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Advice on new Calfee Build

Old 01-25-15, 08:18 PM
  #1  
swiz
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Advice on new Calfee Build

We are close to pulling the trigger on a new Calfee coupled tandem. I've read a lot of great discussions on various topics. We were down at the factory on Friday. We were suprised by the number of tandems being built.

I'd like people's opinion on a few things.

* Calfee is recommending thru-axle with front/rear disc. This looks really robust. While I want to modernize over our older tandem, I'm a little concerned about wheel/hub avaliablity in the future. And the robustness on an adapter on my thule tandem roof rack.

* For a coupled travel tandem Calfee recommends staying with mechanical disc brakes, but they do have a cable routing solution to allow the caliper to be removed for packing. One concern is repairibility while on a trip. But in reality the bike will be packed once or maybe twice a year. It seems better to optimize for the normal use.

* We are going with Di2 and currently ride a triple. We need the granny at times. It looks like the Di2 XTR rear derailleur will be out shortly, and that should handle a 36th better than Ultegra with a mid cage, and have headroom for a 40. Should I wait on this?

* Calfee recommends Rolf wheels. One reason is easier packing. I've seen enough failure reviews here to be concerned. Longer term I expect to have more than one set of wheels for different conditions, but not really sure I want to start with Rolf even if I may want to give them a try.

And while I have read a many positive things about working with Calfee on the frameset, I've heard little about working with them to build a complete. I like doing the build myself, but it is also nice to get the complete bike to start. Plenty of other bikes to tinker with.

Thanks everyone for their opinions, good/bad or indifferent. :-).

jeffs
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Old 01-25-15, 08:35 PM
  #2  
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I think through axles are the future for nearly all types of bikes, maybe even road racing eventually. They already started appearing on cyclocross bikes last year, and I believe they will quickly become standard on tandems, so if wheel selection is less than ideal now, I think it will get better over time.
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Old 01-26-15, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by swiz View Post
We are close to pulling the trigger on a new Calfee coupled tandem. I've read a lot of great discussions on various topics. We were down at the factory on Friday. We were suprised by the number of tandems being built.

I'd like people's opinion on a few things.

* Calfee is recommending thru-axle with front/rear disc. This looks really robust. While I want to modernize over our older tandem, I'm a little concerned about wheel/hub avaliablity in the future. And the robustness on an adapter on my thule tandem roof rack.

Thru-axle + disc brake is the best fork solution available. It locks in the fork blades creating a very sturdy triangle, plus better distributes some of the torque load. It also ensures the front hub will remain in your fork, unlike QR + disc which can leverage out. Remember, on tandems you will likely use a 180mm front rotor and that is a lot more force than what is used on typical road disc setups.

* For a coupled travel tandem Calfee recommends staying with mechanical disc brakes, but they do have a cable routing solution to allow the caliper to be removed for packing. One concern is repairibility while on a trip. But in reality the bike will be packed once or maybe twice a year. It seems better to optimize for the normal use.

So this question is about mechanical (cable) disc vs hydraulic. Mechanical is definitely the more simple solution, hydraulic is by far the best performance. If you intend to do steep descents then hydra will rule. A middle compromise is the TRP Hy/Rd caliper... uses a wire lead with hydraulic master cylinders at the caliper end.


* We are going with Di2 and currently ride a triple. We need the granny at times. It looks like the Di2 XTR rear derailleur will be out shortly, and that should handle a 36th better than Ultegra with a mid cage, and have headroom for a 40. Should I wait on this?

I have yet to read of anyone that has successfully used road Di2 levers with the Di2 XTR derailleurs. If you must implement something now with a 36t rear cog, then likely the standard Di2 road setup + the K-Edge RD cage hack is the only option.

* Calfee recommends Rolf wheels. One reason is easier packing. I've seen enough failure reviews here to be concerned. Longer term I expect to have more than one set of wheels for different conditions, but not really sure I want to start with Rolf even if I may want to give them a try.

No doubt those are easier packing wheels with huge spaces between the pairs of spokes, but as your research showed, durability is somewhat compromised.

