Will a new tandem be worth it?
I have a question for all of you that gets asked a lot. But I figured I would ask anyway. I know many of you have gone through the upgrade process to a new tandem. I wanted to know how it worked out for you and if you would do it again.
My wife (stoker) and I have been riding a Burley Samba for about 12 years. It is equipped with road handlebars and 26" wheels with slicks. The frame is their simplest one. There is no middle tube that on most tandems extends from the Captain's Headset to the stoker bottom bracket. The frame is the same as the zydeco
My wife is content and likes to ride. I will take this as a sign that I have at least some of the captain's rules down at this point. We are doing a couple of rides a week right now ranging from 12 to 30 miles. I, on the other hand, would like to upgrade. And the stoker correctly asks: Why?
Why indeed... Here are the things that bug me. Note that none of these things bug the stoker. However, the stoker only rides this tandem (i.e. no frame of reference).
1) Frame flex. As the captain, I am in the middle of the frame and I can feel the flex just riding along. Mind you, my butt never hurts. It's kind of like riding in a cadillac.
2) Wheels. I have to believe that the 26" wheels are less efficient due to road resistance from wider tires and also higher RPM (RPM may not matter much though).
3) Items 1 and 2 add up to a slower less efficient bike.
4) Drive train. It only has a 6 speed rear cluster. It shifts adequately, but I have 105 STI on my road bike and like it a lot. The shifting is slow on the tandem, but that is not a deal breaker. I would like more range and smaller steps from a 9 speed rear cluster.
5) Weight. I have not weighed the tandem and will try to do that tonight. But the thing is heavy. Although I have always been from the school that it is much cheaper to lose a pound from my gut than take it out of a bike.....
So here are the Questions (If you haven't fallen asleep yet):
If I go out and spend ~$2,500 for a Shimano 105 level mass produced bike (Cannondale RT1000, Burley Duet or Tosa, Trek T1000, C-Motion Primera) how big a difference is this going to make?
Lighter seems like a good thing. Is this really that big a deal?
Objectively, is this a need-to-have or a nice-to-have?
If you had to to do again, would you spend all that money or would you make do with a few upgrades?
I will go out and try to find some of these and ride them. That will be the deciding factor. But your experiences will be helpful to me and my wife in terms of setting the right expectations.
An old friend of mine bought a trek duotrack tandem. This was the hybred 700c they had a few years ago, gripshift alloy frame. He bought it with the hope he and his wife would ride together. Well, she hated it and it spent a year in the garage gathering dust.
I was at my friends house one day and saw the tandem in his garage. I saw it was dusty and could tell it had not been used in at least one season. So, with that in mind I didnt mind asking if I might borrow the bike for a few rides. Well, not only did my friend let me borrow it, he told me "if you'll get that bike out of my garage you can have it! It makes me mad just looking at it". So, Brad's first tandem was a freebie!
After a few years of just putzing around on the tandem with what ever stoker I could find I learned a few things. #1, was I dig tandeming. #2, was I knew if/when I ever got married I'd want a "real" tandem. #3, dont ever buy a hybrid tandem as you cant off road with it and you cant hang on the road either.
The upgrade of Gripshift to Ultegra STI was worth it by itself. There are too many things to list that made it worth it. I'd say in your case going from a 6sp up to a 9sp STI alone will be worth it. After a month of riding it you'll say, there are too many things to list.
The biggest thing though is the funds have to be there. If you go out and spend a lot that you cant really afford it'll not be worth it. If money is an issue stick with what you have now till you can afford it as you'll not want any ill feelings toward the purchase.
I say UPGRADE BABY!! If you have the funds do it, you'll be glad you did. You'll both be glad you did as you start embracing the sport more and more.
The Trek tandem I had was considered perfectly fine by many people (I still see them on the road today) and it had the huge bonus of I DIDNT HAVE TO PAY A THING FOR IT. So, I took the freebie and gave it away so I could go spend a lot of hard earned money on a new tandem. Not only do I not regret it, I still dream of upgrading to a travel rig if the funds are ever there to do so.
Last edited by brad; 07-15-03 at 02:35 PM.
If buying a new or a newer used tandem is within your budget and you feel as though you would enjoy riding more and, therefore, end up riding more, then it's absolutely worth it.
Originally posted by JohnC
If you had to to do again, would you spend all that money or would you make do with a few upgrades?
A newer tandem with a better frame design, lighter overall weight, lighter wheels and current technology 9 speed components will feel like a Grand Prix motor car (way too much time watching Bob Roll comercials on OLN) compared to your Burley IF you are attentive to things like bike feel -- your comments suggest you are. Technology hasn't progressed that far over the past few years so a tandem that's one to four years old (9 speed vintage/model level) is still "current" in my book so it may not be essential to go for the "new-new" tandem if budget is a constraint OR if you'd like to try a barely used higher-end, softride-equipeed or aluminum-framed tandem for the price of a new mid-range steel model.
