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  1. #1
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    WinZip Rear Disc Brake

    We have a new Santana Beyond tandem. We ordered the WinZip disc with a 10" rotor as our sole rear brake per Bill McCready's recommendation.
    We cannot keep it in adjustment! After a descent or 2-3 pulls on the lever we lose all braking power coupled with metal grinding noise or horrible vibration and noise.
    We have had to stop in the middle of the Solvang Double to have a mechanic reset the pads or cables.
    Just recently we rode ride in Napa lost the brake again down Mt. Veeder. Had it "fixed" again only to lose it on another century the following day! Grrrrrrrrrr

    Anyone else have these kind of problems with WinZip?
    Talked to 2 people on the Wildflower last weekend with Santana Beyonds. They agreed and their solution was to convert the Winzip to a drag brake and places Dura Ace calipers on the rear.

    Any help would be appreciated

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    We have the Santana Team Scandium. Think we may have met you at the beginning of the Solvang Double.

    On steep descents, I have to alternate with the front brake to keep the Winzip from heating up too much. The pads on ours wore incredibly fast and I have seen one other tandem where the pads had worn about half their thickness off in a single ride. They do seem to wear more on the first few rides though. I have been able to keep them from heating to the point where they get noisy or begin to squeal but it was pretty easy to get them to that point if I just held them on a little longer.

    I was not happy with their performance, even considering that it is handling the extra load of being on a tandem. You'd think that Santana would have bothered to request Winzip to make one with a road throw instead of running an ugly in-line adaptor.

    I have installed an Avid caliper now in spite of Bill McCready's insistence that it is not adequate. The brake is much quieter, but I'm not totally happy with my installation of it yet. I have not been able to find an adaptor that puts the caliper in the right position. The closest I can get is the front 160/rear 140 mount, but this requires a few washers to move the caliper away from the rotor so the top of the disc doesn't come in contact with the caliper. I may have to see if I can have someone custom make the mount.

    So far, the Avid seems to perform a little better. I feel like I have to use less force to get the same braking power and the brakes make less noise. They can still heat up if I'm not careful with alternating the braking, but I have been really cautious about that. A few days I did notice that our rotor had significant wear considering how old the tandem is and panicked Thinking that the avid caliper had done this, but on closer inspection, the wear appears to have been caused by the Winzip and not the Avid.

    I was able to find an installation guide on-line for installing Avids on a Santana, however the guide was designed to work with an Avid 8" rotor. The pictures of the installation look like the brake mount is not in the same place as on our tandem.

    If anyone has had any luck with installing an Avid caliper on a relatively new Santana frame, I'd be interested in knowing which mount they used to get it to line up properly.

  3. #3
    Senior Member 72andsunny's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beyondbroke View Post
    We have had to stop in the middle of the Solvang Double to have a mechanic reset the pads or cables.
    If memory serves, the adjustments on the Winzip should be entirely with the pads (not the cable). Hopefully somebody who has been on a more recent Santana tour can correct me if I got some of this wrong.

    Bill's method for adjusting Winzips on 25 tandems at the top of a hill:

    1) With a 5 mm allen wrench, move the inner pad in by turning clockwise until it clicks, then turn couterclockwise until it clicks again.

    2) Spin rear wheel; with a 3 mm allen wrench, move the inner pad in by turning clockwise just until the pad starts to rub. (Back it up a little if the sound is too aggravating).

    I'm not sold on my Winzip either (I've ordered metal pads as per BloomingCyclist's recommendation in a recent thread)...

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Possum Roadkill View Post
    If anyone has had any luck with installing an Avid caliper on a relatively new Santana frame, I'd be interested in knowing which mount they used to get it to line up properly.
    We know a team in the Fresno area that switched from the winzip to the Avid on a brand new Santana. They seem happy with the change. Next time we see them we will ask them about the adaptor.

    We use an Avid disc as the only rear brake and we love it for fast winding descents. It is not a drag brake to shave off speed!! We alternate the disc use with the front brake from 1:1 to 4:1 depending on the terrain's braking demands.

