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Tandem Cycling A bicycle built for two. Want to find out more about this wonderful world of tandems? Check out this forum to talk with other tandem enthusiasts. Captains and stokers welcome!

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Old 09-21-09, 05:29 PM   #1
Eric470
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Steel or alu road tandem?

Steel or alu, we ride a cheap alu frame with good parts at moment, but want a better frame with a decent ride quality, any info would be of help, our team weight is 335 pounds, thanks Eric
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Old 09-21-09, 05:42 PM   #2
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I am 1,084 miles into a tour on a steel comotion speedster --- we now have over 4300 miles on it since late last November --- I love the ride ....smooth --stable -- and good power transfer. I own a Ti bike and a carbon fiber (single bikes) and I am hooked (once again) on Steel

you can read about our tour here:
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/tourdemiller3
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Old 09-21-09, 05:54 PM   #3
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Good steel frame will give a nicer/less harsh ride than most alu; that's why you see alu tandems with a suspension seatpost for the stoker.
Stoker Kay has put in over hundred thousand miles on steel tandems without suspension.
Currently riding c/f . . . even nicer!
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Old 09-21-09, 07:16 PM   #4
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Our Speedster was without doubt very smooth, backing up the Bikeguys statements.

We did switch to an aluminum Roadster. This was a two fold reason, first was a larger frame, second was that since we are a larger team, the stoker wanted a more planted feel to the frame. While the backseat doesn't have a suspension seatpost, it is a high end ti post which does take the edge off.

PK
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Old 09-21-09, 07:29 PM   #5
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I'm very happy with our steel Davinci Joint Venture; don't have any Al tandem experience, however. Much better ride than on my Al road bike. I think a combination of better materials, more sophisticated tube forming and computer aided design/analysis have narrowed the gap in weight between Al and steel, but I wasn't really concerned about the weight of the tandem.
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Old 09-21-09, 07:31 PM   #6
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One of the big advantages to oversized aluminum tubing is that you cna make a very stiff frame that is still light.

Thus IMHO, oversized aluminum tubing is very well suited to building a tandem where rigidity is key.

Of course it all comes down to priorities (i.e comfort, cs weight, vs handling) and how well the builder uses the material in question.

Thus it's hard to give a a definitive answer. That said, Al has a lot to reccomend it as a frame material for tandems.
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Old 09-21-09, 08:05 PM   #7
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The Co-Motion, along with the Santana and others I'm sure use butted tubing. Our second tandem, a cannondale, used straight gauge tubing, was a very stiff, unforgiving ride which we rode for 7 yrs. or so. Went back to steel, and, ahhhhh. We ride a small sized supremo
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Old 09-21-09, 08:34 PM   #8
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Butted aluminum. Stiff and light, AL is the best "bang or your buck" tandem frame material. Our handmade/custom steel tandem has been gathering dust for a few years because we fell in love with an aluminum framed two-fer (a mid-priced Trek). Better climbing and cornering, yet no decrease in comfort. Easier to hoist onto a roof rack, too. IMO, there is no good reason to put up with the extra mass of steel -- unless you want couplers at a reasonable price.
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Old 09-21-09, 08:52 PM   #9
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I'm very happy with our steel Davinci Joint Venture; don't have any Al tandem experience, however. Much better ride than on my Al road bike. I think a combination of better materials, more sophisticated tube forming and computer aided design/analysis have narrowed the gap in weight between Al and steel, but I wasn't really concerned about the weight of the tandem.
Plus one with RickT on the daVinci JV steel frame. Of my five bikes (include the daVinci), four are steel. One is CF. And I've had them all. Broke my Merlin Extralight. IMHO, steel is real!
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Old 09-22-09, 06:02 PM   #10
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DanRH:
Also had issues with my Merlin ExtraLight. Severe harmonic vibration at 38 mph descending a mountain. Not fun!
Bike was slaloming all over the double yellow line; did the usual knees to the toptube . . .
lifted butt off saddle and leaned forwards . . . nothing!
By then decided to tap the rear brake and prepare for my paratrooper roll over the bars as I could not picture myself becoming a hood ornament on an upcoming vehicle!
Have broken 2 steel tandem frames and one steel tandem fork . . .
Any material can eventually fatigue/break.
Just our experience/opinion.
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Old 09-23-09, 10:54 AM   #11
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This is a difficult question to answer. Much depends on your budget and IMHO, one must compare tandems by competitive class similar to cars. One compares Chevy / Ford against each other and BMW / Mercedes. It is silly to compare Chevy to Mercedes. That being said, comparing Co-Motion to Santana, IMO, makes sense and each builder offers steel and aluminum choices. IMO, the aluminum choices from these builders are very good but a choice of aluminum from a lower brand builder may not be.

