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A review of the DaVinci Designs Grand Junction

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A review of the DaVinci Designs Grand Junction

Old 07-30-20, 01:12 PM
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Badidea
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A review of the DaVinci Designs Grand Junction

Howdy folks! Iíve lurked a bit over the years and only got into tandems about 2 years ago but after a bit of a journey, I now have a DaVinci Designs Grand Junction. I wanted to share a few words about the bike, working with Todd at DaVinci Designs, and a few of the changes Iíve made to my set up.

First of all, I really think if you are on the fence about getting a DaVinci, you probably should just get it. Iím writing this on the assumption that you know about the Independent Coasting System (ICS) but if you didnít fully understand it, it does allow the captain or stoker to take a break at any time and without really impacting the other rider.

There are some situations where this system makes a huge difference, such as startups, as the stoker can pedal while the captain clips in. This is especially helpful on hills. Iíve also found it immensely helpful on tight maneuvering, U-turns, and rough off road areas where the stoker can pedal while I keep a foot down or even walk the bike a bit.

In particularly bumpy or rough sections, the stoker can simply assume a brace/bump posture and stand on the pedals indefinitely. This is great when there are just too many bumps for the captain to call them all out. The captain can pedal on their own, making those split second pauses for bumps before resuming pedaling.

And finally, the ICS is perhaps most useful when one rider is considerably different than the other. You do not have to agree on when to stop pedaling to take a break. Just pretty much stop anytime you want. The other rider can pedal while you rest, stand up, get a bottle of water, etc. This is great with kids perhaps, too. You passenger can pedal or not. In my case, Iíd rather have my kid not pedal at all than smoke themselves and completely bonk. On my first tandem, I noticed I could really feel the extra resistance from my kid as I was actually powering their legs along too. It is not insignificant.

Staying in sync is noticeable if riders are both putting out some power, but with a bit of coordination, you can ensure you are both pedaling in sync. Otherwise you can feel the bike lurching a bit from side to side.

Shifting has a slight concern. With my kid, I pretty much ignore their input when shifting as thereís so little power input anyway. With my wife, I have to call out shifting to help unload the chain.

The ICS does not enable the riders to provide input at different cadences. If one person is pedaling at 90 RPM and the other is only doing 30, then that 30 RPM rider is obviously not providing any assistance. So teams will still have to work together to determine a cadence that works for both. This is probably obvious to most everyone out there but I wasnít 100% certain what would happen if one rider was pedaling faster than the other so I thought Iíd mention it. I tend to pedal faster than my wife who does ask me to slow it down a bit. On the upside, if your partner is not pedaling as fast than they are not providing any drag either. . .

I started with a Cannondale Road Tandem 2 about three or four years ago. Overall, it was a great machine. I really liked it. Solo. But my wife wanted to take breaks way too often. Obviously, when you have a conventional tandem, if your stoker takes too many breaks, you just donít make very much forward progress. My daughter didnít put very much effort into pedaling, so not only was I carrying her around, but she actually made pedaling even more difficult for me. I also two a kiddie trailer made by Weehoo so my overall load of ďdead weightĒ frequently exceeds 150lbs.

The DaVinci fixes all of that.

I started talking to Todd a couple years back, but it was only recently that I finally was able to purchase. I was able to meet up in Denver and test ride a Grand Junction. I was sold on it within minutes. I settled on the Grand Junction. While perhaps my aluminum framed Cannondale RT2 was the ďsuperiorĒ bike (aside from the ICS) when compared to the steel Grand Junction, I decided it was actually just fine for my needs. If I was going to get one of the high level models from Da Vinici, then I would likely also want couplers, which would raise the price quite a bit indeed. Perhaps my next tandem. . .

It showed up in a sizeable box, very well packaged and was not particularly difficult to put together. I didnít care for the handlebar shape and swapped them out for a Surly 48CM ďTruck StopĒ set. The width of the Surly bars gives the Grand Junction a real peculiar handling coming from the Cannondale. I also went with one of the Kinekt shock absorbing stems. These are quite new and perhaps not widely available but I highly recommend them. The Stock seats are pretty nice I suppose but I already had a Selle Anatomica so I kept that. The olí ThudBuster I had didnít fit the rear seat stem and I later determined no ThudBuster would fit my needs (or stokerís needs) due to the trailer I tow. Basically, the Thudbuster adds about 3 or 4 inches (canít remember exactly) and with the added height required by the Weehoo, the seat post would be too tall. Iíll probably get a shim and use the thudbuster when not towing the Weehoo, and then perhaps add a Kinekt seatpost. After using their stem, I want the seatpost now too. Iíve recently installed some Profile Designs aerobars and find those to be pretty nice to relax a bit on longer rides. I found they didnít work out so well on the Cdale but the Davinci tracks so well Iíve had no issues.

One really great part that came on the Grand Junction is a super wide set of stoker bars. The Cannondale setup was too narrow for me. I did put a Tubus rack on the back, changed out the slickish road tires for 1.75 dual sport tires (Continental Travel Contact), further giving me a truck like feeling on the steering. This is in comparison to the RT2 which to me felt extremely lightweight when steering, almost twitchy, (Note: Iíve since swapped back to the 1.25 inch Kenda Kwickrollers during an attempt to hit a Century with my kid.)

The biggest change I made was super low gearing. The rear cassette was swapped out with a 12-36, the intermediate gearing was changed, and I changed the smallest front chain ring for an even smaller one. Todd was extremely helpful. I calculated it at one point but I think Iím rolling around with a range of 16-102 gear inches. Imagine having a front chain ring spread including a 22T and a 48T chain ring.

