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Future tandem couple with some purchase questions

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Future tandem couple with some purchase questions

Old 03-20-09, 04:07 PM
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Future tandem couple with some purchase questions

My wife and I have commited to getting a tandem. Both of us already ride regularly and this is a great way for us to ride together -- our speed disparity is too large otherwise. We have some great friends who let us use their tandems, so we have a decent estimate of whether we enjoy riding together. We did approximately 150 miles on the tandems ... most of it on the Santana discussed below.

FWIW, we road a late 90s titanium Santana Road tandem -- I thought it was pretty aggressive with 25 mm wide tires and a Bike Friday Tandem Twosday. I ride more and have a few bikes in the stable. All drop bar bikes with what the local roadies generally considered relatively wide tires ... my fast road bike has 28 mm, my commuter has 32 mm wide tires, my Bike Friday NWT has 40 mm wide tires. Sweetie appears to have a preference for wide tires too and enjoys 40 mm wide tires on the Pocket Crusoe and 37 mm wide (33 mm when measured with a caliper) tires on her commuter. She has drop bars but seems to use the hoods 95% of the time. I ride about 6K miles ... she about 1.5-2K miles annually.

Traveling with the bike is a big perk. And we are conscious of things like fuel mileage and storage space so fitting a tandem into a regular car is also a perk although we do have a minivan. We enjoy our Bike Friday single bikes but I do think that there is something lost with the tiny wheels. Primarily with gearing limitations -- i.e., getting the upper end and keeping some granulatity in the gear range -- but also a bit with no-hands stability and comfort with high PSI tires. Although we generally ride with quality wide tires with low rolling resistance (although relatively heavy).

In my limited experience with the Twosday, we found the small tires led to a more nimble steering at low speed ... which we thought was a positive feature. Although taking a hand off the handlebar at 23 mph to signal a turn was a little "exciting". Although I think that as the ride went along, I got better at adjusting to the feel of the Twosday tandem. The Santana definitely had a more stable ride at speed.

Questions:

(1) What is the forum's general impression of the Bike Friday tandem -- either the separable or the folding model -- relative to big-wheel tandems?

(2) I could quick fold the Twosday in about five minutes. My understanding from two Bike Friday YAK members is that a "quick disassemble" XL breaks down in a little less than 10 minutes and that either bike fits in the trunk of our sedan. Is this the experience of the forum?

(3) Have people tried to do this with an S&S coupled tandem? Could you describe your experience? I mention a quick or partial disassembly of a S&S coupled tandem since I saw a couple do this with their Calfee at a group ride last fall and put the bike in a Honda Fit in ~5-10 minutes. So while that was a hatchback, it crossed my mind that this could be done with a variety of vehicles.

(4) Given we like wider tires, assuming we go with a 26"+ wheel, is the general recommendation to go with 26" wheels even though 95% of our riding is onroad? Note that we do some semi-loaded touring.

(5) We do have a baby boy and would like to ride with him in the future. What do people think about tandems that convert to triples? The Bike Friday tandems seem to fit a wide range of stokers; but just from reading there seem to be some simple modifications that let small people stoke on a regular tandems ... yes?

This is probably enough for the moment. We do have a decent budget. Typically I would try to find something used but given some of our interests, I gather that the used market offers might be pretty slim. If you have thoughts that you would like to share for a pair of nubies, I would like to read them. Thanks.
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Old 03-20-09, 06:59 PM
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This Sunday, Mt Airy Bikes has a tandem demo day. It's about 40 miles north of Washington. Might be a good place to get answers to your questions. He has a lot of used tandems also. Here's a link:

www.bike123.com
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Old 03-20-09, 08:41 PM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
(3) Have people tried to do this with an S&S coupled tandem? Could you describe your experience? I mention a quick or partial disassembly of a S&S coupled tandem since I saw a couple do this with their Calfee at a group ride last fall and put the bike in a Honda Fit in ~5-10 minutes. So while that was a hatchback, it crossed my mind that this could be done with a variety of vehicles.
This is your only question that I'm qualified to speak to: There are a couple of members of this board who do break their tandems "in half" routinely to fit in small cars (Priuses [sp?]), if memory serves.

However, I consider this more trouble than it's worth. A new Santana is going to have 6 couplers (and the boom tube will have oval couplers that use an allen wrench instead of a coupler wrench); you will have to take at least 3 of them apart. You must also remove the timing chain, and disconnect all the cables (the bike should come with quick releases for this).

When you reach your destination, putting an otherwise assembled uncoupled bike back together is not the easiest thing in the world; I have the old design--dual boom tubes, and they never want to line up correctly--it might be easier with the single oval tube. Then you've got to replace the timing chain/reconnect the cables.

