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Pluses and Minuses of converting to couplers

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Pluses and Minuses of converting to couplers

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Old 04-10-18, 07:17 AM
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Alcanbrad
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Pluses and Minuses of converting to couplers

Oh great minds of the forum, and Tandem Mavens,

The better half and I are talking about getting a coupled tandem to enable and ease traveling with a tandem, however, we don't want to invest in a new bike as our main ride still has a lot of life in her and looking at coupled used tandems has not not been very successful as they are fairly rare and their resale value is high.

I am kicking around the idea of having our old backup tandem converted to couplers (and maybe disc brakes as well). It is a '90's vintage Santana Visa. I have seen mention of folks doing this in past threads, but a search of the forum did not provide any fruitful leads.

If the cost is right and the minuses are not great, the thought of re-purposing our old bike sounds attractive.

-So what are the pluses and minus of doing this?

-Which frame builders are on the short list to consider engaging with to do the work?

-I am assuming that the frame will need to be repainted, so what is the feasibility to have the rear modified to accept a disc brake?

-Any thoughts or advice on a disc ready front fork?
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Old 04-10-18, 12:31 PM
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It is doable converting to couplers. It can be expensive but maybe not if you have the bike already as you have. One of the issues you can face is if the bike has oval tubing at the coupling points. Couplers are round so that can create the potential for tube replacement which can add to the cost. On "Crazy Guy On A Bike" a couple in Colorado had Bilenky, based in Philadelphia (near your home base) add couplers to their Rodriquez tandem and had good luck. Franklin Frames in Columbus OH might do conversions too. Doing a major restructure like this also provides opportunity for updating the head tube and fork to modern spec's too if you want to change to 1 1/8 un-threaded steer tube.

Good luck on your project!
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Old 04-10-18, 01:19 PM
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Seems like Santana would be the best one to tackle this.
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Old 04-10-18, 01:59 PM
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When we had our Santana built we added the couplers ($1,500) because of the reduced cost to fly. We haven't had a chance to fly with the tandem, and the cost of flying now looks to be the same, coupled or not. If we ever get another tandem it won't be with couplers.
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Old 04-10-18, 02:04 PM
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You should start by looking at the retrofit page on the S&S site and then contacting frame builders in your area that are willing to do retrofits.
Folding Travel Bikes using S and S Machine Bicycle Torque Couplings™
http://www.sandsmachine.com/fbplist.htm
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Old 04-10-18, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by 2592 View Post
When we had our Santana built we added the couplers ($1,500) because of the reduced cost to fly. We haven't had a chance to fly with the tandem, and the cost of flying now looks to be the same, coupled or not. If we ever get another tandem it won't be with couplers.
I've only flown with mine a few times, but on Southwest, it is still a free checked back in the 26x26x10 hard case.
Their requirements are l+w+h <= 62" and <= 50 lbs.

Tandems are supposed to go into 2 cases, 1 for each traveler. Other airlines do suck. Some charge for check bags and some will charge extra for bike even in a normal sized case.
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Old 04-10-18, 02:15 PM
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If you are in NJ, the only place I'd look to do it is Bilenky in Philadephia. They are one of the most experienced retrofitters in the country (maybe the world). I don't think Santana retrofits used tandems.

Tons of threads on here about the pros and cons of couplers, so I'd encourage you to check them out for good background. We have two coupled tandems (Santana Fusion and Santana Cabrio triplet) and I wouldn't buy one without them. But we travel with our tandem about once per year, and the couplers make it much easier and cheaper. Not sure what "2592" means by the cost being the same to fly with and without them, but in my experience that's absolutely not true. We have never paid to fly with our coupled tandems, and we have probably 18-20 round trips to Europe flying with them so far.

If you don't think you will fly more than a few times with it, then maybe the cost doesn't make sense. Or if you'll never need to put it inside a car for transport, etc. Otherwise, we love them.