And while I have read a many positive things about working with Calfee on the frameset, I've heard little about working with them to build a complete. I like doing the build myself, but it is also nice to get the complete bike to start. Plenty of other bikes to tinker with.

I learn a lot from seeing other builds by other people, but much prefer to build my own and tinker plus shop for component deals Also, routing Di2 wiring in our coupled frame is a piece of cake. I ended up moving our battery to inside the bottom tube instead of cramming the stoker seat tube with that plus and bunch of wires and junction box.

Thanks everyone for their opinions, good/bad or indifferent. :-).

jeffs
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Old 01-26-15, 09:01 PM
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Di2 is da bomb in its conventional configuration, but don't go to the bleeding edge (XTR) unless you are prepared for the consequences, which could be immortality or flame-out failure - who knows.
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Old 01-26-15, 11:05 PM
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Hi
We just had our second Calfee frame built and have been thru all the options you are considering. Our new frame has thru axles front and rear, couplers ,Di2 11 speed with 11-36 rear and 50/34 compact front, custom paint, head tube extension, front and rear discs and hydraulics. We had mechanical brakes before and won't go back at this point. I am using the K-edge cage modification as we use a 36 rear cassette and it has been flawless and I simply moved it to the new 11 -speed derailleur. We have tried all of the mechanical brakes and had issues with most of them. We had new wheels built and went with one set of Zipp 404 for event wheels and a second set with Velocity Aeileron Rims for trips on rough roads. We travel extensively and our previous frame has been in the cases at least 25 times and the new one will also travel a lot. Calfee has been awesome and modified our previous frame to keep up with changes in technology a number of times. Our previous frame was completed and a complete build at the factory in 2008 and to be honest the build was crap however that mechanic is long gone and Craig realized he had to have a top mechanic since his business model changed to selling complete bikes. Rob the present mechanic is great and did a new build during one of frame mods and it was top notch. Since we live in Alaska we always have to pack the bike. Regular wheels are fine to pack and as the new thru axle forks will really strengthen the frame for disc brakes. I went with 142x12 rear and 15mm front. These are also the new standard for most mountain bikes so almost anywhere in the world you could go to a decent bike shop and buy a 29r wheel and be on your way for a issue with your wheels. As far as your roof rack there are adapters available and will certainly be more available. I have the same rack and have some ideas to modify it in a more permanent fashion and will share if they work out.

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Old 01-26-15, 11:08 PM
  #6  
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Another highly accomplished Di2 equipped local tandem team tried the XTR Di2, and came to nought.

I just got Campy EPS on my BMC half-bike. It's great, I love it. So effortless. But I'd not consider it for my tandem at all. Shifting effort pales in comparison to pedalling effort. In the Bay Area environs we share there are steep hills like no where else. Just our little ride yesterday , we looking at grades of 13%. They abound around here. Our ratio of 30 front, 32 rear takes care of these. On the top end we retain 52-11. A double (50-34?) with a cassette the size of a manhole cover, with a K-Edge RD cage, may do that, but with jumps that'll have you warning your stoker with a shift. And that'll still be limited on the top end. I don't want a cadence a little too low or high, I want it right on. I get that with a mechanical triple, and but not with a electric shifting double.

Check out the differences here, between 52-39-30 with 11-32 and 52-36 with 11-36. You can make adjustments, eg. different chainrings . The double even witn 11-36 still doesn't have the low gearing (.938 vs. 1.0), but my what big jumps your cassette teeth have!

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Old 01-27-15, 12:40 AM
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Ritterview, you are right, we have to really be sure we want to get ride of the triple. My stoker is a slow climber still, and dropping it cannot be taken lightly.

That choice is a pre-requise to the Di2/hydro question.

Some early feedback on XTR Di2 was encouraging, but yes, it looks like an expensive dead end. Maybe it will be sorted out when a more reasonable XT version is out.

jeffs
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Old 01-27-15, 02:55 AM
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As with all gearing questions it comes down to what you personally want. Team strength, gradients, cadence, gaps between gears etc are all things that only you can decide on what suits you.
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Old 01-27-15, 10:14 AM
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Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
Another highly accomplished Di2 equipped local tandem team tried the XTR Di2, and came to nought.

