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Adapting/Fiting an Ultegra 6800 11spd drivetrain to Cannondale Tandem

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Adapting/Fiting an Ultegra 6800 11spd drivetrain to Cannondale Tandem

Old 02-22-19, 10:36 AM
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danbee78
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Adapting/Fiting an Ultegra 6800 11spd drivetrain to Cannondale Tandem

Hi everyone, I'm new to Bike Forums as well as to Tandem cycling.

I just bought a 2nd hand 2007 Cannondale Road Tandem and, even though it didn't arrive home yet, I'm already thinking about upgrading the drivetrain and a some of the components that comes with it. My problem is, I'm having a hard time finding tandem specific components on the internet (I was basically looking at chainreactioncycles, merlin and ebay) and since I'm on a budget, I was planning, before buying anything, to take my CX bike's 11spd Ultegra 6800 components, and see how much of that groupset I can adapt to the two seater as a starter, and then buy the missing parts for the tandem, and upgrade the groupset of the CX bike later. But since I'm new to Tandem specific mechanics, I have a few doubts and concerns:

Shifters:

My CX bike has hydraulic brakes, while the tandem has mechanical, so the options seem to be 1) whether to change the tandem brakes to hydraulic or 2) get a new pair of 11spd shifters for mechanical brakes.

1) Any recommendation for hydraulic line kits for tandems? I'm guessing I'm going to need hydraulic brake line support kits as well...
2) I've no problem keeping the Avid BB7's but, will the Ultegra 11spd shifters for mechanical caliper brakes work with them?

Cassette/Crankset:

I'm not sure if I will be able to fit an 11spd cassete on the DT Swiss 540s hub, but eventually I could use the Shimano RX31 wheelset from the CX bike on the tandem for a while, I've used them on all kinds of mountain bike trails and they never went out-of-true.
But the crankset is a different story; and I'd like to refresh them, and go from the stock triple chainring setup, to a double compact, but I understand that I won't be able to use the Ultegra 6800s Crankset as there are no left side timing "add-ons" for that crankset, is that correct? The only Shimano alternative I found, on the same build quality range as the Ultegra 6800s, is the FC-R603 crankset, but that comes with a triple crankset.

3) Is it possible to adapt a Shimano triple to an 11spd compatible double + timing chain on the same side? any experiences with that?
4) What other brands/models of (double compact) tandem cranksets would you recomment to run with a shimano 11spd cassette?

Question for Cannondale Tandem owners:

I have another Cannondale oldie in my garage, and I know from experience that it is wise to keep a little stock of Cannondale replacement parts handy, specially when the bike is more than 10yrs old.

5) What parts did you have to replace in your tandems, or that you'd recommend to get, before it's too late? (sorry, wanted to add some schematics of the parts but the board didn't allow me include pictures)

Thanks a lot in advance.
Dan.
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Old 02-22-19, 08:00 PM
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Hi Dan,
I'm mostly curious about the answers to your questions, as well. But I can contribute a little bit:
Our 2012 version has FSA Grossamer tandem cranks. Something like this: https://www.centurycycles.com/produc...r-209181-1.htm
Might be a starting point for your search. If you do put different cranks on your tandem, you might also want to explore Gates Carbon belts for the timing chain/belt.

Regarding Avid BB7 with mechanical Ultegra brifters: I am very certain that that would be fine, (as long as the Avid BB7s are the road version - which they will be since they are coming with a road groupset on the bike).

