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Position of S&S couplers on tandem

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Position of S&S couplers on tandem

Old 09-27-20, 02:29 PM
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Position of S&S couplers on tandem

I want to buy a tandem with S&S couplers with the front couplers mounted behind the pilot's seat tube. So not a coupled tandem like Co-Motion or Seven Cycles tandems, with the front coupler mounted in front of the captain's seat tube. I know that Calfee tandems come with the design I am looking for. But I was hoping to buy a new tandem which is somewhat less expensive than the high-end Calfees.

Any suggestions?
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Old 09-27-20, 06:04 PM
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Santana and da Vinci to name two.
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Old 09-27-20, 06:44 PM
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I would think that one of the custom shops would build to order using your spec. Someone like R&E have good pricing and make to order.
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Old 09-27-20, 07:09 PM
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R+E makes excellent frames. The couplers on our bike are behind the captain's seat. We considered other possible arrangements, but this arrangement facilitates packing is S&S cases. We lengthened the stoker compartment by 4 inches...a significant improvement over our Santana.

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Old 09-29-20, 05:54 AM
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Thanks to all. Some excellent options to explore further.
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Old 09-29-20, 06:47 AM
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Could also check out Bilenky cycle works.
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Old 09-29-20, 01:40 PM
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Any custom tandem builder should be able to put the couplers where you want them. A good builder will also ensure that your frame fits you and fits within whatever space constraints you'll have.
In my experience packing various coupled tandems, I've worked with tandems that have 1 set of couplers in the stoker compartment, 2 sets of couplers in the stoker compartment, and 2 sets of couplers straddling the front seat tube. To be honest, the hardest packing jobs were some of the ones with 2 sets of couplers in the stoker compartment because the front section of the frame was so large.
It's most important that your bike fits you and your stoker. Let coupler placement be determined by the size case you want to pack it into. Maybe you'll have a few options that easily work, but maybe you'll want extra couplers to pack even smaller.
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Old 09-29-20, 01:59 PM
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I’ve ended up appreciating having a set of couplers in front of the captain’s seat tube because it allows me to easily separate the front triangle from the rest of the bike without having to get inside the drivetrain. This allows me to fit the bike inside our Chevy Bolt. I can undo the front frame couplers and cable connectors in about as much time as it would take to rig up our hitch rack.
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Old 09-30-20, 05:40 AM
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Originally Posted by reburns View Post
Iíve ended up appreciating having a set of couplers in front of the captainís seat tube because it allows me to easily separate the front triangle from the rest of the bike without having to get inside the drivetrain. This allows me to fit the bike inside our Chevy Bolt. I can undo the front frame couplers and cable connectors in about as much time as it would take to rig up our hitch rack.
This is what we do as well. Not having to remove the timing chain and being able to quickly remove the front has made it easy to fit our tandem into lists, cars, trains etc. I would never have the couplers behind the seat tube.
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Old 09-30-20, 06:57 AM
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Many good comments, your bike builder (if that is your plan) will have ideas. The decision for location of connectors is a function of your priorities, likely transportation modes, and the size of the bike.
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Old 09-30-20, 03:53 PM
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Thanks for these comments. Several considerations I had not taken on board.
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Old 10-02-20, 07:35 AM
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We really appreciate having the couplers in front of the captain's seat tube on our Co-Motion. When traveling by train or car, it only takes a minute to pop the front end off and have two parts that are easy to maneuver and fit in mot places. It would be so much more complex if the couplers were behind the seat tube.
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Old 10-02-20, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by geoffs View Post
This is what we do as well. Not having to remove the timing chain and being able to quickly remove the front has made it easy to fit our tandem into lists, cars, trains etc. I would never have the couplers behind the seat tube.
+1 on this, we took a leaf peeping trip to VT last weekend and took the travel tandem in our CR-V for the first time. Only added about 10 minutes to set up time at the starts. (Though this may not work for the OP)
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Old 10-02-20, 02:38 PM
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One of the guys on the Facebook tandem mountain & gravel bikes group just took delivery of a coupled fat tandem he had made in China. I guess you could join up and ask him for details.
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Old 10-04-20, 02:43 PM
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As mentioned by others, if I were in your shoes, I'd be talking to Steve Bilenky and/or R&E Cycles. Either one will build you a custom bike at a fraction of the cost of a Calfee. The downside is that both use a lateral tube design, which increases the number of couplers required, compared to an open frame design a la Co-motion or Calfee.

We talked to Co-motion briefly a year or so ago about building a custom bike (standard frame, but custom component choices) and were very impressed by how uninterested they were in our project. The answer basically was, "take a look at our website, that's what we sell". Others may have had a different experience.

