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  1. #1
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    Your advice please - new Ventana S&S ECDM or other options

    Hi Everyone,

    Would appreciate some advice...

    Bikes
    We own two tandems:

    • A cheap Viking Saratoga MTB tandem - currently broken
    • A Schauff cruising tandem - like this but an earlier steel frame version with a 6 gear derailleur. It has drum brakes front and rear and caliper brakes front and rear

    We have borrowed:
    • An 18 speed Follis tandem. Standard calipers front and rear and a Magura hydro stop on the rear


    Situation
    My wife and I have been keen tandem riders in the UK for about 4 years. We have singletracked on our MTB tandem and cruised on the other two tandems (max ride 80km or so). We moved to Switzerland in 2011 bringing our Schauff tandem with us and leaving the MTB tandem behind as it had a broken bottom bracket. Obviously 6 gears isn't much use in the mountains so we couldn't use the Schauff much for climbing but its braking system was perfect for any downhills. A friend lent us their Follis tandem which had the gearing we need to get up steep slopes but not the brakes to get down them (had a blown tube on our first outing) - I was cadence braking etc but with only rim brakes heat build up was a problem. I have looked at putting an Arai drum brake on the Follis tandem but the rear hub doesn't have the threads for it.

    Going forward
    I would like to replace all the bikes with something that would let us get into the Swiss Alps (Singletrack, off road and on road riding). After researching it seems like the Ventana ECDM would be the perfect bike for riding in the Alps. I was looking at getting the coupler version so we can take it with us easily when we travel and getting the Rohloff hub as the derailleurs on our other bikes have always been a bit of a pain. For riding on the road I was thinking I could put slicks on it and we could do lightweight rucksack touring if needed (ie staying in hostels and carrying extra gear in rucksacks)

    Questions
    If anyone in the forums has this spec of bike how they have found it? Have you just used it for singletracking of have you been able to use it for other types of riding? Have you used it to travel with? Are you glad you got the Rohloff & the couplers etc etc. Is it your only bike or do you have other tandems?

    Advice
    The price of the Ventana ECDM S&S Rohloff new is somewhere in the region of US $8000+ which is a whole chunk of change! Do you think I would be better off getting a used ECDM (probably without the couplers & Rohloff as they don't seem to come up second hand) and a used road bike tandem (with S&S couplers) to cover our off road and on road requirements for probably thousands of dollars less than one new bike? Would you trust a used ECDM (I have seen that the frame can crack if you are unlucky)

    Looking forward to hearing what people think. Cheers,

    James

    P.S. Was not sure if I can post this to the Double Forte list as well. What's the etiquette on that?
    Last edited by swiss_toni; 04-05-2013 at 06:48 PM. Reason: changed title

  2. #2
    PMK
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    The obvious answer is it depends.

    If you want road bike performance, you need a road tandem. Yes the ECDM can go fast on the road with slicks or even dirt tires if you can turn the pedals. It will however run out of gear pretty quick.

    Used Ventanas are always a risk, however, there are many with low miles and hardly ridden. Even those with some time on them can be a great deal.

    If you plan to build new, even though you are in Europe, MTBTandems can build your bike of dreams.

    In regards to what you asked about, coupled, Rohloff, ECDM, I recall Alex and I talking about the possibility of a 2x14 Rohloff equipped Fandango(?). The technology should easily carry over to the ECDM providing more high speed gears while still retaining the grunt of low gears.

    If you built a 29r ECDM S&S version, you could likely build another complete wheelset with slicks or even something more road bike skinny and really have it all covered with minimal fuss.

    I know it didn't help answer your exact questions, but maybe gave some ideas.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  3. #3
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    Hello James,
    Paul make many very valid points. We have friends that live in an apartment in New York City with limited space. They went the direction you are asking about...29'er ECDM, S&S,and purchased 2 sets of wheels hoping this would suit all their road and off road purposes. They have traveled with it and as long as they are riding by themselves seems to do the trick. The rub comes when they ride on the road with a group of road tandems(obvious reasons).When we last spoke they had just ordered a new road tandem.
    We sometime use our ECDM on the road for coffee shop, farmers market and boardwalk pleasure rides but wouldn't want to ride 50-60 miles that way.
    I think if you want only one tandem to serve many purposes and won't be riding with groups of road tandemists than MTBTandems Fandango line is a good compromise. Realise going in that it is a compromise that will do many things well but will not replace a road tandem or full suspension MTB in cases where they are needed.
    So as Paul stated...it depends.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem

  4. #4
    J&L
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    We own a 29" ECDM, and are casual riders. Fire roads, flowy single track, and some challenging terrain, no racing. It's a great bike, as others with ECDMs can attest to. Perhaps the only issue some would see is weight. It is steel, ours is built with standard tandem (non-weight-weenie) parts, and all up with pedals is a bit over 50lb. You could save weight in forks, pedals, and perhaps other weight weenie parts, or go 26" and drop several pounds right there. But we like it.

