. Starting out is particularly easy with no whacked shins for either rider...ever. Notice that I ordered the bike with daVinci's cool three-hole stoker cranks (no extra charge, by the way). This makes a big difference as they allow the stoker to have either 130, 150, or 170mm crank lengths just by moving the pedals from hole to hole. Because I tend to run a rather high cadence (usually from 90-110 rpm) I used to hear constant requests from them back seat to slow the feet down when on our old tandem (fixed 170mm stoker cranks). Well, by using the 150mm option as I normally have the stoker pedals mounted, it allows the stoker to run the same cadence as I but at a lower overall foot speed--no more complaints. Furthermore, I am able to use the 130mm super-short option with my youngest. This made all the difference in allowing him to get on the bike this year instead of waiting for next season.

    Our bike was "custom" ordered from daVinci this past spring, but with standard Large-Small sizing. We picked the exact color we wanted and I was able to spec every component. The front cockpit fits me exactly the same as my best-fitting single bike. I can move right from the one to the other without feeling even the slightest difference in fit. This was important to me, though some captains don't mind (some even prefer) a different fit. Our frame was still made by hand by the same fellows that build daVinci "custom" bikes; it's a pretty small shop. The biggest advantage of a custom builder that I could think of would be for custom tubes if you're an unusually light or heavy team as well as custom sizing, most especially for a longer top-tube in the rear cockpit. This can make a world of difference for stokers experienced on single-bikes. Because all of my stokers are small, the 28.3" rear top tube of the daVinci is fine. You'll notice that I've got the rear stem almost fully extended as it is. I figure we've got plenty of room to move the rear bars forward as the kids (especially the boys) grow.

    Unless money is not that much of an issue for you, I too would agree with other posters that your first tandem should be a lower-end stock or a higher-end used bike. There are even more options on a tandem than there are on a single bike; it's rather difficult to decide exactly what you'd like for long-term use before you've all spent many hours and perhaps thousands of miles in the saddle.

    I'd recommend that you work with a knowledgeable tandem retailer like the several mentioned earlier (very few local bike shops have anywhere near the experience needed, though a few do) to start out with. Then, as we did, a couple of years down the road spend the big bucks and order just what you want.

    I couldn't be more happy with our bike, but without the two years we spent on an older, too small tandem before this one, we wouldn't have know exactly what we wanted for our long-term purchase.
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    Last edited by Eurastus; 10-03-06 at 09:39 AM.
    '72 Crescent Professional 320 w/full Campy Record (Nostalgia bike)
    '90 Della Santa Corsa Speciale w/full Dura Ace 8 (Backup bike and Computrainer duty)
    '96 Ritchey Comp w/Suntour Superbe Pro and XC Pro MicroDrive (Great drop-bar all-rounder)
    '04 Ritchey Road Logic w/full Ritchey WCS & Campy Record 10 (Love this bike!!)
    '06 da Vinci JointVenture (Love the ICS, 12 tooth chainring, and all 40 gears!!)
    '06 Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen w/full Suntour XC Pro (Great for randonneuring and commuting)

  15. #15
    Senior Member adamlaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eurastus
    I've got to echo everything masiman has to say. We're also big daVinci ICS fans for all the same reasons he explained earlier. I've ridden with five stokers over the course of the past year, all rather inexperienced, and all fun in different ways. The ICS made it possible to get out and riding quickly with no problems.

    My usual stokers are my children at 12, 10, and 7 years old. They're currently 5'1", 4'7", and 3'8" tall respectively. They all fit on the bike fine, though I have to remove the shock-post and run a different saddle all the way down for the youngest. I've attached pictures...

