A Super light Custom Travel Tandem




Highlight: A fly-weight steel travel tandem from Rodriguez

These have been really hot in 2016!


Super Light Custom Steel Tandem by Rodriguez


Rodriguez Ultra-light tandems offer many advantages over other brands:

  • A Rodriguez rides like steel because it is steel
  • Rodriguez Tandems are built custom to fit both riders at no extra charge
  • We don’t skimp or use tricky weight saving techniques like leaving out the Stiffener Tube
  • Rodriguez Tandems are built to last forever without the use of non-standard parts
  • A fork that’s not only tandem rated, but handles better than any carbon fork on the market
  • An adjustable stoker to dial in your stoker’s fit, then a super-light steel or titanium fixed position stem to shave another pound or two
  • A lifetime frame and fork warranty (most carbon frames have very limited warranties)

For almost a decade now, we here at Rodriguez have been known for building some of the lightest tandem bikes on the road. One surprising thing about these bicycles built for two is that they are made of good ol’ American steel! Well actually, they are made of the New American Steel. In 2007 we introduced our 25.8 pound Ultra-light tandem and shocked our competition. Since the bike’s introduction, we’ve sold them steadily, but 2016 seems to be something special. We sold several just in the last few months.

Now you don’t have to sacrifice weight to have the durability, comfort, and superior performance of a hand-built steel tandem.

A twist this year is that many of them are travel versions using S&S couplings. This adds 2.7 pounds of weight, but we’ve been busy shaving weight where we can and now have these incredible bikes down to a science in the travel version as well. I thought it was time for a highlight on one that’s just coming through the assembly dept. now. This one is our Chorus version, and has some weighty additions, but still comes out incredibly light!

The Current Tandem at Hand
The Weight Break Down on this bike goes like this:

  • Rodriguez Ultra-light Chorus Tandem Model (28.6 pounds)
  • Rodriguez Travel Upgrade (+2.7 lbs)
  • Cantilever brakes for extra wide tire clearance (+8 oz)
  • Bodyfloat seat post for Stoker comfort (+8 oz)
  • Option for disc drag brake (+5 oz)
  • Spinergy Tandem Wheelset upgrade option (-5 oz)

Including the above list of weight additions, final weight on this bike is 32.5 lbs once the included lightweight custom steel stoker stem is installed. Our ultra-light tandem models come stock with a temporary adjustable stoker stem that is heavier. Once the stoker’s fit is completely dialed in, measurements are taken of the final preferred position and a lightweight steel (titanium in the case of the Record Tandem) fixed position stem is built to replace it.

Realize, when I quote weights, I’m quoting verified true digital scale weights that we will stand behind with a ‘no bull’ money back guarantee. This one clocked in at just 33lbs 4oz with the adjustable stem and the other options.


Custom Rodriguez Tandem with S&S couplings

This Rodriguez Travel Tandem (Chorus model) is not only great looking, but only weighs 33lbs 4oz as pictured here with the fully adjustable stem and several comfort upgrades that add some weight. Subtract 3/4lbs when the included ultra-light stem replaces the adjustable.

Lightened couplers and braze-ons all around help to keep this flyweight tandem one of the lightest, best performing tandems available today. This customer also chose to add rear rack braze-ons for light touring. At Rodriguez, your bike is really ‘your bike’. Just tell us what you want and we will make it happen!

View the full photo gallery for this bike here


If you or anyone you know, has been considering a high-end tandem, ultra-light or not, we ask you to consider a Rodriguez Custom Tandem. We build every tandem by hand, custom for its owners. We’ve been doing it longer than anyone else too. Since 1973 we’ve been building our tandems right here in Seattle’s University district. We’d love to be your tandem shop.


The New Rodriguez Bandito


The Lightest Road Bike with Disc Brakes!

Unleash the Beast!

For a decade now, we here at Rodriguez have been known for building some of the lightest bikes on the road. The amazing thing about these bikes is that they are made of good ol’ American steel! Well actually, they are made of the New American Steel. In 2006 we introduced our 13.5 pound Rodriguez Outlaw. That led to mass retirements of Trek Madone’s, Cervelo R3’s, Specialized Tarmac’s, and many many other overseas-made carbon frames. We love the look on people’s faces when they lift the Outlaw for the first time. Especially if they rode in on something they thought was ‘really light’.

