Before we went on our Vancouver Island tour, Odette and I agreed that if she felt okay after the ride I’d buy a new tandem instead of a new road bike.
The genesis of this deal was that she wanted me to trade in my 4Runner before the cash for clunkers program went away. I didn’t want to, but I agreed to downgrade my car as long as I got to spend the difference in the trade-in on a top-end road bike. I never got around to it (because they seemed too expensive and I never settled on a particular make) but when I took the Burley in to get it tuned up before the tour, Smiley at R+E showed me their 26 lb Trillium racing tandem and I started thinking…
On the tour our Burley weighed about 100 lbs – 50 for the bike alone and 50 more in the panniers. Just dragging the rear end around was hard. Riding something that weighed a quarter that much would be sweet…
I spent some time on the Rodriguez website. Much of their philosophy resonates with the techno-grouch in me. I do prefer steel frames. I buy the superiority of caliper brakes. I like hand-made wheels with lots of spokes. I don’t know anything about Campy components, but I respect their legacy. The combination of 10-speed Campy shifters and 9-speed Shimano cogs makes sense when you hear the explanation.
I’m going to spring for the S&S couplers in order to be able to break it down for air travel.
I’ve never had a custom bike so getting the gearing combination I want and the geometry designed specially for me will be exquisite. It will also cost about ten times as much as my first car. (UPDATE – make that 25 times as much.)
So I have to decide on some stuff:
- color – they offer four colors stock and I’d pick the silver or the black, Odette would probably opt for the light blue. Actually I could live with any of the four and I don’t think I want to pay for something non-standard or for a fade or some other effect (UPDATE – we went for a kandy apple red => metalic silver fade!)
- braze-ons – I want to make sure I can mount a low-rider on the front fork. I might want fenders some day. frame pump? rear rack? (UPDATE – the racks are covered and they sold me on a pump that takes standard water bottle cage braze-ons on the underside of a tube – last minute issue was that they didn’t install the braze-ons for the front rack, saying that the fork was too light for loaded touring. The threaded hole by the dropouts is the same as on the Burley so I figure I can use clamps to mount a front rack if I ever need one.)
- bottle holders? (UPDATE – the braze-ons are covered, plus I splurged and bought four $45 carbon bottle cages)
- brakes – I agree that disc brakes aren’t a great option and I don’t want to haul a drum brake around. Do I need anything beyond the “big squeeze” that comes standard? Is there a way to give Odette some control? (UPDATE – Odette backed off on the brakes – we’re just going with the calipers. FURTHER UPDATE – Smiley called to confirm that we didn’t want the frame set up for a disc or drag brake. I told him to add the mounts for a disc brake even though it would cost extra. It will be nice to have if we decide later that we want to add a disc brake, and maybe we’ll put the lever back on the stoker bars. Haven’t told Odette about that yet.)
- stoker seat-post – something cushioned? (thudbuster) (UPDATE – Odette experimented with a BiSaddle noseless split saddle and it didn’t work for her. R+E installed a Terry Butterfly and after the first ride she had no complaints so maybe the issue was just fit and adjustment.)
- shifters – I prefer the Shimano style integrated shifters over the Campy ones that R+E pushes. In fact I really like the bar-end shifters on the Burley! (UPDATE – I went full retro and got shimano bar-end shifters!)
- handlebars – do I want more traditional ones? does Odette want bull-horn style bars instead of drop bars? (UPDATE -regular drop bars – but carbon fiber)
- Definitely want 700c wheels. What about sweet 16s? (UPDATE – the guys at R+E pretended that they’d never heard about tandem wheels with only 16 spokes. I went with 36.
- Gearing – here’s the set-up on the Burley:
Burley “Duet” Tandem – 700c wheel 11 12 14 16 18 21 24 28 28 68.7 63.0 54.0 47.3 42.0 36.0 31.5 27.0 44 108.0 99.0 84.9 74.3 66.0 56.6 49.5 42.4 54 132.5 121.5 104.1 91.1 81.0 69.4 60.8 52.1
I expect that I’ll get one more cog in the back and hopefully that can be even lower than a 28 – maybe a 32 like on my touring bike (11,12,14,16,18,21,24,28,32.) UPDATE -going with 11/32)
For the front it would be nice if we could do something like 28, 44, 56. That would give me 138 inches of travel for every rotation of the pedals – compared to a top gear giving 132 on the Burley. I’d really rather have something giving at least 145, so I need to spend some time on alternatives. DaVinci advertises a tandem with a 28/42/56 front end – is a 28/44/60 feasible? Precision tandem has 130 mm chainrings in 56, 58 and 60. They have 110 mm chainrings in 56, 58, 60, 61 and 62. (UPDATE – I need to call and pursue this – at a minimum they are going to be able to duplicate the Burley set-up. FURTHER UPDATE – I had a long conversation with Scott from R+E. He discouraged me from going with a bigger chainring because he couldn’t find one that was “pinned and ramped.” Also turns out that he was planning to use a 42 as the middle ring because he couldn’t find an appropriate 44. I told him that I was even more committed to the big middle ring than to a big top ring, but that I really wanted something larger on the top end. I pointed out that Precision Tandem had 130 mm rings up to 60 and he said that he would probably have to go to a specialty place like that to get them. I noticed later that Precision Tandem advertised a 56 that was “pinned and ramped.” I told Scott that I had decided to go with bar-end shifters and that seemed to make it easier for him to give me the gearing I wanted. He says most people want the smoother shifting they get with “modern” set-ups and that with unshaped chainrings I’ll likely find the shifting clunkier. He says with bar-end shifters I have more leverage so I can get away with a bigger step between chainrings and that I’m able to “overshift” and then adjust and that that’s probably what I’ll have to accept in order to get the gears I want. I’m good with that.)