As to question 5, I cannot help - so far we haven't had to replace any more obscure part. I think most parts should be sourceable through US specialty tandem stores, such as Tandems East, etc.
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Old 02-23-19, 11:30 AM
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There is the Shimano HG800 11-34 11 spd cassette which is compatible with 10spd limited hubs as one option. The ATB cassettes which are 11spd
are also compatible with 10spd hubs IIRC.
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Old 02-23-19, 01:02 PM
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I do not think you are going to be able to use as much off of your CX bike as you are hoping. It would be difficult to adapt the crank to single side drive due to the chainring design. I do not believe the 540 tandem hubs are 11 speed compatible and the CX wheels are not going to work on the tandem because of the rear spacing being different (135mm vs. 145mm), so the shifting/braking system is not going to be immediately transferable. Particularly if you are on a budget, my immediate suggestion would be to just get out and ride the bike a few months before jumping into upgrades. I find that my shifting preferences, for example, are different on the tandem, and the gearing needs definitely are different. A few months on the bike could usefully inform what you want to upgrade first. There is a significant difference of opinion regarding the BB-7 brakes, I personally find them to be quite acceptable, but you really need to have high quality compressionless housing. If yours does not, then the one thing I would to is immediately redo the brake cable/housing setup.


We have a 'dale a few years older than yours and I don't know of any really Cannondale-specific parts that I would be worried about having on hand. Ours has removable cantilever brake mounts, but I'm guessing by yours that it is disc brake only.
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Old 02-23-19, 06:45 PM
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My advice is don't change anything you don't have to. We're riding a 2003 Ultegra tandem. We've had to replace the 9-speed brifters with 10-speed because they wore out. That meant also changing the FD to 10-speed, but the XTR 9-speed RD works fine with 10-speed. The only thing is that the supply of 10-speed rings is not infinite.

If you get the bike and you love it and love tandeming, start a savings account for a new tandem. They really have to be built from the ground up.
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Old 02-23-19, 08:50 PM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post

If you get the bike and you love it and love tandeming, start a savings account for a new tandem. They really have to be built from the ground up.
If you like how a bike rides, which is mainly in the frame, then why automatically save up for a completely different bike that may not ride as well as the one that you are leaving behind? I think upgrading a frame that one really likes makes a tremendous amount of sense, but you need to know that you like the frame before you start doing it. Why does one have to build a tandem from the ground up?
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Old 02-23-19, 11:24 PM
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Because generations of bike parts are not backward compatible, the frame is the cheap part, and old parts become unobtainable,. Everything wears out. I can't run disc brakes on my machine because the frame and fork lack the "braze-ons". I can run a drum, but one can't do that on a stock modern frame. No braze-on. BBs and cranksets. FDs and RDs, their attachments and cable pulls. Rear hubs and their compatibility issues. The bike needs to be designed from the start to accept particular components, whatever they are. Singles are much less complicated, but similarly you can't run even a 9-speed rig on a 70s road bike, the bars aren't designed for brifters, and you can't even get decent tires for those rims.

I was writing for the OP particularly. C'dales were stiff, inexpensive tandems, but the ride and handling were seldom loved.
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Old 02-24-19, 08:37 PM
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Thanks so much for all the responses, I took notes from each and everyone of them, some being more eye opening than others, such as the one about 145mm rear spacing vs 135 (that never crossed my mind).

I didn't remember that Tandems East had such a detailed catalog of Tandem specific parts. I just took some ideas from there to come up with a first draft of the parts I'll need when I move forward with the upgrade.

The plan from the beginning was to ride the tandem for a couple weeks first, to see if there is something that needs urgent attention. I believe the cable housing is definitely one of them, as I could already see in the pictures of the add, that on a section of the cable that wasn't covered by the housing, the rear brake cable was very loose, which might indicate there is a problem with the housing itself.

Even though my upgrade budget is limited, the reason why I was looking for a Cannondale tandem had nothing to do with budget. I was looking for a 'old' Cannondale tandem because I love the way they used to handle aluminium to build bikes back when everything was handmade in USA. I know there are higher-end tandem makers out there today, but I was looking for that same build quality that stuned me 26 years ago, when I saw an MT3000 tandem for the first time in my life, painted in Indigo blue with the old Pepperoni fork in it. The only thing that made me look for a newer model, was that I wanted a frame with disc brake mounts in it, but as far as I can tell from the pictures, except for the disc brake mounts, everything else is the same as in 1993. If this frame stays in good shape for, say, another 15 years, I'll be happy to keep it updated with the latest components.