  5. #5
    It Takes Two BloomingCyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beyondbroke View Post
    Anyone else have these kind of problems with WinZip?
    As mentioned in 72 and sunny's post, I do prefer the EBC Gold pad which is a sintered metallic pad. We purchased our Santana Niobium in Jan 2006 with linear pull front and rear and rode it for a year that way. For the hills in southern Indiana and our braking (or lack of braking), the linear pull brakes were great. In early 2007 we installed the Winzip in anticipation of the descents on the 3 State 3 Mtn ride in Chattanooga, TN in May 2007. Our friends, Counselguy, had a Winzip before us on their first tandem and it made loud disturnbing groaning noises. I had no experience with disc brakes and was no help at the time. When we got our Winzip, I found that putting the bike in a stand (outside), spraying some water on the rotor while applying the brake allowed the pad to seat well enough that it didn't make any noises. The braking seemed fine but on the 3 State 3 Mtn ride, I had to adjust the pads after each of the three descents because the pads were wearing so quickly as I was braking to hold the speed down either because of the turns or the bicycle and car traffic. Tandemgeek witnessed my adjustments when he saw me at the rest stop at the bottom of the first descent when I was adjusting the pads.

    When I got home, I looked into pads and ordered EBC metallic pads. They wear very slowly from my perspective. They also have a harsher sound than a softer pad has when the brakes are applied but it's the slow wear is worth it to me. On this past February's Santana Hawaii Valentine's Tour, we came down Haleakula with the most demanding braking I've ever done - especially in the first few miles of steep grades with switchbacks and we were required to do all the braking with the rear disc as part of the agreement to be allowed to start the descent from inside the park at the summit. All disc brake pads were set close to the rotor at the top of our 10,000 ft descent. As far as I know, all Winzips with the original equipment pads had to adjust their pads at least twice during the descent (this includes Santana owner Bill). I didn't have to touch mine and I would not have had to adjust them the next day either but Bill wanted to tighten everyone's Winzip pads before the descent on Linai so he did tighten mine too. Bill was not pleased with how the original equipment pads were wearing on the Haleakula descent nor was the mechanic on the trip and I told him what I had on ours. He said the Winzip pads are made by Jaguar. I think that most of the Avid owners had to adjust theirs at least once.

    I have no idea if and / or when he will make changes in the pads he puts on as original equipment the Winzip. While I really like the EBC metallic pads, they are a compromise between the softer sounding but quicker wearing non-full-metallic pads and the other softer pads. For our day in and day out riding, I'm sure the original pads would be fine. We don't have to brake that much and I seldom "need" to use the rear much; nothing long enough or steep enough or sudden enough. However for the original poster and anyone else doing big descents with braking, I think the rapid wear of the original brakes makes one want to have a "fix" or a different brake like the Avid.

    I have noticed that when we use the Winzip hard on an extended descent that after it cools for awhile and we need to brake again later, it will groan then but stop after a few brake and release that must clean some outgassing "stuff" off of the rotor and / or pads.

    I'm no disc brake expert, but I do like the Winzip with the EBC Gold pads and I didn't like it with the original. AND I would love for it to have the hemispherical washer for the alignment set up like the AVID has. I've actually ordered a set of the AVID washers but haven't taken the time to look into what I will need to do to use them (probably have to at least get a different thickness of hub rotor adaptor).

    Good luck, have fun, and share anything you find out about improving yours.

    Bloomington, IN

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    We know a team in the Fresno area that switched from the winzip to the Avid on a brand new Santana. They seem happy with the change. Next time we see them we will ask them about the adaptor.

    That would be helpful, except we *are* the tandem team in Fresno that switched from Winzip to the Avids. Hello riding buddies! We do like them better but I'd be more secure with them if I could find an adaptor that didn't need extra washers to work.

    When I got home, I looked into pads and ordered EBC metallic pads.

    These pads are similar to what comes stock on the Avid pads. I can see how they would work better. The shop I work at ordered some last week for another Santana customer that had pad wear problems.

