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What's your favorite tandem frame for fully loaded touring?

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What's your favorite tandem frame for fully loaded touring?

Old 11-17-21, 09:08 PM
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sapporoguy
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What's your favorite tandem frame for fully loaded touring?

I'm interested in hearing from anyone who's done fully loaded tandem touring: What frame have you ridden that's worked out best?
Our touring has been on the Speedster, which has worked out well, although we have nothing to compare it with. I've fairly heavily customized it to suit our needs and can keep doing that--to an extent.
We are beginning to think of what's next. One option we're eyeing is the Co-Mo Java, which would allow fatter tires (45mm vs the 35's we have on the Speedster), appears to be beefier than the Speedster and seems like it would be better for a combination of pavement and gravel.
Again, interested in hearing about your actual experiences.
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Old 11-18-21, 11:55 AM
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We have a Speedster and expect to do a long tour next year. I switched to 650b wheels this fall and have 650bx42 tires without a problem. It might even handle slightly wider tires. I posted a description of this a month or so ago you may want to review.
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Old 11-18-21, 02:55 PM
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Originally Posted by bobh123 View Post
We have a Speedster and expect to do a long tour next year. I switched to 650b wheels this fall and have 650bx42 tires without a problem. It might even handle slightly wider tires. I posted a description of this a month or so ago you may want to review.
Thanks, will check it out.
Just took a look at your post and looks like an interesting option. I do have rim brakes on front, though, and I wonder if they'll align with a 650b rim.

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Old 11-18-21, 09:52 PM
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Our touring frame is a BOB trailer. The only problem is we have room to take too much stuff, which we then have to haul up hills!
We used to pull a Burley trailer which works fine, but the BOB is narrower and I think just a bit easier to handle.
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Old 11-19-21, 01:57 PM
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We also tour on our Speedster. Works great. As above, only thing is that we choose to use fast road tires because we ride 99% on pavement. Our adventures onto farm roads with potato sized rocks and on cobblestones were not wonderful, but we survived with no flats or damage. We have been on one gravel road which had bad washboard and we had to turn back and find another way. My stoker had shaken baby syndrome. I think only full suspension would have made it rideable. We have been on gravel roads with very steep pitches which we did not have the traction to climb and thus had to walk, which was not good.

We know two tandem teams who toured extensively with a trailer. They much preferred that. OTOH they are strong teams who could climb OK with the added weight. Seems like steep gravel pitches might be problematic with a trailer. Our tandem rides much better unloaded and we love the feel of it. At speed with panniers it's fine too, but standing or maneuvering at slow speeds is not good. We'd still choose panniers because we would have trouble with the extra weight and drag of a trailer.
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Old 11-19-21, 02:17 PM
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I have not ridden a tandem with panniers, but we have ridden steep pitches pulling the trailer. Last fall, a couple of gaps in Vermont with 12+ percent grade for 1.5 miles. It was not what we would call fun - but I doubt it would be any easier with the same weight loaded on the frame compared to the trailer.
I'm curious to know if anyone has done both - seems to be mostly 2 camps on which is better.
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Old 11-20-21, 10:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Chilepines View Post
I have not ridden a tandem with panniers, but we have ridden steep pitches pulling the trailer. Last fall, a couple of gaps in Vermont with 12+ percent grade for 1.5 miles. It was not what we would call fun - but I doubt it would be any easier with the same weight loaded on the frame compared to the trailer.
I'm curious to know if anyone has done both - seems to be mostly 2 camps on which is better.
The two teams I mentioned above rode with panniers until they decided to try trailers. They liked the trailers better, including Hwy 1 down the coast.

BOB trailers weigh 19 lbs. Our all up weight with panniers is ~370 lbs. ~5 of that is the panniers. If we went to a trailer, we'd be adding about 4% to our total weight. A good question would be: Is the bike, free of panniers, 4% more efficient to pedal with the trailer?
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Old 11-20-21, 05:31 PM
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I think anyone considering a new tandem frame for loaded touring owes themselves a serious conversation with Rick Jorgenson at Bicycle Engineering in Davis, Ca. Get what you want and need rather than "customizing to the extent possible." Purpose built and fitted custom racks can make a big difference. Others with "real" touring experience to consider are R & E in Seattle, Blinkey in Phillie, and True North Cycles in Ontario.

Our current touring ride was created by Dennis Bushnell just before he became head builder at R & E awhile back. The initial request for clearance for 700 x 48 tires with fenders in 2004 was met with laughter in Eugene-"we CAN'T do that"! Dennis said "sure, send me a tire so I can get the fender line right". Comfortable AND rock solid with the kitchen, bath, and laundry sink loaded up. If we stay young enough to think we will get another loaded ride, the most likely change might be 26 inch wheels to fit in the S & S shipping boxes with less hassle.

