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Steel a viable alternative to carbon?

Old 01-24-16, 08:51 AM
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Tandem2
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Steel a viable alternative to carbon?

Looking for feedback from the tandem community on Steel in comparison to carbon for a frame build.
I currently ride a Walt Works steel hard tail 29er mountain bike, so I have an idea of the ride quality and the ability to build a light yet stiff steel frame on a single bike.
While looking for a carbon frame I came across the co motion Supremo, co motion lists a complete bike at a little over 30 pounds.
I have not been able to find a frame weight only, but in looking at a complete builds weight, it appears the steel frame is carrying an extra pound or two?
Thoughts on co motions move away from a stiffener tube?
Thoughts on R and E cycles super light frame?
R and E is makes no bones about their thoughts on the need for a stiffener tube and goes into great detail on the matter on their site.
Thanks for any input.

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Old 01-24-16, 12:09 PM
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I've never owned a carbon tandem but I've owned a couple aluminum ones and three steel tandems. The best riding of them all is our Co-Motion Supremo. Stiff in the BBs but with a silky ride and light, too.

Again, no riding time on a Carbon unit so if someone wants to loan me one for a few hundred miles...
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Old 01-24-16, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Trsnrtr View Post
I've never owned a carbon tandem but I've owned a couple aluminum ones and three steel tandems. The best riding of them all is our Co-Motion Supremo. Stiff in the BBs but with a silky ride and light, too.

Again, no riding time on a Carbon unit so if someone wants to loan me one for a few hundred miles...
Everything I have read about the co motions ride has been favorable, does your Supremo have the stiffener tube?
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Old 01-24-16, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Tandem2 View Post
Everything I have read about the co motions ride has been favorable, does your Supremo have the stiffener tube?
What's a stiffener tube? Ours is 6 months old and is the open frame design. Stiffness is definitely not something we need more of.
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Old 01-24-16, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Trsnrtr View Post
What's a stiffener tube? Ours is 6 months old and is the open frame design. Stiffness is definitely not something we need more of.
That's the kind of input I am looking for, thanks.
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Old 01-24-16, 06:24 PM
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Have ridden c/f tandem(s) for 45,000+ miles.
Various steel tandems for 200,000+ miles.
Have owned 4 steel/alloy and one c/f tandem and ridden 30+ brands/models of tandems since 1975.
Less mileage on aluminum. titanium; even ridden bamboo (single bike).
I you are interested in saving $$ and don't mind a couple extra pounds, steel is the way to go.
C/f is lighter and a more resilient ride.
Photo of us on our custom steel/alloy Co-Motion (put 56,000 miles on that one) and our current custom Zona c/f tandem with 45,000+ miles currently.
If money is not a big issue, opt for the carbon fiber.
Just our input.
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Old 01-24-16, 09:59 PM
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I ride one of the Rodriguez super-light steel frames and it is everything they claim it to be. How much team weight will you be carrying? What kind of riding will you be doing? I'd venture that a good fit and a knowledgeable builder are more important to a good tandem experience than the frame material.
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Old 01-25-16, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by geronimo2000 View Post
I ride one of the Rodriguez super-light steel frames and it is everything they claim it to be. How much team weight will you be carrying? What kind of riding will you be doing? I'd venture that a good fit and a knowledgeable builder are more important to a good tandem experience than the frame material.
I would love to hear more details on your R & E tandem.
Did you go in for a fit
How does the bike feel and fit compared to your previous bike?
Did you get a chance to weigh the frame before your build?
Our team is 325ish lbs. With a 5'10" capt. and 5'2" stoker.
Our rides will consist mostly of day rides with little additional baggage other than the necessary repair, snacks and personal items.
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Old 01-25-16, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Tandem2 View Post
Looking for feedback from the tandem community on Steel in comparison to carbon for a frame build.
I currently ride a Walt Works steel hard tail 29er mountain bike, so I have an idea of the ride quality and the ability to build a light yet stiff steel frame on a single bike.
While looking for a carbon frame I came across the co motion Supremo, co motion lists a complete bike at a little over 30 pounds.
I have not been able to find a frame weight only, but in looking at a complete builds weight, it appears the steel frame is carrying an extra pound or two?
Thoughts on co motions move away from a stiffener tube?
Thoughts on R and E cycles super light frame?
R and E is makes no bones about their thoughts on the need for a stiffener tube and goes into great detail on the matter on their site.
Thanks for any input.

