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1987cp 05-06-13 11:18 AM

Nashbar MTB tandem (acquisition and modification)
Thinking about checking out a used MTB-style Nashbar tandem that's for sale for $250. From the pics I've seen, the cranks and brakes look rather low-end (riveted chainrings, for example), but I do see a drag brake and 40 spoke wheels. Projected use is in-town runs (under 5 miles) on lousy pavement to the library or grocery store with a 260#-plus team (captain currently 220#, stokid currently 40#), plus my one-year-old in a rear-mount seat and baskets up front.

I expect I'd see quality differences next to a Burley or Santana, but I'm not used to super-expensive or super fancy-looking bikes. My main concerns are that my bikes be strong enough, comfortable, somewhat rackable, and easy to maintain. As long as the frame and wheels don't seem likely to disintegrate, I guess I'm not too worried about overall quality, but I've had a frame or two I just couldn't get comfortable on, and I fear the idea of learning to tandem on a bike with wonky handling. I am hoping the cranks don't look too lousy in person, since upgrading a lot of stuff right away would kind of ruin the deal.

For comfort and handling reference, my current favorite solo bike is an old loaded touring frame with 47cm stays and a short top tube, modified with 38mm tires, lowered gearing, and Albatross bars set very high. Ride and position are comfortable to me, handling is plenty nimble enough and yet was dead stable with my son in the rear carrier even as he hit 40 pounds.

So the point of all this is, would I likely to have major quality or handling concerns with a Nashbar tandem, provided I'm able to fit a comfortable bar/stem combo? I expect it'll be at least somewhat better than an ancient Schwinn Twinn, but I'd hate to go buy something I'll hate in a couple months just because it seems like a lot better value than the current Kent or Pacific offerings!

hup 05-06-13 11:29 AM

My buddy rode a Nashbar steel road bike for many years before he bought his Serotta. He rode the heck out of that bike. I always thought it was a great bike. He loved it and still has it.
I'd suggest going to take a look at the tandem. Take a test ride. If it feels and fits good, offer what you think it's worth. For your intended use, it seems to me that a bike like this would be a pretty good fit.
..... only catch is, you've got to share pictures of it here :)

Happy shopping!

ksisler 05-06-13 02:50 PM

Nashbar is a reseller, meaning that some of their products for sell are really great, some probably suck, and most are in the middle somewhere. They just sell stuff. Any experience readers might have with Nashbar only counts when it is based on the exact product being considered by model, year, etc., as it tells one nothing about the next product in the line.

Onegun 05-06-13 02:58 PM

+1 to both. Two perfect replies. You can't generalize about a reseller's products, and you just need to go ride it.

1987cp 05-07-13 05:51 AM


Originally Posted by ksisler (Post 15595208)
Nashbar is a reseller, meaning that some of their products for sell are really great, some probably suck, and most are in the middle somewhere. They just sell stuff. Any experience readers might have with Nashbar only counts when it is based on the exact product being considered by model, year, etc., as it tells one nothing about the next product in the line.

Good info there! I've bought a few smaller items under the Nashbar brand and they seem just fine (especially the rear derailer made by Microshift, it's very nice), but I've never really had an offbrand frame, and I once tried an offbrand crank where the pedals wobbled badly and it was impossible to engage a crank puller!

Onegun 05-07-13 07:17 AM

Well, you also need to be careful about generalizing about "brand" merchandise these days. Take a look at, for instance. Every one of the brands on those pages used to be an actual brand with known quality control. Now every one of those is just a name, with the frames all being made in the same factory or two in Taiwan.

Does that make them "bad"? Not at all. My daughter's road bike and my fixie, (both different "brands"), came from them. But I'm a mechanic and can fix just about any problem with a bike, plus I was fully prepared to send either one of them back if they were sub-par.

The Nashbar tandem is probably the same deal. Could be good, could be so-so. You just have to inspect and ride it.

1987cp 05-07-13 08:29 AM

Currently planning to have a look unless the seller sold it already and didn't remove the posting.

Agreed about Asian-produced bikes - the ones I own are very decent. I've also read that Sturmey-Archer saw a huge quality improvement when production moved from England to Taiwan!

Anyway, I'll try to have a look at the bike, today if possible, and post what I find. For this price, I expect I'll buy it, but one never knows.

zonatandem 05-07-13 04:49 PM

Decades ago Nashbar used to sell their tandems for around 900 bucks and would have a yearly sale that knocked of $100-or-so..
Saw 2 guys at a tandem rally on a Nashbar beating a Ti-'tana up a hill outside of Eugene OR.
Was it the bikes or the riders that made the difference?
Agree, go test ride the bike and make a low-ball offer if you like it.

1987cp 05-07-13 06:39 PM

Well, I ended up buying it. It seems decent enough, and many of the things I don't like about it would be a problem on a rather more expensive bike as well. And it's actually in better condition overall than any of my other secondhand bikes were when I bought them. Front brake was wonky and has been swapped for one from my stash, and the BB eccentric seems loose (maybe just need to tighten the setscrews?). Wheels and drivetrain seem OK.