Look past the ad copy, much as the bike industry wants loaded touring and particularly TANDEM loaded touring to go away, it is still out there to be had.
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Old 11-20-21, 07:21 PM
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We have owned a touring capable 700C road tandem since 2006. But we don't tour and probably never will. Still, what we have learned from being daily commuter and utility cyclists since 2005 might be informative? To wit: tire size. We've run them all. From 25mm club ride day runners to 50mm comfort/utility urban get 'er done mashers and 28, 32, 40 and 47 stops in between. Also a lot of time on both 26" and 700C platforms. We think less of 29'er as a thing. A 47mm 700C tire is a monster. A 47mm 26" tire is a beast. Would you tour on 50mm comfort clinchers? Why or why not? If not, why would 48 be acceptable? If yes, why not 50? There is way more choice in 50 than there ever will be in 48 although 47 is coming into its own as a 650B size. Knowing what we know we wouldn't tour on anything bigger than 28 (700C). I doubt we could even get 32 in and still have fenders. We would prefer to have fenders. I think world touring favors 26" while USA specific touring favors 700C. I think. It seems that 'gravel' or poorly maintained infrastructure can happen but do you want to roll around on 48mm tires for the duration of your tour for the single 10mile section of broken down road? These are just rhetorical questions to spur contemplation.

A 32mm tire is noticeably heavier than a 28mm. You are turning that extra mass with every power stroke. Over 40mm and your touring week probably has 8 days of effort in the 7 actually lived. That would be ok if you got the bragging rights. But you don't, so 28mm thank you, we'll use the extra day to sightsee. We love our Bob Yak trailer. Nothing slithers through New York City congestion like it. If we toured we would absolutely use it over panniers. One reason is we already have it! Another is that the lower weight of panniers is kind of beside the point because the weight of the racks that carry the panniers has been discounted in the example given above. The ability to rummage in the stuff sack of the trailer and find what you want vs taking out nearly everything in a pannier because what you wanted was packed first and is at the bottom of 10lb of gear is priceless.

Does a trailer enable carrying too much stuff? The little I heard says this is a perennial problem regardless. I wouldn't know but I would simply follow best practices for touring loads and hold tight to them and tow that trailer and call it good.
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Old 11-20-21, 09:01 PM
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My wife and I have done several tours on our Ritchey Double Switchback. Ours is configured as a flat bar touring bike.

We use paniers on a fork rack to carry our stuff. The bike is stable to at least 45 MPH with that setup. We have maybe 60 pounds of stuff on the rack.

For me, the length of a trailer is a non-starter. Some of the roads we have traveled have been pretty rough.

The bike fits in two cases for air travel. Being made of steel, we know that we can find someone to weld it in the event that it gets damaged, even in the more remote parts of the world.

We did have to replace a saddle on the Isle of Lewis and we had an alloy Spinergy wheel fail in France. Too many hits on too big rocks we encountered on back roads.

We have done as much as 75 miles in a day, and I have been warned that if I plan another trip with that many miles in a day I will not survive.
We run 700x32C GP5000 tubeless. They have been as reliable and comfortable as the Schwalbe Marathons they replaced, and they are noticably faster.

The drive train is a Box 9 speed. I had a SRAM 11 speed but I was never happy with the way it shifted.

The brakes are Hope V4 with 203mm vented rotors. Icetech rotors warped. Do not skimp on the brakes. We are fairly large people, and we seem to stop at every fabric and yarn shop we pass, so our all up weight has been as much as 500 pounds.

Our plan is to do a few more tours on the Ritchey, then switch to an eBike tandem. I don't want to put some boodge eBike conversion on the bike.
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Old 11-20-21, 09:52 PM
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We bought our one and only tandem when I was 62 We went on our first tandem tour when I was 65 and my wife was 61. We aren't a strong team, but we get down the road OK. We bought a used Speedster because we wanted to be able to sport ride with singles and wanted a high quality bike that we could also take touring. We needed a bike that would go as fast as possible for the money we had to spend on it. It did all that in fine style.

I learned to speak Czech when I was in the army. For decades it had been our dream to take an unsupported drinking and cycling tour of the Cech Republic, We couldn't figure out how we could do it because neither of us had a suitable bike and my wife is much less strong than I. Then I thought of a tandem. Czech tour done, along with some US touring. Again, because of cost we didn't get a coupled tandem, but our standard Speedster flew just fine in a custom box I made.

We didn't take fenders touring and were glad we didn't. It's normal in an elevator to stand a bike up on its rear wheel, plus less to pack and deal with. We stayed in paid lodging every 3rd or 4th night. We use deep section alu wheels and CX-Ray spokes and as fast a tire as is suitable for the terrain, from 28mm to 32mm.. We don't find the bike to be at all tiring other than to our legs. Our bike being older, has rim V-brakes. For touring, we switch to a rear wheel with an Arai drum, bought back when they could be found.

