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Good starting place for building a tandem

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Good starting place for building a tandem

Old 11-01-22, 10:29 AM
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Kevinti
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Good starting place for building a tandem?

Hello, I am in a spot where I plan to build up a tandem bike for the wife and I to explore riding tandem and so far I have a frame and wheels. That was the easy part...ish but I'm getting down into the next details now and have questions as I try to spec out components. Have any of you been in my shoes and can offer advice of how to proceed (Spec'ing out a build)? It's basically the drivetrain configuration where I am coming up short and have questions about...

Triple Chanring Gear Selection
Front Deraileur That Accomodates Above
Rear Cassette Type and Range
RD for Above
Then How To Best Control these!

I'm Starting with an older Santana aluminum frame. Once I can add pictures to my posts my threads like this will be more interesting but what I am hoping for is a leg up so that I don't end up wasting money on poor component choices. Any good places to start? Thanks for any words of wisdom...or links...or helpful search criteria!

Last edited by Kevinti; 11-01-22 at 11:01 AM. Reason: forgot the question mark!
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Old 11-01-22, 09:51 PM
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I emailed Santana and found out that my frame is a 1998 and then I found this page that showed what they came with so that is a good start for me.

(I need to post 10 posts first!)
EDIT: here is the link https://www.gtgtandems.com/specs/sant-roadspecs.html

Pretty sure mine is a Soveriegn model. I have a Shimano Sweet 16 Wheelset that I'm going to use. Probably start with some 32mm Gatorskin tires to try and protect from our terrible road debris. It has a 9 speed cassette so I may as well pursue a 3x9 crankset (and group) that it would have originally came with. The link shows a 30/42/53 front chainring set. I think my cassette is 11-34 so that seems like a great range. It seems every decision I make going forward will limit what "available equipment" will do the job and is why I started the thread to get some pointers. I also have an Arai drum brake that I intend on using but will probably address the brakes and gear shifters last. I like the "idea" of v-brakes with travel agents to start off with. I am planning on using a drop bar up front and a bull bar for the stoker. Bike came with tamer seatposts for both positions. That's all I got for now. I see a lot of views but not too much dialog or comments so hopefully this is the right place to put this thread.

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Old 11-02-22, 01:37 AM
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Could say a lot more but I will start with the gearing. Me and mine are pretty strong Seniors. Just saying, a 30 x 34 granny ... meh ... whether a 26" or 27" wheelset, you'll be walking up more hills than you care to. Freeway overpasses count as hills in flat areas. IMO a 26 x 34 is not too low. You won't use it everyday but you don't use the 53 x 11 everyday either. Tandems (IMO) need 18 wheeler drivetrains. 26/36/48 (50 if you must) x 11 - 34(36). You won't spin out a 50 x 11 I guarantee it.
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Old 11-02-22, 05:29 AM
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Where you live and what kind of terrain you intend to ride would be helpful info. Also your “team weight”, which is the sum of the weight of the captain and the stoker, and “team age” which is the sum of the ages of the captain and the stoker.
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Old 11-02-22, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
Could say a lot more but I will start with the gearing. Me and mine are pretty strong Seniors. Just saying, a 30 x 34 granny ... meh ... whether a 26" or 27" wheelset, you'll be walking up more hills than you care to. Freeway overpasses count as hills in flat areas. IMO a 26 x 34 is not too low. You won't use it everyday but you don't use the 53 x 11 everyday either. Tandems (IMO) need 18 wheeler drivetrains. 26/36/48 (50 if you must) x 11 - 34(36). You won't spin out a 50 x 11 I guarantee it.
Oh thanks for some food for thought about the gearing. I use a 52/11 often on my solo bike but I like to charge the downhills, I imagine we would be coasting these on a tandem!

Originally Posted by WheelsNT View Post
Where you live and what kind of terrain you intend to ride would be helpful info. Also your “team weight”, which is the sum of the weight of the captain and the stoker, and “team age” which is the sum of the ages of the captain and the stoker.
Terrain here varies over a 40 mile ride we might see 50-60% (0-1% grade) and 20-30% (2-3% grade), Some 4-7% too. When I train alone I also seek out steeper routes, up to 12%, but not sure that will work for a while.

