Bike Forums

Bike Forums (
-   Tandem Cycling (
-   -   New to tandems (

drberg1000 03-17-14 07:07 PM

New to tandems
I've decided to purchase a tandem... I'm excited. The two bikes I'm considering are a mid 90s Santana and a mid-late 90s KHS Milan. Would appreciate your thoughts and suggestions as to what I should keep in mind. I'm new to tandems but have been riding mid quality bikes (road, mountain & touring $1000 and up) since '96.

Mid 90s Santana ?????:
Priced < $600
Size: 22"x20"
Drivetrain: 3x7 w/ downtube shifters
Wheels: 700x38 tires
Brakes: Cantilever
Mechanical: Seller says it needs an overhaul.
Frame Condition: Steel. Reportedly good structurally but with many scratches and cosmetic issues
Brazeons: Not sure about the front end, rear has seat stay brazeons for a rack but I only see unthreaded holes in the frame by the hub. What are these for? Could mounting fenders and rack on this bike be a challenge?

KHS Milano
Priced < $800
Drivetrain: 3x8 w/ downtube shifters
Wheels: 700x43 tires
Brakes: V-Brakes
Mechanical: Seller says it's ready to ride
Frame: Steel. Looks clean
Brazeons: Rear rack mounted in photo. Owner thinks there's plenty of room for fenders but hasn't confirmed or denied presence of brazeons for them.

I'm an avid cyclist and Father of 3 kiddos ages 13-7. My most frequent stoker will likely be my now 10yr old and occasionally my wife. I'll usually be pulling a trail-a-bike and occasionally a burly for errands and the occasional tour. I expect it to be able to handle gravel, and will ride it year round so fenders are a requirement.

Finally, I do expect this to be a first tandem only. My preference for riding gravel roads, a hope for doing loaded tours either as a family or a couple, and a desire for the quietest paths (natural surface) says I'll ultimately want a bike that will handle 2" or larger tires. Most of our rides will be on paved city trails/streets and the occasional excursion into gravel, rolling country roads. Unfortunately, the only option in near by markets is way out of my initial price range. I have a 90minute drive to test ride so I'll only have a brief time to consider and purchase after looking them over.

Questions in my head...
* Are these prices reasonable?
* Will either be easier to sell in a couple years?
* Should I hold out for a mountain based tandem even if that means weeks/months of missed family rides?
* Would I be happy with a 3x7 drivetrain, even as a temporary solution?
* Would the cantilever brakes provide enough stopping power when loaded with 2 kids, trailers & gear?

Thanks for your thoughts.


oregontrail 03-17-14 08:03 PM

You don't indicate the size of you or your stoker(s). Fitting the riders to the bike is critical, especially for someone new to tandem cycling. While cost is always a factor, it should be secondary to sizing the bike. Both bikes are steel, which means weight. Don't get a trailer until you are sure all of you can handle the added weight. I suggest that you find a tandem dealer in your area and take rides with your family. The most important thing in tandem cycling is communication, not conditioning. A good test ride has the future captain ride as stoker. It will be an eye opener for you.. Used bikes involve compromises that can be ok in the short run but can make it hard, especially for the stoker. We use a bike with Independent Coasting System. It allows cyclists with different abilities to ride together with less conflict. Good luck.

1speeder 03-17-14 08:35 PM


I would first say to ride them both to make sure you and family will fit the tandem. The Santana may be too large for what you are looking for. There are different types of ways to shorten the cranks or even mount a crank set above the stokers unit for the kids. I had a mtb tandem that was large/small and it was great with my kids when they were younger (still had to use adaptors to shorten the crank). One other thing to know when buying an older tandem, when you are dealing with 5,6 or 7 speed cassette's, you are pretty much stuck with that gearing. Moving to 8, 9 or 10 speed will usually require a new rear hub, then there is the older tandem spacing which will give you more to think about (especially if it is a Santana).
It sounds like the Santana with down tube shifter might be from the early 90's or before.

