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Old 08-08-10, 09:15 PM   #1
bikeinxs
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Upgrading/Converting 1992 Ibis Cousin It to S&S, drop bar, touring travel tandem

My wife and I bought our 26" wheel Ibis nearly 20 years ago and had lots of good times on it. Even a couple of loaded tours with some jury rigged racks - risked it on a flight with no damage too. Four years ago we bought a used Speedster and the Ibis doesn't get much love any more.

It's been more than a decade since we've done loaded touring but the kids are getting older and we're starting to think about some REAL tours in the not so distant future. Our Speedster is even less suited to touring than the Ibis is (carbon fork, caliper brakes, no rack or fender mounts and not enough bottle cages). A nice travel tandem is $8K (maybe $4 or $5k used) - but I've got that wonderful Ibis sitting in my garage.

So, that leads to a whole bunch of questions that I'm sure can be answered on this forum

1) S&S retrofit - I see Bilenky advertises it and I'm sure others do it as well - anyone have first hand experience? Recommendations?
2) Brakes - I ditched the Avid mechanical that was on the back of my Speedster but I'm thinking that for loaded touring I'd really rather have disk brakes. Is there anything that really works with STI shifters and drop bars?
3) Racks - while we are on the subject of brakes - do disk brakes interfere with your front and rear racks? Also it seems there is quite a bit more choice than when I started touring 25 years ago and Blackburn Aluminum racks were the "standard" - any suggestions?
4) Front Fork - I'm definitely getting rid of the old fork and going modern threadless but my first look online didn't turn up a ton of forks with brake bosses and rack braze ons - suggestions? The Ibis is 1 1/8
5) Gears - I'm toying with the idea of the Roholf but a couple of things are holding me back. One is that for the kind of touring I'm hoping we'll do (multi week/multi month/multi continent) I think I need something repairable with more "off the shelf" parts. The second issue is that it doesn't seem there are any decent drop bar shifters for the Roholf. Any thoughts on this? That leaves me with 10 spd road stuff, likely Ultegra - any concerns with hauling a 300 lb team, 40 lb bike and 100 lb camping stuff around with 10 spd Ultegra?
6) Hub spacing - I think this is a minor issue, the Ibis is 140 mm spacing but I'm assuming that the shop that does the couplings and extra braze ons would be able to respace the rear end to 145 mm

Any other issues I need to consider? Appreciate any suggestions/guidance that might make this go smoothly....
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Old 08-09-10, 06:21 AM   #2
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1) S&S retrofit - I see Bilenky advertises it and I'm sure others do it as well - anyone have first hand experience? Recommendations?
They appear to be the highest volume retrofit shop. No direct experience with Bilenky and a retrofit (only a new bike).
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2) Brakes - I ditched the Avid mechanical that was on the back of my Speedster but I'm thinking that for loaded touring I'd really rather have disk brakes. Is there anything that really works with STI shifters and drop bars?
Remember that you would be foregoing the possibility of a drum if up put a disk on the back.
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3) Racks - while we are on the subject of brakes - do disk brakes interfere with your front and rear racks? Also it seems there is quite a bit more choice than when I started touring 25 years ago and Blackburn Aluminum racks were the "standard" - any suggestions?
No experience. I could more easily see an interference problem on the front. And by the way, if you're travelling with the S+S you get to be extra careful packing so the disk doesn't get bent.
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4) Front Fork - I'm definitely getting rid of the old fork and going modern threadless but my first look online didn't turn up a ton of forks with brake bosses and rack braze ons - suggestions? The Ibis is 1 1/8
You might check with Bilenky to see what they'd charge while they're doing the couplers.
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5) Gears - I'm toying with the idea of the Roholf but a couple of things are holding me back. One is that for the kind of touring I'm hoping we'll do (multi week/multi month/multi continent) I think I need something repairable with more "off the shelf" parts. The second issue is that it doesn't seem there are any decent drop bar shifters for the Roholf. Any thoughts on this? That leaves me with 10 spd road stuff, likely Ultegra - any concerns with hauling a 300 lb team, 40 lb bike and 100 lb camping stuff around with 10 spd Ultegra?
I would have a different concern with Rolhoff and touring. Rolhoff will introduce large steps in the gearing compared to what you can get with something like an 12-34 on the back, and a triple on the front. For fully loaded touring (which for us is more like 70-80 lb, and a 280 lb team), we use all of a 24-36-48 triple on the front, along with the 12-34, switching out to an 11-28 when we get home and ride unloaded.

