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looking for feedback on Calfee Tetra single

Old 04-29-15, 01:25 PM
  #1  
jnbrown
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looking for feedback on Calfee Tetra single

I bought a Calfee tetra tandem some years ago and just love the way it rides and the quality construction.
It is so smooth and yet I can't feel any significant flex.
Sometime after that I upgraded my single bike from a Trek 5500 to a Specialized Tarmac S-Works SL3.
At the time I considered a Calfee but not being able to test ride one and the high price were obstacles.
Also I wanted the highest performance in terms of stiffness, cornering, weight, etc and I felt the Calfee wouldn't do those as well as a Tarmac and the Tarmac seemed to be designed and made with newer technology.
I stopped racing 30 years ago but still rode as if i was racing until recently. Health problems have made it so that I can no longer push myself the way I used to and cycling for me is now just cruising at a moderate pace.
So having the highest performance bike in terms of speed is no longer a priority plush I weigh 140 lbs so I am not going be causing any frame to flex unless it is a noodle.
I could be happy just keeping the Tarmac, but I have noticed the ride is a bit jarring especially on bad roads even with 85 psi in the tires.
Something inside of me keeps lusting for another Calfee.
So if you have any experience with a Calfee single please lets hear it.

Thanks
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Old 04-29-15, 03:02 PM
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jn,

I can't comment on the Calfee singles, but do have some feedback on the Specialized line. There is a big difference in ride quality between the Tarmac SL3 vs SL4. The SL3 has a 1 1/2" tapered steerer whereas the SL4 has a better tuned fork with 1 3/8" steerer. I was quick to move from the SL3 to SL4 and never regretted it. Given your low weight of 140 lbs, I suspect your frame size is fairly small and overly stiff, all which compound the ride quality and handling issue.

The S-Works Tarmac SL4 size 56cm is the best race level single I've ever had, and as it turned out, it is their "gold standard" size from which all other sizes are based. The latest 2015 Tarmacs are 2 generations newer than your SL3 and tuned size specific, which means a small frame is no longer overly stiff or twitchy. Maybe find a shop to test ride the latest version.

Last edited by twocicle; 04-29-15 at 03:06 PM.
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Old 04-29-15, 03:22 PM
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I have a Calfee Tetra (single...) which was custom made, both in terms of geometry and flex numbers. When I was buying it I was asked some "flex" numbers in terms of "1 to 10" type scale. I'm not sure what the default / stock flexes are like. The geometry is pretty close to stock (or at least was then, I don't know if Calfee has changed things in the geometry department), but I could afford "full custom", so I did.

I can tell you in the 10 years that I've owned my Calfee, I have never once contemplated buying another bike. Newer bikes are lighter with fancier "technology", but my Calfee is an extension of me. From short commutes to double metrics, it's just comfortable, predictable, all those good things. I am nowhere nearly a good enough rider to push a Calfee to its limits... closest I come is on some high-speed descents where I realize the bike is so stable that there are no jitters about speed wobbles or what not.

Every once in a while I see somebody else on a Calfee; never met anybody who didn't echo the same opinions, and most have had theirs for quite a while. Yes, they are expensive, and I think they are worth every penny.

(I don't race, I don't ride tandems... I just happened to see this thread because I clicked "new posts").
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Old 04-29-15, 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by twocicle View Post
jn,

I can't comment on the Calfee singles, but do have some feedback on the Specialized line. There is a big difference in ride quality between the Tarmac SL3 vs SL4. The SL3 has a 1 1/2" tapered steerer whereas the SL4 has a better tuned fork with 1 3/8" steerer. I was quick to move from the SL3 to SL4 and never regretted it. Given your low weight of 140 lbs, I suspect your frame size is fairly small and overly stiff, all which compound the ride quality and handling issue.

