A Classic Conundrum

A Classic Conundrum

Over the last few years we’ve had a lot of customers from the past pulling out their classic Rodriguez and Erickson bikes, dusting them off, and hitting the road again. Apparently, once the kids are off to college, one gets the chance to start cycling more seriously again. As it turns out, these folks are hitting road only to find that 25 years is a long time, and they may need to make some adjustments. Needless to say, we’ve seen several dozen ‘classic’ Rodriguez bicycles and tandems, along with their ‘classic’ owners in here for re-fitting.

Deja Vu
Now, I’ve been the proprietor here a long time (even longer than Glenn and Angel). Seeing the old R+E bikes and their owners is a real fun treat for me. I’m having a good time guessing the bikes age, and can usually guess within a year or two the manufacture date. Sometimes I can even remember assembling the bike when it was new! (I was here as an emplyee way back in the 1980’s) For me, there’s a deja vu moment just about every day. It’s fun to shoot the breeze with the customers from the 1980’s, and a lot of them ask what Angel and Glenn are up to now. Just last week, I had a customer ask me if Angel lives in Michigan? This brings me to a small diversion, but then it’s back to bike fit, I promise!


About the Founders:

If you are one of those wondering about Angel and Glenn, here’s the quick scoop.

Angel Rodriguez is in Panama living at the base of Vulcan Baru (a volcano) and is just as busy as ever. He’s making seismographic equipement with OSOP. Though we don’t get see Angel much, he was gracious enough to come out for our 40th Anniversary party in 2013.

Currently, in keeping with his busy nature, he is launching a new seismograph project called brinco. It’s a crowd funding project launching July 15th, and Angel invites you to participate.


You can find Glenn Erickson still here in the Seattle area when he’s not in Europe leading bicycle tours for his company, Erickson Cycle Tours. We have the pleasure to work with his customers on a daily basis, and Glenn himself is frequent visitor to the shop. He also leads a fantastic bicycle ride each year to fight Parkinson’s disease. Maybe some of you ‘wise’ folks would like to join him this year (August 2nd). It’s a great time for all levels of cyclists, you’re all invited, and you can even register online.


For a detailed article about the shop’s history, there’s a great article that The Bicycle Paper ran for our 40th anniversary a few years back. Or, you can read my ramblings here.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled article…

Fits and Starts

OK, that gets the small talk out of the way. Let’s get to work on putting that old bike (and you) back on the road.

So, you pulled the old steed off the ceiling in the garage, aired up the tires and took her out for a spin. Much to your surprise, the ride wasn’t nearly as comfortable as you’d remembered, right? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. This is a scene repeated time and time again all throughout the Seattle area these days. With age comes wisdom, and with with wisdom comes the acceptance that riding your old bicycle fit hurts….a lot!! You see, injuries, flexibility, core strength, pride, you name it, all have an effect on your proper bicycle fit. If you were 25 or 30 when your bicycle was fit to you last and now your…well…not, chances are there have been a few changes in those areas….ya think? We’re finding that in almost every case, some modernization of a few parts, and some expert fitting work here at the shop, can put that old bike where it belongs…back on the road!

One more example

Just now, I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee, and low and behold, another classic Rodriguez was just brought in! After years of storage, this one looks to be returning to service.

It’s not just Rodriguez and Erickson bikes either. We’re seeing all brands of bikes from the past in here for fitting and modernization, then going back on the road. We’re happy to work with any brand of bicycle to get it fitting comfortable for you. Most of these bikes are the original owners, and are just returning to cycling after a ‘child rearing’ break. Maybe your hair is grayer, but so is ours, and we’ve all gone through the same issues with our own bike fit. So what do you say? The water’s warm…everybody’s doin’ it! Come on in, or just give us a call to talk about it.

You’re friends are welcome too! Maybe you’re already back on the road, but you know someone who used to ride, still has a bike, and all they need is a little encouragement to call R+E Cycles and get back in the swing. Just give ‘em our number, and we’ll be glad to help them out.


Our fitting services are by appointment, and the pricing is here

To schedule an appointment, give us a call at 206-527-4822

Or, email us at Bikefit@rodbikes.com

To see a few classic Rodriguez and Erickson bikes, click here


Just Sit On It!

This article was written Feb. 6th, 2015. Prices quoted reflect that date, and may have changed if you are reading this at a later date.

Bodyfloat Seat Post Installed and Adjusted • Just $250 at R+E Cycles • (206) 527-4822

What do the roads you ride feel like?


Do you find yourself having to stand up frequently over cracked, crumbling asphalt on your rides? How about you commuters? Is your expletive quota reached on just about every commute? I’m sure that you’re hoping for the city to fix the road, but that’s just wishful thinking now, isn’t it?

Now you can ride in comfort and quiet while sitting on your bicycle seat. “Surely you jest!” you’re thinking to yourself right now, but I’m not. Let me fill you in on the secret we’ve discovered.

Suspension seat posts have a long history, but most people think of them like we did….only worth using on the back of a tandem. That was before the Bodyfloat seat post.

If you would like to make a comfort upgrade to your bicycle that really works, and is high performance, this article is for you. Let me take you on a short journey into the world of suspension seat posts and show you where it is now.

First, a little history:

Early Attempts at Comfort:


As the Nation’s oldest tandem manufacturer, we’ve got a long history with every suspension style seat post imaginable. All the way back to the early Hydrapost, suspension seat posts have been added to almost every tandem we’ve built. Stokers (the person on the back of a tandem) are not aware of upcoming bumps unless the captain (the person up front) warns them in advance. Needless to say, there are lots of times when that does not happen, and the stoker feels the full force of the bump. So, tandem manufacturers like us have always tried to use a seat post that would mitigate this problem a bit.

