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.
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.
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