I just got Campy EPS on my BMC half-bike. It's great, I love it. So effortless. But I'd not consider it for my tandem at all. Shifting effort pales in comparison to pedalling effort. In the Bay Area environs we share there are steep hills like no where else. Just our little ride yesterday , we looking at grades of 13%. They abound around here. Our ratio of 30 front, 32 rear takes care of these. On the top end we retain 52-11. A double (50-34?) with a cassette the size of a manhole cover, with a K-Edge RD cage, may do that, but with jumps that'll have you warning your stoker with a shift. And that'll still be limited on the top end. I don't want a cadence a little too low or high, I want it right on. I get that with a mechanical triple, and but not with a electric shifting double.

Check out the differences here, between 52-39-30 with 11-32 and 52-36 with 11-36. You can make adjustments, eg. different chainrings . The double even witn 11-36 still doesn't have the low gearing (.938 vs. 1.0), but my what big jumps your cassette teeth have!

Very well said! I am a strong proponent of close ratios!

That being said is it possible to use electronic shifting on the rear and mechanical on the front?
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Old 01-27-15, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
Another highly accomplished Di2 equipped local tandem team tried the XTR Di2, and came to nought.
From the link above:
I just had chance to experiment and this does indeed seem to be the case. Plug in the XTR rear derailleur on its own with the Dura-ace levers and it works a charm. But plug in the road front derailleur and the entire system seizes to a halt. No shifting on either end, no battery indicator, nothing. So as Leonard says the options are to convert the drive-train fully to XTR (both the RD and FD) or run it 1x11 speed without a FD. Or I guess, buy a second battery and run the front and rear derailleurs as completely independent systems.
Am I reading this correctly? It appears that it might be possible to use XTR FD and RD with road levers?

Also it appears the RD worked with no FD plugged in so a mechanical FD may be an option. I guess it would look a little to odd the have the best mechanical FD operation with a Campy left shifter. I suppose a bar end or downtube shifter would work as well for the FD. Interesting contrast a electronic RD and a down tube nonindexed FD!
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Old 01-27-15, 12:23 PM
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Originally Posted by swiz View Post
Ritterview, you are right, we have to really be sure we want to get ride of the triple. My stoker is a slow climber still, and dropping it cannot be taken lightly.

That choice is a pre-requise to the Di2/hydro question.

Some early feedback on XTR Di2 was encouraging, but yes, it looks like an expensive dead end. Maybe it will be sorted out when a more reasonable XT version is out.

jeffs

Horses for courses. The tandem drivetrain needs to be suited to your team on your terrain. A popular local ride is the Western Wheeler's Sequoia Century. Its beautiful, there's a lot to like.

If your team's time on Old La Honda is over 22 minutes, you are going to need gearing for this:



On Sequoia Century before you'll know it you are on Redwood Gulch, 1.2 miles of 11% grade with pitches of 17%. We did the metric in 2013 with a 12-29 cassette and 28t granny, for a >1 ratio. On one 0.4 mile segment our cadence was 55 and our speed 4.1 mph. A cadence slower than 50 is mashing, and a speed less than 4.1 mph is about to topple over. That's desperate. You need gearing to take on these challenges. Redwood Gulch doesn't care if you have Di2. All it wants to know is what is your gearing. Your lowest gear should be at least 1.1. Its hard to do that with a double, and still have top end and not have huge jumps.
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Old 01-27-15, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
From the link above:


Am I reading this correctly? It appears that it might be possible to use XTR FD and RD with road levers?

Also it appears the RD worked with no FD plugged in so a mechanical FD may be an option. I guess it would look a little to odd the have the best mechanical FD operation with a Campy left shifter. I suppose a bar end or downtube shifter would work as well for the FD. Interesting contrast a electronic RD and a down tube nonindexed FD!
I don't quite get why Joth bothered trying to mix a XTR Di2 RD with a DA Di2 FD since all available public info said you can't do this. How about trying it with a XTR Di2 FD too!!

