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  1. #1
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    help choosing first tandem

    Hello, my wife and I recently rented a tandem to see if we could and would enjoy riding one. All went well with the rental ride and we are now considering our first tandem purchase. We are only interested in recreational riding, 10 to 25 miles on a ride, so, we are considering a Raleigh Companion, around $800 and a Cannondale Street, around $1800. Would there be enough difference in the Cannondale to justify the extra $1000, I have bought cheap before and regretted it later, would like to get this one right.

    Hoping the experience on the forum will help with our decision!

    Thanks in advance for your help!

  2. #2
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Have ridden the Companion and the C'dale. If you've got the $$, buy the C'dale.
    Enjoy the ride TWOgether!
    Rudy anbd Kay/zonatandem

  3. #3
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueheeler47 View Post
    We are only interested in recreational riding, 10 to 25 miles on a ride, so, we are considering a Raleigh Companion, around $800 and a Cannondale Street, around $1800.
    At 25 miles, you are starting to get into a real ride. The Cannondale Street tandem has 26" wheels, which may be limiting. If you bump it up another notch to the Cannondale Road Tandem 3, at $2,300, then you'll have a bike capable of staying with you should you get into it more.

  4. #4
    Senior Member DanRH's Avatar
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    Hi Blue,

    Welcome. I purchased a Cannondale RT2000 on Craigs List for $1300 not knowing if my partner would like to ride. I was pretty hardcore. She loved it. Within four months, we plunked down almost 7K for a very nice new tandem (a da Vinci). Make sure to evaluate your goals and what they might be a year from now if possible. If you guys start to really like it, you may be in the same boat that I was in. But bottom line, enjoy yourselves!
    Dan Hertlein http://danhertlein.com
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  5. #5
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    We regularly do 40 - 60 mile rides on our Street Tandem, with longer rides planned. For our purposes, the 26" wheels (& wider tires) have enabled us to more comfortably navigate the more marginal roads around here. It's designed around a more upright riding position to be sure, so not the fastest tandem on the road, but move it does.

    I very much share Dan's perspective (and miss those East Bay roads he rides). We were not 100% sure how well things would work out as we began our tandem lifestyle, so wanted to buy used. But given our size requirements, we just could not find anything on the used market. So after six months of looking, bought the Street Tandem new. Had I been certain that things were going to work out as well as they have for us, we might have plopped down the cash for a custom 26"-wheeled Mocha from Comotion. But no regrets whatsoever on the Street Tandem.

    So you may want to check the used market. If for no other reason, you may find a Cannondale (Street or Road) for not much more than the new Raleigh, especially factoring in sales tax and useful accessories.

  6. #6
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueheeler47 View Post
    Would there be enough difference in the Cannondale to justify the extra $1000, I have bought cheap before and regretted it later, would like to get this one right.
    The Cannondale is not more than 'twice as good' as the Raleigh and they share a lot of the same 'best value' components, with a slight nod to the Cannondale for having better wheelsets and crank/headset bearings. Moreover, now that Cannondale has shifted production of the tandems off-shore, you can't even make the "made in the USA" argument to justify the cost difference.

    As others have suggested, if you have $1,800 to spend you can often times find a very nice, second-hand tandem with premium grade components (e.g., Shimano LX or 105, XT or Ultegra, etc.), which would be a better bet since you don't have to eat the depreciation hit on a used tandem that you'll have to absorb on even a lower-cost model like these.

    Bottom Line: These are both 'good' entry-level tandems for light-duty / purely recreational use and perhaps even some charity rides.

  7. #7
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    At 25 miles, you are starting to get into a real ride. The Cannondale Street tandem has 26" wheels, which may be limiting.
    That really depends on your biases and the kind of riding you want to do. What 26" wheels give you is lots of flexibility in tires of 1" (25.4 mm) or wider - with more selection once you get up around 1.3"/33mm, and on beyond that to way wider than you are likely to be interested in considering. The rim width is the real determining factor, though. 700c will give you tires down to 23 mm, but for most people that really is too narrow for normal tandem riding.