  7. #7
    Senior Member antiquepedaler's Avatar
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    Winzip's why I have Avids on both tandems. For a proper mounting bracket try any of the good tandem shops on the east coast who will mail you parts. Don't know of any really good ones on the west coast.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    We sympatize with all you Santana owners with Winzip brakes.
    If they are that troublesome/dangerous, then return tandem to the Santana dealer for a full refund.
    Have used centerpulls, sidepulls, cantis, Self-Energizing, U-brakes, V-brakes, drum and discs in varying combinatioins and have NEVER had to adjust brakes/pads after/before descending any hill or mountain. Have desended 6% 11-mile-long switchbacked moutain with Mafac cantilevers only . . . no issues except for cramping fingers!
    Our personal tandem does not have discs or any type of drag brake . . . and we live in relatively hilly/mountainous terrain.
    We consider ourselves relatively experienced with over 212,000 miles as a tandem team but are by no means 'experts.'. Have ridden 30 +/- tandem brands/models from A to Z (Assenmacher to Zona) and many in between (including 'tana's Arriva, Sovereign, Ti, Beyond).
    It's up to the manufacturer/dealer to back a product if it does not perform as advertised.
    Again, we sympathize with you WinZippers!

  9. #9
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    Winzip's why I have Avids on both tandems. For a proper mounting bracket try any of the good tandem shops on the east coast who will mail you parts.

    The Problem is that I'm not sure what adaptor I need. When I ordered the brake, it came with the 160mm front adaptor and I ordered a 160mm rear adaptor. The closest match is the 160mm front, but I'm running 3 washers between the caliper and the mount to get the brake far enough away so the disc is not rubbing on the caliper.

  10. #10
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    And that is because you are using the large disc that came with the winzip kit, right? If there is an adaptor that would work, Mark at precision Tandems would know about it...

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    And that is because you are using the large disc that came with the winzip kit, right?
    I'm using the larger disc, but it doesn't even look like a smaller disc would even work. I am using the smallest mount now with only a little extra space added. The next size down is about 2 inches smaller. That would be a 1" difference and I'm not running 1" of washers under the brake.

    I know a guy that does some CNC machining. He's managed to get a Cannondale Lefty fork working on 1 1/8" steerer tube bikes. I am probably going to have to see if he can make me one, but I'd rather buy something that was already available if possible.

  12. #12
    Senior Member antiquepedaler's Avatar
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    The above responses are all correct. There 3 usual diameter sizes of discs, 160mm (6 inch), 203 (8 inch) and that Winzip 10 inch. When you know what diameter your disc is, relate that to the dealer to get the right mounting bracket. I bought my avids from a tandem dealer, and they all came with 8 inch discs. I had to hunt around for a front 203 mounting bracket for the MTB tandem but found a Hayes brand bracket that fit the same as an Avid bracket. I wouldn't put a 160mm disc on a tandem.
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  13. #13
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    We have a Beyond with the Winzip. Still fairly low miles on it (maybe 800) but did find I was adjusting the cable slack quite often. I did a complete realignment of the caliper to the disk and it has helped quite a bit as far as having to adjust it so often. I just got a set of the EBC metallic pads to try per BloomingCyclist's recommendation but have not installed them yet.

    One factor that has not been mentioned in this thread yet is team weight. Our team is in the 380 lb range so use of brakes on a downhill will be much more than required for a lighter team. Avid discs or regular calipers might work OK for a light team but add 80 or 90 and it is another ball game.
    Last edited by djedgar; 04-30-08 at 02:35 PM.

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    Wow! Sounds like disc brakes on tandems provides plenty of fodder for forum discussions.

    In 2003 we ascended & descended Haleakala. We have V brakes & had our Arai drum installed. This was one of the few times that I was glad we had it. It now spends most of its life in the garage. We braked a lot on the descent - especially near the top. I don't recall ever wondering if we were overheating the drum or our rims. I didn't check our brake pads before or after the descent. I can't imagine having to stop in the middle of a ride to inspect the brakes. The Arai has a cool factor of zero but I never have to concern myself with it.