The first designs were to try to make the seat post into a shock absorber. While a few of these seat posts were somewhat effective, they were not really the kind of product that anyone wanted to use on a high performance single bike. They were heavy, and only provided some ‘emergency’ relief for that ‘whoops I forgot to warn you on that one’ situations. They basically worked like a pogo stick built into the seat post. One problem with this design is that your seat tube is at an angle (usually 73° from the ground or so), but gravity is trying to pull your body down at a 90° angle. This creates a lot of what’s been called ‘stiction’. Basically, the shock absorber is stuck in place until you hit something violent enough to break it free. When it breaks free, it drops, but then returns with great force (like a pogo stick). Kind of a delayed reaction with a slightly dampened energy return. In the absence of any other designs, these were used for several years.

You still see these seat posts all over on ‘comfort bikes’. They are very inexpensive these days, but don’t really work very well.

Comfort in the 1980’s and 1990’s


The first product to really work well was the Alsop Softride beam. This was in standard use on many brands of tandems for the stoker position for almost 20 years. We also built a lot of single bikes for the beam through the 1990’s. It required a special frame design, with special braze-ons and lots of specific parts. So, it didn’t really take off too well as you couldn’t easily add one on to your existing bike. When used though, this product did exactly what it was supposed to. The beam dropped a little bit with the riders weight (straight up and down and not at the 73° angle). When the rear wheel dropped into a rut, the rider stayed at the same height. Like the suspension in a car, the wheels could go up and down, but the rider didn’t feel the impact. No sticktion, great suspension, but your bike had to be custom made to work with the design. My wife and I ride a tandem with a Softride beam to this day. She swears by it, but the company is now gone.


After the Softride company went out of business, we were stuck with various seat post designs to try and provide some relief to stokers. The shock absorber version was not so good, so we tried some of the parallelogram designs that were out. These tried to take the stiction away by attaching the seat to a parallelogram and allowing the rider weight to raise and drop straight up and down like the Softride beam did. The problem that we ran into with them was that the ‘falling rate’ of the spring design was wrong. You could say they were built backwards. The spring was strong when the seat was at the top, and got weaker as the seat moved downward. So, if a bump was hard and the seat post began to drop, the rider would end up all the way at the bottom of the action. Then they would have to lift their weight back off of the seat to get the seat back up because the spring was too weak to actually lift the rider.

Even with their imperfections, we were limited to use these for the stoker positions of many tandems. Some people used them on single bikes, but like I said, these designs were not very high performance. For those who wanted something incredible, the wait was almost over. In 2013, the answer would arrive in the form of the Bodyfloat.

“OK Dan! Bring it in to this century already!”

In 2013, one of the guys who worked on the design for the original Alsop Softride beam visited our shop. He brought with him a new seat post design that he was very excited about, the Bodyfloat. He did a demonstration install/setup for Scott (our shop manager) on his personal bike. It was near closing time, so Scott rode the bike home with the post in it, and then he rode it back in the next morning. He said to me “I’m buying that seat post, and leaving it on my bike!” That’s a testament to the performance of this new post. Scott has ridden every suspension post available, and never thought he wanted one on his personal commuter. This post changed his mind.

The 2015 Bodyfloat Seat Post Just $250 at R+E Cycles We were so excited about the new design that we invited the Bodyfloat representative to display his post in our Bike and Pike event last year to show our customers his new product. It was an immediate smash hit, and several of our customers ordered them for not only their tandems, but their single bikes as well. Then, just as quickly as it took off, they couldn’t produce them fast enough for our demand. We spent several months without them. I was kind of bummed out because I wanted to try one on my own bike. Well, good news. They figured out their production issues, and now they are readily available, and 40% less than they were a year ago! The original version was Titanium at $425, but the new version is aluminum at just $250. The Ti version is still available for the rider that needs a super long seat post.

The Bodyfloat works on a different principal than all other suspension seat posts before it. Instead of having a falling rate design, it has a ‘rising rate’ design. The Bodyfloat springs are lighter at the top, and gradually get stiffer as the seat drops. No more having to lift your self off the seat to raise the seat back to start position. It also drops just slightly as your weight sits onto the post like the old Softride beam design did. The wheels can drop in and out of bumps while you, the rider, stays stationary in space.

I have since installed one on my bike and had the same experience as Scott. I will keep it on my bike, and I’m considering installing one on the Captain position of my tandem as well. It’s amazing how I can only hear the bike hitting the small bumps and cracks in the road, but I do not feel them anymore. I have to say, I’m impressed!

I can talk until the cows come home, but maybe you should just come to the shop and try one for yourself. Give us a call at (206)-527-4822 and set up a time to come by with your bike and your riding gear. We’d be happy to set one up for a test ride.

Not exactly ‘Plug and Play’

The Bodyfloat does need to be adjusted to your weight and riding style by a professional. Not to worry though, we’ve been trained in the proper set-up and will do it for you for FREE with purchase of a Bodyfloat! Free is a very good price.

“But…but…wait! I ordered one online and it’s not set up for me.”

If you’ve already ordered one online, or from someone eles who didn’t set it up for you, no need to worry. We can set it up for you for just $25. Just call us for an appointment.

Just in time for NAHBS! But you won’t see this bike there….

…instead, it’ll be where it should be, with its new owner starting a life of challenging bicycle rides and tours! As a matter of fact, you won’t see any of our bicycles there. Instead, we’ll be right where we should be….designing, building and painting these custom creations. If you follow my blog, then you know why we don’t attend…if not, here you go.

Last month, I wrote about some of the incredibly unique Rodriguez bikes we built in 2014. Well, here we go again! 2015 is off to an amazing custom start as well!

More Custom than Custom!

This bike is pretty special, and I think you’ll agree after you’ve viewed the post. It’s a combination of our new Rodriguez Model 2014 tandem, our famous Rodriguez 6-pack, and our old standard, the Rodriguez 8-ball convertible (an invention of ours from the 1990’s that I wrote about last year). So, basically, this puppy is a micro travel bike, and a micro travel tandem all in one. Chances are that you won’t see anything this challenging to design and build at any bike show you’ll attend (sorry show attendees). That’s OK though, you can see the whole thing in detailed photos right here on our website because…well…it’s 2015, right?