Yes, the Shimano compatibility chart (and Zinn info) has always indicated the XTR Di2 derailleurs can be used as a pair with the road Di2 shifters. Just, nobody has done this yet.
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Old 01-27-15, 12:58 PM
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Originally Posted by Ritterview View Post
Horses for courses. The tandem drivetrain needs to be suited to your team on your terrain. A popular local ride is the Western Wheeler's Sequoia Century. Its beautiful, there's a lot to like.

If your team's time on Old La Honda is over 22 minutes, you are going to need gearing for this:



On Sequoia Century before you'll know it you are on Redwood Gulch, 1.2 miles of 11% grade with pitches of 17%. We did the metric in 2013 with a 12-29 cassette and 28t granny, for a >1 ratio. On one 0.4 mile segment our cadence was 55 and our speed 4.1 mph. A cadence slower than 50 is mashing, and a speed less than 4.1 mph is about to topple over. That's desperate. You need gearing to take on these challenges. Redwood Gulch doesn't care if you have Di2. All it wants to know is what is your gearing. Your lowest gear should be at least 1.1. Its hard to do that with a double, and still have top end and not have huge jumps.
Our current Di2 road setup is with 48/30 chainrings x 11-32 11spd cassette, which is actually a touch wider range (both taller and smaller) than a 52/39/28 x 12-29 cassette. That is adequate for up to 10% grades. Sure we have slightly wider ratio gaps compared to the 12-29, but it's tolerable. I'm pretty sure we could get away with running a 48/28 chainring setup too (I have that granny on hand but not needed it yet), but the 28 granny & 32t cog ratio would be nothing compared to using a 30t granny x 11-36t cassette (+ the K-Edge RD cage @ $350). I would definitely not want to do sustained > 10% climbing with a 30x32 (or 28x29) setup. This is of course a non-racing setup.

For racing, I'd be looking at the ride profiles to see what chainring gearing we could get away with. Mostly I would likely setup our Di2 with a super-compact 52 or 53 large chainring and a 34t granny, keeping the 11-32 cassette. Linda has been making some inquiries about doing a race later this year, so maybe we'll see then.

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Old 01-27-15, 02:06 PM
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The K-Edge RD is $350? Ouch.

We are not racers, and the range and gaps is important factor. I know for sure we need less than 1:1 to get around the SF Bay Area hills that Ritterview mentions.

I spent time last night with the gear calculator, and need to analyze the options closer still. We will spend some time paying attention our sensitivity to gearing gaps this weekend.

jeffs
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Old 01-27-15, 03:31 PM
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Gaps in-between gears can also be more a mental than physical problem. You may well be unhappy with a "gappy" cassette but the varying cadence may have negligible effect on performance. It can actually have a plus side in that your speed on a tandem varies so much on rolling terrain it reduces the number of gear changes required on the back and front.
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Old 01-27-15, 03:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Dean V View Post
Gaps in-between gears can also be more a mental than physical problem. You may well be unhappy with a "gappy" cassette but the varying cadence may have negligible effect on performance. It can actually have a plus side in that your speed on a tandem varies so much on rolling terrain it reduces the number of gear changes required on the back and front.

"may" is the operative word. It depends on the cadence range and power of the team. Unfortunately those of us with low power tend to also have a narrower cadence range. Patience can help. Big gaps can put us in the situation where we have to stay spinning in a gear we feel is too easy because we can't quite turn over the next largest one. That is a mental adjustment for sure but also results in a slower speed than just the right gear.
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Old 01-28-15, 05:10 AM
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Thru-axles:
Is Calfee recommending a 14212 rear hub? I ask because that uses the same spoke flanges as a normal 135QR. Don't Calfees usually come with a 145QR rear end for slightly better (though not symmetrical) spoke angle? Are tandem teams having success with "normal" width rear hubs? If you want through axles but also want the strength of a dishless wheel perhaps Calfee will build to the wider thru-axle standard used by DH bikes, 157mm. There are still plenty of hub companies that make these since it's a standard used by almost every downhill bike. The chainline would be similar to a 145QR rear wheel so whatever crankset Calfee normally uses would be fine.