    It sounds like disc brakes would be fine if you knew that you would never do any big descents that required heavy braking. Peace of mind with one's equipment is paramount when your descending at 40+ mph.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Possum Roadkill View Post
    [COLOR=Navy][B]

    I know a guy that does some CNC machining. He's managed to get a Cannondale Lefty fork working on 1 1/8" steerer tube bikes. I am probably going to have to see if he can make me one, but I'd rather buy something that was already available if possible.
    Before you do that give Mark a call... if there is an adaptor that would work, Mark knows about it. Here is a link to his site: http://www.precisiontandems.com/

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    Re Winzip

    Thanks for the reply. I think we remember you guys on the Solvang, great fun eh?
    I spoke with Greg over at Santana, he is the "brake guy". He had a long laundry list of why the brake moans and vibrates so much But... he didn't have much to say why the brake fades so quickly other than the pads wear very quickly. He also said that this was a pad material problem not a winzip issue. Go figure!
    He also said that on long descents that we probably have to stop several times to re adjust the pads due to the rapid wear. He said Bill McCready would stop 3 times on the descent (10,000 ft) off of Haleakula!
    Hellava brake!!!

    I am ready to change this out as I have no faith in the stopping power of Winzip. I am equally disappointed at Santata for building up the power of this system when they know the issues with it so well. Shame on Santana!!!!

    Any ides or thoughts on a better (and safer!) brake system for this bike. One Beyond owner converted the Winzip to a drag and put rear V-brakes. Said that worked pretty well.


    It is sad that we need to go to forums to straighten out Santana's design deficiencies but any advice or help would be helpful.
    On a final note, I don't think I would be so quick to buy another Santana untill this problem is worked out by them!
    Thank you and hope to ride again in the near future with you. Central Coast Double?

  17. #17
    It Takes Two BloomingCyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beyondbroke View Post
    ...I am ready to change this out as I have no faith in the stopping power of Winzip. ...
    I believe you would like the stopping power of the Winzip with the EBC gold pads - it's excellent plus they won't wear quickly at all - you should try them. It won't make noises either. I had the moaning and groaning the very first time when I installed the brake and fixed that with my previously mentioned method of applying the brake while spraying some water on the rotor. I had to do it twice the first time. The only time I ever have any moaning now is when I apply the disc after it has cooled off after some long hard braking - and that goes away quickly (in seconds) after some braking. The brake is as quiet as anyone else's disc brake now. If Counselguy had his original bike with the Winzip, I'm sure I could get it to stop moaning now with what I've learned.

    The original pads would wear in a drag application just like they would wear as the primary brake. If you are going to use it as a drag, I'd still get the EBC gold metallic pads.

    Bloomington, IN

  18. #18
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
    Wow! Sounds like disc brakes on tandems provides plenty of fodder for forum discussions.
    No need to limit yourself to disc brakes...

    Brakes on tandems in all of their various forms -- drum (shaved, non-shaved, internal hub or external), canti's (stnd, linear-pull, short or long arms, boutique, hydraulic, self-energizing), calipers (std/long, compact, single or dual pivot), and many other variations -- have probably consumed as much or more bandwidth than most other technical topics since the dawn of the first tandem listserve back in 1992.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 05-01-08 at 10:50 AM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member antiquepedaler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djedgar View Post
    We have a Beyond with the Winzip. Our team is in the 380 lb range so use of brakes on a downhill will be much more than required for a lighter team. Avid discs or regular calipers might work OK for a light team but add 80 or 90 and it is another ball game.
    As I understand it, the power of the a disc brake is related to the size of the disc, not necessarily the brake. That's why down hill mtb bikes have 203 mm discs up front while cross country mtb bikes are fitted with 160 mms. One tandem shop owner and stoker I know are heavier then your team and did fine with an Avid brake and a 10 inch disc.
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  20. #20
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    Our old bike was a Santana. Not a bad bike but I must say we were very frustrated by the proprietary equipment, especially when superior options are not able to fit.

