New team in GA...well, almost!
My name is Mike and my awesome Wife's name is Carin. We have been mountain biking on singles for years and are avid trail runners and generally love to be in the mtns. We're a 265lb team living in the foothills of North GA, just above Atlanta. In the Fall of 2011, Carin had a bad accident on her MTB up at Tsali in NC, which landed her at Mission Hospital in Asheville for an overnight stay and more facial stitches than I could count. Needless to say, she has been reluctant to get back on an mtb. That is...until we came across mtbtandems.com website back in November, 2012.
After some research and discussions with Alex on the phone and finding out that we were neighbors - literally living about 3 miles apart, he agreed to meet us over at Blankets Creek (local trail to the Northwest Atlanta area) for a demo ride aboard a Fandango DC9 demo. With a few pointers, we were off and within an hour on the trails, had a great rhythm and had figured out the necessary key words needed for communication. More importantly, within that hour, we knew that we would buy an offroad tandem and that this would be the next step in our offroad adventures together.
Fast forward to mid-January, 2013, Alex agreed to let us borrow the demo again - this time for a full day up in the N.GA mtns riding the Bull Mtn trail system. We loaded up and headed North with big eyes and lots of excitement about what was to come with "real" mtb trails. We spent about 4 hours exploring, riding, talking and enjoying the scenery while...together. It was great and we began to quickly talk about the possibilities of racing together, traveling, etc.
Upon returning the demo to Alex, he graciously spent almost an hour and a half at his shop talking through the possibilities, build options, etc. I couldn't have enjoyed the experience more and am very gracious that he took as much time making sure all my questions were answered. This is a big purchase for us and one we needed to make sure would be right - he has helped make that an easy one.
So, the reason for my post - besides introducing us, is to ask for any advice from the collective group of more experienced teams. We are preparing to purchase a "stock" Fandango DC9. Are there any recommended updates/changes, etc, that I should consider on the front end? We will be riding singletrack, mountains, fire-roads and working towards competing in some races together later in the season. As we prepare to place our order with Alex, I want to make sure that I've got all bases covered on the front end. For instance, I'm considering a lighter wheelset versus stock. What works? Have others had luck with tubeless? Do the Stan's FlowEX rims work?
Thanks and we look forward to meeting many of you someday on the trail.
Michael and Carin
Opinions will vary on how best to build a bike. Alex will find a way to accomplish your build with all factors dealt with. He will not, unless old age has made him wiser (just kidding Alex, and I'm still older than you I think if my memory hasn't failed yet), he will not sell or build a bike with parts that are not rated for tandem use.
We have also had good experiences with MTBTandems.com.
Alex and family are great people.
Enjoy it and ride the wheels off it.
We've bought 3 tandems from Alex! Well, one complete tandem and two frames and various parts. Alex is great to work with! Like PMK says, Alex will take care of you, but and set you up with a solid bike. What he won't do is sell you a bike or parts that are not tandem rated. I believe this is a good thing. If you want to mess with swapping out parts that are not tandem rated, you'll be on your own.
We have had good luck with tubeless. We had a good experience with lighter weight (albeit expensive) Industry Nine wheels, but not enough to spec them on our second or third tandem. I am 100% sold on Chris King for rear hubs if your going to put lots of climbing miles on a tandem.
Happy to answer any questions you have, but you are in good hands with Alex!!!
Third the recommendation of going with Alex's recommendations. He's fitted more people to more tandems than anyone. And what works for us on the trails we ride doesn't mean anything for you and yours, especially since we're a 360lb team.
And second the recommendation for the CK rear hub, and Alex has a steal of a deal for CK wheelsets. The long walk back from blowing a hub at the furthest point of your ride...gets really old. We had to do it twice (and three times if you count the time the non-CK hub broke and jammed, giving us a FS fixie tandem in the backcountry). Maybe that's in part due to the torque and team weight, but we're only strong recreational riders, not racers, so YMMV.
Good luck and welcome to a whole new world.
Thanks for the comments. No doubt that Alex will steer me in the right direction - didn't mean to suggest he wouldn't. That said, I know everyone "customizes" and "upgrades" and I thought I might inquire as to what some common things might be. Sounds like a CK rear hub is the way to go and maybe a front, too.
Thanks again for the replies and I look forward to posting back when we have one in the garage.
Can't say enough good things about about Alex and his operation. We've had our DC9 for going on two years and have enjoyed the bike very much. The picture you posted brought back memories of our demo day at Blankets Creek. Got to ride a trailer full of tandems that day! The first impression of the Fandango was how well it handled solo, it felt like a single bike.