I doubt the Santana will fit much larger tires than what it has, you will need to look to see what the clearance is when you check out the bikes. It is hard to say what the brakes will be like, old brake shoes may not work that well. Again, you need to test ride the bike (even if you ride it solo). Many of the older canti's worked ok, you just need to set up the straddle wire correctly for the best mechanical advantage.

What year is the KHS? I'm surprised it has downtube shifters as that is pretty old school, usually tandems use bar ends?

If you could add the link to the bike adds or add pictures, it would be a great help.

Good luck and ask away with questions,

nfmisso 03-17-14 09:45 PM

Hi Dave;

We purchased our 2nd tandem a few years ago - our Trek T50 used. Our first was a beach cruiser style new from a dealer - too many compromises/uncomfortable. In between was a lot of research and studying what we wanted and why. When the rear rim cracked; I built new front and rear wheels using 40H Wheelmaster hubs, Wheelsmith SS14 spokes and Velocity Dyad rims, and converted from 7 speed to 9 speed with a SRAM X.9 RD. It was about $300- in parts plus my labor. The 9 speed gave us a lower bottom gear (34T vs 30T) and taller top (11T vs 12T) and closer ratios.

Our riding is all pavement.

For gravel roads, I would not want down tube shifters. I'd want flat bars with trigger or grip shifters. But that is personal preference.

On a tandem, you will feel your stoker move around; and if they move a lot, it will move the whole bike side to side a LOT more than you expect.

I think that you'd be happier with a T50/100/200 than either of the choices you shared. This one has been advertised on CL for a LONG time (I have no stake in it) Trek Tandem

If you have a bit more budget; Ibis tandems are great: Ibis Cousin It Tandem-beautiful and designed for the kind of riding you described.

If you share with us your location, we will all help you look for a tandem that suits you better.

drberg1000 03-18-14 08:01 AM

oregontrail: My wife also rides a 20" MTB frame. Her seat height is almost identical to mine (~37" w/ 175mm cranks). My 10yo has a seat height of 28" and can reach the pedals on an 18" with 2x4 pedal blocks and the tag-a-long attachment in place. I figure with a crank shortener she'd be able to reach the pedals on the larger of the two.

I like the idea of riding in the stoker seat. I'll have to suggest that to my wife one of the next times we're out.

I'm not new to riding around with a long bike & lots of weight. With my single I've pulled the tag-a-long and trailer for 30 mile rides with full loads and just the trailer for weekend tours. My dad's tandem w/ tag-a-log feels similar just with a much longer turning radius.

nfmisso: I would also prefer a flat bar setup (Jones H bar & bar ends on paul thumbies) but drop bars will be fine for a first bike. Both of those tandems you liked to look like great options. Unfortunately, I'm shopping in midwest markets. At the moment, selection is limited to these two and a Cannondale MT2000 20"/18" for $1600 (At least $600 above our current budget). [EDIT: Cannondale has been sold]

1Speeder: I don't know the year of the Milano but you're right. They're STI not downtube shifters. I expect I was remembering a T200 I'd briefly considered. I've shared the photos I have of the tandems at:

I'm not expecting this first tandem to be perfect. I'd like it to fit us well enough to be comfortable for a 2 hour ride. I'd like it to handle a trip to the grocery store. Most importantly, I want it to tell me this is something we're going to use regularly and that I should actually invest $3k - 5K into something like a Santana Fusion or Co-Motion Mocha.

Thanks for the thoughts. I'll definitely be checking the bikes for fit and function before I purchase anything.

1speeder 03-18-14 08:32 AM

1 Attachment(s)
I think a 26" wheel sized tandem might be the best for you, the wheels are stronger than the 700c wheels and many come with fender and rack braze ons. I bought an older Santana Rio 2 months back because I wanted to get back onto a tandem and wanted flat bars and wider tires to ride the bay trails, which has gravel and dirt trails as part of it. I did need to travel to pick this tandem up (400 miles one way), but the price was right ($550) and I couldn't find one near by. Everything worked and just needed some chain lube and cable adjustments,there are a few small dents in the top tube but it is a blast to ride. It does only have a 7 speed cassette, but seems fine for what I'm using for.


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:48 PM.