Our team weight is around 330lbs and our team age is 105! One of us is an experienced rider and the other one would scare you to death if you saw "her" riding alone! Neither one of us has ever been on a tandem. I had so much fun building my latest solo bike I turned to the tandem as a next project when my wife said she would like to try it. Fine by me I have the time and interest.
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Old 11-03-22, 10:50 AM
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Well I ran into a speed bump yesterday in the form of a limit of "only 5 posts per day" constraint! LOL That really truncates the expectations for timely information/dialog. Sort of a blessing I guess because I was thinking maybe my thread here wasn't interesting enough to generate any traffic but if we all have to decide where to spend our 5 comment coupons each day! WTH?

NOTE TO SELF: Whoops I just used up one of my coupons! LOL
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Old 11-03-22, 03:56 PM
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Gearing will be important for you with a stoker who is not a cyclist. When we started my wife was not a cyclist, a bike ride for her was a 5 mile ride on the bike path with the grand-kids. Your stoker will need to learn about riding which is a blessing in some ways as she will not have a cadence that she is use to riding so will mesh with your. If you want to be a longterm team you will need to follow her needs closely and not be domineering. That will turn them off quickly. Communication and being gentle is important. I've seen teams where the captain is very critical and harsh, those teams don't last long. Also you will have to lay down your speed etc. for a time as you bring her along. You will be slower and riding a tandem is hard work. For a time your single (half-bike) will be more fun, but stick with it and you will have a blast in time.

On the build, 3x9 is a good set-up, we have our touring tandem set-up with a 9 speed and have 48/36/24 for the crank and 12-34 in back for the cog. Our sport tandem is a 3x10 and it has 53/39/28 with an 11-32 cog set. If you have the crank with a 52/42/30 you can start with that and your current cog set to get started. You can figure things out as you get going. We use Tandems East for your chain rings, Mel has a ton of chain rings in stock so you can change yours out as you see how you are riding. I'm a fan of V brakes, that is what we have on our touring bike and we have had really good success with the travel agents. The bar set-up you are thinking of is what we use and is pretty typical, some here use drop bars in back. Your wheel set is light and may be good but may have issues, you are a lighter team so that is good. If you decide to go with a standard wheel they are available in the used market as a lot of people have gone with tandems using disc brakes so have extra wheel sets around. We also have an Arai drum brake which is on our touring wheels. We don't use it day-to-day. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 11-03-22, 06:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Paul J View Post
Gearing will be important for you with a stoker who is not a cyclist. When we started my wife was not a cyclist, a bike ride for her was a 5 mile ride on the bike path with the grand-kids. Your stoker will need to learn about riding which is a blessing in some ways as she will not have a cadence that she is use to riding so will mesh with your. If you want to be a longterm team you will need to follow her needs closely and not be domineering. That will turn them off quickly. Communication and being gentle is important. I've seen teams where the captain is very critical and harsh, those teams don't last long. Also you will have to lay down your speed etc. for a time as you bring her along. You will be slower and riding a tandem is hard work. For a time your single (half-bike) will be more fun, but stick with it and you will have a blast in time.

On the build, 3x9 is a good set-up, we have our touring tandem set-up with a 9 speed and have 48/36/24 for the crank and 12-34 in back for the cog. Our sport tandem is a 3x10 and it has 53/39/28 with an 11-32 cog set. If you have the crank with a 52/42/30 you can start with that and your current cog set to get started. You can figure things out as you get going. We use Tandems East for your chain rings, Mel has a ton of chain rings in stock so you can change yours out as you see how you are riding. I'm a fan of V brakes, that is what we have on our touring bike and we have had really good success with the travel agents. The bar set-up you are thinking of is what we use and is pretty typical, some here use drop bars in back. Your wheel set is light and may be good but may have issues, you are a lighter team so that is good. If you decide to go with a standard wheel they are available in the used market as a lot of people have gone with tandems using disc brakes so have extra wheel sets around. We also have an Arai drum brake which is on our touring wheels. We don't use it day-to-day. Good luck and keep us posted.
Thanks for some details about gearing. I have a crankset inbound that is setup as a 30/42/53 so I'll give that a go to start out. Any advice about what 3x9 groupsets I should be looking at? A lot of the Shimano Ultegra stuff looks really beat up on Ebay so I was thinking alternatives.