The S-Works Tarmac SL4 size 56cm is the best race level single I've ever had, and as it turned out, it is their "gold standard" size from which all other sizes are based. The latest 2015 Tarmacs are 2 generations newer than your SL3 and tuned size specific, which means a small frame is no longer overly stiff or twitchy. Maybe find a shop to test ride the latest version.
I have heard various things about SL3 vs SL4 vs SL5 ride quality.
Everything from no difference to big difference.
It kind of pissed me off that the SL4 came out shortly after I dropped a lot of money on the SL3.
I guess I should try one out. I do ride a 52cm so it is probably overly stiff.
The Calfee still appeals to me being low production, handmade and not coming out of a mold in Asia.
Just my observation is that carbon used on the Tarmac seems thinner and more brittle than what Calfee uses.
I have no doubt the Tarmac is one of the best race machines, look at all the pro teams riding them.
Of course they are being sponsored and paid to ride them but the bike still needs to win races.
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Old 04-29-15, 07:21 PM
  #5  
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
So if you have any experience with a Calfee single please lets hear it.
I ride a '98 Calfee Tetra Pro as my primary solo bike; simply sublime is how I'd describe the ride. It has an Alpha Q fork and rolls on 32h Mavic Open Pros with Vredestein Fortezza 23's at 125 psi. I bought it as a test mule before taking the plunge on the Calfee Tetra tandem. I rode it back-to-back with my Prestige & Dedacciai Zero Erickson Signature solo and my titanium Dean Castanza (Ti). The Erickson was on par with Serotta SL frames for comfort and the Dean was even more plush. The Calfee remains the most comfortable of all three and easily convinced me that the Calfee tandem would provide a great ride: we've never been disappointed or looked back and second guessed our decision. Like you, we also are hard-pressed to lust after anything as a direct replacement.

And, for the icing on the cake, here's an extract from Update #10 of my Calfee Journal published back in May 2008 that provides a very honest first impression of the Calfee tandem & a Calfee Luna Pro from my very non-techie wife:

First Impressions: Rather than sharing my comments, let me share Debbie's... as they truly conveyed the first impressions:

"I had no idea I would notice that big of a difference."

"That's the best ride I've ever had... on any bike"

"What other tandem? This is the only one I want to ride"

"I know what my next single bike will be"

"It just felt lighter, faster, and easier to ride"

Also from that same entry:

Looking back on Debbie's initial impressions from our first rides on our Tetra Tandem, it was always a question of "when" not "if" Debbie would end up with her own Calfee.

It took several months of monitoring Ebay and other on-line resources but an unfinished (nude) 48cm Calfee Luna Pro frameset with a new Alpha Q fork finally came up for sale at a reasonable price. My '98 Erickson single bike became the parts donor as it no longer sees much use and is now stored in an upstairs closet along with a '98 Bianchi Mega XL TdF replica frameset.

As for her first impressions compared to her Ritchey? As you'd expect, [B]"I can't believe how much a difference there is! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"[/B] And this gem, "I braced myself for the really bad bumps going across the bridges and they were hardly noticable. I was amazed and I feel great now instead of beat up like I usually do after my ride." So, the Ritchey will be relegated to stationary training duties and Debbie is otherwise thrilled with her new Calfees: tandem and solo.
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Old 04-30-15, 08:54 AM
  #6  
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Beloved stoker received a Tetra for a birthday present about 5 years ago. She had been lusting for carbon but needed custom geometry since she is "stature challenged". Calfee was one of the few options for custom carbon geometry and are close to us so we were able to do a face-to-face consult using her existing custom Serotta Legend Titanium as a template for geometry on the new Calfee.

Her official position is "I love them both" but the Calfee is now her default bike with the Legend relegated to the trainer. Draw your own conclusion. She believes the Calfee geometry is "more twitchy and slightly less stable when descending". Plus, she never tires of the translucent Cabernet Red finish.

At some point we'll likely have Calfee convert her bike to Di2 as it seems a good option for small hands. At the same time we'll have them do a repaint.

Fast forward 3 years and she greenlighted me to replace my aging Trek 5900. I wanted to get some experience with Di2 and liked Calfee's approach to integrating Di2 into their frames. The "artisan, hand-built" aspect also appealed to me.