So far I know I will most probably keep the mechanical brakes, and try to go for an 11 speed double, also mechanical. I'll post updates to this post with the progress. Any ideas or suggestions are welcome.
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Old 02-25-19, 08:01 AM
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We have 3X10, all Ultegra, on our 2015 Road Tandem. Avid BB7 brakes so yes they are compatible with mechanical Ultegra. Definitely get some miles in on the bike before you look at upgrading the drivetrain. This is my first bike with Ultegra and and I love the closeness of the gears and the crispness of the shifting (I have 105 on my single bike and find myself "overdoing it" when I get back on the tandem and shift the FD for the first time). We could not have built a modern tandem for the price we found our 2015 for, "new old stock" in 2017 (Ultegra, disk brakes, Gates belt drive).
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Old 02-26-19, 01:31 PM
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As others have suggested, make sure the bike is tuned and safe to ride. Then enjoy it for a time getting use to riding tandem. After a time you will know what makes best sense for your team. We enjoy both our 9 speed and our 10 speed tandems and doubt it would make much difference upgrading to 11 speed at this point. If in good working order your bike should be a pleasure to ride for some time.
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Old 02-26-19, 10:00 PM
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We are finally replacing the tandem that was built for us back in 1977. It has the usual Campagnolo components that were found on good bike back then. We ride a lot and would not be buying a new tandem if it was not for the difficulty in finding replacement parts (freewheels, axles, and bottom bracket spindles) for a bike built that far in the past.
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Old 02-27-19, 02:49 AM
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How is what you are proposing to do an "upgrade".
Looks more like spending a reasonable amount of money and time to save a minimal amount of weight and get less gears.
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Old 02-27-19, 10:58 AM
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I strongly recommend that you don't make any changes without riding the bike. Is this your first tandem? My wife and I have been riding our tandem for about three or four years, and it still feels new to us. We are still learning. I have made changes to it, but if I had made any before riding it, they would have been the wrong ones.

And going from a triple to a double crank could be the worst thing to do. I feel like I'm rowing through my gears as if I'm driving a tractor trailer. We go from bottom gear to top gear and back, frequently. We could still use a lower bottom gear and a higher top gear. I recently upgraded the drivetrain, and it has been an improvement. We had a 3x7 drivetrain. I kept the cranks, the front derailleur, and the front shifter. I replaced the rear hub, the rear derailleur, and the rear shifter. We now have a 3x11, and as I said, I wish for a bigger range of gears.

Learning to ride a tandem takes a long time, because so much is about communicating well. We have found that I prefer a faster cadence than my wife does. It's important for the captain to cater to the stoker's wishes. She has a signal for "shift up" so we don't have to pedal so fast. And keeping the bike upright is a constant challenge for me, since I don't have a strong upper body. The bike takes more than twice the focus of mind than riding a single bike does for me. I can barely take a hand off the bars just to scratch my nose.
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Old 02-27-19, 03:07 PM
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Not quite sure what components your tandem is coming with but if it is at least 3x9 with not too much of component wear - stick with it for now. If you want to upgade - what is your reason/goal? Speed? Ride comfort? Safety?

Our tandem is 2005 trek with 3x9 and the only major upgrade we've done are the new wheels (the race lite wheels it came with had broken spokes every 100 miles). We went Spinergy PBO wheelset from House of tandems and that made ride comfort on countryside roads so much better as it does surprisingly good job with road vibrations. I've also replaced the cantilever brakes with mini-vs. I wish there was an easy way to update to disk - so if yours is disk, even mechanical - that's great. I have 11x road bike and 9x crossbike and while I miss the smoothness of 11spd on fast group rides on the cross, I never had the same feeling on tandem.
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Old 02-28-19, 11:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
How is what you are proposing to do an "upgrade".
Looks more like spending a reasonable amount of money and time to save a minimal amount of weight and get less gears.
The adoption of a double crankset is mostly for compatibility reasons/future upgrades, as most of Shimano's high end components no longer support triple cranksets (at least officially). So unless they come up with a new high end road groupset supporting triple cranksets in the future, there will be less options available to refresh a worn out transmission while maintaining the overall quality of the groupset (unless you mix components from different years). I'm most concerned about brifters: as far as I know there won't be any more 11x3 road groupsets for example.
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Old 02-28-19, 11:47 AM
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Originally Posted by noglider View Post
I strongly recommend that you don't make any changes without riding the bike. Is this your first tandem? My wife and I have been riding our tandem for about three or four years, and it still feels new to us. We are still learning. I have made changes to it, but if I had made any before riding it, they would have been the wrong ones.

