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Santana Synergy VS Calfee Tetra

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Santana Synergy VS Calfee Tetra

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Old 06-13-18, 12:07 PM
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quickrelease5
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Santana Synergy VS Calfee Tetra

I am going to to buy one of these two "dream" tandems. There is nothing but praise for the tetra, but where are the opinions on the santana synergy? the bike has a titanium/carbon composite frame. Does anyone own a synergy frame? Thanks.
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Old 06-13-18, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by quickrelease5 View Post
I am going to to buy one of these two "dream" tandems. There is nothing but praise for the tetra, but where are the opinions on the santana synergy? the bike has a titanium/carbon composite frame. Does anyone own a synergy frame? Thanks.
We've owned Santana and Co-Motion tandems, and currently ride a Tetra. We love our custom Tetra but Paketa and Landshark are pretty cool too.

FWIW, I think that Santana is driven more by ideology ("Santana's Way") than by superior technology. If you review its history, you'll notice a tendency to take a hard-line stance, and then finally reverse its position when other ideas gain traction. For instance, Santana claimed that a lateral frame was superior, but now the Journey, Synergy, and Evolve frame have eliminated the lateral tube. This happened after Co-Motion, Calfee and others have been selling "open" frames for years.

With brakes, Santana really pushed for the front caliper and rear disc combo. It argued that the front rim was essentially an extra-large disc, and would generate superior braking with long arm v-brakes or caliper brakes. Now that hydraulic brakes are ubiquitous, Santana offers front disc brakes on the top-of-the-line Evolve. Santana continues to push its proprietary 10" rotors, which are over-kill with hydraulic disc calipers. No one else uses 10" rotors so Santana is probably protecting its inventory.

The Synergy is a ti frame, which has benefits and drawbacks. As a former Merlin owner, I liked the ti feel, low maintenance, and durability. The Synergy ti frame is a good design but it's not really a "dream" frame. Santana used to claim that its Isogrid was a dream frame material, but it's no longer in production. The Synergy frame heavier than carbon, and doesn't match the ride of a carbon frame. Carbon is easy to fabricate in any shape or stiffness, and can be made to feel racy or plush. Carbon can also accommodate a wide range of stoker sizes,and is easy to repair. If you walk into any bike shop, you'll see that carbon is the overwhelming choice for high-end bikes.

So for $12,500+, I would recommend Calfee, Landshark or Paketa over the Santana.
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Old 06-13-18, 10:23 PM
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We bought our Calfee in 2011 and have been super happy with it, I can't imagine a tandem getting any better.
Previous to that we had a Santana Sovereign. It was a great bike but the Calfee rides so much better.
I also did not like the Santana proprietary features such as 1-1/4" stem, 160mm rear wheel.
Having said that, Santana does make great tandems and it comes down to a personal choice as to which one meets your needs the best.
I know it can be difficult to find high end tandems like these to test ride, but I would try to do that.
Still a limited test ride will only give you an idea of how the bike feels and functions.
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Old 06-14-18, 04:08 PM
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We also bought our Calfee Tetra in 2011and we have ridden it nearly 40,000 miles in that length of time. We based our decision on a detailed report by "The Tandem Geek" where he reported their purchase of a Calfee Tetra. His wife made the comment that is was the most comfortable tandem that she had ever ridden. That was a deal closer for us. We hade a new Santana Targa built for us back in the late 90's that was their racing model, it had conventional wheel spacing and racing geometry. As we were transitioning back to tandem riding after several years of being away we bought an early Santana Visa or Vista model that had the newer more touring geometry and I did not like the handling at all, the steering was too slow. The Calfee handles more like a single.