I'm not a great fan of 10-speed, although there are those who claim durability is similar to 9 speed. Our upcoming tour is intended to be in the multiple-thousand-mile range, so I have a different bias toward durability.
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6) Hub spacing - I think this is a minor issue, the Ibis is 140 mm spacing but I'm assuming that the shop that does the couplings and extra braze ons would be able to respace the rear end to 145 mm

Any other issues I need to consider? Appreciate any suggestions/guidance that might make this go smoothly....
How long are the chainstays? If they will result in heel clearance issues with the stoker and large panniers, you may need to tow a Bob instead. If so, there would be no question as to whether it is built for the load you're putting on it. Given that it is 26", my guess is that it is intended to carry a touring load. But that's just a guess.

If you're really talking multi-month touring, be sure to get one of the more sturdy racks out there [there are several, and they are much pricier than some alternatives, but you're amortizing it over lots of miles].

If you're getting extra braze-ons added to the frame - and with couplers, there's a repaint job anyhow - think about any other braze-ons you might want. How many water bottle holders does it have? Is there room for another? Fenders? You might want mixed Campy/Shimano, since the control end of Campy is repairable, whereas Shimano is replace the whole thing. Others choose bar-end for its simplicity. At least think about whether the current wheels are up to the challenge. They might be. But breaking spokes is no fun.

I don't know what your current gearing up front is, but you may well need something lower for loaded touring.
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Old 08-09-10, 03:33 PM   #3
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Sounds like you have an emotional attachment ot the Ibis but there must be a reason the Co-Mo is getting more use . . .
Upgrading an 18 year old Ibis will cost $$$: S&S retrofit; new wheels, brakes, bars, shifter, racks, braze-ons, repaint, etc . . . . and you'll still have an 18 year old tandem.
If you'll be doing lots of airplane hopping S&S would be nice, but not necessary.
Get a custom touring tandem built to your specs . . . pricey? Yes, but you'll get exactly what you want. Co-Mo does build some nice touring machines. We put 57,000 miles on a custom Co-Mo we owned.
What you gonna do . . . wait til you get older???
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Old 08-10-10, 02:49 AM   #4
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There’s a lot of wisdom in the above reply!!! I’d be seriously looking at purchasing a newer bike that had all the components I required.

I spent $2500 converting my 26” MTB to a drop bar road tandem, and I only changed wheels, bars, shifters, cassette, chain, and all the bits to convert from rear drag to rear disc brake. I did not make any changes to the frame. My Santana Rio is a 1999 frame, so I wasn’t looking at a 20 year old bike to upgrade. FYI – I converted to Shimano Ultegra 10 Speed and really like the performance; however, I have not done fully loaded touring.
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Old 08-10-10, 06:02 AM   #5
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Appreciate any suggestions/guidance that might make this go smoothly....
Start looking for a newer, second-hand travel tandem... ideally a Co-motion so that you'll have 'fleet compatibility' on parts like seat posts, forks, rear wheels, etc.

It will be cheaper in the long run and will leave the Ibis in original condition.
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Old 08-10-10, 01:05 PM   #6
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We bought a slightly used Co-Motion Primera Co-Pilot last year on eBay, complete with front and rear racks and five Arkel panniers. The bike has been awesome! We've taken it touring in Portland and Tucson and also traveled to Austin representing Team Fatty at Livestrong. Touring with it has been great and the S&S couplers make it fairly easy to pack and fly.

I do have experience with Steve Bilenky and retrofits with S&S couplers. I recently sent him a Carl Strong ti single bike to retrofit, but unfortunately the top tube was only 1 inch in diameter (and smallest coupler is 1-1/4). S&S will tell you he is the best and most experienced of their many builders. Get a quote - but I think with patience you'll be able to find a second hand travel tandem for only a little more than the cost of the retrofit.
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Old 08-11-10, 06:59 PM   #7
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Wow - thanks for all the good advice. I guess I need to take a closer look at my plans and budget before starting this project. I have been watching for a used coupled speedster but haven't managed to snag one yet.
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Old 08-11-10, 07:09 PM   #8
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I'm in the identical situation: I picked up a 1995 Ibis cousin IT frame for $100, and I'm planning on taking it to Bilenky in Philadelphia next week to ask about a retrofit.

