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Thread: Tandem Gearing

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    Tandem Gearing

    Hello, I'm a brand new member, hopefully about to purchase my first tandem soon, but I have a question about gearing. The tandem will be for me and my girlfriend - I'm a reasonably strong cyclist, and she's also reasonable, but we both ride compact gearing on our single bikes.

    The bike that we are interested in is:

    http://www.dolan-bikes.com/tandem-bi...Dolan%20Tandem

    and the big chainring options are 46, 48 and 51. Now, I am inclined to opt for a 51t chainring, but would welcome any advice on whether this is appropriate for a tandem. My fear is that with anything smaller we run the risk of spinning out at relatively low speeds - while I do not expect us to be breaking any landspeed records, to me it makes sense to go for this bigger chainring over the smaller options.

    I know that there are about a million variables, so it may be difficult to give advice, but what do you guys think?

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    Senior Member cderalow's Avatar
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    looks to me like the 51t setup is a compact + granny gear, which is what you both are all ready comfortable on.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cderalow View Post
    looks to me like the 51t setup is a compact + granny gear, which is what you both are all ready comfortable on.
    Indeed, that's my thinking on it. The other gearing options have even smaller granny gears though - I'm new to tandems - is there likely to be any need for such a small granny ring?

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    Senior Member rdtompki's Avatar
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    There are a lot of variables, but given you're description of your respective abilities, go with the 51t. 46 is very low for a tandem and I would think would only be appropriate if FD limitations required the 46t for compatibility with a 24t granny.

    With modern gearsets you have the option of putting on an 11-32 or 11-36 for something with big climbing.

    We spin out our 48t chainring in a split second headed downhill, but we have a 60t (equivalent) as the largest of the four daVinci chainrings. I'm running a 12-30t and really liking it, but on a long ride with 10%+ grades and/or long climbs I'll put on our 11-36. Being senior citizens we need the 24-36; not so most folks.
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    pan y agua merlinextraligh's Avatar
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    It generally desireable to have a wider range of gearing on a tandem, because they fly down hill (therefore high gears) and there can be issues climbing, particularly if you don't like to climb both out of the saddle. ( hence the desireability of low gears)

    51,39,30 will give a decent high end, and the 30 inner ring will give pretty low gears with the right rear cassette ( and you can always swap out the inner ring for something smaller if you need to go lower.)

    Going with the 48, or the 46 for the big ring is likely going to be lower than you want on the high end.
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    Quote Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
    It generally desireable to have a wider range of gearing on a tandem, because they fly down hill (therefore high gears) and there can be issues climbing, particularly if you don't like to climb both out of the saddle. ( hence the desireability of low gears)

    51,39,30 will give a decent high end, and the 30 inner ring will give pretty low gears with the right rear cassette ( and you can always swap out the inner ring for something smaller if you need to go lower.)

    Going with the 48, or the 46 for the big ring is likely going to be lower than you want on the high end.
    +1 on the triple. Depending on the capacity of your derailleurs, you can go even lower than 30 granny gear, too.
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    Thanks to everyone for the responses - I think we'll definitely go for the 51t then. I'd better brace my credit card!

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    Senior Member ahultin's Avatar
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    Somewhat off topic, but unless you are a small team, it would concern me somewhat that the max tire size supported on that bike is 23mm.

    Hmm, looked at the specs and it shows it ships with 28 contis but the frame details says 23mm max
    Also noted that the wheels are 36 hole with tiagra hubs so 130 spacing?
    Last edited by ahultin; 01-30-13 at 02:20 PM. Reason: additional details

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    We are not a powerful team and in general I don't like pushing big gears.
    I have 50/39/28 on front and 11-28 on rear.
    I find I would rather coast than pedal once we get over 40 MPH.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ahultin View Post
    Somewhat off topic, but unless you are a small team, it would concern me somewhat that the max tire size supported on that bike is 23mm.

    Hmm, looked at the specs and it shows it ships with 28 contis but the frame details says 23mm max
    Also noted that the wheels are 36 hole with tiagra hubs so 130 spacing?
    I think the 23mm size is a mistake on the website - definitely ships with 28s. I don't know much about spacing - is 130 non-standard for a tandem?