we are very happy with our Choice.
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Old 06-15-18, 07:00 AM
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Wow, the tetra lovers seem to outnumber the synergy lovers by a large margin. While we are on the topic, any thoughts on the new Santana carbon frame, which has yet to be released (the evolve)
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Old 06-15-18, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by quickrelease5 View Post
Wow, the tetra lovers seem to outnumber the synergy lovers by a large margin. While we are on the topic, any thoughts on the new Santana carbon frame, which has yet to be released (the evolve)
I think there's another affect here. People with custom frames tend to love them more. When you get a custom tandem made, it should fit you both perfectly, ride perfectly, and match your lifestyle and aspirations. The Santana Synergy is probably a great bike, if it happens to fit your sizes and goals. For the same cost as a stock Synergy, you can get a completely custom dream bike from some smaller brands. We ride a custom Granite Tandem Design ti bike that's comparable to the Synergy in many ways, but much better suited to our goals than the Synergy would have been.
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Old 06-15-18, 10:38 AM
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If you are going this level/price, I would say custom work is worth it for a tandem. Although my wife and I are fairly typical sizes, we found that getting a custom (geometry) bike made things much nicer/easier. We didn't have to start with an adjustable stem, etc. We both got professional bike fits and then forwarded the measurements to Land Shark. He made the bike from those measurements.

More to the original point, we were able to test ride both a Santana (mid range, I don't remember which) and a Calfee Tetra prior to making a purchase. We liked Santana least. It just felt conservative - slow handling and not quick off the line. We are both used to riding carbon race bikes on the road and the Calfee felt much more like those than the Santana. The bike shop owner told us that Santanas have that slower handling feeling across their line. You may want that in a bike - there are a couple people in my bike club that bought Santanas specifically because they liked the ride characteristics.

We ended up going to Land Shark due to price, reputation and proximity. It was less expensive than the Tetra for custom work and build spec. We liked the work we had seen from Land Shark and we are in Oregon, so we were able to drive to pick it up. We were not able to ride one before we bought it, though I would say it is most similar to the Calfee of the bikes that we test rode.
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Old 06-15-18, 12:26 PM
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We have about 10K miles on a Santana Beyond PHD and have very much enjoyed the bike. We are a large team (400lbs) and find that the bike has excellent ride qualities and stiffness. We did recently have an issue with a small crack in on of the welds and Santana was very good to deal with and fixed it with no issues. When we purchased the Beyond we were also looking at the Calfee and were quote a 6 – 9 month lead time and we couldn’t find one to test ride. The Santana had 4-6 week lead time and although the local dealer did not have one in stock Bill sent his personal bike to the shop for us to use for the weekend (we are relatively local to Santana).

I have only really put miles on Santana tandems (moved from an Arriva to the Beyond) so I can’t compare steering of the different brands but I have no issues with the Santana. All I can say is that when we are in a group with singles or in a pace-line the bike is very stable even if the stoker moves around a bit. We have also had the bike over 60mphs on decents and again it was extremely stable.

That being said I am not a Santana fan boy and if buying a new bike I am not sure it would be a Santana. I would look at several brands including the Calfee. The decision would depend on being able to throw my butt over the saddle and take the bike for a spin, I just don’t think I could spend that kind of money without riding one first.
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Old 06-15-18, 12:45 PM
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We're very happy with our Santana Ti-700 with Exogrid, the likely predecessor to the Synergy. It is a very comfortable ride that does not noodle when we get out of the saddle. We're not a "go fast" team though we've done some very challenging rides, the bike is much more capable than we are. My single is a Trek Madone 6 and I do not find issues on the steering and handling of the tandem, I like the stability. I have not ridden a Calfee (maybe a good thing, I don't know what I'm missing) so I cannot give you a comparison.

When we want to CC tour, I can install racks and 40 spoke wheels and turn it into a capable tourer. Ours is coupled and we travel with it so it is nice not worrying about scratches and paint chipping with titanium.

I have not had an issue with Santana's proprietary components. The only things different are the 1-1/4 headset, 160 mm rear wheel spacing and the larger disc. Everything else is standard.