If I have to (like when Amtrak refuses to allow a tandem on their train), I can get it apart in 5 minutes; reassembly is probably closer to 10.
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Old 03-20-09, 09:22 PM
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We have a Santana Cabrio Triplet that we use also as a traveling tandem. To brake the tandem apart to fit it into the trunk of a car, maybe between a couple of old blankets, should not take more than five minutes. To put it back together may take a couple of minutes longer. To take it apart for travel into cases takes about an hour each way.
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Old 03-20-09, 09:42 PM
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Originally Posted by rmac View Post
This Sunday, Mt Airy Bikes has a tandem demo day. It's about 40 miles north of Washington. Might be a good place to get answers to your questions. He has a lot of used tandems also. Here's a link:

www.bike123.com
Yep ... we already got the notice via the Bike Friday network. Larry Black is supposed to be one of the main tandem guys. Although it is close to Gymboree time ... so we will probably miss it.
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Old 03-20-09, 09:45 PM
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Thanks for the responses 72andsunny and cornucopia72. The more data points that better.

Hey ... is there something with "72" and tandems or is this a coincidence?
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Old 03-21-09, 01:59 AM
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In regards to breaking down an S&S coupled tandem, I would highly recommend the Co-motion method where the couplers are in front of the captains seat-tube, rather than the Santana method where the couplers are behind the captain's seat-tube. The former method makes partial disassembly possible without touching the timing chain, which is a whole lot easier. We take the train a lot with our tandem in Europe. To take it on the train, we just disconnect the front end of the bike, and hang it from two of the ceiling mounted hooks - the front end hanging from the front wheel, the back end hanging from the back wheel.

We were seriously considering getting a Santana tandem until we realized this major difference in how they come apart. We're now very happy with our Co-motion Speedster Co-pilot.
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Old 03-21-09, 05:12 AM
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If you can't avail yourselves for a trip to Mt. Airy, then consider making the drive up to South Jersey for the Tandems East Expo on Sat or Sun, next weekend. They will have 70 some-odd tandems on hand, including the Bike Friday and Co-Motion Periscope models of tandems, which are probably the two tandems that come most close to what you're looking for.

Questions:

(1) What is the forum's general impression of the Bike Friday tandem

People who have them have always seemed to like them a lot. However, they have lost a lot of market share over the years to the S&S tandems that came about in the late 90's and, more recently, to the Co-Motion Periscope models which provide similar features such break-down for travel or compact design to accommodate a wide range of riders without the 'circus bike' stigma of the BF tandems. Both of the alternatives are more expensive than the BF alternatives but vanity is a strong emotion and a lot of folks prefer to ride tandems that look a certain way.

(2) I could quick fold the Twosday in about five minutes.

The time it takes to disassemble and re-assemble BF or S&S tandems is more a function of the owner's mechanical acumen, organizational skills and willingness to study and then practice the process... to include precautions taken to prevent marring the frame, e.g., installing & removing velcro frame covers. Therefore, YRMV.

For example, I can knock down our S&S tandem with it's four couplers to a trunk-size package in just a few minutes: wheels off, split three cables, unscrew four couplers and done. If I were to use three pieces of foam sheeting for protection, packing it in the vehicle would take mere moments as well. Reassembly is also rather fast for a minimal break down. Conversely, I've heard horror stories of hours spent disassembling and packing / unpacking and assembling S&S tandems and to this day aside from cost it remains the largest barrier to ownership for many folks who just don't have the desire to mess with the erector set approach to traveling with their tandems.

(3) Have people tried to do this with an S&S coupled tandem?

Yes, there are quite a few folks out there who have bought S&S equipped tandems so that they can stick them in the back seat, trunk or boot of their hatchback vehicles. As someone already noted, the Co-Motion configuration where the couplers are placed forward of the captain's seat post to preclude removal of the sync chain goes a long way towards making a Co-Motion with the front 1/3 of the frame and rear wheel removed an easy fit for the back seat of a full-size car or 5 door vehicle with the rear seat folded.

(4).. is the general recommendation to go with 26" wheels even though 95% of our riding is onroad?

It's a matter of preference. Again, vanity wins and most folks ride 700c road tandems on the road because that's, well, what most folks ride. Dealers and manufacturers respond to this by selling what people want. A very strong measure of this was daVinci tandems who up and until just a few years ago sold only 26" wheeled tandems: they were committed to a pragmatic and practical wheel size philosophy. However, it became clear that they were losing sales because they didn't offer 700c as an option and finally gave in. When I last asked, about 1/2 of their non-coupled pre-Grand Junction tandem sales were comprised of the 700c model after it was introduced. However, for travel tandems 26" remained the status quo for their clients. I suspect the very well-priced Grand Junction models have skewed their numbers back towards the 26" side of the equation.