    It packs for air travel, in the 18lb S&S cases, at just a bit over 100lb. I put the chains and of course tools in another checked bag to keep it at 49.5lb per case.

    Where we live (Northern CA) there are lots of great trails, close by trails are at the top of the mountains, twisty mountain roads, and driving further, day and overnights, opens up many, many more. So we can pack it in our hatchback in 2 big parts, tires on in about 15 minutes. I always worried with our old tandem on the roof racks on twisty roads, and FS is heavier than that. Plus it is more secure (e.g. less visible) when you stop for a break on road trips.

    Posted a picture about year back on the ECDM thread. It was built by MTB Tandems.

    Good Luck,
    Jon

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by giff07 View Post
    Hello James,
    Paul make many very valid points. We have friends that live in an apartment in New York City with limited space. They went the direction you are asking about...29'er ECDM, S&S,and purchased 2 sets of wheels hoping this would suit all their road and off road purposes. They have traveled with it and as long as they are riding by themselves seems to do the trick. The rub comes when they ride on the road with a group of road tandems(obvious reasons).When we last spoke they had just ordered a new road tandem.
    We sometime use our ECDM on the road for coffee shop, farmers market and boardwalk pleasure rides but wouldn't want to ride 50-60 miles that way.
    I think if you want only one tandem to serve many purposes and won't be riding with groups of road tandemists than MTBTandems Fandango line is a good compromise. Realise going in that it is a compromise that will do many things well but will not replace a road tandem or full suspension MTB in cases where they are needed.
    So as Paul stated...it depends.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem
    A couple more things I forgot to mention is that going coupled on an ECDM forces Ventanna to use steel tubing for the build(heavier) or I believe titainium is an option(expensive) Not sure about the Ti option. We started off roading with a 26'er Fandango and traded up to an ECDM which handles all varieties of off roading (tight single track to bombing downhills) with confidence inspiring ease. We were very happy with the Fandango but my stoker had the oppeertunity to ride some rock gardens on full suspension and it was her telling me we need to get one of these! Good luck with you choice!
    Ed and Pat
    tSRt (ECDM)

  6. #6
    PMK
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    Yes a Fandango 29r is another option if full suspension is not a requirement. Problem is though, I do not believe Alex has them coupled yet.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by PMK View Post
    Yes a Fandango 29r is another option if full suspension is not a requirement. Problem is though, I do not believe Alex has them coupled yet.
    I believe the idea of a Fandango S&S involves the same issues that require Ventana to make the ECdM S&S out of steel - S&S don't make (or at least don't make available) couplers sized for the diameter of the boom tube.

    An S&S Rohloff would be a brutal (in a good way) travel tandem. We have an S&S ECdM with 3x9 gearing. It is a bike more capable than we are as riders. We do ride road to and from trails, but this is short distances on knobbies. You could switch tires as mentioned, but also as mentioned you run out of gearing pretty fast. We run standard MTB gearing of 22/32/44 and it would be made worse on the road if you lowered gearing (as low as you can go in the front with the Rohloff hub) for Alps work.

    There's also a big difference in the feel of efficiency. We have a road tandem as well and the difference between the two on the road is...about what you'd suspect.

    All that said, if you're road riding in the Alps, perhaps MTB gearing is going to be of benefit?

  8. #8
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    We spoke to Alex a year or so ago about a coupled Fandango 29'er thinking it to be the perfect travel tandem. Useable in most situations. He felt it was a do-able option but not something he would regularly stock. So it would be custom and require a wait.
    E&P

  9. #9
    PMK
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    Maybe now with the new shop, and more room, he can take a ride down the route of a coupled Fandango 29r.

    It really would be a very good do-all machine...especially with a 2x14 Rohloff and big brakes.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  10. #10
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    Thanks for the feedback so far. It does sound like two tandems are going to be needed :-)

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    Then why does Ventana only offer S&S tandems in steel and not aluminum?

  12. #12
    PMK
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    Quote Originally Posted by Okayfine View Post
    Then why does Ventana only offer S&S tandems in steel and not aluminum?
    The metallurgy of brazing the couplers to the tubes. Aluminum to the couplers requires adhesive bonding.

    Pretty much a subject for another new topic.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  13. #13
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    Update

    Just a quick update. I have found a rather amazing looking 1999 ECDM in Switzerland that I am going to have a look at this weekend - the owner has had the frame polished (PDF) which looks pretty amazing!

