Originally Posted by MarvinK
Unfortunately, I am borderline on being tall enough (5'6") to be captain on the smallest Trek or Cannondale tandem (top tube on most is 55cm).
You may find the information in this recent discussion topic useful...
New Tandem? Suggestions?
Originally Posted by MarvinK
Still--telescoping seatposts on a single size frame should not cost an extra $750-1000 over standard production tandems. If anything, only needing a single frame size should help bring down overall cost and make it very competitively priced. Maybe it's because Co-motion is a smaller specialty manufacturer?
Short Answer: Yes, it has a lot to do with Co-Motion being a small volume speciality builder fabricating a wide variety of tandem products to order (17 frames x 4 sizes + custom) vs. large volume mass-producers leveraging supply chain economies and batch processing of a smaller tandem product line (C'dale w/2 frames x 5 sizes & Trek w/1 frame x 3 sizes & 1 frame x 1 size). Co-Motion and other specialty builders also use a variety of more complex and expensive custom drawn tubing than the production builders who for the most part use unbutted straight gauge stock. The latter is more than adequate for use on tandems -- in fact, our Ventana uses massive straight gauge 6061 aluminum tubing -- but tends to be a bit heavier and yields a less refined frame, e.g., stiff but much heavier than it needs to be or a bit flexy and still a bit heavier than it needs to be. Of course, on a full-suspension bike or tandem, a stiff frame is essential and the weight penalty is a nit given the higher premium placed on durability and strength.
Longer Answer: I've been meaning to write an article on tandem pricing that would help to address some of the pricing and economic issues that underlie the price points of various tandem brands and models. However, it sufficies to say that, yes, Co-Motion is a speciality builder who produces perhaps < 1 bicycle or tandem per every 100 produced by Trek or Cannondale. Thus, given the economies of scale, Trek and Cannondale are able to offer tandem buyers a choice of very nice tandem frames with attractive component packages at about 25 - 33% less than what the smaller builders like Co-Motion can. The cost savings are buried in significantly lower material costs given the volume of business they do with suppliers and their lower per unit overhead and labor costs spread over a much larger business base. Cannondale and Trek also build their tandems from a single type of material (aluminum) in large production lots a few times a year and in far fewer styles, colors and sizes than the tandem speciality builders. However, I will not that last year Trek added its tandems to the Project 1 line that allows customers to select an alternative color scheme, decals, striping, and personalization. Getting back to the batch production runs, this is why you'll sometimes encounter an out of stock or back order situation on a Cannondale or other mass-producer's tandem where there is no real delivery date available. C'dale will probably not set-up for a new run until such time at they reach a minimum quantity on backorder inventory demand before diverting resources to a tandem frame production run. I say probably only because of what I've observed over the past 7 years not because of any insider info.
In contrast, a company like Co-Motion has a very a small workforce that builds the majority of its tandems against a backlog of firm orders. The annual build cycle begin with what is hopefully a large number of pre-orders from dealers received at or shortly after Interbike each year -- essential to carrying the business over the winter months when customer orders are at their lowest: small businesses like Co-Motion, daVinci, Bilenky, Ventana and Bushnell live-off of cash-flow and not deep pockets of capital or big lines of credit. As dealer orders are filled customer orders hopefully begin to rebuild backlog to carry them through the spring, summer and into early fall. Of course, the backlog is a double-edged sword for companies like Co-Motion as well as the buyers since that's where the 6 - 8 week lead time on delivery comes from. In addition to being a bitter pill for anxious buyers, backlog and the lead-time for delivery causes companies like Co-Motion to lose sales when an order can't be filled from inventory at the dealer or factory while companies like Trek and Cannondale are often times flush with inventory left over from prior year production on close-out and new year production inventory during the peak spring and early summer buying season.
So, the end result is, you find the tandem speciality builders offer a wider range of tandem products that are more refined than the somewhat limited selection from the big bike builders and the prices bear out the different scale and approch to building tandems. If a consumer is sized properly for one of the mass-producer's tandem models and aren't interested in either the refined ride-qualities of tandem-specific butted tubesets, a choice of color or other optional equipment, then the lower-priced tandem models that are on the market will certainly be attractive to many buyers.
Not sure any of this will make you feel like there is any real added value in the products offered by the speciality builders, but it's the best I can do off the top of my head in 10 minutes to explain some of the cost differences.