Links in this article

At Rodriguez, It’s NAHBS every week!

It’s that time of the year again. The North American Handbuilt Bike Show (NAHBS) is almost here, and folks are asking us if we are going to attend as a vendor. As always, the answer is no. Now, some of you probably already know why we don’t go, but for others who might be curious, we’re simply the busiest little custom shop in world (not to mention one of the oldest). If you want a longer answer than that, here’s an article that explains why in detail.

That being said, we certainly have made a lot of bikes over the last year that would be excellent entries for display at a show like NAHBS. The difference is that these bikes were all custom made for their owners and are out on the road instead of being on display in a show. We have however spent a little time to photograph a few of these unique creations so that we could share them with you over the internet.

Realize this is just a small portion of the unique bikes that have been created here by the Rodriguez and Erickson team. If you’d like to see a lot more photos, visit our complete photo gallery.

I’ve selected a few bikes (there were hundreds to choose from) to highlight here to illustrate some of the more unique bicycles that we’ve done since last years NAHBS show. Scroll down the list and you’ll see that there’s something for everyone. Anyone of these bikes by itself would be a great NAHBS entry, but as a collection, I think it’s almost mind blowing. Look it over and see if you agree with me that we’ve got the best custom bike team in the industry right here in Seattle’s University District.

Click on any image to see a gallery of that bike with lots of close ups.

How about a Bicycle built for 4, that’s convertible to a bicycle built for 3?

Or, a Rodriguez 6-pack micro-folder for Willie Weir to ride through Minneapolis?

It wasn’t just Willie either! We built a half-dozen or so of these amazing Rodriguez 6-pack Micros in 2014!

Have a taste for amazing art bikes? Check out the incredible Erickson Rohloff bike that managed to pull off in 2014.

The Rodriguez Micro-Revolution spread even into our tandem line with a new Micro Tandem Model – The Rodriguez 2014!

Ever seen a step-through tandem tricycle with differential rear end? Well, we built one of those this year!

So you like lugs do ya? Here’s a 2014 Erickson that you might enjoy then.

Still with the lugged theme…a real beauty hand painted by a tattoo artist here in Seattle.

Of course, there’s always the light weight road bikes with cool paint jobs.

Another light weight with a sweet paint job! Orange was hot this year.

How about a titanium Rohloff belt-drive commuter?

Another Rohloff belt-drive bike….this time in S3 steel.

We even built one of our exclusive Rodriguez 8-balls this season!

The Rodriguez 8-ball is a travel tandem and a travel single bike in one bike!

Lots of titanium this year. Here’s a ti travel single with Campy Record.

By request of the Mayor, we even built the official ‘Mayor’s bet’ Seahawks bicycle!

We built some killer fixed gear bikes over the season!

We’ve also been called upon to build several sweet Rando bikes.

Another titanium travel tandem with disc brakes and Campy Record!

A sub 26 pound Rodriguez steel tandem that took the tandem world by storm!

Who’d of thunk it? Off road touring bikes have become somewhat of regular here at R+E Cycles over the last year.

Another heavy duty off-roader. This one’s set up for an Alaskan winter.

Another sweet custom ride! A townie with hydraulic disc brakes.

Another sweet Rodriguez Shiftless fixie. I’d like to post them all, but I’ve gotta stop somewhere.

Step through frames are back for men and women. This Erickson fillet brazed step through is particularly beautiful.

In 2014, Rodriguez Custom Tandems for all shapes and sizes of riders were selling like hot cakes!

If you’re still reading this, I hope you had a great time looking over these unique creations. I’m surprised at the number of bicycles we built this year, but mostly at the variety. It’s truly amazing to look back over a year and see what kind of bicycles are rolling out the door here at R+E Cycles. Thanks for choosing us and telling your friends about us. We love what we do, and I hope that shows in this sampling of our work.

Dan

Steel Rodriguez Outlaw vs. Carbon S-Works Tarmac

Steel bikes don’t have to be heavy, and here’s proof!

As many of you know, we have one of Seattle’s largest bike repair shops and we service every make and model of bicycle. As a high end bicycle manufacturer (Rodriguez and Erickson), we have become the ‘shop of choice’ for folks who ride high end bikes of every make. It’s always fun to weigh the high end bikes that come through our repair shop. Even though I’ve written a lot about the fact that our Rodriguez Outlaw is the true featherweight, some people still think that a steel bike has to be heavy.

So….a picture is worth a thousand words right?


The Shootout – Who’s the Real Featherweight?

Steel Rodriguez Outlaw vs. Carbon S-Works Tarmac


The other day, a Specialized S-Works Tarmac came through our busy repair shop, and we had the chance to put it up head to head against our Rodriguez Outlaw on the same scale. The results were not surprising to us, but to anyone who thinks a light bike has to be made from carbon fiber, the results are probably quite shocking. One of the mechanics snapped the shots below with his phone, and texted them to me.

I put together a quick Facebook post of the images and our website lit on fire! Apparently, there were some recent newsworthy events (like a New York Times article for one) causing cyclists to take a second look at U.S. made steel bikes. As it turned out, this post was well timed. As a result, there are a lot of folks out there investigating light weight steel frames to replace their existing carbon frame. You might be surprised to learn that we’ve been converting people to lighter weight steel for several years now.

Anyway, back to the photos. Below is a side-by-side shot showing exactly what the 2 bikes weighed on the same scale, on the same day.

Now you can have the perfect blend of ride quality and durability of steel in a custom hand made bicycle, and not have to sacrifice on weight. You don’t have to sacrifice on anything I suppose. The Rodriguez Outlaw is custom made in Seattle USA from True Temper S3 tubing. Every frame is built specifically for its owner, and can have any color you want. The Outlaw rides like a steel bike because it is a steel bike.