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    I have never ridden a tandem with 26" wheels but have ridden a few singles and never liked the way they handled.
    Unless you are going to be riding off road I would go with 700c wheels.
    If you think there is a good chance you will get into tandeming, getting a better bike to start will make you more motivated and more likely to continue. I recently sold a Santana Sovereign for $2000 which is a good way to get started considering they cost over $5000 new.
    I think a used Cannondale would be the lowest cost approach for a starter bike, with a Santana or CoMotion being more preferred at a somewhat higher price.

  9. #9
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blueheeler47 View Post
    Hello, my wife and I recently rented a tandem to see if we could and would enjoy riding one. All went well with the rental ride and we are now considering our first tandem purchase. We are only interested in recreational riding, 10 to 25 miles on a ride, so, we are considering a Raleigh Companion, around $800 and a Cannondale Street, around $1800. Would there be enough difference in the Cannondale to justify the extra $1000, I have bought cheap before and regretted it later, would like to get this one right.

    Hoping the experience on the forum will help with our decision!

    Thanks in advance for your help!
    Check out crazedlist. Selecting all TN locations, with a price range of $500 to $1800 I came up with a Raleigh for $600 and an upgraded Cannondale Mt tandem for $1100. Having no idea of your size, I have no idea whether either of these fit. Also there might be other localities to include in the search. If the $1100 Cannondale fits, it would be a better deal than the $800 Raleigh, if only for the component changes the present owner has made. The $600 Raleigh might be available for somewhat less than asking price, so again, if it fits, you would be paying less than the $800 you're considering.
    Last edited by WebsterBikeMan; 06-02-10 at 01:50 PM. Reason: Further thoughts.

  10. #10
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Makes you wonder how Larry Black's 26" wheeled Calfee Tetra was used by different tandem teams to win 5 different national titles back in the late 90's and early 2000's.. something about the motors?

    http://www.bike123.com/news_section.htm

    Seriously, 26" wheeled tandems get a bad rap. IMHO, unless you're a dedicated roadie, 26" is a very good choice for recreational / sport riding and one of the better choices for folks who will tour abroad or want a tandem that can switch hit as an enduro with Cyclocross tires, a world traveller with large volume trekking tires, or hammer out a fast crit with narrow racing tires.

    For those who aspire to be Cat 3, Cat 2 or National Champs, 700c makes sense. Yeah, we have 700c wheels on our tandems, but that probably has more to do with conformity and ego than practicality. We only think we're strong riders until we run up against strong riders who can drop us like hot potatos, not that there's anything wrong with that.

  11. #11
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Makes you wonder how Larry Black's 26" wheeled Calfee Tetra was used by different tandem teams to win 5 different national titles back in the late 90's and early 2000's.. something about the motors?

    http://www.bike123.com/news_section.htm

    Seriously, 26" wheeled tandems get a bad rap. IMHO, unless you're a dedicated roadie, 26" is a very good choice for recreational / sport riding and one of the better choices for folks who will tour abroad...
    The problem with the 26" wheels isn't the diameter as much as the rim width. The photo at your link is of a narrow tire.



    Whereas, the Cannondale Street tandem is equipped with a 2.1" tire.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cannondale
    # Rims Sun Rhyno Lite w/eyelet and machined sidewall, 40 hole
    # Tires Continental Town&Country, wire, 26x2.1"
    On our venerable Burley we have 26" wheels, and the thinnest I could get the tires on the rim is 1.25". Such tires are both heavier and have greater resistance than the 28 mm tires with which the Cannondale Road tandem is equipped. The OP isn't going to have his wheels rebuilt for narrow rims, and so whatever he purchases he is stuck with. The 700c wheels on the Cannondale Road tandem will not be so limiting should the OP and his stoker take to tandems, and end up going on longer, more ambitious rides.

  12. #12
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    On our venerable Burley we have 26" wheels...
    ... and just how many years and miles did you put on the venerable Burley with those performance limiting 26" wheels?

  13. #13
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    For a long time the daVinci road tandems all came with narrow 26" wheels/ tires; now after quite a few requests you have choice of the 26" or 700c on a daV.
    Two good 'motors' can propel most tandems, including the BikeTwosday with 20" wheels/tires.
    Heck, Rob Templin entered a road race on his folding 20" wheeled Bike Friday single and almost won . . . except for getting a flat and there was no 20" wheels on the neutral support vehicle. Yep, the motor certainly is a factor!
    Pedal on TWOgether!
    Rudy and Kay/zonatandem

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    Now mountain bikes are going from 26" to 29" wheels, skipped right over 700c.
    26" or 650c seems really popular with Triathlon bikes, not sure how that got started although I am sure Google has the answer.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Now mountain bikes are going from 26" to 29" wheels, skipped right over 700c.