RE Wheelset: I found that the rear wheel was laced wrong so I had to re-lace three spokes. Getting into straightening it out now. I suspect the rim is near new because of the lack of wear so that is nice!

I appreciate the good advice I am getting about keeping the stoker happy. I am sensitive to using the "soft approach" as I've messed a few endeavors up over the years! lol
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Old 11-04-22, 03:28 PM
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You will find the manufacturers of front derailleurs in particular, to be very conservative in rating their products. You are unlikely to find that when you are ready to modify the gearing from the 30/42/53 starting configuration, that the same drivetrain bits will all play nice together. Better to get a 104bcd or 110 bcd crankset from go so you have the option to go to 22T in front if'n you need to OR you could (radical) try one of Sheldon Brown's modified 'cyclotouriste' cassettes made to be used with road triples. The basic idea being that no one needs a 130" top gear, so the cassettte starts at [edit: 13/14T] I can't remember which. This is VERY hard to find in 2022 as 11 - ?? is pretty much taken for granted. Bottom line though you need an ultimate low gear lower than 24". On one of our tandems we have a low of 18" and we use it. And we are strong. 20" is acceptable. On the high end ... once upon a time 52 x 14 (x 27") was THE top gear for RACING. 52 x 13 if you needed the bragging rights. Humans, especially untrained ones haven't gotten any stronger in 50 years. If most of these threads are putting a spotlight on the o.p. gearing decisions it is because we have learned the hard ($$$) way what poor decisions in this area lead to. Because it's Friday I had some time to fire up a gear calculator. It's been so long since I've dealt with Road Triples I had to completely get re-acquainted with the progressions. If I had to work with a 53/42/30 Road Triple today, I would make up a custom cassette: 13,15,17,19,21,24,28,32,36. 110.1" on top and 22.5" on the bottom. Still too high for a granny IMO but with no load and rolling terrain, not bad really. "Beat up looking stuff on Ebay"? Hmmm. There must be new stuff on Amazon that will work. I think there is a site called The Competitive Cyclist? I've seen stuff there that doesn't look too bad. I'd be looking for new though. FWIW.
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Old 11-04-22, 07:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
You will find the manufacturers of front derailleurs in particular, to be very conservative in rating their products. You are unlikely to find that when you are ready to modify the gearing from the 30/42/53 starting configuration, that the same drivetrain bits will all play nice together. Better to get a 104bcd or 110 bcd crankset from go so you have the option to go to 22T in front if'n you need to OR you could (radical) try one of Sheldon Brown's modified 'cyclotouriste' cassettes made to be used with road triples. The basic idea being that no one needs a 130" top gear, so the cassettte starts at [edit: 13/14T] I can't remember which. This is VERY hard to find in 2022 as 11 - ?? is pretty much taken for granted. Bottom line though you need an ultimate low gear lower than 24". On one of our tandems we have a low of 18" and we use it. And we are strong. 20" is acceptable. On the high end ... once upon a time 52 x 14 (x 27") was THE top gear for RACING. 52 x 13 if you needed the bragging rights. Humans, especially untrained ones haven't gotten any stronger in 50 years. If most of these threads are putting a spotlight on the o.p. gearing decisions it is because we have learned the hard ($$$) way what poor decisions in this area lead to. Because it's Friday I had some time to fire up a gear calculator. It's been so long since I've dealt with Road Triples I had to completely get re-acquainted with the progressions. If I had to work with a 53/42/30 Road Triple today, I would make up a custom cassette: 13,15,17,19,21,24,28,32,36. 110.1" on top and 22.5" on the bottom. Still too high for a granny IMO but with no load and rolling terrain, not bad really. "Beat up looking stuff on Ebay"? Hmmm. There must be new stuff on Amazon that will work. I think there is a site called The Competitive Cyclist? I've seen stuff there that doesn't look too bad. I'd be looking for new though. FWIW.
Thanks for more gearing info to think about. I am constrained for the time being to BCD's 130 & 74 so it looks like I can run a 24 so I may try that and see how it works. I really wasn't thinking to gear down that low! LOL You've got me wondering if it is faster to walk! lol I am not sure I can see us flying down hills in my 53/11 at 40mph for quite a while so there are some tweaks in my future. I may just try it out as is and then modify from there but will be checking into different cassette ratios for sure thanks.