If weight is the concern then lighter is faster going uphill - it is just physics. Since it is physics, I suggest doing the math and making a decision based on your facts.

Bicycle Speed (Velocity) And Power Calculator

For one opinion see:

Bike weight and the myth of 'fast' bikes - VeloNews.com

Our team weight is about 280-300 depending on various factors. Total package weight I estimate at about 320 or so in the summer and much higher due to winter clothing in winter. The conclusion in the Velo news article goes double (or triple?) for us.

There are lots of reasons to by a carbon bike but weight is over hyped because it is objective and easy to compare. When choosing a bike I am more concerned about how it handles and how it feels.

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Old 01-25-16, 01:49 PM
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Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
If weight is the concern then lighter is faster going uphill - it is just physics. Since it is physics, I suggest doing the math and making a decision based on your facts.

Bicycle Speed (Velocity) And Power Calculator

For one opinion see:

Bike weight and the myth of 'fast' bikes - VeloNews.com

Our team weight is about 280-300 depending on various factors. Total package weight I estimate at about 320 or so in the summer and much higher due to winter clothing in winter. The conclusion in the Velo news article goes double (or triple?) for us.

There are lots of reasons to by a carbon bike but weight is over hyped because it is objective and easy to compare. When choosing a bike I am more concerned about how it handles and how it feels.
I totally agree with the weight weenie sentiment, having done a few ultras on fully loaded mtb's. Having said that, there is still a strange attraction to a light bike:0)
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Old 01-25-16, 01:55 PM
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Our 2003 steel CoMo Speedster weighs 36 lbs. naked. Last year we made $12,000 by losing 10 pounds between us instead of buying a 10 pound lighter Calfee. Maybe we can make another $12,000 this year! Of course we've ridden our $3,000 used CoMo for many years, so we're in a different situation.
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Old 01-25-16, 02:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Our 2003 steel CoMo Speedster weighs 36 lbs. naked. Last year we made $12,000 by losing 10 pounds between us instead of buying a 10 pound lighter Calfee. Maybe we can make another $12,000 this year! Of course we've ridden our $3,000 used CoMo for many years, so we're in a different situation.
I hear ya, been riding our Fuji forever, its still the best bang for the $ bike purchase I have made. Feel like I have been riding on house money so long that it's time to make a change.
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Old 01-25-16, 03:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Tandem2 View Post
I would love to hear more details on your R & E tandem.
We got our Trillium in 2012. Here is a blog post discussing our thought process at the time. We're heading into our 5th season with about 15,000 miles on it. After about a year we replaced the 36-spoke wheel set with a 48-spoke one and we installed a rear disc brake (set up as a drag brake with stoker control.) Last summer I replaced the Campy FD with one from Microshift that has a little more range. Otherwise no mechanical changes. We've done some epic tours on this bike - Fairbanks to Skagway via Dawson & Whitehorse, a week in the Wallowas & Blue Mtns in eastern Oregon, two weeks in Scotland... but mainly we do medium length day trips from our home in Seattle.

I don't know how much the frame weighed naked (R+E says 26 lbs) but with pedals and saddles and water bottle cages it was 32 lbs on their digital scale. (Our back-up bike is a '95 Ibis Forte and that frame with couplers and nothing but two Phil Woods BBs weighs 13 lbs.) I've got those two bike dialed in so that they ride the way I want and they feel very similar. they are night and day compared to the Burley Duet we rode before.

One observation I'll throw out for you: on the ibis I can ride solo and it feels like a long heavy single. the Trillium solo sashays in the back to the point that I never ride it alone. With a stoker it is super stable and I never feel any flex sprinting for a stoplight or climbing but with no stoker it feels like it is swaying a lot.

here's an image of us on the bike just below Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway

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Old 01-25-16, 05:45 PM
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Originally Posted by geronimo2000 View Post
We got our Trillium in 2012. Here is a blog post discussing our thought process at the time. We're heading into our 5th season with about 15,000 miles on it. After about a year we replaced the 36-spoke wheel set with a 48-spoke one and we installed a rear disc brake (set up as a drag brake with stoker control.) Last summer I replaced the Campy FD with one from Microsoft that has a little more range. Otherwise no mechanical changes. We've done some epic tours on this bike - Fairbanks to Skagway via Dawson & Whitehorse, a week in the Wallowas & Blue Mtns in eastern Oregon, two weeks in Scotland... but mainly we do medium length day trips from our home in Seattle.