    I hate to be the one that breaks this to you, but 29" and 700c are the same: ISO 622mm.

    26" or 650c seems really popular with Triathlon bikes, not sure how that got started

    It's 650c that was popular with tri-geeks for a while and, as to why, same as 29": the allure of improved performance touted by the folks who profit from driving consumer trends. Purported lower aero drag, etc... that in reality ends up being a wash vs. 700c once all the gives and takes are considered. Frankly, the best reason to go to a 650c wheel size is rider size: smaller riders need smaller bikes.

    By the way, 650c is 27.5"... the preferred wheel size of the retro / rando / classic French cycling community and some of the folks in the MTB community looking for a middle ground between 26" and 29ers that can leverage the same rims, tire molds, etc. used on 650c road bikes.

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    My wife and I bought our first tandem, a Cannondale Street Tandem back in January. We set a budget of $2000 and found several tandems in our price range. We shied away from "road" tandems with their bone jarring ride and uncomfortable bent over riding position. But, after some experimenting we have discovered on all but the worst roads the ride quality suffers little and you are able to go faster or further easier with narrow tires. A 10 to 25 mile ride will take about 45 minutes to 2 hours. Sitting in one position for 2 hours can be uncomfortable. I ended up putting a set of rams horn bars on for my stoker. So she can move around as we ride. My advice would be to test ride every tandem you can find close to your budget just to see the differences among different brands and styles of tandems. Don't underestimate fit. A poor fitting bike is like a pair of poor fitting shoes. They may get you where you are going, but you may not enjoy the journey. If we were buying today we would probably buy a Cannondale Road Tandem 3 or a KHS Tandemania Milano.
    Bruce

  17. #17
    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    Bruce,
    The OP doesn't describe his 1/2-bike cycling experience, but I wouldn't want to prejudice him against a road configuration should he find something that fits their needs. I suppose my handlebars are about level with the seat, might be a bit lower, but the position is extremely comfortable and I can spend 1/2 hour or so in the drops when we encounter a headwind. If the OP buys used at good value he can also afford to be a bit flexible in a first tandem to better determine what's right for them.
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  18. #18
    Tandem Vincitur Ritterview's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    ... and just how many years and miles did you put on the venerable Burley with those performance limiting 26" wheels?
    Well, we've been using the Calfee a lot more, as it is so encouraging. It is faster, even on the flats, and I'd attribute much of this difference to the 25 mm tires vs. 1.25" tires.

    For example, this morning's ride, which is quite flat, with an average moving speed of 20 mph, vs. the fastest we ever managed on the Burley, on essentially the same route, is 18.6 mph.

    The difference is probably more pronounced on hills, but we sort of avoided these on the Burley, so I can't directly compare. We'll have to do a hill with each successively some time to see how things differ.

    So, to reiterate, 26" wheels with 2.1" tires are going to be comfortable, but limiting. The OP will tend to shy away from longer rides and hills, because the reduced road efficiency will frustrate. With 700c rims and 28 mm tires, longer rides and hills will be option in the future.

  19. #19
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    Well, we've been using the Calfee a lot more, as it is so encouraging.
    So, let me try this again....

    ... and just how many years and miles did you put on the venerable Burley with those performance limiting 26" wheels?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    Bottom Line: These are both 'good' entry-level tandems for light-duty / purely recreational use and perhaps even some charity rides.
    We're doing a little over 100 miles a week on our Street Tandem, and they are not as easy miles pavementwise relative my previous four decades of riding in the US. I took this into consideration when choosing the Street Tandem, so was a bit surprised to see the reference to "light duty". Certainly the frame, wheels and crankset seem proven in the marketplace, and the remainder of the components have been up to the task. Granted only about 2k miles so far, but have been assuming many thousands more.

    So unless I misinterpreted, what on/about the Street Tandem do you or others see as making it less durable than other tandems? What should we be looking out for?