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    Quote Originally Posted by moorlock View Post
    Thanks to everyone for the responses - I think we'll definitely go for the 51t then. I'd better brace my credit card!
    Good luck. It seems like a good price for all that kit.

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    The bike looks attractive but a lot of the specs would tell me not to buy it. Here are the main issues I see;

    - Skinny max tire width.. needs to support 35mm at least and have room for clearance if you toss a few spoke
    - Rear axle at 130mm.. that is just too narrow. Should be 145mm which is pretty much the modern standard
    - Wheels at 36 spoke.. sorry not for me. Should be either exotic materials if for this low spoke count (not seeing that in the specs) or be 48 spoke.
    - Aluminum steer column ... would recommend this unless the diameter was larger.
    - No drag brake ... I think you need one. Drum or disk.

    YMMV and others may agree or disagree.
    /K

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    Quote Originally Posted by ksisler View Post
    The bike looks attractive but a lot of the specs would tell me not to buy it. Here are the main issues I see;

    - Skinny max tire width.. needs to support 35mm at least and have room for clearance if you toss a few spoke
    - Rear axle at 130mm.. that is just too narrow. Should be 145mm which is pretty much the modern standard
    - Wheels at 36 spoke.. sorry not for me. Should be either exotic materials if for this low spoke count (not seeing that in the specs) or be 48 spoke.
    - Aluminum steer column ... would recommend this unless the diameter was larger.
    - No drag brake ... I think you need one. Drum or disk.

    YMMV and others may agree or disagree.
    /K
    Thanks for the guidance. Would you regard these weaknesses as being particularly problematic given that a) we are relatively light (around 270lbs for the pair of us) b) we wouldn't intend on carrying panniers etc etc?

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    I don't think you mentioned what type of riding you will be doing. If it is only road, I think 25 mm tires are OK. 28 mm minimum would be good for light touring. I would check the rear dropout spacing/axle, as 130 mm is certainly non-standard for a tandem. You are a light team, so 36 spokes should be fine.
    White bar tape won't stay white for long, so you might want to change that.
    170 mm cranks seem short, so get advice from Dolan for the best lengths for your team.
    The spec'd gearing is certainly for touring with that low range, but you seem to have that sorted.
    I knew Dolan make road bikes, but was not aware they make tandems. Are you in the UK?

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    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    My 2 cents...

    28mm tire width is adequate for your team weight.

    130mm not ideal for a tandem but some teams build tandems that way. at 270lbs it may be ok and may need a stronger rim on the rear wheel at some point in the future. Given the low cost of the bike this may be a reasonable tradeoff if it is needed.

    36 spoke wheels are fine for a tandem at your weight.

    1 and 1/8 steering column is standard diameter. Aluminum is not my favorite material but should work fine.

    Drag brake should not be needed unless planning large mountains.


    Overall the bike should a good first tandem. If you don't know already I would learn how to work on it and make sure it is maintained properly.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moorlock View Post
    Thanks for the guidance. Would you regard these weaknesses as being particularly problematic given that a) we are relatively light (around 270lbs for the pair of us) b) we wouldn't intend on carrying panniers etc etc?
    Please do not let the above post scare you away from this bike, the poster seems to be ULTRA conservative and in some respects (in my opinion) a little out of touch with modern tandem trends. Many of the teams on this board are running 36 spoke wheels with no problems, many are riding on 23 and 25mm tires. We have a 25 on the rear and a 23 on the front and our team weight is 290. We use caliper brakes with no problems and do not have nor want a drag brake. However we live in the Midwest where it is fairly flat. Most tandems today are built with 145mm rear drop spacing, many are running 135/140 and some are running 130. Our old Santana was 130 and we rode it thousands of miles with no serious problems.

    If you have questions I would suggest that you call the supplier. But as everyone else has said it sounds like a very decent deal for an entry level tandem.

    Wayne

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    Thanks to everyone for the responses - this forum is great!