Bottom Line: If you plan to ride on wider tires, tour, will ride with children, and may venture onto less than ideal roads 26" is a great choice.

(5) We do have a baby boy and would like to ride with him in the future. What do people think about tandems that convert to triples?

They're great, but they carry a noteworthy cost premium. Mark Johnson at Precision Tandems in Kansas is perhaps the leading expert in multi-seat, take-a-part and convertible tandems as he has been riding them with his family for a decade in mixed configurations as tandem to triplet to quad to quint.... and often times changing configurations mid-ride at tandem rallies. I can recall watching him remove two of the five seats from a convertible Meridian at the Midwest Tandem Rally in Dayton, Ohio, at the first SAG / Lunch stop then riding the middle segment of the long route in triplet configuration while the kids played in the park. I don't recall if he put it back together for the ride back to the hotel after lunch or if that was it for the day having allowed the girls to experience a 500 bike mass start and parade down the bike path.

Again, given the significant nature of this purchase and your proximity to TWO of the only tandem dealers to put on open houses which are both occurring during the next two weeks, I would strongly consider altering your plans such that you could attend at least one of the three days of activity. It will be time well-spent since you will be able to put your hands on the hardware, do side-by-side comparisons and the like while there are plenty of folks on hand to assist... to include enthusiasts who will no doubt be hanging around and more than willing to share their experiences.
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Old 03-21-09, 08:30 AM
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Our nine-year-old "starter tandem" KHS Tandemania Comp has 26" wheels and we've used 1.25" 90psi minimal tread tires for at least a couple of years.
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Old 03-21-09, 04:08 PM
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(3) Have people tried to do this with an S&S coupled tandem? We have a Co-Motion coupled tandem and have flown with it once. It is work but probably the best way to tale a tandem on a trip. We did have a bent chainring that had to be replaced. We chose a single color to make touch ups in the paint easier because travel bikes do get nicked up. Taking the front section off to transport in a rental car (small SUV) worked well for us. We did a 1200 mile unsupported tour and it is nice to know that if there is a problem the bike can be taken apart and put into a rental car.

(4).. is the general recommendation to go with 26" wheels even though 95% of our riding is onroad?
Our travel tandem has 26 inch wheels. Easier to put in the cases, stronger wheels, more durable tires available, possible to ride gravel, and smoother ride. It does give up some speed to our 700C tandem.

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Old 03-21-09, 09:34 PM
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Funny, I went with the Santana with the S&S couplers over the Co-Mo verision because I like the lack of free tubes with the bike apart. I worried that the free tubes could get bent.
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Old 03-22-09, 06:44 AM
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Originally Posted by 2592 View Post
Funny, I went with the Santana with the S&S couplers over the Co-Mo verision because I like the lack of free tubes with the bike apart. I worried that the free tubes could get bent.
I also went with the SS Santana Triplet. In our case because it was such a good deal when we found it used. I would like "the co-motion" system so I would not need to remove the fork every time we travel to be able to fit the front frame in a 26x26 case.... Even if I had to build a contraption to protect the frame from bending.

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Old 03-22-09, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris_W View Post
In regards to breaking down an S&S coupled tandem, I would highly recommend the Co-motion method where the couplers are in front of the captains seat-tube, rather than the Santana method where the couplers are behind the captain's seat-tube. The former method makes partial disassembly possible without touching the timing chain, which is a whole lot easier. We take the train a lot with our tandem in Europe. To take it on the train, we just disconnect the front end of the bike, and hang it from two of the ceiling mounted hooks - the front end hanging from the front wheel, the back end hanging from the back wheel.

We were seriously considering getting a Santana tandem until we realized this major difference in how they come apart. We're now very happy with our Co-motion Speedster Co-pilot.
Good point. Thanks!
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Old 03-22-09, 10:30 AM
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Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
Again, given the significant nature of this purchase and your proximity to TWO of the only tandem dealers to put on open houses which are both occurring during the next two weeks, I would strongly consider altering your plans such that you could attend at least one of the three days of activity. It will be time well-spent since you will be able to put your hands on the hardware, do side-by-side comparisons and the like while there are plenty of folks on hand to assist... to include enthusiasts who will no doubt be hanging around and more than willing to share their experiences.
Thanks for the thorough reply. I appreciate the time and effort.

