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It's Better To Be Happy Than Right

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It's Better To Be Happy Than Right

Old 09-13-15, 10:04 AM
  #1  
Mayonnaise
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It's Better To Be Happy Than Right

My wife and I are looking for our first tandem. We've (particularly me) had bikes in our lives for years but now really want to explore many different rides throughout the midwest (this weekend, for instance, is a ride around New Glarus, WI with plenty of Spotted Cow afterwards. We'd be there if we had a tandem).

I come from a strict racing background and every bike I've ever owned is built for speed. I've always loved the feel of a fast bike. My wife has never raced and never will. A bike for her needs to be comfortable. Not to say she won't adapt to a new, slightly aggressive position but comfort needs to be at the top of her list in deciding on which bike to purchase.

As for me, I don't care too much anymore. I'm learning (learning, slowly but surely, learning) to slow down. I'm beginning to understand (we all have to start somewhere) that each ride doesn't have to be a Personal Best. I'm letting go (hey, I'm not a control freak) of any wacky Strava KOM agenda. I'm fine, I'm fine, just need to redirect the strengths I already posses. I don't need a Ferrari anymore but no way you're putting me in a Caddy just yet.

We've pretty much decided on Co-Motion: American made, nice people, shop just around the corner (no really, just around the corner). They look great and have a solid reputation. I've always been proud to say I'm absolutely fiscally irresponsible when it comes to bikes. I'll walk 3 blocks to avoid paying $8 for parking but I'll drop $2K on a set of carbon hoops. If we buy a tandem, we're getting a nice one. My wife agrees with me. Let me repeat, my wife agrees with me....even when I said the words no wife understands but comes to hate..: "electronic shifting" (You Spent How Much???!!) Deep breaths, gentlemen, deep breaths, focus on something pleasant, raging jealously doesn't have to kill you...it'll pass, it'll pass.

We're deciding between the Macchiato and the Robusta. The difference primarily being decided upon the riding position of my wife. I don't want to be on mile 47 of 80 and hear disgruntled words similar to "you bought the wrong bike" "my back my back, we gotta stop, my back my back".

We'll ride a few to get a feel but my question is general. Certainly I'm not the first guy that has faced this issue. In accordance with the hard learned married man's credo "happy mommy, happy home" how does one typically solve this issue? Naturally, we'll meet in the middle somewhere but I want to get it right. Racing husband, comfort riding wife...who gets to decide what side of the bed to sleep on?
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Old 09-13-15, 10:16 AM
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It's a simple formula: wife wins.

Took me too much time, too many mis-steps and money wasted to figure this one out.

Your racer mindset is yours personally, much like porn.
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Old 09-13-15, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Mayonnaise View Post

We're deciding between the Macchiato and the Robusta. The difference primarily being decided upon the riding position of my wife. I don't want to be on mile 47 of 80 and hear disgruntled words similar to "you bought the wrong bike" "my back my back, we gotta stop, my back my back".
Why is the riding position of your wife different between these two bikes? The stoker top tube is the same, as is the stoker seat angle. I'd think you could put her in the same position on both bikes.
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Old 09-13-15, 01:13 PM
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From our relatively brief test rides, I would say this: if you want comfort from the co-motion, don't buy the aluminum bikes. Buy a supremo instead. It is a few pounds heavier, but the steel bikes are a lot more comfortable. After riding both and talking the shop employee, he said that we were not the first ones to reach this conclusion.
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Old 09-13-15, 03:13 PM
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As others have said, knowing that you are looking to do this together you will need to set aside some of your preferences to help with the start-up of this most exciting opportunity. I rode all my life and was one of those racer guys, when we emptied the nest and bought our first tandem I let go of the racer and settled into quality time. I still love riding my Merckx and get to do that regularly, but if I get the chance to ride the tandem with my wife I'll do that every time. It is so fun to watch her grow as a rider and to enjoy things that I'd enjoyed decades ago. So by the best bike you can and set-up the front however you like but pay special attention to the stoker set-up. We live on the East Coast and are big fans of Tandems East, it you see (owners) Mel and Barbara's Calfee you can see the differences in riding positions and they are no slouches out on the road. Even if she is sitting more upright.

Also steel will be more comfortable, but a custom Calfee is too.

