Full Suspension Tandem - Ventana El Conquistador or Ellsworth Witness?
Any advice on full suspension tandems? Ventana, Ellsworth, other?? We are very interested in a full suspension tandem. Does anyone know where we could possibly demo a full suspension bike? I understand that mtbtandems.com does demos, but we live in Colorado...
Also, we are a "smaller" team, so from what I have read, the El Conquistador sounds like it may be a better fit due to the multiple sizes...but I guess this is why I am posting. Any information would be extremely helpful.
Witness: If you can't ride a 19/16 with a 23.5" top tube and min of 32" standover then the one size they offer will be too big... and you really don't want an off-road tandem that's too big (or too small). The basic frame design is based on the Ventana (it's a long story), but with a different rear suspension design. From a value standpoint, they've lowered the price over the years to be more in line with the Ventana, but it's still a bit more pricey than the Ventana even when discounted. The frames have been made by a number of different 3rd party builders over the years and I'm not sure who's actually building them for Ellsworth at the moment. Nice workmanship has always been a trademark regardless of who's been doing the fabrication and the finish is pretty cool but, again, limited to the one (black) color, which seems to suggest the frames are batch built.
Ventana: They have a wide range of sizes and also offer custom sizing; our's is a custom-sized model. The rear suspension has undergone a few changes over the years and the rear bottom bracket casting has been updated a few times as well. Some folks who really ride the heck out of their Ventana's have had some problems with the rear pivots and Ventana has been able to rework them under warranty. Ventana does all of it's work in house, having brought the powdercoating in house when when I last checked-in, so that they have complete control over the entire fabrication and finish process. Workmanship on the Ventana frames is, well, usually true to their high standards. However, every once and a while he'll move around the cable guides which can leave you scratching your head. If you're inclined to use the Rohloff hub Ventana has updated and reinforced it's rear triangle to deal with the extra load after getting some user feedback on what does and doesn't hold up. Again, customer support from Ventana is usually excellent.
Others: Viscious offers the Jeepster in a F/S model but it's a 29er and it ain't cheap. Santana still offers the Dual Moto but it too has become VERY cost prohibitive with it's ExoGrid / composite & titanim frame and, to be honest, I'm not sure they've actually made and sold more than a couple over the past few years. Chumba Wumba has done a couple customs and even Santa Cruz has built a F/S model, but it was most likely a house-tandem made for someone who works there. I'm not sure they've really felt compelled to get into the market. daVinci also offers a F/S version of it's Symbiosis but, again, a bit on the pricey side. There are probably a few others out there and you'll find a few used limited production models from GT and others made a couple years back.
Your best bet is to take advantage of Alex Nutt's first hand knowledge of the market by giving him a call and running your questions by him. He'll definitely work to earn your business but he's in an ideal position to offer some candid feedback on the various models you're considering. Last time I was up to his shop he had a Witness hanging on the wall and a couple Ventana's being built-up for clients: a hot pink one (yes, it's the only one ever made in that color) and a brilliant orange model that ended up in New Jersey.
So does that mean you guys with MTB tandems are showing up to the Cyclebration in Sacramento (actually Folsom) - they have a MTB Tandem class in the dirt time trial and XC race... I think there are 6 or so showing up so far :-)... or does that make it 12??!