So, for us the Santana works.
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Old 06-16-18, 12:19 PM
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wow, this is a real head scratcher. it would be great to test ride these carbon tandems, but in the east there is not a tandem shop that I know of that has 15K bike test bike, and to compare the two bikes, side by side, would seem to be almost impossible. So, I guess It's nice to get a bunch of opinions here and then just act on faith, probably blind faith.
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Old 06-16-18, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by quickrelease5 View Post
So, I guess It's nice to get a bunch of opinions here and then just act on faith, probably blind faith.
Keep in mind that, at this price point, I doubt you will be unsatisfied with the results. They are all very nice bikes.
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Old 06-16-18, 01:04 PM
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Originally Posted by quickrelease5 View Post
wow, this is a real head scratcher. it would be great to test ride these carbon tandems, but in the east there is not a tandem shop that I know of that has 15K bike test bike, and to compare the two bikes, side by side, would seem to be almost impossible. So, I guess It's nice to get a bunch of opinions here and then just act on faith, probably blind faith.
I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago, trying to decide between a Calfee Tetra, Santana Beyond, and a custom bike from a small builder. No way to test the custom bike, although I did spend an hour on the phone with a couple who had purchased a tandem from the same builder. But both Santana and Calfee brought demo bikes to the NW tandem rally and my stoker and I were able to take back-to-back test rides on a Calfee dragonfly and Bill and Jan’s personal Beyond. I wonder if a similar opportunity happens in the east. Or perhaps Tandems east may have bikes that you could test if you were willing to visit there.
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Old 06-17-18, 10:20 PM
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Originally Posted by quickrelease5 View Post
wow, this is a real head scratcher. it would be great to test ride these carbon tandems, but in the east there is not a tandem shop that I know of that has 15K bike test bike, and to compare the two bikes, side by side, would seem to be almost impossible. So, I guess It's nice to get a bunch of opinions here and then just act on faith, probably blind faith.
There's no need to rely on someone else's opinion or blind faith. I assume that you're planning to upgrade from Cannondale to get a better bike fit and overall performance.

Your first decision is aluminum vs titanium vs carbon. Most bike shops will have aluminum and carbon bike for demo. Ti bikes are now scarce so you'll have to find specialty builders. You should be able form your opinion after a short test ride. For example, you should be able to feel the difference of the Trek Domane SL and Domane ALR frameset, You should also be able feel the different geometry of the Domane ("comfort") vs Emonda ("race"). The single bike demo will confirm your preference for aluminum (Co-Motion) or titanium (Santana). If you prefer a single carbon frame (eg. Trek Domane, Specialized Roiubaix, Giant TCR), then Calfee and Landshark will be your best choices.

Once you choose your frame material, your potential builder should offer good suggestions about geometry and fit. They should be able able explain how the geometry will fit your body measurements and intended use (touring, fast centuries, gravel, etc). The quality of customer support at this point should clinch your decision. For instance, Calfee answered all our questons before we made a deposit. Not surprisingly, their after-sale service exceeded our expectatons. I've heard similar feedback about Landshark's custom frames.

With any custom frame, you have complete control over drivetrain (Di2 vs eTap), wheels (eg. Rolf, Spinergy), brakes (hydraulic disc vs rim) etc. Your builder will also help match components to your riding style and budget. So your options range from really good to stellar.
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Old 06-18-18, 08:28 AM
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Like DKMcK, We're very happy with our Santana Ti-700 with Exogrid. We find the bike to be responsive as well as extremely stable. After 2 1/2 years of riding we have had no component failures. While I may be old school, I actually like the front rim brake with a rear disc. This brake arrangement gives me quick braking while still no worries about overheating the brakes on long downhills.

The Ti frame with Exogrid has worked out well for us as well. We like the smooth ride that the Exogrid gives combined with the Ti stiffness. We notice this primarily on rough roads. A custom frame was not needed for us, I am 5'10" and my stoker is 5'6" which makes us a perfect fit for Santana's medium frame. A Ti frame is also very worry free and low maintenance.