I don't know how much the frame weighed naked (R+E says 26 lbs) but with pedals and saddles and water bottle cages it was 32 lbs on their digital scale. (Our back-up bike is a '95 Ibis Forte and that frame with couplers and nothing but two Phil Woods BBs weighs 13 lbs.) I've got those two bike dialed in so that they ride the way I want and they feel very similar. they are night and day compared to the Burley Duet we rode before.

One observation I'll throw out for you: on the ibis I can ride solo and it feels like a long heavy single. the Trillium solo sashays in the back to the point that I never ride it alone. With a stoker it is super stable and I never feel any flex sprinting for a stoplight or climbing but with no stoker it feels like it is swaying a lot.

here's an image of us on the bike just below Washington Pass on the North Cascades Highway
Your bike is soooo sweet, thank you for the detailed feedback.
Did R&E have a demo available?
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Old 01-25-16, 08:23 PM
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I think CF is always going to be lighter and a nicer ride than steel. There can a lot a variation between CF bikes as well.
I have owned / ridden many CF bikes and I would say our Calfee is one of the best riding bikes I have had regardless of material.
Weight is as much a function of components as it is frame weight. Our Calfee originally weighed around 28 lbs but is now up to about 30 lbs after some component changes that addresses other issues. I could probably get it down to 25 lbs if I wanted to spend a lot money to do so. I rode steel bikes back in 80's (Masi, DeRosa, Mercian). Since I started riding CF I never really cared for steel bikes.
However recently I was on a ride with a local frame builder who I respect a lot. The bike he built for himself was made from Columbus Spirit tubing. Although it was too big for me he let me take it for a short spin and I have to say it was pretty nice. That Trillium looks like it could be made from a similar tubing given its weight and shape of the tubes. If it fits your budget I think it would be a good choice.
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Old 01-25-16, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
Our 2003 steel CoMo Speedster weighs 36 lbs. naked. Last year we made $12,000 by losing 10 pounds between us instead of buying a 10 pound lighter Calfee. Maybe we can make another $12,000 this year! Of course we've ridden our $3,000 used CoMo for many years, so we're in a different situation.
When our Rodriguez was being built, we recognized that we had chosen rather beefy components, largely because our riding preference is to ride out in the middle of nowhere on long tours. Even our day-rides have us out of cell range most of the time, so we're willing to add some weight for durability. To compensate for that, we lost twenty pounds while the bike was constructed. We've since seen another ten pounds go missing, making this by far the lightest bike we've ever ridden. In a few more years, it may have a negative weight.
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Old 01-26-16, 11:05 AM
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We really can't lighten up the riders much . . .
Total weight of pilot + stoker is under 240 lbs.
Total combined age is 163.
Yeah, growin' old is not for sissies!
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Old 01-26-16, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
We really can't lighten up the riders much . . .
Total weight of pilot + stoker is under 240 lbs.
Total combined age is 163.
Yeah, growin' old is not for sissies!
That's living Zona, I got out to AZ last summer for riding while the Mrs attended a seminar.
I got to spend a day riding Sedona, the Black Canyon Trail and South Mtn. In Phoenix.
You guys are blessed with our Fla weather, but a lot more elevation, rocks, etc. Hoping to get back this year.
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Old 01-26-16, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by geronimo2000 View Post
they are night and day compared to the Burley Duet we rode before.
In which ways are your newer bikes better than your Burley Duet? I'm not baiting you. We have a Duet, which for the most part does what we need. It is, however, a beast when climbing. I'm trying to determine if a different bike would be worth the expense. FWIW, there are no epic tours planned.

Thanks.

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Old 01-26-16, 02:08 PM
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I think there's an issue of team weight and power. I'm certain a lateraless Supremo would be too flexible for our taste. (we can twist our Robusta, with a lateral tube more than we like).


Our Calfee Dragonfly is both dramatically stiffer in the ways that matter, and more comfortable than our Robusta. However, 24pound Calfees are not inexpensive.

Depending how much a few pounds of weight, and some flex matters to you, the Supreme could be a viable option.