We also spoke with Steve Bilenky and R&E and found both to be exceedingly helpful and very flexible, as was Calfee, which is what we ended up ordering. In our case, we spec'ed the couplers to be behind the captain's seat post because we wanted to prioritize packability in S&S cases over ease of breakdown for car travel.
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Old 10-05-20, 09:38 AM
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I second that ^^.

We rode a coupled Bilenky for 15 years and have referred many people to them for a retrofit or something special.

And weíre now riding a new coupled Co-Motion, which we like a lot, but I agree theyíre not really set up to make changes to their production line. And the coordination between Co-Motion factory and the LBS they worked with was awful (though that was 80% the fault of the LBS).

in both cases, we had the front couplers in front of the captainís seat tube.
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Old 10-05-20, 11:58 AM
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We have been very happy with the coupling on our Ritchey Double Switchback. We went over to the Mississippi Headwaters at Lake Itasca and rode around the lake a couple weeks ago. By taking off the two couplers for the front only I can put the bike in the back seat of our Jaguar XE, which is not a very large car. And I can go from car to riding in under 15 minutes. I have done the same thing when traveling on Scot-Rail trains. If I buy another tandem frame, it will have the couplers setup in such a way to allow the front to be disconnected and not disturb the crank setup.
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Old 10-05-20, 02:13 PM
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Originally Posted by CaliTexan View Post
I second that ^^.

We rode a coupled Bilenky for 15 years and have referred many people to them for a retrofit or something special.

And weíre now riding a new coupled Co-Motion, which we like a lot, but I agree theyíre not really set up to make changes to their production line. And the coordination between Co-Motion factory and the LBS they worked with was awful (though that was 80% the fault of the LBS).

in both cases, we had the front couplers in front of the captainís seat tube.
The bike we were replacing was our much loved Bilenky Sterling. Pure artistry in steel - a wonderful bike that served us well for 25 years. We thought seriously about having that bike retro-fitted, which Bilenky was more than willing to do, but at the end of the day, after shipping, retro-fitting, re-paintiing, re-assembling and so on, it made more sense to look at a new bike. So we talked with Steve about that too. Ultimately, we went with Calfee because we wanted to go with carbon fiber, even though the tandem Bilenky was offering was very attractive, both in terms of its equipment, in terms of his approach to tandems (very like my own!), and in terms of the price.

I think the question of whether to put the couplers in front of the captains seat post or behind boils down to how the OP plans to use the bike. If the idea is to able to break the bike in two for ease of transport in e.g. a car, putting the couplers in front makes a load of sense since you don't have to disturb the drive train at all. OTOH, if the objective is air travel, the coupler placement should be optimized for packing in travel cases. That is the case with our bike, which has couplers behind the seat tube and packs into two S&S cases.
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Old 10-05-20, 03:29 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulGrun View Post
The bike we were replacing was our much loved Bilenky Sterling. Pure artistry in steel - a wonderful bike that served us well for 25 years. We thought seriously about having that bike retro-fitted, which Bilenky was more than willing to do, but at the end of the day, after shipping, retro-fitting, re-paintiing, re-assembling and so on, it made more sense to look at a new bike. So we talked with Steve about that too. Ultimately, we went with Calfee because we wanted to go with carbon fiber, even though the tandem Bilenky was offering was very attractive, both in terms of its equipment, in terms of his approach to tandems (very like my own!), and in terms of the price.

I think the question of whether to put the couplers in front of the captains seat post or behind boils down to how the OP plans to use the bike. If the idea is to able to break the bike in two for ease of transport in e.g. a car, putting the couplers in front makes a load of sense since you don't have to disturb the drive train at all. OTOH, if the objective is air travel, the coupler placement should be optimized for packing in travel cases. That is the case with our bike, which has couplers behind the seat tube and packs into two S&S cases.
Understand that there are many owners of coupled Comotion tandems, as well as other tandems with couplers forward of the captainís seat tube, that have successfully made countless trips on airlines with their tandems packed into 2 airline legal travel cases such as S&S. Iíve done this myself many times. This does not have to be an either/or decision.
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Old 10-05-20, 03:45 PM
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Originally Posted by reburns View Post
Understand that there are many owners of coupled Comotion tandems, as well as other tandems with couplers forward of the captain’s seat tube, that have successfully made countless trips on airlines with their tandems packed into 2 airline legal travel cases such as S&S. I’ve done this myself many times. This does not have to be an either/or decision.
Yep, which is exactly why I carefully chose my words; "...optimized for a travel case." If the primary usage is to break the bike down and stick it in a car, putting couplers in front of the seat post makes the most sense. But if airline travel is also in the mix, one might want to check to be sure that such a configuration could also be stashed in a travel case.
I think we're all pretty much in agreement here.