UPDATE – here’s the gearing table on the new bike:
Rodriguez “Trillium” Tandem – 700c wheel 11 12 14 16 18 21 24 28 32 28 68.7 63.0 54.0 47.3 42.0 36.0 31.5 27.0 23.6 44 108.0 99.0 84.9 74.3 66.0 56.6 49.5 42.4 37.1 56 137.5 126.0 108.0 94.5 84.0 72.0 63.0 54.0 47.3
- will R+E install a taillight and instrumentation? (UPDATE – R+E is going to put a Cateye wireless on the stoker bar, I put a cheap taillight on the rack)
- travel cases? (UPDATE – we’re paying for travel cases and netting and custom-cut padding and the R+E DVD)
- intercom? – (UPDATE – I’ll buy that online someday)
- GPS? – (UPDATE – we’ll pass for now)
- Pedals? (UPDATE – I went online and ordered another set of speedplay frogs for Odette – could actually have taken a set off of the Burley or off of her mountain bike but I figured that it would be nice to have a free set ready to go)
- Tire width? (UPDATE – tires are going to be 28’s – I probably should have asked for something narrower)
We went in for measurements before they built the frame and it took a couple of hours even though they still had everything on Odette in the computer from her session from when she bought her Stellar. Went though choices and talked about colors and options and accessaries. It was a little unnerving that there was another guy in the shop complaining about the paint job on his tandem.
They said it would take six weeks to build and paint and assemble and the weekend before it was due we went for an abbreviated ride in the rain on the Burley. When we got back I discovered that the back rim was cracked and a spoke/nipple was completely loose on the rim end. I figured it as metal fatigue since I didn’t remember hitting a pothole or anything noteworthy. If I hadn’t had a new bike coming that week I would have been frantic looking for a wheel for RSVP. As it was, I researched rims at Precision Tandem and Tandems East and figured that I could get a new, upgraded, wheelset for $450 – even sticking with a 48 spoke-count. My only question was the width – I believed that the Burley was probably a 145 but I needed to confirm that before I ordered wheels. I also needed to figure out how to install the Arai drag brake. I took it into R+E and asked them how much it would cost to rebuild. They said about $200 as long as I was okay with a velocity dyad rim – in black. I was okay.
We went back in that Thursday for a final fitting and to pick up the bike. Took a couple of hours but went well – it’s exactly want I had hoped it would be.
I bolted a Yakima spare-tire bike carrier to the wall so that I could hang two tandems where I had previously only had one. I used half-inch anchors that I had left over from some other project and I wasn’t able to get he holes lined up exactly right (plus the bolt ends stuck out too far and I was going to have to cut them all off,) and when I hung the Burley it was too low. So I bolted a piece of soft two-inch plank to the wall using the anchors and then used lag screws to bolt the carrier plate to the plank – a few inches higher that the anchors positioned it. When I loaded it with both bikes the plank split because the carrier expected the plate to be in the middle of a car tire rim and without the support at the bottom it rotated down. So I blocked the carrier out from the wall at the bottom and came back later and put some six-inch lag screws down into the plank to bridge the split . I blocked up the sides with 2X4s and put 3/4 inch plywood over the top – all with 4-inch deck screws. I cut the plywood on a bevel down the middle so that the carrier would have a groove to sit in and I drilled out a Metollious bolt hanger to fit on one of the 1/2-inch bolts. The ring on the end of the big chain fits around the stem of teh carrier; the smaller chain won’t go through the bolt hanger but it will go through the bigger chain. I padlocked the big chain to the bolt hanger. It’s not pretty but it’s also not going anywhere.
I ordered a wedge bag for the stoker seat and a multitool and inflator to put in it. I sent ATOC a check for a second handlebar strap. I got a longer Yakima crossbar (and the appropriate Q-clips) to fit the RAV4 so that I can mount a fork block forward of the rooftop carrier. The wheelbase of the tandem was still too long to fit in the existing carrier so I drilled holes in the spare tire lock-down I have mounted on the basket and used U-bolts to mount an old Yakima bar in the middle of the roof. That lets me put a second tray just inboard of the drivers’ side bike carrier but positioned back about two feet further rearward. It isn’t supported as well as I’d like but with the lighter tandem on it the load isn’t that heavy, either.
Here are some some photos – I’ll post some more eventually.