Well, now we’d like to introduce something else equally spectacular. The Outlaw has a new cousin equipped with disc brakes, the Rodriguez Bandito. It took some time, and some planning to get this bike down to it’s fly-weight of just 15.9 pounds, but we’ve done it. The lightest disc brake bikes that we’ve been able to verify weight on are at least 2 pounds heavier than the Bandito.


“The Rodriguez Bandito offers the serious weight weenie some never before seen features available on a fly-weight disc brake road bike!”


Custom Steel bike with disc brakes by Rodriguez


Verified 15.9 pounds with disc brakes and 32c tires!

First up: 32c Tires

Now here’s an idea. One of the benefits to disc brakes on a road bike is that the brake caliper no longer limits your tire width. So, if the frame and fork are designed properly, you can put wide tires on your bike. Unfortunately, race bike manufacturers don’t realize that most ‘everyday’ riders would like this ability, and design their forks and frames for the same skinny tires that you could run with caliper brakes:-( We ask “where’s the fun in that?!”

The Bandito is the first ultra-light disc brake road bike designed for use with wide tires. As a matter of fact, we even did the weigh in with 32c tires on the bike. You can run up to 35c tires on this bike. We see the ability to run wide tires as the most important advantage to road disc brakes. Otherwise, why pay the weight penalty?

Next features: Lighter, more comfortable and more durable than your carbon bike

Now you won’t have to compromise weight, ride quality, comfort, or durability to own the sweetest ride in the pack. The Banditio comes with our lifetime warranty, just like all of our steel bikes (most carbon bikes have just 5 year limited warranties). Steel has a well deserved reputation as the smoothest riding material, but also is thought of as heavy:-( This is because most of us owned heavy steel bikes back in the 1970’s, and we associated the ‘heft’ with the frame material. We loved the ride, but were willing to sacrifice that smooth ride to save a few pounds on aluminum or carbon fiber. Well, steel has evolved, and now we can make a Rodriguez from steel that’s lighter than it’s carbon or aluminum counterparts. Some of you are probably ready to email us and schedule a test ride…right? Others out there, I know will be reading this and thinking “Bull Sh#$%” right? Well, read on then. I’ll explain a few things that will help you understand how we can pull this off.

Use your head:
Let’s talk about head tubes and head sets. This is the part of the bike where the fork is attached, and the bearings are referred to as the head set. Originally, carbon fiber bikes used the same sized head tubes and ISO head sets as titanium, aluminum and steel bikes. This part of the frame is under more stress, and carbon frames began to fail at this point. So, manufacturers began to ‘beef up’ this part of their carbon frames. Unlike aluminum, titanium and steel frames, it turns out carbon frames needed more material in this area in order to have the strength needed. To fit these bigger head tubes, bigger, non-standard head sets were used, and sometimes a proprietary fork. The issues of non-standard, or proprietary parts are many, but one thing is for sure. The bigger head tubes and head sets, and proprietary forks may have made the frame weight lower, but added weight to the full bike when built.

Bottoms up:
Now, let’s talk about bottom brackets. This is the part of your frame that holds the bearings for your cranks. Needless to say, this is also also weak point on a carbon bike. It’s a point of great stress on any frame. To fit the ultra-light, standard ISO bottom brackets that are used in steel, aluminum and titanium bikes, the carbon guys had to glue in a steel or aluminum shell so they could put threads in it. This added weight to a carbon frame. This was also a weak point as eventually the glue failed. To solve the problem, the carbon guys again abandoned the long held ISO standards, and adapted one of several different non-standards. Again, the frame had to be ‘beefed up’ and a heavier bottom bracket had to be used.