And going from a triple to a double crank could be the worst thing to do. I feel like I'm rowing through my gears as if I'm driving a tractor trailer. We go from bottom gear to top gear and back, frequently. We could still use a lower bottom gear and a higher top gear. I recently upgraded the drivetrain, and it has been an improvement. We had a 3x7 drivetrain. I kept the cranks, the front derailleur, and the front shifter. I replaced the rear hub, the rear derailleur, and the rear shifter. We now have a 3x11, and as I said, I wish for a bigger range of gears.

Learning to ride a tandem takes a long time, because so much is about communicating well. We have found that I prefer a faster cadence than my wife does. It's important for the captain to cater to the stoker's wishes. She has a signal for "shift up" so we don't have to pedal so fast. And keeping the bike upright is a constant challenge for me, since I don't have a strong upper body. The bike takes more than twice the focus of mind than riding a single bike does for me. I can barely take a hand off the bars just to scratch my nose.


Just curious: what cassette did you choose for the upgrade, and to what crankset model you hooked it up to? did you have to change the chain as well?
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Old 02-28-19, 12:24 PM
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Someone replied to me and then deleted his post. Anyway, yes, I did have to change the chain, as you can't run a 7-speed chain on an 11-speed cassette.

The crank is 28/38/48. The cassette is 11-40, as I wasn't sure my derailleur could handle the 48/42 combination, though it probably could. No big deal about those extra two teeth. I now have a 19-inch bottom gear. It has gotten up the hills so far, and I guess we could walk if we need to. The trouble is, it may involve jumping off quickly, and since my wife is on the bike, I don't want to spill her off.

Sorry I don't have a better picture. I don't remember what crankset it has. The bike has 26" MTB wheels.

The new derailleur and shifter work insanely well, willingly shifting under pressure. We only weigh 280 lbs combined.

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Old 02-28-19, 01:15 PM
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Originally Posted by danbee78 View Post
The adoption of a double crankset is mostly for compatibility reasons/future upgrades, as most of Shimano's high end components no longer support triple cranksets (at least officially). So unless they come up with a new high end road groupset supporting triple cranksets in the future, there will be less options available to refresh a worn out transmission while maintaining the overall quality of the groupset (unless you mix components from different years). I'm most concerned about brifters: as far as I know there won't be any more 11x3 road groupsets for example.
I know that logic. But reason tells me: at the time when an irreplaceable part is broken, it is time to do something about it, likely less so beforehand. Ride what you have and replace when actually needed.

Having said that, I found an ad for a used bike online yesterday that I don't *need* but really would like to ride because the concept is really cool. Trouble is in store! I have proven to myself with all my reason that this bike won't address any transportation or serious recreational needs, but I still want it. Sometimes it's something else that makes us move (and that's fine).
But to me, it sounds like you should be good with what you will get until you actually have that bad diagnosis.
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Old 02-28-19, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by danbee78 View Post
Hi everyone, I'm new to Bike Forums as well as to Tandem cycling.