We purchased a 2006 Santana Sovereign with an aluminum frame. We added the carbon fiber fork and the Tamer suspension seat post. We like the ride and the weight of the tandem. A steel tandem of similar size will be much heavier. This may or may not be an issue depending on your terrain. We live in a very hilly area and we have taken the tandem on vacations to Europe and cycled in very hilly terrain. However, if you only ride the tandem a couple of times per week, extra weight may not matter. However, for a week or longer tour of every day riding hills, a few extra pounds of frame weight or more importantly body weight takes its toll.

With respect to the stoker seat post, we have the setting on the Tamer set pretty stiff so it only collapses on more significant bumps that inevitably happen. These bumps would be a significant hit to the stoker if the bike were steel because he/she sits over the rear wheel where as the captain sits on the centroid between the wheels.
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Old 09-23-09, 03:17 PM   #12
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I will be selling my Sanatana Sovereign in December.
Its a size small.
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Old 09-23-09, 06:03 PM   #13
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Seems to me some nice test rides or weekend rentals are in order. You can ask the experts all you want, but in the final analysis, it all come down to fanny feel.
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Old 09-23-09, 06:54 PM   #14
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Went from a Cannondale, our first tandem to the current Co Motion Cappucino, steel with soft ride. I love the handling of it and comfort, and the stoker well she's riding a beam. The aluminum beat the heck out of her. 40-45 miles she was done on the Cannondale. We could ride longer, and we did, but she was done at that point. I could feel her give in and knew how far we were without looking at the computer.
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Old 09-23-09, 09:09 PM   #15
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We ride a Cannondale, our first tandem. We love the ride. My stoker is just over 100lb so not a lot of weight back there. Together we are under 300lb so the handling is great and it is easy to hit speeds over 30 mph on flat ground when we want to crank. We ride with a group of singles from where I work and dropping them now and then is fun, it gives them a chance to chase.

For now the Al is great, in time (age) we may revert to steel... to each their own!
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Old 09-30-09, 10:45 AM   #16
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These weight and "what's best" discussions do tend to get a bit anecdotal. An Al Davinci weights 1.5 lbs less than the same size steel model (obviously this figure will vary slightly with size). I assume the Al might be a bit stiffer, but I haven't had one of my 200 lb sons on the back to test the whip of my steel frame. Now 1.5 lbs would certainly be significant in a racing application and the quoted Davinci upcharge of $500 for an Al frame is a bargain weight weenie wise, but us average schlub non-racers what's the diff?
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Old 09-30-09, 02:14 PM   #17
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I think the disparate opinions are greatly influenced by the tandem weight and power. Unloaded, our CoMotion Speedster exhibits no flex, and carves turns with precision, with a great ride. We weigh about 280 lbs. However, touring loaded with another 70 lbs (close to 50 lbs at the back) significant flex in the stoker compartment is noticed. Enough that on rough roads I have to be careful when taking a hand off the bars (to take a drink) in order to mantain control. Overall I am happy with steel, but if we were a heavier or more powerful team looking for a new tandem, I would do some test rides before making a decision.
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Old 09-30-09, 02:40 PM   #18
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If steel is too heavy, and aluminum too harsh, wouldn't titanium bridge the distance?

Habanero offers a 7.7 lb titanium frame (in medium) for $2395. I nothing about the quality of their frames, but that looks like an excellent value.



Its hard to get past, however, that horrid bar tape!
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Old 09-30-09, 03:08 PM   #19
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Haven't ridden a Ti tandem, but by many accounts they tend to be whippy.
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Old 09-30-09, 06:35 PM   #20
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Starting in 2004, we went from an early 90's steel Burley Duet, to a lightly used ALU Trek T2000, to a new coupled steel Bushnell in our first 3 years of tandem riding.

We find our current ride to be every bit as responsive to acceleration, easier to drive and much more comfortable than the Trek, but I attribute that much more to the custom fit & build than the material.

Another Aluminum bike with a better fit, might have us more ready and rested for the sprint before the rest stop on Saturdays' training rides, but wouldn't have allowed us to travel with it from Orlando to the Midwest Tandem Rally earlier this month or to the LiveSTRONG ride in 3 weeks.