I do have experience with using Bilenky to retrofit a Bruce Gordon Rock and Roll touring frame which I found used for a very good price. Bilenky welded in a bottom bracket for the eccentric and a Rohloff dropout, in addition to brazing on S&S couplers to the frame. I got exactly the bike I wanted (Bruce wouldn't do this for me on a new frame) at substantially lower cost. The Rohloff is an incredible hub, and I'm using it with a drop bar. It gives you a range comparable most mountain bike triples. And Bilenky does beautiful work.

The only concern that I would have is the chainstay length to avoid heel clash with panniers. I haven't measured this yet and it could be reason for not doing the upgrade for loaded touring. Also, relative to "modern" framesets: if you're building this bike for loaded touring you want a stout frame that will avoid flexing side to side. The Ibis cousin IT frame seems well suited.

Regarding disc brakes, my choice is to avoid them. They cause a twist under load on the front fork if you're riding a loaded single, much less a tandem. In the rear, the disc brake creates real difficulties with fitting a rack. Go with the Paul touring cantis, which I've got on the BG and are spectacularly efficient.
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Old 08-12-10, 02:23 PM   #9
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Single bike experience: I broke an old Benotto fixie at the front of the top tube so took it to Rodriguez (R&E) in Seattle, who told me they could fix it and install S&S couplers, but it ended up costing less to have a new frame built to my specs (with couplers) when you threw in the painting and the extras they give you if you also buy the travel case (they cut the custom padding for you and give you a lesson in packing). Plus Dennis Bushnell is one of the top tandem builders around. So another builder you should consider if you don't find a used travel tandem. You can probably even specify that the bike be built so it is "fleet-compatible" with Co-Motions, something I'll have to remember when I have them build my tandem! (Although I think they design and build their own eccentrics which are supposed to be superior to anything else out there.)

Luis
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Old 08-13-10, 01:50 AM   #10
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In what way is the Speedster not suitable for touring? We have a 2009 Speedster Co-pilot that we've done several shorter tours (3-7 days) on and have been very happy so far. This winter. we plan to take it to New Zealand for a couple of months touring (during their summer). There's not much that I would want to change on it to make it any more ideal for this purpose.

I looked up some older model years of the Speedster and they all seem to have V-brakes, plus rack and fender mounts. Your Speedster may have a carbon fork, but you could easily get a steel fork (you're already planning to change the fork on the Ibis, so this would be a similar cost). The lack of water bottle mounts is easily fixed with some sets of Zefal Gizmo bottle cage mounts, see here, we have three sets of these on our Speedster to put the Stoker's 2 bottles in more sensible places than the stock braze-ons and to attach our big pump to the bottom tube. Even if your frame can't take a rear disc brake then I wouldn't worry too much about it, we have a rear disc in addition to the two V-brakes, but half the time the disc brake is not even on the bike. It's only needed for really long mountain pass descents (500+ m of vertical descent on a twisty road - on a straighter road or one with less vertical drop then I don't think it's necessary) - so depending on where you're going, there's a good chance that you won't need a disc.

If you do put a disc brake on either bike and have problems with it interfering with a pannier rack, then a company called Tubus makes a quick-release axle mounting kit for fitting racks to bikes without braze-ons. We use a set of these bolted to the regular braze-n mounts because they move the rack mounting point further back so that it doesn't interfere with our disc brake (an Avid BB7). I have no experience mounting a front rack around a front disc - I would say switching to front rim brakes would be the simplest solution then.
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Old 08-13-10, 07:51 AM   #11
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Um, don't know if this is kosher, but:

WTB: Ibis Cousin It. Frame, partial build, complete bike, whatever. 19/17 size, flat bar/mtn setup preferred, but not picky--would expect to do complete tune/rebuild anyway. If outside of, say, New England south to NY/PA, north to PQ or so, seller must be willing to ship or at least get it to a bike shop that would.
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Old 08-15-10, 08:34 PM   #12
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@Chris_W - the single biggest problem with my Speedster for touring is that I can't put anything bigger than a 28 mm tire on it. It has caliper brakes rather than cantis, and the little bar that joins the seat stays for mounting the rear brake is very low. I personally think that is too small a tire for a loaded tandem. I'd actually prefer to run a 30 or 32 even for normal riding since it's not any slower. Plus it's completely lacking in eyelets or rack bosses.