I just bought a 2nd hand 2007 Cannondale Road Tandem and, even though it didn't arrive home yet, I'm already thinking about upgrading the drivetrain and a some of the components that comes with it. My problem is, I'm having a hard time finding tandem specific components on the internet (I was basically looking at chainreactioncycles, merlin and ebay) and since I'm on a budget, I was planning, before buying anything, to take my CX bike's 11spd Ultegra 6800 components, and see how much of that groupset I can adapt to the two seater as a starter, and then buy the missing parts for the tandem, and upgrade the groupset of the CX bike later. But since I'm new to Tandem specific mechanics, I have a few doubts and concerns:


Shifters:


My CX bike has hydraulic brakes, while the tandem has mechanical, so the options seem to be 1) whether to change the tandem brakes to hydraulic or 2) get a new pair of 11spd shifters for mechanical brakes.


1) Any recommendation for hydraulic line kits for tandems? I'm guessing I'm going to need hydraulic brake line support kits as well...

2) I've no problem keeping the Avid BB7's but, will the Ultegra 11spd shifters for mechanical caliper brakes work with them?


Cassette/Crankset:


I'm not sure if I will be able to fit an 11spd cassete on the DT Swiss 540s hub, but eventually I could use the Shimano RX31 wheelset from the CX bike on the tandem for a while, I've used them on all kinds of mountain bike trails and they never went out-of-true.

But the crankset is a different story; and I'd like to refresh them, and go from the stock triple chainring setup, to a double compact, but I understand that I won't be able to use the Ultegra 6800s Crankset as there are no left side timing "add-ons" for that crankset, is that correct? The only Shimano alternative I found, on the same build quality range as the Ultegra 6800s, is the FC-R603 crankset, but that comes with a triple crankset.


3) Is it possible to adapt a Shimano triple to an 11spd compatible double + timing chain on the same side? any experiences with that?

4) What other brands/models of (double compact) tandem cranksets would you recomment to run with a shimano 11spd cassette?


Question for Cannondale Tandem owners:


I have another Cannondale oldie in my garage, and I know from experience that it is wise to keep a little stock of Cannondale replacement parts handy, specially when the bike is more than 10yrs old.


5) What parts did you have to replace in your tandems, or that you'd recommend to get, before it's too late? (sorry, wanted to add some schematics of the parts but the board didn't allow me include pictures)


Thanks a lot in advance.

Dan.

First off, it looks like you've found a great starter tandem. I'm always amazed at the good prices I find used Cannondale tandems listed at online. I'm riding a 26 year old Cannondale and I still get tempted by some of the finds on Craigslist. If you're indeed new to tandems, I'd echo what others posted about first riding the bike to see how it goes. All this upgrade talk is really putting the cart before the horse if you haven't tandemmed with your partner yet. That's first and foremost.


Second, I took a quick look at the specs of this tandem and it appears pretty well outfitted. Starting with DT/Swiss hubs is, for example, a great head-start! Upgrading to 11-speed just for the sake of having more current componentry is silly, given the quality wheels already on the bike. I didn't see which crank is spec'd, but if it's Ultegra, or similar quality, you'll be FINE! I found the 2007 Cannondale catalog and the Ultegra-level bike is pretty well spec'd. I'd have no qualms whatsoever riding this tandem as is.


Third, the big issue with a used tandem is the condition of the components, mainly the chain and drivetrain. If it has been cared for, and the chains have been replaced before they've elongated too much, then the rest of the components should be fine. Mostly worried about the chainrings, because a new cassette replacement with chain replacement isn't a big deal in the grand scheme of things, tandem-wise.


So, given that your CX rear wheel and cranks won't work with a traditional tandem setup, I'd nix the idea of cannibalizing this bike to make only marginal improvements in spec on the tandem. You'll end up chasing your tail trying to get things to work, realize they don't, and then spending a ton on piecemeal parts assembling this project.


I'd expect if this thing's in a reasonable condition, you and your partner should get a TON of great miles out of it. And if you do wear some things out? Then replace them as you go. The internet is so great for this issue: put notifications on sites like CraigsList & Ebay (among others) and you'll get pings for those "old" parts you need. Or if you're THAT worried about availability, try to find some NOS 9-speed brifters now. And be sure you take good care of the ones already on the bike. Try lubricating the shifter internals - this alone will probably extend their life. Another way to extend shifter life is to replace cables & housing BEFORE they develop so much friction, you're stressing the shifter. With much longer cable distances, housing friction adds up and affects the shifter more than on a single.