Back to your comments, let me suggest that it's hard for anyone to "justify" a newer bicycle for anything beyond convenience or desire UNLESS they make a living from it. After all, there are folks who still ride ordinary (aka., Pennyfarthing or high wheeler) bicycles on Century rides. More specifically, while frame-flex can be disconcerting and make a tandem harder to control, it's not necessarily less efficient than a super rigid one unless you're doing a lot of sprinting or hard climbing. High performance 26" tires can be purchased that have comparable rolling resistance and performance to high performance 700c tires. Weight is a bad thing when it comes to rapid acceleration and climbing but is otherwise "negligible" once you are cruising along on flat to rolling terrain. The drive train can be a big consideration if you are riding for fitness, difficult terrain or long distances and need either close or wide-range ratios but, otherwise, call to mind that at one time the Tour de France was ridden on single speed bikes, then four speed, five and eventually 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 and now 20 speed machines.
We've structured our social lives around tandems so our equipment is pretty important and a quick look around our garage would suggest that our tandems are more important than our cars. Therefore, I'm hardly unbiased when it comes to my taste in tandem hardware. However, I will tell you that I began the upgrade game with a two-year old Santana Arriva and quickly figured out that no matter how much I spent on shiny, lightweight parts the things that bothered me the most -- steering geometry and stoker compartment -- would still be the same. So, we sold the Santana ($3,900 sunk cost) for $2,950 after 2 years and 4,500 miles and added the proceeds to another $3,250 for a custom, dream tandem that we've been riding for 4.5 years and well over 12K miles. Was it worth it? We still grin from ear-to-ear everytime we get on it. Has it withstood the test of time? I just did some upgrades this past year -- carbon fork, new wheelset, carbon seatpost, new 9 speed rear derailleur -- that have kept it fresh.
We also did the upgrade or replace decision model on a '98 Cannondale MT3000 off-road tandem. As I contemplated the addition of disc brakes and a few other features it dawned on me that there was no way that rigid rear triangle was ever going to be upgradeable to a full-suspension rear swingarm and the only option was a full bike upgrade. A few years later after acquiring a top of the line, full suspension tandem it was time for a few upgrades and once again it was more cost effective in the long run to sell and replace with a new tandem that came with all the goodies I was considering.
Again, this is just my take and I probably represent a group of tandem enthusiasts that make up less than 1% of all tandem owners. However, I think the logic may still be valid for the majority of tandem & cycling "enthusiasts" who appreciate the feel and performance of "nice" equipment.
Last edited by livngood; 07-15-03 at 04:10 PM.
Thanks for the insight. This helps.
I think the comments from Mark about just how important the things that bug me really are were very good. I am more likely to stretch financially and buy into the lower cost version of a high-end car, pc or whatever, in order to have something worthwhile to build on and get the benefits in performance. Extra goodies are not such a big deal to me. So the idea that it may be better in the long run to start over with a whole new bike resonates with me. I tend to keep stuff a long time. I drive my cars until they wear out, my home pc is 7 years old, the tandem is still, in my opinion, in great shape after 12 years etc. But I just can't see upgrading this tandem. There are some shortcomings that cannot be fixed with upgrades.
However, the bottom line here is that a new tandem is not a "need-to-have", it is a "nice-to-have". I knew this already. But, as you say, if it causes us to ride more, be more healthy, spend more time together it may be well worth it.
I am going to take this slow and easy. There is no rush.
Thanks again for the help,
I for one have been caughtup in the materalizm craze.
Why can't we as humans be content with what we have and not always have to have something newer or better.
While I do not pratice what I preach , if one could just be satisfied with what he has and not upgrade unless of course it is wornout we could stop this cycle of getting wants vs needs.
I commend you on how long you have ridden what you have!
Just some thoughts.
Lonnie, Brad, Mark
Interestingly I don't practice what I preach either. The main question I posed in this thread is now moot.
My wife and I took a trip to Belmont Wheelworks (just outside of Boston) to take a look at tandems. I chose this store to visit because they were the only Massachusetts store listed on Co-Motion's website. We spent the afternoon with Doug MacDougal. He is an experienced tandem owner and they have about 20 tandems in the store to look at (not just one in the corner). I must say that if you live in New England and are looking for a Tandem; Belmont Wheelworks is a very good place to start with.