    We also have an Avid on our new custom Steve Rex Tandem. I am amazed at how well it stops us (much better than the Arai drum). So far I have not experienced any noise, fading - nothing but good stopping power. I am very pleased with it.

    We will be riding the Pacific Coast Highway Randonneurs 600 Brevet on 17th. It descends from Pine Mountain to New Cuyama (5,500+- ft.) and should be an excellent "test" of our new Steve Rex and the Avid. Unfortunately it will be after the Central Coast Double.

    I hope you get your brake problems fixed before Central Coast Double as that has some serious climbing.

  21. #21
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by beyondbroke View Post
    I am ready to change this out as I have no faith in the stopping power of Winzip. I am equally disappointed at Santata for building up the power of this system when they know the issues with it so well. Shame on Santana!!!!
    I could write quite a bit on this particular subject and it's various facets, but will attempt to restrain myself. It's unfortunate but true that disc brakes on tandems aren't a no-brainer. They work well for certain applications and teams, but certainly not all. Santana, which tends to err on the side of overkill coupled with over-zealous marketing, has introduced 2.5 rear disc systems during the past decade that have had shall we say, mixed results. Some owners swear by their Formula I / II and Winzip Discs, while others simply swear at them.

    As for your situation, unless you've concluded you'd be better served by a pair of rim brakes and an Arai drum -- which may be the case -- your best bet is to (1) try the better pads suggested by Bloomingcyclist and (2) to make sure who ever works on the brake follows the instructions on how to set it up to a tee. I'd also suggest (3) installing an in-line cable adjuster in the brake housing that sits between your brake lever and the cable stop on the down tube so that you can make on-the-fly brake cable adjustments to compensate for pad wear. In fact, Avid now includes a very nice in-line adjuster with it's BB7 brakes.

    Getting back to your ire with Santana and it's marketing material.... hey, it's marketing material! In fact, each year I look forward to receiving my annual Tandems and Tandeming Magazine and reading it cover-to-cover along side the previous year's edition just to see what's been changed. If you have a collection like I do you can see how Santana sometimes backs itself into a corner or sets itself up for trouble when their goal of providing the "best" sometimes butts up against consumers who have a different idea of "what's best". Brakes is one of those areas. If you read between the lines and have followed Santana's technical moves over the years it's pretty clear that they only recommend one basic configuration: Linear-pull cantilever rim brakes with a supplemental drum brake for teams over 400 lbs or who have special braking needs that exceed the capabilities of rim brakes.

    It suffices to say, in each of their efforts to develop a disc brake system they first pronounced existing systems to be inadequate and set about to develop a disc that was "suitable" for use on tandems. Of course, therein lies the fatal flaw: disc brakes really aren't suitable or practical for all tandems. By the time they found and fielded their version of a "suitable" disc it was so complex that even enthusiasts and LBS mechanics would find themselves struggling to keep them working 'as designed'. No, not everyone struggled, but many did. Following the introduction of the Forumla, someone discovered that Avid's ball bearing disc brakes worked 'pretty well' on tandems for teams who fit the narrow profile of being a good candidate for a rear disc. In other words, teams that really didn't need a drag brake, but who wanted something that worked better (more stopping power / greater heat capacity) than a rear rim brake. As before, the Avid was pronouned unsuitable and, going further, was labeled as "unsafe" for use on tandems by Santana. Yes, they'd install one if a customer insisted and signed a waiver of liability, but that was about it. Frankly, I alway found it amusing that they'd make a customer sign a waiver for a brake that wasn't nearly as unsuitable and unsafe as the standard rim brakes that come on every tandem, given the rationale. Regardless, Santana set out to find a better brake and sourced the 'Winzip' from the same folks who provide IRD with it's Dual Banger. They also had been working on a larger disc rotor -- I like to think of it as the medium-size pizza pan with holes -- for several years with various different suppliers with mixed results. The first "big development" that wasn't was a 10" Galfer wavy rotor that had a tendency to permanently warp. They have since moved on to a different supplier and a more robust rotor which was introduced along with the Winzip.