It’s as light or lighter than any high end carbon bike made overseas, and will serve you for a lifetime of cycling as it’s not going to wear out. You’ll feel more confident on the downhills, and this frame climbs like a rocket! Just ask Steve if you don’t believe me!

Thanks for reading, and please share this article if you know someone who might be interested.

Links inside this article:

Wouldn’t you Rather Have a Custom Tandem?

If your tandem bicycle was made before you ordered it,
it’s not your tandem.

Today’s Topic: Free custom tandem sizing at Rodriguez

At Rodriguez, there are a lot of things we do differently than the other guys. As a matter of fact, there’s very little that we do the same as other tandem manufacturers. Although our tandems may look similar to other brands, there are some huge differences and I thought I might just take a moment today to tell you about a few of these differences.

In this article I will touch lightly on the fact that we offer all of our tandem frames in custom sizing at no extra charge. I will go a little deeper into why we do that, and what it means for you, the tandem team.

Who is this article for?
If you’re a stoker, this article is definitely for you! If you’re a captain who sees value in having your stoker be comfortable and happy on your tandem, then this article is also for you.

I promise to try to be brief and stay focused, but those voices in my head keep steering me off course. Grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s graze the surface of just why a custom tandem from Rodriguez is different.

Tandems and stock sizing:
Years ago, like other tandem manufacturers, we made our tandems in production (or stock) sizes. We had XS, S, M, L and XL. The reason to produce them in ‘stock’ sizes was to save money by having a repeatable method. We could build several frames of each size at once, and stock up on them. Then when customers came in, we could fit them to one of the sizes. This is the way that most shops have to sell tandems even today. They only have pre-determined sizes available, so the best that they can do is to adjust things around those sizes to make something work. If they have a custom option available, it is a lot more expensive and takes a lot more time.

When we had stock sizes, it turned out that about half of the time, the stock size was not ideal, but could be ‘made to work’ with some compromising. As a tandem builder who puts proper fit at the top of the list, we could always build a custom size if one of our pre-built stock sizes wasn’t perfect. About half of the customers who could technically fit on a ‘stock’ size chose custom anyway. The rest of the time though, the stock size was so far out of the ballpark that it just wouldn’t work at all. We found that even with production sizes that were pre-built, most of our tandems were built as custom anyway. Customers were willing to pay the extra $$ and wait the extra time to get the right fit without compromising. So, only about 25% of our tandems went out as ‘stock’ sizes.

The same problem existed with all of the other brands that we worked with as well. There were often too many compromises that had to be made in order to fit a couple to a tandem comfortably. It’s not that we hadn’t found the right stock size formula, but that a stock size formula is not realistic when trying to fit 2 people to 1 bicycle. This is something we confirmed in 2006 (Sound interesting? Read on).

Why not make all tandems custom?
Back in pre-historic times (pre-2006) it was a lot more expensive for us to make a custom bike, and it took a lot more time. Making them all custom would’ve been very disruptive to the flow of our manufacturing line back then. At most manufacturers, it still is more expensive, disruptive, and still takes more time. At Rodriguez, we’ve conquered this challenge, and we’re doing things different than everyone else. But that’s a whole

different article if you want to read it.


A quick word about our new way of building bicycles

In 2006, we developed our

current method of producing bicycles. It’s as simple as this: Make bicycles one at a time, in the order they are ordered. I know that sounds incredible for a manufacturer that makes as many bicycles as we do, but it’s how we do it. It turns out to be much more efficient and gives the customer a far better product. It’s one of the reasons a Rodriguez is the

best value in the industry.

Our method is unique to the industry, and now I feel myself going off topic…

Now back to our regularly scheduled topic…
Suffice it to say that in researching for our new fit and manufacturing method we discovered two important things when it comes to bicycle and especially tandem bicycle fit. It takes 18 stock sizes (in single bikes) to fit 90% of the customers we work with. 10% of our customers still end up on a custom bike because of fit issues. Now let’s extrapolate this to a tandem couple. How many sizes would we have to offer in order to give the tandem couple the same type of accuracy that we give with 18 stock sizes in single bikes? What do you think….36….64? That number is 18×18 or a whopping 324! And that number would only fit 90% of the couples we work with. Trying to produce 324 stock sizes is not efficient, or even realistic. It’s way more efficient to build every tandem with a custom design. So that’s what we do. We offer every tandem couple a custom frame size at no extra charge.

So where’s the pain?
The stoker (person riding the back of the bike) is often ignored when it comes to fitting a couple to a tandem. The theory goes something like this: With an adjustable stem and seat post, we can get the stoker’s bars and seat anywhere we want.

That sounds like a reasonable theory, but in reality, there are many factors that we’ve encountered that make for trouble. Trouble in this area means an uncomfortable stoker. An uncomfortable stoker means a ‘no-fun’ ride.

I could write a book here, but instead, let’s just analyze three recent tandems that we’ve built and I’ll walk you through why these customers don’t fit on a stock size without compromise. I could easily put hundreds of bikes here to analyze, but I think these three are a pretty good sampling.

I’ll show actual images from the C.A.D. drawings that we used to build three recent tandems. I’ll remove the dimensions and add some crude seats and bars for clarity. For fun, I’ll link image galleries of those exact bicycles so you can see how they turned out.

We’ll look at a tandem that’s obviously custom built for a couple that obviously needs a custom. We’ll look at a tandem that’s obviously custom built for a couple that most would think could ride a ‘stock’ size. Finally, we’ll look at a custom tandem that looks like a ‘stock’ size for a couple that looks to be ‘stock’ size.