In the time we've had it, the stock build components have held up very well to our riding conditions ( fire roads and singletrack ). For racing you might want to discuss forks and wheelsets with Alex. There's always going to be something you want to try or change. The beauty of a tandem is that the stoker is usually agreeable to anything that improves the ride quality!
Whatever you decide, you folks will enjoy the Fandango and getting to work with Alex. Like Okayfine said " Welcome to a whole new world."
p.s. The wife just read this and suggested upgrading to the ERGON grips. Helped with her wrist pain.
Alex is great at recommending what will work for you. We bought our coupled ECDM from him and our first ride was a five day trip in the Maze in Canyonlands Moab Utah and bike was perfect out of the box. We also endorse the Chris King hub recommendation. We have them on both of our ECDM's and our road tandem without any incident in thousands of miles on and off road.
In my more limited tandem experience, I would not go too light on a front wheel. No matter how smooth you are you will make a mistake someday. You can build it so that it will survive that 1-in-1000 mistake, or keep your mistakes to less than 1-in-1000 and go lighter.
I'm already jealous of your bike and you don't even have it yet. :D
The front wheel is pinnacle for the constant controlled crashes to clear obstacles and trail features. Amen to it being strong.
As for hubs, opinions vary and for our lowly adventures we roll on DT hubs for all of our tandem bikes.
Ergons grips, again, a preference type item, many people love them. I made my stoker learn to ride more elbows up and not bend her wrists. Doing this she has not wanted anything more than Scott ATV waffle grips.
There are so many individual ways to build a bike and so many reason why to build yours the way you like, bottom line though, have fun and experience what is possibly on of the best kept secrets in MTBing.
Hi Mike and Carin,
Welcome and glad to hear you're back on the bike Carin.Theres nothing more I can say about Alex and family that hasn't already been said. We purchased a DC9 Fandango and then a Ventana ECDM from him and both purchases were totally pain free! If your intent is racing to some extent then the Fandango 29'r is the weapon of choice. Being a relitively light team your front end question is a valid one.We own the older White Bros Magic 100 T fork and I run it without air pressure to get some response from it and we are a 310 lb team evenly distributed. The fork is over sprung for lighter teams and adjusting by replacing springs is not an option. I've heard White has changed all that with their latest evolution of the tandem fork(a single crown ) as shown in your pic. I think ds2199 and his stoker are a lighter team and do race so maybe he can offer more insight. We highly recommend the wheel upgrade as we too have fried 2 rear hubs and experienced the long walk out. We chose Chris King front and rear and have only good things to say about them including the ease of maintenence.
Once again Alex will put you on a great tandem for a great price and living so close will provide great service also. Best of Luck!
Ed and Pat Gifford
the Snot Rocket tandem
Toms River, NJ
As far as the components on our bike, the only things that have been upgraded are the wheels (as mentioned) and the fork. Other components have been replaced due to wear (cassette, chains, chainrings, shifters, mechs), but have all been replaced with like equipment through the years. Same cranks, bars, seats, and brakes (long live the Hope Mono6!).
Originally Posted by mhopton
Tires will be a bigger variable, but since you're near Alex, he'll have tire suggestions for the area as well.
New team in GA...well, almost!
All great information. Sounds like an upgraded wheelset may be the way to go, if at all. Otherwise, we will buy it and ride it!
Oh, ergons are a must! I use them on all my bikes and Alex had them on his demo.
It sounds like you are on the right track. I'll add .02 cents more to what I said before and what the group has generally said.
Strength and weight of parts (and the corresponding costs) are always a balance in riding bikes. I think in tandems it is even more profound. We are hard on these bikes. There is twice the weight plus the mechanical forces on chains, cassettes, hubs and forks is great.
We have chosen to put a few lighter weight parts on our bike that have worked out well. I think the rear hub has been the single largest point of failure for us. We do LOTS of climbing.
Can you get away with carbon bars, sure. Do you want to pay to replace that carbon bar when you crash and are unsure of it's useful life?
We have used single crown forks that are not tandem rated and have had good results. I will not try to sway someone else to do this. Your terrain, how you ride and your team weight are all factors that only you can decide your risk tollerance. We are currently running Maverick DUC 32 forks on both of our tandems. This fork is solid and happens to be light. Too bad they don't make them anymore...
I think our full suspension 29er Ventana weighs in just shy of 43 lbs. Yes we could build it lighter, but i don't think there are any places that I would choose to save a few more grams at the sacrifice of durability. Quite frankly, we have gone the other way on the hubs by doing the Chris King with steel driveshell and fun bolts. It sucks pushing your tandem bike when the freehub spins forwards and backwards with no engagement!!!