I am sure that you will not have any regrets on any of the bikes discussed. They will all provide you and your partner with an excellent ride.
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Old 06-18-18, 12:05 PM
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Take this from a very biased post as we have 2 Calfee tetra's. Our first was built in 2008 and the new one in 2017. The one thing that I think the Calfee (and maybe Landshark) have going for them is the ability to modify in the future. Our original bike went back a couple of times to modify for internal routing of Di2 and then a new fork for front disc and additional support on the rear chain stay/seat stay for hydraulic brakes. In addition repairs if needed are rather straight forward. Our new bike was done with adventure in mind and they worked hard to customize it to allow multiple wheel set options (both 700c and 650 b options) thru axle fork, 142x12 rear spacing, nude carbon finish. Calfee is open to customization , I highly recommend Craig and his team with one small caveat and that is they are not super fast so expect to take some time to build the frame. Both of our bikes are build with high end components and ride incredible. DI2, hydraulic brakes, couplers, belt drive all work to provide dependable use. If you plan on traveling at all consider couplers as that is a difficult retrofit. We have many thousands of miles on the original bike and it rides like new still and few thousand on the new bike and it does it all well. Enjoy whatever you ride. I would highly recommend disc brakes front and rear. We have done Mt Venteux and many of the big descents in Europe , New Zealand and Colorado and would not do them with a front rim brake. Even very dogmatic McCready is now offering a front disc brake after years of preaching he would never offer it. It is a fun adventure to build a custom tandem and then reap years of fun with the one person whom appreciates it as much as you, the best money ever spent.
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Old 06-19-18, 01:07 PM
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@quickrelease5, where in New York are you? It might be worth a trip down to Tandems East where you can test ride some bikes.
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Old 06-22-18, 01:13 PM
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We have a Calfee Dragonfly which we love, so I'll admit my bias up front.

That said, I think you have a couple of issues here. First, is the handling of a Calfee vs. a Santana. In my experience, and according to many reports, Calfees tend to handle quickly and ride a lot like single racing bikes. Whereas Santanas tend to be more stable, i.e. less nimble, and handle more like a touring bike. Whether this is good or bafd for you depends on personal preference. For us we love that the Calfee handles as close to our single bikes as any tandem we've ever ridden.

Second, is Ti vs. CF. Ti has some nice qualities, most notably durability ( I still ride a 1998 Merlin Extralight from time to time.) Imho the weight, comfort, and stiffness advantages that can be achieved with CF today substantially exceed even the best TI frames.
Rather than going on about CF vs. Ti, which has been done at length all over Bike Forums, I'll make one more tandem specific comment. For a given weight, you simply can't make a Ti bike as stiff as CF bike. This becomes important IMHO for tandems where eliminating flex between the stoker and captain, and avoiding stoker wag, are important. Admittedly I've never ridden a Synergy, but I just can't imagine that a latereless Ti tandem can begin to compare to a Calfee, which is both extremely laterally stiff, and at the same time a comfortable ride.

If you're a smaller, or less powerful team this may not be as important. But I know for us, I would never be happy with a more whippy tandem.

Third,
IMHO, the CF seat stays on the Santana are a poor idea. Having to join the TI and Carbon adds complexity and a point for failure. And adding CF to the frame takes away one of the advantages of Ti. (superior resistance to abrasions and not having to worry about scratches) CF seat stays on single Ti bikes went out of style more than 10 years ago for a reason.

Fourth, There is the point raised by MtSeymore:
Originally Posted by mtseymour View Post

FWIW, I think that Santana is driven more by ideology ("Santana's Way") than by superior technology. If you review its history, you'll notice a tendency to take a hard-line stance, and then finally reverse its position when other ideas gain traction. For instance, Santana claimed that a lateral frame was superior, but now the Journey, Synergy, and Evolve frame have eliminated the lateral tube. This happened after Co-Motion, Calfee and others have been selling "open" frames for years.

So for $12,500+, I would recommend Calfee, Landshark or Paketa over the Santana.
Santana does a lot of proprietary stuff (i.e rotor size, dropout spacing, steerer tube diameter) and then markets it in a very in your face fashion (the only proper method is the Santana method. That's enough for me to not buy a Santana in itself, but even if you don't take umbrage to the sales tactics, you still need to consider locking yourself in proprietary specs that limit your upgrader epair and replacement options.

I know lots of people like Santanas and Ti bikes, and they may work well for them. For us there are a number of reasons I would favor a Calfee,(or a Co-Motion, or Landshark) over a Santana
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Old 06-22-18, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by DKMcK View Post

I have not had an issue with Santana's proprietary components. The only things different are the 1-1/4 headset, 160 mm rear wheel spacing and the larger disc. Everything else is standard.

So, for us the Santana works.
Until it doesn't. Break a rear hub, or a front stem on a tour away from home and you can be SOL. I've known people to be stuck on a tour waiting for a stem to be shipped in.

