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  1. #1
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    "Do-it-All" High End Tandem--what to buy?

    My stoker and I want to upgrade (from an old steel Sovereign on which we have about 7500 miles of riding experience together) to a high performance tandem with S&S couplers so that we can travel (for those that read my earlier post, we have at least decided that much--S&S rather than folding). We also hope to do tours someday, including self-supported tours (panniers or trailer). At the same time, we want a fast, responsive bike for the kind of riding we do 95% of the time--fast club rides or training rides. Can we have our cake and eat it to?

    We rode a steel Da Vinci global venture and liked the gearing range and shifting smoothness but not the ICS (though 10 miles may not be enough to get used to it and judge fairly). Santana Niobium was super smooth/compliant but too whippy when I stood and pedaled hard; it freaked out my stoker even worse than with our steel Sovereign does. I assume the problem would only worsen under load. The Aluminum Sovereign was too harsh, I thought. A carbon fiber Da Vinci was too whippy (maybe due to open frame?). The Beyond was our favorite, feeling compliant but also stiff when standing. However, when we went back and rode it again after 10 miles on the steel Da Vinci, we couldn't feel much difference in stiffness/compliance! We're confused.

    Are we crazy to even consider a CF or Beyond frame for future loaded touring? Will the Beyond CF/Ti joints hold up? Is it dumb to tour with an exotic frame instead of steel? (at this point, I don't plan to tour the outback of Africa or something, but more likely USA, Canada, Europe, New Zealand).

    What do YOU think is the best approach to a bike that would have as little compromise as possible for both fast day rides and long loaded touring? I've read all the posts I could find on Beyond and couldn't find any comments on its use as a touring bike. The Da Vinci seems to have a cult following, but with several experienced teams apparently NOT liking ICS (does it grow on you, or are first impressions accurate, in which case we don't want it)?

    Are we nuts to focus on whippiness? My stoker hates it (understandably). But would we be better to learn to live with it (not sprint out of the saddle or climb out of the saddle, for instance) in order to have a softer, more compliant ride (such as the Niobium offered in spades)?

    Are my comparison tests meaningless because each bike came with its own different wheelsets (Sweet 16 vs. Rolf vs. Da Vinci regular spoked) and other components?

    Our team weight is 330 lb, btw. We keep saying we'll knock that down to 300 but hasn't happened yet.

    Appreciate any of your thoughts.

  2. #2
    Gear Combo Guru Chris_W's Avatar
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    First up, you should forget the Niobium because I believe Santana doesn't use that material with S & S couplers.

    Second, I would focus more on getting a bike made for touring that can also go fast rather than a fast bike that can also be used for touring. The difference in bike speeds is probably going to be pretty small, but the difference in usability for touring may be a lot bigger.

    We bought our first tandem about 12 months ago, a steel Co-Motion Speedster with S & S couplings. Our team weight is about 300 lbs. We've taken it on a couple of one-week tours and taken it on 3 plane trips, and it has been ideal for both of those purposes. The rest of the time, we've been using it for unladen day-rides with less equipment on it. Some of those have been very fast, including averaging 24 mph (39 kph) for 110 flat miles (175 km) in a local cyclosportif ride that involved 2,000 other riders - the bike certainly didn't seem to be holding us back then. We also did a mountainous cyclosportif on it, with 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) of climbing in 130 miles (210 km); we only made the 11-hour cut-off at the finish line by 40 seconds, and for that ride a lighter bike may have made a noticeable difference (we have the stock frame and wheelset, but lightened it up a bit with a carbon fork and a belt drive).

    In terms of top-end speed, it has also performed great - we've had it above 50 mph (80 kph) on straight downhills several times, and the bike has performed great. We've also done a lot of technical alpine descents with a lot of TIGHT switchbacks, and I've again been very pleased with how the bike handled in those situations. So, this bike seems more than capable of handling any descent that we throw at it. The one modification we made to handle descents was that we added an Avid BB7 rear disc brake in addition to the two rim brakes. When we're doing long descents, the stoker can operate this to trim speed in the straight sections of road, but I remove this for weight reasons if we're not planning to do such rides for a while.