    We'll only be doing road riding - I'm a triathlete really (yes, boo hiss spit spit!) and do long-distance triathlons. My girlfriend also does triathlons but is understandably a slower cyclist than me - we find it difficult to go on training rides together because of our pace mis-match - I'll be pootling along at a comfortable pace and she'll be red-lining. Because she finds it tough to change an inner tube, she's reluctant to go out on long rides by herself, so the speed differential is just growing month by month. I'm hoping that a tandem will allow us to do a lot more of our cycle training together, both at a comfortable pace. I know that there are elements of compromise involved here (e.g. riding a tandem is not going to be quite the same as riding a single bike in terms of training benefit), but I think I can justify the purchase on these grounds. (That's how I'm selling it to my girlfriend, anyway: I want one also because they look like a lot of fun!)

    We are in the UK, and suppliers of road tandems seem slightly hard to find. Certainly the Dolan seems to offer better value for money than anything else that I've seen. 170mm crank is only marginally shorter than I normally use (172.5, I think) so hopefully won't be too noticeable, and one of the options is to specify black bar tape.

    This is a whole new world for me - I do all my own maintenance on my own single bikes, but tandems are obviously a different thing. Seemingly not any more complicated, but everything obviously has to be a tad stronger.

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    Quote Originally Posted by moorlock View Post
    Thanks to everyone for the responses - this forum is great!

    We'll only be doing road riding - I'm a triathlete really (yes, boo hiss spit spit!) and do long-distance triathlons. My girlfriend also does triathlons but is understandably a slower cyclist than me - we find it difficult to go on training rides together because of our pace mis-match - I'll be pootling along at a comfortable pace and she'll be red-lining. Because she finds it tough to change an inner tube, she's reluctant to go out on long rides by herself, so the speed differential is just growing month by month. I'm hoping that a tandem will allow us to do a lot more of our cycle training together, both at a comfortable pace. I know that there are elements of compromise involved here (e.g. riding a tandem is not going to be quite the same as riding a single bike in terms of training benefit), but I think I can justify the purchase on these grounds. (That's how I'm selling it to my girlfriend, anyway: I want one also because they look like a lot of fun!)

    We are in the UK, and suppliers of road tandems seem slightly hard to find. Certainly the Dolan seems to offer better value for money than anything else that I've seen. 170mm crank is only marginally shorter than I normally use (172.5, I think) so hopefully won't be too noticeable, and one of the options is to specify black bar tape.

    This is a whole new world for me - I do all my own maintenance on my own single bikes, but tandems are obviously a different thing. Seemingly not any more complicated, but everything obviously has to be a tad stronger.
    Back in the late 80's early 90's i was training and racing masters races and was in excellent shape. I was competitive in all of our races except for the long road races, i would have trouble with cramps. I loved racing criteriums.

    My wife and i would attempt to ride together on singles and it was worse than what you described, i was plodding along and she was really struggling. We bought a nice Santana racing tandem and it became fun for both of us, I could ride as hard as i wanted and she could ride at her pace, it was interesting that as time went by we became faster, she improved very quickly. We were able to ride with the single bikes with no problem whatsoever.

    I am confident that your experience will be similar, it will be a very pleasant experience for both or you. Sometimes you have to make faith decisions and see what happens.

    2 1/2 years ago we decided that we wanted to start riding tandem again and bought an older used tandem and rode it for a few months and found that we still enjoyed the experience. We then ordered a new frame set and are riding 5,000+ miles per year. We cannot wait for the weather to warm up so we can get back outside.

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    Senior Member waynesulak's Avatar
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    If your stoker wants to train at the same level ie heart rate or power then I think some training on a tandem is very workable. While not as scientific in training as some in this forum we easily do intervals as long as we can agree on the duration, level of effort, and number of repetitions etc. Separate heart rate monitors help unfortunately there is not yet a good solution for separate power meters.

    We also ride about 5,000-6,000 miles a year. There is a special feeling when both captain and stoker end a successful run completely spent gasping for air. We are not fast but we like to empty the tank and our fun rating is very high.
    Last edited by waynesulak; 02-01-13 at 10:02 AM.