Our Speedster is a little unusual for its birth date (2003), having a WoundUp carbon fork, which has no eyelets for racks. Turned out, we only needed 2 panniers, the rack top, a frame bag, and a bar bag. For camping gear, we used our usual backpacking equipment. We use a stock Tubus SS rack and rip-stop panniers.

The bike is still in very good shape, runs like a train. I think the frame, fork, captain's bars, seat posts, stoker stem, right brifter, and rear derailleur are the only things left from the bike we bought. It's good to try to wear your bike out.
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Old 11-21-21, 05:53 PM
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We have been touring with camping gear, etc., for 35 yrs 200K miles, with front/rear panniers on the bike. Agreeing with Ross200, frame considerations are foremost with equal attention to wheels. Some bike makers have eliminated the diagonal bar and have argued that increased tube diameters compensate. Perhaps, but we are very suspicious of this claim. The dimensional stability a diagonal tube provides cannot be easily compensated by larger diameter tubing. Over the years we have meet many tandem riders that have had problems with frame flex which was exasperated with gear. Their solution was a trailer, but a tandem w/o trailer already poses maneuvering problems. While santana is not very innovative these days, santana's huge mark on the tandem world in the late 70's was a stiff frame with a diagonal tube. Our first tandem was a stiff santana noventa and it has hauled much gear without frame flex (even while standing on pedals). Our 2nd tandem (R&E) is custom and has a long stoker compartment with a diagonal tube, again very stiff. We are taller and with bike/gear about 470 pounds, and it hauls all of our gear without a problem. I would not risk the purchase of some other frame design with such weight.
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Old 11-22-21, 05:22 PM
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IPassGas makes good points. All up, we weighed 365. Our Speedster has a diagonal tube.
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Old 11-23-21, 09:41 AM
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Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
I'm interested in hearing from anyone who's done fully loaded tandem touring: What frame have you ridden that's worked out best?
Our touring has been on the Speedster, which has worked out well, although we have nothing to compare it with. I've fairly heavily customized it to suit our needs and can keep doing that--to an extent.
We are beginning to think of what's next. One option we're eyeing is the Co-Mo Java, which would allow fatter tires (45mm vs the 35's we have on the Speedster), appears to be beefier than the Speedster and seems like it would be better for a combination of pavement and gravel.
Again, interested in hearing about your actual experiences.
Others have given you great information. The one thing I wanted to add is you Speedster is a great touring bike and one that can be used and used. We have one with the diagonal tube and find it to be a great bike for us and we are a heavy team. You did raise the question on tire size and the Speedster is limited there with probably a 35 being the largest and maybe a 32 with fenders. The Java looks to be a good bike and it would give you nice tire options and if you wanted you could purchase a second set of go faster wheels when at home. I've seen many using the open frame design with over-sized tubing but I have no experience with those. We enjoy our diagonal with the added benefit of water bottle placement.
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Old 11-26-21, 12:12 AM
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OP here. Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful recounting of your own experiences. A lot of good real-life stuff here to ponder!
Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
Others have given you great information. The one thing I wanted to add is you Speedster is a great touring bike and one that can be used and used. We have one with the diagonal tube and find it to be a great bike for us and we are a heavy team. You did raise the question on tire size and the Speedster is limited there with probably a 35 being the largest and maybe a 32 with fenders. The Java looks to be a good bike and it would give you nice tire options and if you wanted you could purchase a second set of go faster wheels when at home. I've seen many using the open frame design with over-sized tubing but I have no experience with those. We enjoy our diagonal with the added benefit of water bottle placement.
Our Speedster, too, has a diagonal, and I've been curious about whether the new versions without diagonal don't sacrifice something. And we like that bottle placement, too!
Somewhere on the interwebs I saw an account of a couple who ordered a custom Java with the diagonal added back in.
I was able to fit fenders onto our Speedster that work on 35s front and back with a little jury-rigging of the fenders and their mounts.
I'll probably stick with the Speedster for now. It's been a heck of a lot of fun using the frame as a platform and replacing components bit-by-bit to customize it for our needs. The money we save by not getting a new tandem can buy a lot of upgrades/replacements/cool stuff with $1,000s left over.
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Old 11-27-21, 01:58 AM
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And a bike tour too?
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Old 12-04-21, 05:22 PM
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Originally Posted by sapporoguy View Post
Our Speedster, too, has a diagonal, and I've been curious about whether the new versions without diagonal don't sacrifice something.
It wouldn't be my thinking that a front line company like Co-motion has used the intervening years between the lateral tube framesets and the current compact framesets to deprive new owners of any parameter of performance! If not an actual improvement in stiffness and/or power transfer (unlikely), I would expect at least an improvement in all up weight. Given what people pay to reduce weight by grams, what should the expectation be when the weight savings are in the kilograms?! I'm not at all saying you need to trade out your rig for something newer, but I doubt you need to worry much about current customers.
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Old 01-15-22, 02:40 PM
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We have gone on long(ish) tours on three tandems. My take is that any pannier system that is loaded up will cause instability when the captain wants to stand out of the saddle. This includes a new CoMo frame without the long diagonal tube and two other tandems with the diagonal tube. to the best of my knowledge these are moderate trail frames and the CoMo is probably considered a high trail frame, which I do not like now that I understand what that means. All tandems with moderate rear pannier loads will instantly wobble as soon as you stand up. I do not know if this will be the case with loaded front panniers. It's just a mass and leverage problem.