    Of course, all along the way 100's of tandems had since been fitted with Avid BB7 disc brakes that have, for the most part, worked pretty darn well. However, I would note that there was a bad batch of Avid's that went out early on with a very soft brake compound by mistake that would wear out in a single ride!! Avid fixed that little issue and gave new pads to anyone who called and complained. Brake drag has also been a bit of an issue and there are a couple of different ways to address that: I prefer a booster spring whereas others have installed in-line brake cable boosters, aka, travel agents or BPBs. As already mentioned, Avid has also been including an in-line brake cable adjuster to allow users to adjust out brake pad wear on the fly. Now, mind you, Avid's are not a substitute for a drag brake anymore than any other disc brake but still get used that way. In fact, I was somewhat dumb-founded that the folks on this past year's Santana Hawaiin tour were instructed to use their rear discs as drag brakes and to NOT use their front rim brakes!!! In fact, as I write that I'm still dumb-founded in light of everything that Santana has ever written or said about the do's and don'ts of disc brake use.

    Frankly, at this point, the only real problem with the Winzip is probably the OEM pads. My guess is, they're fitted with the much softer MTB pads given how fast they wear. After all, most stock disc brakes are designed to be used on mountain bikes hitting speeds of 20 mph on dirt trails, not 50 mph on asphalt. The latter tends to be a bit more demanding on brake pads, hence the sintered metallics are the better choice. The other issues are only issues when you compare and contrast the Winzip with the Avid discs, which are far easier to set-up and maintain and which are priced far more reasonably.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 05-01-08 at 02:00 PM.

  22. #22
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    TG: "Brakes on tandems in all of their various forms -- drum (shaved, non-shaved, internal hub or external), canti's (stnd, linear-pull, short or long arms, boutique, hydraulic, self-energizing), calipers (std/long, compact, single or dual pivot), and many other variations -- have probably consumed as much or more bandwidth than most other technical topics since the dawn of the first tandem listserve back in 1992."

    TG- after reading this thread and the posting from Rodriguez on the other thread, what are the downsides of either cantis or calipers with brifters on a road tandem?

    I understand that if a tandem manufacturer specs brakes suitable for a 400# team doing big descents, they would be overkill (too heavy) for a 300# team who rides mostly flats.

  23. #23
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    That wasn't quite a bit?

    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    I could write quite a bit on this particular subject .....
    OTOH it was very informative reading, thanks.

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    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    If we shelled out $10,000+ on a 'tana Beyond, we'd expect the brake to function as advertised.

    '08 edition of Tandems and Tandeming, page 42: "Winzip non-hydraulic 10" disc* powerful, reliable & troublefree . . . $300"

    Guess Bike Forum members don't know what they are talking about . . . .

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
    ... what are the downsides of either cantis or calipers with brifters on a road tandem?
    Traditional Cantilevers: At one point it could be argued that there were just too many choices and proper set-up required both arcane knowledge regarding straddle wires, link cables, mechanical leverage, and a little patience. Now, if you happened to have a really short rear seat tube, heel clearance could also be an issue with some designs that used wider arms for increased leverage. You could also run into trouble with brake pads because they lasted so darned long that they'd dry-out and lose a lot of their stopping power. However, the biggest problem with traditional cantilevers is that something new came along -- linear pull brakes -- and they were embraced because they were pronounced to be "better" than traditional cantilevers. I'm still trying to quantify 'better' nearly a decade later.