    So, I would

  3. #3
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    "Do-it-All" High End Tandem--what to buy?

    We have had a Beyond for two years. In the first six months it sat as a living room decoration for 4 months due to a medical issue that precluded riding. We also have a Vision tandem with ICS (recumbent with underseat steering) and had an aluminum Santana with 26" wheels (our 1st tandem purchased over 10 years ago).

    So far everything on the Beyond has held up except the stoker seatpost and the rear rim. The seatpost was replaced relatively easy (our LBS gave us a replacement post to use during the wait) and after receiving the new one, I decided to go with a straight post.

    We have talked to people that have used the Beyond as a touring bike and loved it. They are a very light team, take the Sweet 16 wheels in to have the spoke tension adjusted every 600-700 miles and only had about 3200 miles on it when we communicated.

    About six weeks ago we notified Santana that our rear rim broke 1 yr and 51 weeks into the 2 yr warranty. We were told if we wanted to continue riding we'd best buy a new wheel, as the rims were back ordered. This week we were called and told to send both wheels to Santana to be inspected and if they decide to warranty replace the rear, they'll charge us $100 to build the new wheel. I am very unhappy about the service and expectation for us to pay for the wheel build especially after we have to buy a new wheel to use the bike at all. They advertise the Sweet-16 as being stronger than their 40 spoke wheels (which we had on our previous Santana). We are a heavy team and specifically questioned whether they aero wheels would be appropriate, and we were told it was not a problem. We wore out rims on our old bike where the brake pads rubbed, but they were years older. I sure didn't expect to pay a premium price for a Beyond to find out that the rim with no brake rub was either of a defective design or a defective manufacturer and that I was expected to do without it for extended period of time AND pay to have the new parts reassembled. This bike only had 20 months of use, its wheels should last a substantial time longer than that.

    It pains me, as a Santana owner for over a decade, to caution you about considering to buy one of their products. I can't speak to what kind of service other manufacturers give, but I am not pleased with the cavalier treatment from Santana.

    As far as the ICS, it was great on the recumbent tandem, which we rode for years and will be riding again while the Beyond is waiting for Santana to return our wheels. I would only consider ICS on a straight up tandem if I had expected to have stokers that could not ride very well or very strong, such as children or someone with a physical disability. One of the reasons we replaced the "bent" was to recapture the speed and sense of being in-sync with each other (even though we do keep our cranks offset).

    Just a stoker's point of view...

  4. #4
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    Appreciate any of your thoughts.
    #1 for travel: I would avoid equipment and frames that are fragile and/or that can't be repaired at a reasonable cost. Steel, titanium & all-carbon are all fairly durable. Carbon & steel are the easiest / least expensive to repair (excluding paint), with with titanium not far behind. Superlight steels and aluminum is the least durable when it comes to travel-related damage resistance and aluminum is not a no-brainer / low-cost material to repair. Leave the exotic 'racing wheels' at home and use conventionally-spoked wheels with the same common spoke count front & rear, e.g., 36h or 40h if you prefer. 48h for heavy teams. Your front rim becomes your replacement rim if you bash the tandem-spaced rear wheel's rim.

    #2 for travel: Be sure you will travel enough to amortize the total cost of a travel tandem, e.g., not only the frame option (noting that couplers continue to go up in price), but the cost of the cases which is not insignificant. Moreover, given the recent changes in baggage handling costs, be sure to consider what it might cost to travel with those two full-size bags vs. shipping an oversized case x the number of trips you think you'll take. We're on our second coupled tandem, but cost was never a consideration: we wanted the convenience "just in case" we ever found ourselves with enough time to travel.

    As for frame stiffness, you nailed it: unless the bikes were running similar wheelsets, your initial impressions would definitely be skewed. Rolf's are not laterally stiff by any measure when compared to conventionally spoked wheels or even Santana's Sweet 16's with the 160mm rear spacing. However, that said, none of the better frames are really 'noodly' for average size teams, assuming they were built for an average size team.

