I do find it alarming that a manufacturer felt the need to adjust customers' brakes before a long descent. On my car, single bikes and tandem I would not be happy with brakes which required adjustment every week let alone multiple times during a ride.
I will be taking Santana's pronouncements of superiority with an even bigger pinch of salt than before.
We have a 2003 Santana Sovereign and I installed the large Winzip disc brake last year before heading out to the Rockies for a week of riding in the mountains. For the record, my wife and I are a 350# team.
We put a couple hundred miles on the brake before leaving and had to make no adjustments, however, we had to make adjustments after the first 3-4 long descents, then the brake pads seem to have worn in parallel to the rotor and further adjustments were not necessary for the rest of the trip. In fact, the brake hasn't been adjusted since we got home last July, though I admit that that's only 1500-2000 miles or so.
All in all, the brake works very well for us and is extremely easy to adjust. As for a tour leader checking brakes before a particularly difficult descent, that makes perfect sense to me whether it be Winzips or cantilevers or whatever when you consider the liability involved. But what the heck, why miss a chance to bash a manufacturer?
But what the heck, why miss a chance to bash a manufacturer?
While there are truly some folks out there who have a hard-on for a certain manufacturer and never pass up the chance to take a poke, even first time buyers will sometimes come away with a bad taste in their mouth from the marketing practices used by this manufacturer and disclaimers that other builders have had to adopt in their own marketing to redress those practices.
So, in many respects, they have made themselves a magnet for criticism by attempting to position themselves as 'superior' not by letting their product sell itself on the merits of its features and benefits, but by making subjective and often times misleading or dubious statements about their competitors products or features.
Therefore, as it is with politicians and anyone else who put themselves up on a pedestal, the temptation to knock a brick out of that pedestal when the opportunity frequently presents itself is sometimes too hard to resist.
All that said, I do believe they were prudent to check the brakes on all of their clients tandems before making an epic descent and I do believe it was out of concern for the safety of his guests as much as his reputation as a tour host who really does bend over backwards to create the best possible experience for his clients. Having a guest fall victim to an avoidable accident just isn't something that fits well with his 'belt and suspenders' philosophy about tandems and tandem cycling. Again, what baffled me was the prohibition on using the front brake... I understand the reasoning and perhaps if I were in his shoes it would make more sense to assume the lowest common denominator with regard to cycling skills and knowledge rather than doing a short clinic on how to properly use bicycle brakes... which he may have done as well: Lord knows, he loves to share information...