First Up — An obvious custom


Captain height – 7′ | Stoker height – 5′ 4″


Any shop would send this couple to a custom builder, because of the massive height difference in the riders, and the fact that the captain is too tall to ride any ‘stock’ size of any bike. Take into account the fact that he rides special 220mm crank arms as well, and that rules out any ‘stock’ size.

Of course, anyone who’s 7′ tall expects to need a custom tandem. What they don’t expect is that at Rodriguez, it will cost nothing extra to get that perfect fit.



In this example, we’re just showing that no matter what the height differential, a tandem can be made that looks and rides great! We’ve built a lot of tandems through the years that are this same frame design, but until this bike, we didn’t take pictures.

This couple worked with me via email to get their sizing perfect. The bike turned out beautiful, and they are loving it! See the image gallery for this specific bike here.


Custom Tandem Number 2

Custom tandem for a ‘stock’ looking couple
Captain height – 6′ 1″ | Stoker height – 5′ 4″


Going by the rider’s heights, most shops would guess them to be a ‘Large’ or equivalent tandem size in most brands. This would be especially true if they were communicating by phone or email, and just guessed by height alone. This is probably the biggest misconception that we deal with when fitting a tandem to a couple. We’ve learned by statistical analysis of fit data collected over several decades, as well as through experience working directly with our couples that height alone is a terrible way to size a tandem.

Most companies don’t have the opportunity to work directly with every customer purchasing one of their tandems, and therefore must rely on their dealers to do the fit work. When you work with Rodriguez, you’re working directly with the folks who will design, build and paint your new bicycle.

Back to analysis: With a stoker that’s 10 inches shorter than the captain, this tandem team has a pretty standard height differential. However, their custom tandem is very different from any ‘stock’ size on the market. We see a lot of poorly fitting tandems out there ridden by couples at this respective height difference. Since going strictly custom, we’ve found that many more couples need a tandem that looks like this than even we would’ve estimated 10 years ago.

Although she’s 10 inches shorter, this stoker actually rides a higher saddle than the captain. That’s because her inseam is longer than his. Her height is in her legs, and his height is in his torso. Stock sizes always presume a lower stoker saddle than a captain saddle. In this scenario, her comfortable bar height is level with her saddle, and that means that her bars need to be higher than the captain’s seat. All of this adds up to a much longer stoker compartment to accommodate her fit.

Almost all other brands run a 73cm (or shorter) stoker compartment on their ‘stock’ and even on their custom sizes. The stoker compartment on this frame is 82cm. That’s almost 10cm longer than the standard that other manufacturers run on all of their tandems (including custom). This stoker would have to ride with her bars way too low to be comfortable for her unless her custom tandem was built to order. At Rodriguez, we start every tandem drawing with the stoker’s fit on the screen, and then add the captain’s fit with regard to stoker’s reach and bar height. This will ensure that the stoker will be comfortable, and her/his hands will not be hitting the captain in the butt.


This drawing is very similar to the custom tandem reviewed in Tandem and Recumbent Magazine in 2013. See what they had to say about our custom tandem process.

We’ve built a huge number of tandems for customers that need a longer, higher position for the stoker than is possible on ‘stock’ sizing. Here’s one we did for the
Jacobs, and another for the Millins. This fit is just not something that a company can plan a ‘stock’ size for, but ends up as one of our most common designs.

You can view specific hi-resolution images of the bike the bike we are analyzing here.


Third time’s the charm…or is it?


‘Stock’ looking couple – ‘Stock’ looking bike

Captain height – 5′ 11″ – Stoker height – 5′ 3″


This bike looks like a ‘stock’ size doesn’t it? Well, it’s not even close. The stoker’s compartment is 80cm long. That’s 6~8cm longer than anybody else’s ‘stock’ size.

Here’s an example of a customer that technically could fit on our old ‘stock’ size L, but the stoker would’ve had to compromise her comfort. A couple like this is often willing to put up with some discomfort for the stoker in order to save the $400~$500 that other companies charge for a custom size. Once we started offering custom sizes on tandems, we quickly discovered that almost every couple really fits better with a stoker compartment longer than 78cm.

We ask: Why compromise a comfortable fit for the stoker?

This stoker wants her tandem to fit like her single bike does, and she’d like a little distance between her face and the captain’s rear end. Although she’s just 5′ 3″, her preferred handle bar height is 4.5cm higher than her saddle, and her bar width is just 38cm. With the shorter 70~73cm stoker compartment that is built into all other ‘stock’ sizes, she would have to choose from one of 3 compromises. She could ride bars that are too wide, she could ride with her bars too low, or she could ride with her total reach too short for her fit. Without one of these compromises, the captain’s hind quarters would hit her in the hands. This is a compromise repeated again and again throughout bike shops everywhere. The stoker’s fit is compromised.


Here are a few customers that have very similar ’80cm +’ stoker compartments on ‘stock looking’ custom tandems. If you see these bikes on the road, you’d think they were a ‘stock’ size, but they are far from it! They are all custom Rodriguez tandems. All of these stokers are enjoying the benefits of a tandem built with their comfort in mind!

The Wrap Up

Well there it is, our case for the custom tandem frame. We started offering free custom tandem sizing several years ago, and we’ve never looked back. Our tandem customers are happier than ever, and we’ve helped dozens of couples out of poor fitting ‘other brands’ just by working with them in our fitting station. As it turns out, most stokers want to be comfortable on their bike, and once they’ve experienced that, there’s no turning back.

If you’re considering a tandem to replace your old one, or if you’re considering your first tandem, why not make it your tandem? Now you don’t have to compromise fit or $$ to have the perfect fitting custom tandem that you’ve always dreamed was out there.

If you have any questions, or would like to talk further about our bikes, just email me or call the shop at 206-527-4822.

I sure hope you enjoyed this article, and that you learned something from it. We have a good time here at Rodriguez making and talking about bikes. Thanks for reading.