Money no object, I don't think you can beat a CF tandem from Calfee or Landsha
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Old 01-26-16, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by engineerbob View Post
In which ways are your newer bikes better than your Burley Duet? I'm not baiting you. We have a Duet, which for the most part does what we need. It is, however, a beast when climbing. I'm trying to determine if a different bike would be worth the expense. FWIW, there are no epic tours planned.

Thanks.

Bob
We've gone from a burley Duet to a CoMotion Robusta, to a Calfee Dragonfly with ENVE components and Di2.

The only similarity between the Duet and the Dragofly is that they are both bikes.

Best comparison I can give is the Duet is a Lamborghini, specifically a Lamborghini farm tractor, and the Calfee is a Ferrari 488.

The Calfee is 26 pounds lighter. That amount of weight is dramatic in climbing acceleration, handling, and simply loading the bike on a car or in the Garage. Think how you would eel riding if you could suddenly lose 26pounds, or if you gained 26 pounds.

The Calfee handles as close to a single road bike as any tndem I've ever ridden. The Burley handles more like a 1980's MTB.

And the components on a top end modern tandem simply work better and are more reliable than the Burley. it shifts better, it breaks better, and 11 speed gives you much better gearing options than a 6 or 7 speed Burley.

The Burley served us well as our first tandem, and there's no reason you couldn't ride one forever. However, there are several order of magnitude difference in the experience of riding a Calfee.
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Old 01-26-16, 02:18 PM
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I also would add that I was a bit skeptical that upgrading from our Duet would make a big enough difference to be worth it. I questioned whether the slow sluggish handling and acceleration we experienced on the Duet was simply intrinsic to a tandem.

When we upgraded to the Robusta, the difference was dramatic, and we wish we would have done it sooner. The difference between the Robusta and the Calfee are more subtle, but it puts even more ground between itself and the Burley.
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Old 01-26-16, 04:21 PM
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Our 2004 CoMotion Speedster weighed in at around 32 lbs with bottle cages when I first built it up - it's probably about the same now - although I don't bother worrying about weight all that much. It's a great bike and the ride is great. I compare it to my two Brent Steelman steel custom frames I rode as singles. I started riding CF road bikes in 05 and just bought a new Tarmac Pro last year. I will say that as far as climbing goes - I can definitely see the advantages of the lateral stiffness - especially in the BB of the CF frame. Would love to translate that to our tandem as we are a 350lb team. We are talking about our next tandem and CF is high on the list - but honestly the steel has been so good it makes the choice more difficult.
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Old 01-26-16, 05:29 PM
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It really depends on your budget and riding preference. If you want to stay on a reasonable budget (eg. $4,000 or less) and ride less than 60 miles/day at a comfortable pace, then the entry-level Co-Motion, Santana, Rodriguez, etc, should be fine. They will typically use steel or aluminum frames.

If you're willing to spend more than $5,000 and do challenging rides (100 miles with more than 3,000 ft of elevation gain), then it's worthwhile to consider carbon fiber (Calfee, Landshark) and magnesium (ie. Paketa). Everything else being equal, CF is lighter than steel, and is easier to tune for a specific ride (eg. lateral stiffness, vertical compliance). My wife had sticker shock when she saw the Calfee, but she loves the ride and is happy with the purchase. The Landshark and Paketa are also excellent options.

Regardless of the brand or model, it's important to do a demo ride. It will help you to find your ideal ride, and also learn the proper riding techniques (starting and stopping, shifting, absorbing bumps, etc) so you won't scare your stoker.
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Old 01-26-16, 06:35 PM
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geronimo2000
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Originally Posted by engineerbob View Post
In which ways are your newer bikes better than your Burley Duet? I'm not baiting you. We have a Duet, which for the most part does what we need. It is, however, a beast when climbing. I'm trying to determine if a different bike would be worth the expense. FWIW, there are no epic tours planned.

Thanks.

Bob
The Burley was our introduction to tandems and it was a good bike that we could have continued to ride. I could never keep the die compe brakes adjusted and the eccentric kept slipping and the 8-speed cassette was clunky, but we could have kept riding it. The new bike weighs 20 or 25 pounds less and that makes it nimbler and easier to climb with and just generally faster and easier. Getting a frame that was built expressly for us and components that were exactly what I wanted only adds to the experience. I'm glad we learned on a less expensive bike because it helped me know what I was looking for when we upgraded but I have no regrets about investing in the Trillium. (And as much as I'm tempted to spring for a Calfee, at this point I'm just loving the ride I've got.),
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