Last edited by Paul J; 09-13-15 at 03:15 PM. Reason: added info
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Old 09-13-15, 10:32 PM
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We started with a used tandem and I'm glad we did. I think it was well worth it to learn to ride together before we dropped the big bucks for our current ride.
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Old 09-14-15, 05:56 AM
  #7  
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Get whatever is most comfortable for your wife / stoker.
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Old 09-14-15, 07:25 AM
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I think that the model & material of the bike is less important than doing everything you can to make her a happy stoker. If your stoker isn't happy, you won't be riding a tandem.

We started with a used Co-Motion Co-Pilot (steel). We still have this and I still love the bike. We're getting ready to "upgrade" to a Calfee. But we will keep the Co-Pilot for travel.

I've had steel & and aluminum bikes and steel is probably more comfortable.

If you're going to buy new, let her be a part of the choosing process - including the color.

As you gain experience, focus on stoker happiness & you will have many happy miles.
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Old 09-14-15, 09:37 AM
  #9  
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Keeping her happy is my goal. We rode a Primera yesterday and enjoyed it. It was awkward but we'll get used to it. Couple people have mentioned the steel frame was more comfortable which seems backwards to me. I always thought aluminum dampened the road to make it more comfortable Is it because it's stiffer?

We're both excited about the whole affair and I honestly think she's going to like it more than me.
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Old 09-14-15, 11:48 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Mayonnaise View Post
I always thought aluminum dampened the road to make it more comfortable.
I used to think the same thing. Very early aluminum frames, like the Alan I spent my teenage years racing on, used tubes similar in diameter to steel tubes of the time. The ride was very smooth, but the trade off was a lot of frame flex. The fat-tubed approach to aluminum increases stiffness to be comparable to steel, but as I understand it (I am not a metallurgist), at the same level of stiffness, you will get a harsher ride due aluminum having different vibration transmitting characteristics than steel. The only modern aluminum bike I've spent much time on was one of those hybrids with carbon seat stays, so I really can't say much from experience about all steel vs. all aluminum ride characteristics.
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Old 09-14-15, 12:18 PM
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I've ridden fairly modern road bikes - both aluminum & steel. I believe that the consensus is that aluminum makes for a harsher ride.

On a tandem, the captain doesn't experience as much shock as the stoker. The captain sits in the middle of a long frame. The stoker sits over the rear wheel.

Also, if you haven't yet learned, the captain sees the bumps coming and can unweight himself. The stoker can't see what's coming. A good captain avoids the bumps when possible and calls out the ones he can't avoid ("bump!"). Your stoker will appreciate this. A suspension seatpost for the stoker might also be a worthwhile investment.
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Old 09-14-15, 12:27 PM
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We ride a quite stiff aluminum tandem. It is very comfortable at the captain position, probable because of the position in the middle of a long frame. The stoker uses a thudbuster seatpost, which provides way more comfort than even the most flexible of frames and something I would highly recommend for a new stoker regardless of whatever tandem you end up buying.
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Old 09-14-15, 12:55 PM
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#1 rule (as noted several times above) keep the stoker happy.

That said my stoker started with a suspension seat post, and decided that she preferred a non-suspension post. We have a Trek T50 (butted cro-mo steel).
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Old 09-14-15, 01:06 PM
  #14  
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You might want to read the tandemgeeks build report on his Calfee. It sold us and my stoker is comfortable! No special seat post, 25mm tires. Look at the way the chainstays and seatstays are made on the Calfee. Designed of comfort.

I also raced for years and our Calfee can be ridden at a leisurely pace or we can hammer!

If you want the best of both worlds, take a trip to Champaign and check ours out.

