The days are getting lighter, the trails dryer and cyclists are emerging from hibernation. Digging their creaky old bikes out of the shed they realise that maybe it’s time to work on that new bike project they’ve been planning all winter. The good news for us is their shiny new bikes mean lots of excellent blog posts coming up in the next month or so!
Martin’s an old friend of the blog who’s had a few frames made over the years. He got in touch with me recently to say he’d been working on a project that would allow him and his wife Sarah to go riding together. Which means <drum roll> a blog first, a titanium tandem 29’er! Not only that but the first tandem that Walty have ever made – naturally I asked him to tell us all about it:
Over the years Sarah has watched me come and go with my mates during the week and most weekends whilst looking after the kids. The kids are now getting older, everything is boring and they don’t want us cramping their style any more. Sarah’s never had a bike so I thought let’s build a tandem and we can both get out around the moors together.
Having no experience with tandems and with hardly any 29er tandems on the market I searched the net and found the Salsa Powderkeg to base my frame on. There are a few tweaks here and there to suit the carbon fork I already had and to match my previous custom Ti frames.
I got Waltly to build the frame like my last three frames and they have come up trumps again, it’s great quality. The whole process was straightforward as every email was answered promptly and updated CAD drawings sent back quickly. I also think this is the first tandem that Waltly have built, so fair play to them they’ve done an excellent job!
Most sensible stuff indeed, it’s always good to pick an existing bike for inspiration if you’re not sure what to look for. It’s also testament to the amount of history that Martin has built up with Waltly that he’d trust them to go for a totally new design.
Looking at the CAD drawings I’d say we had a textbook tandem there, tubing diameters and frame dimensions all look spot on.
Don’t forget the need for an eccentric captain’s bottom bracket to put tension into the synchronising chain. Martin plumped for a Bushnell bottom bracket mount which uses a self expanding shell to lock itself in place – if it’s good enough for Jeff Jones it must be OK!
I have specified sensible components to keep the cost down, Shimano 10 speed SLX, On-One contact points and Superstar’s wheels. The gears are a 36T chainring up front with an 11/36 cassette plus a Superstar’s 40T expander cog to suit the hilly terrain where we live. The cranks are both standard Race Face MTB cranks modified to run together. I have also gone for TRP Spyke Fat bike cable disc brakes as a friend of mine had a Tandem with Hope hydraulic disc brakes and they failed coming down Rosedale Chimney Bank (33% gradient) and caused some damage to both bike and them.
Sensible stuff but I did wonder what might have happened to Martin’s friends. Brake failure isn’t to be taken lightly and hearing that a set of Hope brakes gave out is rather alarming indeed! Without knowing more we’d have to speculate on the setup not being correct in some way. Heavy tandems need plenty of stopping power which points to the 200mm rotors usually reserved for Alpine mountain biking.
I’d spotted that Martin was running stock 160mm rotors and advised that he swap them out for 200mm rotors as soon as possible. Even though he’s got no hydraulic fluid to boil I think he’d have heat issues (and brake fade) if he headed down anything too steep with his current setup!
The only other area that might need work on is the gearing, by going 1×10 Martin might find the bottom end wanting if they head for the big grinding climbs. Although going for a front derailleur setup would mean splashing out on some more chainset hardware to setup the synchronising chain on the left hand side of the bike.
But now for the all important question – how did it ride?
We’ve had one 20 mile ride and my first impressions are the frame feels great and the gearing is about right. Its going to take time to get used to riding a tandem as its very different to riding solo. We’ll probably play about with the set up a little (bars, saddles, gears etc) as we both get more experienced but it’s going to be challenging and fun cruising round the Yorkshire moors enjoying the scenery via the pubs and cafe’s. It feels spot on and I can’t think of anything I’d like to change at the moment!
Well, you can’t get a better end to a project that that! I know other couples that ride tandems – they mention the telepathic link that you need to keep everything in sync and make the ride work. We’ll wish Sarah and Martin well and look forward to Martin’s next project. Err, which is..?
Next Project will probably be a Gravel bike as mine got run over by a car but that’s another story….
Dang, we’ll just have to wait! Have you had a frame made in the Far East? Want to share? Do drop me a line…