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1984 Santa Sovereign--worth it? Upgrade advice.

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1984 Santa Sovereign--worth it? Upgrade advice.

Old 05-06-19, 10:43 AM
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quemazon
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1984 Santa Sovereign--worth it? Upgrade advice.

I found a Santana Sovereign locally for $500. It's in very nice condition and appears to be all original. I know that Santana is a premium builder and the frame has a lot of inherent "quality". But it's also old, and often the new low end stuff ends up being superior to the old premium stuff (not talking tandems, or even bike specifically).


Even though it has beautiful welds or brazing or whatever, it's heavy. The wheels are 27 inch and the hub spacing is 140mm, making upgrades a bit more challenging. So I see the following options:


1. Purchase it for $500, put new tires, brake pads, cables on it, and use it as is.

2. Purchase it for $500 and spend $500(+) more to upgrade wheels, brakes, shifting etc.

3. Just wait for a more modern option in the $1000 range.


Any suggestions? Thanks!


Just for background, My wife and I have tried tandem a few times and thoroughly enjoyed it. (day rentals, low-end bikes). It's the only realistic way we can bike together. I don't want to drop $3000 on a tandem just to find that it really isn't for us. But I don't want to get junk that will reduce our chances of enjoying it. Long term, I'd like to do some touring in colorado, and later in Europe.
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Old 05-06-19, 12:07 PM
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I'm sure it's a cool old bike. Steel frame? Probably would be a blast for local rides, depending on where you live.

I don't think it would be a good use of funds to upgrade it. There aren't many good choices for 27" tires, but Paselas are respectable. I would throw a pair on, tune it up and call it good.

Personally, although I am a C&V guy, I would want something lighter and stiffer for touring, especially someplace with lots of vertical.

Fwiw, we recently purchased a 2004 Cannondale with 9 speed drivetrain and disc brakes for not much more than you are looking at. Depending on your local market, there are deals to be had.
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Old 05-06-19, 12:29 PM
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It's a good brand, you can count on its original quality. If I bought it I would service it and I would not try to upgrade it. It's an orphan - Probably Suntour drive train, definitely 27 inch wheels and freewheel hub. I held out for a bike I could service with parts available at retail today - that meant V-brakes, freehub, and Shimano-compatible index drive train. I wound up with a 2000's Burley Samba.

Whether it's a good deal really depends on your local market. Sacramento where I live is a bike paradise and our Craigslist has six Santanas for sale right now for $500-2900, six Cannondales, three Burleys, three Fridays, two Co-Mo's, two KHS, and a Gary Fisher. If this is the only good quality tandem for sale in a day's round trip from you, then you gotta decide whether you want a used tandem at all.
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Old 05-06-19, 02:29 PM
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FWIW, regarding the question of whether or not you'll be compatible on a tandem for the long term, if you "thoroughly enjoyed" your first few rides together, the chances are pretty good that both of you will enjoy tandeming. When my wife and I did our first tandem ride in 1985, we just knew at that very moment it was for us! Conversely, the one and only time I rode with my son, he just hated it! I guess my point is that gut instinct seems to tell us very early on if any given pair of riders will become compatible with one another..

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Old 05-07-19, 11:29 AM
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I would think of it as a starter tandem and not try to 'update' beyond what's needed to get it rideable. I bought a 1980 Sovereign new and faced a similar dilemma as it aged.

When a new 'stoker' came into my life a few years ago, we decided to ride it for a while until something better showed up on Craigslist. It wasn't a long wait. We got a Cannondale that fit us much better, had 9 speed index shifting, etc, for $1000. Though it had 700c wheels, it still had the 140mm rear end. But that was a problem for another day.

27 1/4" wheels will not be a major problem, but as noted earlier, tire choices are limited. Of course, sizing is the first consideration. After that, I wouldn't consider buying another tandem that didn't have 145mm rear end, 9 speed index and threadless headset. All of that can be had from any decent tandem built after 2000.

Then again, a mid 80's tandem might have Phil hubs and BB's and an Arai drum brake, which in themselves are very desirable by vintage tandem aficionados.
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Old 05-07-19, 12:05 PM
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Yeah, I came to the same conclusion. It's fun to think about how you would upgrade an older tandem. But you can't just get some sti shifters and be done--you need a rear cassette, which needs a new hub, and you may as well get a whole new wheel. Then you think about those old cranks, and maybe adding v-brakes and pretty soon you're into it well over $1000. And it's still going to be a heavy old steel bike. Best just to ride it as-is. Save the upgrading for something that is closer to what you actually want.

I ended up finding a 2006 burley for not much more than the price of the Santana. No upgrades needed.
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Old 05-11-19, 02:24 PM
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Just make it rideable.

If you keep it as is, but replace the necessary things, you'll have a nice bike for the first year or two. Cables, housing, brake pads, tires and inner tubes should get the bike safely back on the road. Any more than that opens the proverbial can of worms. Totally no worth it. Preserve it for what it is and that maintains its inherent historic value.

If and when you totally fall in love with tandeming, you'll want a bike that meets your needs FAR more than this old Santana ever could. The used Cannondales of the world do this on a very tight budget. And if budget isn't as much of an issue, well then you can shoot for the stars! (And if you do end up touring in Europe, you'll want S&S couplers so you can travel with relative ease.)

And either way, if you end up not using it after a few years, you'll be able to turn it around and resell it for the price you bought it for. That's a pretty sweet deal.
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Old 05-15-19, 04:14 PM
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Call Santana with the serial number. They are very helpful.
I recall there may have been some issues with some earlier Santanas, in the steering tube or perhaps the fork, for which they recommended a retrofit.
When I was shopping for a used Santana a few years back, I called the company regularly with serial numbers and they were happy to help. They could generally tell what year/model/size it was. They steered me away from some older models, telling me the retrofit would make it cost more than buying a newer model. They were not trying to sell me a new tandem, just wanted to help put me in a good used one.
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