Wayne
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Old 09-14-15, 01:26 PM
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I have found that even what some would call a harsh riding aluminium framed tandem still gives a softer ride for the stoker than almost any single bike would. You can also fit larger tyres if you want to soften it up even more. I do not think an expensive carbon tandem will make any difference to the enjoyment factor for your stoker, especially if it is your first tandem.
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Old 09-14-15, 06:12 PM
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Explain to the Co-Mo dealer your definite interest in buying and see if you can do a couple prolonged (weekend) test rides on the models you are interested in. If not, rent the bikes and apply the rental fee toward purchase price when you buy.
Have been riding as a duo since 1975 (40 years) and are now on tandem #5 .
Four of our tandems were full custom as stoker has a bit of a fit problem, being under 5 ft tall.
Did own a custom Co-Mo back in the early 90s and put 56,000 (fifty six thousand) miles on it before succumbing to a custom carbon fiber that currently has 45,000 on the odo.
Patience and communication are the key to enjoyable tandeming.
Photos of us on Co-Mo (with custom paint) and our current Zona c/f tandem.
We are now ages 82 and 80 and still ride TWOgether several times a week.
Rudy and Kay/zonatandem
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Old 09-15-15, 01:14 PM
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We have had three tandems, a custom steel built by Andy Gilmour, a Santana Sovereign aluminum frame, and now a Calfee Tetra.
The Calfee is by the best tandem we have had and as Wayne said no special seat post is needed on the back to absorb the bumps.
I don't think you can go wrong with the Comotion, just make sure it fits and your wife is comfortable on it.
I would plan on getting a Thudbuster of other type of shock post, it was a requirement on our Santana.
I also used to race and still have a bad habit of chasing after other riders or trying stay with a fast group which my wife HATES and tells me so.
So I try not to do that and realize it is more enjoyable to ride at our own pace and don't worry what other people are doing.
And remember this one rule: The stoker is always right.

Last edited by jnbrown; 09-15-15 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 09-15-15, 06:20 PM
  #18  
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Comfort for your stoker? Rans Seavo. She will love it, and you will learn to enjoy the more relaxed recumbent life. DH still calls out the bumps to me (stoker) but on our Seavo I rarely even notice the bumps, really.
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Old 09-15-15, 08:27 PM
  #19  
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We have a 2003 CoMo Speedster (steel). It's a little flexy, but it rides nicely and we can make it go when we want to. Stoker has a Specialized CG-R carbon post and likes it a lot. We also are running Conti 4000s II 28mm tires, which measure ~32mm on our 23mm rims. Big difference in ride quality, no increase in resistance. To me, choice of tires would be the thing as that makes the largest difference in ride quality. You might ask which of their bikes can handle our tires. We've seen a few carbon tandem forks with so little tire clearance that ordinary road grit abraded the inside of the fork.

Another thing is that after we'd been riding our bike for a few years, we discovered that we absolutely love touring on it. Sometimes we do unsupported cc touring, others full camp touring, and sometimes fully supported touring. So rack mounts might be important. Another thing is that we ride in all weathers except ice, so for much of the year we have full coverage fenders on. In winter, we run Conti 25mm 4Seasons under our fenders. So fender mounts and room for them is another thing you might care about. Although when we bought the bike I told Stoker that we wouldn't intentionally ride in the rain, it turned out that we both liked it fine and sometimes it rains on a long-planned tour or event ride.

We build custom boats. If they're new to the type of boat they order, we always advise our clients that their boat may very well change their lives and that they should leave room for that. If they're experienced, they are ordering to refine their choices, not expand them. So the advice to start with a used bike and see how that goes is quite relevant in this sense.
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Old 09-16-15, 08:45 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by Mayonnaise View Post
Couple people have mentioned the steel frame was more comfortable which seems backwards to me. I always thought aluminum dampened the road to make it more comfortable Is it because it's stiffer?
I think the general consensus about material choice is carbon, titanium, steel and then aluminum. Although aluminum is lighter, steel is more resilient and comfortable. High-end aluminum frames rely on complex shapes and tapered walls (via hydro forming) to improve the ride. To my knowledge, these complex tubesets are rare on tandems because of the low production volumes.

Unless you've done several long rides (50 miles+) on a loaner tandem, it's not a great idea buy a new Co-Motion (or any other brand). There are so many decisions that will make the experience enjoyable or painful (eg. tire size, saddle, frame material & geometry, gearing). It's so much easier to buy a good used tandem for several months (or longer) before you splurge for your dream ride (Di2, custom frame, etc). We're on our 3rd tandem (a custom Calfee Tetra) and are glad that we learned valuable (but inexpensive) lessons along the way.
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Old 09-16-15, 10:44 AM
  #21  
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My biggest problem in my tandem endeavor is finding bikes to test ride. You'd think in Chicago there'd be a shop that would have a few in stock, but that just isn't the case. Being new to this part of the bike world, I don't have a network of friends that own tandems.