I ended up with a stock Calfee Dragonfly with DuraAce Di2. My impressions:

* Much more comfortable than the admitted aged OCLV carbon build on the Trek
* Much easier to initiate turns, great descending bike. Very noticeable improvement from Trek
* Calfee seems easier to climb agressively seated, much less inclination to stand than on the Trek. Haven't put my finger on why this is.
* Downside of that nice handling is the straight-line stability is less than the Trek. I have to be more cautious about adopting an aero position when my hands aren't on the bars.
* I popped for custom paint which turned out very nice and gets lots of compliments.
* Overall a nice bike and a significant all-around improvement on the Trek, but I would expect nothing less given the age difference.

We had been talking about having Calfee build a tandem to replace our Speedster, but put that on the back burner while she recovered from some back issues. Her recovery is essentially complete so we may be revisiting what we want to do soon.
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Old 04-30-15, 09:34 AM
  #7  
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Calfee Manta Pro might be what you're looking for.

https://calfeedesign.com/dropping-s/
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Old 04-30-15, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
I have heard various things about SL3 vs SL4 vs SL5 ride quality.
Everything from no difference to big difference.
It kind of pissed me off that the SL4 came out shortly after I dropped a lot of money on the SL3.
I guess I should try one out. I do ride a 52cm so it is probably overly stiff.
The Calfee still appeals to me being low production, handmade and not coming out of a mold in Asia.
Just my observation is that carbon used on the Tarmac seems thinner and more brittle than what Calfee uses.
I have no doubt the Tarmac is one of the best race machines, look at all the pro teams riding them.
Of course they are being sponsored and paid to ride them but the bike still needs to win races.
Major build differences being shaped monocoque vs straight tube/lug. The former allows for more fine tuning of layup (directional fibers). Another point is that with tens of thousands of test cases on the road, there is a lot learned from that. I like that Calfee produces many tandems as far as tandem production numbers go. Singles are a fraction of a fraction.

Tarmac retail (incl/fork,seatpost,BB,headset) prices are $3-4k. Calfee Tetra and Dragonfly frame prices are $3200-4400 + fork, etc.
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Old 04-30-15, 12:07 PM
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Originally Posted by diabloridr View Post
Beloved stoker received a Tetra for a birthday present about 5 years ago. She had been lusting for carbon but needed custom geometry since she is "stature challenged". Calfee was one of the few options for custom carbon geometry and are close to us so we were able to do a face-to-face consult using her existing custom Serotta Legend Titanium as a template for geometry on the new Calfee.

Her official position is "I love them both" but the Calfee is now her default bike with the Legend relegated to the trainer. Draw your own conclusion. She believes the Calfee geometry is "more twitchy and slightly less stable when descending". Plus, she never tires of the translucent Cabernet Red finish.

At some point we'll likely have Calfee convert her bike to Di2 as it seems a good option for small hands. At the same time we'll have them do a repaint.

Fast forward 3 years and she greenlighted me to replace my aging Trek 5900. I wanted to get some experience with Di2 and liked Calfee's approach to integrating Di2 into their frames. The "artisan, hand-built" aspect also appealed to me.

I ended up with a stock Calfee Dragonfly with DuraAce Di2. My impressions:

* Much more comfortable than the admitted aged OCLV carbon build on the Trek
* Much easier to initiate turns, great descending bike. Very noticeable improvement from Trek
* Calfee seems easier to climb agressively seated, much less inclination to stand than on the Trek. Haven't put my finger on why this is.
* Downside of that nice handling is the straight-line stability is less than the Trek. I have to be more cautious about adopting an aero position when my hands aren't on the bars.
* I popped for custom paint which turned out very nice and gets lots of compliments.
* Overall a nice bike and a significant all-around improvement on the Trek, but I would expect nothing less given the age difference.

We had been talking about having Calfee build a tandem to replace our Speedster, but put that on the back burner while she recovered from some back issues. Her recovery is essentially complete so we may be revisiting what we want to do soon.
Your comments about the Trek are interesting since my previous bike was a Trek 5500. I found the Trek to be more comfortable than the Tarmac I currently have but it felt more sluggish and vague. Indeed the steering is slower on the Trek and I actually prefer the quicker steering on the Tarmac. The Trek was still a nice bike that I had for 17 years (5200 first, frame broke was replaced with 5500). I even bought one off Ebay for my daughter for $300 and built it up for her, what a great deal that was. I had some concerns that the Tetra would be more like the Trek but your comments indicate that not to be so. One question would be do you ever feel the Tetra is not stiff enough or feels like it is holding you back?