Looking on Amazon for quality 9 speed components never even occurred to me. I was thinking that the 9 speed standard had come and gone so I've been checking out used stuff! I will look into that.

Thanks guys for the comments, anything else comes to mind I am all ears. I think my next focus will be groupsets to shift the gears! I was looking at Campagnolo Daytona and 20 year old stuff (like the beat up ultegra I mentioned) that was good when 9 speed was the standard but I'll poke around some more if there are good newer groupsets that function and look good too! Cheers
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Old 11-05-22, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
..." If I had to work with a 53/42/30 Road Triple today, I would make up a custom cassette: 13,15,17,19,21,24,28,32,36. 110.1" on top and 22.5" on the bottom. "...
So with a 36 on the cassette are you guys running mountain bike derailleurs with extra long cages? Seems like with the road stuff I have been looking at a long cage is good for up to a size 34 cassette, and I bet I would need to be more compact on the chairing too! hmmm
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Old 11-05-22, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Kevinti View Post
So with a 36 on the cassette are you guys running mountain bike derailleurs with extra long cages? Seems like with the road stuff I have been looking at a long cage is good for up to a size 34 cassette, and I bet I would need to be more compact on the chairing too! hmmm
I guess so. Never thought about it. The Raleigh Coupe we have is a Road tandem and the crankset was 53/42/30 and the cassette was 12 - 27 9sp. Both derailleurs were Shimano 105 MTB. The cage on the rear is seriously long, but the main reason why mountain stuff exists is because the topmost jockey wheel of a Road rear derailleur will hit the big cog of a cassette when the tooth count gets much above 34/6.

There are extra long hangers that will allow a standard Road derailleur to clear a 36T big cog, but a long cage is still needed, even with a 12 - 27 or 11 - 32 when used with a Road Triple. When you swap the 30T granny for a 26T or 24T like we did, you must have a long cage, and even then you will void the warranty, although I haven't found that anything bad happens from going so far out of spec. I haven't run the numbers but, yeah, rather than try to find a 13 - 36 Unicorn, it would be better just to swap the granny. 24T grannies are available for a song because they don't need to be fancy. No ramps, no pins, no narrow wide or wave cutting of the teeth. Just a plain old chainring. I think I paid $9.99 for the last one.
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Old 11-05-22, 06:55 PM
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I just finished putting together a Raleigh Companion with parts from our old tandem. I couldn't use the old FD because it only had a 28.6 clamp and the Raleigh has 31.8 seat tubes. The Crankset is an old Sugino 53/42/32 and the old FD was a Deore LX which shouldn't have worked but it did. I found a triple derailleur that works with the 53t chainring, it's a Shimano FD-R443 bottom pull with a 31.8 clamp. According to the specs the derailleur has to be used with specific flat bar road shifters but I have read where people are using it with standard MTB shifters. The consensus is that it is actually just a MTB derailleur body with a road triple cage to clear larger chain rings. I used one on the Companion and hunted down the required shifters which look identical to my Deore MTB shifters. I found my derailleur here: https://www.ebay.com/itm/313634721515 but had to source the shifters from Taiwan and they only had 3X8 sets, no 3X9. I have ordered a 2nd one for a 3 X 9 build and I'm going to try it with a set of MTB shifters.

