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  1. #1
    Ride it like you stole it WheresWaldo's Avatar
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    Question about composite Tandem frames?

    This is not about weight, as is apparent from posts in the what does your tandem weigh and Beyond welds topics! Those of you that ride CF Tandems, is there something different about the ride quality that you prefer over a steel or aluminum tandem? I know the canned answer that material doesn't matter, but no matter how many times you repeat that mantra doesn't make it 100% true. My daughter/stoker has convinced me that we need a new tandem for next season, it really didn't take much convincing. Now we are seriously looking at custom frame size as I think she would feel more comfortable just a little more stretched out. Trying to duplicate her single bike ride position in the drops without her head in my back.

    We are looking at Calfee and Ruegamer among other material (non-CF) makers. I guess why I am asking is that when I made the switch from aluminum Klien's & Cannondales to my current CF single bikes (I own 3) I don't think I would ever switch back. I would like to know if tandem owners feel the same way. I would hope that Zona and TG will favor us with an answer (the only two off the top of my head that have ridden various tandems including CF ones).

    Thanks in advance.
    "Never use your face as a brake pad" - Jake Watson

  2. #2
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    1. Not all composite frames are created equal. Even more so than steel, composite frames can be fabricated using a wide variety of techniques and materials. However, the anisotropic nature of composites allows stiffness and compliance to be 'tuned' by the alignment of fibers during the tubing fabrication and/or lay-up process. Therefore, when you start comparing composite frames you really need to figure out how the builder is leveraging those variables and what they're using as design goals. On the bright side, Brent Ruegamer is a former Calfee employee so their may be a lot of carry-over in his designs.

    2. Some of the 'magic' people experience when moving from other materials to carbon frames comes from the weight savings. However, in some respects, these aren't apples to apples comparisons because more often than not new owners have not only reduced the weight of their frame, they've also invested heavily in lightweight components for the new bike. If they had simply put the same lighter weight components on their existing frame they would have likely experienced a change in road feel as well, noting even the weight savings from a steel to carbon fork change can have rather dramatic and "magic" results.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 06-12-08 at 03:03 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Having ridden all sorts of frame materials (steel, alu, Ti, Ti/carbon, full carbon, bamboo); prefer the c/f.
    Have not yet ridden Magnesium tandem.
    You get spoiled quickly on the carbon road feel (less vibrations, weight).
    We've done a bit of writing on tandems and tested 30-some brands/models. Takes a lot to impress stoker Kay and her attitude after decades of doing this was ". . . not another one!" . . . when we promised to do an article on the Calfee several years back.
    She was "impressed" (and she is not easily 'impressed!') with ride, ease of climbing and weight. Impressed enough that when it came time to order a new twicer she readily agreed to carbon fiber.
    Friend/builder Bob Davis at that time gave us his prototype ZOna c/f tandem to test and from there on it was an easy decision to have Bob build us 'a second prototype' that fit our body dimensions.
    We've owned three other full custom tandems and were very happy with all; our mantra is to buy the best you can afford and after 50,000+ miles on that twicer, we design a new one.
    After riding the Zona c/f tandem for a 3-thousand miles, we switched back to our custom Co-Mo that had 57,000 on the odo. Rode it for a couple weeks while we had some changes made to Zona (re-clearcoated and the lugs painted black/gold; internal cable runs changed to external; replaced D/A STI with barcons).
    Stoker immediately commented on the difference in the ride. Yes, she'd gotten spoiled on c/f!
    Currently have 18,000+ miles on our Zona tandem and yes, it's a great investment/ride!
    Have not experienced any amplification of bike noises/rattles as TG has.
    As you noted, you would not switch back to metal frames on a single after experiencing carbon fiber.
    Same goes for us with a tandem.
    A c/f tandem can be fine tuned by the builder by doing the carbon lay-ups to suit the riders just like a metal frame builder can mix/match tubings to achieve a desired feel.
    Alu tandems have a harsh ride compared to quality steel; Steel has a harsh ride compared to carbon. Most stoker want a suspension seatpost . . . but on c/f that can be eliminated.
    Have seen/lifted, but not ridden, a Ruegamer "Ubertandem" and was impressed with the quality of workmanship/weight (sub-20 lbs ready-to-ride on a small size racing tandem).
    Either Calfee or Ruegamer would be a great choice.
    Hope this helps!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  4. #4
    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    My tandem experience is limited to steel and Al. But I've put a lot of miles on steel, ti, al, CF, and even boron ceramic metal matrix (a high tech al alloy).