The MTB world has decided that 142 doesn't provide enough spoke bracing angle when paired with a 700c (29") rim so they're introducing 148mm. This is very new and limited though. It's this move that has me questioning whether 142 would be strong enough on a tandem.
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Old 01-28-15, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by LelandJT View Post
Thru-axles:
Is Calfee recommending a 14212 rear hub? I ask because that uses the same spoke flanges as a normal 135QR. Don't Calfees usually come with a 145QR rear end for slightly better (though not symmetrical) spoke angle? Are tandem teams having success with "normal" width rear hubs? If you want through axles but also want the strength of a dishless wheel perhaps Calfee will build to the wider thru-axle standard used by DH bikes, 157mm. There are still plenty of hub companies that make these since it's a standard used by almost every downhill bike. The chainline would be similar to a 145QR rear wheel so whatever crankset Calfee normally uses would be fine.

The MTB world has decided that 142 doesn't provide enough spoke bracing angle when paired with a 700c (29") rim so they're introducing 148mm. This is very new and limited though. It's this move that has me questioning whether 142 would be strong enough on a tandem.
I like the 157mm idea but am a little concerned with the durability of the aluminum thru axle and its aluminum threads.
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Old 01-28-15, 09:54 AM
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Nothing to worry about. They've been working fine in MTB for a decade and a half. The threads are big and you don't torque them that hard. One thing worth noting is with the 142 standard there are 3 types of axles (Shimano, X-12, DT Flat). My bikes use the DT Flat system for which you can get QR levers or allen key axles. In the 157 width no one makes QR levers but DT could be convinced to make a longer version of their 142 axle if the quantity is there. If you are really worried about strength with the longer 157 axle a frame maker could have Ti axles made or buy the ones Banshee uses.
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Old 01-28-15, 10:53 AM
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Tandem "standards"

Originally Posted by LelandJT View Post
Thru-axles:
Is Calfee recommending a 14212 rear hub? I ask because that uses the same spoke flanges as a normal 135QR. Don't Calfees usually come with a 145QR rear end for slightly better (though not symmetrical) spoke angle? Are tandem teams having success with "normal" width rear hubs? If you want through axles but also want the strength of a dishless wheel perhaps Calfee will build to the wider thru-axle standard used by DH bikes, 157mm. There are still plenty of hub companies that make these since it's a standard used by almost every downhill bike. The chainline would be similar to a 145QR rear wheel so whatever crankset Calfee normally uses would be fine.

The MTB world has decided that 142 doesn't provide enough spoke bracing angle when paired with a 700c (29") rim so they're introducing 148mm. This is very new and limited though. It's this move that has me questioning whether 142 would be strong enough on a tandem.

This hub spacing and wheel strength is all heavily dependent on the weight of the team. Yes, the spoke flanges are the same as on a 142mm and 135mm hub. IMHO, 145mm and 160mm rear hubs, on a road tandem (sub 300lbs), is just overkill. Unless you plan to do loaded touring, it is not necessary. Again, team weight and loads are a big factor here and I cannot speak to the weight of the OP's team.

This is coming from a team that has:
1000s of miles on 145mm rear road tandem (DaVinci 26" wheel") zero problems
1000s of miles on 135mm rear mtb tandem. (26" wheel full suspension - broke one spoke but to be fair it was an aluminum spoke on an Industry Nine wheel)
1000s of miles on 145mm rear mtb tandem. (29" wheel full suspension & hard tail - broke 2 spokes)
1000s of miles on 130mm & 135mm road tandem (700c wheels zero problems)
You may notice a theme here... mtbs are harder on wheels, especially tandems

For reference, we weigh about 275 lbs.

The OP notes that he plans to travel. Having a hub standard that can be readily found seems to be a priority. A 145mm rear hub is not readily found in most shops that I know of. A 160mm hub is unheard of. I can't speak to 157mm, but guessing that it might be difficult. Finding a 29er 142mm wheel at any shop that has a quality mountain bike would seem to be easy. Front thru axles are certainly common place.

My point is this, when you post on the forums, you get a WIDE array of responses and opinions. You need to weed through that and make an informed decision based on your intended use and whatever else you prioritize. When I first got into tandems, I had the perception that a normal spaced hub (135mm mtb or 130mm spaced road) on a tandem would simply just vaporize due to the tremendous weight/power/load (insert sarcasm). It was not until I saw others riding "less robust" configurations that I realized that some of the tandem "standards" may be where they are so that tandem builders can ensure that their bike can hold up to a 400lb + team or fully loaded with panniers etc.. I'm not faulting any manufacturer or anyone here, just saying that one size fits all may not be the answer.