Let’s compare:
This brings us to an interesting point. Wether intentional or not, these evolutions artificially make a carbon frame seem lighter than it is. If one weighs just the carbon frame, without it’s required heavier bottom bracket and head set, the frame can be a little lighter than our steel Bandito. So a published frame weight is not the only thing to look at. If one weighs the carbon frame with it’s fork, required head set, and required bottom bracket, the result will be quite different. You see, an ultra-light Rodriguez steel frame, you can still use ultra-light ISO standard parts. This means that you can run much lighter head sets and bottom brackets, and in some cases forks. The result is very similar weights, or often, a lighter combined weight for the Rodriguez ultra-light.

So, no more weighing just the frame. You need to weigh the entire bike, or at least the frame with it’s bottom bracket, head set and fork to get a real comparison. If you do that, you’ll find the secret behind the Rodriguez ultra-light steel bikes like the new Bandito.

Added weight for no reason:
When designing the Bandito, we weighed a larger head tube and head set like the carbon bikes run. A lot of steel bike manufacturers run these, but I have no idea why. For instance, the weight difference between an ISO head tube set up and a 44mm head tube was just shy of 1/2 of a pound! On a steel bike, that’s completely unnecessary added weight, as a steel frame is strong enough without all of that ‘beef’.

Then, add to that the larger bottom brackets. The added weight again would be wasted on a steel frame, but none-the-less, a lot of steel bike builders use them.

If a steel bike has these larger head tubes, head sets, bottom bracket shells, and bottom brackets, it is a pretty heavy frame, and a really heavy bike. But, we don’t don’t use that stuff. I would put our ultra-light steel bikes up against any fly-weight on the market of any material.

In closing I’d like to say, if you love really light bikes, and you haven’t ridden a custom, American hand-made Rodriguez ultra-light, DO before you spend money on a carbon frame mass-produced overseas. If you already own a carbon bike, we challenge you to come in for a ride…but be careful…most who do wind up on a Rodriguez.

Thanks for reading – Dan 11-2016



Related Articles

Weight a Minute – Honesty in advertising
Steel vs. Carbon – Steel CAN be lighter
Chaos – Downside to abandoning ISO standards
The New Carbon… Carbon Steel!
Forever Bike – Proprietary parts 🙁

Two Times The Fun!

Northwest Tandem Rally and Rodriguez Custom Tandems…A great pair!

Some Tandem Articles
How to Get Started on a tandem
Tandevangelist How to teach tandem
Custom vs. Stock size. Which one?
Stiff Proposition All about stiffener tubes
The Lightest Tandem
How to Shop for a tandem

Tandem riding is my favorite kind of bicycle riding. Tandem riding can be leisurely, or competitive, or BOTH at the same time. That’s the beauty of it. You can ride with your partner even if you have different skill levels, fitness, or enthusiasm. Since I’ve been married 32 years now, it’s important to find ways to enjoy activities together. Tandem riding evens out all of the differences between us. The other couples that you meet when riding tandems are a blast too.

Seattle is a hot spot for tandems, and has been since the early 1970’s when Angel Rodriguez and Glenn Erickson opened R+E Cycles.

The exciting news for Seattle is that the Northwest Tandem Rally will be held in here in July of 2017! That’s in less than 10 months! R+E Cycles is honored to be the title sponsor of the event. How we could we say no when the rally will be based just down the street from our shop? We’re very excited for the season to begin, and very excited for the rally!

I thought now would be a great time to list some of the historical events, innovations, and situations surrounding Rodriguez and Erickson tandems over the last years. I’ve tried to keep it brief and focussed on tandem specific stuff, but years is a long time. I hope you enjoy it.

My introduction to Tandems:
When I interviewed for a job here at R+E Cycles back in 1987, I met Angel Rodriguez. He was sweeping the floor, and I had no idea who he was as I was fresh out of Jerome Idaho. There was no internet of course, so personalities in the bicycle world were more regional at that time. Anyway, after my interview with Estelle, she introduced me to Angel Rodriguez (I had noticed the name Rodriguez all over the bicycles on the shop floor). After the pleasantries were over, Angel’s first question for me was “do you have experience with tandems?” Well, the only tandem I’d seen in person at the time was an Andre Bertin at a shop that I had very briefly worked at in Federal Way (Tandems are not something that most shops deal in). “Not much, but a little” was my answer. Little did I know that within a a few days, I’d be selling, working on, assembling and riding tandems every day.