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    Junior Member uaz04's Avatar
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    Attachment 296742Moorlock,
    You two will quickly find that the tandem evens out your abilities and allows both of you to finish a ride at the same degree of exhaustion. We rode our singles for years before discovering tandems, and our rides were always a serious compromise on my part. Mostly, we would plan different routes and hope to meet up near the end and ride a few minutes together. Now our single bikes get pretty ignored!
    We ride together so often and it has become so much a part of our lives that we built up a second tandem only a couple of years after buying the first. You'll discover how and where you like to ride, and then kit up your tandem to suit that...no matter what anyone writes, there are few limitations. Our tandem is superlight, but has the gearing for high speed on the flats, as well as climbing grades of over 20 percent. We have even done some lightweight touring on this bike, but in truth our other tandem is better suited to the added baggage. Our front rings are 53-41-28 [with a reserve 54], and our rear cassette is a Sram XX 11-36. The range is enormous, but we use every bit of it since we love the mountains. We had a lot of sorting out to get it all set up, but it has run perfectly since and shifts great.
    Enjoy

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    Quote Originally Posted by moorlock View Post
    Thanks for the guidance. Would you regard these weaknesses as being particularly problematic given that a) we are relatively light (around 270lbs for the pair of us) b) we wouldn't intend on carrying panniers etc etc?
    Factually, both of these facts were unavailable at the time I made the recommendation.

    But my gut feel is "why buy a set of potential problems?" One or both riders could gain weight... you could decide to take a tour requiring bags... you could move to an area with a bit rougher roads or steeper hills...

    So if any of those "life happens things" do happen, will you want to replace the bike at that time? Seems better to buy a better designed/equipped bike the first time doesn't it? I view a tandem as a 30+ year investment and try to plan accordingly. Has saved me a ton of money over the years.

    Thoughts?

    Hope this helps clarify
    //K

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksisler View Post
    ... I view a tandem as a 30+ year investment and try to plan accordingly. Has saved me a ton of money over the years...
    Wow, I 've never had a bike last ten years let alone 30+. I usually crash them to death first. What's money for, except to spend? You certianly can't take it with you when you die.

    Interestingly, my tandem has 32spoke wheels with 25mm max tires and 135spacing. It's gone across the US twice and in many thousands of miles on top of that with no mechanical issues.

    Ksisler here is on the conservative end of things for sure but it is possible to have a performance tandem that is both light weight and durable if you take careful consideration of your parts choices.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Wow, I 've never had a bike last ten years let alone 30+. I usually crash them to death first. What's money for, except to spend? You certianly can't take it with you when you die.

    Interestingly, my tandem has 32spoke wheels with 25mm max tires and 135spacing. It's gone across the US twice and in many thousands of miles on top of that with no mechanical issues.

    Ksisler here is on the conservative end of things for sure but it is possible to have a performance tandem that is both light weight and durable if you take careful consideration of your parts choices.
    Could not agree more. How conservative do you get? 50 pound bike, 48 spoke wheels, 40mm tires. Thanks but no thanks, I will push the edge and have FUN!

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    All: Guilty as decried; I admittedly am rather 'on the conservative' end of things (in real life and when on a bike) and never attempted to pretend to be otherwise. I do think readers should hear the conservative view of the issues for the merit of those views alone, but also as a counter balance to the posts by many members sipp'in their $12 umbella drinks leaning in from the high dollar, lowest weight, maximum thrill, ultimate-toy-chasing, most exotic material, disposable bike bars across the street. I think there is room for all views/experiences and I really enjoy all of them myself. But sometimes I disagree and sometimes I chuckle or snicker to myself.

    In the big picture, the OP's are the jury and they should make conclusions 'to set that bike loose or just hang it above the mantle' themselves, in their own circumstances, and based on hearing all the available information/viewpoints.

    /K

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ksisler View Post
    All: Guilty as decried; I admittedly am rather 'on the conservative' end of things (in real life and when on a bike) and never attempted to pretend to be otherwise. ...
    I have no problem with the conservative view and believe whole heartedly that you should state it. It's hearing from many perspecives that allows us to make intellegent choices.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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