    Carbon frames from Calfee, for example, are usually built to spec. for a given customer where the team specifies their weight and how they'll use the tandem. If a Calfee frame (including the all-carbon daVinci models built by Calfee) was not designed for a 330 lb team that will do loaded touring, then it will not perform the way Calfee intended, i.e., it if was built for 280lb team for racing it will be wippy OR if it was built for 400 lb team who did touring it will be extra-rigid. For Santana, I believe they design all of their tandems to handle heavy teams with a laterally stiff, but vertically compliant ride feel and all-around good road manners. daVinci is simiar in its approach. I believe Co-Motion designs their tandems around a similar notional team weight but goes for a more 'performance-oriented' feel & handling by making their frames with less vertical compliance vs. Santana and more lively handling.

    Any of the stock frames from these builders, along with Cannondale or any of the other well-respected tandem builder's frame (i.e., Bilenky, Rodriguez, etc.) 'should' be more than adequate for your intended use. Just find the one that suits your tastes and budget and pull the trigger. There's really all you need to do. In fact if you like Santana you could probably do just as well to buy an Arriva Stowaway and use the money you saved on the Beyond to take a Santana tour.

    Then again, if you really want a high-end tandem knock yourself out. Many of us have spent more on our tandems than we ever dreamed possible, even just a few months before writing out that deposit check. Few have any regrets, or at least regrets they're willing to share....

    Enjoy the hunt for that uber-tandem, again; it's hard to go too wrong if you make sure you've addressed the basics.

  5. #5
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    No tandem expert here (1500 total miles), but my wife and I do ride a Davinci Joint Venture. We bought the Davinci primarily for reasons other than ICS although we do have grandkids one of whom soon will be riding on the back. ICS does help an inexperienced team such as ourselves get started on steep inclines, but every such team becomes an experienced team by riding. We really like the wide gearing range, but for your intended use you can simply change cassettes. Were curring running a 13-30 which works well for us old folk in tandem with the 24-36-48-60 (equivalent) a lot. I love the ride on the tandem compared to my Al 1/2-bike and the stability approaching 50 mph makes the same 1/2-bike downright frightening. If your intended touring is domestic you might consider pre-shipping in a tandem case and skipping the couplers - look for previous posts by Merlinextraligh(t?) on this subject. He has found a freight company that has worked out very well - affordable and delivers to/picks up from hotels, etc. Good luck!
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  6. #6
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    We also hope to do tours someday, including self-supported tours (panniers or trailer). At the same time, we want a fast, responsive bike for the kind of riding we do 95% of the time--fast club rides or training rides.
    Chris_W already mentioned looking for a fast touring bike rather than a fast bike that can be adapted to touring. From your desire to do self-supported (as opposed to credit card) touring, you want a steel fork. Carbon forks are not uber-expensive, so you could have both, and swap to carbon at home, with steel for the road. The reason for the steel fork is it allows you to have braze-ons for low-riders. And low riders improve stability, whereas rear panniers are more-or-less neutral, stuff on the rack reduces stability slightly, and a bar bag reduces it most. A bar bag is very handy when touring, so it's a good idea to use low-riders to compensate. I would get nervous putting a low-rider front rack on a carbon fork securely enough that I could then feel good about putting any significant weight in the bags.

    Beyond that, the key things that set off a touring bike are the geometry, and the braze-ons. Appropriate braze-ons could be on any bike, but aren't necessarily. It's a good idea to at least have the option of mounting fenders - which means you want the right eyelets. Braze-ons for low-riders are nice, although not essential. Braze-ons for the rear rack. I don't think much of having a pump peg (we have one, but I didn't realize Bilenky was going to do that - I'd just as soon mount a pump next to a water bottle). Ours has a brazed on stop for the drum brake, which will only be installed when touring, and even then depending on the terrain.

