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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 Janís 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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