    The 12-year-old daughter is nice to ride with because of the time we spend together. Where else can an old guy spend so many hours with his preteen daughter? She's not all that strong and doesn't like to push very hard, though she doesn't mind longer 60+ mile rides if we take enough rest stops along the way. If the speed ever gets above about 24-25mph, she starts calling for me to apply the brakes--speed demon she's not. The 10-year-old boy, on the other hand, is much faster both on the flats and especially downhill. He doesn't talk much, but likes to put his helmet down and hammer. Our average speed is about 1-2mph higher than with the girl. He tells me "Faster, Dad, faster!!," on every downhill. His longest ride is a metric century (62.5 miles) and he was very tired at the end. The 7-year-old is only just barely big enough to reach the pedals as you can see. He's a real fireplug up hills, though; I think his strength-to-weight ratio is higher than the other two. When he stands up on the pedals, I can really feel the turbo-boost kick in. His longest outing is 25 miles so far--he still talks about that ride and asks for the uphills when we go out. A real chip off the old block, if I do say so myself.

    My two adult stokers have been my wife (5'2") for a few rides and a blind gal (5'7" but heavier than I am) whom I took for a couple or three rides during the summer. Neither of these women are experienced cyclists by any stretch of the imagination, but we were easily up and riding on the tandem with virtually no issues. The daVinci ICS makes this especially easy.

    I can't say enough good things about the ICS system, especially if the captain is much more experienced than the stoker as is the case with me. It allows me to ride the tandem almost as I would a single bike, without any of the worries about dragging the stokers legs (as was previously mentioned), concerns about coordination of coasting periods, or even being effected when the stoker wants to stand up and coast for a butt-break. Starting out is particularly easy with no whacked shins for either rider...ever. Notice that I ordered the bike with daVinci's cool three-hole stoker cranks (no extra charge, by the way). This makes a big difference as they allow the stoker to have either 130, 150, or 170mm crank lengths just by moving the pedals from hole to hole. Because I tend to run a rather high cadence (usually from 90-110 rpm) I used to hear constant requests from them back seat to slow the feet down when on our old tandem (fixed 170mm stoker cranks). Well, by using the 150mm option as I normally have the stoker pedals mounted, it allows the stoker to run the same cadence as I but at a lower overall foot speed--no more complaints. Furthermore, I am able to use the 130mm super-short option with my youngest. This made all the difference in allowing him to get on the bike this year instead of waiting for next season.

    Our bike was "custom" ordered from daVinci this past spring, but with standard Large-Small sizing. We picked the exact color we wanted and I was able to spec every component. The front cockpit fits me exactly the same as my best-fitting single bike. I can move right from the one to the other without feeling even the slightest difference in fit. This was important to me, though some captains don't mind (some even prefer) a different fit. Our frame was still made by hand by the same fellows that build daVinci "custom" bikes; it's a pretty small shop. The biggest advantage of a custom builder that I could think of would be for custom tubes if you're an unusually light or heavy team as well as custom sizing, most especially for a longer top-tube in the rear cockpit. This can make a world of difference for stokers experienced on single-bikes. Because all of my stokers are small, the 28.3" rear top tube of the daVinci is fine. You'll notice that I've got the rear stem almost fully extended as it is. I figure we've got plenty of room to move the rear bars forward as the kids (especially the boys) grow.

    Unless money is not that much of an issue for you, I too would agree with other posters that your first tandem should be a lower-end stock or a higher-end used bike. There are even more options on a tandem than there are on a single bike; it's rather difficult to decide exactly what you'd like for long-term use before you've all spent many hours and perhaps thousands of miles in the saddle.

    I'd recommend that you work with a knowledgeable tandem retailer like the several mentioned earlier (very few local bike shops have anywhere near the experience needed, though a few do) to start out with. Then, as we did, a couple of years down the road spend the big bucks and order just what you want.

    I couldn't be more happy with our bike, but without the two years we spent on an older, too small tandem before this one, we wouldn't have know exactly what we wanted for our long-term purchase.

    I thank you so much for taking the time to post this fabulous piece that helps answer many of my concerns. The photos also make me understand the versatility of custom tandems for multiple members of the family - something I hope to be able to do with my older 3 children (14, 11 and 9 years). I am definitely going to use the Davinci drive. It sounds great. I understand it isn't independent cadence, but the independent coasting sounds terrific for riders of different ages/abilities and fitness.

