Perhaps the only good thing about getting old is that you often have to opportunity to do or get some of the thing that you always wanted to do or have, but never quite got around to it. Maybe it's a bit of self indulgence, or "scratching an itch" that's been gnawing at you for years. In any event, Joy and I decided to indulge ourselves on the occasion of our 35th wedding anniversary this month and buy Lamborghini! It's a sexy little white two seater, a Viaggio in fact. We took it for a little spin, and I'll say it's fast, fun to drive, corners well, and a little scary at times. It's easy to overdrive the brakes!
Of course, it is a tandem bike. Not a great one, mind you, but a great starter I believe.
The bike arrived Sat 8/1, and the carton was undamaged. A good sign. Further inspection proved nothing was damaged indeed. Assembly was simple but not very straight forward. I will admit it. I heard the directions were poor, so I didn't even bother reading them. Amazon has a lot of posts on the product with generally favorable comments (i.e.: value for the money.) This is an upscale "box store" bike, NOT an LBS bike. Don't think that it is. None the less, I think it is an excellent way to try out tandem. For some one that is interested in "serious" involvement in tandems, an alternative method is to rent some "real" bikes to see if you are really interested, and then find a good used one that "fits." I'm not interested in that. Just want to be able to ride with the wife, son, and grandson. The bike won't be an exact fit for any of us, none the less; it will adequately fit all of us.
The directions and the brakes are two of the items that get "bad press". I found that to be the case. Other items regarding poor packaging, derailleur alignment, out of true wheels, and a few other complaints were not problems for me. Due to the way the front wheel is packed, many have reported broken spokes, but I did not have that problem.
I have assembled a few other "bikes in a box" and this was typical, except for a few unique factors.
The directions are very generic for "Road Bikes" and cover every possible option except for some of the tandem specific options.
The seat tubes are 27.2mm but the captain's seat post is 25.2 and requires a shim. This is not noted anywhere, nor are the seats labeled in any way. For some reason the stokers stem, which attaches to the captain's post, it 25.5, hence the requirement for a 25.2 seat post for the cap't.
No where is there any mention of the stokers stem, nor is it labeled.
In any event, I unpacked the bike and 2 seats on posts, and 2 boxes. The front wheel was strapped to the frame with the right front crank protruding through the spokes. This was the cause of the broken spokes, but several zip ties held the wheel tight in my case. Too bad, because one owner reported a $100 discount from Amazon for their troubles.
I had the bike stripped of the cardboard tubes that covered every stay and tube, and had the bike "assembled" in about 45 min. I pumped up the tires, but failed to check the that the tires were properly seated, and while putzing around with an add-on speedo, the front tire blew out. It was my own stupid mistake, and after changing my shorts and going to my LBS for some new tubes, the final adjustments continued.
I was pleased to see that the 8 speed 3 range Micro-shift shifters were working perfectly. The specs on Amazon are a bit confusing. It mentions a "24 speed" but the rear freewheel part number is a 7 speed. Also the crank is a 4 bolt internal BB with a 48/38/28 set up. With the 14/28 rear gearing I'm afraid that my son and I may run out of gears before we run out of steam. Upgrading to a 53T front or 11 or 12 T rear may not be possible.
The rear derailleur worked flawlessly, but the front struggles to get on to the big ring. Time will tell if a better FD is required.
As reported, the brakes suck big time. The bike borders on being "unsafe at any speed" in traffic with the stock brakes. I spent a lot of time trying to get them as close a possible so we got some braking power. They tend to squeal like a stuck pig. I finally got them close enough to do some neighborhood rides. I have Avid 7s and Koolstop pads, a $60 upgrade, on order. We'll limit our riding until those upgrades are completed.
I was glad to see the seat tubes are 27.2mm. I'll be able to pull my road bike seat and post and pop in into the stoker position when I ride with my son. The stock seat post will adjust enough to fit me at 6' and my son at 6'4". The stock quill stem is fine for me, but may be too low for my son. I'm checking on a longer quill for him.
The stock wheels are 700 x 35 semi-aero with nuts (not quick release) and extended Schrader valves (hard to find.) The wheel bearing are loose ball and cone Joy techs. Very heavy. So long as they run free and hold true I'll live with them. We don't do a lot of climbs here in So Fla, and I don't expect to do a lot of sprints.
I guess I played around with it for about 2 hrs adjusting, lubing, adding lights, bags, changing the stoker seat so the princess doesn’t feel the pea. It was finally ready for a solo shake down ride. A few trips around the block got my seat dialed in, things tightened up, and allowed me to get used to the Microshift brifters. The bike is very heavy compared to my 17 lb carbon road bike, but on par with my Diamond back hybrid. The difference in a solo ride is all that weight "back there." And those lousy brakes.
Shakedown ride done, it's now ready for the "maiden voyage" with my (former) maiden, now spouse of 35 yrs. We go over some ground rules, thanks to the BF Tandem forum. The most important is "the stoker is always right" (at least when we're on the bike.)
We mount the bike, and we're off to a shaky but exciting start. We make several loops around the neighborhood, and much to my pleasure, my wife says "this is fun!" Whew! Handling is very different than a "half-bike" and her every move back there adds a dimension that I'm not used to. It' very weird having the pedals turn when you are not doing anything. The importance of communication becomes very apparent.
Our second trip was to an neighborhood grocery store. Not very long, but we felt a lot more comfortable even thought we are in some real traffic. Had to plan well in advance for any stops due to the brake situation.
The next challenge will be to swap out the stoker seat and put my son in the captain's position and see what this baby will do. We'll pick a nice open and safe route since braking is compromised. We can go 28 or so solo, so it will be nice to see what we can do together, top speed and high speed cruising. If we can keep up with the A group in the club on the tandem (which we can do solo for most of the ride) I'll be very happy.
I also want to be able to put my 6 yr old grandson into the stoker position without any major changes or investments. He's pretty tall for his size, but I don't think he'll fit the 16" rear seat yet. He's pretty "stoked" about riding the new bike (named "Jazz" by him) and worst case is I'll put the removable Kettler child seat on a seat tube.
Thanks for sharing my thoughts and experiences, and if your considering a tandem, I hope this will help you come to a more informed decision.