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Old 11-06-22, 11:13 AM
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My Deore LX I had on the old Northwoods is an M550, according to Shimano the Max chainring size is 46t with a 26t range but it worked flawlessly with my 53/42/32 crankset. My FD-R443 came yesterday and I compared it to the M550, the pivots are noticably closer together on the R443 than on the M550 so I'm skeptical of the claims I've read that it works with MTB shifters until I try it myself.
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Old 11-06-22, 10:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Murray Missile View Post
My Deore LX I had on the old Northwoods is an M550, according to Shimano the Max chainring size is 46t with a 26t range but it worked flawlessly with my 53/42/32 crankset. My FD-R443 came yesterday and I compared it to the M550, the pivots are noticably closer together on the R443 than on the M550 so I'm skeptical of the claims I've read that it works with MTB shifters until I try it myself.
If it doesn't, and you want it to, there are "Travel Agents" for shifters that work just like the ones for brakes. I forget the company name but someone here may know ...
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Old 11-07-22, 06:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
If it doesn't, and you want it to, there are "Travel Agents" for shifters that work just like the ones for brakes. I forget the company name but someone here may know ...
Thanks, I'm familiar with the Travel Agents, others might not be however so good reference. If it doesn't work with MTB shifters I'd probably hunt down the right shifters or go drop bar and barcons. I have a set of MicroShift 3 X 9 barcons that would work. Not sure what I'm even going to use it on yet but the first one worked so well I thought it might be good to have another "just in case". Some of my old "go to" pieces have all but gone extinct or have become extremely high priced due to scarcity. For example, Shimano RSX was relatively cheap not so long ago, prices for nice pieces have increased considerably since 2020.
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Old 11-07-22, 04:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Murray Missile View Post
Thanks, I'm familiar with the Travel Agents, others might not be however so good reference. If it doesn't work with MTB shifters I'd probably hunt down the right shifters or go drop bar and barcons. I have a set of MicroShift 3 X 9 barcons that would work. Not sure what I'm even going to use it on yet but the first one worked so well I thought it might be good to have another "just in case". Some of my old "go to" pieces have all but gone extinct or have become extremely high priced due to scarcity. For example, Shimano RSX was relatively cheap not so long ago, prices for nice pieces have increased considerably since 2020.
The pull ratio equalizers for shifters are NOT the same as the ones for brakes. Those (Travel Agents) are made by Problem Solvers. The ones for shifters (seven different models) are made by someone else.
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Old 11-07-22, 06:53 PM
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I've made a little progress to date and have a better handle on where to go from here thanks to you guys. I still have a few important details to get to where I'll have a bunch more questions I'm sure but figured some pictures might be nice.

Here's that frame number from 1998. I've never seen cable routing like this. I'm not sure what kind of cables I might need to not wear excessively on the frame, anyone?



Exceptional craftsmanship on this frame





Here's where I am today





Lots of work to get here and a lot of planning and learning! Good Times!
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Old 11-07-22, 10:00 PM
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Originally Posted by Kevinti View Post
Here's that frame number from 1998. I've never seen cable routing like this. I'm not sure what kind of cables I might need to not wear excessively on the frame, anyone?
Your pics are interesting. Below is a pic of our older (1992) Noventa Santana (MN 909, hard to read). The cables have not cut into the frame significantly after all the many years of tours. We run a 3x8 with a 20" low gear, which has seen the Appalachians and Rockies many times. I would not go higher when packing with camping gear on tour. The Arai is great for loaded touring, but if your staying with those light wheels for just days rides, you may consider the extra weight of the Arai not so helpful.

Which lathe is that in the background? I use and have access to lathes, mills, etc, but not mine. Is that yours? If so, I'm a bit envious!

