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The following question was posted to T@H:
I am looking at custom tandems. The S&S coupling feature is attractive because we like to tour in far off places. I am wondering if the extra $$s and extra weight is worth paying in return for the ability to pack up the bike in a neat container? I'd also like comments from anyone who has traveled often with a bike that can not be taken apart.
The responses from owners of S and S Coupled tandems were as follows:
I have owned a beautiful Bilenky Tinker since
1995, and a Rans Screamer with silver-brazed stainless
steel couplings, since 1997. I am a complete believer in
these couplings. These couplings actually make
transporting our upright tandem quite easy, packing in two boxes
in 17 minutes (at least that's my record, when I was trying to
catch a train in Nagano, Japan) and you don't have to pay extra
when you are flying. I've traveled with our first tandem,
Burley Duet, and the difference was night and day.
Traveling with our Screamer is still difficult, but now possible,
as it would now fit in the trunk of a taxi.
Perhaps these couplings are absolutely the most faultless cycling product that may exist now. I wasn't concerned or have not even noticed the extra 1kg or so. The increased convenience is so drastic that I cannot imagine ordering another tandem without them.
Ken Iisaka, Mill Valley, CA
Absolutely! An S+S coupled tandem is well
worth the extra cost (the "extra weight" is a
non-issue on a 35+ lb tandem, IMHO) compared to the hassles and
expenses of traveling (especially air travel) with a full-size
tandem in a full-size case.
When we replaced our Cannondale with a CoMotion CoPilot, S+S couplings were a large factor in our decision. We had made about a dozen trips with the Cannondale in a full-size BikePro bag, and were tired of dealing with: $45+ for each flite for the bike; trying to fit a full-size bag into ground transportation; where to store (or how to forward) the bag while riding.
For the most part, S+S couplings eliminate all those problems.
Doug Hutter, Phoenix, AZ
We bought our starter tandem--Rodriguez--in October 98. It took us until August 99 to realize that we needed to specialize and we really got into it. So, we bought a Co-Motion Java for road racing (only one race so far--a triathlon) and fast workouts. We love it. Then we decided that we also liked offroad riding. We ended up buying a Ventana, full suspension tandem (see http://www.epinions.com/otdr-review-1E39-2EE98F3-388CCFA1-prod1 for details). We bought both in August 99. Then, we decided to travel to Catalina Island for our anniversary.
Here's the deal:
We SWORE...never again. The trip on Catalina was the best ever, but the logistics back and forth were a major hassle.
We love our Java, but decided to buy a CoPilot (S&S) from CoMotion as well. We took it to Hawaii (Big Island) in December. NO HASSLES. We even rented a dinky car and put the bike in parts in the back seat and trunk along with our luggage. The bike has the same geometry as the Java, it's just not as tight in the tubing or as stiff. We can now fly anywhere there are roads, hassle free.
Now...what about the offroad?
We will be going back to Hawaii someday to Molokai where it's all offroad riding. We are going back to Catalina again soon too. How? We are having and S&S Ventana built. It will be debuted at Sea Otter on March 18 near Monterey--Jill and I are riding the tandem race (on a borrowed Ventana because the S&S won't be parts-ready [catch22]--and we expect to get our butts kicked but have the time of our lives at the same time).
Anyway, we are huge fans of S&S.
With S&S, it takes about 45-60 minutes to assemble/disassemble if you do it as team. By yourself, 60-75 minutes. But we are getting better each time.
Here the deal with S&S:
keep bike disassembled in bag all the time. for a trip, carry it to the luggage counter, check in and off you go. pick it up as ordinary luggage. assemble (yep, hassle) ride disassemble (yep, hassle) check in, fly back LEAVE DISASSEMBLED FOR NEXT TRIP
Hats off to Steve at S&S for making tandem ownership so much more enjoyable for those of us who like to travel with our tandems and to all those manufacturers that are providing S&S for us.
If you only buy one tandem, make it
S&S. We're keeping all of ours because...well
Jim & Jill Harding, Issaquah
What is it that I am doing wrong in my career that I cannot afford to have two spare tandems (one road, one offroad) with couplers packed away in cases all the time, so I can fly off at the spur of the moment with one? Maybe if I'd gone to work for microsoft and piling up their options 10 years ago...
I hate to admit it, but an hours worth of my time (the time it takes to disassemble our s&s) even multiplied over a few trips a year, is simply not comparable to the cost of a dedicated keep in the case tandem, and I suspect I am not alone. So for the other non-multimillionaires out there...
We love our S&S tandem, and it has certainly taken a lot of stress out of travel.
Examples of stress: Will the full size case/tandem get damaged. Will the airline take it. Will the plane be big enough (some small planes aren't). How much will we be charged. How will we get it from the airport to our ultimate destination? Can we take it on the train with us? If we ship it separately, how many days will we wait at our destination?
We traveled quite a bit with our non-coupled tandem, and since get the coupled bike have continued to travel lots. The time difference for packing and unpacking is maybe 15 or 20 minutes at most. Yes the S&S takes a bit longer, because we do a few more things addition to all the stuff we do for a non-coupled bike. We remove the bottle cages, we decouple the frame. We wrapped most of the tubes on our non-coupled frame, so I won't add any time for tube wrapping. Then we put the puzzle in the case. This does take a few minutes more than loading up a non-coupled frame, but with good diagrams drawn, and refined with successive packing, this becomes quite easy.
We typically do a bit of cleaning before packing, since we are
often returning from a muddy tour, and customs/immigration likes
clean bikes. So we could pack even faster if we were under
pressure. But an hour give or take a few minutes is typical.
So if you have any wunderlust in your system, go for couplers. And if you have enough money to afford to keep a coupled tandem packed away, ready to fly, at a moments notice, please remember most of us aren't so well off ;-)
Pamela later wrote:
Apparently I touched a nerve or two, with my comments about us not spending money to have tandems packed away in suitcases in our basement awaiting travel. There is no need to get defensive or coming up with justifications about spending money on tandems. What I was responding to was the implication that disassembling an S&S tandem was so complex and time intensive that one should buy a dedicated S&S travel tandem and keep it packed all the time, ready to fly, just to reduce the number of disassembly/assembly steps. It's not that hard, and after you've packed and unpacked it a couple of times, won't take much longer than packing and unpacking a non-coupled bike.
I was also reacting to the implication that an S&S tandem would be less preferable when not travelling. We *had* a cappuccino before getting our skycapp - essentially a cappucino with couplers, and we could spot no difference in ride quality or performance between the two. The bike we ride loaded through the alps is the same bike we'd use on the local Wednesday night time trial, and everything else in between.
Let us not forget the S&S motto - "Your Travel Bike ... Your Only Bike!"
By all means, let's support the tandem industry. If you've got
loads of disposable income, of course I'd rather see it go into
the bike/tandem industry, the travel industry (airfare, B&Bs)
and of course film, than for .. say, cars. But for
those of us with tighter budgets, packing/unpacking an S&S
bike is just not that big a deal, and the travel bike is the home
Pamela Blalock, Chelmsford, Mass, USA
As the owner of the first Y3K, I can attest that it works
great in a tandem mode. It is between 5-6 pounds heavier
than my Sovereign, which does not have a drum brake. It
handles as well as the Sovereign as well.
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