  16. #16
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    FWIW: Calfee and daVinci have collaborated on the first all-carbon tandem with ICS... a custom job for some guy who previously raced bicycles in Europe and who may have won a Tour de France or three.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-03-06 at 03:30 PM.

  17. #17
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    The biggest reason to go Custom is if you can't find a production frame that fits you, and you want to dial in the perfect fit. In your case, at least for the stoker, you're looking for a bike with a widde range of adjustment (thus the Persicope, or even a Bike Friday could be a good choice), which would indicate you don't necessarily need a custom frame. I'd definitely test ride some off the shelf bikes. If you find what you like problem solved. If you don't find what you want, then at least you should be able to identify the particular shortcomings of the production bike, that you want your Custom Builder to address.

    Honestly, I wouldn't consider a custom frame until I'd ridden my current tandem a lot of miles and identified exactly what the custom bike was intended to accomplish.

  18. #18
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    adamlaw:

    You asked our frame material of choice.
    Here goes, we've ridden steel, alu, ti and carbon through our 31+ years of tandeming.
    There is no 'bad' choice. They all have their good points.
    Our current tandem is carbon fiber. Like it? You bet. It's lighter (by pounds) than anything else we've owned. It is more compliant/comfortable than ti or alu. It handles/accellerates very well.
    Comfort wise, since the advent of stoker suspension seatpost and carbon forks, this has nearly become a non-issue. Steel is still real and in it's new dimensions and alloys have made a huge difference since the old days.
    Fit is important. We have opposite problem of most teams. Pilot 5'7" stoker 4' 10 3/4" . . . a real problem fit and custom has been the answer for us.
    However a PerisCope or any other low-standover frame like Paketa, can be 'made to fit' through using long-reach adjustable stoker stem, eliminating shockpost to give more room to short stoker, etc. All fairly easy to accomplish and less co$tly than custom.
    We've been happy with 73 degree angles for seat/head tubes.
    Proper fit and handling will tell what's suitable and your wallet will dictate what you buy then!

  19. #19
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Rumor on the Calfee/daVinci joint venture substantiated at Interbike. Nice!
    Two great builders working TWOgether!

  20. #20
    Hej på dej!! Eurastus's Avatar
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    Different cadence, if that's really what you want...

    Quote Originally Posted by adamlaw
    I thank you so much for taking the time to post this fabulous piece that helps answer many of my concerns. The photos also make me understand the versatility of custom tandems for multiple members of the family - something I hope to be able to do with my older 3 children (14, 11 and 9 years). I am definitely going to use the Davinci drive. It sounds great. I understand it isn't independent cadence, but the independent coasting sounds terrific for riders of different ages/abilities and fitness.
    If you really want different cadences for the captain and stoker you can get it, though once you do, you most likely won't like the result.

    First of all, with respect to your post, I should reiterate that my tandem is not custom-sized; it's the standard Large/Small Road as shown on daVinci's sizing page here http://www.davincitandems.com/framedim.html.
    I wanted a 57-58cm captain's top tube with a rear seat tube in the sub-45cm range. Their stock sizing fit this just fine so I didn't have to pay the custom size up-charge. Notice from my photos that I do have two different seatposts and attached saddles that I swap (15-second job) depending on who rides. I run the shock-post in the middle of it's height range for my daughter and wife and run it all the way down for my oldest boy, but I replace the post and seat for a set with very low profile for the littlest stoker. This can easily be seen in the photos I attached earlier.

    Now, on to your question about differing cadences:

    Yes it can be done, though you likely will not be happy with the result. The short answer is to use two different chainring sizes for the captain and stoker. I believe this can be done on virtually all tandems, though it is rather easy with the daVinci ICS system.