That said, you may consider selling your non-coupled tandem and putting the proceeds to a used coupled tandem. Might be more cost effective in the long run, as you'll also need at least a touch-up paint job if you get couplers added. I personally wouldn't mess with adding disc brakes to an older frame, especially for a travel tandem (harder to pack IMO), but that's just me.
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Old 04-10-18, 02:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Philly Tandem View Post
Not sure what "2592" means by the cost being the same to fly with and without them, .
Just my understanding of domestic flying. Again, we haven't tried the tandem, so it's just what I know about flying a single bike. Some years ago flying the bike was free, now not so much.

Bruce
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Old 04-10-18, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by 2592 View Post
Just my understanding of domestic flying. Again, we haven't tried the tandem, so it's just what I know about flying a single bike. Some years ago flying the bike was free, now not so much.

Bruce
*Anything* larger than 62" will incur a hefty oversize fee nowadays and that is in addition to the checked baggage fee on most airlines. The point of couplers is to get your bike into a standard sized piece of luggage to avoid those fees. My single is a 59cm bike, but I can get it into the case. It's kind of like Tetris.
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Old 04-10-18, 03:07 PM
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I had an old single converted by Bilenky. Wanted some other framework done to it, which took some of the sting out of paying for the new paint job as well. Flown with it a few times and it certainly is easier. Only downside is the cost and a little weight.

I think I'd scout some for a used coupled tandem before converting an old one as that would likely be more cost effective.

If you are going to the trouble of converting/repainting the frame then I'd certainly add the disc mounts as it won't be that large of an addition the cost.

Fork choice will depend significantly on the geometry. Not a lot of choices. Maybe look first a the current Santanas and then at the WoundUp.
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Old 04-10-18, 03:34 PM
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Coupled Santana Arriva on the tandemclassifieds.com site right now for $1500. If it fits you, that's a good price. A tandem retrofit alone at Bilenky is $1800 + paint and other options that you may want.

Tandem Bicycles For Sale, Tandem Bike Components For Sale
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Old 04-11-18, 01:45 AM
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Bilenky if it's a really special bike

I would gladly recommend Bilenky for your retrofit, but only if the frame you have is custom sized for you or otherwise has something special about it. (The couple in Colorado who retrofit theirs has a custom size.)

We considered a retrofit, but just waited until we found a used coupled frame, and then had it built up by a tandem shop. In the end, it might've been $1000 cheaper, but was a lot more hassle than buying a new bike. (And fittingly, it's a Bilenky (originally built with couplers.)

And we do think that a coupled tandem is worth it.
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Old 04-11-18, 08:18 AM
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We love having a coupled tandem as our primary tandem. We've taken 2 domestic trips so far and paid $0 in baggage fees (Southwest Airlines). We flew with S&S coupled single bikes for the ~8 years prior and never paid bag fees, either. Our older non-coupled tandem took one trip across the country for ~$300 back in 2010. Couplers were a no-brainer investment for us.

The cost of retrofitting an old frame is definitely in the ballpark of a used coupled bike (if you can find one that fits). It's also not too much of a stretch to think about a shiny new bike or frame with couplers. The best value new travel framesets out there are probably $3000 Ritchey Double Switchback, $4000 Co-Motion Speedster/Mocha, or $5000 Granite Tandem Design custom Ti.

I'll add another recommendation for Bilenky if you want to retfofit your Santana Visa. They have upfront pricing on their website for you. With paint, couplers, and disc tab, the range is $2500-$3550. There might be additional costs if your frame has oval tubes that need to be replaced with round ones.

$200 Disc Tab and Support

3) Tandem Retrofit
$1,795
• installation of 6 S&S couplers
• frame alignment
• S&S tandem coupler wrench
No paint is included in this option. Tandem paint touch-ups are priced to order.

+

Tandem powdercoat $525

OR

4) Tandem Retrofit Package
$3350.00
Complete package includes:
• installation of 6 S&S couplers
• frame alignment
• frame-saver treatment
• S&S tandem coupler wrench
• full powdercoat re-paint
• 2x S&S gray cases
• 6x compression members
• 6x cable disconnects
• frame tube covers
Touch-ups and custom repaints for tandems are priced to order.
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Old 04-14-18, 12:00 AM
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Are you sure the rear triangle is up to the load of a disc brake? I remember my frame builder just saying NO to the notion of putting a disc brake on an old frame I was having him make some changes to. That was just a half-bike, so maybe it doesn't apply.
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Old 04-16-18, 08:07 PM
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We have a tandem and a triple with couplers; it makes travelling with the bike very easy.
I don't know anything about adding couplers to a bike but it seems like a pricey upgrade for what you could get a used bike for. If you're looking to have a travel tandem on the cheap have you considered a used Bike Friday? I haven't ridden one but they seem like a reasonably priced travel option.