    Calipers: Tandems need to be made with a rear brake bridge and fitted with a fork that will accommodate a caliper brake, and that's a problem since very few average tandem buyers will really want or need a 'racing tandem'. You see, the more popular and powerful dual pivot (differential for Campy) models of caliper brakes from Shimano & Campy use very short 39-49mm length arms which limit maximum tire size to 28mm and, to a certain extent, preclude the fitting of full-coverage mud guards. If your buyers are predisposed to prefer lightweight racing tires with a diameter of less than 28mm, you're all set. Although, not all of these calipers are ideally suited for tandems, noting that single pivots tend to be too minimalist for use on the front and are even questionable as a rear brake for all but the lightest-weight team, noting that most rear rim brakes on tandems are pretty ineffective anyway. Even then, racing tandems are really a very small (but apparently increasing more popular) segment within the tandem market. Now, there are some bold companies out there like Trek who has elected to make their tandem frames compatible with what was at one time the 'standard' (now called medium or long) reach calipers with 47-59mm length arms. This was made possible by the re-emergence Shimano's BR600 (105 grade) and BR650 (Ultegra grade) calipers in the US market and the realization that calipers really are great brakes, devoid of the problems that plague linear-pull brakes (brake squeal, adapters, too much power). Other than that, calipers are just too darn easy to set-up and, again, you run the risk of having dried-out brake pads on your bike because caliper pads tend to last a long time.

    Now, you'll notice that I've danced around the issue of brake power. Ignoring the braking demands placed on tandems by long steep grades which is an entirely separate discussion on heat capacity and the like, let's talk about braking applications that fall short of the mark where a supplemental drum brake or perhaps a disc might really be 'needed..

    When it comes to tandem rim brakes, the 'barf box' that always appears under linear-pull brakes is "MORE POWERFUL THAN (fill in the blank)". And, you know what, that's probably true. Linear pull brakes -- like a well adjusted disc -- can generate more raw stopping power than the average conventional cantilever or caliper brake. However, I tend to be a realist who doesn't have to carry manufacturers and wholesaler's insurance or stay awake at nights worried about being sued by an ambulance chasing attorney so what trips my trigger is the quality of the useful braking power that can be generated by a brake and most of the attention needs to be placed on the front rim brake because rear rim brakes tend to be pretty useless for anything other than generating heat as they minimally slow the speed of a tandem.

    As has often times been observed, shoving a stick into someone's spokes will stop a bicycle's forward movement in short order. So, more power is somewhat lost on me as a cyclist because I realize that it's probably my judgement and skills that will really determine just how much time and distance will pass before I hit something that might be avoided by the use of my brakes. Part of the judgement includes factoring in the fully loaded weight of our tandem, the road conditions, the grip of my tires, and a whole bunch of other things. And, taking all of those things into consideration, as a lightweight team I know that I can get away with using conventional cantilevers or calipers. Yes, I do believe a linear pull brake might take less hand effort and generate more raw stopping power, but I just don't see where that will be of benefit to me. Now, if we were a 350lb - 400lb team, I'd probably have a greater appreciation for the increase in raw stopping power and there's the rub: each team needs to decide what's good enough for them. Of course, this is where the rear disc argument comes in because a well set-up rear disc can perform on par or better than a linear-pull brake with TA which, incidentally, does out perform most rear canti and caliper brakes. However, the disc precludes the use of a drum and that's where trade-offs come in to play.

    So, because builders DO live under the thread of product liability lawsuits, the default brake system used on production model tandems -- which could just as likely end up being ridden by a 250lb couple who are licensed Cat 2 racers or a 400lb couple who just became empty nesters -- will be the one that is considered the most powerful. Thankfully, as enthusiasts, we are free to custom-spec our tandems with anything we want and most builders will happily oblige us. Of course, when it comes time to sell that 30lb super bike with 23mm tires and calipers you may have to screen your buyers to make sure that they don't unwittingly buy something that could truly be unsafe for them to ride.

    Bottom Line: The choices in equipment and technology presently available to consumers is simply amazing. However, with that variety comes the need for the knowledge to know what will work best for a given team. There's nothing more distressing that watching a couple struggling with a tandem that clearly doesn't meet their needs, and it's a shame that fashion often times wins out over function. So, would you like canti's or calipers with that tandem?
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 05-03-08 at 10:08 AM.

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