@mconlonx - I'll have to think about that. Maybe I'll PM you when I get back from vacation next week.
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Old 11-09-12, 08:56 PM   #13
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Resurrecting an old thread. I've done nothing with the bike for two years (except ride it a little bit, but our Speedster sees all the use). Now I'm in need of a good gravel road bike and I dusted off the Ibis upgrade plans. Requirements are: rock solid braking (so probably discs front and rear) and BIG tires (40 mm). We're also thinking we might try racing cyclocross on the tandem as well. Notwithstanding all the arguments above for starting over I'm attached to this bike. So I stripped it and now I find the frame weighs 12.5 lbs. Anyone have an honest weight for a newer steel frame? I really don't want to strip my Speedster but I'm guessing it must weigh 10 or 11 pounds. How far in the hole am I if I start with Ibis? If I was to start with a new (used) complete bike, any suggestions for starting points?
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Old 11-10-12, 01:17 PM   #14
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Resurrecting an old thread. I've done nothing with the bike for two years (except ride it a little bit, but our Speedster sees all the use). Now I'm in need of a good gravel road bike and I dusted off the Ibis upgrade plans. Requirements are: rock solid braking (so probably discs front and rear) and BIG tires (40 mm). We're also thinking we might try racing cyclocross on the tandem as well. Notwithstanding all the arguments above for starting over I'm attached to this bike. So I stripped it and now I find the frame weighs 12.5 lbs. Anyone have an honest weight for a newer steel frame? I really don't want to strip my Speedster but I'm guessing it must weigh 10 or 11 pounds. How far in the hole am I if I start with Ibis? If I was to start with a new (used) complete bike, any suggestions for starting points?
Santana Arriva Medium - (54 cm captain's top tube) about 2000 vintage. Frame only weight 11 lbs. Fork 2.4 lbs.
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Old 03-30-13, 04:41 PM   #15
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The old Ibis is back on the road, reincarnated as a gravel road machine. Moved the 9 spd Ultegra and crankset over from another tandem. New Cannondale Fatty fork. Shimano cross disc brake caliper on the front with 200 mm ice tech rotor. XT Vbrake with a travel agent on the rear since I didn't feel like having a rear disc mount surgically implanted (so no S&S couplings either). Drop bars for captain and stoker (the brifters on the back will be replaced with much lighter Cane Creek stoker hoods shortly). Built up new wheels with White Brothers MI6 tandem hubs. Done two 60K shake down runs so far this weekend and so far it's working well. Braking is quite good (better than the Ultegra calipers on my Speedster) but haven't done any huge hills yet. We're running 26x1.5 Pasella's right now and will run 2.1" Ritchey Speedmax for serious gravel roads/trails. Still a heavy bike although we've knocked at least 5 pounds off. Racing our local "Paris Roubaix" event on it in two weeks so that will be a good test of how she performs.


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Old 03-30-13, 08:03 PM   #16
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That looks really cool....
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Old 03-31-13, 08:26 PM   #17
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The old Ibis is back on the road, reincarnated as a gravel road machine. Moved the 9 spd Ultegra and crankset over from another tandem. New Cannondale Fatty fork. Shimano cross disc brake caliper on the front with 200 mm ice tech rotor. XT Vbrake with a travel agent on the rear since I didn't feel like having a rear disc mount surgically implanted (so no S&S couplings either). Drop bars for captain and stoker (the brifters on the back will be replaced with much lighter Cane Creek stoker hoods shortly). Built up new wheels with White Brothers MI6 tandem hubs. Done two 60K shake down runs so far this weekend and so far it's working well. Braking is quite good (better than the Ultegra calipers on my Speedster) but haven't done any huge hills yet. We're running 26x1.5 Pasella's right now and will run 2.1" Ritchey Speedmax for serious gravel roads/trails. Still a heavy bike although we've knocked at least 5 pounds off. Racing our local "Paris Roubaix" event on it in two weeks so that will be a good test of how she performs.


Nice looking bike and well designed for its task. It is heavy because of that durable 10/7/10 tubing which also makes it perfect for rough riding and travel. I bet there are no top tube dings in that bike!
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Old 04-02-13, 11:15 AM   #18
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@waynesulak - that's for sure, no dents in that top tube.

We put in 90K of muddy dirt road riding on Monday. Thanks to the massive frame clearance the mud buildup didn't cause any issues (except for rendering granny inaccessible). Even the cyclocross half bikes we were with were having serious issues. On soft dirt roads the 1.5" tires worked well. Quite happy so far.
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