My first year here, Estelle loaned me a tandem that my wife and I rode that summer. We were hooked! We’ve now been tandem riders coming up on 30 years. That love for tandem bicycles has driven our shop since its beginning, and 2017 looks to be another chance to share this irresistible style of biking with more Northwesterners than ever. You see, tandem riding can be competitive, leisurely, family fun, or anywhere in between. The folks you’ll meet at a tandem rally are a blast to hang out with. We’ve ridden tandem rallies where we led the pack at speeds not maintainable on a ‘half-bike’. We’ve also ridden tandem rallies where we pulled the kids in a trailer and rode way in the back of the pack. Every rally we met new people and formed life long friendships with them. I can’t say enough about the social event that is the Northwest Tandem Rally. If you own a tandem, and haven’t done a rally….do this one! If you don’t own a tandem, and haven’t done a rally….get one! I guarantee a good time.

Innovations and Creations:
Since tandems are on the brain, I thought I would take a few minutes here and share with you some of the rich tandem history of R+E Cycles over the last 44 years. Of course, my goal is to entice some of you half-bike riders (this is what we tandemmers call singe bikes) into possibly trying a tandem, but also just let the tandem world know some of the history between tandems and our company.

Quick Rodriguez Tandem Bicycle Historical tour:

In 1973 – Angel and Glenn started this company and started building tandems as well as single bikes.



Angel Rodriguez shows off a Triple (tandem) being constructed in the Rodriguez frame shop.




The triple finished and assembled waiting for its new owners. I love the 1970’s cars on the street.


In 1976 – Angel and Glenn attract the attention of a national bicycle magazine. Not specifically related to tandems, but that was coming.

In 1980 – A major bicycle magazine did a glowing review of the ‘Most advanced tandem they had ever seen’…the Rodriguez tandem. A 1979 tandem just like the one in that review can be seen hanging in our Rodriguez Museum (basically some old bikes hanging in the shop).


In 1984 – Estelle Gray and Cheryl Marek ride a Rodriguez tandem to set the Women’s World Record riding across the United states in just 10 days, 22 hours and 48 minutes. That was just a few hours shy of beating the men’s record

By the mid-1980’s – Rodriguez and Erickson tandems were a plentiful site at big rides like the STP

In the late 1980’s – Angel Rodriguez was called upon to help design Yakima’s first rooftop tandem carrier. The design carried the Rodriguez name for many years after that.

In 1989 – Angel teamed up with American Mfg. to build a line of aluminum tandems. Bicycling Magazine reviewed one in 1990, and gave it a strong thumbs up! These tandems are still out there on the road and have somewhat of a cult following.

Angel Rodriguez, The Tandem Bicycle Book
Along with these new aluminum tandems, came plans to take the Rodriguez name nationwide by opening tandem dealers all over the country. He contracted with tandem builder Dennis Bushnell to build a line of production steel tandems. Soon there were Rodriguez tandem dealers in many states across the country. Sales of both Rodriguez aluminum and steel tandems were growing by leaps and bounds. By this time, Glenn Erickson was no longer partners with Angel, but Glenn had a strong custom tandem business that would grow strongly through the 1990’s as well.

It was around this time that Angel released The Tandem Book and this even further established the brand’s commitment to tandem cycling. Angel sold R+E Cycles in 1990, but continued on with his tandem business through a new company called Evergreen.

Northwest Unofficial Tandem Society Logo


One of the many N.U.T.S. t-shirt designs from the 1990’s

By 1993 – The party was over. The new R+E Cycles owner went broke, but hat’s a whole other story. There was troubling news on the tandem front as well. As it turns out, tandems are hard to sell through shops that don’t have a strong commitment to them. Estelle (yes the record holder), my wife and I purchased the shop and the Rodriguez name in 1993 and started to piece things back together.

Back to basics. No more dealers. Rodriguez tandems would be sold exclusively through R+E Cycles again.