Our solution is the BOB trailer. much easier to handle. no wobble. carries as much as 4 paniers.

I have never noticed any performance issues between our modern CoMo w/o the diagonal vs a previous custom TiCycles with the diagonal. Both have the same problems when loaded, both ride fairly equal when unloaded.
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Old 01-16-22, 03:54 PM
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I have toured on three tandems, two steel with a diagonal, and one titanium without a diagonal. With the current tubing available, diagonals are not necessary. The only real advantage of a diagonal is for water bottle placement. I am able to stand out of the saddle without a wobble on all of those tandems whether we have front and rear panniers or just rear panniers. I am a little wobbly at the beginning of a trip when first standing, but I quickly adjust to the panniers and then have no problem.
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Old 01-17-22, 01:52 AM
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New Steel tube material and wobble

Originally Posted by bikebark View Post
I have toured on three tandems, two steel with a diagonal, and one titanium without a diagonal. With the current tubing available, diagonals are not necessary. The only real advantage of a diagonal is for water bottle placement. I am able to stand out of the saddle without a wobble on all of those tandems whether we have front and rear panniers or just rear panniers. I am a little wobbly at the beginning of a trip when first standing, but I quickly adjust to the panniers and then have no problem.

I suspect that there is truth to this statement. We have an older 1984 Rodriguez and a new Bilenky that we have done 4,000+ km self supported tours with. The Bilenky is easy to stand and pedal. We had a steep gravel pass in the Molseworth of New Zealand that we both stood for the last 1/4. mile and alternately the rest of the climb. It's a fairly steep 14-16% grade sustained without much rest. We could stand with a heavy 14 day food load and full camp kit onboard without issues. We're not young people. The Rodriguez (which has an ovalized bottom tube) would shimmy and make this impossible. The Bilenky has all round oversized steel tubes, my seat tube is 67 cm so it's not a 'small' bike frame.
Here are pictures of our two tandems in case that helps...

Bilenky

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Old 01-17-22, 08:06 AM
  #21  
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We tour on a Co-Motion Equator, which is a Speedster with a Rohloff hub. We don’t have the diagonal tube, but have never felt any flex. We extensively test rode a variety of tandems, several of which had definite flex in them, so we don’t think we’ve lost anything without the diagonal tube.
We tour on 35mm Schwalbe Mondials, which ride fairly nicely and work well across the bits of gravel/dirt that we encounter (including a day through the Carmargue of southern France). In addition, we’ve only flatted once in 30,000 miles of riding. As you can see in the photo, we use fenders as well. Our tandem travel friends with a Java have toured on wider tires, but have since reverted to either 35 or 40mm tires since the majority of our riding is on pavement (75-80%).



Photo from riding the Main River Radweg in Germany to Prague.
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Old 01-20-22, 08:33 AM
  #22  
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feregii, I realize this is not a frame related query, but I am curious how long you've been using the Gebla shifting, how it's working out for you, and if there have been any issues? Thanks.
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Old 01-20-22, 04:56 PM
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Our 2002 speedster runs 700x38mm tires with fenders....
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Old 01-20-22, 07:37 PM
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Originally Posted by motochick View Post
Our 2002 speedster runs 700x38mm tires with fenders....
Im thinking of moving to 700x38 on our Speedster. Which tires do you use?
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Old 01-20-22, 08:30 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by reburns View Post
Im thinking of moving to 700x38 on our Speedster. Which tires do you use?
Panaracer gravel king slicks, we use the regular in front and "plus" in the rear. 55psi front, 60psi rear. Capt is 176lbs, stoker 137lbs. plus we carry 50oz of water on our waist each. We have some very nasty rough asphalt roads here and they smooth them out like you wouldn't believe. I wouldn't be surprised if 42's fit, w/out fenders for sure tho.

Brenda
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