    The frame might be to big for us but we shall see... I do have some concerns with regards to the parts on an older bike but I will start another topic with those concerns to keep this one on track :-)

  14. #14
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    Hi James ,
    Sorry for the late response.Thats a very nice looking ECDM. As far as the age of it goes I would be concerned if it has a lot of miles on it. Components can be updated as needed. The frame itself is also designed with a life span in mind as we found out a couple of years ago. We had a weld failure at the stoker seat tube /bottom bracket interface. In talking to Ventanna, Sherwood figured we put enough miles/pedal strokes/stress cycles on in a year and a half to meet his 10 year criteria.Yes we ride a lot! All was completely taken care of by Ventanna including reinforcement and re powder coat under warranty, however we are in the US and shipping from Switzerland would probably put this out of the question. A few things have changed on the newer frames but we still see plenty of older ones on the trails. PMK or Alex Nutt would be a better source of info for the various parts and their reliability than I would be.
    Let us know what you decide.
    Ed and Pat Gifford
    the Snot Rocket tandem

  15. #15
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    Thanks for the response Ed & Pat.

    It is the pictures of your broken tandem (and someone elses) that have me worried about a second hand frame! The owner of the tandem reckons they have done about 2000km (1242 miles) on it but I don't know on what terrain. How far away from your mileage at breakage is that? As you say, shipping a frame back for repair would be a costly business from Switzerland to the US. Its another reason I like the idea of the S&S coupled frame - easy to ship a broken part back for repair if it was needed.

    As an aside - have you seen any S&S coupled tandems being put to full off road use? All the pictures I see online of ECDMs doing "proper" off road stuff seem to be non coupled frames. When we get a bike I want to be able to ride & race everything possible without bike worries (I didn't mention it in my first post but we are about a 120kg [265lb] team).

    I have had an email response from Alex Nutt with regards to the price of a new bike. I didn't want to take up his time with more questions unless I know there is a good chance of me buying a bike from him hence asking the questions in the forums first. From all the online comments (and his quick email response) he obviously has a well deserved good reputation!

    Cheers,
    James

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by swiss_toni View Post
    How far away from your mileage at breakage is that?
    There isn't a way to tell. There isn't a mileage limit, a year limit, or anything qualitative like that. It's part HOW it was ridden (types of trails), part WHO it was ridden by (light team, heavy team, mashers, etc.), and part luck.

    We ride fairly smooth trails with the occasional set of rocks, but we're a heavier team (350lb plus water and gear) and we do a lot of riding in the small ring with a fair bit of mashing/torque application. I've not heard of Ventana's "10 year" lifespan idea; we managed to crack our frame in 3.5 years of riding.

    Another team I know went much closer to 10. Plenty of others I know have never had an issue, including on horizontal-shock frames like you're looking at above.

    As an aside, this issue is probably eliminated on the S&S bikes since they are made of steel.

    Quote Originally Posted by swiss_toni View Post
    As an aside - have you seen any S&S coupled tandems being put to full off road use? All the pictures I see online of ECDMs doing "proper" off road stuff
    Anything you can do on a non-coupled Ventana tandem you can do on an S&S Ventana tandem. We've had both back to back, and I couldn't tell you the difference in ride feel, flex, or anything other than frame weight. Our Burley road tandem is a lesson in frame flex, so I know what that's like to ride.

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    What Okay fine states I agree with. The 10 year idea came from Sherwood himself as an "average" design factor. Obviously it depends on a lot of factors as he states. Although we haven't had a coupled tandem my opinion matches his in that I wouldn't be concerned about riding it any differently than a non coupled bike. I would check the couplers before every ride for torque much like I routinely check air pressure in the tires and suspension. You are a light weight team at 265. We are generally around the 300 lb. mark pretty evenly distributed. Our terrain is general cross country stuff to some mildly technical drops and twisties. I do love going downhill fast and attacking climbs.Since there is not any powder coat on the frame I would suggest looking for signs of cracks around the welds and particularly in and around both bottom brackets. Ours failed at the stokers bottom bracket and had several cracks through the bottom of the BB shell also. I also recall one that cracked and failed at the head tube/top tube connection.
    Hope this is of some help. The only other factor to consider is a new frame carries a 2 year warranty. Ventana's customer service is by far the best I've ever dealt with in 35 years of cycling.
    Ed and Pat

  18. #18
    PMK
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    We are a much larger team at 350 plus some gear.

    If I were to say I never worry about cracking or breaking a frame, on either our road tandem or an of-road tandem that would be a lie.

    I am always inspecting while maintaining, and even often check stress areas for cracks.

    We do not baby our ECDM! We ride it hard on pretty technical terrain.

    Sherwood is no slacker when it comes to designing. I have a lot of respect for his ideas and more importantly, being able to build and heat treat every frame in house. This alone is huge in controlling quality.