In 1994 – Debra, the President of the Northwest Unofficial Tandem Society (N.U.T.S.) called and asked us for a favor. She was moving, and had to give up her duties of running the club. She had tried to find someone else to do it, but no luck. So, we agreed, thinking that someone would pick it up after a short while. Well, a short while turned into several years. We lead monthly rides through the summer, and published and sent out a newsletter more or less quarterly (all snail mail back then). We ran N.U.T.S. until the year 2001 when Sheila (Thanks, Sheila!) formed the current Northwest Tandem Club, Evergreen. Don’t get me wrong, we love tandems, but running a club was something different. We were thrilled to merge N.U.T.S. into the Evergreen Tandem Club. They’ve done a fantastic job with it, and they are the folks who will bring you the 2017 Northwest Tandem Rally.


Dan with Tandem pulling Trailer

Throughout the 1990’s – R+E provided road support to many cycling events, including STP and some tandem events. The way we did it was unique. I rode a tandem with a trailer full of tools and parts (and sometimes my Doberman) along the route and fixed bicycles on the side of the road.

It was a way I could go on the rides and still be ‘working’, but it also gave us some visibility as the place to go for tandems. Finding stokers wasn’t easy. The trailer weighed 185 pounds loaded. Once someone had stoked for me with this contraption, they usually didn’t do it again.

Dan adjusting an eccentric of a Rodriguez Aluminum Tandem

On the road repairs can be…er…um…low tech once in a while. Here I am at the tandem rally ‘adjusting’ someone’s chain. Hey! If you look close you’ll see that’s one of those Rodriguez aluminum tandems from 1989.


Rodriguez Tandem owners at the 1995 tandem rally

1995
The Rodriguez Tandem Owner’s photo at the 1995 Northwest Tandem Rally. By this time, we were definitely back in the tandem business. Again, I can’t say enough about how much fun the tandem rally is.


Estelle Gray helps people at the Rodriguez Tandem Rally in Sun Valley
1996 – A Huge Year for Rodriguez Tandems

We took the show on the road! In an effort to expand interest in tandem cycling further around the northwest, we setup a Tandem Expo of sorts in Sun Valley Idaho. We rented a van, loaded 8 or so tandems on top of it, and drove the 11 hours to Sun Valley for a weekend of Tandems that we arranged. We advertised the event in Boise and through all of the local Idaho shops that we could get to hand out flyers to their customers. The event was a great success. We did sell some tandems, but more importantly, one of the Boise cycling clubs started emphasizing tandem cycling quite a bit more. In just a few years, that club would actually host the Northwest Tandem Rally in Boise.

It was a great rally indeed! Since it was a long drive, I offered to use my trailer to haul 20 of our customers tandems for them so they could fly. It was quite a trip. My van broke down in LaGrande Oregon on the way there, and the way back.

With all of this tandem stuff going on, we had managed to make enough noise in the tandem world to catch the eye of Eugene based Tandem Magazine. They came by and did a full spread on the shop for their magazine.

It was also in 1996 that we designed and built the first Tandem that could be converted to a single bike. It used 8 S&S couplings to achieve this feat, and we named it the Rodriguez 8-Ball. Author and Adventure Cyclist, Wilie Weir, chose a Rodriguez 8-ball for his highly publicized trip through Cuba. This publicity was great for our tandem reputation. It would be over 20 years before any other company even attempted such a creation, and by that time, we’d built dozens of them.

Rodriguez Tandem that converts to a single bike too
The Rodriguez 8-Ball is the only tandem that can be both your single bike and your tandem.


In 1997 – In an effort to offer a Rodriguez tandem at a lower price, we started producing the Rodriguez Toucan. Like Angel had done before, we contracted with Dennis Bushnell to build the overflow of these frames for us, as our custom shop at the time was not able to produce them fast enough. We sold them like hotcakes! It was hard to keep up with the demand. A Rodriguez tandem for just $1,997 was a great price.

The success of the Toucan put us on a National footing and soon the Tandem press noticed us. It wasn’t long until one of the owners of (the now defunct) Tandem Magazine called and ordered a custom Rodriguez tandem for he and his wife. This was pretty cool for a couple of reasons. You see, Tandem Magazine was based in Eugene Oregon, and so were Co-motion, Burley and Bike Friday….3 of our biggest competitors at the time. I thought it said something that a Eugene based Tandem Magazine owner wanted to order one of our bikes. Well, they ordered it, and then reviewed it in the magazine. I was a little nervous, but the review was very good, and the bike looked spectacular!