Dan – April, 2014


More technical tandem articles

A Stiff Proposition – Stiffener tubes
Double Trouble – Tandem forks
Featherweight Champion- Race tandems


Linked in this article

Our Custom fitting history at Rodriguez
The Best Value – Custom Rodriguez
New Manufacturing method
Our Tandem Photo Galleries
Rodriguez Tandem Testimonials

The Ultimate Micro Travel Bike from Rodriguez Returns!

Bike To The Future!

As it turns out, the Rodriguez 6-Pack bicycle was 12 years ahead of its time.

In the world of micro-bikes, there are certainly a lot of options. The only problem is, a lot of these options are not regarded as ‘real bikes’. There are several really inexpensive folding bikes with small wheels, but they are not designed for, and don’t hold up to, heavy everyday use. Then, there are some more expensive options that are supposedly made for loaded touring, but most people that own them don’t like them well enough to use as their every day rider. Their micro-bike is only pulled out of the box when the convenience of easy travel outweighs the inconvenience of riding something…well…sub-standard to their ‘real bike’.

The Rodriguez 6-Pack solves this problem. The 6-Pack is a real bike, and rides like one. It packs easily to go on any sized airplane (even the stow compartment on your private plane), train, boat, or other mode of transportation that you find yourself needing to ride.

Don’t take it from us though, ask Steve!

Meet Steve



Steve with his 2009 Rodriguez
6-Pack micro-bike

Steve researched and owned several different micro-bikes over the course of 10 years. He already owned a full sized travel bike, but found that he wanted the convenience of a small wheeled, easy to pack bike for most of his trips. He’s been a customer of ours forever, but didn’t realize that we made such a bike, so he purchased several different brands over the course of a decade. Most were well known brands, and some were full custom micro-bikes. He wanted to find a micro-bike that he could ride all the time…one that didn’t have that ‘whizzy’ compromise feel to it when loaded with all of his touring or commuting gear, but had resigned himself to the fact that it just didn’t exist. Therefore, he would have to take his place in the ‘whizzy micro-bike’ for travel / ‘real bike’ for daily riding category.

Somethin’ Up Our Sleeve

When I realized that Steve was looking for such a bike, I told him about the Rodriguez 6-Pack that we made back in 1997. We had tried to launch our own micro-bike in the early days of S&S couplings, but it didn’t take off like we’d hoped, so it eventually was dropped from the catalog. I thought the 6-pack would be exactly the bike that he was looking for. It rides like a real bike because it starts with the same structure as a real bike. It has a front triangle, and a rear triangle. Triangles are the strongest design in geometry, and this is why it has been the building block to just about every successful bicycle design. Most micro-bike designs eliminate the front triangle to try and save space when packing.

I explained to Steve that by eliminating the front triangle, his micro-bikes just didn’t have the same strength to carry the loads that he tours and commutes with. He thought about my explanation for a while, but didn’t order a bike right away.

A picture’s worth 1,000 words

The original 1997
Rodriguez 6-Pack

Eventually, I came across a photo of the 6-pack bike that we had published in our catalog back in 1997. The next time Steve came into the shop, I ran upstairs and grabbed the picture so I could show it to him. He immediately said something to the effect of “That’s the bike I’m looking for!” He ordered a 6-pack frame/fork from us and we re-launched the Rodriguez 6-pack in 2009.

Deja vu
When it was done, we took the parts off of his (then) current micro (the one with no front triangle), and put them onto the 6-Pack. After a 12 year hiatus, the Rodriguez 6-Pack was back! I took it for the first test ride myself, and just like the 1997 model, this bike handled, climbed, in all ways rode just like a full sized bike! No more compromise. Steve was thrilled! He got rid of his other mico-bikes, and the 6-pack became his main ride. He even commutes on this bike.
Steve has finally found that micro-bike that truly replaces his need for his full sized bikes.

Since Steve’s 6-pack success, we’ve built several more (here are some photos). The story has been the similar each time. The Rodriguez 6-pack customers have been long time micro-riders, but until this bike, haven’t found the bike that replaced their ‘real bike’. The 6-pack gives the micro-bike enthusiast a bike that can go as carry-on luggage, and still rides just like a ‘real bike’. We’ve built them in several different styles including: off-road, heavy touring, and even high-end racing versions. As it turns out, the Rodriguez 6-Pack was just a bike way before its time.


Is Touring the World on Your Bucket List?
Whether you (or a friend) already own a micro-bike and want something better, or if you are considering your first micro-bike, the Rodriguez 6-Pack should be at the top of your list to see. We think you’ll agree with Steve, it’s the perfect bike for that “go anywhere” bicycle traveler. Unlike Steve, you don’t have to trust a photograph…we have one on the shop floor now for test rides.


The Rodriguez 6-Pack….your micro-bike, your only bike!


Thanks Steve, for giving us a shot!

Dan – April, 2014

The Original Tandem to Single Bike Convertible

“A Bicycle built for two….I mean one….I mean two”

They say imitation is the greatest form of flattery. If that’s true, then I’m not sure how to take the fact that it took 17 years for another company to imitate our unique Rodriguez 8-ball design.

Last week, a couple flew in to Seattle to visit our shop. They had recently attended a trade show where a manufacturer was displaying a tandem design that, through the use of S&S couplings, could convert into a single bike. Not only that, but when asking around, they discovered that even another company was talking about introducing a similar design. Now, as you may or may not know, we don’t attend trade shows anymore, but none-the-less I was surprised after all these years to hear that other companies were attempting this challenging design. After noticing that the hits on the Rodriguez 8-ball page were about 20 times their norm, I thought a blog post was due.


Mike and Angela
kick into high gear on their 2005 Rodriguez 8-ball


Evolution with intelligent design:
The first Rodriguez 8-ball was built in 1997 (that’s seventeen years ago as I write this article) and put in our printed catalog for 1998. Over this course of time, we have learned a lot on how to improve the design, and even evolved two more completely different 8-ball designs that accommodate different needs and desires of the 8-ball customer. I’ll cover the different frame designs and their features later in this post, but first let’s step into the wayback machine and study the history of this bike….or should I say bikes.