It turns out we were looking at Shimano 105 level Tandems from Co-Motion, Burley and Cannondale. After talking with Doug for a half hour he offered up a 2000 Burley Paso Doble for $800 off. It had been in the wharehouse and never sold, but brand new with warranty etc. This is Ultegra/XTR equipped for the same price of 105. Mind you, we were only "looking". He also offered up a 2002 Co-Motion Primera for 10% off as well making the price the same for both. 3 test rides and a couple of hours later we ended up buying the Paso Doble. The Co-Motion was nice, but not nearly as nimble and responsive. The comonents were a nice bonus, but the Paso Doble was just more vibrant and fun to ride. This outcome was surprising to me and Doug, but we tried it twice on the test rides with the same outcome.
Doug did a tandem fit free of charge right then and there. Swapped out stems and seatpost etc. We were able to take it home that afternoon. This was really great service and a positive experience overall.
As to the big question: "was is worth it?"
Brad will be happy to hear a resounding yes from me and the stoker. Old Tandem to new Paso Doble is the same as Minivan to Porsche. The Captain is well pleased. The stoker (my wife) notices some differences after 45 miles on it in the last couple of days. Remember, she was not sure what the big deal was from the beginning. We are riding faster, climbing is easier, shifting is better. She does notice how much better is handles. So, all in all a good time and a pretty good deal too.
Now I need to add to the "What do you ride?" thread.
Thanks for the comments and feedback,
Man, that's too awesome! Good on both you guys as it sounds like you got a heck of a deal to boot. What color is your paso? And, if I'm not mistaken the Paso is the top of the line Burley is it not? A smile cracked my lips as I read this post. I always like reading of people getting and enjoying their new dream bikes.
We almost went with a year old Paso Doble "over stock" that a shop was looking to get off the floor quickly when we bought our CO-Mo last year. I dont remember for sure why we ended up with the Co-Mo over the paso but, seems to be working out well for us. While asking around to the many tandem clubs here in Texas. I asked many people: "we've decided it's either a Paso Doble or a Speedster. What are the cheers and jeers". One thing that stuck in my mind was: "it seems Burley is more popular with the eastern teams and Co-Mo is more readily seen here in the southern regions". Seems this opinion has held true again.
Regarding the store you mentioned, we'll be spending a few days in the new england area very soon. I must say that i'd not mind making a stop in a shop that has 20 tandems on the floor just to check it out.
Again congrats on the new purchase, I'm glad it's already shown its worth to the team riding it!
Originally posted by JohnC
After talking with Doug for a half hour he offered up a 2000 Burley Paso Doble for $800 off.
Thanks for the replies. This is going to be fun (it is already).
Brad, the color is not what I would normally pick. That year the color on this model was call Jackpot Gold Powdercoat. Here is a link to a picture and specs:
I am gettting used to the color and I am starting to like it.
Also, here is a link to Belmont Wheelworks. They are pretty easy to find. I do recommend you leave your credit cards at home though..... If you want to talk tandems look up Doug Mac Dougal or Ed Burton.
Thanks for the info and the visa tip. If we get within an hour of that place I'll have to stop in.
(I dig the gold color of the bike you have. That's the very same bike I almost bought)
Here is another installment on the big question of whether upgrading to a new tandem is worth it.
We went back to Belmont Wheelworks last weekend to take advantage of a summer sale. In addition to getting to deals on clothes, I bought mountain tires and a straight bar for the old Burley Samba (I really cannot afford to go there anymore). We are heading up to Acadia National Park for vacation this month, so I figured this would be good for riding on the carriage trails. For those who are in other parts of the country, Acadia is next to Bar Harbor Maine. The carriage trails are about 50 miles of wide well maintained gravel and dirt roads that are closed to motorized traffic. I highly recommend a visit to this park. If you are curious got to www.nps.gov and select Acadia under "visit your parks". This is biker and hiker heaven.
Anyway, we took the newly dubbed "mountain tandem" out for a ride last night. We rode on gravel roads and some very tame single track mostly through fields and such. We had a blast. I was not sure if my wife was going to like it or not, but she really enjoyed being able to explore new areas and try new things. It was surprisingly easy to do. No issues at all with traction or maneuvering etc. All tandem teams should try this at least once.
So, now I have a whole new perspective on ways to tandem. This was an unexpected additional benefit from getting the new tandem.
It is kind of funny though. I get lots of interesting comments when I tell folks that I own a tandem. Now I get even more interetsing comments when I say I have two and one is for mountain biking. They think we are a little nuts.
Careful, you could end up with even more than two tandems and that mountain tandem could evolve into one of these: http://home.att.net/~mark.livingood/02Ventana.html
Originally posted by JohnC
...Now I get even more interetsing comments when I say I have two and one is for mountain biking. They think we are a little nuts.