Oh yeah - I would say get the Calfee tandem, you won't regret it. For me it was leap of faith and talking to people here since I couldn't test ride one. It was one of the best investments I have ever made.

Last edited by jnbrown; 04-30-15 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 04-30-15, 02:10 PM
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jn,

Funny I also had a year 2000 Trek 5500 (same frame as the 5200, but better components). That was also a straight tube+lugs design. It was a far better ride than the rusty old 1984 Pinarello it replaced, but doesn't come close to the SL4. Many on my team ride the Venge for its super stiffness in sprints, but it's not the choice for more comfortable, longer distance riding.

I PM'd you with some offline info.
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Old 04-30-15, 05:10 PM
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Originally Posted by twocicle View Post
jn,

Funny I also had a year 2000 Trek 5500 (same frame as the 5200, but better components). That was also a straight tube+lugs design. It was a far better ride than the rusty old 1984 Pinarello it replaced, but doesn't come close to the SL4. Many on my team ride the Venge for its super stiffness in sprints, but it's not the choice for more comfortable, longer distance riding.

I PM'd you with some offline info.
Before the Trek I had:

De Rosa made with Columbus SLX, very pretty bike but really rough ride.

Mercian I bought for touring, also very pretty, I have fond memories of that bike it rode very nicely but ended up selling it for a few hundred $ to finance my first tandem.
That was a huge mistake wish I had kept it.

Masi Gran Criterium - My first real race bike and I raced it until it broke. Rode a lot of races across the border in Mexico including one which Greg Lemond was in and he won.

Ok now I am dating myself, still younger than Rudy though.
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Old 05-04-15, 10:58 AM
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Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
The Trek was still a nice bike that I had for 17 years (5200 first, frame broke was replaced with 5500).
I warranted a pair of Trek 5200's for disbonded bottom brackets, sold the second replacement frame upon receipt to a friend and turned around and bought a 5900 (same geometry and constuction as 5200/5500 OCLV, but changes in carbon to reduce weight). Between all three frames, I rode OCLVs about as long as you.

Was your broken frame a bottom bracket problem? - it was a common issue on the early generation OCLV frames.

Originally Posted by jnbrown View Post
I had some concerns that the Tetra would be more like the Trek but your comments indicate that not to be so. One question would be do you ever feel the Tetra is not stiff enough or feels like it is holding you back?
To be clear, I am riding a Dragonfly, wife has a Tetra. That said, Calfee supposedly designs both frames to perform the same, though Dragonfly will be lighter.

No, I am not detecting lack of stiffness in the drivetrain compared to the OCLV Trek.
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Old 05-05-15, 11:49 AM
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Originally Posted by diabloridr View Post
I warranted a pair of Trek 5200's for disbonded bottom brackets, sold the second replacement frame upon receipt to a friend and turned around and bought a 5900 (same geometry and constuction as 5200/5500 OCLV, but changes in carbon to reduce weight). Between all three frames, I rode OCLVs about as long as you.

Was your broken frame a bottom bracket problem? - it was a common issue on the early generation OCLV frames.



To be clear, I am riding a Dragonfly, wife has a Tetra. That said, Calfee supposedly designs both frames to perform the same, though Dragonfly will be lighter.

No, I am not detecting lack of stiffness in the drivetrain compared to the OCLV Trek.
Diablo,

Yes I had the exact same problem on 5200, disbonded BB. The 5500 that replaced it in 2000 did not have any problems, very durable frame.
I just had the opportunity to buy a new Tetra frame for about half price.
After some agonizing I decided to pass. I think the Tetra ride is fantastic for a tandem, but I am afraid it would be too tame for my single bike.
If there was a way to test ride a Tetra it might change my mind, but that is not easy to do.
I have test ridden Specialized Roubaix's and didn't like them at all, and i am thinking the Tetra is more in that category ("endurance bikes").
My current plan is to buy a Cannondale EVO 105 bike and sell all the components and replace with Campy Chorus / Athena and a SRAM Red crankset and my own wheelset.
I can get this bike really cheap right now and I like the ride, its much smoother than my Tarmac.
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