In 1998 – Tandem Magazine also reviewed the Rodriguez Toucan. That would be the last ‘tandem specific’ press we would get for a while. Tandem Magazine went out of business a few years after that, and it took a while for another magazine to pick up the reins.

In December of 2004 – We bought out Dennis Bushnell, moved all of his equipment into our shop, and hired Dennis full time to run the frame shop. By combining forces, we were able to develop an entirely new way of manufacturing custom bicycles and tandems. A method and philosophy that would make a Rodriguez bicycle or tandem the best value in the industry. Myself, as well as our frame building team also learned from Dennis and his wealth of knowledge.

Along with Dennis Bushnell came the famous Bushnell Eccentric bottom bracket. This is a tandem specific design that Dennis had developed. We went to work to patent the design right away. We had also been working on new tandem specific cantilever brake design. Having Dennis full time at the shop meant that we could speed up the prototyping process and begin patent work on that as well. It was a win for all concerned, and both products rocketed to stardom.

In 2008 – We introduced the Rodriguez Ultra-light tandem. At just 26 pounds, it was an industry sensation. Dennis’ long history of flyweight tandem building, and our new manufacturing process made something like this possible. The rest of the industry scrambled to keep up, and they’re still trying.

Lightweight Custom Racing Tandem


2008 – FREE Custom Tandem Sizing This was also the year that we made the announcement that all Rodriguez Tandems would include custom sizing free of charge. This just makes sense as trying to properly fit 2 people to one bike is impossible unless it’s built custom for them. Even if you don’t think you need a custom size tandem, you should read this article. Other manufacturers are still charging several hundred $$ to build in custom sizes, but our manufacturing method makes it possible for us to do it for free. As Angel always said “FREE is a very good price!”.

In 2009 – An early version of our tandem brake, the Big Squeeze, was reviewed in a British cycling magazine. Sales of the product took off.

2009 was also the year that we built our first Bicycle Built for Five that also converted to 4, 3 or 2. Having a builder like Dennis really stepped things up on the x-tra long bike division.

Custom Bicycle Built for Five in progress
A Rodriguez Bicycle Built for Five

We built several triples, and quads (bicycles built for four) in 2009 It was the year of the long bike. Our 2009 staff photo featured a couple of them that just happened to be in the shop at one time.

In 2011 – Our patent was finally awarded for the Bushnell eccentric. This was an enormous undertaking, but sales of the Bushnell eccentric are now worldwide. When we applied our new manufacturing techniques to making this product right here in Seattle, we suddenly became the largest producer of high end bottom bracket eccentrics in the world. As far as I know, our Bushnell eccentric is the only product manufactured in the U.S.A. and shipped to companies in Taiwan (instead of the other way around).

In 2012 – Another Rodriguez tandem specific patent would be issued. Our Big Squeeze brakes patent issued in March 2012. It might not sound like much, but holding 2 patents specifically related to tandem products is quite rare for a small company like ours.

By 2013 – It was hard to ignore the recent accomplishments we’d made in the tandem arena. By this time, there was another magazine that paid a substantial amount of attention to tandems again, Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine. Now we were approached by this Magazine for a review. The result was seven pages of the issue, including the cover of the magazine. They were very impressed with our ‘Only Custom’ sizing. Again, sales took off to new heights!

2014 – This was such a great tandem year for us here at R+E Cycles that it got a new Rodriguez tandem model named after it. The Rodriguez Model 20/14 is a creation to behold. Unique in the industry as a full tandem that rides like a full tandem, but will fit in small standard sized suitcases….small enough suit cases to be ‘carry on’ luggage in the European train system. This was the requirement that the bike was designed for.

The design was a great success, and we’ve built several of them now. As a matter of fact, we’re building one as I’m typing this article.