    As for geometry, a little extra distance in the front, and enough room for fenders with the largest tires you expect to put on. Extra long chain stays, unless you decide you're definitely going with a trailer rather than panniers. Otherwise your pannier options are limited - heel strike for the stoker. For touring you tend to spend more time in a more upright position than you would for fast, shorter rides, which affects geometry some.


    Get the cable splitters, even if someone talks you out of the couplers. It means if you ever have to replace a cable, you can use non-tandem-length cables for the replacement.

    We've had our coupled Bilenky since March. We've not flown with it, and don't know with certainty that we will (what in life is certain?). But by splitting it we can fit it into our Prius. It's quick to split and re-assemble if you're only breaking it in two, rather than putting it in the cases. Some folks have posted pictures of how they can get their tandem into smaller cars, but these are smaller folks than I. On other threads you'll see the length of my head tube...

  7. #7
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    I think you are on the right track with the test rides. I think you realize that you have not had enough time on your test rides to make a decision as to which route you will take. Chris W's recommendation to focus on the touring requirements rather than the go fast requirements is good especially considering that whippiness/flex takes a priority. With loaded touring I think the flex would be more noticeable. If you find your requirements widely diverging you already know you'll be looking at a two frame solution. It sounds like your go-fast needs are current and your touring needs are future.

    We have ICS and really enjoy it, but I very much agree with djedgar's point of view regarding stoker experience and power differences. It works wonders for rider power mismatches. I'd like to have a non-ICS for just the wife and I (and older kids) at some point. One other positive for the ICS is the phenomenal gear range which would be very helpful for touring. Alternatively, you can lockout the ICS. Locking out does not make sense in most cases given the cost premium and weight penalty. However, if gear range is the goal, it does become attractive again.

    The best of luck on finding your bike(s) ! I'll be interested to see what you decide on.
    Last edited by masiman; 10-22-09 at 10:40 AM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Stray8's Avatar
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    If cost is not an obstacle, then you might actually consider getting two separate tandems to address each intended use. A lightweight carbon, magnesium or titanium "slick" for fast rides, and then a heavier steel tandem with rack and panniers for loaded touring work.

    This way, you'll get the benefit of a lighter faster response while running at a fast pace without the regret of hauling all that "extra" weight, and then you'll also have a touring rig to do loaded touring without ruining the lightweight racing wheelsets on potholes and such.

    A compromise will likely have you feel disappointed, especially if you're missing that speed when wanting to go fast.

    Myself, I don't miss speed so much. If I want speed, then I just hop on my single or my sportbike...LOL.





    .

  9. #9
    Senior Member antiquepedaler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by djedgar View Post

    About six weeks ago we notified Santana that our rear rim broke 1 yr and 51 weeks into the 2 yr warranty. We were told if we wanted to continue riding we'd best buy a new wheel, as the rims were back ordered. This week we were called and told to send both wheels to Santana to be inspected and if they decide to warranty replace the rear, they'll charge us $100 to build the new wheel. I am very unhappy about the service and expectation for us to pay for the wheel build especially after we have to buy a new wheel to use the bike at all. They advertise the Sweet-16 as being stronger than their 40 spoke wheels (which we had on our previous Santana). We are a heavy team and specifically questioned whether they aero wheels would be appropriate, and we were told it was not a problem. We wore out rims on our old bike where the brake pads rubbed, but they were years older. I sure didn't expect to pay a premium price for a Beyond to find out that the rim with no brake rub was either of a defective design or a defective manufacturer and that I was expected to do without it for extended period of time AND pay to have the new parts reassembled. This bike only had 20 months of use, its wheels should last a substantial time longer than that.



    Just a stoker's point of view...
    We ordered our S&S coupled Santana Team AL a month before 9/11 and received it 2 months after. Our intention was to continue our foreign travels but after 9/11 we decided against it. So we now have umpteen thousand USA miles on the bike with it's 16 spoke wheels and carbon fork. We're a 325 LB team and have never even so much as have the wheels get out of true. But I think the first ones were a bit heavier than the current ones. When we bought the bike we also got 48 spoke wheels and a steel fork for foreign travel. They languish on wall hooks. We have some spare spokes and a derrailleur hanger, but haven't needed either yet. Our Santana remains our "Go To" bike.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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  10. #10
    MB1
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    We have done a fair amount of unsupported touring on our Beyond with S&S couplers and the Shimano Sweet 16 wheels. Dirt roads and very nasty East European pave.