The super low gearing option to me is one of the great things about the DaVinci. On the Cannondale, the shifting involved a derailleur extender and a Sunrace cassette that just never really worked. The higher gears were actually unusable on the Sunrace as the chain didnít wrap around the 12tooth rings enough. Trying to gear down even lower by changing out something on the front chain rings just didnít seem very easy. With the DaVinci, Iíve been able to get this incredible range and the shifts are very smooth.

With the kids and bike trailer and my general mix of laziness and weakness, I need lower gearing. Between the bike (approx. 50lbs), trailer, passengers and water, Iím towing up to 200lbs of dead weight so even shallow grades become suffer fests. I can now crawl up hills at 3 mph. I still suffer, but its better this way. Again, Todd was super helpful, answering my questions and coming up with the parts I needed to give me some really low gearing. Of course, the top speed (powered) is around 25 mph beyond which only the grade of the hills can get me faster. If my wife saw me hitting 40 mph towing the kids behind like the Cdale. . .

This bike now allows me to take the kids along for some pretty lengthy rides. While the old Cannondale rides rarely exceeded 10 miles, Iíve done rides of up to 83 miles with a 10 year old. I do not believe this would have been possible without the ICS. Iím sure there are kids out there that do centuries all the time, but mine donít so the ICS just works for me. This way, my kid (or wife) can stop as often and as long as they like when they get tired and I can continue to pedal along.

Do I have any issues, or criticisms of the bike? Not really. I think one small critique are the cage mounts for water bottles. They are just slightly too high and the taller camelback bottles (24 oz, and 25 oz insulated) are touching the top of the frame. Its not the end of the world but still. There are 5 mounting locations, however, I can only use 4 as the 5th is located where I keep my frame bag with tools and such. The are adapters, such as the B-Rad mounts that could lower the cage a bit, but Iím cool with the locations for now.

The rear disc brake does limit you a bit when it comes to rear racks. Iím also limited due to the ďgoose neckĒ style mount of the Weehoo. But I was able to locate a Tubus rack that fit the disc brakes, and had enough clearance for the Weehoo. I know that DaVinci has a different disc mount on their other models. Frankly, Iím pretty happy that Iíve got disc brakes front and rear so I can work with the rack mount issue.

There is a price premium for the ICS of course. If you are happy with a conventional drive set up, you can even find a wide range of brands and models used and save even more money. I didnít see many DaVinciís for sale and those that I did were smaller sizes so not helpful for me. For me, the ICS opened up possibilities that were not there before and Iím grateful for that.

To summarize this, Iíd just like to emphasize the great experience Iíve had dealing with Todd over the last couple of years. He has been extremely helpful in setting up my Grand Junction in a way that works for me. The ICS makes tandeming a much more enjoyable experience. I highly recommend a DaVinci to anyone who is thinking about getting them.


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Old 07-30-20, 01:24 PM
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Thanks for the detailed review! Weíve ridden da Vinci tandems since 2001 and have ridden a tandem since 1990. By the way, you can lower the entire gear range on a da Vinci by changing the double block freewheel ICS cogs from 17t to 18t or 19t as well.
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Old 07-30-20, 01:52 PM
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I believe my current freewheel set up is actually 20 tooth. I called up Todd and explained what I was trying to do and he has some unlisted freewheel sizes.

Changing out the freewheel is fairly simple but it does require some tools or creative use of tools, explained on the website.

Changing the freewheel blocks to 18 or 19 can be done without altering the timing chains. Going to 20T likely requires some adjustments to the timing chains. I had Todd send me another one so that I could swap back to the 17 or 18t freewheel blocks that I have. He sent me the long and the short one but I found out that only the long timing chain had to be swapped. The eccentrics could handle the rest.
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Old 07-30-20, 02:04 PM
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We have the 19t cogs. With an 11-36 10-speed cassette, we have a gear range of 15-122 inches! Typically we run an 11-32 cassette, but since we moved recently to SW Ohio, with hundreds of miles of paved bike trails nearby that we have taken to riding, we run 12-28 as there is no use for lower or higher gears on the trails. Oh, our gearing is 4x10!
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Old 07-30-20, 02:55 PM
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We've been riding a In-2-ition road tandem for about 8 years. Our experience with our DaVinci is very similar to the OP. Used to ride a Co-Motion Java, but are much happier with the DaVinci! After I developed a very painfull chronic illness a few years back, our bike riding came to a screeching halt for a number of years. To be able to ride again, I added a 500 watt front hub motor to my tandem. Riding has again become fun!!!! We're able to experience the thrill of tandem riding again without beating up my body. At age 72, the combination of DaVinci Design features and electric motor works great. We see many more years of riding in our future.
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Old 07-30-20, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Joint Venture View Post
Oh, our gearing is 4x10!
While Todd @ Davinci is of course the final say in what is possible or not, when I spoke with him it sounds like the 4x10 option is going to be a little harder to do as manufacturers have stopped making certain parts.

I do wish I could have got the 4x option but that is also another drawback to the Grand Junction model is that there are really no options available. If you want a custom color, 700c wheels, etc you'll have to jump up to the next level. But I'm happy the ICS has a low cost entry option and most of the upgrades you can do later on your own a bit here and there.
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Old 07-30-20, 08:28 PM
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The Grand Junction is a strong value! Our Joint Venture is a 2016, so it has the Campy Ergo shifters that allow for the 4x shifting because of the micro clicks on the left shifter. I think this was the last year for 4x shifting on drop bar da Vinci tandems. Of course, a bar end front shifter or Gevenalle brake/shift levers would allow you to convert to 4x shifting in the future. Todd sells the 4x ring setup with conical spacers (ďrampsĒ) still for less than $100.
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