Trying to add a disk brake to an older frame seems like a bad idea unless the frame builder is going to replace the chainstay; the forces put on the stay by a disk brake will be significantly different than the forces it was designed for with a rim brake.
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Old 04-17-18, 02:28 AM
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We have a Co-motion Mocha with S&S couplers and we would never have another tandem without them.
I've lost count of the number of flights we've taken our on over the last 13yrs that we've had ours. The previous tandem that we owned was a steel Santana Sovereign that we bought in '92
It has made many things possible that we wouldn't have been able to do with a non-coupled tandem.
Such as, hiring a 2 door Mini Cooper and getting the tandem inside.
Taking the front off so we could take the tandem up to our hotel room
Put the 2 cases in a standard taxi to race to get the next flight after being delayed by stupid US border security
Some trains only have hanging space for single bikes. No problem when you can hang the tandem in 2 sections.
We've never had to worry about whether or not there is room for our tandem on plane.

If I were you I'd be looking at second hand tandems. I've seen the same tandem as ours which is a step up from a Visa for less than what it would cost to convert yours.
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Old 04-20-18, 06:35 AM
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Thanks for the feedback everyone. Excellent discussion and great advice and suggestions. After considering it all, we have decided to wait a bit while looking for a used coupled bike.

Being the consummate engineer, I created ye olde spread sheet to do the cost comparisons and interestingly, the cost of converting our old bike with the wheel upgrades was within a few hundred dollars of adding couplers to our newer Co-Mo or buying an existing used bike and bringing it up to our needs' albeit without disc wheels.

So the trade offs boiled down to:

-Upgrading our co-mo - +'s none really, -'s adds weight to our regular ride for the convience of 1 or 2 trips a year. Cost: about even
-Buying used coupled = +'s already coupled, -'s no modern wheels disc brakes, Cost: about even
-Modifying back up back - +'s already set up for our team, -'s conversion to disc breaks may require more exten$ive modifications. Cost: a couple hundred bucks more

So I am still in the camp that we would get more for our money to modify our old bike but the total nut is still a lot of money and we are in no hurry so we are going to keep our eyes open and if the right deal comes along, we'll jump on it, or if not, we'll pull the trigger for the modification.

Thanks again, maybe we'll see some of you at the Eastern Tandem Rally. We shouldn't be hard to spot, we'll be the ones on the tandem
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Old 06-03-18, 07:08 PM
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Well the collective advice of the forum paid off. A chance inquiry about another bike for sale lead to an unexpected lead to a bike that we being prepared for sale. I contacted the owner and we struck a deal. We landed a 2011 Co-Mo Primera Co-pilot with a Wound-up carbon fork, thud buster stoker seat post, rear rack and S&S hard cases for about the same money I was looking at to either modify our old Santana or our current Co-Mo. This bike is in very good condition. Purchased new in 2013 and only ridden about 3000 miles over 3 seasons before spending the last few years hanging in a garage. We took it out for it's maiden voyage today and it doesn't need much: A shorter stem for me, flat bars for my stoker, and we'll probably upgrade to a center trak timing belt. After an hour the jury is still out on the seats, so we will need more time in the saddles to know for sure.

The funny thing was the day the bike arrived, we decided to take our old Santana out for a last spin before putting on the market. BIG MISTAKE! We hadn't ridden it in several years and had forgotten how much we liked it and decided on the ride to keep it in the stable. Probably not the smartest move. Never ride a bike you are about sell!!!!