    The long answer is to change the ratio of how many rotations of each crank result in how many rotations of the driving chainrings, or in the case of the daVinci drivetrain the ICS jackshaft. On a normal tandem, this is a one-to-one ratio, but doesn't necessarily have to be for the captain (it does for the stoker, though). With the daVinci, either of them can vary. If you study the attached photo, you can see how the daVinci ICS works. The stock gearing setup on 700c daVinci's is to use 34-tooth chainrings (both front and rear) along with 18-tooth freewheels on the left side of the jackshaft.

    This results in a 1.89 to 1 ratio between how fast the jackshaft turns in relation to how fast the cranks spin. On 26"-wheeled daVinci bikes, the freewheels are both 17 teeth which result in a 2 to 1 ratio and slightly higher gearing to compensate for the smaller wheels.

    If, for example and assuming 700c wheels, you were to replace the stoker's jackshaft freewheel with a 17-tooth, the stoker's cadence would be slowed by about 5.5% (the difference between 17 and 18). If that's not enough, you could replace the stoker's 34-tooth chainring with a 36 or 38. This would slow the stoker by a further 5.6% or 10.6% respectively. (Someone ought to check my math on these percentages...it's been such a long time since my math courses and none of my kids have had percentage homework yet so no chance for me to bone up recently).

    One might think this is would work out fine for less experienced stoker (as I once did), but it has other negative consequences that outweigh the "improvement." For example, the two cranksets would never be in phase (as most tandem teams prefer) nor in a fixed out-of-phase angle either (as a few teams prefer...like zonatandem and his Mrs.).

    In effect, the angle between the two cranks would be in constant flux, being in phase one instant then gradually turning to be 180 degrees out, then back in phase then back out...over and over again. This, I should think, would make it almost impossible to ride with both captain and stoker out of the saddle.

    Not only that, but the stoker will never learn to use faster cadences as the ratio between the captain's cadence and the stoker's is fixed.

    In fact, I had the same thought as you prior to ordering the bike myself. Todd Schusterman of daVinci convinced me a better solution is to go with the three-hole cranks and let the stoker use the shorter crank-lengths at first. It's much easier to turn shorter cranks at high cadences...just look at a little kid on their 12"-wheeled bike or tricycle. It's amazing how fast they can turn over the pedals on those bikes...of course they generally have crank lengths in the 75-95mm range.

    Over time, as the stokers get more used to the faster cadence of the captain, you can simply move the pedals out to a more normal 170 mm length.

    In our case, I'm about to try the 170mm with my daughter, though my wife (as infrequently as she rides) will likely prefer the 150mm forever. Since both boys are not long-of-leg yet, they'll stay at 150mm and 130mm for some time, I imagine. When a growth spurt hits, it's so easy to change to a different hole. Swapping out chainrings and single-speed jackshaft freewheels is not a 5-minute job, even if I am a bike mechanic.

    Oh, and by the way, if you're set on another custom builder, daVinci does sell the jackshaft assembly separately, with either steel, aluminum, or titanium shell to fit whatever frame material you prefer. Check out this page:http://www.davincitandems.com/vdint.html for further info. However, I would not hesitate to recommend daVinci themselves for the frame. They know their product best and are an absolutely top-notch outfit. In fact, I know their painter does work for a number of other frame builders and I believe they do contract frame work as well, though I could be mistaken.
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    Last edited by Eurastus; 10-03-06 at 05:06 PM.
    '72 Crescent Professional 320 w/full Campy Record (Nostalgia bike)
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    '96 Ritchey Comp w/Suntour Superbe Pro and XC Pro MicroDrive (Great drop-bar all-rounder)
    '04 Ritchey Road Logic w/full Ritchey WCS & Campy Record 10 (Love this bike!!)
    '06 da Vinci JointVenture (Love the ICS, 12 tooth chainring, and all 40 gears!!)
    '06 Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen w/full Suntour XC Pro (Great for randonneuring and commuting)

  21. #21
    Dr.Deltron
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    Most useful "feature" of our road tandem is....