    Having said that, there is definitely one thing that I was a bit taken aback about when I got it: the integrated headset. I can't imagine they save that much money on going this rout vs. the potential loss to the user of a ruined headtube if the front end is not properly looked after--or am I over reacting?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
    So, to reiterate, 26" wheels with 2.1" tires are going to be comfortable, but limiting. The OP will tend to shy away from longer rides and hills, because the reduced road efficiency will frustrate. With 700c rims and 28 mm tires, longer rides and hills will be option in the future.
    While we've not shied away from climbs or longer rides, we have found some routes where we'd feel comfortable trying some thinner tires. So at risk of spoiling our flatless record so far, would appreciate any advice on minimum tire width suitable for the Rhyno Lites, as they seem a bit on the wide side? Was thinking of trying some 32mm / 1.25"s?

  21. #21
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ThaiTandem View Post
    ... was a bit surprised to see the reference to "light duty". what on/about the Street Tandem do you or others see as making it less durable than other tandems?
    My reference to "light-duty use" pertains to being less-well-suited to "heavy-duty use" use such as hammering out metric, full century or ultra-distance mileage with big climbs or aggressive, semi-competitive or sanctioned racing events. The Cannondale tandem frames have traditionally been one of the most robust on the market and the frame used for the Street Tandem configuration would be able to support all of those things -- as well as off-road/enduro or loaded touring -- but to get the type of efficiency and ergonomics needed for the more aggressive riding style the frame would need to be fitted with at least a different wheelset/tires, larger chain rings, closer-ratio cassette for all but fairly steep terrain, and perhaps drop bars and drop-bar brake/shift levers.

    As for integrated headsets, worst-case scenario is having to replace the pressed-in cartridge bearings (not a big deal)... and even then it takes a lot of neglect and time to ruin those.

    26" Rhyno Lites will take a 1.25" slick road tire. However, I'll defer to the folks who ride 26" wheelsets on the road to recommend a specific brand/model/PSI.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 06-03-10 at 08:54 AM.

  22. #22
    Senior Member WebsterBikeMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    26" Rhyno Lites will take a 1.25" slick road tire. However, I'll defer to the folks who ride 26" wheelsets on the road to recommend a specific brand/model/PSI.
    Schwalbe makes the Marathon Plus in a 1.35". I'm currently trying these out.

    Continental makes the Sport Contact in 1.3".

    Some folks like the Panaracer Pasela in 1.25".

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    My reference to "light-duty use" pertains to being less-well-suited to "heavy-duty use" use such as hammering out metric, full century or ultra-distance mileage with big climbs or aggressive, semi-competitive or sanctioned racing events. ...
    Thanks for the clarification. That's pretty much my sense too. The bike seems to take us wherever our legs can, just not as fast as some others might.

    I'm less worried now on the headset, since we've put a few miles on it. But while sorting out stems/risers etc. at the start, the headset came a bit loose on a hilly shakedown ride. Inspection later revealed some pitting of the machined cups that form the top of the headtube that were not there when I first assembled the bike. Quite minor, but gave me pause. Subsequent inspections have revealed no further pitting and am ultra vigilant about checking.

    QUOTE=WebsterBikeMan;10906396]Schwalbe makes the Marathon Plus in a 1.35". I'm currently trying these out.

    Continental makes the Sport Contact in 1.3".

    Some folks like the Panaracer Pasela in 1.25".[/QUOTE]

    Thanks as well. Can't get Schwalbe over here (though currently running 2.0 Surpremes a friend muled over two months ago) but I've seen some Sport Contacts so considered getting a pair of those. We started with 2.0 Top Contacts that seemed a bit faster than the Supremes, but the Top Contacts' profile has an edge to it that made things a bit dicy on sharper turns when we rolled off it. I became especially concerned on wet pavement, so overall find the Supremes a bit better/safer. But when on unpaved roads the Top Contacts are great. Can't have it all. Would be interested in hearing how you and the Marathon Pluses get on.

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    Thank you for the advice and suggestions! Yesterday we brought home a TREK T900, first ride this afternoon, 11 very comfortable miles! Looking forward to the weekend and getting back on the road. The best part so far, only one ride, but, Mom likes it, and we all know if Mom is happy, everybody is happy!

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