I sold the previous tandems as promised to the stoker in negotiating the new bike buys. But I just picked up, with stoker's okay, a mid 90's Santana steel "project" bike as part of my strategy of why we need different bikes for different rides. If this goes well there may be a chance of some sort of "performance material" bike to be added later.
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Old 09-30-09, 11:44 PM   #21
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I think Al is a great material for track bikes, but that's about it. On the road, it's too harsh because you don't want it to flex. When aluminum flexes, it quickly "work-hardens" and becomes very brittle, and then it breaks, so you need to make aluminum stiff enough that this does not happen. Unfortunately, this affects the ride negatively. In winter, aluminum gets destroyed by road salt (I've broken six quality cranks after riding all winter without cleaning them - now I make sure to wash the cranks each day and haven't broken a crank since).

Steel is certainly the most optimal material in terms of price and performance because it can withstand more flexing without damage and is relatively inexpensive, strong, and light. I think a well-built steel tandem would outlast anything made of Al and it would be far more comfortable.

And I've had too much experience with broken Ti. I think Ti is highly overrated.

Luis
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Old 10-01-09, 07:50 AM   #22
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I'm about to find out how a ti bike rides. My carbon Kestrel is buzzy, so mabey a Bianchi S9 Matta will fit my needs. We rode a early 90's Co-Motion ti and thought it was a bit whippy, but that was many years ago and were not in sync like we are today. They seem to like a real smooth cadence more so than mashing.
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Old 10-04-09, 08:57 AM   #23
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It's always puzzled me about "rigidity" being the key for tandem frames.

When my daughter was 10 years old I bought an old junky Schwinn (I think) tandem. (not the good Schwnn tandem) This thing hand tiny tubes - about 7/8". I inverted the seatpost clamp in back to get the seat low enough. I made some upgrades over the years and we put a few thousand miles on it.

When my daughter was big enough we got a regular tandem. The immediate difference was that going up hills I had to keep a death grip on the handlebars, every movement of the stoker trasmitted through the rigid frame. Every time we had to go up a hill I was wishing for that flexi-frame - it was so much easier going up hills as the frame twisted this way and that as the stoker and captain did their own thing.
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Old 10-04-09, 09:41 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hermes View Post
This is a difficult question to answer. Much depends on your budget and IMHO, one must compare tandems by competitive class similar to cars. One compares Chevy / Ford against each other and BMW / Mercedes. It is silly to compare Chevy to Mercedes. That being said, comparing Co-Motion to Santana, IMO, makes sense and each builder offers steel and aluminum choices. IMO, the aluminum choices from these builders are very good but a choice of aluminum from a lower brand builder may not be.

We purchased a 2006 Santana Sovereign with an aluminum frame. We added the carbon fiber fork and the Tamer suspension seat post. We like the ride and the weight of the tandem. A steel tandem of similar size will be much heavier. This may or may not be an issue depending on your terrain. We live in a very hilly area and we have taken the tandem on vacations to Europe and cycled in very hilly terrain. However, if you only ride the tandem a couple of times per week, extra weight may not matter. However, for a week or longer tour of every day riding hills, a few extra pounds of frame weight or more importantly body weight takes its toll.

With respect to the stoker seat post, we have the setting on the Tamer set pretty stiff so it only collapses on more significant bumps that inevitably happen. These bumps would be a significant hit to the stoker if the bike were steel because he/she sits over the rear wheel where as the captain sits on the centroid between the wheels.
According to the specs from each web site, the difference between the santana at 32.5 and the comotion speedster at 35.8 is only about 3 lbs, so "much" heavier would be a little bit of a stretch.

Frank and Terry
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Old 10-04-09, 09:49 AM   #25
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It's always puzzled me about "rigidity" being the key for tandem frames.

When my daughter was 10 years old I bought an old junky Schwinn (I think) tandem. (not the good Schwnn tandem) This thing hand tiny tubes - about 7/8". I inverted the seatpost clamp in back to get the seat low enough. I made some upgrades over the years and we put a few thousand miles on it.

When my daughter was big enough we got a regular tandem. The immediate difference was that going up hills I had to keep a death grip on the handlebars, every movement of the stoker trasmitted through the rigid frame. Every time we had to go up a hill I was wishing for that flexi-frame - it was so much easier going up hills as the frame twisted this way and that as the stoker and captain did their own thing.
This is an interesting perspective. Having ridden both types of frames extensively, I think that the knock on flexible frames is a little overblown. However, I'm not sure what tandem you have, but stoker movement transferred through the frame is really a characteristic of flexible frames not rigid frames. I rarely feel my stoker on the Comotion except for standing to climb, which, for me, was nearly impossible on the flexible frame Motobecane.

One thing I liked about the Moto was running OOP, since we couldn't stand anyway. I would do this on the Como, but I love standing to power over the short hills that we have around here.

Frank and Terry
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