    It is also our go-fast bike.

    We like it. Best darn bike we have ever owned.

  11. #11
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Princess Zippy had a coupled DIAHET (Do-it-All High End Tandem) custom made, and she posted this on the Northern California forum, with more details at their blog. It is interesting to see.


  12. #12
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Agree the ICS can be locked out on the daVinci.
    You'll likely would not be standing with a fully loaded touring tandem and all those gear choices on the daV could be handy.
    Looking at a Co-Motion Speedster with S&S would be another great idea.
    Agree too that unless you frequently fly the tandem, S&S is not a necessity but an added cost/weight for added convenience. It does take time/practice to assemble/disassemble the tandem and fit all the pieces in the suitcases which are supposed to fly for free; recent airline rules on baggage have killed that benefit for some folks.
    Have ridden over 30 brands/models of 2-seaters and all have their plusses and minusses. That's one of the reasons we have had several custom built tandems.
    We no longer tour but have done lots of credit card touring in the past, but not fully loaded (tent/stove, sleeping bags, etc).
    We seldom stand while climbing (unless it's an emergency) and believe in using our gears. Have done fast events, touring, club rides and daily rides, all on the same tandem.
    Currently have a carbon fiber Zona tandem but have ridden steel/alu/ti/carbon and covered 225,000+ miles as a tandem duo.
    It comes down to what you want and what you are willing to pay.
    P.S. Replaced our rear wheel (36H, CK hub, Aerohead rim, DT Revolution spokes) after just under 25,000 miles.
    Pedal on TWOgether!
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  13. #13
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Princess Zippy had a coupled DIAHET (Do-it-All High End Tandem) custom made,


    Dave Bohm does such nice work.... Thank goodness there are still consumers who can appreciate the value of having artisan's who can create a fine, hand-made tandem or bicycle.

  14. #14
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    David (Bohemian) Bohm is as much a great artist as a great framebuilder. The photos of this tandem show some more of his mastery of detail.
    He definitely builds one-of-a-kind bikes.
    Asked how much for the tandem pictured; he said "I'll take $25,000."
    Attached Images Attached Images

  15. #15
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MB1 View Post
    We have done a fair amount of unsupported touring on our Beyond with S&S couplers and the Shimano Sweet 16 wheels. Dirt roads and very nasty East European pave.
    That's the rub with the Sweet 16 wheels, isn't it? It seems folks either have zero problems or lots of problems. I suspect the variability must be tied to the construction process, more so than the materials... which is always the case with wheels.

    If memory serves, Santana buys the individual components for the Sweet 16s from Shimano and then builds up each wheelset in house. I've got to think the variability in consumer experience -- good or bad -- is solely dependent on who was actually building a given set of wheels and perhaps where they were on the learning curve and the degree of focus they had when building up a set of the low-spoke count / high spoke tension wheels.

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    Terrific feedback, everyone! Thanks so much!
    I hear you on the S&S coupling possibly being something to skip and just ship the thing. But I think that will hold us back from taking it on short trips that otherwise we might take it for. Yes, the assembly/disassembly time is longer than I'd like, but manageable.

    MB1, I'd be interested in a few more details in your unsupported touring. Is that with tent, sleeping bags, etc., or was this unsupported but staying in hotels?

    ChrisW, you guys sound like animals! 24 mph for 110 miles?! I'm impressed.

    Djedgar, TandemGeek, I have read enough on these forums to realize that Sweet 16's are variable in quality. I like the idea of having a spare set of standard wheels to swap out for touring. On the other hand, maybe I'd get lucky and get a good set.