    Are there things I don't like about our ECDM. Yes. But it has not let me down yet so maybe I am too techy. I know what I want changed on our next rendition and will pay extra for it.

    Thing is though, maybe this frame will last until he starts building tandems with the new style rear ends.


    As good practice for all suspension bikes. If you have a lock out shock, always avoid using lockout. Many frames die early from lockout use. The additional pounding into the tube structure is not good.

    I spent the extra money and bought two used rear shocks for our ECDM. Neither one has true lockout. A properly sprung, valved and adjusted rear shock is huge on these ECDM's.

    I have worked with Jeanne and now have it where if I notice the chassis is not hooking up, maybe on account of dry terrain, wet terrain, rocky, sandy or whatever conditions have changed, she will start adjusting while rolling.

    Typically, the rebound remains the same always. One or two clicks of compression, either softer or firmer will drastically change the bike setup. We are fortunate to have this on the fly adjusting capability for the front also. Normally within a couple miles both ends are dialed in when needed and then we just ride.

    BTW, bother Alex. Regardless of what you find elsewhere, give him an opportunity to be your go to person. He does a great job building what the customer wants.

    PK
    Reps! We don't need no stickin' reps!

  19. #19
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    Agree with Pauls statements! We certajnly do not "baby" our ECDM either. In fact when it broke the first thing we dicussed was purchasing a totally new frameset from Sherwood if that was necessary. Also agree that even though Alex is a little busier than usual as he is moving into a new shop, he loves to talk off road tandeming and is an excellent choice as a "go to" guy!

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by swiss_toni View Post
    have you seen any S&S coupled tandems being put to full off road use? All the pictures I see online of ECDMs doing "proper" off road stuff seem to be non coupled frames.
    Also here, keep in mind that there are probably 10x as many ECdM frames as ECdM S&S frames (if not more), so the sheer number of pictures will likely reflect that. And we almost never take a camera along, and when we do we forget to take pictures or it's too difficult to set up a good shot when we're riding by ourselves.

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    I am a little late to this thread but we own both a 26 ECDm ( thanks to Paul's help in finding a used one) and a new 29r coupled EDCM. We ride both but seem to ride the 29r more often now. We have taken both to Moab and ridden with the same friends and the teams on 29r seem to do better and are certainly faster in most sections. We can do the same technical sections on the 29r the only problem is the occasional very tight corner makes the handling of the longer wheelbase tougher. We can get the bike in the two S&S cases at just under 50 lbs each but cannot put extras in the case like we can with our S&S road tandem. The other thing to look at on a used 26 ECDM is the older rear triangles had tire size restrictions due to limited clearance. Our friends ended up trading in their old frame for a new one with Ventana's very generous trade in program. Sherwood is great to work with and the coupled tandems are all custom one offs and he was able to give me more stand over height on the 29r then the 26 even with the much higher bottom brackets and bigger wheels. We ride a variety of terrain from purpose built single track , ski trails and double track and mountain trails here in Alaska and yearly trips to Moab.

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    Quote Originally Posted by akexpress View Post
    Sherwood is great to work with and the coupled tandems are all custom one offs and he was able to give me more stand over height on the 29r then the 26 even with the much higher bottom brackets and bigger wheels
    Thats good to know. My wife and I are pretty short (5'8" and 5') but it looks like the 17/14" frame will fit us. If you don't mind me asking....how much free space over the top tube do you have when straddling the bike? :-)

    I have only ever ridden a 26r mountain bike so was not planning on getting a 29r as I like the idea of having as short a wheelbase as possible for switchbacks and singletrack. Stick with what you know and all that!

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    I am also 5'8" and I touch the top tube on the 26" 17/14 frame straddling it. I am careful so as not to stop next to a hole! I have at least an inch or maybe two on the 29r 17/15 because Sherwood changed the top tube to give me the clearance.

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    choice almost made

    Just about to pull the trigger on the purchase with mtbtandems.com. We are going with the following spec:

    17/14 ECDM S&S frame
    Rohloff hub (40x16)
    White brothers loop dual crown fork
    Fox RP23 rear fork
    Hope V4 brakes (203mm vented front and 203mm standard rear)
    Middleburn cranks & chainrings
    Sun MTX rims

    Gone for the strongest components possible as it seems sensible when we plan on throwing ourselves down mountains.

    Just need to pick the colour - the wife wants red so its looking like candy red (which seems like a popular choice for coupled bikes!). Our bike will look pretty much like the ones linked to below

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    Sounds like a great build, toni. Congratulations on stepping up, especially for the Rohloff.

    Is it a Fandango or ECDM? We're on our second Fandango (Rohloff this time), and are digging it. Alex was great to work with, as you know by now.

    Cheers and happy trails,

    Mike

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