Spending some time today re-reading this thread and many others. I think we are in the home stretch and should have our tandem in the next few weeks. Thank you again for all of the advice.
Oh yeah, I did go for the King wheelset :)
Are you two also riding a road tandem? If so any plans to be at GTR?
Originally Posted by mhopton
Maybe we can hook up and ride the Sunday of GTR before we head home. Jeanne and I plan to bring both tandems, and may spend Thursday and Sunday on the dirt. Plans still evolving.
New team in GA...well, almost!
What weekend is GTR? We do not have a road tandem, but assuming our mtb tandem is ready, we'd love to meet you out at the horse park trails - the trails there are supposed to be pretty good although I haven't ridden them in a few years.
Sorry to post before you but I couldn't resist. I love it when tandems find a home. Here it is! I know you guys will have fun with it.
New team in GA...well, almost!
Alex, it's a beaut! I'm on my way now with pedals to bring her home, set her up and get ready to break her in this weekend!
Thank you again - looks awesome!
Nice machine that guy Alex built...
GTR is in Covington GA.
We have not researched local trails yet. The wife / stoker is indicating we may go to Tsali since we never rode the tandem there.
Let me know if you have suggestions for trails near Covington.
No doubt, Paul. Alex builds a fantastic machine and is a nice guy to boot. His new shop is a fantastic repository of all things mtb tandem - I hope you get to check it out when you're in town.
Originally Posted by PMK
As for GTR, we are down for any number of options. Covington is about 40min East of Atlanta and is home to the GA Int'l Horse Park, which is where the 1996 Olympic MTB course still exists - or at least some parts of it. The trails are a mix of singletrack, exposed granite with steep climbs and never-ending traction and mixed double-track (think areas good for spectating a'la the Olympics). I believe a tandem would do well there since you are going to be in the area.
That said, if you're interested in Tsali, we would be happy to go there as well. Carin and I know that trail system intimately (this is where she crashed hard) and althrough I haven't ridden a tandem there, I believe it would be both mega-fun and challenging! The trail system is on the banks of Lake Fontana in the Nantahala National Forest and provides for just beautifu, breathtaking scenery, overlooks and distant views of the peaks in the Great Smoky Mtns National Park. There is camping at the trailhead with hot showers and toilets and a couple of small hotels within a 10 min drive. It is likely a 3-3.5 hour drive from Covington. But, we are game!
My direct email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike and Carin Hopton
Tsali...ridden it many times on a single. All 4 trails in all sorts of weather.
We have never ridden Tsali on the tandem. Not sure what trails are open on the days we would consider going, plus the added driving has me leaning away from going Tsali this trip.
I need to research the GA. Int'l Horse Park. Never rode there and might be just the thing, being close and all.
Any good links or start searching here and SORBA?
I'll give Alex a call and see what he thinks.
I was considering a partial drive north to Lake City FL on Wednesday, ride Suwanee. Leave Lake City for Covington, road ride Friday and Saturday, then hit some off-road SUnday and maybe Monday.
Why don't you go over to FATS near Augusta? Great flow trails and tandem-friendly.
Michael, the Flow EX rims should work well for you. We have been using the regular Flow rims /w King hubs for a while now. Straight gage spokes will build a stiffer wheel and would be recommended for the hard tail anyway. We are using butted spokes, but only because I had some laying around. As a 245lb team we have been able to use 1/2 bike parts without concern. Running good brakes with 203mm rotors are probably one of the better recommendations I could make. I'm sure Alex's build will be solid and offer a trouble free riding experience.
New team in GA...well, almost!
Thanks EB for the comments. I'm generally a fan of Stan's rims - I have the Arch EX on my single bike and they're a great all-around rim. I had full intentions of requesting the Flow rim to be built around King hubs, but Alex asked us to try out a wheel set built around a Velocity Blunt rim while the others are being built. I have to tell you that the 35mm wide blunt did a great job of spreading out the tire casing and putting down a bigger footprint on the trail. As such, at 35psi, we didn't experience any pushing in the front through turns and overall, came away impressed. So, rather than the Flows, we are going with the Velocity Blunt on King hubs, which we can run tubeless as well.
I do want to write up a more detailed review and overall impression of our tandem, but not until we put in a few more miles of riding, which we plan to do tonight!!
My trusty and lovely stoker/wife/partner in crime excited about the inaugural break-in ride!
Hope the ride is going well. We got out on our bike yesterday again, lots of local tandem love, including a lot from us.