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Old 10-06-20, 02:21 PM
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Originally Posted by PaulGrun View Post
Yep, which is exactly why I carefully chose my words; "...optimized for a travel case." If the primary usage is to break the bike down and stick it in a car, putting couplers in front of the seat post makes the most sense. But if airline travel is also in the mix, one might want to check to be sure that such a configuration could also be stashed in a travel case.
I think we're all pretty much in agreement here.
Our Co-motion Mocha is fairly big (59cm top tube) and fits into a S&S cases ok with the couplers forward of the seatpost. The issue with a big frame is that we have to completely remove the forks and stem to make it fit in the bags. If the couplers were behind the captains seatpost I'm not sure the front section would fit at all. If you're going to have couplers then it might as well set up for travel.
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Old 10-07-20, 06:18 AM
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Santana places the couplers behind the captain's seat post. But they don't use S&S cases. They have one large case (called the SafeCase) that the whole bike and wheels fit into. It's oversize and overweight, so you generally have to pay for the bag - up to $200 - when you check it on an airline.


We have a Kent Eriksen coupled tandem (now called Bingham Built). It only has one set of couplers, in the middle of the top and bottom tubes. I pack the bike in an Evoc Bike Bag Pro, which is a soft case meant for a single mountain bike. The advantage of this setup is that it requires a lot less disassembly to pack. I don't have to take the fork or cranks off. With the way the wheels fit in the case, I don't have to take the disk brakes off either. If I am concentrating, I can have the bike fully assembled and ready to go in 45 minutes. Packing it takes about the same. With all the traveling we do with Adventures In Tandem, this really makes a difference. We generally have to pay to fly with this case, but the airlines often seem to forget to charge us, and we don't remind them...


The best time I've seen with a three section bike in S&S cases is about 75 minutes, and that was someone who didn't really care about scratches and packed it with somewhat less care than my personalty would ever allow. More typical is 2-3 hours for assembly and another 2-3 hours to pack it. And every time you take it apart, you increase your chances of breaking something. We always carry a bunch of bolts and assorted other small parts when we run tours and something always gets used.


Calfee has started making their coupled bikes like ours now also, although they sell a custom hard case to go with it.


There is no right way to have your bike couplers setup. Each has advantages and disadvantages, It's best to just get a good understanding of them all (and this discussion is great for that) and then choose what works best for you and what you plan to do with your bike. And no matter what you choose, in the end, they all work great.
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Old 10-07-20, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by mikebian View Post
Santana places the couplers behind the captain's seat post. But they don't use S&S cases. They have one large case (called the SafeCase) that the whole bike and wheels fit into. It's oversize and overweight, so you generally have to pay for the bag - up to $200 - when you check it on an airline.
Santana likes to sell their SafeCase and it's wonderful at protecting the tandem and has foam cutouts for all the pieces (with pictures and videos that make packing easier), costs $1,000 and you don't have to use it! I'd buy one if it wasn't oversized and didn't weigh 32 lbs empty.
We have a large Santana Beyond, with the couplers just behind the captain's seatpost and just ahead of the stoker's seatpost. We pack it in two S&S soft/backpack cases, or one soft S&S case and one hard S&S cases (our current configuration). I think even an XL Santana w/ couplers would fit in the S&S cases.
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Old 10-07-20, 10:09 PM
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We wanted to avoid the Santana Safecase because of the $200 fee for oversize/overweight (which is the same price we usually paid when flying United with a full-sized uncoupled tandem).
Our new Calfee has couplers at either end of the stokers top tube and boom tube (i.e. behind the captain's seat post). It's not a particularly large frame and fits easily in two S&S cases, although we have to remove the front forks. I was trying to avoid that, but so it goes. It took us an hour or two to unpack it and assemble it the first time, but most of that time was spent unwrapping the pieces from their individual padded protectors. One of these days we'll have to try disassembling it and packing it back in the two cases. I am not anticipating any trouble.
We looked seriously at Calfee's clever "wide case", which allows the bike to pack by breaking it into just two pieces, but it violated the 70 lb rule, so we went with the two S&S cases.
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Old 10-10-20, 03:07 PM
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We have both a Bilenky (couplers behind captain’s seat tube) & Co-motion tandem (couplers in front of captain’s seat tube), and have travelled overseas extensively with both (not at the same time...). We can easily pack the Bilenky into one S&S case, but that brings the travel weight over 50 pounds, and doesn’t leave much room for other stuff in the case, but packing is clearly easier. Overseas, there have been a few times when the Co-motion’s breakdown (without disturbing the drivetrain) has been handy: easily fits into a taxi; can hang the two sections from 2 hooks in the train’s bike carriage car (when there’s no room on the floor), and on some bike/barge trips they ONLY store bikes from hooks due to room constraints, generally denying use of a tandem unless you can decouple it and hang the two sections on a hook). So, depending on the specific travel circumstances, either bike can have an advantage. Overall, based on our specific travel experiences, we’ve found the couplers in front of the captain’s seat tube to be a more convenient overall.
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