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Old 11-07-22, 11:25 PM
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Originally Posted by IPassGas View Post
Your pics are interesting. Below is a pic of our older (1992) Noventa Santana (MN 909, hard to read). The cables have not cut into the frame significantly after all the many years of tours. We run a 3x8 with a 20" low gear, which has seen the Appalachians and Rockies many times. I would not go higher when packing with camping gear on tour. The Arai is great for loaded touring, but if your staying with those light wheels for just days rides, you may consider the extra weight of the Arai not so helpful.

Which lathe is that in the background? I use and have access to lathes, mills, etc, but not mine. Is that yours? If so, I'm a bit envious!
That's a 1941 Southbend 16" Toolroom lathe. I've had it a few years and refurbished it over a 13 month period. It was ordered for Raritan Arsenal in New Jersey but was re-routed to Pearl Harbor after it was bombed to help with the re-building. The Navy modernized their toolrooms around 1970 and auctioned off a bunch of machines. I got it from the son of the citizen buyer who had a repair business. I live in a place where industrial machines are almost non-existant and thus referred to as "machine deserts". I was extremely lucky to get this, something I always wanted, out here. My 12 year quest for a vertical knee mill to accompany it has has gone nowhere! I can't see where you are from while I type this reply but I'll bet you have access to thousands of used good machines within a 1/2 a day drive, not the same for me.

It looks like from your picture that Santana started rethinking the cable routing and chamfered the entry and exits for the cables if I am seeing your picture clearly. I do not want to dig into the frame too much during my ownership so I will need to put some thought here. I've read there are "coated" cables. I am not familiar with these though. Maybe that is a solution for me or maybe I need to find some small bore teflon tubing to try and line the holes? IDK but I am open to suggestions.


EDIT: Oh gosh you're in Pittsburgh? I am the jealous one, as far as outfitting a home machine shop goes!

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Old 11-12-22, 07:29 AM
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Buy a cheap V-brake noodle and pull the liner out of it, I have also pulled short pieces Teflon liner out of cable housing but the noodle liners come out much easier. You might also consider an application of dry film lube if the Teflon liners won't fit.

Back to our derailleur/shifter discussion of a few days ago, I stumbled on the correct flat bar shifters for my R443 front derailleur! I was on FB Marketplace a couple days ago and there they were. The seller had apparently bought a new 3 X 9 flat bar road bike a few years ago and decided to swap out the flat bar cockpit for drop bar not long after buying it. He pulled the flat bar setup and put it in storage until a few days ago when he decided he wasn't going to use it again. I not only got the shifters in like new condition but a nice set of Avid V-brake levers and the 31.8mm road flat bar. I've decide to use the R443 FD and SL-440/441 shifter setup on the T-900 with the original Deore RD instead of the Deore XT derailleurs and shifters, I'll save them for something else..... There's ALWAYS something else LOL.
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Old 11-12-22, 09:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Murray Missile View Post
Buy a cheap V-brake noodle and pull the liner out of it, I have also pulled short pieces Teflon liner out of cable housing but the noodle liners come out much easier. You might also consider an application of dry film lube if the Teflon liners won't fit.
.
Thanks for the ideas it helped me with searching and I found this so I think that problem is solved.


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Old 11-12-22, 10:07 AM
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Originally Posted by Kevinti View Post
Thanks for the ideas it helped me with searching and I found this so I think that problem is solved.


I had no idea they sold the liner seperately! I can think of a lot of uses for that.
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Old 11-13-22, 11:51 AM
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We had that same Santana frame and enjoyed it, now riding a Calfee.
current setup is SRAM 10 speed for rear shifting with Wifli RD, 12-32 cassette.
Front is Campy Centaur triple with 50/39/28.
if I was going to do something new would consider 12 speed with dual front chainrings.
Enjoy!
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Old 11-16-22, 11:09 AM
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I got the slick tube liners (from above) and they look nice for my intended purpose. I had to open up the holes a little bit to get them to fit. Started with .093 dia and opened up to .106. Might be overkill but I didn't like the rubbing into the frame. The one for the drum brake was really the worst of them. I decided to also add one to the middle of the rear bottom bracket for the FD even though it didn't appear too bad. I think the FD cable was making contract on a weld which is a lot harder than the aluminum.



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