There are shops in towns a plane ride away that have invited me to come but it will cost me the same as a Di2 upgrade.

I feel the same way about a used tandem. It'll also cost me a Di2 upgrade.

I am afraid of making a mistake but feel trapped at the same time.

In my defense, every high end bike I've ever bought I bought blind, never ridden. Like an arranged marriage (or any marriage for that matter), we learned to love each other. My wife thinks of it like she thinks of Frank Zappa, she doesn't want to be bothered with what's going on, she just likes it.

Everyone's advice is solid and sound and I thank you.


I can't be the only guy that's in this position with purchasing a new tandem.
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Old 09-16-15, 11:33 AM
  #22  
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So far, everyone has suggested you go used initially. +1 from me. We're on our 3rd tandem and was quite happy with each until we upgraded. We started with a Cannondale. We figured out we wanted to travel so we replaced it with a coupled Santana Sovereign. We've sold our prior tandems for close to what we had in them, so the financial impact of "working up" has been minimal. You will NOT get your money out of a new tandem. Our dream tandem we're now riding (coupled Santana Team Ti-700) is not what I would have purchased initially. We've learned from the various tandem rallys we've attended and discussions on this forum.

You obviously like nice high-end bikes for your singles. Find a high-end tandem about 5 or so years old for about half to two thirds of its original value. A five year old Macchiato or Robusta will not be much different than the current model. Use it to learn what works and does not work for you. Do some rallys and tours with it and you will see first hand lots of very nice rides. Then you will know what your dream should be.
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Old 09-16-15, 01:03 PM
  #23  
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I guess I'm in the minority, but I'd take the plane ride. If it's to a good shop in a place that you and your stoker might enjoy, treat it like a mini vacation and it won't be a waste of money. In addition you'll get the opportunity to ride multiple bikes in the same day and get a good basis for contrasting and comparing what you like and don't like. You'll get some valuable advice and instruction from somebody who knows tandems. And you'll avoid any hassles associated with finding and buying a used tandem that will invariably involve compromises and possibly upgrades and repairs. To me the plane ticket would be money well spent, and negligible in the long term if you stick with tandeming.
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Old 09-16-15, 05:27 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Mayonnaise View Post
My biggest problem in my tandem endeavor is finding bikes to test ride. You'd think in Chicago there'd be a shop that would have a few in stock, but that just isn't the case. Being new to this part of the bike world, I don't have a network of friends that own tandems.

There are shops in towns a plane ride away that have invited me to come but it will cost me the same as a Di2 upgrade.

I feel the same way about a used tandem. It'll also cost me a Di2 upgrade.

I am afraid of making a mistake but feel trapped at the same time.

In my defense, every high end bike I've ever bought I bought blind, never ridden. Like an arranged marriage (or any marriage for that matter), we learned to love each other. My wife thinks of it like she thinks of Frank Zappa, she doesn't want to be bothered with what's going on, she just likes it.

Everyone's advice is solid and sound and I thank you.


I can't be the only guy that's in this position with purchasing a new tandem.
We test rode a CoMo before purchasing our used one. Thing was, the test ride was a complete disaster. The stem was uncut and thus about 4" higher than I was used to. The CoMo was't a Speedster, but the frame was supposedly a similar steel to what would be on a Speedster. We'd ridden a couple of different tandems many times so we weren't total newbies. Nonetheless I dang near took out a parked car just getting out onto the street. The thing was wobbly, wouldn't go where I pointed it, etc., etc. The test bike wasn't dialed in to our fits, might have been the wrong size, who knows.

But I figured it was just a bad experience. After all, if many people I respected tell me that I'm going to love a bike, I probably am, so we bought the used bike anyway and love it just as we expected to. I did have to look for it for a long time because I wanted a very particular model, size, fork, components, etc.
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Old 09-16-15, 08:05 PM
  #25  
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You could contact the CATS (Chicago Area Tandem Society). www.chicagotandems.com There are many enthusiastic and knowledgeable tandem teams there. I am sure you will be able to find much local information.
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