The history of this design:
As with most Rodriguez unique creations, there were several minds involved to come up with this design. We first started using S&S couplings to make travel bikes in 1996, and it dawned on me that we might be able to make a single/tandem convertible using these. I talked it over a bit with Matt, our head builder at the time, but we couldn’t resolve how to get the rear triangle connected effectively….and then what to do with the cables and getting them to be a seamless transition….etc… We put the idea to rest until John (our head mechanic in the mid 1990’s) showed me a drawing of a bike he wanted to have us build the he could use for travel, tandem, single, and bikepacking. There it was! He had drawn up a sketch of a frame that converted from single to tandem and solved the rear triangle issues. We built the bike, and solved the cable transitions as we built, and it all worked out perfectly. That year at Seattle Bike Expo (we used to do trade shows) John spent the weekend demonstrating this unique creation as he converted it to tandem, to single, and back again for the show goers.

Round 2:
About this same time, Author/Adventure cyclist Willie Weir was planning his trip to Cuba. Willie planned to take something extra along with him on this trip…..his new wife. They wanted to ride a tandem through Cuba. “No problem there” we said, “we can make a travel tandem for you to take on the plane.” “There is a problem though” Willie said, “It will just be by myself for the first leg of the trip, and Kat will join me later”. “What will I do with my single bike when she shows up with the tandem?” Little did he know, we had already solved his problem. I told him about the Rodriguez 8-ball that we had built for John, and he was intrigued. So, we sketched up a bike for them that he could ride as a single for the first leg of the trip, and then Kat could join him mid way and they could continue on through Cuba via tandem….8-ball style.

Willie tells the story of the salivating faces of the cab drivers in Cuba as an American woman shows up with a large box, and here’s Willie to pick her up at the airport on just a bicycle! The cab fair from Heaven, right? Wrong. You see, the box that Kat was carrying contained her luggage and the center section of their new Rodriguez 8-ball. Imagine the surprise on the cab driver’s faces as Willie takes his bike apart and adds the center section. After a few moments, they load the panniers on the freshly converted bike and ride away (waving to the cab drivers). Willie says that the drivers actually all applauded as they rode past. Read more of Willie’s adventures in one of his fascinating (and funny) books available at willieweir.com

Willie and Kat’s 8-ball in Cuba (1998) looking much better than the building behind it.


More 8-ball fun:
After Willie’s bike, we built several more 8-ball convertibles. Each one different from the last. In 2003, we had one of our 8-ball customers call up and ask if we could build a third section for their 8-ball…making it a triple, double, single. “Why not?” I said, so off we went. It was fun, and a lot easier than we thought to make the 3rd section work well. Here’s a few shots of it.

After the conversion to triple went so well, we had a small flood of x-tra long bikes that were also convertibles. We did a couple of 3/2 convertibles, a 4/2 convertible, and my 4/3/2 convertible. We even did a 5/4/3/2 convertible.

Focus Please
But I digress. This article is about tandems that convert to singles. A subject that we know a lot about. As time went on, the Rodriguez 8-ball became a cult favorite. Each one dawned its own nickname….like Brian and Sue’s ‘Mama Cass’…or Charles and Rose Ann’s ‘Study in Orange’.. or the ‘Trickel Nickel’. I can’t leave out Mike and Angela’s ‘Big Blue’. I could go on and on about the fun customers that have Rodriguez 8-ball convertibles.

Even though the 8-ball was a success, there were customers who wanted one that couldn’t get one because of sizing restrictions. These restrictions brought about 2 new Rodriguez 8-ball designs

Why a new design was needed:
The one problem with the original design was the fact that the riders had to have similar saddle heights in order for the design to work properly. If not, then either the stoker had no stand-over clearance, or the captain’s seat couldn’t be raised high enough. The top tube had to be level. For a lot of people, this is fine, but for others, this didn’t work well.

In a traditional tandem design, we slope the top tube in order to give more stand-over clearance for the back rider, and get the seat tube long enough for the front rider. Over the years, I had drawn up a couple of frame designs that addressed this issue and had them ready for when someone needed that solution. It wasn’t until 2009 when we had our first taker on one of the new designs.

You can see a comparison of the 3 different Rodriguez 8-ball designs here.

In these two new designs, the rear triangle detaches and and re-attaches to the captains seat tube. This means that we can slope the top tube like a standard tandem, and the rider’s seat heights are completely un-important in the frame design any longer. There are ups and downs of each design, but suffice it to say that any of these designs are a challenge for any builder to execute well.

Here’s an example of design #2 that we built in 2009

Conclusion
I wrote this article to explain how this bike came to be, and show the evolution of the design. I think that it’s worth mentioning that this is a very challenging design, and each 8-ball is a completely unique creation. While we welcome other manufacturers to the party, we want to let the general public know that the convertible tandem/single is not a new creation, but has been alive and well for 17 years now at Rodriguez Bicycle Company.

The attention that’s being paid to it now is long overdue I say. Thanks John, Matt, David, Todd and Dennis for all your contributions as well as all the other team members here at Rodriguez who’ve put in the time and thought to make these incredible designs successful. We wish all of our 8-ball customers many years of happy cycling! And to those of you in the market today for such an animal….why not consider the most experienced team in the industry to build your Rodriguez 8-ball convertible?

What Will Happen to the Seahawks Bicycle?

What will happen to the bike the Super Bowl built?

A lot of people have contacted me since the Seahawks won the Super Bowl to ask me what will become of the Seahawks bike….the one that we built for the Mayor’s annual Super Bowl bet.