    I really like my CF Giant TCR Team Advanced, so I appreciate the advantages of CF.

    When we decided to get a high end tandem, we decided to get an Aluminum Co-Motion. There were several reasons we didn't get a Calfee CF tandem.

    1) I really bought into to all the positive stuff abotu cO-Motion as a tandem bulider. I know Calfee has a great reputation, but Co-Motion seemed to be a bit more focused on tandems.

    Not being able to ride either, I just felt like I had a little more comfort level in knowing what the CO-MO would be like.

    2) Our priority was rigidity, and respnsiveness. We were willing to sacrifice some comfort if necessary.

    3) Price/ Weight Trade off. For about $8000 you can get an Al bike from CO-Motion that willbe just about as light as a CF bike from Calfee or Santana.

    4) Timing. I wasn't sure we could get a custom bike from Calfee in our time frame.

    5) durability traveling. I'm not one to put down the durabiltiy of CF, but scratching/dinging it, does worry me a bit travelling.

    Riding the bike it meets our expectations for stiffness. You do feel road vibration, more than our Steel Burley, and based on riding CF singles, I would bet more than a well done CF tandem. And I've noticed in a few rides, that a little less pressure is enough to smooth out the initial relative harshness we felt in the ride.

    So IMHO, it all comes down to priorites. If performance per dollar is key, and outright performance is more important than ride quality, I think you can make a very good case for either the Robusta or the Macciato( depending on team weight).

    If price is not an a object,and ride quality is high on your priorities, I'd tend to lean toward CF. and in slightly differnet cicrumstances we might have done that ourselves.
    Last edited by merlinextraligh; 05-26-08 at 08:17 PM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    The harshest ride on any tandem is for the stoker.
    Pilot sits in middle of the frame and whether steel, alu, ti or c/f, he gets the 'softer' ride. Stoker takes all the road shock/bumps from rear wheel.
    That's why many stokers need/demand a suspension seatpost on most tandems.
    Fortunately we've been riding tandems since way before suspension seatposts re-appeared (it is not a 'new' idea/invention). We have never owned a personal tandem with suspension (Kay must have a tough little butt!?) but have ridden test tandems with several kinds of suspension posts. Will not argue with stoker Kay when she considers the c/f twicer a 'most impressive and comfortable ride.'
    Yes, Co-Motion builds a great tandem; we've owned a custom Co-Mo (built in '93) and put 57,000+ miles on it. A fine machine!
    Frame materials have greatly improved since the steel 1975 Follis tandem we started with!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

  6. #6
    Ride it like you stole it WheresWaldo's Avatar
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    We are going to investigate CF in the fall. The primary driver of this decision is performance then secondarily, but real close, is stoker comfort. To say that the Cannondale is a little harsh might be understating it just a bit.

    Suspension seat post was dumped after the first ride. Stoker says she would rather walk than ride on one ever again.

    One of the best upgrades with regard to comfort on our CDale was swapping the fork for a Winwood Muddy Cross. Leaps and bounds more comfortable than the CDale Fatty. As a side bonus it also changed the steering geometry for the better and was about 1/2 the weight too.

    If all I was concerned about was light weight I would look seriously at something like the Macciato, but we have other priorities. Although we do not take long trips on the tandem (longest trip to date was 63 miles), we seem to be a little worse for the wear when we ride the tandem, compared to our single cf bikes.

    We have got time to make this decision. The plan is to have something new by January 2009.