That brings us to 2016 – Here we are in 2016 and having one of the best tandem seasons since 1996. Tandems of every style are on order right now and we’re working on a bicycle built for 4 as well. Our new manufacturing method has proven itself to be the most flexible model in our industry. We even attracted the attention of a major business newspaper, the Puget Sound Business Journal to highlight our shop. We’d love to invite you in to visit our shop and meet the folks here at R+E Cycles (Rodriguez and Erickson).

After years of building tandems, we’ve done it all. We’ve built for world record holders, national champions, and most of all, families and couples of all skill levels and abilities. We’ve built tandem trikes for folks who couldn’t balance anymore, and we’ve built tandems for people almost 7 feet tall. You can have a gander at our tandem photo gallery to see some of the creations we built just over the last few years.

My Family in 2006 on our Rodriguez Bicycle Built for Four riding through the country in Idaho. We’re on our way to the 4th of July Parade!

Former national racing team member on his Rodriguez tandem (that also converts to a triple)


2017 should prove to be our best tandem year yet! We’re thrilled to be the title sponsor of the 2017 Northwest Tandem Rally, and looking forward to participating in it.

I say again, if you have a tandem and haven’t ridden in a tandem rally, do this one. If you don’t have a tandem, get one. We’ve got an excellent selection of used and new tandems right here in the shop for you to try.

Thanks for reading. I’ve got to get back to work now. –Dan – 09/2016

Please visit us soon!


The Frame Game


“Can you save money by ordering and installing your own parts?”

January 2016

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a trend for a number of people to order just a frame and fork. Some of these people already have a nice bike, but just want a new frame and fork that fits better, so they intend to move their parts from their current frame to the new frame. This approach can save some money.

The other frame/fork customer though, is still buying all new parts for their bike, but just not along with the frame/fork. Scouring the internet might make it look as if one could really save a bundle by building their bike this way. If this approach is for fun, then there is some value in it, but it is not really an effective way to save money. It may not look that way by just comparing ‘grouppo’ or ‘kit’ pricing to the cost of a full bike, but that’s not the full story.

Now, realize that we’re happy to sell someone just a frame….a frame and fork…a frame, fork and some parts…a frame and fork and a bunch of parts….a full bike with a few parts missing….or a full bike assembled and ready to ride. Any way you want it is fine with us. But, I thought you should consider a few things before making your choice.

Note: If you really want to assemble your new bike by yourself, we can sell you a full bike unassembled and you can have all the fun of putting it together. We’ve done this on occasion for people who own all the tools and possess the knowledge.

As you read on, there are more technical terms. If you have a solid understanding of the terms, and are already familiar with the different sizes, specifications, compatibilities, and why they all exist, then you are a candidate for ordering all of your own parts and building your own bike. If not, you will inevitably save money to order the bike as a full, or nearly full bike.

Continuing on…
This article works for just about any frame/fork combo, but let’s look at our Rodriguez Rainier Pro as a comparison. This is one of our very popular models.

I can find a SRAM Force 22 group online for just $700 pretty easily. Add that to a Rodriguez OX Platinum race frame and carbon fork at $1,899 and looks like one could be riding a Rainier Pro with SRAM Force 22 for just $2,600.

Assembly:
Now, of course $2,600 assumes that you own all of the tools and posses the ability to assemble the bicycle yourself, or paying someone else to do it for you. How much would it cost to pay someone else? About $250 is the going rate. So what? That’s only $2,850…..still well under the $3,900 of the full bike…right? Not exactly.

Wheels:
You’ve got to add wheels, tires, tubes and rim strips or you can’t ride it. To get a decent set of wheels with rim strips, tires and tubes online the cost is about $600 ~ $700. That won’t get you the 3-year warranty that we put on our wheels, but none-the-less, it is a set of wheels. Still, at $3,550 we’re still under the $3,900 right?

Anything Else?
Whoops, forgot the head set ($50), seat post ($30), stem ($40), seat ($50), handle bars ($40) and bar wrap ($17). $227 total. So, now we’re at $3,777.00. I’m sure there are a few more small things, but you can just go the the local bike shop several times and pick them up.

So, it looks like we saved a little money. After shipping charges for all of the parts (total of about $100), our net savings is $23. But, did we really save. Let’s continue.