A local bud discussed the merits of both LB and Tandems East. Both seem to be highly recommended. And yes ... plopping down thousands of dollars would seem to warrant the trip to either Mt Airy or Jersey. No argument there ... Mt. Airy is ~60 minutes away and making a better decision when spending $$$$ would have a lot of value by my mental calculations. Unfortunately it turns out that these couple of weeks are more than a bit rough schedule wise with the change of administration and some medical emergencies that require our local grandparent to visit the not-local great grandparent. I suggested showing up with the boy in the Burley trailer just so we could keep him around us while test riding ... not to mention it might be a good learning experience. But my most wonderful one decided it was too much of a burden.

A few people here suggested that making an appointment with Larry Black during the week might be better. Personality wise, they said that he tends to do a lot of things at once ... although almost always managing to keep tabs on what is going on. But it makes a somewhat hectic atmosphere.

EDIT:

I read a few online articles regarding the relative merits of 26" and 700c wheels. I don't think that we really care about appearances. Check that ... I really don't care about appearances. With more riding on a newly built roadie, I think that my 20" wheels are marginally slower than the 700c. Although the experiment is not perfect since the Salsa is 4-5 pounds lighter than my NWT and there are gearing differences (double versus triple). But my time differences on a 30-mile hill ride are smaller than most have predicted. Not particularly scientific, I admit. But something to consider. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that independent of tire quality that 26" versus 700c makes much of a difference. I don't, however, poo-poo other people who think differently. Packing size, BTW, failed to cross my mind. Thanks.

More generally, thank you to everyone to take the time to respond! I am looking forward to more responses.
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Old 03-22-09, 10:33 AM
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Given the circumference difference between 26" and 700C, I am inclined to go with the 700C for road riding. When you need a 53 X 11 and 700C to keep up with the pack, nothing else will do.
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Old 03-22-09, 12:36 PM
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I called Mt. Airy and their shindig continues to 3 PM. The boss thought it would be a good idea so we packed up the baby (and trailer), jumped into the minivan, got onto I 66 to head toward 495 and it was literally at a standstill. Thankfully, we noticed problems on the GPS and took a glance before getting onto the highway.

Bummer.
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Old 03-22-09, 01:20 PM
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Known both Larry and Mel for years, and they are tops in your area; go see one or both of them.
If you like the BF singles then am sure you'd like the BF Twosday; however testing other brands can be an eye opener.
Have ridden over 30 brands/models of tandem through the years, including BF, 26" wheeled daV, 26" and 700c 'tanas, Serotta, Co-Mo, etc.
All have their idiosyncracies and buyer eventually sorts out what is best for their team.
S&S is not a necessity for traveling with a 2-seater. However if you plan to do several plane trips a year and transport tandem in taxi/rent-a-car then it becomes a viable option.
Yes, it will require more time to do/undo an S&S tandem than doing the quickie fold on a TWOsday; as noted Co-Mo and 'tana setups for take-aparts are quite different.
We have traveled all over the US in the past 34+ of tandeming and have not yet felt the need for a take-apart tandem. A twicer will fit in most hatchbacks, vans, station wagons, SUVs and even the tiny Honda Fit. Be a bit innovative. Where there's a will, there'sa way!
There are choices in tandems and wheel/tire sizes; pick what you like/need/want.
As for that boy, it could be a few years before he becomes a stokid, so a trailer or a TAB (trail-a-bike) will work for quite a while.
Good luck in your quest.
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Old 03-22-09, 07:32 PM
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Originally Posted by invisiblehand View Post
Thanks for the thorough reply. I appreciate the time and effort.
EDIT:

I read a few online articles regarding the relative merits of 26" and 700c wheels. I don't think that we really care about appearances. Check that ... I really don't care about appearances. With more riding on a newly built roadie, I think that my 20" wheels are marginally slower than the 700c. Although the experiment is not perfect since the Salsa is 4-5 pounds lighter than my NWT and there are gearing differences (double versus triple). But my time differences on a 30-mile hill ride are smaller than most have predicted. Not particularly scientific, I admit. But something to consider. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that independent of tire quality that 26" versus 700c makes much of a difference. I don't, however, poo-poo other people who think differently. Packing size, BTW, failed to cross my mind. Thanks.

More generally, thank you to everyone to take the time to respond! I am looking forward to more responses.
I don't think that the speed differences have to do with wheel size as much as tires. Our 26" wheeled tandem has 1.5" tires with thicker tread and side walls. The air volume is probably twice the air volume of the 700 x 28 tires. I have thought about smaller smooth tires but much of the value of the 26" wheels would be lost. If we did not have a 700 C tandem I would have a second set of wheels with smaller smooth tires for the times when speed was more important than comfort or durability.
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Old 03-22-09, 10:12 PM
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I guess that makes me a clown, brown santa delivers my BF family tandem this Tuesday. Can't wait for the circus sideshow to begin, of course I did come from a recumbent background, one stigma to the next.


Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
accommodate a wide range of riders without the 'circus bike' stigma of the BF tandems. Both of the alternatives are more expensive than the BF alternatives but vanity is a strong emotion and a lot of folks prefer to ride tandems that look a certain way.
 
Old 03-23-09, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by 72andsunny View Post
This is your only question that I'm qualified to speak to: There are a couple of members of this board who do break their tandems "in half" routinely to fit in small cars (Priuses [sp?]), if memory serves.

However, I consider this more trouble than it's worth. A new Santana is going to have 6 couplers (and the boom tube will have oval couplers that use an allen wrench instead of a coupler wrench); you will have to take at least 3 of them apart. You must also remove the timing chain, and disconnect all the cables (the bike should come with quick releases for this).
Our new Bilenky has six couplers, three in front of the captain's seat tube, three in front of the stoker's seat tube. And all tubes are cylindrical. To half-break down the bike means breaking three frame couplers, and three cable couplers. Just be sure to cover the open ends of the couplers to keep them spotlessly clean.

How well that works for getting things in whichever car will depend on your (and hence the bike's) size, and that of the car. We brought our bike home in the back of a Prius with the rear seat down, and no couplers undone. The wheels were off. It was very tight, and we would probably make the six disconnects (but not the ones that involve the chain) to transport it when reasonable.
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Old 03-23-09, 06:52 AM
  #21  
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We've had 3 tandems. Burley Duet, Bike Friday Tandem Traveler, and a now a Co-Motion Robusta.

The Bike Friday was nice for riding with our daughter because of the extremely wide range of adjustment available as she grew.

It was ok for travelling but took a lot of time to pack (although it was not a folder) You definitely wouldn't want to disassemble it just for a short car trip.

As for riding, The Bike Friday was fine with a child stoker, but rather flexible with 2 adults. We rode it hard, including steep climbs and 50mph descents, and it never failed, but it was not the most reassuring bike to ride at high speed, hard cornering, accelerating,, etc, because of the frame flex.

Depending on your priorities and intended use, the BF could be a good choice. But IMHO, there are some limits on performance that are a trade off for the flexiblity and packability.
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Old 03-23-09, 09:39 AM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by tandem rider View Post
I don't think that the speed differences have to do with wheel size as much as tires.
What 26" roadie tires have people tried here? I understand that the Stelvios are a popular choice. In wider sizes, I see Primo Comets, Schwalbe Kojaks, and Avocet Fastgrips. Check that ... Harris Cyclery writes that they are no longer made in ERTO 559.

On the Bike Friday, I have used the Primo Comets, Schwalbe Stelvios and Marathon Racers (training and touring). All with a lot of success, IMO.
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Old 03-23-09, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
As for riding, The Bike Friday was fine with a child stoker, but rather flexible with 2 adults. We rode it hard, including steep climbs and 50mph descents, and it never failed, but it was not the most reassuring bike to ride at high speed, hard cornering, accelerating,, etc, because of the frame flex.

Depending on your priorities and intended use, the BF could be a good choice. But IMHO, there are some limits on performance that are a trade off for the flexiblity and packability.
I wondered about frame flex on a tandem. The triangle configuration has been around for a long time and given normal tubing, must be pretty close to the optimal configuration/design. The long stems and masts with Bike Fridays are generally susceptible to additional flex. I perceive a teeny bit of additional flex on my NWT relative to the big wheel steel bikes, but my understanding is that the stresses of a tandem are considerably more.

My wife is fairly petite ... ~115 lbs. I am around 195 lbs. Does this make us a big/small team?

As one might guess, when one rides a bud's bike, one generally doesn't go around diving into corners and hammering away up the hills. So we didn't notice anything particularly flexy about the Tandem Twosday. But we are fairly new at the tandem thing so it would be hard for us to notice.

So perhaps we should reconsider for the time being ... get a used tandem and deal with its size until we get a thousand miles under the belt just so we can make good comparisons. Hmmmm ... something to brood on.
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Old 03-23-09, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by tandemgeek View Post
the time it takes to disassemble and re-assemble bf or s&s tandems is more a function of the owner's mechanical acumen, organizational skills and willingness to study and then practice the process...
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Old 03-28-09, 07:28 PM
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Frame flex varies greatly between brands and models. You really need to test ride before making any choices. I was amazed at the difference when my wife and I were demoing.
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