Everything on our Calfee can be replaced at any basic bike shop, all from parts routinely stocked for single bikes.

To me, why would you want to limit yourself to proprietary parts, where there's no real advantage to them, other than Santana's marketing hype?
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Old 06-22-18, 04:03 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
To me, why would you want to limit yourself to proprietary parts, where there's no real advantage to them, other than Santana's marketing hype?
The reason is that some teams believe Santana's hype: "All are guaranteed to be lighter, stiffer and more comfortable than offerings from other builders." This bold claim doesn't hold up when you compare Santana to other tandem builders and the latest single bike technology.

For instance, major global builders (Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, Pinarello, Giant, etc) don't use ti frames with carbon stays or IsoGrid-type carbon tubes because they're heavier and don't offer a better ride than a full carbon frame (monocoque or bonded tubes).

Single bikes don't use 160mm wheels because the 135 or 142mm width is strong enough. Full suspension mtn bikes typically use142 x12 wheels, and they're subject to bigger hits than tandems. Another drawback is that the Q factor will be too wide for some stokers.

Another proprietary but impractical standard is the Gen 4 disc rotor (10" or 250mm) with a mechanical disc caliper. Mechanical disc calipers have long vanished from mtn bikes because the hydraulic caliper much more powerful and reliable. Tandems using hydraulic disc brakes get plenty of braking power from 200 or 180mm rotors. It's unfortunate that Santana continues to push this obsolete and proprietary standards when the alternative is lighter, more reliable, and more powerful.
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Old 06-22-18, 05:45 PM
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All that said, Bill Mcready is owed a debt of gratitude for creating the high end tandem market in the U.S. He continues to make good bikes that work for lots of teams, just not for us.
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Old 06-23-18, 01:10 PM
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Got the Santana bashers out!
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Old 06-24-18, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by DKMcK View Post
Got the Santana bashers out!
I don’t think that it’s “bashing” when the OP asked for a comparison of two "dream" tandems. Is it unfair to point out limitations in frame material, wheel spacing, and weak brakes at this elevated price point? After all, Santana has "guaranteed" that its tandems are lighter, stiffer, and more comfortable than any other brand.

My $1,000 single commuter bike has Shimano full hydraulic disc brakes. Why does a $12,500 Santana come with inferior Bengal mechanical disc brakes? Do you really think that a ti frame is lighter, stiffer, and more comfortable than a carbon frame?
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Old 06-25-18, 06:14 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
We have a Calfee Dragonfly which we love, so I'll admit my bias up front.

That said, I think you have a couple of issues here. First, is the handling of a Calfee vs. a Santana. In my experience, and according to many reports, Calfees tend to handle quickly and ride a lot like single racing bikes. Whereas Santanas tend to be more stable, i.e. less nimble, and handle more like a touring bike. Whether this is good or bafd for you depends on personal preference. For us we love that the Calfee handles as close to our single bikes as any tandem we've ever ridden.

Second, is Ti vs. CF. Ti has some nice qualities, most notably durability ( I still ride a 1998 Merlin Extralight from time to time.) Imho the weight, comfort, and stiffness advantages that can be achieved with CF today substantially exceed even the best TI frames.
Rather than going on about CF vs. Ti, which has been done at length all over Bike Forums, I'll make one more tandem specific comment. For a given weight, you simply can't make a Ti bike as stiff as CF bike. This becomes important IMHO for tandems where eliminating flex between the stoker and captain, and avoiding stoker wag, are important. Admittedly I've never ridden a Synergy, but I just can't imagine that a latereless Ti tandem can begin to compare to a Calfee, which is both extremely laterally stiff, and at the same time a comfortable ride.

If you're a smaller, or less powerful team this may not be as important. But I know for us, I would never be happy with a more whippy tandem.

Third,
IMHO, the CF seat stays on the Santana are a poor idea. Having to join the TI and Carbon adds complexity and a point for failure. And adding CF to the frame takes away one of the advantages of Ti. (superior resistance to abrasions and not having to worry about scratches) CF seat stays on single Ti bikes went out of style more than 10 years ago for a reason.