Frame was apparently made in Taiwan of American Tru-temper tubing, presumably hi-ten. Need to find a deal on a stokid crank attachment, and decide what to do to get the captain's bars higher - stem riser would seem obvious, but maybe a VO Left Bank bar would provide enough rise on the existing stem. And it's definitely getting shift levers of some sort, because I think grip shift is seriously confusing.

First impressions are that the handling characteristics of a long-wheelbase bicycle may take a LOT of getting used to. Though, my rides so far have all been solo, and maybe tandems are a lot more predictable with a stoker on board?

Onegun 05-07-13 07:12 PM

May have a lead on a used stokid setup. I'll check. See Tandems East for a variety of adjustable and riser stoker stems. If you don't see what you're looking for, just call. Mel & Barb will steer you right.

P.S. Your previous statement, i.e., "Well, I ended up buying it", is worthless without pics! :p

1987cp 05-07-13 08:17 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I'd certainly appreciate leads on a stokid attachment! I've seen a couple used ones (one modified from a normal crank) cheap on eBay in the past, but it seemed a nutty purchase with no tandem to put it on and no knowledge that I'd need that instead of just crank shorteners if I ever got one. For better or worse, this bike's rear seat tube is a few inches too tall to go with just crank shorteners at this time - and I expect my stokid will appreciate being able to use the boinger seatpost anyway. I did switch the seat clamps back around, BTW.

The cheap cranks mean (I expect) that I'll have to swap one crank arm so I can add the extra chainring, but hopefully I can use one of the ones I've already got (both 110 and 130bcd available). Which reminds me, I need to count the teeth on the existing sync rings (and actually sync the cranks since it's a nuisance even to move it around as-is) ....

Here's one of the seller's pictures from the ad. Not very good, but I'll get one or two better ones eventually!

WheelsNT 05-07-13 08:45 PM

If you could get your stoker on there with crank shorteners by swapping the pogo-stick seatpost for a regular one, I'd be tempted to do that rather than the child stoker kit. Kids are lighter than adults, so even with two of them on the back, the rear end won't hit as hard on the bumps as it would with an adult stoker. My kid has never complained once about the ride on the back of our steel tandem, but adult stokers are more inclined to. Also, pogo-stick suspension seatposts have a generally poor reputation. If you *need* a suspension seatpost, you want one of the parallelogram types.

With crank shorteners, you have a whole bunch of advantages vs the stoker kit--

center of gravity is lower, so the kid bouncing around doesn't affect you as much
the whole thing is 5+ pounds lighter (weight is not a huge deal, but 5+ pounds is a lot)
stoker bar setup is simpler, doesn't have to rise as much
much simpler to set up as far as chainline, chainring spacers
one less chain to maintain
probably less expensive to buy
no messing up the finish where the stoker kit clamps

I'm looking forward eagerly to the day the kids are tall enough that I get to junk the stoker kits. If I had a chance to go without them from the git-go I would have.

That said, if the crank shorteners won't work even with the seat all the way down and the seat clamp flipped upside down, don't let all the above discourage you from going with the stoker kit -- we've had a blast riding with the kids, and the hassle of getting it all set up was well worth it.

1987cp 05-08-13 09:36 AM

I didn't have another 26.0 post handy (or do I? There's one more I might try ...), but I stuck a conventional 25.4 post with a saddle in there, all the way down of course, and that was the position from which I determined a kidback BB attachment would be needed. Just so you don't think I'm ignoring the glaringly obvious. :D

Though, it will be slightly annoying if I buy a kidback BB and then young Master Stokid grows several inches all of a sudden. LOL

**** EDIT *******

Open foot, insert mouth!! :rolleyes: I just located my oddball spare seatpost (which I didn't think to bring along when we bought the bike, though I brought a 25.4 and a 26.4) is in fact 26.0mm, AND with it installed with a saddle on top, foot-to-pedal distance at the 6:00 position is rather less than I remembered. This is great, means all I really need to do is sync the cranks and do what I need to with the captain's cockpit.

So, how much length can crank shorteners take off the crank arms?

***** EDIT #2 ******

Any other weird names people may call crank shorteners when listing on Craigslist or Fleabay?

Onegun 05-08-13 10:27 AM

[email protected] - Pittsburg

Most crank shorteners take off about half the crank arm length, but check with the seller.

WheelsNT 05-08-13 10:27 AM

2 Attachment(s) Shrotners

The info at the link says, "Shortens the crank length by 24mm, 41mm, 59mm & 76mm. Reduce cranks by 3 at the max."

Also, you may know this, but to get the seat absolutely as low as it will go, get a straight post like this:

and add a separate seat clamp like this:

Install the seat clamp upside down so that the seat rails are at the bottom edge of the clamp rather than the top as in the picture. It's harder to get a wrench on the clamp nuts that way, but you can do it if you're persistent. This process will get the seat about an inch lower than a standard seatpost with an integrated clamp.