    Thanks for the responses.
    "Never use your face as a brake pad" - Jake Watson

  7. #7
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Know what you mean about C'dale ride being 'a little harsh'!
    Two years before there was a C'dale tandem (mid-80s) on the market we were test riding/evaluating one of the two C'dale tandem prototype for 3 months for the company.
    Stoker Kay did compalin about the extreme harshness of the ride in the stoker seat. C'dale decided to market the tandem as a 'frameset only' but did not do too well until they started to sell fully-built up tandems . . . and oh yes, the suspension seatpost was re-introduced shortly after that!
    To be fair, there are all kinds of suspension seatposts out there, and C'dale does not exactly offer the best one.
    Off all the rear suspension ones we've tested, the original Thudbuster (parallelogram) stands out; however Kay was even happier with the old c/f beam Softride on a Burley.
    C/f is a totally different ride . . . it'll provide both performance and comfort.
    The fall is the best time to order a new tandem; catch the builder when things have slowed down a bit. In the spring everybody wants a new bike and then there are delays/backlogs.
    Start your search early so you can weigh all pros/cons.
    Good luck and pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and kay/zonatandem

  8. #8
    so cal com John R's Avatar
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    Zona Tandems

    Is Zona still making tandems?

  9. #9
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John R View Post
    Is Zona still making tandems?
    No. Medical issues compelled the principle to withdraw from the manufacture of composite frames. He continues to dabble in smaller components for the niche market.

  10. #10
    so cal com John R's Avatar
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    Zona

    Thanks Geek, I thought so, some really close friends have been riding a Zona over the past few years. They are currently purchasing a Calfe and have been going through hell waiting. Lots of issues with Calfe

  11. #11
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John R View Post
    Lots of issues with Calfe
    I seem to be hearing about time-to-delivery issues from others who are also in the queue.

    Is it supply chain / availability of carbon tubing that your friends have been told or....?

  12. #12
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Visited with Bob Davis (Zona) couple weeks ago in Peoria, AZ..
    He is still diligently pursuing several projects/ideas, although no longer building tandems. Bob's a great guy and forever tinkering.
    Let's hope his health issues improve.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

    (Attached a photo of Bob and his wife taken a few years back on one of his prototypes.)
    Attached Images Attached Images

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    I seem to be hearing about time-to-delivery issues from others who are also in the queue.

    Is it supply chain / availability of carbon tubing that your friends have been told or....?
    Our Calfee will take six or seven weeks from ordering to shipping. That doesn't seem like an overly long period.

  14. #14
    Senior Member
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    We bought a new Paketa this year. We used his standard sizing which works for us, but he can easily do a custom build. We found a significant difference between the new bike and our old Bilenky. The Paketa feels like Ti but maybe takes those traits a step further. It has a very damp feel, yet still retains a springy feel. Unfortunately, I think in our case, there are other issues at play. For one, we have carbon bars on the new bike, aluminum on the old. But on our very first ride, my stoker/wife, commented several times at how much more comfortable it was. I think this is significant because, although she is pretty fit, she is not a long-time accomplished rider.

    Just another $.02 .

    Rich

  15. #15
    Ride it like you stole it WheresWaldo's Avatar
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    Thank you Rich, I will also look at Paketa. We are inclined toward custom sizing as our current tandem is just short in the stoker compartment. If Cannondale would make a Large/Medium or Large/Large it would have been our choice for sizing.

    Ride comfort and efficiency is priority one, that is why we don't want a suspension seat post.
    "Never use your face as a brake pad" - Jake Watson

  16. #16
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have met with Dave Walker at Interbike and hefted (but not yet ridden) a Paketa tandem.
    Curiously, Bill McCready and Steve showed up to talk with Dave and check out the Paketa . . .
    In numbers of tandems produced yearly, Paketa will only make a small dent in what 'tana can build.
    We've always preferred custom builders rather than mass-type producers. They pay much more attention to detail . . . which is important to us.
    Just our opinions.
    Pedal in TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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