    TandemGeek, would you expect our reaction to the Beyond vs. DaVinci carbon (i.e., the latter whippy)? Or do you think that is the wheels? The DaVinci had Rolf while the Beyond had Sweet 16's. Your comment about Rolf's lacking lateral stiffness has me wondering. Problem witht he DaVinci is that it isn't available with S&S. Calfee's is, of course.

    It sounds like many of you see ICS as an accommodation for riders with different preferred cadence or experience, but that is not our situation. Sounds like you are advising against the weight penalty of ICS if we actually prefer to be locked in sync. And what I understand you to say is that in that case, go lighter weight w/o ICS, and then have spare cassette for when we need wider gear range.

    WebsterBikeMan, good list of features for us to keep in mind. Thanks!

    I like the 2 tandem solution, but I don't think the budget will accommodate that. (Or at least, it gets harder to rationalize it!). So I still want to have my cake and eat it too if I can. The advice to focus on a fast touring bike rather than getting a fast bike that can tour is reasonable. My only issue with that is that PRESENTLY we're 100% day-riding. So it is a tradeoff between what is best for now vs. what I HOPE will be needed in the future.

    I'd like to hear more opinions on the tradeoffs of whippy/noodly vs. soft ride when you are talking days of many hours in the saddle. I really don't like the noodly part, but might learn to live with it if it made a big difference after a week of 75 or 100 mile days. Any opinions? Should I stay focused on the stiffer designs? Would there be a noticeable comfort difference after many miles?

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    Terrific feedback, everyone! Thanks so much!

    It sounds like many of you see ICS as an accommodation for riders with different preferred cadence or experience, but that is not our situation. Sounds like you are advising against the weight penalty of ICS if we actually prefer to be locked in sync. And what I understand you to say is that in that case, go lighter weight w/o ICS, and then have spare cassette for when we need wider gear range.
    I wonder what the ICS wight penalty actually is? The small chainrings must counter it somewhat. The open frame design also keeps the weight down.

    We have a da Vinci Global Venture with S+S. I agree that it works very well for riders of different levels but not really because of cadence differences, it's much more the ability for the stoker to coast at will. E.g., my wife, who gets saddle discomfort after a while will frequently coast and stand up for relief, while I keep driving the train. I also like just being able to coast when I want without any communication necessary. On cadence, if you are not pedaling at the same cadence then, by definition, the slower cadence rider is soft pedaling in the extreme; essentially it's just a different level of coasting.

    The other nice of the ICS is, as rdtompki pointed out, the wonderful gear range due to the 4 front chain rings on the Campy setup. (The Shimano option drops it to three but with a commensurate improvement in shifting as you get one click shifting back - it typically takes 3 clicks to down shift on the Campy setup).

    I like the ride on the da Vinci, it's very stable and descends very well, much better than my single. One of the reviews I read when making my decision was from a couple that had toured the continent covering 15000 miles towing a trailer, so I think they make good touring bikes.

  18. #18
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    My stoker and I want to upgrade... to a high performance tandem with S&S couplers so that we can travel. We also hope to do tours someday, including self-supported tours (panniers or trailer). At the same time, we want a fast, responsive bike for the kind of riding we do 95% of the time[/B]--fast club rides or training rides. Can we have our cake and eat it to?

    Are we crazy to even consider a CF or Beyond frame for future loaded touring?
    So you want to:
    • Travel
    • Tour
    • Fast club/training rides


    The couplers are helpful for the airline travel, although sending it by ground directly to your hotel might be more convenient, if not less expensive. The couplers add considerable initial expense, and their weight detracts from the fast/responsive touring and training rides you'll be doing >95% of the time.

    What is more, if you are considering CF, then unless you get a bike from Breanna Ruegamer, then you'll be looking at a Calfee Tetra or Dragonfly. The couplers only come with Tetra's, so you preclude the choice of the higher end Dragonfly. I do not know whether the Dragonfly is less whippy than the Tetra, but it might be. If you want your fast/responsive bike to be light (to go along with the 30 lb. team weight loss you envision ), it won't be particularly so with a coupled Tetra or Beyond (>30 lbs), whereas you can get an uncoupled Dragonfly under 25 lbs.