    A 3rd WHEEL!!!

    We have a Greenspeed tandem recumbent TRIKE! The kids LOVE it!
    And it's easy to haul using a $50 folding rack on the Honda Accord.
    Attached Images Attached Images

  22. #22
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    Custom Road Tandems - Most Useful Features

    Thank you all for a great discussion on most useful features, for frame material discussion and independent coasting.

    One question - is there any advantage in going to independent coasting if your stoker is a good pedaler but not as strong as the captain? There are times I have taken my Santana Team Niobium out for a 90 minute ride and my times are faster than with my stoker on board. She is a delight to have with me, but curious if we would be able to go faster with the ICS.

    Also, I have a close friend who feels that Steel is the best frame material, especially for the money. From my limited experience I would agree based on what I have read. Assuming fit is correct and the same for all, and touring is the objective but with a credit card and not tents, what are your recommendations? I am currrently seriously considering carbon and titanium.
    Counselguy

  23. #23
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by counselguy
    She is a delight to have with me, but curious if we would be able to go faster with the ICS.
    This has already been addressed; however, and to the chagrin of those who favor ICS as well as to Todd and the folks at daVinci I'll convey to you the nickname we give to a daVinci with a strong captain and a weaker stoker: Pedal Powered Rickshaw

    Assuming fit is correct and the same for all, and touring is the objective but with a credit card and not tents, what are your recommendations? I am currrently seriously considering carbon and titanium.
    Counselguy
    Once you reach a certain price point you begin to get into the realm of Mercedes vs. BMW vs. Lexus vs. etc... The lighter the bike, the higher the pricetag. The handling and frame characteristics are all independent of the weight and cost as they have more to do with the frame designer's intent and views on how a tandem should feel or handle. Figure out what your builder of choice considers to be important and how he goes about achieving it and then compare it to the others you are also considering.

    Analogy Time: Anyone with enough money can buy a Porsche GT3, but that doesn't mean they'll enjoy the way it handles or be able extract the performance they paid for. Likewise, as nice and powerful as an Infiniti M35 is, it can just feel plain boring to drive as the driver is completely isolated from the road. And so it goes with bicycles and tandems; however, unlike with cars you can't buy more horsepower for your tandem... regardless of what some might have you believe.

  24. #24
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek
    .

    Analogy Time: Anyone with enough money can buy a Porsche GT3, but that doesn't mean they'll enjoy the way it handles or be able extract the performance they paid for. Likewise, as nice and powerful as an Infiniti M35 is, it can just feel plain boring to drive as the driver is completely isolated from the road. And so it goes with bicycles and tandems; however, unlike with cars you can't buy more horsepower for your tandem... regardless of what some might have you believe.

    I don't think you can say that an Infiniti M35 is boring because its isolated from the road. Personally I would think its boring because its not an M45. But of upper end sedans with sporting ambitions Infiniti is building cars with the tighest suspensions and most road feel of any in the class, including Mercedes and the current generation of BMWs. I think your analogy would be much better drawn with a Lexus LS 400 as the example. Having owned 4 BMWs, 3 Infinitis, and currently a Porsche, I would say an Infiniti M is far from isolated from the road. And Road and Track which gives the M45 the nod as best in class would agree with me.

  25. #25
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh
    I don't think you can say that an Infiniti M35 is boring because its isolated from the road.
    Actually, I can if those were truly my impressions after whipping one around for a few hundred miles on the rural roads of Berks County, PA.

    I guess that just goes to show that automobile driving impressions and magazine reviews are about as subjective as tandem riding impressions and the few things written about them in cycling publications which are often times less than candid or objective given the value and source of ad revenue. Thankfully, the Infiniti is my motoring enthuaist, septuagenarian father's daily driver and not something I have to drive that often. Mind you, it's a very nice 4000lb sports luxury sedan... just not my cup of tea.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-09-06 at 07:05 PM.

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