How this bicycle came to be:
Every year, elected officials pick an item or two to bet on the Super Bowl when their city is in it. In case you weren’t aware, Mayor Murray of Seattle selected to bet, among some other items, a Seattle made Rodriguez bicycle. The Mayor’s office contacted us on a Thursday afternoon and asked if we had a bicycle that we could bring to a press conference on Monday morning. We would only lose the bike if Seattle lost the game. I said “Yes” (believing that Seattle would win).

There’s no stopping Seattle’s 12th man
Now, originally I planned on grabbing something we had on the shop floor, but that was before the R+E staff got involved (plenty of 12th men and women here). In about 15 minutes Scott had grabbed an unpainted frame that had just been finished in our frame shop, and Smiley had a Seahawks paint job sketched out on paper. Teresa, our painter (and die hard Seahawks fan) said that she would work all weekend if she had to in order to paint a Seahawks bike. Well, the decision was made. We would work Friday and Saturday to create the Mayor’s bet and try to make Seattle proud!

Scott went to the Seahawks store early Friday Morning and picked up some NFC championship decals to be used to decorate the bike. Everything else would already have to be here in the shop as there was no time to order any special parts. We just happened to have green tires, green valve caps, and green and blue handle bar tape in stock. Teresa painted the fenders and handle bar stem green to match the green stripes on the bike.

What started as a bare frame Thursday afternoon, was a complete bicycle hiding in my home on Saturday night. The Mayor’s office did want any photos of the finished bike getting out before the press conference.

The end result was not only a great show of support for the Seahawks, but, after the Mayor’s press conference, a bike that would go viral on the net and focus some attention on Seattle’s vibrant cycling community. Thanks Mayor Murray for selecting us, and way to go Seahawks!!

So now what happens to the bike?
Most people thought that the city bought the bike from us, and now the Mayor would have to ride it. Well, that’s not the case. From the beginning, the Mayor’s office told us that if the Seahawks won, we could do as we pleased with the bike. As it all fell very close to our annual fundraiser, the Bike and Pike, we intended to find a way to auction this bike off to raise money to support Northwest Food Lifeline (our charity of choice).

I was intending to put together some kind of silent auction for the bicycle and was actually typing the words for it when the Mayor’s office called again. They had been approached by the Bikeworks program and asked about putting the bike up in their yearly auction on March 23rd. My thought was that it would be an excellent venue to auction this one of a kind bicycle. Bikeworks is a fantastic charity, and if they would agree to split the proceeds 50/50 between Food Lifeline and Bikeworks, then I would donate the bicycle for their auction. I contacted them, and they didn’t hesitate a bit. 50/50 it is, and the bike will be on the auction block at their yearly auction Sunday, March 23rd.

The bike will be on display at the Seattle Bike Expo in the Bikeworks booth this weekend. Please tell your bicycle and your football friends about the auction and let’s see if we can raise some money for a couple of deserving Northwest charities!

OK all you football fans and cyclists! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a piece of Seattle Seahawks history. Be generous, it’s all for two good causes.


Thanks – Dan

Links:
Bikeworks Annual Auction
Photo Gallery of this bike
Food Lifeline
Rodriguez Website
Mayor’s press conference

Get Serious…Lighten Up!

Rodriguez…The Featherweight Champion of the Tandem World!

Now even lighter with more steel!

When it comes to the world of ultra-light tandems, there are a lot of crazy things that people do to try and save weight. Aside from just…well….not telling the truth, some of these things sacrifice ride performance, and others even sacrifice rider safety. Not at Rodriguez though! We just keep lightening up our time tested design. A few years ago, we shocked the tandem world with a sub 27 pound steel tandem. For 2014, we’re going one better. How about a sub 26 pound steel tandem that even uses a steel tandem fork? You’ll be amazed when you lift this certified 25.8 pound featherweight tandem!

No Magic….just tragic
Let’s face it, anyone can build a lighter tandem if they exclude crucial performance components like….a stiffener tube. C’mon, really? Just removing frame tubes, and telling folks “really, those were just extra parts” doesn’t cut it for us. Some even resort to using unsafe forks on their tandems to save a little weight, and that’s a serious No No.

There’s no magic to making a tandem lighter weight with these techniques. The real trick is to make it lighter without compromising safety or efficiency. This way, you’ll end up with a real tandem that climbs like a rocket, and gives you the confidence you need to descend at much greater speeds.

Nothin’ up our sleeve!


No Sacrifices! At Rodriguez, our newest creation will give our customers unprecedented comfort and performance! On long climbs or even rolling hills you’ll appreciate our use of a double miter stiffener tube. This gives you 27% less bottom bracket flex than a frame with just a single miter stiffener. That means more of your power goes into the drive train instead of being eaten up by the frame flex. If you want to climb fast on a tandem, or if you like to stand while you climb, then this is your frame.

Don’t Get Forked Up!
The specially designed Rodriguez light weight steel tandem fork uses a steel steering tube that will not flex under load like a carbon steering tube will. You’ll notice an immediate difference in handling, holding a line, and climbing as well. While descending, you can take those curves with more confidence as this fork doesn’t back down to strong braking like a carbon fork can.

Comfort?
You Bet! The S3 steel tubing will ride like steel because it is steel. Now you can enjoy all of the comfort and performance of a real steel Rodriguez tandem, and still brag about the lightest tandem in the group! Or, you could just let everyone think you’re on a ‘heavy steel tandem’ and you’re just kicking the stuffing out of them because you’re incredibly fast…it’s your call.

If you are considering a purchase of a light weight custom tandem, this bike is truly a champion worth your consideration. We do have a little experience building tandems. At Rodriguez, we’ve been hand building tandems since 1973. Satisfaction is always guaranteed, and we’d love to build your new ride. Just talk with some of our tandem customers if you need help deciding who your tandem company should be. We think you’ll agree with them – A Rodriguez is the best value in the industry.

Thanks for reading – Dan

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