1987cp 05-08-13 11:35 AM

That must be why the saddle height seems lower than in the first trial, since the 26.0 post I found is a pipe style, and I like to install saddle clamps as you describe. My initial trial was with a Kalloy UNO post, which evidently left the saddle enough higher to be an apparent problem. Amusing to find that the pipe posts really are good for something!

Onegun - I assume you meant to post this link? I guess I'll have to e-mail the seller and ask if he's willing to ship.

Onegun 05-08-13 12:57 PM

Oops! Was in a hurry to go ride! Sorry.

If the guy's not willing to ship, ask on the list. Some tandem team in/around Pittsburgh would probably handle it for you.

P.S. If you haven't thought of it already, if you install that seatpost clamp backwards as well as upside down, (meaning with the thru-bolt in front of the seatpost), it'll move the saddle further forward as well.

TheWhip 05-08-13 10:00 PM

Congrats on the bike! Any idea what approx year it is?

I bought a Nashbar touring bike in 1985 and still ride it to work everyday (28 to 48 miles round trip depending on how energetic I am feeling). The original components weren't top of the line, but they worked for a while. Many of the components were for mountain bikes and the hubs and BB were sealed bearings. It is a Japanese-built steel lugged touring frame and now has mostly new parts, of course, but I still have the downtube shifters on it!

zonatandem 05-08-13 10:58 PM

And . . . to raise the kid up a bit higher yet, you can also make a set of pedal block to raise the kid up some more. Attach toeclips to the blocks and feet will not slip off.

1987cp 05-09-13 08:58 PM

Hm, I stink slightly for not yet having my own pictures of the thing.

I was pleased to learn how easy it is to mess with the BB eccentric, and somewhat surprised how hard it was to get the cranks actually lined up. I think they're still a tooth off, but at least it's a lot easier to move the thing around. I'm trying a flipped-over time trial bar for the stoker position, which the boy seems to reach OK - once we get to actually ride it, he should figure out quickly whether that really works for him. I also put on some cheap 40mm tires I had, mostly because the rims are relatively narrow and these should squirm less than the 50s it came with.

I think I've decided the captain's bar will be one of Riv's new Bosco Bars, mostly since the ~4" rise may save having to fiddle around with stems in addition to swapping bars. I think it should at least get the grip area even with the saddle, though maybe I'll find I want higher.


Originally Posted by TheWhip (Post 15605501)
Congrats on the bike! Any idea what approx year it is?

Thanks! I'm guessing early 2000s? It's got the threadless headset and what appear to be cartridge BBs, both of which I think of as fairly new-tech, but sports a 7 speed freewheel out back (though maybe those still come stock on very cheap bikes?). I thought of e-mailing the seller back, but I only had an encoded Craigslist e-mail address that'd be no good now. He said the bike ran him $600 originally, FWIW.

Your Nashbar tourer sounds pretty neat; my Taiwan-built tourer is also from 1985, and I like it despite two or three nonfixable annoyances (would prefer tall-stack headset, kickstand plate, more BB drop) and having swapped out most of the original parts.


Originally Posted by zonatandem (Post 15605631)
Attach toeclips to the blocks and feet will not slip off.

Great thought! I made pencil marks on one crank arm, and it looks like he'll reach OK with shorteners, but if not, I'll have to try that.

1987cp 05-19-13 08:14 PM

Test-fit one of cheap fenders, looks like they'll fit acceptably and even look OK. Didn't bother with the rear yet since I didn't want to remove the rear wheel late in the day.

I found I could save the original front brake with some WD-40 and much wiggling in a vise, so I put it back on since pad adjustment on these newer V-brakes looks 500 times easier and the pads I have for the older Nexave V brake tend to collect aluminum. Probably want to add something more lubricating than kerosene at some point.

Also solved the BB-eccentric wobbling problem. Seems the socket capscrews used to secure it weren't quite long enough, so I substituted some much longer M6 hex screws for the time being. Should buy longer socket screws next time I'm at Ace.

Also also, pondering front rackability. I see a VO Porteur rack on eBay that's currently pretty cheap, so I may try to get that. This fork has mid-fork eyelets but no upper dropout eyelets ... worst case, I suppose I may have to make little brackets to mount it nicely to the lower dropout eyelets it does have.

Probably going to order crank shorteners and Bosco handlebar sometime fairly soon. May swap shifters tomorrow if the cable don't give too much trouble. (I assume extracting the cable from these irritating grip shifters isn't too awfully involved.)

1987cp 05-22-13 08:58 PM

Grip shifters are gone! Yay me!

Found crank shorteners on Fleabay, may arrive as soon as tomorrow.

Spent some time today installing the rear fender and child seat, plus of course swapping shifters. Took me a while to figure out how to undo the cable on the newfangled low-mount front derailer. Still haven't ordered the handlebar, because I'm ludicrously indecisive about what else to get at the same time.

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