The SRAM brakes that came with the kit are not compatible with the Rainier. The Rainier is built to fit wider tires and fenders. So, we need a set of long reach brakes. That’s about $55 online, so we’ll get them on the way, and later we can try to sell the SRAM brakes to recoup that cost. At this point we’re a little over the cost of just ordering the bike as a full bike. But, we must continue.

Need a second job…without pay?

Here’s some of the issues you’ll be dealing with:

  1. Did you order the right bottom bracket with your cranks? Often people order the wrong thing these days as there are many, many options. If you order the wrong one, then it’s time consuming to get it exchanged.
  2. Did you get the right head set? Again, many options here, and getting the wrong one is sometimes a problem.
  3. How about your front derailleur? There are several options here too, and the wrong choice will eat up your precious time to exchange this.
  4. Did you get the right seat post? There is no standard, and dozens of size options are available to choose from. This is a crucial measurement, and has to be exactly right. If you get one that’s too big, it just won’t fit in the frame. If you get one that’s a little too small though, it will fit and seemingly work fine, but will (I emphasize will) result in a cracked frame that is not covered under warranty. This is a fairly common issue.
  5. Did the exact parts that you ordered actually arrive? Very often, even if a customer did order the right specifications, someone in the warehouse shipped the wrong one (this happens to us all the time). If you cannot visually determine if it is correct upon arrival, then you won’t know until you try to install it. Again, more exchanges and delays. Hopefully the return window has not closed.
  6. Is your new frame compatible with your new crank set?

    This has been a frequent frustration for the frame/fork only customer. Believe it or not, many of the new cranks do not adhere to long held standards in bicycle frame design, and do not have any flexibility for adjustment. For instance, if you requested the frame design to accomodate really wide tires, chances are that your new Force crank set will not even work on your new frame. The chain rings will hit the frame, and there’s no adjustment in them. Many people think that this is a defect with the frame, but it is not. For the tire/frame/crank clearance to all work together, there are special considerations, and often a different crank set needs to be chosen. Our customers ordered just a frame with clearance for 35c tires were often discouraged to find out that the crank set they ordered will not work with tires that wide. For this reason, we often require your cranks to be present at the time of frame building. That way we can test fit them before we paint the bike.

    In the case of a standard race bike, this is usually not a problem. Most of our customers want something a little more custom though, and some trial and error is required to really have a handle on all of the incompatibilities in the bike world.

  7. Are your new wheels compatible with your new cassette? This is something that we run into once in a while now that 11sp is out. 10sp hubs are not compatible with 11-sp cassettes, and there are a lot of 10sp wheels out there for sale.
  8. What is your time worth? Many people don’t consider what their time is worth when taking on such an endeavor. Trying to take everything into consideration, and order all of the parts, dealing with errors, and the time to do the actual assembly all add up to a lot of time.
  9. What happens now if you (or your hired assembler) slip and scratch your paint while installing your parts? This does happen on occasion, even here in our shop. The difference is that we fix it free if we slip up, but not so in the other case.
  10. Lastly, what about warranty in general? If we assemble the bike with parts bought from us, then we also cover labor to remove, repair and re-install any parts that fail under warranty. This is something that we do as part of our ‘full bike’ purchase price, but is not covered by the parts manufacturer. If you purchased the parts yourself, then you will be responsible for any warranty parts exchanges and the labor involved. If the wrong parts were installed, they could cause non-warranty repair issues for the frame or fork.

Rather Hire a Pro?

Good news! Here at R+E Cycles, this is we do for a living, and we’ve been doing it for years now. All of our collective experience is used to design and choose the parts that work best for each bicycle we build and the customer that will be riding it. So, think about what you do for a living and how long you’ve been at it. If you were to hire someone to do your job, would you choose an enthusiast with no real industry experience, or would you rather work with a professional with a lifetime of knowledge in their field?

Can you save money if you buy the frame/fork and then hunt down all of the parts yourself? It’s important to consider all of the above before deciding that, but for most people, the answer is no. One thing for sure though, you can certainly save time and frustration by ordering the whole bike.


Thanks for reading – Dan

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