Fourth, There is the point raised by MtSeymore:


Santana does a lot of proprietary stuff (i.e rotor size, dropout spacing, steerer tube diameter) and then markets it in a very in your face fashion (the only proper method is the Santana method. That's enough for me to not buy a Santana in itself, but even if you don't take umbrage to the sales tactics, you still need to consider locking yourself in proprietary specs that limit your upgrader epair and replacement options.

I know lots of people like Santanas and Ti bikes, and they may work well for them. For us there are a number of reasons I would favor a Calfee,(or a Co-Motion, or Landshark) over a Santana


If your 5-figure Ti tandem is 'whippy' then they built it wrong. There is nothing inherent in the material that results in a whippy frame.

I only have a few hundred miles on our new Ti DaVinci, but since it is the same model as the aluminum tandem we rode for the last 8 years I can make some comparisons between the different frame materials. The bike is lighter than our aluminum bike was despite having the added weight of 2 couplers. It feels stiffer when out of the saddle and just about the same otherwise.

If we were not building the bike with couplers I would probably have gone with CF just because I'm more familiar with it from my single bikes and have never ridden a Ti bike before. I decided an unpainted Ti frame was better for a coupled/travel bike, although I know lots of people have no issues travelling with a carbon tandem.
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Old 06-25-18, 08:56 AM
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Tandem frames made of steel, titanium, or carbon fiber can all be made "whippy", overly stiff, or somewhere in between. Historically, many titanium tandem frames have been on the whippy end of the spectrum. Tubing and couplers weren't readily available in sufficient diameter for boom tubes; chainstays were the same as single bikes; bottom bracket standards limited space in the most critical location. Comparing a modern, well thought-out Ti frame to an older design, there are substantial differences in lateral stiffness. All the Ti frames mentioned in this thread -- Santana, Granite, DaVinci -- shouldn't disappoint on lateral stiffness. I haven't ridden a Calfee, but I've piloted quite a few Ti tandems. Ti tandems can definitely be made stiff enough for two powerful 200lb athletes; they can also be made to mimic a vintage noodley frame. A good builder should be able to make the bike feel the way the client wants.
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Old 06-25-18, 12:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Alan_F View Post
If your 5-figure Ti tandem is 'whippy' then they built it wrong. There is nothing inherent in the material that results in a whippy frame.

I only have a few hundred miles on our new Ti DaVinci, but since it is the same model as the aluminum tandem we rode for the last 8 years I can make some comparisons between the different frame materials. The bike is lighter than our aluminum bike was despite having the added weight of 2 couplers. It feels stiffer when out of the saddle and just about the same otherwise.

If we were not building the bike with couplers I would probably have gone with CF just because I'm more familiar with it from my single bikes and have never ridden a Ti bike before. I decided an unpainted Ti frame was better for a coupled/travel bike, although I know lots of people have no issues travelling with a carbon tandem.
And the way to build it right is use more material and make it heavier. For a given weight of Ti, and CF, the CF is going to come out stiffer. If you want a more laterally rigid tandem out of TI, you're going to have to use more Ti. And the particular Sanatana, without a lateral tube, appears to be trying to hold down weight, which is likely at the expense of stiffness.

That said I have no doubt that you can make a light Ti tandem that is sufficiently rigid for some teams. But its not going to be as rigid as a comparably weighted CF frame. Depending on the size and power of the team this may be a very significant consideration.

Based on 20 years experience riding TI singles, and 26 years riding tandems made of steel aluminum, and CF, I'm pretty certain that this Santana would not be rigid enough for our needs. We are a bigger team (350lbs, combined 5 second power over 2000 watts) We can flex the rear end of our Co-Motion Robusta to the point it's disconcerting for people to ride behind us. That bike is built with oversized AL tubes and a lateral tube. I'm virtually certain its more stiff than a light weight open frame Ti frame. Conversely, our Dragonfly with the extra stiffness option is rock solid. For us that fact alone would preclude a Ti tandem; it may or may not be an issue for others.

Thus I stand by my point htat if stiffness is a concern, its highlly likely the Calfee is the better answer.

I get your point about Ti being a good material to travel with, mostly because you don't have to worry about abrasion( and that's why my I put S&S couplers on my Merlin).
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