Madien voyage:



The stable is getting a bit crowed

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Old 06-04-18, 12:16 PM
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Originally Posted by Alcanbrad View Post
The funny thing was the day the bike arrived, we decided to take our old Santana out for a last spin before putting on the market. BIG MISTAKE! We hadn't ridden it in several years and had forgotten how much we liked it and decided on the ride to keep it in the stable. Probably not the smartest move. Never ride a bike you are about sell!!!!
Would you mind elaborating on the differences between your old Santana and newer Co-Motions that make you love the old bike so much? We still have our first tandem, but it's mostly for sentimental reasons. Our old tandem has a very familiar feel when we ride it because we've logged so many hours on it, but that's probably its best feature.
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Old 06-04-18, 07:50 PM
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Originally Posted by OneIsAllYouNeed View Post
Would you mind elaborating on the differences between your old Santana and newer Co-Motions that make you love the old bike so much? We still have our first tandem, but it's mostly for sentimental reasons. Our old tandem has a very familiar feel when we ride it because we've logged so many hours on it, but that's probably its best feature.
Great question. I would agree that what you said is a lot of it, but with a little more. The old Santana has a “plusher” ride probably due to more compliance in the frame. The co-mo Carrera is stiffer and fast and a lot of fun to ride,but the Santana is more comfortable once we get it up to speed or on the trail.

That said, we’ll probably keep the Santana for some time and come to the realization that we are not riding it at all and reach the conclusion that it is time to say goodbye.

Are you riding your old bike at all? If not, you should take it out and see what it’s like. I’d be curious to hear.
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Old 06-05-18, 06:42 AM
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We still have our old (1998) Co-Motion Co-Pilot. We kept it as our travelling bike but we haven't ridden it since we got our new Calfee, I imagine that it would feel pretty "old school" and a harsh ride compared to the new bike. Probably keeping it mostly for sentimental reasons.

I still drive an old 1995 Acura Legend. Though it is quite old, I still love it and I couldn't sell it for anything close to what it's value is to me.
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Old 06-08-18, 03:44 PM
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Originally Posted by 2592 View Post
When we had our Santana built we added the couplers ($1,500) because of the reduced cost to fly. We haven't had a chance to fly with the tandem, and the cost of flying now looks to be the same, coupled or not. If we ever get another tandem it won't be with couplers.
I agree with this post if you are using the 1-box Santana case as I do. So far all of our travesl have been domestic and after flying it once we started using bike flights to ship it ahead. Bike flights cost about the same as the oversize charge and you can lock the case and not worry about the TSA inspection. If we ever take it across the pond then we will probably invest in the S&S two case system and take it as luggage.
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Old 06-27-18, 08:30 AM
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I was curious, for our upcoming bike touring trip from Portland Maine to Prague, Czechia how much would bikeflights be and when I used their web site calculator the price was astronomical and not about the same as the oversize charge.

Originally Posted by rlp View Post
I agree with this post if you are using the 1-box Santana case as I do. So far all of our travesl have been domestic and after flying it once we started using bike flights to ship it ahead. Bike flights cost about the same as the oversize charge and you can lock the case and not worry about the TSA inspection. If we ever take it across the pond then we will probably invest in the S&S two case system and take it as luggage.
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Old 06-27-18, 10:06 AM
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Originally Posted by PedalingWalrus View Post
I was curious, for our upcoming bike touring trip from Portland Maine to Prague, Czechia how much would bikeflights be and when I used their web site calculator the price was astronomical and not about the same as the oversize charge.
I have not used bikeflights but when I investigated using them to ship domestically, I found that their cost was about the same as shipping it myself with UPS or FedEx. All they are doing, in simple terms, is managing the transaction with the shipper for you in exchange for a fee. I don't know if the fee is charged separately, or they charge the individual shipper rate and pocket the difference in any volume discounts they get.

I would get quotes from the big international shippers and compare. You might find those numbers close to bikeflights.
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Old 07-02-18, 06:33 PM
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Aw come on you've had your Visa nearly 30 years and hopefully loved it nearly to death. You're older, you're going to travel get a lighter faster easier to travel with bike and love it for another 20-30 years. Besides it's an excuse for shopping for a new bike. I will admit that I watched for used bikes for 5 year's before I found a coupled carbon Beyond in size small.
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