  19. #19
    MB1
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    ....MB1, I'd be interested in a few more details in your unsupported touring. Is that with tent, sleeping bags, etc., or was this unsupported but staying in hotels?....
    A week to 10 days at a time.

    No camping for us thanks! If we were going to camp we would just pull a BOB trailer anyway.

    BTW I just don't get anyones objections to the weight of S&S Couplers. It is static weight not rotating and IME just not noticeable. We have 2 single bikes that were converted to take-aparts with S&S Couplers plus the tandem. We just don't notice the couplers at all while riding.

    BTW2 With the case supplied by Santana the tandem is quite a bit easier to pack and reassemble than the 2 singles (although slightly slower than 1 single).

    BTW3 Airline charges seem to be applied randomly to the tandem in a case. Mostly it flies free but we have paid as much as $160 for the thing (never fly United!!! ).

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    Also remember that the use of the S&S couplers allow the bike to be broken into smaller parts that fit well into a smaller car, i.e. you don't always fully break the bike into the cases.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    I have read enough on these forums to realize that Sweet 16's are variable in quality. I like the idea of having a spare set of standard wheels to swap out for touring. On the other hand, maybe I'd get lucky and get a good set.
    Luck is not a strategy. Just ask the unlucky who didn't have contingency plans. That said, unless you plan on taking an epic tour in far-away lands right off the bat you could certainly go with the Sweet 16's and play it by ear, up and until it's time to take that tour. Conventional wheels are easy to come by, aftermarket Sweet 16's and replacement parts... not so much.

    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    would you expect our reaction to the Beyond vs. DaVinci carbon (i.e., the latter whippy)? Or do you think that is the wheels? The DaVinci had Rolf while the Beyond had Sweet 16's. Your comment about Rolf's lacking lateral stiffness has me wondering. Problem witht he DaVinci is that it isn't available with S&S. Calfee's is, of course.
    My guess is the wheels were the source of any perceived handling issues with the daVinci.

    Story Time: When we took delivery of our Calfee two years ago my conventional wheelset was late so our first rides were on a set of '08 Rolfs; the Calfee's handling was awful: understeer & oversteer plus brake rub on out of the saddle or sideloading: I was in disbelief as I initially attributed to the frame. Turns out, it was the '08 Rolfs. As soon as I replaced those with 36h conventionally spoked wheels the Calfee's handling became rock solid. I sold the '08 Rolfs and, just for kicks, picked up a set of the '07 Rolfs (deeper rim, narrow brake track) and while they still had a lot of lateral deflection it was no where near what I experienced with the '08s. I address most of this in Update #5 of my Calfee Journal.

    Parting shot: There are a lot of really excellent tandem builders out there to consider. Open up your aperature and talk to a few of the other builders (e.g., Bilenky, Rodriguez, Rex, Bohm, etc.) before assuming that one of the more commonly discussed brands will give you the best value in terms of what you're looking for. Also, remember that wheels are consumables and as you have probably discovered, can have a significant influence on the handling characteristics of a tandem. I say this having used five different wheelsets on our own Calfee, with three still in the rotation.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 10-23-09 at 07:05 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Parting shot: There are a lot of really excellent tandem builders out there to consider. Open up your aperature and talk to a few of the other builders (e.g., Bilenky, Rodriguez, Rex, Bohm, etc.) before assuming that one of the more commonly discussed brands will give you the best value in terms of what you're looking for. Also, remember that wheels are consumables and as you have probably discovered, can have a significant influence on the handling characteristics of a tandem. I say this having used five different wheelsets on our own Calfee, with three still in the rotation.
    When we went to put together our loaded/self-contained - capable tandem, I started out looking at the "big brands" - Santana, Co-Motion, DaVinci. Then I noticed that the custom upcharge wasn't very much on many of these (and we're an odd combination of sizes). And as we're an odd pair of sizes, that made it easier to really get the right size. But that meant why stick with one of those brands? So I broadened the scope to Rodriguez and Bilenky (with brief forays into a few smaller builders). I don't think I wound up spending any more for a full custom by the time I was done than I would have for a "stock" bike, and I know I have touring geometry, built by someone who knew how we planned to use it.