Ok, go

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Old 01-28-15, 11:46 AM
  #21  
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Good post and I agree.

I will add that I believe rim strength has come along way since the 145mm and 160mm widths were invented. A strong rim will make up for the narrower spacing. I expect that if you put an old school light weight box shaped rim on a modern 135/142mm hub tandem you will most likely have the same problems that drove all the makers to go wider than then then standard 140mm hubs.
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Old 01-28-15, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by swiz View Post

* Calfee is recommending thru-axle with front/rear disc. This looks really robust. While I want to modernize over our older tandem, I'm a little concerned about wheel/hub avaliablity in the future.
Front discs on tandems make great sense in theory, but lead to other issues, questions. For example, the front hub flange distance will be less. Proven forks are scarcer, and these need be more robust. A tapered steerer makes more sense, but does Calfee propose to provide a matching tapered head tube? You might ask why Calfee's headtube is aluminum, wouldn't a carbon headtube be stronger, lighter, better?

I find the 203 mm rear disc and front caliper to be adequate, even for the Bay Area descents (although descending Redwood Gulch, Hicks, or Bohlman would give me pause). You might want to compare how it works out with or without a front disk. You may like the front caliper option better.
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Old 01-28-15, 12:50 PM
  #23  
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Calfee is using tapered head tubes now for the disc carbon forks. I am guessing the reason they don't use carbon head tubes is the cost benefit ratio doesn't work. Calfee is as carbon committed as they come so much that even the rear cable guides on our new frame are carbon. I am more then comfortable with the new fork choices for discs wheels especially with thru axles. As far as wheel strength with the slightly narrower flange distance the failures all seem to be rim problems not tacoing the wheel. The use of deep profile rims especially carbon rims makes them incredibly strong and effectively changes the spoke angles and shortens their spoke length for added strength. We run the same spacing on our mountain tandems and they get a lot more abuse and loads then the road tandems and have no issues. I think Colotandem (Dan) is right on with his post. We have yet to see a tacoed tandem wheel on any trip we have been on that probably amounts to 5-10,000 tandem days of riding if you take the number of tandems teams x the number of days of riding.
We have seen a few broken spokes and many of these bikes are far from being well maintained or the latest tech. I am excited to have dual hydraulic discs as I think it will be game changer for big descents .
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Old 01-28-15, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by LelandJT View Post
Thru-axles:
Is Calfee recommending a 14212 rear hub? I ask because that uses the same spoke flanges as a normal 135QR. Don't Calfees usually come with a 145QR rear end for slightly better (though not symmetrical) spoke angle? Are tandem teams having success with "normal" width rear hubs? If you want through axles but also want the strength of a dishless wheel perhaps Calfee will build to the wider thru-axle standard used by DH bikes, 157mm. There are still plenty of hub companies that make these since it's a standard used by almost every downhill bike. The chainline would be similar to a 145QR rear wheel so whatever crankset Calfee normally uses would be fine.

The MTB world has decided that 142 doesn't provide enough spoke bracing angle when paired with a 700c (29") rim so they're introducing 148mm. This is very new and limited though. It's this move that has me questioning whether 142 would be strong enough on a tandem.
Calfee is recommending a 142x12 rear hub over 145 QR. Looking at the builds in progress I would say the majority were still QR, I assume 145mm spacing.

Calfee isn't shy about trying new things, so it is hard to say how durable these things are over the long haul.
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Old 01-28-15, 07:13 PM
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Originally Posted by akexpress View Post
Calfee is using tapered head tubes now for the disc carbon forks. I am guessing the reason they don't use carbon head tubes is the cost benefit ratio doesn't work. Calfee is as carbon committed as they come.
No, if Calfee was carbon committed, it wouldn't be using a cost benefit ratio for its head tube selection on $8000 frames. ENVE (Calfee's tubing supplier) does make carbon headtubes for truly carbon committed builders.

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