And I'd conclude by saying if you and your partner become major tandem fanatics, then you'll want to make the big leap into the world of high-end tandems and leave the Cannondale behind. The overall improvement in frame plus component upgrades will be worth the expense. Plus, buying a complete bike gives you OEM price breaks that you can't realize buying parts at retail. And you can save even more if you find a used high-end tandem. Not many used Calfees out there that weren't properly stored, maintained, loved and protected. Sure, parts may need replacement sooner, but at least you're dealing with high quality throughout and a bike spec'd properly from the beginning.


I hope this perspective helps a bit more. Thanks and good luck!

Last edited by LV2TNDM; 02-28-19 at 04:09 PM.
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Old 02-28-19, 07:57 PM
  #20  
bwebel
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Originally Posted by danbee78 View Post
The adoption of a double crankset is mostly for compatibility reasons/future upgrades, as most of Shimano's high end components no longer support triple cranksets (at least officially). So unless they come up with a new high end road groupset supporting triple cranksets in the future, there will be less options available to refresh a worn out transmission while maintaining the overall quality of the groupset (unless you mix components from different years). I'm most concerned about brifters: as far as I know there won't be any more 11x3 road groupsets for example.
3x brifters never worked very well in my experience. I always tend to swap the front shifting to a simple bar end, which gives you better front shifting and the easy ability to go to 11, or even 12 in the rear. I use SRAM shifting and just use the left brake levers meant to use with their 1x systems, so don't even have the unused shift mechanism in the left brake lever.
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Old 03-01-19, 01:00 PM
  #21  
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Here is another shifting option that we are using with great success, our system is a 1 X but the unit can be set to shift anything from 2 - 12 gears. Front and rear.

Xshifter Wireless Electronic Shifting

And it is currently available from the above site.
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Old 03-10-19, 10:42 PM
  #22  
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IRD still makes quality freewheels. If you are talking about bicycle hub axles than go with Phil Wood hubs. Crank bearing and axle Phil Wood. I have a Burley Bongo and the rear axle bent. Burly sent a replacement axle and that axle bent. I built up a wheel set with Phil Wood Tandem hubs and no bending has occurred in 28 years. I bent the front crank spindle so I ordered Phil Wood bearings and a spindle and used my friends arbor press to push out the spindle and the bearings out of the eccentric and pressed the new parts in. No bending of the Phil Wood parts has occurred in over 28 years. I have Magura HS 66 brakes and the araya drub brake. I did not and will not have the cooling fins machined off to make it lighter. Disk brakes on a Tandem. Plastic melting and brakes failing. I have not tried the Avid disks on my touring single but went through several mechanical disk calipers before I Purchased the Paul Klamper. No plastic no play just stop. The brake arms come in long, short and Campagnolo.
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Old 03-21-19, 07:50 AM
  #23  
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The bike finally arrived

Hi all, thanks so much for all the replies and recommendations.

The bike finally arrived home! and it did in great shape. I spend the last couple days working on it anyway, as the drivetrain had a lot of carbonized lubricant in it, specially the timing chain. The frame and paint are in awesome condition, I can't be happier with the purchase.

I had to order new brake pads, as the rear ones were worned out, but since the stoker and I really wanted to go for a ride, I decided to swap front brake the pads to the rear brakes, and remove the rotor in the front to avoid braking while there were no pads in there. We took a short 10k ride, and everything worked perfectly; those Avid brakes are outstanding, I can't imagine the braking power when both brakes are in working condition.

This weekend we'll go for a longer ride, on a hilly route, to check how that 3x9 drivetrain feels on our legs. So far, in the flat, we could both notice that there were a couple big jumps between some of the gears (because we are both used to 11spd cassettes), but that feeling might well dissapear when a bit more of climbing appears in front of us...we'll see.

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