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    I'd still like to hear some comments on the fatigue factor (for various frame materials and wheelsets, i.e., whippy vs. stiff) after long rides, perhaps several touring days in the saddle, perhaps from some of you who have owned several different types of tandems over the years.

    As for looking at smaller builders, my reaction is that maybe that should be my NEXT tandem after I first find a stock tandem from a major builder that I am reasonably satisfied with? My wife and I fit the Large/Medium size combination widely available, so I don't think I need custom for that reason. Maybe for touring braze-ons etc., but I'm not yet sure I wouldn't prefer a trailer anyway.

    I guess my worry on custom small builders is that resale might be more difficult. And from seeing the number of tandems some of you have gone through, I suspect that despite my intentions to buy the tandem to last a lifetime, that simply won't be the case! ;-) So, if I'm going to sell it in 5 years, wouldn't the name recognition and standard sizing of a Santana or CoMotion (or even Da Vinci) facilitate the sale? I'm thinking S&S couplers won't hurt then either, as they seem to disappear pretty fast from the listings on the used tandem websites.

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    P.S.--just to clarify: the "fatigue factor" I'm referring to is not fatigue of the frame, but of ME. (shoulders, neck, butt)

  25. #25
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    As for looking at smaller builders, my reaction is that maybe that should be my NEXT tandem after I first find a stock tandem from a major builder that I am reasonably satisfied with? My wife and I fit the Large/Medium size combination widely available, so I don't think I need custom for that reason. Maybe for touring braze-ons etc., but I'm not yet sure I wouldn't prefer a trailer anyway.
    If you fit a standard size, there's no reason to go custom, UNLESS the "stock" bike that comes closest to what you want has inadequate chainstay lengths, or clearance for fenders. Whether you prefer a trailer or not is similar to whether you prefer panniers with compartments or a single large bag. It comes down to you. The negatives of the trailer include an extra wheel size for spares, increased weight (which only matters when climbing), and if you're the compartment-type, you have to impose your own organization on the single bag that normally lives on/in the trailer. The positives include the cool jack-knife look-ma-no-kickstand trick, lower center of gravity, and when you disconnect the trailer you can ride like you weren't on tour (of course you can also remove panniers); and you are less limited by making sure a rack and panniers will actually fit. If you're like us, you'll want the rack and (smaller) panniers anyhow for local rides, but not everyone does.
    Quote Originally Posted by TXbikerider View Post
    I guess my worry on custom small builders is that resale might be more difficult. And from seeing the number of tandems some of you have gone through, I suspect that despite my intentions to buy the tandem to last a lifetime, that simply won't be the case! ;-) So, if I'm going to sell it in 5 years, wouldn't the name recognition and standard sizing of a Santana or CoMotion (or even Da Vinci) facilitate the sale? I'm thinking S&S couplers won't hurt then either, as they seem to disappear pretty fast from the listings on the used tandem websites.
    Given that you're talking "high end", most of the folks in the market that you would be selling into for resale will recognize at least Bilenky and Rodriguez. So I wouldn't include that in my considerations if I were you.

    The name recognition of Santana is a double-edged sword. After we had our Bilenky for a few months I saw a used Santana for sale, which I got for our (college-age) kids so we could tour together. As it was used, it naturally needed a few replacement parts to get it closer to their size (part of the (typical) cost of buying used), a few to make it "theirs", and a few to make it rideable (it didn't shift in the rear, the front brake squealed like a banshee, and the suspension seat post was dead). All part of the process of buying and outfitting a used bike. In the process I learned all about the Santana-specific elements, well documented in other threads. Suffice it to say that I might consider buying a new Santana with the intention to never change anything on it, but I would never buy a used Santana again, unless the price was remarkably good.

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